Teamwork and the structure of representation at Vauxhall Ltd. (UK) and Adam Opel AG (Germany)
Teamwork, participation and the structure of representation are the core issues of this thesis. The aim is to show how an industrial relations (IR) system shapes the introduction of teamwork and defines the introduction of teamleaders and teamspeakers, and how these teamleaders/teamspeakers affect the structure of representation. To evaluate this, organisational behaviour theories of teamwork, leadership styles and industrial relations models (unitarism, pluralism, adversarialism) are applied. Since the introduction of teamwork into an existing manufacturing plant represents a transition from a workersupervisor system to a team-based system, a theory of democracy and collective bargaining is used to evaluate the outcome of such a transition. In contrast to a worker-supervisor system on the shopfloor, teamwork involves either a management-appointed teamleader or an elected teamspeaker. Both cases have certain consequences for the structure of representation on the shopfloor. This research was designed to answer the question: To what extent and in what ways does the institutional context affect the transition from a traditional system of representation to teamwork and how does this affect the structure of representation? Two detailed case studies have been conducted in the motor-car industry, using surveys and interviews. One of the case studies was carried out at Vauxhall's Luton (UK) plant, the other at Adam Opel AG in Germany. Both plants are subsidiaries of General Motors which introduced teamwork as part of their Quality Network Production System in the early 1990s, modelled on MIT's lean production. In one plant (Vauxhall) there was an adversarial IR system, resulting in an appointment model: in the other there was a pluralist IR system which led to an election model. The effects of an elected teamspeaker or an appointed teamleader on the structure of representation have been examined. The thesis argues that an existing IR system shapes the introduction of appointed teamleaders or elected teamspeakers. The findings of the case studies and the survey results indicate that appointed teamleaders tend to adopt an authoritarian leadership style and are not seen as representatives by team-members (Vauxhall). In other words, the outcome of a transition taking place in an adversarial IR system is adversarial; management, teamleaders and team-members still view each other as us and them. In contrast to this, a pluralist IR system tends to favour the election of teamspeakers, who are seen as representatives. Consequently, the structure of representation in a pluralist IR context supports pluralism as an outcome and strengthens its capacity for problem-solving; while the structure of representation in the adversarial IR case increases the adversarial nature of the system and further weakens its capability for problem-solving.