Teams and Groups

According to the Treetop case (495-497) the following are the major symptoms that something has gone wrong at Treetop: ‘Supervisors seldom visit thepackaging department .This is particularly true of the afternoon shift…’
‘The mill’s ratings have started to declined over the last year or two’
‘Several clients have complained about the appearance of the finished product’
‘A few large customers switched to competitors’ timber’ because of ‘substandard appearance of Treetop’s packaging’
‘Packaging department has recorded decreasing productivity over the past couple of years, with the result that a large backlog of finished product is typically stockpiled outside the packaging building.’
‘The morning shift is unable to keep up with the combined production of the sawmill and planner departments’
‘unpackaged output is left for the afternoon shift’
‘The afternoon shift packages even less product than the morning shift’
The backlog continues to build
‘The backlog adds to Treetop’s inventory costs and increases the risk of damaged stock.’
Addition of overtime on Saturdays and before and after work
‘The packaging department employed 10 percent of the workforce but accounted for 85 percent of the overtime.’
Management is frustrated because they realize that the packaging department is capable of effective and efficient production without overtime
Treetop’s cost competitiveness is suffering because of the overtime costs
The packaging department extends both lunch hour and coffee breaks especially in the afternoon shift
Temporary workers assigned to the packaging department adopt their time-loss pattern
The main causes of these symptoms include the following:
Supervisors seldom visit the packaging department because the packaging department is housed in another building. The afternoon shift has the most problems because the sawmill supervisor is responsible for this shift. The sawmill is the furthest department from the packaging.
The mill’s ratings have started to declined over the last year or two because Treetop has started to produce inferior quality finished products. The market for timber is price-competitive and products are differentiated by their presentation and appearance. Thus customers have started to shift to the other competitors who produce similar products but of a greater quality for the same price.
Packaging department has recorded decreasing productivity over the past couple of years due to their negative work patterns.
Treetop’s overall costs continue to rise due to added overtime bills (particularly in the packaging department) and inventory costs and stock damage
Management is frustrated because they realize that the packaging department is capable of effective and efficient production yet there continues to be a backlog in spite of the added overtime.
Treetop’s cost competitiveness is suffering because of the overtime costs and decrease in productivity
The activity within the packaging team of adopting time-loss pattern has become a norm to this particular work team. Thus, all temporary workers when given a chance to become part of the packaging team adopts this norm.
Actions which can be taken by Treetop executive include:
Management can change the supervisors and instead of allowing the sawmill supervisor to overseer the packaging department choose a supervisor from packaging instead. This will assist in the empowerment of the workers when workers feel empowered they produce better. In addition, a supervisor from the packaging department would understand the culture and be able to make changes to the norm easier than an outsider. The overtime costs which would be cut can be used to provide additional incentives to this department.
In order to arrest the decline in the mill’s ratings management can perhaps use the overtime money which will be reduced to use more than one supervisor in this department. One for the general overseeing of production and one for the testing of the quality of the finished products. The market for timber is price-competitive and products are differentiated by their presentation and appearance therefore Treetop must begin to differentiate based on sound quality and good appearance again.
Treetop’s management can divide the packaging department into teams and allow there to be competition amongst the teams for improvement in productivity. Competition would create a focus for the team and motivate them to produce at their best. Consequently, the overall costs should begin to decline when workers begin to produce optimally due to refocusing.
Hence, temporary workers would adopt the positive attitude displayed by a renewed work ethic in the packaging department.
References
McShane, Steven L. and Lebeter, David. (1995). Organizational Behaviour. McGraw-Hill Companies.