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Human Synergistics Tunes Up Endicott

Surveys, instruction, and training bring a new, productive management culture to the NY company.

October 17, 2001
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Three years ago a group of leader managers in one of IBM's circuit board manufacturing sites decided to change some of the fundamental ways in which they worked with management and employees. Essentially, they shift from a traditional "go do it" method of directing people to a coaching, facilitating style.

It wasn't easy at first for the managers at Endicott Manufacturing, part of the Microelectronics Division at IBM's manufacturing site in New York. But they had the guidance and tools Human Synergistics International, which specializes in organizational training and development.

Today, the panel facility is profitable and considered a good environment in which to work, says Wade Phelan, Endicott's manufacturing operations manager. In fact, he an his colleagues are again turning to Human Synergistics to expand the coaching style of management into the divisions' manufacturing population, which numbers 1,500 employees.

"We've gone from not being very positively perceived internally to now being considered the benchmark in what we do. We have gone from not making money to making a significant amount of money," Phelan says. "I talk to folks all the time. We talk about the old ways. There's nobody that wants to go back."

Phelan speaks frankly about he challenges that led his group to seek out the problem-solving solutions of Human Synergistics. They were having a difficult time meeting production goals, and employees were working in a highly stressed environment. Managers thought first to change their operations and looked to consultants who could reshape manufacturing process or reduce cycle times.

They came upon Clarke Consulting, which did indeed have some solutions for the nuts-and-bolts end of manufacturing. But Clarke Consulting pointed out that Endicott's manufacturing problem was also a human resources problem and introduced the group to the tools of Human Synergistics.

"If you don't work on your culture, fixing your process isn't going to do any good," is what they were told, Phelan recalls. What began then was a comprehensive series of surveys, including the Organizational Culture Inventory, which measures the shared values guiding how members of an organization interact and work. This survey revealed that employees in the division were operating in "aggressive/defensive" and "passive/defensive" instead of "constructive" modes."

Surveys of management and employees followed. The feedback reports were sometimes humbling, but always insightful, Phelan says. The Endicott group quickly realized that there was more to the successful manufacturing of circuit boards than just technology. Managers needed to learn how to guide, encourage, coach, and facilitate. Instruction and training followed.

Phelan says it has become the manufacturing area's work style. And it is valued not just for the better quality of life it brings to the workplace, but for the results on the bottom line.

With a traditional directional style of management, managers may get back exactly what they asked for, and no more, Phelan says. Such a style may seem productive, but in fact it short-changes the company of that above-and-beyond sort of passion that can have lasting benefits.

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