TE Connectivity: Go for brilliance

2017 – TE Connectivity Oostkamp, Belgium is a production site of the multinational TE Connectivity. They develop and manufacture electromechanical components for the automotive industry. At this site 720 people are employed.
TE Connectivity Oostkamp is executing a project aimed at the modernization of the work organization. Flandres Synergy (FS) supports that project.  In FS’s Member Magazine, No. 9 March 2017, an article about this project is published: ‘Go for Brilliance’. This article is summarized below. 

Workplace innovation
In an earlier ESF project (European Social Fund, Program 2007-2013, see references below) TE Connectivity introduced self-managing teams. That is, they tried to transform their existing teams into self-managing teams. That did not work so well. Hence they choose for a restart at the end of 2014 and started with the insights of Innovative Work Organisation (Modern Sociotechnical System theory). They first pay attention to the development of a vision and mission and then to a redesign of the organizational structure because these are necessary conditions to form effective functioning teams.
When designing a new production structure it appeared not possible to apply one single model throughout the organisation, mainly because of the functionality of the equipment and the layout of the plant. The solution now is that for the operations: stamping, plating and molding, the ordering criterion will be technology (the machine works for customer A ánd customer B, C …). But for assembly the product portfolio is the leading: line 1 works for customer X, line 2 for customer Y etc.
This fine structure enables designing multidisciplinary teams of 8 to 12 persons, operators and quality and logistics staff. In the operation each team works in five shifts. The teams are responsible for delivering an at forehand determined result. ‘Star roles’ (former management tasks) are divided between the team members. The teams are also responsible for continuous improvement and – when appropriate – working groups are formed with people from different teams to elaborate improvement proposals. Managers are trained to play a coaching role.
The company is currently (March 2017) in transformation. In some departments small independent factories already work. In others employees are still being coached and prepared to work in self-managing teams. There is a Site Leadership Team in which the board and some of the former supervisors are meeting. Their task it is to support all teams. 


Continuous focus on product innovation and technical superiority is vital for this company. For a few years they also pay much attention on innovating and optimizing business processes through Lean production, Kanban and teamwork. Within the international TE group, the site in Oostkamp ranks very good. That elite status of four stars just challenges  local management to win the fifth star.
That ambition and the fact that the employee satisfaction survey indicated that staff is looking for bigger challenges, made them looking for ways to improve the organization of work and the use of people’s talents. 

September 2014 the company MT did a “dream workshop" and formulated ambitions in six areas: 1) tighten mission and vision; 2) developing a long-term strategy; 3) refine the organisational structure; 4) sharpening leadership skills; 5) more attention to talent development; 6) continuing the policy of continuous improvement on the technical level.
Then, a working group, the “Vision Team" was created. This group translated the mission and vision to leadership principles. The result was an image: ‘the brilliant’ and an acronym: STOEV. Together these symbols worked very well in the communication about the intended changes and prepared the hearts and minds of the employees. STOEV stands for: cooperation works (Samenwerking), the Team knows why, there is an environment (Omgeving) to grow and prosper, there is positive Energy and there is trust (Vertrouwen).

A second working group was launched to design a new organizational structure. Soon it appeared impossible for technological and layout technical reasons to implement one organisational model that would best facilitate self-managing teams. A hybrid solution was found, as outlined above. The employees have been involved in this design process and were asked to comment on the plans.
The supervisors have completed an 8 day training in coaching leadership and had to develop soft skills. In the transition process they will propose to each individual employee in which team he or she will start to work.

Much is invested in personality development and learning to give feedback. 


The article does not present results. Probably it is too early to show any results. 

Lessons learned

From the previous ESF project can be learned that self-managing teams will not work if there is no clear vision, there are no clear goals for the organisation and no streamlined organisational structure.
The ongoing project has taught us among other things that:
• all involved should feel a problem;
• a clear process- or customer-oriented structure is not always possible physically;
• communication is a key element;
• in departments a simultaneous approach at all levels is needed. 


Drees, Lieze: ‘TE Connectivity, Go for brilliance’ In: Flandres Synergy’s Member Magazine, Nbr. 9, March 2017, pp. 6 – 10. The article is attached.

See about the ESF project the next websites: