Organizational barriers to change (from 1980s GM): Part 2

Organizational barriers to change (from 1980s GM): Part 2

This is final part of my two-part series that explores barriers to organizational change. (Read Part 1 here.) The examples I highlight were observed in the 1980s when GM tried to transition their manufacturing plants to the Japanese manufacturing process. Yet, these qualities can also be seen in companies today that resist organizational transformation.

The episode of This American Life on NUMMI explored the transformation of the GM Fremont plant to the Japanese manufacturing concept in the early 1980s. (I wrote about it in my article “Bad employees or bad system? Ask 1984 GM.”) The team-based, collaborative concept helped GM build high-quality cars at NUMMI. Yet, the barriers to change in the massive GM organization prevented the manufacturing plant transformation from taking place throughout the company quickly.

The first four “barriers to change” were covered in my previous blog post. Read on for my next three observations about companies resistant to change…and to learn the silver lining about organizational change observed at 1980s GM. Read more

Organizational barriers to change (from 1980s GM): Part 1

Organizational barriers to change (from 1980s GM): Part 1

This is Part 1 of a two-part series that explores barriers to organizational change. The examples I highlight were observed in the 1980s when GM tried to transition their manufacturing plants to the Japanese manufacturing process. Yet, these qualities can also be seen in companies today that resist organizational transformation. Read the final part of the series here.

My last post “Bad employees or bad system? Ask 1984 GM.” discussed the employee transformation that took place in the ‘80s when GM and Toyota created a joint partnership to manufacture small cars. Toyota trained GM’s workforce in the Toyota manufacturing process, which emphasized teamwork and collaboration. They opened the NUMMI manufacturing plant together using this method in 1984.

Despite using most of the same employees from the troubled (and eventually closed) GM Fremont plant, the problems that plagued GM Fremont were absent at the NUMMI plant. Workers helped each other. They fixed problems rather than accept them (even when that meant stopping production to do so). People became proud of their jobs and of what they were making. (The story of this transformation was told on This American Life. It’s a great listen.)

Yet, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Read more

Bad employees or bad system? Ask 1984 GM.

Bad employees or bad system? Ask 1984 GM.

In July 2015, public radio show This American Life aired an update of a 2010 episode on NUMMI, an auto manufacturing joint venture between GM and Toyota in Fremont, California. This partnership was revolutionary in that it brought the Japanese automotive manufacturing system, which stressed teamwork and continuous improvement, to American auto workers. It was responsible for a cultural transformation in the workers at the GM plant that brought with it an abrupt improvement in quality and team morale.

The story of the NUMMI plant highlights how true teamwork can revolutionize a workforce and its output. The experience of NUMMI is also similar to transforming a software development team or an organization to embrace Agile methodologies. (Others have also noticed the parallels with agile software development. See the article “An Agile Transformation Story from 1984” from Matt Block, an Agile Coach also in Indianapolis.)

See if you notice any parallels between your current workplace culture and the culture at GM Fremont plant before it transformed to the NUMMI plant. Read more