BUILDING HIGH PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATIONS
BASED ON TEAM-CENTERED MANAGEMENT
Essica D. Williams
B.S.E., Kansas State University of Emporia, 1963
M.B.A., University of Colorado, Colorado Springs 1983
A dissertation submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate School of Public Affairs
c 1994 by Essica D. Williams
All rights reserved.
This dissertation for the Doctor of Philosophy
Essica D. Williams
has been approved for the
of Public Affairs
Williams, Essica D. (Ph.D., Public Administration)
Building High Performance Organizations Based on Team-Centered
Dissertation directed by Professor Linda deLeon
This study investigates which variables contribute to building high
performance organizations. Data were collected from two "greenfield"
organizations during their start-up periods, and from one public
organization during the process of change in structure. All organizations
indicated that they intended to build organizations based on team-centered
management to achieve high performance outcomes in terms of
productivity, quality, customer service, and employee satisfaction.
The research questions to be answered included whether or not an
organizational structure based on team-centered management would result
in a high performance organization, whether training employees in
teamwork, quality, and self-management concepts early in their
employment would result in high performance (outcome-focused, self-
managed) teams, and what other variables and behaviors within an
organization contributed to high performance.
This study is based on data collected from 83 subjects in three
organizationstwo private organizations, Apple Computer, Inc., and
Hamilton Standard Commercial Aircraft Electronics, and one public
organization, the College of Business at the University of Colorado,
All the interviews were audio-tape recorded, transcribed, and
entered into a WordPerfect for Windows software database. The data were
then coded and sorted. Using the constant comparative method of
qualitative analysis, incidents were compared within and across the three
organizations to develop theory.
The findings distinctly relate motivation theory, job characteristics
theory, and self-managed teams theory to high performance outcomes.
Findings relating to the research questions were less specific.
Those conclusions are: (1) a team-based organization is much more easily
accomplished through team-centered management, but a team-based
organization is not necessarily the only way to achieve high performance,
(2) while training is extremely important in high performance
organizations, and the above-mentioned concepts need to be taught, just-in-
time, or pull system, training is most effective for both application and
retention, (3) high performance as an outcome is never really achieved, as
the high performing team or organization sets such high standards for
themselves that the goal is constantly moved further out.
This study suggests variables that contribute to building high
performance organizations in both the public and private sectors, as well as
"lessons learned" from the three organizations.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates
dissertation. I recommend its publication.
This dissertation is dedicated to my best friend, my staunchest
supporter, and my husband, Ron, who encouraged me to believe in myself,
and who willingly made the sacrifices required so that I could succeed.
I am grateful to my colleagues, Linda deLeon, Robert Gage, Sam
Overman, Mark Pogrebin, and Nina Polok, each of whom helped to open
the doors to knowledge and accomplishment. To Drs. Marijane Axtell-
Paulsen and Ed Ray, and to Maryann Billington, I am grateful for the
support from Pikes Peak Community College. To my co-workers I give
special thanks for their help and understanding. To the leadership teams
and employees of Apple Computer, Inc., Hamilton Standard Commercial
Aircraft Electronics, and College of Business, University of Colorado,
Colorado Springs, I give grateful thanks for all the time, patience, energy,
and willingness to share information while encouraging me to continue my
1. INTRODUCTION .............................................1
Statement of the Problem..................................6
Research Questions ................................6
Field Sites for the Research..............................7
Public and Private Organizations .........................7
Organizations Being Studied .............................10
Apple Computer, Inc ..............................10
College of Business, University of Colorado.......18
Need for the Study.......................................20
Limitations of the Study.................................21
2. THEORETICAL BASES .......................................23
High Performance Organizations ..........................24
Flat, Empowering Structure........................26
Clear Goals ......................................27
Clear Roles and Boundaries .......................28
Unified Commitment ...............................30
Emphasis on Continuous Improvement.....................33
Literature Related to the Study...............................34
The First Requisite: Commitment.............................. 34
Motivation Theories.................................. 38
Job Characteristics Theory.............................41
Job Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction Theory................42
The Second Requisite: Capability to Respond ..................44
Self-Managed Teams Theory .............................47
Socio-Technical Systems Theory ........................51
Organizational Change Theory...........................52
Selection of Sample Groups....................................57
Method of Collecting Data ................................... 59
Method of Analyzing the Data............................... 64
Criteria for Judging the Quality of the Research Design.....65
Internal Validity ...................................65
4. FINDINGS ................................................ 67
Mission and Value Statements ..............................68
Apple Computer, Inc .................................76
Hamilton Standard ...................................87
College of Business .................................97
Question 2............................................... 109
Apple Computer, Inc................................ 109
Hamilton Standard ................................. 114
College of Business ............................... 118
Question 3............................................... 121
Apple Computer, Inc................................ 121
Hamilton Standard ................................. 126
College of Business ............................... 132
High Performance ........................................ 134
5. CONCLUSIONS ............................................. 149
Theory in Action......................................... 149
Blending Theory ............................................. 150
Job Characteristics................................... 151
Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction ......................... 153
Bureaucratic Reform................................... 154
Self-Managed Teams ................................... 155
Socio-Technical Considerations ....................... 156
Organizational Change ................................ 157
Employee Commitment................................... 158
Managerial Commitment................................. 160
Teaming Capability........................................... 160
Team-Centered Management ............................. 162
Overcoming Difficulties............................... 163
Removing Recalcitrants................................ 164
The Team Building Trajectory.......................... 165
Handling Mis-Matches ................................. 168
Setting Boundaries.................................... 169
The Importance of Inclusion........................... 170
Unique Challenges..................................... 171
Training .................................................... 172
Just-In-Time Training.............................. 173
Job Skills Training................................ 173
Taking Time for Training .......................... 174
Perceptions of Need................................ 175
Other Activities and Behaviors............................ 175
Achieving the Goal ................................ 176
No Right Way ...................................... 177
Greenfield Advantage............................... 178
Key Differences ................................... 178
Implications for Further Research......................... 179
Figure 1. Key differences between high performance and low performance
Figure 2. The team development process.............................. 167
The American workplace is in the midst of upheaval, and major
changes in the way we operate appear to be occurring as a result. Changes
in technology, our balance of trade with foreign nations, increased
manufacturing competition from abroad, domestic deregulation, takeovers,
mergers, bankruptcies, attacks by foreign leaders upon the literacy and
work ethic of American workers, and a myriad of other factors currently
challenge American industry. There is general agreement that the United
States has lost its place as the pre-eminent world economic power. "The
decline of basic manufacturing industries in America through the 1970s
and 1980s is well documented" (Manz and Sims 1989, 153). America
faces problems in productivity, and unless the U.S. fixes some serious
weaknesses, its standard of living is at risk (Stewart 1992).
Problems exist not only in the private sector, but in the public
sector, as well. Our public schools have been called the worst in the
developed world, the health care system is out of control, courts and
prisons are so overcrowded that convicted felons walk free, and many of
our proudest cities and states are virtually bankrupt. Confidence in
government has fallen to record lows (Osborne and Gaebler 1992, 1-2).
As organizations search for ways to meet these challenges, major
changes are in store. For several years, organizational theorists have
discussed the need to move from the bureaucratic paradigm to a post-
bureaucratic organizational design. The organization of the future has been
described as "the adaptive organization," that will "bust through
bureaucracy" to better serve customers and make the company more
competitive (Dumaine 1991, 36). New ways of organizing and working to
address these issues are being devised in both the private and public
sectors. There is a necessity for using systematic work redesign to create
the "high performance, high commitment work systems" needed in the
current manufacturing environment (Donovan and Riedel 1987) New
kinds of public institutions are emerging, using nonbureaucratic
mechanisms such as competition and customer choice to get things done
creatively and effectively, and "they are our future" (Osborne and Gaebler
These new organizational forms are called high performance work
systems, "because performance is the point of it all-performance for
individuals through being challenged to develop to the best of their
capabilities, and performance for the organization through outstanding goal
achievement" (Buchanan and McCalman 1989, x). In these new
organizational forms, management attention is now focused on how to
achieve speed and flexibility of response to changing markets, how to
ensure effective use of sophisticated and expensive technologies, how to
meet rising customer expectations of quality, reliability, and delivery.
High performing systems in organizations are "human systems that perform
at levels of excellence far beyond those of comparable systems" (Vaill
High performance, high commitment work systems have been
developed in various ways, most commonly as self-managed teams. It is a
difficult transition to self-managed teams from a traditional, hierarchical
structure. Employees carry the history and tradition of the existing
organization, along with the expectations and limitations previously
imposed. A great deal of time, effort, energy, training, and patience is
required to move from traditional forms to self-management, and many
times that transition requires a redistribution of employees and managers.
Middle managers, in particular, often have great difficulty in making the
change, because in their perception, it is their jobs that are most in
The transition to self-management is difficult even in a greenfield
site. A greenfield organization is a new location of an organization; it may
be either a totally new entity, or an existing organization starting
operations in a new location. Because a greenfield organization is one that
is starting "from scratch," it has the opportunity to screen employees,
hiring them for their skill and willingness to contribute to a team
environment. The leaders of the new organization may consciously and
carefully design a culture and'structure to support high performance teams.
But the leaders in greenfield sites are frequently from the original parent
organization, and although they may fully support the concept of self-
managed, high performance teams, they also bring with them the history
and experience of the traditional organization. During periods of stress
managers tend to fall back into traditional directive approaches that may
have worked in the past (Perkins, Nieva, and Lawler 1983, 3).
Although there is no existing culture in a greenfield organization
that is required to change, individuals entering that organization are
required to change their traditional modes of thinking and operating. In
many cases, they must be provided training in specific skills to enable them
to perform as self-managed, high performance team members.
Of course, the parent organization is a major player in the
development and success of a greenfield site, so its expectations and
support have great impact on the success or failure of achieving high
In addition, the employees hired into the new organization bring
with them "baggage" from previous experience and training. Very few
people in the employment market come from self-managed organizations;
rather, their work experience has been in traditional, hierarchical
organizations. As one employee of a high performance organization said,
"It is probably just my past experience with HR (the Human Resources
department) that makes me not trust them. This organization certainly
hasnt done anything to make me feel that way. I just do."
Team-centered management is the usual method for successfully
developing the skills necessary for self-management. Team-centered
management locates authority within the team, or leads toward the teams
gaining the capability for self-management. In one scenario, the team is
entirely self-managing from the outset, responsible for all aspects of the
teams performance. In a second, the team management is shared between
the team and supervisors and managers until such time as the team is
capable of self-management.
Understanding the need for organizations to be structured for high
performance, and understanding that the team structure may be developed
in the planning stages of a greenfield site or as a transition from a
traditional structure, does not tell us all we need to know about how to
achieve that desired high performance. Granted that there is a gap in the
performance of American organizations and the expectations of the public,
customers, stakeholders, and stockholdersa gap that high performance
organizations can fillwhat can be done to create them?
Statement of the Problem
This study will examine three organizations and their transitions to
high performance design. Specifically, it will investigate three questions:
(1) how does team-based structure affect building high performance in
greenfield organizations versus existing organizations? (2) how does
training contribute to building those organizations? and (3) what other
activities, behaviors, and conditions contribute to building high
Research question 1. Will an organizational structure based on team-
centered management result in a high performance organization?
Research question 2. Will training employees in teamwork, quality, and
self-management concepts early in their employment result in high
Research question 3. What other activities and behaviors in an
organization contribute to high performance?
The definition of high performance organizations is blurredsome
definitions are based on outcomes and some on organizational structure.
For purposes of this research, high performance refers to outcomes
attributable to organizational structure-commitment of employees to the
organization, and the capacity of the organization to respond to the
demands of the customer, the environment, and the parent organization.
Field Sites for the Research
The student of high performance organizations has many more
opportunities for study in the private arena than in the public arena.
Structure and tradition bind many public organizations into conventional
ways of operating. Relatively few have the opportunity to restructure into
the innovative designs that private organizations may more readily adopt.
Even fewer new public entities come into being, so it has been necessary to
utilize field sites in the private sector, which necessitates a digression to
consider whether this strategy renders generalization to public organizations
Public and Private Organizations
Sector blurring has become as much the rule as the exception, and
new organizational forms are emerging that are not easily labeled as
government or business. There are some good arguments for the
distinctiveness of public management, but there are also some sound
arguments for generic approaches to many generic aspects of management
Most of the differences between public and private sectors, other
than market environment or political and legal authority, are in personnel
structures and systems and in the context of work. Rigidity of procedures,
personnel systems that constrain managerial discretion, restriction by more
rules and regulations than necessary, and severely limited hierarchical
authority are major restrictions imposed by public personnel systems.
Certainly, the job classification system places limitations upon reward
practices unlike those in private organizations. The context of work
differences include public scrutiny, time frames related to the political
cycles of government, and externally imposed change as opposed to change
that participants have had a role in formulating (Bozeman 1987).
The parallels between public and private sector management are
becoming increasingly evident (Kiracofe 1990, 1). Novel and useful
conceptual frameworks need to be learned and practiced in the rapidly
changing environment of the real world. Organizational structures must
suit the organizational environment and the technology it uses, and
organizational structures must be more flexible to enable employees to find
more creative solutions to complex problems. Employees must be
empowered to become partners in the decision-making process that affects
their jobs. "The result is improved performance, fulfilled missions, and
satisfied constituents" (Kiracofe 1990, 4).
Surprisingly little attention has been given to actual behavior and
organizational outcomes in public-private comparisons (Coursey and
Bozeman 1990), and comparisons Of public and private organizations have
often been self-serving, stressing conceptual or normative arguments--
"oriented largely toward justifying the separate study of public
administration" (Buchanan 1975, 423).
The descriptive literature suggesting differences between the public
and private sector has largely been untested and has grossly
overemphasized the importance of several classic differences between the
sectors. Perhaps it is not that important to know that certain classic
differences between the sectors exist, given that the differences may have
an inconsequential impact on employee motivation (Baldwin 1987).
While there are complications in employing expectancy theory and
employee reward expectations in comparing public and private sector
employees, expectancy items are still used regularly in organizational
research (Baldwin 1987). The relation of extrinsic rewards to performance
has been treated as a major issue in public management in the past decade,
however, the question is whether weak relations between performance and
extrinsic rewards and other unfavorable work attitudes are inherent
attributes of governmental bureaucracies. Existing research is insufficient,
and relatively little research on institutional influences on internal
structures and behaviors in organizations has been conducted (Baldwin
Based on these observations, it would appear that the student of
high performing organizations may be able to draw some parallels between
private and public organizational experiences. Although not all findings
will translate directly from one to the other, they may, however, be
generalizable enough to provide insight and learnings to either type of
Organizations Being Studied
Two private organizations that recognize the need for high
performance have taken steps to create such an outcome in new locations.
Apple Computer, Inc. and Hamilton Standard Commercial Aircraft and
Electronics, Inc., a subsidiary of United Technologies, seized upon the
opportunity to do things differently in establishing operations in new
Apple Computer, Inc.
In 1990, Apple Computer, Inc. was facing new challenges in the
marketplace. Since it went public in 1980, Apples sales and earnings
have generally climbed. In 1981, earnings totaled $39.4 million on sales
of $334.8 million. In 1991, sales increased 13.5 percent to $6.3 billion
from $5.6 billion in 1990. Earnings, however, fell 34.8 percent to $309.8
million in 1991 from $474.9 million in 1990. The differentiators that had
given Apple the edge previously were beginning to erode, and there was a
need to drop the price of the product and compete on those differentiators
that had a customer service focus.
Apple executives concluded that a new manufacturing facility would
be needed within the next three years. However, when the base price of
the computer was dropped, sales increased so dramatically that it was then
necessary to expand manufacturing capabilities very rapidly. As Jim
Bilodeau (1992), Fountain, Colorado, Site Manager stated,
We kept saying that...we think were going to need more
capacity over three years. But when they lowered the price,
we went back to the board in January and said we need
something within the next year. What we proposed to them
is: we need a new manufacturing facility; we think it needs
to be U.S. basedbuilding parts in the U.S. regionand we
think it needs to be an existing building because of the
response for our products here.
At that time there were three manufacturing facilitiesSingapore; Cork,
Ireland; and Fremont, California. It was determined that adding capacity
in Fremont was not a good decision, as that would focus the U.S.
manufacturing capacity on the Haywood Fault. Bilodeau stated, "We
needed another U.S. manufacturing site to minimize how much risk we had
specifically in Fremont."
Because of the need to move quickly to get a production facility on-
line, the decision was made to try to find an existing building in a location
that would meet the needs of the organization. Such a building was located
in Fountain, Colorado. Joined with a suitable building were a trained work
force with electronics industry experience, an attractive community for
families, and some powerful incentives from the community!.
Apples board of directors approved developing a new site in
January of 1991. The site director was chosen in February,j and staffing
began in March. The leadership team was pulled from a base of Apple
employees, and with the exception of one late addition, began working as a
team early on.
Apples parent facility, located in Cupertino, California, and the
other sites are all traditionally structured. Although in many ways the
Apple culture is very non-traditional, reporting structures are very
traditional, and that hierarchy is firmly entrenched. I
The decision to build a high performance organization began in the
very early stages of designing the organization. As the design team
analyzed the factors that could make the difference in the competitiveness
of the new facility, several things emerged. Bilodeau stated, J "The big
challenge for us was to bring the factory up and get to a three-shift
operation relatively quickly, therefore using the capital equipment as
efficiently as we possibly could" (Bilodeau 1992). |
Bilodeau discussed the process that the team followed in reaching
the decision of how to structure the staff. A major concern |was controlling
costs in order to be competitive with foreign manufacturers. I In Bilodeaus
...if you look at what really drives the control and the cost
and the power of the manufacturing site, its labor, its
facilities cost-the building~its capital, using capital
equipment, and it is the electricity-[those are] really the top
So we began to think that if we could pick an organization
with ways of doing more with less, then we could potentially
compete. We started talking about this and we said, (Maybe
one of the things that we could do is minimize the !
management and have them on teams... be self-
directed... and if we didnt have to have extra layers of
management at the site, then thats a way to [compete]. We
did a study about self-directed work teams, and we looked at
the pride that it gave individuals, the ...management by
listening to people; the power of sharing communication all
the way down through the ranks, the difference between
having only four or five people making decisions versus
having 200-300 and how powerful that can be because}
management doesnt have a kind of a gift to the best !
ideas... and I think beyond just the sheer cost potential I was
the communicationthe better communication, the speed of
decisions, the quality of those decisions....
One leadership team member, while voicing concern that the entire
leadership team was not hired at the same time, said,
I think our approach has been good. Weve started out as a
team, defining our mission, defining how we want the
workplace to look over a period of time. I think its I very
important that, up front, we get a complement of people that
understand the direction that were going. I think that its
been relatively easy because we all are going down this path
together and we all see it the same way.
When asked if there were mandates from corporate headquarters,
the response was, !
No, corporate took care of us. They just told us thatj youve
got to be competitive, and how you get competitive is up to
you. So the decision of how we organized was reallyj our
The financial data for Hamilton Standard are more difficult to track,
as the organization is absorbed into the general reporting for United
Technologies Corporation (UTC) and is not reported separately. The 1991
Annual Report for UTC lists 1991 operating results as substantially lower
compared to the previous four years. The Annual Report also states,
Hamilton Standard will rationalize manufacturing operations
and establish small, focused facilities for commercial ;
products... (United Technologies Annual Report 1991,| 23).
According to Dave Hess (1992), General Manager of the Colorado
Springs facility, Hamilton Standard has never established a ccjst-based
competitive advantage as a manufacturer. He said,
Traditionally, or historically, we had always established an
advantage over our competitors through technology or
engineeringproduct development, product features, and
things of that sort. We were always heavily engineering-
driven. Our presidents were always ex-engineers who had
come up through engineering ranks, and manufacturing was
always an afterthought. That seemed to work for a long
time, but somewhere around the early to mid-eighties the
environment became much more competitive and cost
became much more of a competitive or a strategic j
advantage. Hamilton recognized that and recognized that
they needed to do something radically different. j
The Windsor Locks facility, Hamilton Standards parent facility, is
traditionally structured, and unionized. This structure and unionization has
created a costly bureaucracy that is unable to respond rapidly to changes in
The concept of a focused facility (a small operation, focused on a
small set of customers, a small set of products, and focused j primarily on a
commercial marketplace) was discussed in the late 1980s wljen Hamilton
Standard was experiencing financial difficulty. The company lost roughly
one hundred forty million dollars in 1987, and according to Hess, "That
got some peoples attention."
Discussions led by the president, Terry Stinson, and the vice-
president of electronics manufacturing, Ben Blackaby, covered a gamut of
potential strategies. Hess stated, j
There was still a belief that we needed to start a new
facility someplace outside of Windsor Locks, and the
concept changed from a highly automated, lights-out,
volume facility--basically to the type of structure we have
here, now. 1
The current president of Hamilton Standard, Bob Kuhn, was a
primary driver behind the focused facility concept, which has a product
and customer focus, different from that of traditional facilities.
According to Hess,
...the strategy here is to try to decentralize the organization
even further and establish the small product-based teams that
not only have ownership for a specific customer, but [for
one product] within that customers list of products. |
To develop the concept for the Colorado Springs facility, a cross-
functional team was established to study other successful operations and to
put together a portfolio of strategiesincluding high performance teams.
The leadership team of Hamilton Standard, Colorado Springs is comprised
of three long-time Hamilton Standard employees, and three external hires.
The site manager and the operations manager were selected in December of
1990, when the board of directors approved development of the site, with .
the rest of the team being added over the next few months. 1
The Colorado Springs location for the new manufacturing facility
was selected for a number of reasons. Among them were the| cost of living
in the community, the readily available workforce that already had
experience in electronics manufacturing at some skill level, the fact that
United Technologies owned 26 acres of land that really werenjt being
utilized, and the aggressive marketing and incentives package offered by
the Economic Development Council. "There was also the issue that we are
another 2000 miles and two time zones closer to our primary customer in
Seattle," Hess stated.
We just knew we had to do something different. There was
a lot of disagreement as to exactly what we had to dot but
the feeling was that we needed to make some dramatic and
fundamental changes in the manufacturing operations.: So
that was when they started looking at, o.k., what will this
new manufacturing operation look like? And they went
everywhere. First, [from]a very highly automated, super-
advanced, high-technology manufacturing operation tel the
operation that weve got here today, which has much more
focus on the human resource strategy than some of the
manufacturing process strategyalthough were doing
of work there.
When asked about time constraints or other constraints which were
imposed by corporate headquarters, Hess replied,
Were losing a tremendous amount of money this yeaij
because of the heavy investment mode were in right now
and the fact that.we arent up to full volume yet. My!
personal expectation...Id like to at least break even next
year, and by the end of 94 really start to see some
payback... start to see the financial benefits of all the ;
strategies were implementing today.
The corporation, however, has not yet set deadlines nor hard
numbers for payback. The expectation on all fronts is that the results will
be worth the costs. The facility is not viewed as a social experiment.
Hess summed it up when he said,
We all need to keep focused on the fact that we are a
business and we need to be profitable and thats the whole
reason that we started this operation in the first place|-[to]
try to establish a competitive advantage and try to lower our
manufacturing costs. !
College of Business. University of Colorado. Colorado Springs
While relatively few public organizations are established from the
outset as high performance team-based organizations, a third! organization
that is attempting to build high performance teams within an jexisting
organization is the School of Business at the University of Colorado,
Jim Rothe, Dean of the College of Business, (1993) stated,
B schools, nationally, us included, are under a lot of
change pressures. In the last several years there has been a
lot of criticism of our products. The demand for our
products is less than it was at one time, with subsequent
price reductions. There is a reduction in interest on the part
of students, nationally, coming into our programs. So we
really have some significant change forces working, ahd at
the same time there is an increase in the number of options
available-even in our small marketplace.
According to Rothe, the market was not the only consideration in deciding
to go to the team structure, but also the faculty wanted a different way of
communicating and participating in the governance process in j the college.
Those two forces collectively shaped the emerging structure, which became
the teams. BusinessWatch. the College of Business newsletter (Rothe
1992), described the new organizational design for the college as a move
to help them "be more effective and efficient in the execution of our
mission." The article went on to state,
Please note that we have utilized the team concept
extensively while providing more market focus for the
college. We believe the new design will ensure more and
better faculty input into the governance of the college while
improving the market responsiveness of the organization.
The College of Business was established in 1965 as a traditional
academic organization with a dean and department chairs as the
management group, its mission mandated by the Colorado Commission on
In January of 1992, the decision was made to change the
organization structure from the traditional structure to the team-based
structure. Department chair positions were eliminated, academic discipline
teams (Accounting, Organizational Management, etc.) were retained, and
four other cross-functional teams were established. The cross-functional
teams established were: Undergraduate Program Team; MBA (Masters in
Business Administration) Program Team; Intellectual Contribution Team;
and Service Team. An additional team comprised of staff personnel was
later formed. Faculty and staff self-selected which cross-functional teams
they would participate in, and many serve on multiple teams.
The initially established cross-functional teams were assigned
specific tasks and goals to be accomplished within the first year of
operation. A detailed mission statement and core values were developed
by the entire College of Business early in the process, and have been
applied throughout the growth of the process.
A little more than a year into the process, Dean Rothe (1993)
This process has and is creating a lot more sense of and
understanding of commonalities. If you are threatened in the
marketplace, thats common to all of us. Thats a bonder.
If we are all working on itif we trust one another and feel
that our motivations are decent and are appropriatethats a
little better. If you compare that to traditional academic
departmental organization, its very different.
Need for the Study
A senior manager at Cummins Engine Corporation responded to the
question about the circumstances under which a self-managing
organizational design would be preferred over a traditional organizational
structure. "Im not going to answer," he replied, "because thats last
years question. The question for todays managers is not whether to
design organizations for high involvement and self-management, but how to
do it, and how to do it well" (Hackman 1992, 143).
The three organizations being studied have stated that the goal of
the organization is to be high performing in terms of cost, quality, and
customer satisfaction. Implicit in the expectation of high performance is
also the expectation of satisfaction for stockholders and stakeholders. The
two private organizations must also satisfy corporate management and
stockholders regarding profitability, return on investments, and return on
assets. The third organization must satisfy university administration
regarding revenues and expenses, and the Colorado Commission for Higher
Education and Board of Regents regarding quality of services and
satisfaction of customer needs. All three organizations must satisfy the
internal stakeholders in order to maintain the committed workforce to
accomplish the task. All three organizations recognize that in the current
market, reaching the goal of high performance is a matter of survival. All
three organizations have determined that their route to high performance is
by way of self-managing teams and employee empowerment.
By applying theories of organizational development and
organizational change to the development of new and existing
organizations, high performance organizations should result. This study is
exploratory rather than experimental, with the purpose of examining more
closely the process of deliberate design for high performance as translated
into day to day operations.
Limitations of the Study
One limitation of this study is the sample size of three
organizations. In this regard the sample offered a limited range of
potential populations for generalization.
A second limitation imposed by the study is the twenty-two month
length of study. It is difficult to prove that an organization is actually a
high performance organization in that length of time. It can only be shown
that an organization meets performance expectations for that period of time
and appears to have positioned itself for long-term high performance.
In general, an exploratory design does not answer the issue of
causality and leaves open the question of whether structure and behaviors
created the outcome of high performance or whether other, unknown
factors created or contributed to that outcome.
For purposes of this investigation, limitations imposed by the design
were balanced by the unique opportunity to study two greenfield and one
change organization structures designed for high performance.
Research for this study, following the precepts of grounded theory
(which will be discussed in the next chapter), began with immersion in the
field situation through observation and a series of extensive interviews with
a variety of organization participants. As key research questions began to
emerge, they necessitated a revisitation of several streams of literature in
order to develop a theoretical perspective. The implicit and explicit
working theories that provided my informants basis for action are not in
any sense radical departures from the scholarly theories extant in the field
of public (or business) management. In fact, it is likely that scholarship
has provided what Caplan (1975) has termed "soft" knowledge and Weiss
(1980) called "enlightenment." My informants did not self-consciously use
theory as a basis for action, but the understanding of it that had percolated
to themfrom the popular media and their own management culture-had
imperceptibly become part of their background understanding of the
This chapter begins with a discussion of the meaning of "high-
performing organization," probably the most important concept in this
study. It continues with a review of several streams of literature that
illuminate and focus on an understanding of its two major components, the
creation of employee commitment and development of the teaming capacity
of the organization.
High Performance Organizations
Although "high performance" has become a buzzword of the
nineties, few organizations are able to clearly define the term as it applies
to them. A high performance organization encompasses many different
facets of organizational structure and behavior. A working definition of a
high performance organization is one that consistently outperforms its
competition over an extended period of time. As that sort of performance
is not measurable most of the time, what it really means is that the high
performance organization outperforms the expectations of its key
constituents: customers, shareholders, and employees (Katzenbach and
Smith 1993, 16). Although performance outcomes are system-specified,
rather than research-specified, both stockholders and stakeholders are
satisfied with outcomes of such an organization. A high performance
organization is one that is positioned to survive and succeed based on its
Although the above definition of high performance is based on
outcomes, this research does not attempt to focus on outcomes in terms of
productivity. Rather, it begins (as do the organizations themselves) with
the assumption that becoming a high performance organization is the goal,
although (as will be seen from their statements) this goal is an elusive,
ever-moving target. These organizations want to be able to consistently
outperform their competition, but they are sharply aware that they cannot
control all the variables that can hinder or facilitate that ultimate outcome.
Instead, they have set their sights on becoming high performing, which
involves changes that are within their power to realize. As the interviews
made clear, employees in these organizations saw teams and training as
means of achieving two intermediate goals that would, they surmised, lead
them to a state of continuing high performance. These intermediate goals
were (a) to encourage high employee commitment to the organization and
(b) to develop the organizations capacity for rapid, flexible responsiveness
to changing conditions. This study, therefore, will not attempt to assess
whether these organizations have achieved their end-goal of outperforming
the competition, but whether they have attained the intermediate goal of
building high commitment and the capacity for responsiveness. This
chapter will provide a review of several different theories as they relate to
the concept of building high performance organizations, that is, those
whose employees are highly committed and which are capable of rapid,
Figure 1 summarizes some of the key differences between low and
high performance organizations. While a number of approaches may be
taken to reach high performance outcomes, these characteristics are most
commonly found in such organizations (Johnson and Grey 1988;
Dertouzos, Lester, and Solow 1989; Larson and LaFasto 1989; Gazell and
Pugh 1990; Carr 1991; Duncan, Ginter and Capper 1991; Bahls 1992;
Stewart 1992; Hackman 1992; Secretarys Commission on Achieving
Necessary Skills 1992; Katzenbach and Smith 1993).
Figure 1. Key differences between low and high performance
Low Performance Organization High Performance Organization
Bureaucratic/directive structure Flat, empowering structure
Unstated/unclear goals Clear goals
Overlapping/unclear roles Clear roles and boundaries
One-way communication Multi-directional communication
Everyone for him/herself Unified commitment
Survival of the fittest Supportive context
Low emphasis on training On-going training
Quality function Continuous improvement
Flat. Empowering Structure
A high performance organization is not necessarily a team-based
organization, although that may be one of the more effective structures to
reach high performance, and high performance teams are not necessarily
self-managed. The design for high performance is whatever it takes to
produce high-quality products or services that satisfy the customer,
stockholders, and stakeholders. In many organizations, the structure that
most readily accomplishes this is a team-based structure that moves
decision-making responsibility to the lowest common denominatorthe
employee with the greatest knowledge relating to the decision. This
flattened, team-based organizational structure requires employees who are
knowledgeable and empowered to act upon their knowledge in dealing with
customers, suppliers, co-workers, and managers.
The organizations that have positioned themselves for success are
those that focus on empowering their workforces" (Wellins 1992, 24).
Empowerment is a process that organizations must support as a way of
life. It is not a one-time effort, but a continuing effort, "day after day, to
nurture peoples ability to manage themselves and maintain ownership of
their parts of the action" (Carr 1991, 37).
In order for any organization to be high performing, the entire
organization must understand the goals or vision for the organization.
Commitment is achieved through understanding and acceptance of those
goals and vision. Powerful visions may be formed, but they require the
support of the entire organization to be fulfilled (Katzenbach and Smith
. In an empowered organization, the best guidance comes from the
individuals and teams understanding of the organizations vision and
values (Wellins, Byham, and Wilson 1991, 86). Whether they are called
goals, mission, vision, or strategic intent, there must be a clear direction
for the organization. Whatever the title, and whatever the specific
meaning, that direction makes people proud to be a part of the total effort
(Katzenbach and Smith 1993).
Clear Roles and Boundaries
In a high performance team organization, employees typically have
a clearly defined whole task with accountability for quality, quantity, costs
and schedules. The design task for the organization (and that organization
may be the team, multiple teams, or the organization at large) is to identify
the key boundaries for the team, identify the mutual issues that require on-
going coordination, and to establish how the coordination is to be
accomplished (Donovan 1986).
Self-managing teams sometimes need time to coalesce. At the
outset there is greater dependence upon the manager or supervisor. As the
members of the team learn each others capabilities, as they become more
familiar with the organization (its structure, processes, procedures, and
customers), and as they begin to come together as a cohesive unit,
leadership is increasingly assumed by the team, which takes on more
responsibility for decision making and the day-to-day functioning
(interdependence). Even during the early stages of formation, however,
the leadership provided by managers and supervisors is team-centered, or
focused on developing the skills and abilities of the team to enable them to
assume future leadership responsibilities.
In some cases, teams and individuals move from dependence to
independence, rather than from dependence to interdependence. In such
instances, teams and individuals do not recognize and work within the
organizational team setting, making decisions and acting outside the best
interests of the entire team. In those cases, it is necessary for managers
and supervisors to provide clear boundaries for the teams and individuals
until they recognize the necessity for interdependence. Training and team-
building can shorten the independence stage.
In a start-up organization, direction from management (or the parent
organization) broadly frames the performance requirements of the
organization-clearly outlining the charter, the rationale, and the
performance challenges, but leaving plenty of room for teams to set
specific goals, timing and approaches (Katzenbach and Smith 1993).
Everyone profits from open communication, and an organization
cannot reach high performance without effective, open communication
(Orsbum, Moran, Musselwhite, Zenger, and Perrin 1990; Wellins, Byham,
and Wilson 1991). The more work teams make decisions designed to
support the organizations goals, the more they will want and need
information about the organizations overall operations, and the more
critical effective communication becomes.
Traditional management information systems usually do not include
the types of information needed by empowered employees to do their jobs
effectively. Responsiveness to internal and external customers frequently
requires that previously unavailable information be readily accessible at all
levels of an organization. Face-to-face, interactive communication
characterizes the high performance organization (Fisher 1993). "High
performance companies are distinguished by the greater effort they make to
communicate to all employees" (Johnson and Grey 1988, 26).
Communication must be open and multi-directional, without barriers
regarding access to other teams or to management.
Most of the popular literature on organizational excellence and high
performance (Peters and Waterman 1984; Bennis and Nanus 1985; Peters
1987) stresses the importance of securing employee commitment to the
goals and purposes of the organization. The recurring theme in this
literature is that higher levels of performance and productivity occur when
employees are committed to the organization, believe in its goals and
values, and take pride in organizational membership.
Employees in a high performance organization are committed to the
success of the organization. They recognize that they are responsible for
the outcomes of the organization, and are recognized by the rest of the
organization as valuable contributors to that success. There is a high level
of personal involvement and personal satisfaction for employees (Balfour
and Wechsler 1991; Sheridan 1991; Wellins and George 1991).
High performance organizations also tend to approach the
production side of the organization with flexible and decentralized methods
for improving product flow. Continuous flow manufacturing, just-in-time
manufacturing, continuous improvement methodology, new relationships
with suppliers, changes in coordination and control methodology, process
management (as opposed to function management), and new production
designs and layouts contribute to the high performance outcomes of
manufacturing organizations (Walton 1987; Stewart 1992). The high
performing organization recognizes the need to change and adapt to new
methods in order to reach high performance outcomes.
The other side of a supportive context is that of management
behavior that allows and encourages employee involvement. These are
new concepts for traditional organizations that are more accustomed to
managers making decisions and telling workers what to doand workers
doing as they are told. However, many of the old-line, "leave your brain
at the door" workplaces are disappearing as they fail to survive in the
rapidly changing global marketplace.
The supportive context required, then, is a context of technology
(such as moving to computer operated equipment) and methodology (such
as just-in-time or continuous-flow manufacturing) and of management
behavior (such as empowering individuals and teams) that supports
individual workers in their tasks and their involvement in decision-making
"Cultivating a new workplace culture also takes training-starting at
the top," (Sheridan 1991, 12). Organizations are recognizing that they
must provide training to bridge the gaps in what employees know and what
they need to know to do the job (Wellins and George 1991; Busse 1992;
Jessup 1992; Messmer 1992). Organizations are also recognizing that
training never ends when it comes to high performance self-directed teams
(Orsbum, Moran, Musselwhite, Zenger, and Perrin 1990; Wellins and
George 1991; Murrell and Vogt 1991). "Training has become a vital
element in efforts to raise employee awareness, to equip them with
problem-solving and statistical skills, and to prepare managers and
supervisors to build work teams and facilitate group dynamics" (The
Conference Board 1991, 9).
A 1990 survey conducted by Developmental Dimensions
International, The Association of Quality and Productivity, and Industry
Week reported that 54 percent of respondents mentioned insufficient
training as a barrier to self-directed teams (Wellins and George 1991).
Training is typically broken into three categories: job skills, team and
interactive skills, and quality or action skills. The survey listed the most
common training topics for self directed teams as problem solving, meeting
skills, communication skills, and handling conflict. "Work teams succeed
or fail on the quality and quantity of training they receive," (Musselwhite
and Moran 1990, 59).
Successful self-directed organizations commonly find that 20 percent
of a team members or team leaders time during the first year of operation
is spent in training activities, and the amount does not significantly
decrease in following years (Wellins 1992; Fisher 1993). An organization
wishing to be high performing must make a significant commitment to the
dollars and time required for the training necessary to build the work force
into a responsive, high performing team.
Emphasis on Continuous Improvement
The transformation of more and more companies to a dedication to
complete customer satisfaction, continual improvement of their products
and services, and improved productivity has required changing the way
employees think about their jobs (Bahls 1992, 16). Whether it is called
Total Quality Management or a host of other terms, a cluster of principles
generally form this movement. These principles include an emphasis on
customer satisfaction, a goal of continual improvement, involvement of
employees in decision making, conscious team building, continuous
training, and measuring progress through diligent recordkeeping (Bahls
1992, 17). High performance organizations see continuous improvement
as the continuous acquisition and application of knowledge to the task.
"The only self-sustaining continuous improvement processes are self-
generated. By people searching for ways to apply their new learning,"
(Fisher 1993, 101).
Literature Related to the Study
With these characteristics of high performing organizations in mind,
what is the theory behind the assumption that this sort of organization
would result in high performance? Why would a team-based, empowering
organization have better cost, quality, and customer satisfaction outcomes
than a traditionally managed organization?
If commitment of employees and a capability to respond (or a
capability to perform in teams) are key to high performance organizations,
we look to the literature to see what is required to achieve these outcomes,
and what are the obstacles. What causes an employee to be motivated,
satisfied, and committed? Recognizing that these three states are not
necessarily the same, nor necessarily simultaneous, literature does reveal
that commitment is closely tied to theories that support teaming.
The First Requisite: Commitment
Commitment has been described as interest and personal
involvement, some sense of ownership, a personal stake in the outcome
(Hall 1992b). The high performance organization builds individual
commitment to organization goals by actively soliciting and acknowledging
the contribution of the individual (Johnson & Grey 1988).
The traditional premise underlying work force management is that
efficiency can best be achieved by imposing management control over
workers behavior. The major issue in the past was that of control:
finding the right answer, gaining subordinate acquiescence to
predetermined tasks, and monitoring the quality of work. However, as
tasks and priorities change, new knowledge and technology increase, and
the environment of work repeatedly shifts, "the solution that worked
yesterday is only slightly appropriate today and will be irrelevant
tomorrow" (Bradford and Cohen 1984, 12-13).
There is a general shift from a traditional "control strategy" to a
more effective "commitment strategy" among managers (Walton 1985),
portending a fundamental change in how organizations are designed and
managed (Hackman 1992, 144). This change has come about, in part, in
response to increased foreign competition and to the dramatic change in
what workers expect from their jobs and from their employers. As the
numbers of people to perform the work are decreasing while the volume of
work and the standards remain the same, organizations need people who
will do quality work the first time, pitch in to help others out, and create a
cooperative atmosphere (Parker 1990). The organizations of the future will
rely heavily on member self-management in pursuing collective objectives.
The 21st-century organization will be a "high-involvement workplace,"
meaning operations with self-managing teams and other devices for
empowering employees (Stewart 1992, 93).
This newer commitment-based approach is characterized by the
creation of jobs that involve greater responsibility and flexibility, more
responsibility for production and quality activities at lower levels in the
organization, less organizational hierarchy, and the creation of teams of
workers that are the organizational units accountable for performance.
There is also much greater emphasis on increased quality of work life and
employee involvement (Walton 1987).
The shift from a control-oriented approach to a commitment-
oriented approach is widespread and on the increase. In 1970, only a few
plants in the U.S. were systematically revising their approach to the work
force; by 1975, hundreds of plants were doing so, and by 1985, those
plants numbered in the thousands (Walton 1985). More recent studies
show that growing percentages of organizations are experimenting with
self-directed work teams and empowered work forces (Leavitt 1987; Dowst
and Raia 1988; Kapstein and Hoerr 1989; Lee 1990; Verespej 1990).
These participative mechanisms have delivered gains in productivity,
quality, and job satisfaction (Stewart 1992; Thompson 1991). Self-
managing teams and empowerment allow employees to experience high
internal work motivation, high quality work performance, and high work
satisfaction-outcomes of experienced meaningfulness of work, experienced
responsibility for work outcomes, and knowledge of the results of work
activities (Hackman and Oldham 1980). Self-managing team members are
directly responsible for their work decisions and performance, and live
with the results of those decisions and performance. "Unleashing" the self-
leadership potential within each worker represents the principal means of
establishing the commitment and enthusiasm necessary to achieve true
long-term excellence in an organization (Manz and Sims 1989).
A study regarding commitment of public employees (Balfour and
Wechsler 1991, 366) showed that the implications of the findings for
organizational performance and productivity are in the linkage between
organizational support and commitment. Employees develop a sense of
attachment to the organization primarily on the basis of their perception
that the organization supports their values and is a hospitable and socially
satisfying place to work. Balfour and Wechslers evidence suggests that
public organizations are not very good at creating environments that
facilitate employee commitment. If this is true, an implication of their
findings is that new approaches to creating that facilitative environment,
such as self-managed teams and empowering practices, are in order.
Overall attitudes toward the organization in high performance
organizations tend to be very favorable, as compared to low performance
companies in the same industry (Johnson and Grey 1988). High
performance organizations are perceived by the employees to offer greater
freedom to take reasonable risks and the independent action necessary to
perform their jobs and to offer more opportunities for individual growth.
By placing a greater emphasis on individual initiative, high performance
organizations tap into the talents of employees while creating an
environment that supports personal development. Actively soliciting and
acknowledging the contribution of individuals, those organizations
simultaneously build individual commitment to corporate goals.
Successful high performance organizations interweave motivation
theory, job characteristics theory, and job satisfaction/dissatisfaction theory
to blend organizational design and behaviors so as to build individual
Motivation theory generally assumes that individuals are motivated
to act by unsatisfied needs. One contemporary theory of motivation is
McClellands three-needs theory. Three basic needs within individuals
have been identified as personality characteristics: need for achievement
(the drive to excel); need for power (the need to make others behave in a
way that they would not have behaved otherwise); and need for affiliation
(the desire for friendly and close interpersonal relationships) (McClelland,
et al. 1953).
Research has shown that "individuals with a high need to achieve
prefer job situations with personal responsibility, feedback, and an
intermediate degree of risk" (Robbins 1986, 130). Employees have been
trained to stimulate their achievement need, and self-managing teams
appeal to those individuals with a high need to achieve. High performance
teams also provide the affiliation that employees seek, as team members
relate to one another interdependently. Organizations designed for high
performance provide for achievement and affiliation need fulfillment
through empowered teams and through an organizational culture that
reinforces the value of the individual to the organization.
Most organizations are familiar with the famous Theory X (most
people are lazy, irresponsible, passive, and dependent, and must be tightly
controlled and supervised) and Theory Y (most people will take
responsibility, care about their jobs, wish to grow and achieve, and, if
given a chance, will do excellent work), which suggests that managements
assumptions determine managements behavior (McGregor 1960). More
and more organizations are taking seriously McGregors other assumptions
and proposals as well: people need regular performance feedback, groups
should meet to solve problems, and teams should do the whole job, rather
than having narrow specialists do small pieces. High performance teams
can only exist in organizations that ascribe to the Theory Y view of people.
Management must believe that people are capable and willing to perform at
a high level in order to relinquish power to those people. A team
empowered to manage its own work and to relate directly with the
customer and supplier cannot exist in a Theory X environment. The high
performance team echoes McGregors proposals regarding feedback and
group and team functions.
A fairly extensive body of literature exists, criticizing both
McClellands and McGregors theories. Although many of the concepts
proposed by both have been useful, organizations wishing to build high
performing teams must pick and choose those elements that best fit within
the context they wish to design. Parts of these theories are appropriate to
such designs, and parts are not. Achievement and affiliation need
obviously can be fulfilled within a high performance team structure.
Power need, as defined above, probably does not fit into such a design.
Power needs may be fulfilled in terms of power over ones environment or
situation, but not in terms of power over people.
High performance organizations draw upon these basic motivation
theories in the design of work and structure. By designing work in such a
way that individuals have a "stake" in the organization, the organization
enjoys the benefits of that individuals contribution to making the
organization prosper. Thus, empowering organizations seek to develop
committed employees by providing employees with abundant opportunities
to satisfy their achievement needs. By enabling employees to fulfill their
needs as related to work, those employees then become more committed to
their jobs and become more productive parts of the organization. Their
commitment, participation, and involvement nets a direct return to the
organization in terms of productivity and profitability.
Job Characteristics Theory
Another approach to building commitment is exemplified by job
characteristics theory. In order for positive personal and work outcomes
(high internal work motivation, high quality work performance, high work
satisfaction, and low absenteeism and turnover) to occur, three critical
psychological states must occur in a given employee: experienced
meaningfulness of the work, experienced responsibility for work outcomes,
and knowledge of the results of work activities (Hackman and Oldham
1980). Through careful work redesign that addresses five core job
dimensions (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and
feedback), these critical psychological states can be created in each
employee. However, the mechanics of work redesign alone cannot
guarantee success. An important moderating variable exists in "individual
growth need strength," defined as an individuals desire to obtain growth
satisfactions from his or her work (Hackman and Oldham 1980, 5).
Research has shown (Duncan, Ginter, and Capper 1991) that
professional and technical employees are motivated by seeing a meaningful
end product or result from work efforts; having freedom to use personal
judgment and initiative; having enough time to do quality work; having
influence and decision-making opportunities; having broad and/or project
scope; and being busy and challenged within individual capabilities. Self-
managing work groups work designs generally include: a relatively whole
task; members who possess a variety of skills relevant to the group task;
worker discretion over such decisions as methods of work, task schedules,
and assignment of members to different tasks; and compensation and
feedback about performance for the group as a whole (Cummings 1978,
The similarity of Hackman and Oldhams job design
characteristics and the self-regulating conditions of work
groups suggest a common ground for integrating these two
streams of theory and research (Cummings 1978, 629).
High performing organizations develop high employee commitment
through providing opportunities to experience positive personal and work
outcomes and to experience the critical psychological states outlined in job
characteristics theory. Self managing teams typically develop a strong
sense of team spirit and commitment (Donovan 1986).
Job Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction Theory
Job satisfaction/dissatisfaction theory blends well with job
characteristics theory in organizations wishing to build high commitment of
employees. While individuals are motivated to perform by the internal
factors and job characteristics discussed above, they may be dissatisfied by
extrinsic factors that can result in loss of organizational commitment.
In answer to the question, "What do people want from their jobs?"
certain characteristics tend to be consistently related to job satisfaction, and
others to job dissatisfaction. Intrinsic factors, such as achievement,
recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth seem
to be related to job satisfaction. Extrinsic factors such as company policy
and administration, supervision, interpersonal relations, and working
conditions, tend to be related to job dissatisfaction. The opposite of
satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, and removing dissatisfying characteristics
from a job does not necessarily make the job satisfying. The factors
leading to job satisfaction are separate and distinct from those that lead to
job dissatisfaction. It is suggested that emphasizing achievement,
recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and growth will motivate people
The concepts embodied in the work of Herzberg and Maslow
are representative of those in a growing body of knowledge
about human motivation and the part it can play in
increasing organizational effectiveness. The individual
human being is the key variable in responding to
motivational influences. Herzbergs work gives management
some valuable guides in applying motivation-avoidance
findings to the reality of work as experienced by the
individual (Kuriloff 1972, 28).
These three streams of theory, regarding individual motivation, job
characteristics, and job satisfaction, suggest how organizations can develop
structures, processes, procedures, and policies that may enhance employee
commitment. Organizations that enable employees to experience
satisfaction of their individual needs for achievement, power, and
affiliation, to experience recognition, responsibility, advancement and
growth, and to experience meaningfulness of work, responsibility for work
outcomes, and to know the results of their work activities, are providing
the basis for achieving high performance.
The Second Requisite: Capability to Respond (Teaming Capacity')
Customer satisfaction, both internal and external, frequently
requires a rapid responsewhether it be to solve a problem, provide a
service, or meet a change in requirements. Tapping the know-how of
employees at the point where the work gets done (in the work unit, or
team) is the most effective way to meet the need for rapid change (Sayles
In the quest for high performance, the integration of the motivated,
high performing employee into the high performing team seems a natural
progression. Teams are thought to be effective in addressing two key
problems with the old paradigms-the underutilization of the talents of
individual employees and the isolation of individuals (Rees 1991). The
synergy that results from teamwork offers benefits to organizations in
dealing with both these issues.
Some teams are formal, structured around product or process, and
designed to be self-managing or somewhere along the continuum toward
self-management. Other teams are ad hoc, pulled together for the one-time
or short-term resolution of a particular problem. Whichever style they
adopt, many organizations are utilizing the team concept to empower
employees to be contributing participants in the organizations success.
High performance teams evidence that same commitment to
organizational goals, values, and tasks, typically developing a strong sense
of team spirit and commitment to task accomplishment, characterized by a
high degree of cooperation, information sharing, and flexibility (Donovan
1986, 16). High performance team members see themselves as "integral
parts of a comprehensive whole," consider themselves "collectively and
individually responsible for everything the team does," and accept
responsibility for solving problems (OConnor and Erickson 1992, 35).
High-performance teams ensure a degree of organization flexibility and
responsiveness, produce high-quality solutions, provide coordination among
members, and are the vehicle for shared responsibility (Bradford and
Organizations that select teams as the vehicle of choice to provide
responsiveness to internal and external customers and to the demands of a
changing environment utilize a blending of post-bureaucratic theory, self-
managed teams theory, and socio-technical systems theory to achieve that
Post-bureaucratic theory, also known as the bureaucratic reform
vision, moves beyond the bureaucratic values of efficiency and impersonal
administration to the notion that "organizations should be customer-driven
and service-oriented" (Barzelay 1992, 6). Two key principles of service
operations management are (1) customers participate in the production and
delivery of services, and (2) the service-delivery process operates more
smoothly when customers understand what is expected of them and feel
that the organization is making a reasonable effort to accommodate their
The bureaucratic reform vision has focused largely on the
government sector, as the business world has "shifted from tight control to
motivating employee commitment, tapping employee knowledge, and
unleashing employee ingenuity" (Barzelay 1992, x) in the drive to stay
ahead of the competition. "The twilight of hierarchy" has been recognized
as a turning point in the way that government operates (Cleveland 1985b).
Changes in the bureaucratic paradigm include not only the vision of
customer focus, but enabling the whole organization to function as a team,
modifying operations in response to changing demands, competing for
business, and empowering employees to make decisions. For public
organizations, this encompasses a major shift in thinking and behaviors.
These new visions have been termed "entrepreneurial government"
(Osborne and Gaebler 1992, 16), meaning government that behaves more
like a business than it has in the past. These new behaviors mean that
government can shift its position on the continuum between bureaucratic
behavior and entrepreneurial behavior-promoting competition, empowering
citizens, focusing on outcomes, letting work be driven by missions,
redefining clients as customers, preventing problems, earning money,
decentralizing authority, preferring market mechanisms, and catalyzing all
sectors to solve problems.
The important linkage between post-bureaucratic theory and teaming
capacity is in the reliance upon employees to function as a team in meeting
changing customer and environmental demands and in making the shift to
more entrepreneurial behaviors. These new behaviors for government will
demand such involvement and participation.
Self-Managed Teams Theory
As work groups absorb many of the functions previously performed
by managers and supervisors, they become increasingly self-managing,
thus, freeing managers and supervisors for facilitating internal coordination
and cooperation and for interactions with the external environment. The
terms autonomous, self-managing, and semi-autonomous are often used
interchangeably in describing the nature of such groups. Martin suggests
that a better term might be maximum feasible autonomy which implies that
A work group can achieve as much autonomy (independence
or self-determination) as it desires as long as its autonomy is
achieved within the context of situational requirements and
organizational (as opposed to just management) objectives.
There is an assumption of some degree of unity of goals, and that
work groups must exist within that context. Such work groups are made
up of members who "regulate their behavior around relatively whole tasks"
(Cummings and Molloy 1977, 21).
Self-managing teams are based upon four assumptions: (1) that
workers will not remain satisfied with merely "participating" with
management at the latters invitation in giving advice to enhance
productivity (or profits); (2) that there are many benefits and challenges to
be realized from various adaptations of self-management which remain
virtually untapped in the public sector; (3) that the salaries attached to
unnecessary manager and supervisor positions represent a substantial and
enduring savings once the positions are eliminated; and (4) that a great
deal of time and energy now absorbed in management and supervision
activities can be released through the elimination of unnecessary positions
and the redistribution of necessary functions to workers allowing more
individuals to give attention to the essential or "doing" functions of the
organization (Martin 1983, 15).
Self-managed teams are those that are responsible for setting their
own standards for performance, methods for achieving those standards, and
for self-administering their job and team functions. The effectiveness of a
self-managing unit could be assessed on three dimensions: (1) the degree
to which the units productive output (that is, its product or service) meets
the standards of quantity, quality, and timeliness of the people who
receive, review, or use that output; (2) the degree to which the process of
carrying out the work enhances the capability of organization members to
work together interdependently in the future; and (3) the degree to which
work experiences contribute to the growth and personal well-being of unit
In summary, measuring the performance of a self-managing
unit always involves much more than simply counting
outputs. Not only must social and personal criteria be
considered, but even assessments of task outcomes are
complex because they depend on system-specified (rather
than research-specified) outcomes. (Hackman 1992, 153)
Five behavioral signs that might be seen in self-managing units,
arranged from the most basic self-managing behaviors to those that might
be found only in relatively mature self-managing units are: (1) People
take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their work and show in
their behavior that they feel personally accountable for the results of what
they do. (2) People monitor their own performance continuously, actively
seeking data and feedback to learn how well they are accomplishing their
tasks. (3) People manage their own performance, taking corrective action
at their own initiative to improve their performance. (4) When people do
not have what they need to perform well, they actively seek from the
organization the guidance, help, or resources they need for excellent
performance~and they do so assertively and constructively. (5) People
take initiatives to help people in other areas improve their performance,
thereby strengthening the policies and performance of the organization as a
whole. And they make sure that their own responsibilities are being met
before reaching out to help others (Hackman 1992, 156).
Rarely are all decisions turned over to workers in self-managing
teams. "Business leaders are scarcely prone to relinquishing those
elements of control they consider vital" (Barzelay 1992, x). Upper-level
managers continue to run the company, but the day-to-day, mid-level
decisions are moved to the lowest appropriate level. Such work redesign
results not only in cost reduction, but in improved quality of working life
(Work in America, 1973).
The significant difference between participation and self-
management is the difference between being an advisory group to
management to suggest or recommend, and in keeping top management
informed about decisions made by the group and ensuring coordination
with the work going on in other self-managing groups. The involvement
of self-managed teams provides the ownership and responsibility to
employees that engender both commitment and responsiveness. The
obvious time savings involved when empowered teams are able to react to
changes and demands on their own initiative, without having to wait for
approval from another level, enables an organization to be more responsive
in a changing environment.
Socio-Technical Systems Theory
The idea that work is a system, not a series of discrete tasks has
been labeled a paradigm shift (Emery and Trist 1965). Socio-technical
systems theory views production systems as comprised of both
technological and social parts. The former consists of the equipment and
methods of operations used to transform raw materials into products or
services; the latter includes the work structure that relates people to the
technology and to each other. The concept of a socio-technical system
arises from the consideration that any organizational system requires both a
technology and a work structure. Those closest to the work must help
design the jobs-the socio-technical systema shift away from scientific
managements segmentation of work into dull, repetitive jobs.
The aim is to design a work structure that is responsive to the task
requirements of the technology and the social and psychological needs of
employees; a structure that is both productive and humanly satisfying. Self
managing work groups are a direct outgrowth of socio-technical systems
theory and design, and existing evidence suggests that such work groups
are both productive and satisfying.
Systems that complement both task and social requirements are
readily formed with self-managing teams, which may be a natural outcome
Systems that complement both task and social requirements are
readily formed with self-managing teams, which may be a natural outcome
of the previously mentioned paradigm shift. Such designs enhance the
capability of team members to respond to changing demands, as they
recognize needs and feel a personal commitment to meet those needs.
Team members can recognize needs as they emerge, and respond within
the empowered context of the organization much more rapidly and
satisfactorily than in a traditional structure.
Organizations wishing to be high performing must consider the
socio-technical systems in designing both the work and organizational
culture. Self-managing work teams seem to the be structure that can
provide both commitment and responsive teaming-capacity for the
Organizational Change Theory
Change theory is interwoven among the various parts of the overall
organizational design in order to accomplish the outcome of high
performance. Any organization wishing to become high performing must
understand how change in structure, design, and behaviors will affect the
members of that organization, and how to achieve desired commitment and
responsiveness through changing individual behaviors.
While there is a dearth of information about building high-
performance organizations from the outset, a great deal of effort has been
directed toward the exploration of new approaches to management of
change within organizations. The historical contributions of organizational
psychologists such as Roethlisberger, McGregor, Likert, Blake, Shepard,
Beckhard, and other researchers and theoreticians have laid the foundations
for current Organizational Development (OD) and organizational behavior
Successful change requires a redistribution of power (the locus of
formal authority and influence) within the structure of an organization,
which occurs gradually as group decision making and group problem
solving are employed at all levels of the organization (Greiner 1967). This
redistribution of power is a structural issue that is difficult for most
hierarchical organizations to confront. The gradual transition into group
decision making and group problem solving is easier for organizations to
accept than a sudden transition without sufficient skill building and
practice. In a greenfield organization, the issue is individual change,
rather than organizational change. However, the transition is no less
difficult, and skill building is no less required.
The general OD literature has been placed in two categories of
studies: those addressing "technostructural" approaches, referring to
theories about and interventions into the technology (e.g., task methods and
structures) or structure (e.g., relationships, roles, arrangements) of
organizations, and "human processual" approaches, which focus on the
human participants and organizational processes (e.g., communication,
problem solving, decision making) (Friedlander and Brown 1974). A
blending of approaches has not been clearly addressedperhaps because
such an approach has not been discussed in the literature.
The "cultural effects" on people within the manufacturing
environment have become the biggest obstacle to successful implementation
of advanced manufacturing technology, so that it is necessary to include the
"human side of world class manufacturing" in the planning and
implementation of new technologies (Gunn 1988, 9). There are "growing
numbers of human, managerial, and organizational problems" associated
with the implementation of advanced technology in the workplace (Savage
1988, 54). It is impossible to ignore the human associated with the
technology that contributes to organizational success. If ignored, the
human can assure that the technology is unsuccessful, as demonstrated in
documented cases of sabotage.
Changes in the workplace are necessary to generate improvements
in both worker productivity and quality of worklife (Smith 1990, 21).
Where efforts have been made, the results have often been changes in the
way tasks are organized into jobs, the way workers relate to reach other
and to management, the way authority and status are defined, the way
performance is measured and rewarded, and the way career paths are
conceived. These efforts "invariably have provided for increased levels of
employee participation in the management of organizations" (Walton and
Organizations that are designed for high performance must utilize
the learning about organizational and individual change so that commitment
is enhanced and responsiveness is achieved. Planning for change is
essential in the design of the organization.
The previously discussed theories provide the foundational basis for
developing high performance organizations. However, there is no clear
theory of how to effectively interweave these bases into a cohesive whole.
Each organization that has the goal of high performance must pick and
choose elements that appear to "fit" with products and services, processes,
procedures, culture, the work force, and the external environment.
Questions around structure, management style, training, and establishment
of culture are yet unanswered. If an organization is to be team-based, is it
best to begin with a self-managed team structure, or to ease into the
process over time? What training should be offered, and in what sequence
and timing? How are boundaries and expectations set? What about
temporary workershow does an organization obtain commitment and
involvement without creating implications and expectations of permanent
employment? How are managers coached and encouraged to behave in the
ways required by empowering organizations? What are the obstacles to
Other unanswered questions regarding the development of high
performance organizations lie in the areas of worker perception. How does
it feel to be a part of such a change or undertaking? What are the
experiences that might be expected? Are there patterns or repeated
experiences across organizations?
It would be expected that high performance theory should tell us
how to obtain the commitment of workers, and how to reach the
responsiveness we require, using the vehicle of choice. The reality is that
there is no one theory of high performance. What is clear, however, is
that the essence of the high performing organization, whether it be public
or private, appears to be in the individual employeetapping that creativity
and energy and directing it toward the desired outcomes of the
organization. As individuals also make up organizations that are not high
performing, exploring the differences that enable high performing
organizations to access the power of the individual is what makes the study
of such organizations so fascinating.
The design of this study is intended to confront the question, "What
makes a difference in building high performance organizations?" The
qualitative research is designed to build a grounded theory about how high
performance is designed into and nurtured throughout an organization.
According to Strauss and Corbin (1990, 24), "The grounded theory
approach is a qualitative research method that uses a systematic set of
procedures to develop an inductively derived grounded theory about a
phenomenon." The procedures utilized in this study are detailed below.
Selection of the Sample Groups
This study is based on data collected from 83 subjects in three
organizationstwo private organizations, Apple Computer and Hamilton
Standard Commercial Aircraft Electronics (HSCAE), and one public
organization, the College of Business at the University of Colorado,
Colorado Springs. These organizations were selected because their stated
objective was to achieve high performance. This objective was stated in
mission and values statements, news releases, other printed publications,
and in personal interviews. All three organizations selected a team-based
structure as their operating design, and all consciously chose to express
specific norms and values in their organizational designs.
Initial contact with the two private sector organizations was made
with the personnel directors, after the organizations publicly announced
that they would locate facilities in Colorado Springs. As the community
college is involved in attracting new businesses to the community as part of
the economic development team, I was aware of the organizations interest
in the community, and followed developments closely. As I was very
interested in organization development, the opportunity to study two
developing organizations appeared to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. As
soon as the organizations publicly announced that they would be starting
operations in Colorado Springs, I called to ask for an appointment,
proposing that they allow research to be conducted during the start-up
phase of development. Initial interviews to outline the proposed study
were held, in the personnel directors office in one case, and over
breakfast in the other. Both personnel directors were enthusiastic about the
study, viewing it as an opportunity for their organizations to contribute to
general knowledge, and as an opportunity to gain a record of their process
of development. Written requests for permission to conduct the study were
submitted, and passed along to both legal departments. Approval was
granted by the parent organizations within two weeks of the requests.
The dean of the college of business was contacted directly to gain
approval for the study within the college, after it was learned that the
organization was making the structural change from traditional management
to team-based management. Permission was granted, without any further
approval levels. As an institution of higher learning, everyone contacted
expressed a desire to contribute to the learning process.
All three organizations expressed a desire for feedback at the
conclusion of the study, and were promised a copy of the dissertation and
an invitation to a formal presentation of findings.
Method of Collecting Data
There are a total of 592 regular full-time employees within the three
organizations-which fluctuated throughout the term of the study from an
initial head count of 45 to 592 at the termination of the study. One of the
subject organizations also has a temporary workforce of nearly 500
employees. A total of 125 interviews and observations were conducted
across the three organizations, and archival documents were examined.
As much control as possible was exercised in collecting the data for
this study, but because of the nature of the organizations and of the study,
total control was not possible. The data were collected in the following
The two private organizations published messages within the
organizations stating that research was being conducted and all employees
were to feel free to participate in the process. They were instructed to
offer free access to meetings, documents, or interviews with the
researcher. The public organization was small enough that it was
appropriate to introduce the purpose for the research during the initial
request for an interview. As the public organization is also an academic
institution, there was some internal pressure to cooperate with academic
research. Each interviewee was assured anonymity at the outset of the
Quasi-structured interviews were conducted over a twenty-two
month time period in an open sampling method with 83 employees of the
three subject organizations: 38 Apple employees; 32 Hamilton Standard
employees; and 13 UCCS employees, with 34 follow-up interviews with
key employees. Interviews were conducted across the strata of the three
organizations, with subjects representing a cross-section of race, gender,
age, job classification, and tenure with the organization.
At Hamilton Standard, the human resources team volunteered to set
up interviews with employees across the organization on a regular basis.
These interviews were generally held in a conference room that was set
aside for this purpose. After the first six months of study, interviews were
held randomly, at the interviewees work station. Some interviewees were
acquaintances from previous contacts in the workplace or in the
community, others were strangers. Some were purposely selected because
of their position or longevity with the company, others were selected
because they were able to take the time to talk. The entire leadership team
was interviewed at least once, and employees from all areas of the
organization, at all levels were interviewed.
At Apple, the human resources director suggested that it would
make the most sense for me to come to the site on a regular basis and
randomly interview employees across the site, without HR involvement.
Again, the entire leadership team was interviewed at least once, and
employees from all areas of the organization, at all levels were
interviewed. Few of these interviews were conducted in a conference
room, as most were conducted on the line or at the individuals work
station. A few of the interviewees were acquaintances from previous
contacts, but most were strangers.
At the college of business, all interviews were scheduled by
telephone directly with the individual, and all interviews were conducted in
the interviewees office, with the exception of one which was conducted
over lunch. All team leaders were interviewed, as were members of all
five teams, across discipline and tenure lines. Most of the interviewees
were acquaintances from previous academic or professional contacts, but a
few were strangers. Some of the professors had been instructors during
my MBA program, and all were colleagues, as I teach part-time in the
college. One of the staff members was a close friend from when we were
both MBA students.
Relationships with previous contacts were all positive. In my
previous position, I was a team coordinator and training coordinator at
Texas Instruments. As Texas Instruments closed its doors at about the
time that Apple and Hamilton Standard started hiring, many of the
employees hired were previously at Texas Instruments. Because of our
previous relationships, many employees at the two organizations were
willing to share perceptions that they might not have shared with a
Eight observations were randomly conducted at the various
locations, with documented notes. Documents and artifacts were reviewed
for specific information regarding visions, missions, plans, training, and
general culture-building events and background. Additional data were
gathered informally in the process of conducting formal training at the
various sites as a part of my regular professional employment.
Training conducted was related to team skill development
(Managing Meetings, Presentation Skills, Conflict Management), but was
not directly team building. Training was conducted during the last twelve
months of the study, after relationships had already been developed with
many employees in the organizations through previous interviews and
observations. Employees had previously been assured of anonymity in the
study, and a trust relationship had been established. I was perceived as a
"safe" person to vent feelings to, with the understanding that what was
heard would go no further. In my experience, trainers are typically viewed
as an ally by employees, even when there is no previous relationship, if the
trainers set the environment as a "safe" place to be.
Attendees at the training sessions varied among the organizations
team leaders in one organization, and intact teams in another. The trust
relationship that existed made it possible for attendees to broach potentially
"sticky" topics such as relationships with the human resources departments
and with other departments within the organizations without fear of
reprisal. Observations were recorded simply as observations, without
value judgment applied.
Although the interviews were quasi-structured in design, typical
interview questions included: What is your role in the organization? Do
you. see your organization as a high performance organization? What does
high performance mean to you? What has happened so far? Where do
you see the process going? Is it working? What would you do differently?
No participants were really difficult to interview, aside from
language problems when interviewing some Asian members of the Apple
repair line. Although these participants were eager to talk with me, it was
difficult to communicate due to the language barrier. No interviewees took
a defensive stance, and none took an aggressive stance. All seemed eager
to share their perceptions of what was occurring within their respective
organizations, and to ask questions about what was happening in the other
organizations. Only two temporary employees were interviewed, and
because of their "overly positive" response, were discarded as legitimate
data. These responses were perceived as slanted due to the desire to be
hired as regular employees.
Method of Analyzing the Data
All the interviews were audio-tape recorded, transcribed, and
entered into a WordPerfect for Windows software database. Using the
constant comparative method of qualitative analysis (Glaser and Strauss,
1967, 101-115), incidents were compared within and across the three
organizations to develop theory. According to Glaser and Strauss (1967,
105), the four stages in the constant comparative method are: (1)
comparing incidents applicable to each category, (2) integrating categories
and their properties, (3) delimiting the theory, and (4) writing the theory.
The WordPerfect for Windows software enabled access to multiple
documents within seconds for comparison of interview segments. Data
could be compared across and within organizations, and by individuals as
well. The cut and paste capabilities of the program made comparison and
integration a simple process.
Criteria for Judkins the Quality of the Research Design
The four tests that are relevant for judging the quality of any given
research design are construct validity, internal validity, external validity,
and reliability. The tactics utilized for dealing with these tests are among
those posited by Yin (1989).
Construct validity may be defined as establishing correct operational
measures for the concepts being studied. Yin (1989) suggests that
construct validity may be ensured by using multiple sources of evidence,
establishing a chain of evidence, and having key informants review a draft
of the case study report. In this study, multiple sources of evidence-
interviews, observations, and document analysiswere utilized. A chain of
evidence was established, but the guaranteed anonymity of participants
makes it difficult for readers to verify. Key informants were invited to
review a draft of the report in the final stages of development. All
informants corroborated the essential facts and evidence presented in the
report, and agreed with the findings and conclusions presented.
Internal validity is establishing a causal relationship, whereby
certain conditions are shown to lead to other conditions, as distinguished
from spurious relationships. Yin (1989) suggests that pattern matching,
explanation-building, and time-series analysis are tactics for ensuring
internal validity. To ensure internal validity in this study, pattern matching
against the research questions was conducted.
External validity is establishing the domain to which a studys
findings can be generalized. This may be done through replication and
logic in multiple-case studies. This study was conducted in three different
organizations, both public and private, to ensure external validity.
Reliability is demonstrating that the operations of a study-such as
the data collection procedures-can be repeated, with the same results. Yin
suggests that reliability may be ensured by using a case study protocol to
deal with the documentation problem, and through the development of a
case study data base. The protocol for this study has been discussed
throughout this document, and the data base was maintained in both
computer files and document files.
The results and overall findings of the study are presented in
Chapters Four and Five.
The major intent of this study was to determine those variables
which affect reaching the desired outcome of a high performance
organization. Each research question will be addressed in terms of data
from each organization studied, as well as the greater question of whether
or not the organizations perceived themselves as being high performance
The first section, Mission and Value Statements, discusses the
mission and values statements for the three subject organizations.
The second section, Question 1. presents the specific results from
each organization regarding the question, "Will an organizational structure
based on team-centered management result in a high performance
The third section, Question 2. presents the specific findings from
each organization regarding the question, "Will training employees in
teamwork, quality, and self-management concepts early in their
employment result in high performance teams?"
The fourth section, Question 3. presents the specific findings from
each organization regarding the question, "What other activities and
behaviors within an organization contribute to high performance?"
The fifth section, High Performance, addresses the responses from
the organizations regarding their reaching the g;oal of being high
Mission and Value Statements
All three organizations studied began with the basic premise that
clear mission and values must underlie the development of the
organization. Therefore, all three developed such statements during the
early stages of structuring the organization. In the case of the College of
Business, the statements were developed by the entire organization; in the
cases of the two private organizations, the statements were developed by
the leadership teams. These mission and values statements have impacted
the organizations in varied ways.
Apple Fountain Quality Policy and value statements are posted on
standards in the lobby. The Quality Policy reads:
Apple Computer is committed to total customer satisfaction
through continuous improvement of all our processes.
Fountains mission is to provide high quality products and
services to our customers. Cost competitiveness ensures our
long-term survival. We compete by continuously eliminating
waste from the workplace. Our distinctive competencies are
process effectiveness, cross-functional integration and
teamwork with our internal and external partners.
The values statement reads:
Fountain is developing a high performance environment that
promotes these values:
The customer is always first.
Make decisions based on data.
Use time and money wisely.
Solve problems before they happen.
Involvement and learning are a must.
Continuous improvement is a way of life.
The leadership team developed the vision and planning for the site.
One leadership team member described the process as "very accelerated,"
and voiced the concern,
I think, if we were to do this properly, we would have taken
several months to really focus as a team on the things we
wanted to accomplish here, put it on paper, get consultants
to help us evolve it, keep checking it, really kind of hone it
into a real fine strategy with tactics and all thatnot a true
Apple fashion at all.
The leadership team was united in their vision of a high
performance organization. The importance of the work they were doing
was summarized by a leadership team member as,
This is kind of Apples last shot to do manufacturing in the
United States. I think we [need to] continue to be as
creative as we possibly can specifically around cost and
quality and customer satisfaction, or were not going to be
Apple has historically been a creative organization, but has not
necessarily been a customer-focused organization. Nor has cost been a big
consideration in the past. Apple has been considered high cost, high
quality, both internally and externally. The organization has not focused
on cost competitiveness or eliminating waste, and the attitude has always
been that there is plenty, and the product is so good that the customer will
pay whatever it takes. Apple people tend to always get the newest
equipment regardless of whether the old equipment is useful, and image
has always been important in terms of site decor and status symbols.
One leadership team member described Apple as traditionally a
"spendthrift" kind of company, with some great technological stuff, but
really a lot of wasted money. This team member went on to state that the
company had been really lucky to have great products with great margins
that tend to hide a lot of things, but now margins are changing. The
company is trying to hit a much broader base of customers with lower cost
products, and, "Its time to do something a little different."
The larger organization has not been at all team-oriented. They
tend to be a company of "high school kids," described as
a lot of people that have not worked any place else and
didnt develop the maturity of working, how you work in an
organization, and the give-and-take of that and compromise
and getting the right people to make the decisions and people
just learning to speak up with their thoughts.
The result of this employee base tended to be a lot of creative individual
contributors who did not work as a team. The leadership team at Apple
Fountain decided that they wanted to create a different kind of culture at
the new site. To create this new culture, the team had to determine how to
change the traditional Apple fashion" to a new fashion. Although the
planning and design time for the new site was accelerated, as compared to
Hamilton Standard, it was lengthy as compared to other Apple sites. The
traditional Apple way is, "Just do it!"
To reinforce the goals of cost competitiveness and high quality,
conference rooms at the site are named along two themeslow cost and
high quality. Conference rooms have names such as Jack Benny, Blue
Light Special, Honda Civic, Saturday Matinee, Happy Hour, Sigma Six,
Johnny Walker Black, WalMart, Fahrvergenugen, and Cartier. Apple
chose to poke fun at themselves with the juxtaposition of conference room
names, as well as to bring awareness of the themes to the forefront.
Nor had Apple traditionally documented processes. It took too
much time to write down processes that changed rapidly, so it just wasnt
done. A thrust of major importance at Apple Fountain was to create a
documentation process and to follow it. This thrust was later reinforced as
the site applied for, and received, IS0-9002 certificationan international
quality standard certification based on an organizations documenting
processes and then demonstrating that they follow their documented
Apple received more than 10,000 resumes during the first few
months of operation, and each was responded to with a personalized letter.
To reduce the expenses associated with such an effort, Apple formed a
partnership with a local job service organization and gave them an Apple
Macintosh computer. The job service firm replied to all the letters for the
cost of the stationery, and provided all the labor.
Although the team spent a great deal of time and effort on crafting
the Quality Policy and Values Statement, an early concern was expressed
by at least one member of the team that the entire team was "somewhat out
of sync" in their understanding about the words that they put on paper.
This concern was later borne out as outside pressure increased and
individuals reverted to directive styles, rather than the touted teamwork
Employees are able to cite the values of the site, and visitors,
customers, and vendors are aware of the standards and expectations of the
The leadership team at Hamilton Standard followed much the same
process of laying the groundwork of the vision, mission, and principles of
operation as did the Apple team. During the initial stages of the start-up,
most of the leadership team was based in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and
commuted between there and Colorado Springs on a regular basis. The
team met at an off-site planning meeting and
worked through and laid out not only what the culture would
look like but the operating system we wanted to employ and
what we were going to use as the yardstick we measure
ourselves by and just the whole process. What came out of
it was we felt that the competitive edge that we are going to
have was going to be with our human resource/organization
development issues. What we came up with was what we
call high performance organization.
The mission statement for Hamilton Standard is posted in the lobby
of the facility. It reads,
We will be the best supplier for our customers, investment
for our company, and employer in our community.
This mission translates into providing the right high quality products, on
time, to the customers, providing a satisfactory return on investment and
return on assets to the parent company, and providing satisfying work with
satisfactory wages and benefits to employees. A leadership team member
summarized the mission as
The mission is to manufacture parts in a way thats going to
make our customers satisfied, in a way thats going to make
our employees happy to be doing the work, and then to
make money doing that. If we can do the first two, then the
third one will be a follow-up.
Their values statement is not posted in the lobby of the facility, but
most employees can state the site values: teamwork, trust, growth,
commitment, excellence, openness, and integrity.
A leadership team member summarized the discussions of the team
in the early stages as,
Values that we wanted to instill were working in teams,
participation, a very open environment that had as its basic
foundation trust amongst everybody in the facility, growth-
personal growth and development of everybody in the
facilitya commitment to excellence, an environment of
openness and sharing, and then an environment that
rewarded, recognized, and was heavily situated around
integrity of our systems, integrity of our beliefs, integrity of
what people did inside the organization. We began searching
for what organizational structure would best help us touch all
these particular bases and basically its one thats typified by
empowerment. Empowerment is not something that you just
all of a sudden say to somebody, "OK, yesterday, you
werent responsible for budget, today you are." It is a
whole training and education process and it is instilling these
values in people for training, education, and development, so
when it got to the appropriate time, they could be
Over time, it was recognized that the value statement was "fluffy,"
and did not embody enough behaviors. An initiative for 1993 was to
review the stated principles, values, and beliefs for congruity in the current
context. The original organizational members who helped to craft the
values statement were involved and understood the meaning and intent
because they had talked through them. The organization has grown enough
that there may not be as much understanding and buy-in now. There is
discussion around creating behavior-based value statements. An example
being discussed is, rather than saying commitment is a value, the statement
is, "I will complete everything I sign up to do when I sign up to do it."
As a part of the strategic planning process, the College of Business
developed their core values statement at an off-site retreat and team-
building session in 1991. The values statement is not posted, but was
published in the Spring 1992 BusinessWatch publication. The stated values
apply to all activities, including teaching, intellectual contributions, and
service. The statement reads,
We commit to:
Quality-Pursue quality in all endeavors, to be proactive and
relevant pace setters, to seek constant improvement, and to
remove obstacles impeding quality efforts and programs.
Integrity-Behave according to high ethical standards and in
a socially responsible manner.
Mutual Trust and RespectValue and respect each
individual and encourage open and lively communication,
including constructive disagreement.
Teamwork-Work together as a team to seek solutions that
further the attainment of both college and individual goals.
Intellectual CuriosityEncourage new perspectives,
knowledge, programs, processes, and innovative thinking.
Diverse Contributions-Value all contributions that meet the
needs of our constituencies and utilize the unique talents of
our faculty, staff, and students.
A faculty member commented, "We all know the core valueswe dont
always live up to them, but we know what they are."
The three organizations decided that, based upon their mission and
values, a team-based structure was the best route to high performance for
them. In all three organizations, teaming appeared to be the most efficient
and effective way to tap into individual competencies and provide a
structure for those competencies to be spread and shared. The concept of
self-management provided further opportunities for cost-savings within the
organizations, as middle management roles are eliminated, and for greater
customer satisfaction, as the person closest to the work is empowered to
respond more quickly to customer needs.
Will an organizational structure based on team-centered
management result in a high performance organization?
The three organizations studied each approached the concept of
team-centered management in different ways. In the cases of the two
private organizations, reality was in some instances different from the
original concept and plan as a result of the pressures of business and
changes in the environment.
Apple Computer. Inc.
The early vision for the organization is summarized in the words of
a member of the leadership team:
Apple people have tended not to be team players. Apple
traditionally rewarded the individual for heroic things. So
instead of focusing on total quality management and really
fixing the process so you dont have a problem, we tend to
be more a company that rewarded the persons saving the
day when a problem came upnot necessarily the long-term
fix of the problem. So, I think the whole company is,
hence, trying to move towards a more team-oriented
situation. Here, I feel that we all truly believe that thats
critical and that we have instilled that in people we are
A team-oriented situation meant more than just assigning work groups into
teams. The leadership team chose to demonstrate teaming in visible ways.
Specifically, the site would be arranged around minimizing differentiations
in status. There would be no walled offices, no radios would be allowed
in the office spaces (as, for safety reasons, no radios are allowed on the
production floor), no car phones for staff level, "and just those kinds of
equity things." Such things as walled offices, radios, personal
refrigerators, and car phones were perceived as perquisites for office
personnel, to which line personnel were not entitled.
Early in the planning stages at Apple Computer the plan was for
self-managed teams to emerge. The structure was such that facilitators
worked with each team, not specifically taking the role of supervisors, but
more as liaisons or links to the rest of the organization. The site manager
stated that he wanted the leadership team to create the atmosphere at the
very top that would permeate to the entire organization. He felt that it was
critical that the leadership team work together in the same way the entire
organization was expected to performas a team.
Early planning to build teams included carefully matching team
members, providing training and tools so that the teams could take on
responsibility, and placing facilitators with them to enable the teams to take
on responsibility with guidance.
A leadership team member said,
I think its really important that we put the right mix of
expertise into a team, to make them as effective as we
possibly can. So that means empowerment with authority
and responsibility and with the right tools to get the job
Teams were structured with a good mix of job skills, depending
upon the requirements of the line. Manufacturing associates (assembly
workers), technicians, and engineers were aligned into teams around the
technical expertise required to produce the product. Later, it became
obvious that it was necessary to mix and match personalities, as well.
Empowerment did not mean immediate self-management. Another
leadership team member spoke of the approach that would be followed in
Self-direction can turn into no direction if you dont let your
people grow with it. I think that youve got to start out with
a more conventional organization with plans and anticipation
that its going away, instead of starting out with this thing
called self-direction and then finding out that we just cant
produce, regardless of how good people are as a team.
This approach was viewed as successful by employees, as a
maintenance technician explained,
I really think that the way the service department did their
start-up was a more traditional management subordinate-type
organization. [The idea] was that theres enough going on
without trying to organize teams and just the additional
stress on everybody, because it was really stressful. And
its just one more thing to add to the equation that just really
wasnt necessary. I think it went much smoother to be more
of a traditional management and then break up into work
teams after everybodys started working and products
starting to flow, everybodys used to the environment, and
things did become more routine.
When questioned as to whether or not Apple was doing what was
proposed, early in the development process one assembly technician
It takes a lot of evolving to develop the true standard of high
performance. But management is behind it, and if they give
us the time and the tools to evolve into a high-performance
work group, I dont see any reason why we shouldnt.
Were off to a fairly decent start. I came from a company
that was very highly structured and that talked a good line
about teamwork, but the whole atmosphere here is very,
very different. We have management being 100 percent
behind it rather than just lip service to it as I saw before.
Still another said,
Everybody is always willing to help you. For me, Im not
afraid to go talk to any of the upper management because the
doors are always open, and Ive never had that in any of the
other companies that Ive worked. And Im just not afraid
to go talk to them. I can go tell them anything, and theyre
right there. They wont knock me down or anything. I love
The excitement that was engendered by the opportunity to
participate on a different level than had been previously experienced was
clear. The appreciation of management practicing empowerment and
openness was also clear.
A leadership team member summarized many of the things that
teams were doing.
We just interviewed about 110 future manufacturing
associates. We had eight of the manufacturing associates
interviewing these folks. We had to train them on what
proper steps are, what you could ask and couldnt ask in the
interview. But theyve had input into the people that theyre
going to be working with in the future here. Thats a pretty
important step. Thats something that wouldnt even be
thought of in our sister site. They have established their
attendance policy. They have established their daily break
schedules and work schedules. Theyve had input into
getting things on the floor that help their work environment.
Their example is they wanted to have a water bottle so they
asked [their team facilitator], who is the product line
manager, if they could get a water bottle, and the reply was,
Go out and get it yourself. And so they went out and they
Only a few months into the sites development, pressure from
corporate headquarters began for the Fountain site to take on new products
and more responsibility to respond to corporate production demands. By
November, a significant drop in volume from forecasted sales was behind
even more pressure to pull systems assembly capability ahead by two
months in order to bring new products to the market. The need to
accelerate systems capability meant paying premiums to get capital sooner,
doubling up on hiring, and "putting a double-whammy on training and the
culture." A leadership team member expressed his concerns.
Its certainly something that we can do. The question is how
well can we do it? High-performance work teams, the very
flat structure, the whole notion of being cost competitive and
cutting frills in the facility, taking salary cuts and grade cuts,
those are the things that will make us positioned to sustain a
length of time.
Another leadership team member summarized the underlying
Were figuring out how to hire them in and at the same time
keep the same culture. And at the same time, the
corporation has asked us to move up the schedule for our
builds, so weve spent a lot of time figuring out how we are
going to do it. And at the same time [were] trying to keep
a stable work force. That is going to be an interesting
process over the next several months.
The pressure didnt ease. Hiring and production schedules
increased. The pace of work increased pressure on individuals, and the
concerns about training and team development suffering from the
acceleration proved to be well-founded. Under the stress of rapid hiring
and bringing new products on-line, many of the initial plans got lost in the
An engineer was asked how self-managing teams were progressing.
His answer was couched in terms of team perception.
They think its good, they like to have the ability to make
decisions, but as somebody put it on the floor, there are too
many chiefs in the tribe. Everybody wants to make the
decisions, and when a decision is made, everybody has to
take part in that. So not one person can make a decision.
You need the whole group to agree on it. The whole
groups not always there and when you do make a decision
without one person there, then it went wrong, you did it the
wrong way. And people get angry with that. They want to
take part in everything.
Another engineer voiced a concern that may have been an
outgrowth of the rapid pace of development. Teams had been given
responsibility without sufficient training or boundary clarification.
Employees were excited about their opportunity to make decisions, but
were not clear as to which decisions they should make or their
accountability for those decisions.
I think sometimes people want the power, but they dont
always want the responsibility. They want to be able to
decide, but they dont want to face the consequences.
When asked how to resolve the problem, his response was,
You just have to burp them. What were doing is taking a
bunch of people who have not been in that environment and
trying to [do something new]you just have to let them
evolve over time. Just to reiterate, the reason were here is
to compete and be profitable. Those are the reasons. To be
high-performance teams, it means youve got to keep focus
on it. If you do high-performance teams, just to do that we
would have done things very differently. We would have
started up much more slowly. We would have been much
more careful about the people that we hired. And so what I
think has to happen when theyre trying to get high-
performance teams is the people that are involved must
understand the reasons for business existence and why we
Due to the lack of training and loss of focus on the empowerment
process, team members were not given clear parameters within which to
work. The initial plan of giving team members skills before empowerment
was lost, and team members interpreted empowerment to suit themselves.
The desire to take part in everything slowed progress and hampered
decisions. Until team members understood that sometimes decisions had to
be made when they werent present, and that they must then abide by those
decisions, frustrations ran high. Until guidelines were set outlining areas
of responsibility (determined by expertise) for team decisions, redundant
and inappropriate decisions were made.
Two major learnings for the organization to result from this
experience were: (1) Clear parameters must be set for team responsibility
and decision-making. (2) Those parameters may be moved only as the
team gains the necessary skills and knowledge to make good decisions.
Although frustrated with the problems that teams were having in
sorting out the process to make it work, an engineer did have some
I think that we are getting decisions from the production
floor. Were pushing back on people and requiring them to
make decisions for the company. And it gives them more
pride in their work knowing that what theyre doing really
When asked if the organization really was a team, the response was,
Yeah, it is. You see people at the manufacturing associate
rank, engineering rank, the management staff all involved in
group meetings. Theres a lot of team decision making
going on to make sure that this decision doesnt impact
someone elses organization. People ask your opinion, and
they take it for what its worth. Theyre not just going
through motions, they actually get input from everybody and
try to incorporate all the peoples requirements and needs
into any decisions made.
By the following April, a manufacturing associate said, "We have a
real good team. Its working fine." This same person was surprised by
one learning from the team experience.
You really dont realize how much you used to dump on the
old boss until theyre not around to dump on anymore. No
really, its so easy to open a door and walk in there and go
blah, blah, blah, and then its their problem, see. They got
to deal with it. Youre off the hook. Where here, youre
not off the hook. If you recognize a problem, youre going
to be the one who fixes it or its not going to get fixed if
you dont get motivated and do something.
A maintenance technician said,
Its getting that way. Its becoming team orientated. The
orientation is becoming more of a team concept. If each one
of us gets into a different team, then we can spread
ourselves out and see really more what the needs are of the
By the end of the twenty-two months of study, most manufacturing
employees responded that their part of the organization had come together
as a team. One manufacturing technician stated, "We seem to be a very,
very good team." Another manufacturing associate stated,
I think whats made us do that (work as a high performance
team) is weve come together and worked the problems out
as a team, discussed things as a team, solved problems as a
team, and tried to feel that its a line problem and not an
individual problem. Its a whole team problem. And if we
could all accept that its a team problem, then we try to fix
it as a team.
A maintenance technician said,
Instead of everybody acting as an individual, if you work as
a team more work can be completed. And if there is a
problem, its better resolved as a team rather than an
individual because youve got more ideas and different
angles and so the problem is resolved better. Generally [the
team has a] better solution and generally it gets done more
quickly because you can delegate different paths to team
members and get it accomplished more quickly than one
individual trying to do all tasks, coming up with all the
research and basically doing all the work.
Not all parts of the organization, however, saw themselves as team
members. In part, this was explained by a leadership team member,
The staff is supportive, but one of the things that was
understood, the staff all has a different opinion of what that
means. And so what you could have is a number of staff
members saying, "Yes, Im supportive of the idea. But I
dont choose to implement the way my peer does." Its
perceived by many as not being supportive because many
have seen the implementation in the production lines as
being, this is what high performance is and even though
some stuff we dont like about it, this is how it should be
and you need to do that.
It was clear that the leadership team (staff) did not all interpret high
performance teamwork in the same way. This lack of unity pervaded the
organization, and perceptions of employees regarding the value of high
performance teams tended to reflect those of the immediate manager. .
One leadership team member said,
Personally, I dont think you have to have a team-based
structure to be successful at this. Were very functionally
alive within the Fountain facility. But if people think
horizontally and understand where the center of our business
is here, which is the production floor, teams happen
naturally. If you reward people for thinking and behavior to
be horizontal as well as vertical, you can have a team-type
environment without physically specifying that. If you
reward people quickly, then their focus is on cross-
fiinctionally fixing the problems.
Actually, this particular leadership team member was very actively
supporting the team-based structure. His interpretation, however, was that
teaming did not have to be literally structurally-based. In his view, cross-
functional teaming should be situational, and appropriately rewarded. This
ideal view of teaming is certainly appropriate, but unlikely to occur unless
teaming in general is encouraged within the organization.
At the end of the study, support personnel voiced their opinions of
the status of the high performance team situation.
I think its going to take some more education of folks
around what we really mean by high performance and also
some more examples of whats being done in different
functions, how different functions are doing work
differently, how were doing some cross-functional work that
you wouldnt do in a normal work place. And thats part of
being a high performance work organization although maybe
within your own group, you dont see that kind of thing
This individuals comments reinforced the perception that teams were not
being practiced in all areas of the organization. Many parts of the
organization believed that they were "different" and that teams would not
work in their areas. This was especially true in the support organizations.
While most employees believed that high performance teams were the route
to cost competitiveness, high quality, and customer satisfaction in the
manufacturing organization, they believed equally strongly that support
organizations, including human resources, finance, purchasing, and the
clerical support pool, really were too different to be team-based. While
the support organizations were aligned so that the individuals had very
different responsibilities for groups, products, and/or suppliers, all had at
least some common areas of responsibility or reporting and could have
been teamed around those commonalities. Most did, however, admit that
they teamed informally to solve specific problems or deal with specific
An engineer responded that in his judgment, the most important key
to developing high performance teams is
from experience here-commitmentmanagement
commitment is a big part of it. [One manager] has been
very committed to this from day one. I wont say that other
staff members that have "the same power" that he does are
not committed to it, but Id have to say that theyre not as
committed to it. Commitment is a big deal. One of the
things that you notice when you look at this organization
almost two years later is that what group has taken this
further than any other one-its [his] organization. So if you
were going to say that everyone had the passion for it that he