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Title: An investigation into the impact of the introduction of multiskilled semi-autonomous work groups on groups and individuals in two brownfield manufacturing sites
Author: Day, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2697 6474
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2000
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This study investigated the impact of the. introduction of multiskilled semi - autonomous work groups on individuals in two UK plants of a global automotive manufacturer. The first plant had introduced the work group concept almost ten years prior to the study. The researcher interviewed 26 shopfloor employees and two managers from two production lines at one point in time. One of these lines, the 'functional' line, had been in operation for only three months and was chosen for the study because managers and unions considered the work group concept to be working effectively on the line. The other line, the 'dysfunctional' line, had been established for almost ten years and was chosen because managers considered the work groups not to be operating effectively on the line. The findings indicated that participants from the 'functional' line were engaged with their work and collectively made decisions about the running of the line. In contrast, the work groups on the 'dysfunctional' line were disengaged with their work and tended not to make decisions about the running of their line. The level of 'disengagement' on the 'dysfunctional' line was attributed to the failure of management to meet the work groups' expectations of greater autonomy. On the 'functional' line maintenance and production indicated that they worked closely together whereas on the 'dysfunctional' line their was considerable conflict between the two groups as a result of the two groups trying to protect their group identities. The differences between the experiences of participants on the two lines has been explained in terms of differences in the backgrounds of the individuals, differences in the behaviour of the supervisors and managers and differences in how the work groups were established. At the second plant the researcher investigated the impact of the introduction of autonomous work groups on groups and individuals in a UK foundry over an twenty four month period. The researcher interviewed shopfloor employees and managers at three stages of the intervention: six months prior to the changes (n = 19), 6 months after the start of the changes (n = 11) and 18 months after the start of the changes (n = 15). Prior to the changes participants indicated that strong divisions existed between maintenance and production. These divisions were further highlighted by maintenance participants' concerns that the proposed changes to their roles would result in a loss of status for them. Six months following the introduction of autonomous work groups maintenance participants appeared to have overcome their concerns. Participants from all groups also indicated that the introduction of autonomous work groups had increased both the level of engagement of the work groups with their work and co-operation between production and maintenance groups. Twelve months later, however, participants' experiences had changed dramatically. Shopfloor participants indicated that they were now disillusioned with the changes because their expectations of greater autonomy had not been met. Participants, from all groups, also indicated a reduction in the availability of weekend overtime had resulted in a deterioration of the relationship between maintenance and production. The two groups now operated independently of each other and competed with each other for overtime. These findings highlight that organisations should not assume that autonomous work groups will necessarily result in positive outcomes for individuals and groups. It also highlights the importance of considering the impact of the existing social context and process of change when implementing autonomous work groups.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available