Changing Organizations: Business Networks in the New Political Economy

By David Knoke | Go to book overview
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5
Changing the
Employment Contract

"If only it weren't for the people,
the goddamned people," said Finnerty,
"always getting tangled up in the machinery.
If it weren't for them earth would be
an engineer's paradise.
"

—Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano (1952)

The dozen employees working the A-shift on the crankshaft-machining line at the sprawling Saturn factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee, were supposed to perform as a democratic team. Eighteen months after General Motors' innovative small cars began rolling off the assembly line, the crew leaders (CTMs or "charter team members"), machine operators, and trade technicians should have been making decisions by consensus. Instead, A-crew's CTM Scott Prins behaved more like a traditional foreman, telling op tech Nancy Laatz to change how she used the crankshaft-polishing machine. And she didn't take kindly to it:

What had happened was that A-crew had a lot of scrap and less production from the polisher than B-crew. Prins had talked to B-crew's more experienced operator about how he calibrated the machine to avoid scrap, then passed along the information to Laatz who didn't care to hear it. She didn't respect B‐ crew's operator.

"It was another case of people wanting to reach the same goal," Prins said. "But don't dare tell them how to get there."

-164-

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