Saturday, October 30, 2010

E.S. Greenberg, L. Grunberg, S. Moore, and P. Sikora's "Turbulence"

Edward S. Greenberg is a member of the Political and Economic Change Program, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, and professor of political science. Leon Grunberg is professor and chairperson, Department of Comparative Sociology, University of Puget Sound. Sarah Moore is associate dean of faculty and professor of psychology, University of Puget Sound. Patricia B. Sikora is owner/principal, Sikora Associates, LLC, in Superior, CO.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, and reported the following:
In Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, we describe the experience of everyday employees as they navigated the massive and often unpredictable changes going on in their company. At Boeing, many of these changes were in support of a deliberate shift in corporate philosophy and management style: an aggressive move toward a short-term shareholder value model that emphasized tomorrow’s stock price and analyst ratings. Many innovations associated with this shift were dramatic and very visible to outsiders: downsizing, outsourcing, and “leaning” of manufacturing processes. “More for less” was the mantra of these times as management looked for ways to streamline production and get more output --more being the operative word, not necessarily better-- from each input, whether employee, machine or vendor.

Page 99 of Turbulence is part of a chapter focused on the less visible, more insidious ways senior management got “more for less” from employees. Downsizing and leaning were obvious macro- practices that served this short-term shareholder value agenda. However, the micro-practices of teamwork and technology also implicitly supported this “more for less” agenda. Teamwork, or more accurately, the rhetoric of teamwork, imposed an artificial “we-ness” on employees that compelled them to give their best to “the team” while simultaneously setting the stage for more downsizing and outsourcing.

On page 99, we discuss how the infusion of technology imposed a 24/7 work day on many employees. The sizzle and sexiness of new technologies allowed Boeing to extend the business day into personal time. In effect, employees were working unpaid overtime as they were checking in via Blackberries and email during their evenings and vacations.
As the use of these technologies becomes more prevalent, the 24/7 workday becomes normative; to not reply to emails on Saturday is viewed as an affront or, perhaps, sign that the employee is not really dedicated to his or her job. The multi-tasking executive glued to a Blackberry at his or her child’s concert is obviously essential to the firm, an “in demand” indispensible person who must always be hooked into the action of the firm – or, at least, someone who wants to appear that way to others as well as to him- or herself. As more work pushes into the home domain, social connections are also at risk. We see some evidence of this at Boeing. A female office worker, for example, raises concerns about the downsides of the “virtual office” with its increasingly virtual relationships: “We have learned more computer skills, how to adapt at work and at home to the computer life. More and more people working from home, soon we will all be little robots in our homes losing touch with the physical and emotional contact with people. But!! The company will benefit with flexible hours around the clock to accommodate workers globally.”
Arguably, change was necessary to maintain competitive advantage over Airbus much less ensure the survival of the company. Boeing’s bloated bureaucracy, World War II manufacturing systems, and “Lazy B” culture were standing in the way of its ability to compete in a fast-paced, post-industrial, global economy. We believe, however, that an overzealous, singular focus on short-term shareholder value resulted in a “baby out with the bathwater” approach to change – core values of engineering excellence, quality, and esprit de corps were sacrificed under the pressures of lean production and outsourcing. Turbulence is the story of the dark side of a short-term shareholder value philosophy. Page 99 of Turbulence demonstrates that this dark side existed in small day-to-day work practices as well as dramatic, newspaper headlines of downsizing and outsourcing.
Learn more about Turbulence at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue