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The leadership of Gary Convis

Question: Do you think Fiedler’s position power, task structure, or leader-member relations was the most important aspect of Gary Convis’s leadership at the Georgetown plant?

The first comprehensive contingency model for leadership was developed by Fred Fiedler which is an expansion of the leadership flexibility theory. The Fiedler contingency model proposes that effective group performance depends on the proper match between the leader’s style (characteristic) and his position of power and the demand of the situation.  Fiedler considers situational control the extent to which a leader can determine what his or her group is going to do to be the primary contingency factor in determining the effectiveness of leader behavior (Fiedler and Garcia 1987; Fiedler et al. 1994). 

Fiedler divided into three primary factors which is to be considered when moving leaders into situations appropriate for their leadership style which are leader-member relations, task structure and position power. (Certo & Certo, 2006). 

Looking at Fiedler’s contingency theory Convis fits into Octant number one where his leader-member relations are strong, he manages in a structured task structure and he has a strong position power.

Leader member-relation is most fitting and most important to Gary Convis.  Convis has a high degree of confident that he is well accepted by his employees. 

His management style is to lead by example and not to ask others to do what he will not do himself which is an extension of the “genchi genbutsu” or “see it for yourself” which is a key tenet at Toyota.  Convis is very determined to catch up with Tsutsumi factory in Japan which is currently the most effective and efficient manufacturing plant of Toyota.  Convis fits squarely in the manufacturing plant, he is well accepted and everyone loves him. 

His employees also love Convis as he is very easy to connect to.  Employees can knock his door anytime and despite his busy schedule he will always make time for his employees.  He also does not shy away from the manufacturing floor.  He will visit it whenever he can and that is why he connects well with workers.  (Peggy Ferris, 2000).

He was also quoted as saying this, “As you become global, you need to simplify things as much as possible, because you’re getting spread out, literally, from a core where you have really dedicated knowledge among a small number of people. In almost every facet of our manufacturing process, this kind of revolutionary thinking is going on.  We will draw from the expertise and experience of our Kentucky members which I’m confident will deliver it to me.”

Nobody can blame Convis for having his level of confident; he is very well accepted by his employees, and his dedication for people is overwhelming.  Convis hopes to help develop people who can practice the Toyota way in America and work to support Toyota’s globalization and employee’s empowerment.

Convis also do coaching whenever he tries to give out instruction and orders.  He is always involved in all the daily activity and project at the Georgetown plant.  Furthermore, Convis is always accessible to the employees where he adopted the open door policy.  One of the employment security policy that Convis brought also reinforces a new set of human relationships in which managers learn to respect their employees.  Convis said that this is a last horizon for managers to overcome.  Convis put it in his stride that his key concept is respect for the worker, for the team member.  He work with people, listen to them for their ideas and to work with them to support theirs.

Almost eighty percent of NUUMI employees were taken from General Motors (GM) laid-off employees but upon a survey which was conducted, 93 percent of the workers said they will not go back to GM.  This is contributed highly because of the leader-membership and the different cultural style in Toyota.

All this outlines leader-membership relation for Convis is strong and is most important aspect of Convis’ leadership as he himself put it that his number one priority is building trust over his people.

Task structure is the degree to which the activity to be conducted is outlined, briefed and explained clearly.  In a typical manufacturing plant, all activities have a high level of task structure.  This is necessary as all job designs have been crafted specifically for each employee.   This is critical to ensure no redundancy and the level of efficiency in the manufacturing plant is maintained.  Convis is a strong advocate of Toyota Production System (TPS) where it is comprised of two pillars which is Just in Time and Jidoka.  Jidoka outline to ensure a separation of between human’s and machine’s scope of work.  TPS is a very highly structured process and its main objectives are to design overburden, inconsistency and wastage elimination.

TPS abhors that the right process will produce the right result.  The MIT researchers found that TPS is so effective that it coined it with the term “Lean Production” to indicate the radically different approach and highly structured production. John Davine, CEO of Dana is quoted as saying that “Gary is the leading experts in lean manufacturing and management system and also including the TPS”.

Position power is determined by on how the leader has the power to reward or punishes his employees.  However, Convis do not believe in punishing his employees but only believes in rewarding his employees; if an employee fails to deliver, it is the processes which are wrongly setup and not the employee.  He was quoted as saying “You listen to them, you work together.  You don’t blame them.  Maybe the process was not set up well, so it was easy to make mistake.”  This put convis position of power as strong where he has the power and control to punish or reward his employees.  This is evident when he is appointed as the President and no one of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky and command the highest authority in the manufacturing plant.  Choosing not to give punishment does not indicate that he does not have the power to do so but instead shows that he have the power to do so.

Convis contribution in Toyota at the Georgetown plant was well rewarded when he become president of the manufacturing plant.   He is the first American to serve in the top spot at any of Toyota’s plant.  When he got his promotion, his supervisor, Mr Kan Higashi told him to manage as if he has no power.  This was the very foundation of his leadership. 

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