Super Bowl Builds Teamwork

Motorolas annual TCS competition promotes idea-sharing and reinforces a global commitment to customer satisfaction.

It was the end of a long, intense, yet highly invigorating day. . . . The excitement and suspense had been building since 8 a.m. when more than 300 Motorola Inc. employees -- including the companys highest-ranking executives -- assembled in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress hotel in Orlando. . . . Throughout the day, two dozen teams of Motorola employees from various corners of the world had strutted their stuff in presentations carefully scripted to impress the corporate brass with their successes in pursuing the companys five "key initiatives" -- strategies designed to improve total customer satisfaction (or TCS, to use the Schaumburg, Ill.-based firms favorite acronym). The 24 teams represented not only 10 different countries -- a virtual corporate United Nations gathering -- but also the pinnacle of teamwork inside one of the worlds most team-oriented corporations. To qualify for the finals of the TCS competition, the teams had to survive a year-long series of preliminary runoffs at the business-sector and regional levels. When the competition began, more than 5,000 teams involving some 50,000 employees were entered. Only the very best earned the trip to Orlando for the finals, characterized by former Motorola Chairman Robert W. (Bob) Galvin as the companys "Super Bowl" of team performance. "I never miss this," Galvin commented during one of the breaks between team presentations. "It is a seminal event for Motorola. Its a rallying point. . . . I compare it to the Super Bowl mentality. Human beings like to celebrate achievement. And we do it through competition." Galvin, who now serves as chairman of the companys executive committee, described the world TCS finals as a "headline event, [but] the real substance is what is behind the headline -- all the things that have been taking place at the team level. Something like 40% of all the employees of Motorola are engaged in team activities continuously. And that makes a real difference." Equally significant, Galvin stresses, is that the annual team competition -- first conducted in 1990 -- demonstrates how "intelligent, flexible use of processes" can improve service to customers. "People get things done through processes," he observes. "In the Super Bowl, the plays are actually processes. . . . When we want to accomplish something, we ask ourselves if there is a process that will have less variation for what we want to do. Behind this competition is the search for better processes, the adoption of better processes, and the endorsement of better processes." Galvin, one of the most admired manufacturing executives in America, had received a rousing welcome from the TCS participants when he was introduced at the mornings opening session along with the 15 judges who would be evaluating the team presentations. The composition of the panel underscored the importance that Motorola assigns to the annual event. The judges included Christopher B. Galvin, Bobs son and the current Motorola CEO; Gary L. Tooker, chairman of the board; Robert L. Growney, president and COO; 11 executive vice presidents; and one senior vice president. Throughout the day, these corporate leaders and the TCS participants basked in a sense of reassurance that Motorolas emphasis on intelligent teamwork has engendered an enthusiastic response by employees around the world. Each team was given 12 minutes to tell its story (points were deducted if a presentation overran the time limit). Each had to explain what it had accomplished, how it had employed various analytical and problem-solving techniques, and how its achievements were linked to specific customer needs. Each team also had to report on whether its solution or process had been "institutionalized" -- that is, adopted on an ongoing basis and transferred to other operations where applicable. The teams also had to demonstrate how their efforts were aligned with Motorolas five key initiatives:

  • Six Sigma quality.
  • Total cycle-time reduction.
  • Profit improvement.
  • Participative management.
  • Product, manufacturing, and environmental leadership.
Many of the presentations were highly entertaining skits with themes ranging from a parody of a "Star Trek" episode to a bit of lively banter with a California "surfer dude" and with costumes to match. Now, the hard work of the competition is over. . . . The participants, many clad in the colorful garb of their native countries, have turned to socializing at the wrap-up banquet, building a sense of cross-cultural camaraderie. During the dinner, a number of teams took turns strolling from table to table saluting each other with toasts and song. . . . Soon they will learn which of the 24 teams has been chosen to receive the "diamond" award as the best of the best. Chuck Blazevich, director of the TCS program since 1993, begins the presentation ceremony by announcing that all 24 teams -- including a supplier-company team from Monterrey, Mexico -- will receive gold-medal awards "because youre all winners." Finally, the big news: The judges choice as the No. 1 entry -- the champions of Motorolas 1998 Super Bowl -- is a team nicknamed ROOTS, representing the companys pager manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China. It is one of four teams from Tianjin that qualified for the Orlando finals. Naturally, the announcement triggers a wave of celebration among the Chinese contingent, headed by Lee Keng Sim, general manager of the six-year-old Tianjin facility. Earlier in the day, Bob Galvin had expressed his admiration for the achievements of the ROOTS team, which developed local suppliers to increase the local content of the plants paging products to more than 40%. "That team," Galvin observed, "engaged in a total business analysis of one piece of Motorolas business, and the team members did it themselves." "Ten years ago," commented another company executive, "I never imagined going to places like China or Russia. Now we have plants in both countries and you see teams from China -- and even Russia -- entered in the TCS competition." Two years ago, he noted, the China plant sent its first team to the world finals, "but none of the team members spoke English. They memorized their presentation in English, even though they didnt understand the words." Chairman Tooker describes the TCS competition as "the personification of our empowerment program." It was established, he points out, as a way "to keep the momentum going" after the company had won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1988. Not only does the program generate excitement, notes Tooker, but "The intangible benefit is that, once people see that youre interested in their ideas, they feel better about being part of the corporation and part of their business unit. Its part of the spirit of being a Motorolan." Among the benefits to Motorola, he adds, are greater employee loyalty and reduced employee turnover. The team competition, Blazevich emphasizes, "is a recognition process more than anything else. And the recognition process has helped to drive the formation of teams. The teams get excited about this, especially teams that otherwise wouldnt have the opportunity to travel." The enthusiasm for team activity is evident in various parts of the world, he notes. In the Philippines, for example, Motorola operates a fleet of company buses to transport employees to and from its plant in Manila. Recently, Blazevich points out, a female employee who had become involved in team projects "asked the company to schedule a bus later in the evening for team members who wanted to stay an hour or so after quitting time to work on team stuff." Among the 24 finalists in Orlando, the U.S. had the largest contingent -- nine teams. Mainland China had four, while Israel, Malaysia, and Japan each had two. There was one team each from Canada, Singapore, India, Mexico, and the rest of the Asia/Pacific region. The Canadian team, a service-sector unit representing the firms cellular phone business in Toronto, had developed new information-sharing technologies to improve communications with dealers. To earn the trip to Florida, it first had to win its business-sector finals, which were held in Beijing, China. Following the TCS competition, many of the team members remained in Orlando for several days to enjoy the areas attractions including Walt Disney World. After celebrating common goals and successes, sharing their cultural diversity, and exchanging ideas with fellow employees from around the globe, it wouldnt be surprising if the participants found special significance in one of the Magic Kingdoms best-known attractions. More than ever, they understood that indeed, "Its a Small World."
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