'From policeman to coach': examining the HRM implications for the role of front line supervisors during the transition from traditional to post-Japanisation 'lean' methods of production in a medium-sized manufacturing organisation

Power, Mark (2001) 'From policeman to coach': examining the HRM implications for the role of front line supervisors during the transition from traditional to post-Japanisation 'lean' methods of production in a medium-sized manufacturing organisation. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Abstract

    The past two decades have witnessed significant structural and cultural changes within many UK organisations, across all sectors of the economy. Economic pressures, such as increasing global competition and advances in information technology, forced organisations to become 'leaner' and 'flatter', and to find more innovative ways in which to work 'smarter'. As traditional bureaucracy and hierarchy within organisations continue to give way to more of a process-based approach to working practices, greater emphasis is placed on the value of personal contribution, and 'partnership' between employer and employee. Within many such organisations, supportive and proactive human resource management strategies (HRM) have focused on the need to promote flexibility, high commitment, co-operation and accountability at all levels. The same twenty-year period has seen a marked decline in the scope of manufacturing industry, where ever-greater levels of efficiencies and continuous improvement have had to be realised. From the mid 1980s, progressive HRM strategies have been implemented within the many manufacturing organisations adopting Japanese-style management and production methods, such as team-based working, just in time production and total quality management. These strategies include change initiatives relating to organisational structure, culture and behaviour, while sometimes combining elements of all three. More recently, in the 'post-Japanisation' period of organisational change, these initiatives have been developed, refined and largely subsumed under the umbrella term 'lean manufacturing', a central feature of which is the critical role allocated to first-line production supervisors in ensuring the success of its revised management control systems (MCSs). This research examines recent and current changes in the nature of the supervisory function within a multi-site UK manufacturer, in the early stages of transition from traditional 'mass' and 'batch' manufacturing to lean manufacturing. The success of this transition relies largely on a shift from older-style directive forms of supervisory control, towards a more contemporary facilitative approach. The nature of the production supervisor's role is considered within its historical context and within a framework that compares the two 'ideal' types of production systems, namely mass and lean production. Under the latter, the need for the supervisory function to combine both 'hard' (production centred) and 'soft' (developmental) HRM techniques, emphasises the reliance on supervisors to generate high involvement and commitment on the shop floor and suggests an increase in the range of competencies expected of supervisors. Assessing to what extent production supervisors are likely to be able to cope with the new demands of the lean environment, the study's primary qualitative and quantitative data is collated from production supervisors and line managers across two similar, but disparate sites, both at the same stage of transition. The data clearly point to HRM related issues, such as training strategies, motivation, employee involvement and communication (both horizontal and vertical), as being critical variables in maximising the effectiveness of a revised MCS under conditions of lean production. Addressing these issues, the study's conclusions and recommendations may be of significance to other organisations, particularly 'brownfield' mass producers, faced with a similar transitional process.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Portsmouth Business School > Organisational Studies and Human Resources Management
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:48
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:14
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/606

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