________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ HBS Professor David A. Garvin and Elizabeth Collins prepared this case solely as a...

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After reading the RL Wolfe: Implementing Self-Directed Teams case from the HBSP course pack and going through the lecture PPT, please answer the following questions.


HBS Professor David A. Garvin and Elizabeth Collins prepared this case solely as a basis for class discussion and not as an endorsement, a source
of primary data, or an illustration of effective or ineffective management. This case, though based on real events, is fictionalized, and any
resemblance to actual persons or entities is coincidental. There are occasional references to actual companies in the narration.

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D A V I D A . G A R V I N
RL Wolfe: Implementing Self-Directed Teams
On a clear day in May 2007, John Amasi looked down on the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, as his
plane approached the airport. As director of Production and Engineering at RL Wolfe—a $350M
privately held plastic pipe manufacturer headquartered in Houston, Texas—he was looking forward
to visiting the company’s plant in the city.
Four years previously, in 2003, when RL Wolfe had purchased Moon Plastics—a small, family-
owned custom plastics manufacturer in Corpus Christi—Amasi had seen an opportunity to
implement self-directed teams (SDTs) at the new plant. He had been interested in SDTs for several
years, since taking a business school executive education course on workforce motivation and team
structures. Amasi had been intrigued by reports of 30% to 40% improvements in productivity and
quality for SDT-run units, when compared with traditional manufacturing facilities, and returns on
investment more than three times the industry average.1
Those reports had come from a variety of industries—food and beverage, consumer goods—but
Amasi felt he saw evidence that he could use the SDT model to drive high productivity in a plastic
pipe manufacturing plant. The Corpus Christi plant, once retooled and back online in 2004, had a
design capacity of 2,250 tons of high-density polyethylene (PE) pipe per year. “High productivity,” in
his view, was 95% or more of design capacity. Wolfe’s two other plastic pipe manufacturing plants
were running at 65%-70% of design capacity.
Amasi’s first step had been to gain the board of directors’ approval to approach the workers’
union and offer a long-sought concession in health care coverage to clear the path for what became
known as “the Corpus Christi experiment.” The new plant would not be unionized, in contrast to
Wolfe’s other two plants. His second step had been to lure 35-year-old Jay Winslow from Wolfe’s top
competitor to become plant manager.

1 David A. Garvin, “Understanding Self-Managing Work Systems,” Technology and Operations Review, 1997.
R E V : D E C E M B E R 1 5 , 2 0 0 9
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This document is authorized for use only by ALYCIA MOHAM in Organizational Behavior MGMT5320 Summer 2, 2022, Karst taught by Rusty Karst, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi from
Jul 2022 to Aug 2022.
4063 | RL Wolfe: Implementing Self-Directed Teams
When Amasi and Winslow sat down to design the work system, they both envisioned a flattened
and simplified organizational hierarchy and committed work force with a high level of satisfaction in
their work (see Exhibit 1 for background on the theory of self-directed teams). That commitment and
sense of ownership, they believed, would inspire the workers to continuously improve processes,
thereby increasing productivity and quality. Now Amasi was on his way to tour the plant and talk
with Winslow. He was a frequent visitor at the plant, eager to see firsthand whether SDTs could help
him achieve and sustain high productivity in a plastics manufacturing plant. So far, the plant was
running between 80% and 82% of design capacity annually, but he and Winslow were not satisfied
with that result. He and Winslow planned to use this visit to tour the plant and to address the
barriers that were preventing higher productivity.
Background: Plastic Pipe Manufacturing at the Corpus Christi Plant
The new plant used plastics extrusion to produce high-density polyethylene (PE) pipes primarily
for the natural gas and oil industries. Lightweight, noncorrosive, chemically inert, and available in
long runs, plastic pipe was the preferred method of distributing natural gas and oil in many parts of
the world. PE pipe was easy to handle: a 500-ft length of 1-inch pipe weighed approximately 100
To create extruded plastic pipe, raw thermoplastic beads (or resin) were loaded in a hopper and
mixed with additives such as colorants and IV inhibitors. The hopper fed a highly automated
extrusion manufacturing line composed of an extruder for melting and mixing the raw materials, a
die that determined the ultimate shape and diameter of the pipe, a vacuum tank for sizing and
cooling, and cooling tanks.
At the end of the extrusion line, the pipe was moved to a finishing line where identification marks
were added. Stacked lengths and spools of pipe were moved to an inspection area, where the outer
diameter, pipe thickness, and other quality parameters were confirmed. Finally, the pipes were
packaged and prepared for shipment to customers.
Workers also performed quality inspections on raw materials. The plant established its own
procedures for testing incoming resin based on melt index, density, tensile strength, and
environmental stress crack resistance (ESCR). Computerized controls were used both in the raw
materials quality inspections and throughout the extrusion line.
Corpus Christi, a 300,000 square-foot facility, ran four extrusion lines 24 hours a day over three
shifts (7 AM to 3 PM; 3 PM to 11 PM; and 11 PM to 7 AM). The strong hum on the factory floor was
punctuated by the hiss of cooling pipe. Each shift required 27 floor workers, with most of the activity
focused on bringing raw materials to the hoppers, running the lines, and transporting pipe away
from the finishing lines.
Corpus Christi in 2004: Moving Toward a Self-Directed Work Force
Back in 2003, Amasi and Winslow had asked the managers of Wolfe’s Austin, Texas, and
Columbus, Ohio, plants to join them on the Corpus Christi implementation team. The four met in
Corpus Christi for three days of planning meetings addressing job definitions, hiring, team setup and
responsibilities, and the role of the coordinator.
For the exclusive use of A. MOHAM, 2022.
This document is authorized for use only by ALYCIA MOHAM in Organizational Behavior MGMT5320 Summer 2, 2022, Karst taught by Rusty Karst, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi from
Jul 2022 to Aug 2022.
RL Wolfe: Implementing Self-Directed Teams | 4063
Job Definitions
For Corpus Christi, Amasi and Winslow strongly advocated pushing aside the job distinctions
and roles currently in place at Wolfe’s two unionized plants and creating semi-autonomous work
teams in their place. The Austin and Columbus plant managers provided similar descriptions of the
traditional roles at their plants.
First, plant contracts with the 62,000-member Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers
International Union and other unions divided workers into two categories—production and
maintenance—with work assignments further determined by job classifications and seniority (see
Exhibit 2 for a partial organization chart for one of the unionized plants). The implementation team
maintained that these traditional divisions would not provide the flexibility and equality that were
necessary to make SDTs a powerful source of continuous improvement ideas. A related issue was
associated with conflicts between maintenance and line operator personnel at the two unionized
plants. No workers on the line, foremen included, were authorized to perform maintenance on
equipment. Maintenance personnel were paid a higher wage than production personnel, and
production personnel were promoted to maintenance positions only after at least one year at the
Even if a line operator knew how to fix a problem, the extrusion line would halt to wait for a
maintenance worker to fix the problem. Maintenance workers and line operators often disagreed on
the reasons for the breakdown of equipment as well as the best way to troubleshoot the line. Further,
line operators had an often-justified fear they would be blamed for any drop in the line’s productivity
while a fix was being made. To compound the problem, maintenance workers on the Austin plant’s
third shift called in sick at a rate 20% higher than third-shift workers at comparable plants. For the
Columbus plant, the rate was 35% higher than at comparable plants.
The implementation team agreed on two job levels for workers on the factory floor. The first
classification included line operators and materials handlers. The second level, called “technicians,”
would be assigned to the more technically demanding work on the plant floor. The job descriptions
for line operators and technicians were very similar, but technicians were expected to take the lead in
technical problem solving (see Exhibit 3 for a partial organization chart for the Corpus Christi factory
The team recognized that the innovative work system planned for Corpus Christi would require
characteristics that were not traditionally sought in factory floor workers. Winslow was committed to
flexible work assignments at Corpus Christi and wanted, ideally, every worker to learn every job at
the plant. But fully participating in self-directed teams would clearly require both management and
workers to learn a new set of skills. Winslow and the others documented a set of personal
characteristics to use as hiring criteria, including problem solving and a thirst to learn, performance
reliability and adaptability, judgment, organizing skills, and initiative.
Then they set up
Answered 3 days AfterAug 08, 2022

Answer To: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________...

Tanmoy answered on Aug 12 2022
13 Votes
RL Wolfe        4
Table of Contents
Answer 1    3
Answer 2    3
Answer 3    3
Answer 4    4
Answer 5    4

References    5
Answer 1
    A self-directed team is a group of organizational members which attracts various talents and utilizes them to achieve the best results without any difficulties in the management. The advantages of the group decision making are that it increases the interest along with collaboration, enhances the strength of the organization and helps in building team activities. The disadvantages are that it takes long-time, few members deter to participate in the group decision making activities and domination by few members of the group e.g., the Nazi party’s autocratic rule by Dominique Clique in Germany during the WW2 (Moore, 1987).     
Answer 2
    If we accept the problem, analyze the condition, work in collaboration with each other, share the interests and keep confidential problems secret are some of the ways to manage...

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