Prior to the opening of NUMMI in 1984, the workforce at Freemont was considered as the worst possible form of employees. A report indicated by United Auto workers showed some acts vindicating the frustrations that the employees had on the management. It is indicated that they drank alcohol on the job, frequent absenteeism and some acts such as putting coke bottles on the doors were just meant to repel the customers. It is further emphasized that during this period, the end results were the management’s view of the company in contrast to the worker’s considerations and their views on production. In a nutshell, they considered quantity over quality leading to frustrations and the eventual downfall of Freemont Automobiles. NUMMI must have observed some of the flaws in Freemont management using some of the theories of motivation to build a better industry, considering quality over quantity. The three theories of motivation included in this essay include the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the expectancy theory of motivation and the 4 drive theory. A better understanding of these theories can explain why NUMMI was successful during its operation time between 1984 and 2010.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory encompasses some aspects of human beings that push them to strive for better results and outcomes. According to him the patterns that most human beings follow are physiological, safety, belonging, love, esteem, self-actualization and finally self-transcendence. The idealization of the process was that the most basic needs of a human being occupy the largest part of his well-being with the lesser basic needs occupying a small portion. The physiological needs include clothing, food, shelter etc. while self-actualization is the needs of any human being to grow and develop. In essence, this theory strives to improve an employee’s performance by meeting his/her needs (Berk, n.d.).According to Berk, any organization that can satisfy the employees is going to have excellent employee retention and well-articulated employee teams.
The no fault attendance system set by NUMMI was a revolutionary step towards the company achieving greater success. This allowed the employees to attend to any of their physiological needs such as food and shelter without any fear. The organization further goes on to help any affected employee attend to his problem. In effect to this, employees strive to fulfill their higher level needs which include job security and personal safety. The organization had ensured that the employees were fully covered in terms of job security. The no strike, no layoff agreement between the company and the workers ensured that there were no issues regarding jobs and hence the workers could focus on the much higher level need.
According to Maslow, higher hierarchical needs were only focused on after lower ones were achieved. In reference to NUMMI, job security ensured that the focus was on social needs such as the feeling of belonging to a group and having friends. This was achieved through the involvement of workers in deciding some job parameters such as the standards, job allocations and layout, training, job rotation, and some other work elements. Furthermore, the feeling of belonging was partially improved by the open office system whereby there was no hiding behind walls. As it is stated, even senior line manager’s desks, such as Convius’, were in the arena of workers. The Cafeteria and clothing system further ensured that all the people involved in the company were regarded as equals.
Finally, on the final patterns of self-actualization and self-transcendence, the company ensured that the growth of the workers was taken into consideration. This was achieved through the process of recruiting of employees. The company did not take into consideration the job skill of any employee upon employment. Some specialized workers such as engineers had to work on the manual operations of the company to acquaint them with the experience of the production process. Furthermore, some seniority rights associated with the previous employer were not considered and the only privilege was having worked in the company previously. The responsibility of every employee in any production line to ensure that the process is a success can also give room to the growth of any employee. The company, by following Maslow’s hierarchy needs as explained, may have contributed to a more successful automobile production business.
The second motivation theory that NUMMI applied was Stacey Adams equity theory. According to the theory, pay conditions are not the only determinants in running a successful business. Raymond (2010) suggests that a person, in comparison to others, might view something as fair or unfair. This is what motivates him/her. This is applied in any organization and the employer is discouraged on being bias towards the employees. Furthermore, compensations are required to be fair towards each employee with the determinant their contribution towards the company. It deals with social relationships and fairness. In fact, this theory might hold the secret as to why some workers on the Freemont automobiles were always absent and got drunk on the job.
During the hiring process, NUMMI abandoned the seniority posts that were associated with Freemont automobiles and the only people considered for employment were the previously employed workers. On doing this, the company gave the new employees a state of equity setting up the platform for a more interactive business association. Furthermore, by giving the workers the task of setting up the job standards, job allocations, job layout, the training, and the company’s job rotation, workers were made equal. This ensured fairness increasing the company’s output by subtracting the inferiority that subordinates experience from their supervisors.This has the effect of increasing the input on each employee’s part subsequently increasing the output. In terms of the payment allocated to each employee, NUMMI divided the class into skilled and unskilled. This is fair by all means to the employees. The pay per hour in each class was evenly allocated and the only a small difference was in between. The motivation of each worker is thrust forth by showing that they are equal. Thirdly, the company introduced even the more specialized personnel into the company by putting them into the manual production system for a small while. This has the effect of encouraging the employees to work on their various departments in the production line by indicating that the work is not subordinately viewed.
Though not a work related issue, the sense of equality shown to the employees by encouraging the senior members of staff to dine with their subordinates in the same cafeteria and to wear the same clothing motivated the workers. This is due to the mental perception that the employees gained of equality. Furthermore, the senior members were not enclosed in walled offices. This gives the juniors some sense of equality making each member view him/herself as an important member of staff. In conclusion, NUMMI decreased the tension between individuals and hence increased the sense of equality thereby increasing the output from every individual. This is as per Adams (1963), whereby if there is any perception of inequality from any individual, he/she will work towards reducing that process. Either through a behavioral or cognitive process.
The last theory that NUMMI applied was the 4 drive motivation theory. According to this theory, the human workforce is driven by four main aspects which are: the drive to acquire and achieve, the drive to bond and belong, the desire to be challenged and understand and the desire to define and defend.
On the desire to acquire and achieve, NUMMI ensured that the employees received pay according to their category of skills. The company divided the workers into the skilled and unskilled and ensured that each category had the same pay. Furthermore, the team leaders were given a 60 cents per hour premium pay which ensures that there is no qualm about the payment methods that the company uses. Of the four aspects, the others three focus on the efforts towards team building, engagement, and the motivation. NUMMI ensured this by giving each employee in a production line the mandate to shut down his/her operation to resolve any problem encountered. Furthermore, the employees in each production line were to organize themselves to resolve any problem they encountered. This in itself increased the cohesion and bonds between teams ensuring that the production was smooth and successful. Throughout the successful period of NUMMI, application of the 4 drive motivation theory ensured that the manufacturing process was successful.
General Motors Challenges started when Toyota developed Toyota sedan hatchback and sold this version to GM. GM lacked proper marketing for this version and its plant utilization fell to 75%, at which no plant can make money (Kiley, 2010). Better sales would have been achieved if NUMMI had done proper marketing.
The criteria for job employment was one of the major cause for the downfall of NUMMI. When GM and Toyota restarted, a lot of workforces was needed.The hiring manager on his part hired about 85% of the workers who had worked in the previous GM Fremont plant. Among those hired were the previous Union members who played a major role in the selection of managers. The hiring manager, Bruce Lee, rehired these workers because he thought the problem was with the process and not the people. He did not understand that the process was determined by the employees. NUMMI should have understood that the workers were the process (Harrington, 2015).In fact, NUMMI should have done a better job in the hiring whereby they should have hired new workers. It was later shown that Japanese workers were shorter and a little less large than the hired Americans. They were 10% to 15% more productive since they took less time in getting in and out of the car they were manufacturing (Harrington, 2015).In this context, NUMMI should have reconsidered their employment policies.
When NUMMI reopened, some of their workers were sent on a benchmarking experience in Japan. These workers later came back and exposed what they had learned to their counterparts in Fremont. In fact, The Van Nuys plant managers came to the NUMMI plant for lessons. Regional UAW bosses were later sent to Van Nuys plant to train staffs (Yang, 2013).This process faced a lot of resistance from the management and the laborers. The workers from Van Nuys, who was part of the NUMMI workforce, would have been sent to Japan to learn firsthand instead of inconveniencing the other workers.
Another major flaw in the management was the consideration to put quantity at the expense of quality. The Japanese advocated for this because they believed that there was always room for improvement. In Toyota manufacturing, they built thin nylon ropes at the end of every assembly point which was meant to reduce the time to help delivery. This was how quality was maintained in Toyota and NUMMI would have adopted this method ensuring quality production with no reduction in quantity.
NUMMI management should have allowed and expected innovation in every level. Innovation ideas should not be expected to come from managers only.GM had the notion that the designers and engineers created the vehicle and the assembly workers were supposed to only implement what they were given. In this effect, NUMMI should have deduced a way to encourage innovation at every step in the production process.
Another suggestion is that NUMMI should have allowed for team working and collaboration. The Toyota plant had four to five workers working at the same operation with each taking shifts at a particular point in order to reduce monotony. In doing so the workers were allowed to get experience at different production points. Furthermore, collaboration was improved between team members.GM only accepted the Toyota’s culture on the surface and didn’t put in place relationship building platforms. This eventually led to the downfall of GM. Better team building and bonding should have been encouraged
Toyota had a method of timing each process. In every stage or process, a worker was given a specific time space to deal with the problem. In limiting every process there was quantity production of Cars.GM would have produced quite a number of cars had they considered the timing policy.
The KAIZEN principle would have been a comeback strategy for the company. This is a Japanese principle of continuity. GM did not believe in this principle and the executives at the plant felt that if the assembly lines were allowed to stop, workers would take advantage of the company. Toyota simply believed in this principle, they made mats to stand on, cushions to kneel on and shelves to help in organizing and making an efficient process. Successful operations of every business enterprise do not depend entirely on the pay but there are also motivation factors to be considered. Most of these factors are associated with the employee and team work.
Adams, J. S., 1963. Towards an understanding of Inequity.Journal of Abnormal and social psychology. s.l.:s.n.

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