Theory and Policy Encounter Power and Motivation at Consolidated Automobile… 1 answer below »

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CASE STUDY
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Theory and Policy Encounter Power and Motivation at Consolidated Automobile
On Tuesday morning at 6 A.m., two young automobile assembly-line workers, disgruntled over failing to get their supervisor transferred, shut off the electric power supply to an auto-assembly line and closed it down at Consolidated Automobile Manufacturers, Inc.
The electric power supply area, containing transformers, switches, and other high-voltage elec-trical equipment, was positioned near the center of the plant in a 6-by-7-foot area. Enclosing this area was a 10-foot-high chain-link fence with a locked gate of equal height that formed a protective cage around the facility and provided a measure of security. The two assembly-line workers, William Strong and Larry Kane, gained access to the electric power supply area simply by scaling the fence. Once inside, they halted the assembly line by opening the switches and cutting off the electrical power. Strong and Kane, who worked as spot welders, had taken matters into their hands when the union’s grievance procedure had not worked fast enough to satisfy them. Co-workers, idled by the dramatic pro-test and the motionless assembly line, grouped them-selves around the fenced area, shouting encourage-ment to the two men inside, In response, Strong and Kane were chanting, “When you cut the power you’ve got the power.” They were in the process of becoming folk heroes to their co-workers. Sam Winfare, who supervised Strong and Kane and who was the target of their protest, had been supervisor for only a short time. In explaining the events that led to the protest, Winfare said that pro-duction on the assembly line had been chronically below quota before he took charge, and the plant manager had plainly told him that his job was to im-prove the production rate. Production had improved markedly in the short time that Winfare had been supervisor. Winfare advised the plant manager that his transfer would only set a serious long-term prece-dent. “The company’s action to remove me would create a situation where the operations of the plant would be subject to the whims of any employee with a grudge,” he argued. His contention was confirmed
by the comicfents of a union steward, who said there were other conditions in the plant that needed im-proving—such as the cafeteria food and relief from the more than 100-degree heat in the metal shop. Moreover, the steward said, there was at least one other supervisor who should be removed. He implied that, if successful, the power cage protest would achieve two goals—namely, employees could dictate the company’s problem-solving agenda and simulta-neously undermine its power to determine decision-making priorities. The union steward’s final comment was that two men on an unauthorized, wildcat strike might accomplish the same thing as a full-blown strike. Each passing minute was costing the company a production loss of one automotive unit valued at 6,000; the cost of each lost production hour, there-fore, was $360,000. As he began a staff meeting to resolve the di-lemma, the plant manager felt pressure to accomplish two objectives: (1) to restore production on the profitless assembly line (a solution about which he was uncertain), and (2) to develop policies for pre-venting future production interruptions by assembly-line workers.
Source: Adapted from John M. Champion and John H. James, Criti-cal Incidents in Management Decisions and Policy issues. 5th ed. (Homewood, Ill.: Richard I). Irwin, 1985), pp. 36-37_ Copyright 1985 by Richard D. Irwin, Inc_
Case Questions 1. What is the real problem in this case? 2. How would each of the approaches to manage-ment in this chapter analyze the case? 3. How should the plant manager restore produc-tion on the assembly line? 4. What policy, if any. should be developed to pre-vent future production interruptions? 5. If there is an underlying struggle for power in this situation, precisely where does it lie? Which theoretical approach to management policy is best suited to answer this question?
52 PART ONE iNTRODI ;MON TO MANAGEMENT
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