Synopsis: Communication For Productivity
Letters written to some 7500 Workers / Managers / Union Leaders, following a period of strike / Go slow / Murders (1979 - 1987), at Mumbai factory of Larsen & Toubro Ltd. This direct / open / honest communication led to a remarkable atmosphere of trust between Workers and Management, which, in turn, increased productivity at 3% per year (ave).
5 Dec 1984
Dear Shop Supervisor
AN EXPERIMENT IN TRUSTEESHIP
About 2 years ago, I had sent to many of you, a book titled "THE INCREDIBLE JAPANESE". In my covering note, I had drawn a diagram which I had called the 'Pyramid of Worker-Participation' .
The apex of the pyramid was titled 'Trusteeship' - the normal concept being that the means of production ultimately belong to the society and that we are merely 'trustees'. This was Gandhiji's approach to bring about a change in the attitude towards work and in the relationship between the workers and the management. Under this concept the interest of the society came first.
I do not think the Japanese read Gandhiji's views before they started their experiments in worker-participation. On the other hand, in a recent seminar on "Japanese Management", I heard 3 Hitachi executives narrate their management - approach to improvement of industrial relations and I found that there was a striking resemblance in the approaches of Hitachi (pages 78-112 of "incredible Japanese". In case you have not received a copy of this book earlier, please collect it from me personally) and the approach at "Khira".
Now I understand better what Mr. V. Krishnamurthy (Managing Director - Maruti Udyog Ltd.) meant when he said in the seminar,
We selected Suzuki as our collaborator, not because of technological or financial considerations, but because we strongly felt that, at Maruti, what we needed most was not the technological know-how but the attitudinal know-how - the Suzuki work-ethics".
And although Mr. Krishnamurthy realizes that cultures cannot be transplanted across thousands of kilometers from an alien society, he has made some small (but bold) symbolic departures at Maruti - e.g.
- From General Manager down, everybody wears identical uniform
- There is only one Canteen for everybody
- There are no cabins for anyone at the factory.