“Democracy on shop-floor”- 25 March 2014
When the new CEO arrived, he brought with him his vast experience of previous jobs where he had made several experiments with structure and model methods of functioning. He was described to be a very amiable person who anybody could approach at anytime, even at his home. He was described to have had no airs. Right on the first day, everybody saw him wearing only a casual shirt without a tie and a jacket. And subsequently, all came to know that the new boss could be seen anywhere in the sprawling factory premises — in canteen chatting with machine operators, in the reception area with visitors without revealing his identity, in the mechanical transport section with drivers, in the stores, library, or strolling on the lawns talking to the gardener.
As the arrival of the new boss started changing atmosphere, he proposed an entirely new action-plan for various departments. He wanted each department to have a core committee whose one-third members would be rotated every year. The core committees would make all decisions as regards management of the respective departments — like promotions or request for transfers, or applications for long-leave etc.
Old-timers of the company had serious doubts about the new arrangement. They wondered if average employees were mature enough to manage the core teams and their agendas. They also failed to understand the basic purpose of introducing the change. For, as they admitted, had never seen or heard anything like this in their company or elsewhere.
Some of the old-timers protested. They asked questions, raised issues, even wrote memos to the CEO. One day, after several such protestations were registered, the boss called a meeting of seniors from all sections, and asked only one question: Was there any opposition to an experiment? “We would discontinue it if we find it non-functional. And I promise, before we introduce it actually, we will ask every junior as well to give his or her opinion. If there is an overall rejection, then the core committee concept would not be taken up”.
That set the ball rolling in the right direction. For, an amazingly high majority of juniors favoured the core committee in which everybody would be able to take part on a rotation basis. The old-timers could not say anything in opposition and the core committee were formed quickly in all departments. In selection process, too, the boss avoided election route. He made absolutely blind choices, ticking names all by himself. Nobody got any favours, and everybody got an impression that sooner or later, every name would get a chance to sit on the committee.
Some old-timers still had doubts, and genuine ones. Yet, as the core committee system got operational, good results were available in less than six months. For, the management cadre stopped getting small complaints of wrongdoings by departmental heads. For, everybody was part of the decision-making process.
All this had a positive effect on the quality and quantity of production, which was not surprising. But the most critical difference was that the overall atmosphere in the company improved dramatically and a new harmony got established.
These are not descriptions from a movie but of a company whose market-share has gone up since the new boss took over, thanks to the new idea of bringing democracy to shop-floor.