Like many newcomers to the concepts of empowerment and shared leadership, Edy's the jewel in the crown of Oakland, California based Dreyers Grand Ice Cream Company, and a 1993 Best Plants award-winning operation stumbled for a few years. Missing was an understanding of the business realities that form the basis of sound decision making.
So began a complete organizational overhaul in 1990, developed and implemented internally by cross-functional teams aligned by business unit (typically four or five people who actually make the ice cream, plus a packaging operator, an engineer, a shipper, a palletizer, a maintenance person, etc.). Each team is responsible for everything from quality and sanitation checks, meeting individual business goals, internal scheduling, and discipline, to training and career development. Employees are responsible for developing and implementing pay rates, hiring and firing, and everything in between.
Particularly noteworthy is the pay-for-skills system, designed to maximize an individual's control over his own career path while creating a breadth and depth of experience and expertise for the teams. The result is a three-tiered system that allows an individual to choose one or a combination of the following paths: first, as an operator, to master the basic skills involved in a module (a unit of tasks within the plant that comprise a "job"); second, to gain in-depth, technical expertise in a module, earning "technician" status; and third, to develop specialized engineering, training, or leadership skills.
A monthly incentive system rewards performance in five dimensions: people, customer delight, new products and processes, cost, and quality.