Employee Involvement - Facilitator Report
By Jodi Collins
Dec. 1998

Process Mapping, Problem Solving, Change model, Facilitator, Process Improvement, Continuous Improvement, Cycle time, Project Management, Steering Committee…

At Kansas City Power and Light Company these terms above are becoming more familiar as employees attend the different components of SYMMEtrics like Winds of Change and the Data Analysis and Reinvention workshops and respond to the Survey of Managerial Effectiveness. As a Facilitator for I.B.E.W. Local 1613, I promote the concepts that SYMMEtrics emphasises we will need to have in place when deregulation arrives and the customer has a choice as to what company to buy electricity from.

So why does the word "Employee Involvement" turn some people off and cause some to be suspicious? Some corporate monsters have used employee involvement like a racketeer would use a candy storefront where Granny appears to be selling candy but in the back is running numbers. Lean Production and Management by Stress is two popular management strategies that are behind some employee involvement initiatives. Labor unions cautiously enter into contractual agreements around "employee involvement" and make damn sure that the good intentions of union employees participating in Employee Involvement doesn't lead to a decrease in membership.

In 1986, Local 1613 entered into an agreement with Kansas City Power and Light Company defining "employee involvement", the role of the Facilitator and the Steering Committee. "Richard McClendon did an excellent job negotiating the language in our contract" says Linda Matthews, President Local 1613.

Following negotiations in 1986, Quality Circles were soon formed and modeled after the QC's at Ford Motor Company in Claycomo Missouri. The 1613 EI Steering Committee recently toured the plant with the Local's Business Manager and President. "Ford has similar challenges as we do in the implementation of the Employee Involvement Processes and the participation of 1st level supervision to support the changes necessary to enhance to quality of work life."

Many employees joined a Quality Circle group and were trained in techniques for problem solving. Most of the Quality Circle projects implemented can still be found in the work place today. One example of a successful project originated from the Bright Ideas QC group. They developed the Energy Rate Manual that is being used in the Customer Communications Center and the Service Centers.

So why did Quality Circles go away in Locals 1613 and 1464? With the early out in 1994 managing the workload demands with fewer people was difficult and finding time to meet regularly was also an issue. Some would say that we had come so far in employees able to move solutions forward without the formal structure and therefore QC's were no longer needed, Either way, QC's did provide us with some valuable tools and techniques that are being utilized in our workplace today.

So that's a little history for you. My next article in January will be answering these commonly asked questions:
What is Employee Involvement?
How Can Employee Involvement be a part of my department?
Who is the 1613 Steering Committee and what is their purpose?
What has Employee Involvement done for me lately?

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