by Dirk Dusharme
Proposed Law....
The Law and Employee Involvement
Tacoma Takes to TQM
Internet Resources Update
Car Salespeople In-House Training
ASQC Chapter Awards Deming Medal
Empower For Fast Response
Take a Nap!
Excellent E-mail

Proposed Law Could Loosen
Legal Choke-Hold On Teams

Legislation coming before the U.S. Senate as early as April would clarify a section of the National Labor Relations Act that has had a dampening effect on labor-management teams nationwide.

The Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act (H.R. 743) would revise language in Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA that has caused the National Labor Relations Board to rule that some labor-management teams in nonunion settings are illegal-a point driven home in December 1992 when the NLRB issued a decision against Electromation Inc. for their use of labor-management teams. Since then, in similar cases, the NLRB has filed suit against Polaroid, Donnelly, DuPont and EFCO.

Speaking before the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve Gunderson (R­p;Wis.), author of the bill, summed up the NLRB's stand as follows: "The facts are that today management in a nonunion setting can tell employees to do whatever they want and it is legal. Today, if management in a nonunion setting sits down and, voluntarily working with employees, reaches a mutual conclusion on how to make changes within the workplace, it is illegal. It is that simple."

Gunderson points out that the original intent of Section 8(a)(2), written in 1935, was to discourage companies from creating sham "company unions" as a means of defeating legitimate union organizing.

The law succeeded in driving out company unions but, unfortunately, say proponents of the bill, the law stayed on the books. With the growth of labor-management teams in the 1980s and 1990s, the NLRB began to apply the law broadly to companies that created such teams.

As a result, many companies are shying away from labor-management teams, says Bill Byham, president of Development Dimensions International, one of the largest independent training companies in the United States. Very often, says Byham, the general councils for the companies he represents advise company executives not to pursue labor-management teams.

"Our clients are saying that they don't want to move ahead with teams because of the Electromation case, even though teams are really what they want," says Byham.

According to the bill, the TEAM Act would amend Section 8(a)(2) to permit employee involvement in the workplace while at the same time retaining the ban against sham company unions, says Rep. Harris Fawell (R­p;Ill.).

"The bill . . . allows employees and employers to participate in employer-involvement groups in a nonunion setting," Fawell reported to the House. "The bill also makes it clear that no such employee team can claim to be a union or seek authority to be the exclusive bargaining representative of its employees."

Not surprisingly, support has been along partisan lines. In general, Democrats oppose the bill, claiming that the TEAM Act will set the stage for employer domination. Bringing up images from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D­p;Mo.), speaking before the House, said that if the bill passes, "tens of millions of Americans will be forced to abandon the basic rights and protection of real collective bargaining, and herded into these sham unions. . . . They will surrender all power and independence to their employers . . ."

On a more moderate note, Rep. Thomas Sawyer (D­p;Ohio) proposed an amendment to the act that provides much of the same language as Gunderson's bill but prohibits teams that deal solely with "terms and conditions of employment."

Fawell rose against the amendment as being too proscriptive because "terms and conditions" as defined by the NLRB includes health and safety, rewards for efficiency and productivity, work assignments, work rules, scheduling, hiring and firing, and the use of bulletin boards.

The House passed the bill by a 221­p;202 vote. It is expected to go before the Senate in April.

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The Law and Employee Involvement

According to the TEAM Coalition, what follows is a comparison between workplace arrangements that are legal and those that are illegal under Section 8 (a)(2).

n It is legal for an employer to dictate to its employees exactly how their work is to be done.
n It is legal for an employer to turn the plant over to the employees and retain no veto authority over their decisions (self-directed work teams).
n It is illegal for the employer and the employees in a nonunion setting to work together to resolve workplace issues using committees or teams that fall within the definition of a "labor organization."

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Tacoma Takes to TQM

When Ray Corpuz became city manager of Tacoma, Washington, in 1990, he began searching for ways to improve the performance of city government. After trying traditional methods, Corpuz turned to total quality management techniques and began listening to city customers.

"In the past, without TQM, we didn't focus much on the customer," explains Corpuz. "Now, using surveys and other techniques, we try to get as much information as possible on what they want us to do-both our internal and external customers."

The first step, notes Corpuz, was to identify the city's strategic priorities-public safety; neighborhood enhancement and community involvement; and economic development.

Next, the city formed six cross-functional problem or process teams to deal with issues that fell within the scope of the strategic priorities. Each team was charged with looking at how to improve either the process management or major problems within those categories. The teams are comprised of city officials, from senior executives to first-line supervisors.

One small example of a problem-solving team success is the reduction in the number of steps required to order a personal computer-from 56 steps to four steps.

In general the TQM approach to city government has been accepted, says Corpuz. City businesses, police, fire and most senior management have bought into the customer-focused TQM approach. But not all were convinced. The city council approved his plan by 7 votes to 2. According to Corpuz, some in city government still view TQM as "just another management fad."

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Since we first ran our listing of quality-related Internet resources in our March 1995 issue, the number of such sites has quadrupled. To date, we have identified more than 100 web sites and listservs dedicated to quality issues. Here are a few of our latest favorite web sites.

If you missed our March issue and need a brief introduction to quality on the Internet, please contact Quality Digest and request a photocopy of the "Cruising the Internet" article. Our e-mail address is and our fax number is (916) 527-6983.

Quality Resources Online

The mother of all quality web sites. Start here to gain access to everything related to quality. Topics are listed alphabetically and contain links to sites related to that topic-everything from agile manufacturing to value engineering. Don't miss this.
Kwaliteit op Internet

Kwaliteit op Internet is Dutch for "Lots of really good stuff about quality on the Internet." Yes, this site is written in Dutch, but the links are obvious and broken down by country or topic. This is a good site. Visit it.

Air Force Quality Institute

This site provides advice, concepts, methods and educational resources to attain a Quality Air Force culture. Information on consulting, education and research, the Secretary of the Air Force Unit Quality Award and Chief of Staff Team Quality Award.

The Deming Study Group Electronic Guide

Interested in joining a W. Edwards Deming study group? Start here. A complete listing of national and international Deming groups from California to Washington, D.C., from France to the United Kingdom.

HCI Consulting Australian Management Topics

Don't be thrown by the name. This interesting site is more than just a commercial for HCI Consulting. Click on the "Subject Index" hot link and gain access to more than 100 short articles related to all aspects of quality, from Taguchi to TQM.

NIST Quality Program

Everything you want to know about the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award straight from the source. Includes 1996 award fact sheet, 1995 award criteria, 1996 award criteria publication in PDF format, education and health care pilot criteria and updates, plus much more.

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Car Salespeople Prefer In-house Training

U.S. auto companies and dealerships waste millions of dollars every year on outside training programs, says a recent survey.

Only 15 percent of 3,500 car salespeople surveyed rated sales training (techniques, customer focus, motivational, etc.) provided by outside sales companies as "very effective," according to the "M.O.R. Showroom Watch 1995" survey conducted by Market Opinion Research, an international research and consulting firm.

Thirty-six percent of respondents considered training provided by their dealership "very effective," while 32 percent gave the same rating to manufacturer training.

Survey respondents say that dealers are focusing on employees and quality management, and more rate their dealerships "excellent" in those areas.

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ASQC Chapter Awards Deming Medal

The Metropolitan Section of the American Society for Quality Control has awarded their Deming Medal to Joyce Nilsson Orsini, director of the Deming Scholars MBA Program at New York's Fordham University Graduate School of Business Administration.

Orsini, the first woman to receive the medal, has directed the Deming Scholars MBA Program since it was established at Fordham in 1992. The program provides a small group of scholars with the opportunity to develop leadership and management skills within a framework of W. Edwards Deming's teachings.

Unlike the Deming Prize, awarded by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, the Deming Medal goes to individuals rather than companies. Since 1981, the Metropolitan Section has awarded the medal to individuals who demonstrate a thorough understanding of and commitment to Deming's teachings. Deming himself received the first medal in 1980.

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Empower for
Fast Response

When it comes to responding quickly to customer needs, empowered employees could be the key. Five years ago, faced with a quickly growing company and rapidly changing market, the management of MSC Industrial Supply realized that current management-by-objective techniques weren't cutting it.

"The usual MBO did not react quickly enough to the changing market," recalls Mitchell Jacobson, president and CEO of the Plainview, New York, machine-shop supplies distributor. "The pace of the company was so fast that by the time I had set up each department with their various goals and objectives, they were obsolete."

Instead, Jacobson allowed customer needs to dictate how the company could be restructured. MSC established teams to address those needs.

One team, composed of credit, customer service and sales associates, examined how to streamline the company's customer-service process. In the past, a customer could have been shuffled through five departments before their problem was solved, explains Jacobson. The team determined that associates should be trained and empowered to meet all the customer's needs in one phone call-including extending credit.

"That really tread on the conventional wisdom from the accounting side of the house, which says that you need a separation of power for control," says Jacobson. "But to satisfy a customer on a phone call, you can't always refer a question to a manager. We have given what some would call an unheard of amount of authority to the folks on the line. The bias is toward making a decision and then worrying about the effects of that decision afterwards. Just take care of the customer the way you see fit."

In the past three years, the $248 million company has realized 26-percent compounded sales growth, 44-percent compounded earnings growth and a 37-percent increase in productivity. Nearly 99.9 percent of the company's shipments meet their rigorous one-day shipping guarantee.

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Take A Nap!

If you want to be a great leader, take a short snooze during the day, says Peter Burwash, author of The Key to Great Leadership:
Rediscovering the Principles of Outstanding Service.

OK. So a nap isn't all it takes. Burwash suggests five other critical leadership qualities. He says all great leaders are:
n Humble. Leaders who possess humility don't think of themselves as being above the crowd or feel that certain things are beneath them.
n Conscientious note-takers. Burwash found that employees are often irked that supervisors don't write down things employees tell them. The best leaders always have a note pad with them, says Burwash.
n Avid readers. Most good leaders subscribe to a lot of magazines, many of which are outside their area of expertise. They also read biographies about leaders.
n Secure. To build confidence in others, you must be confident and secure yourself.
n Filled with urgency. Less than 2 percent of the U.S. population has a sense of urgency about what they are asked to due, claims Burwash.

For more information about The Key to Great Leadership, contact Torchlight Publishing at (209) 337-2200 or fax (209) 337-2354.

Excellent E-mail

Just as proper phone etiquette is important to customer service, so too is proper
e-mail etiquette. Lacking the audio cues of tone and inflection, e-mail can be cold and impersonal.

Here are some tips from Nancy Friedman, the Telephone "Doctor," that should improve your e-mail missives with internal and external customers.
· Condense your message for easy reading. Convey a positive, upbeat attitude.
· Soften requests with a generous supply of "please," "thank you" and "you're welcome."
· For long messages, send a follow-up hard copy.
· Respond quickly to e-mail.
· Be careful of what you say

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