Page 3: The Fayetteville plant
In October 1995, the ICI Films plant at Fayetteville, USA, held a press briefing on its programme to devolve more responsibility to staff. To underline the point, the managers left the room half way through to give line staff the chance to contribute. 'I was thrilled at being able to talk to the press,' said lab technician, Deborah Peterson. 'It goes to show that everyone’s input is valued. It’s not like your ideas have to go back to management to be watered down and handed back.'
One of those on the receiving end was journalist Ian Griffiths of the London Evening Standard. 'I’ve always found it better to talk to staff than managers,' he commented. 'They’re the ones who can really tell you whether things are working.' He added that ICI Films’ empowerment programme is no free-for-all but a structured exercise, yielding benefits for workers and company alike. 'People talk animatedly about the new sense of pride they have in their jobs. They feel more involved and believe they’ve had some insight into how the company works.'
ICI Films’ empowerment programme produced tangible results when a shop-floor team at Hopewell, Virginia, chose to make direct contact with a major customer to shorten the lines of communication and offer a better service. The group of employees met directly with buyers from a business to which it was supplying film for packaging purposes. The buyers were able to explain difficulties which they had in using the product. The shop-floor team from ICI was then able to improve the quality of the product because the team had a clear understanding of the customer’s problems. Being at the 'sharp-end' of production, shop-floor employees were the team most likely to be able to come up with effective solutions. The result of the meeting was a leap forward in quality production and the enhancement of morale and motivation on the shop floor. Talking to customers, shop-floor to shop-floor, saved a lot of money.