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World-Class Manufacturing Requires Worker Engagement (MFG450R)

Presented by: William A. Levinson, P.E.
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60 minutes
Event Description
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Understanding the Importance of Worker Empowerment and Engagement in the Manufacturing Industry

Engagement is 'a psychological state in which employees feel a vested interest in the company's success and are both willing and motivated to perform to levels that exceed the stated job requirements.' (Mercer, 2011.'Engaging Employees to Drive Global Business Success.') Worker empowerment and engagement played a central role in Henry Ford's success, as shown by the number of worker-initiated improvements at his company. The lessons of engagement, however, date back to the late 18th century when empowered Russian enlisted soldiers under the command of Aleksandr Suvorov won every battle they fought.

This presentation by expert William Levinson will show how to achieve similar engagement through leadership (a provision of ISO 9001), training, and empowerment.

Henry Ford's My Life and Work (1922) described a key characteristic of an empowered and engaged organizations: 'The health of every organization depends on every member-whatever his place-feeling that everything that happens to come to his notice relating to the welfare of the business is his own job.' The achievement of this condition made the Ford Motor Company the most successful and prosperous business on earth, but engagement is a condition that management must create and maintain.

The Russian field marshal Aleksandr V. Suvorov showed how to do this more than 200 years ago.

  • The organization's success depends on the judgment and initiative of its workforce. The organization must therefore earn the commitment of the workforce by giving it a stake in the organization's success.
  • Training is a prerequisite for empowerment, because employees cannot act on a situation if they don't know what to do.
  • The leader must set the right example. Suvorov's personal leadership of basic drills (an activity that most armies left to noncommissioned officers) showed the Russian Army that 'training is the most important thing we do,' while Henry Ford preferred his factory (gemba, the value-adding workplace) to his office.
  • The organization must encourage workers to exercise judgment and initiative, rather than doing only what they are told.

Training Objective

The presentation's key learning objectives are:

  • The proven benefits of workforce engagement and
  • The proven means of achieving it.

The first step is to illustrate the benefits of engagement in the language of money, or its equivalent bottom line results. The Ford Motor Company played a central role in transforming the United States into the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, and it did so by inventing what we now call the Toyota production system. Many, if not most, of its lean initiatives came not from management, however, but from shop floor workers. This required commitment and engagement from the workers as opposed to a 'just do what you're told' attitude.

Field Marshal Suvorov, meanwhile, won 63 battles, lost none, and rarely suffered heavy casualties. In contrast to contemporary armies in which a soldier dared not do anything without an order, the Russian soldier was clearly empowered to use judgment and initiative to achieve a mission regardless of formal direction.

Engagement does not come for free, though, and Gallup Inc. 2013. 'State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders' says that only about 30 percent of American workers are engaged while 20 percent are actively disengaged; they simply don't care.

When workers have no stake in the organization's well-being, the disengagement number is likely to be closer to 100 percent. An organization that pays its people as little as possible will rightly receive as little as possible in return. Henry Ford, on the other hand, looked for ways to pay his workers as much as he could, which encouraged them to look for ways to make this possible. They knew that any form of waste (muda) on the shop floor was money out of their own pockets, as well as those of Ford and his customers. Suvorov could not control his soldiers' base pay, but he made it clear that their health and well-being were top priorities. They reciprocated with the kind of loyalty that was simply not seen in other contemporary armies.

Even a motivated and committed employee cannot, however, exercise judgment and initiative if he or she doesn't know what to do. Suvorov put it quite simply: 'If a peasant doesn't know how to plow, he can't grow bread,' and added that one trained soldier was worth ten untrained ones. His contemporaries thought him eccentric for leading basic military drills himself, and they were unable to connect this behavior with the fact that he won every battle he fought. A CEO, on the other hand, could not get his executives to listen to W. Edwards Deming after he himself walked out of the room. Top level participation in training is, therefore, mandatory.

Communication (another provision of ISO 9001) also is important. Suvorov wrote a short military manual, The Science of Victory, to be intelligible to enlisted soldiers as well as officers and scholars. Henry Ford's My Life and Work, while probably the best business book ever written, is understandable at the high school rather than the MBA level. Everybody in the organization must understand the mission, its performance measurements, and the means of achieving them.

Who should attend

  • C Level executives and owners
  • Plant managers
  • Manufacturing managers
  • EVP, Directors, Analyst, Head of quality
  • Change agents, and executives
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about the manufacturing industry
  • Workflow Lead
  • Human Resource Manager
About Our Speaker(s)

William A. Levinson | Quality and Productivity Management SpeakerWilliam A. Levinson P.E.
William A. Levinson, P.E., is the principal of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. He is an ASQ Fellow, Certified Quality Engineer, Quality Auditor, Quality Manager, Reliability Engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He is also the author of several books on quality, productivity, and management, of which the most recent ... More info

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    Event Title: World-Class Manufacturing Requires Worker Engagement
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