A catastrophic earthquake is followed by a tsunami that inundates the coastline, and around the globe manufacturing comes to a standstill. State-of-the-art passenger jets are grounded because of a malfunctioning part. A strike halts shipments through a major port. A new digital device decimates the sales of other brands and sends established firms to the brink of bankruptcy. The interconnectedness of the global economy today means that unexpected events in one corner of the globe can ripple through the world’s supply chain and affect customers everywhere.
In 2009, the Ford Motor Company was the only one of the Big Three automakers not to take the federal bailout package. How did Ford remain standing when its competitors were brought to their knees? It was a gutsy decision, but it didn’t happen in isolation. The United Auto Workers joined with Ford to make this possible—not only in 2009, but in a series of more than fifty pivotal events during three decades that add up to a transformation that simultaneously values work and delivers results.
Every enterprise evolves continuously, driven by changing needs or new opportunities. Most often this happens gradually, with small adjustments to strategy, organization, processes, or infrastructure. But sometimes enterprises need to go beyond minor fixes and transform themselves, in response to a disruptive event or dramatically changing circumstances—a merger, for example, or a new competitor. In this book, enterprise architecting experts Deborah Nightingale and Donna Rhodes offer a framework for enterprise transformation.
Why do people who perform largely the same type of work make different technology choices in the workplace? An automotive design engineer working in India, for example, finds advanced information and communication technologies essential, allowing him to work with far-flung colleagues; a structural engineer in California relies more on paper-based technologies for her everyday work; and a software engineer in Silicon Valley operates on multiple digital levels simultaneously all day, continuing after hours on a company-supplied home computer and network connection.
In today’s competitive globalized market, firms are increasingly reaching beyond conventional internal methods of research and development to use ideas developed through processes of open innovation (OI). Organizations including Siemens, Nokia, Wikipedia, Hyve, and innosabi may launch elaborate OI initiatives, actively seeking partners to help them innovate in specific areas. Individuals affiliated by common interests rather than institutional ties use OI to develop new products, services, and solutions to meet unmet needs.
Innovation and design need not be about the search for a killer app. Innovation and design can start in people’s everyday activities. They can encompass local services, cultural production, arenas for public discourse, or technological platforms. The approach is participatory, collaborative, and engaging, with users and consumers acting as producers and creators. It is concerned less with making new things than with making a socially sustainable future.
Corporate managers who face both strategic uncertainty and market uncertainty confront a classic trade-off between commitment and flexibility. They can stake a claim by making a large capital investment today, influencing their rivals’ behavior, or they can take a “wait and see” approach to avoid adverse market consequences tomorrow.
Why is Memphis home to hundreds of motor carrier terminals and distribution centers? Why does the tiny island-nation of Singapore handle a fifth of the world’s maritime containers and half the world’s annual supply of crude oil? Which jobs can replace lost manufacturing jobs in advanced economies?
How can American manufacturing recapture its former dominance in the globalized industrial economy? In Worker Leadership, Fred Stahl proposes a strategy to boost enterprise productivity and restore America’s industrial power. Stahl outlines a revolutionary transformation of industrial culture that offers workers real control of production operations and manufacturing processes (as well as a monetary share of the savings from productivity gains). Stahl develops this new Theory of Worker Productivity into a strategy of Worker Leadership, with concrete, real-world examples.
In recent years, management gurus have urged businesses to adopt such strategies as just-in-time, lean manufacturing, offshoring, and frequent deliveries to retail outlets. But today, these much-touted strategies may be risky. Global financial turmoil, rising labor costs in developing countries, and huge volatility in the price of oil and other commodities can disrupt a company’s entire supply chain and threaten its ability to compete.