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Letter: Happy workers discipline themselves

Sir: Lest there be any suspicion that the far-sighted fellow whose business methods you described in today's front-page report (24 July) is merely a lone idealistic crackpot, let me disabuse such doubts.

Ken Lewis has apparently handed over the running of his metal-working firm to the workers themselves, and its efficiency has improved, staff morale is sky-high, and he is in clover, spending much of his time crusading on behalf of his radical ideas.

Well, they're not so radical. In 1988, as a motoring journalist, I toured several General Motors factories in Detroit and satellite towns in Michigan and Indiana where a subsidiary firm of GM, which is itself the biggest company in the world, was conducting the same experiment as Mr Lewis, to the satisfaction of the GM board. In my report at the time I wrote: "We met the workers at a remarkable factory run by GM's Delco Remy Division, in Anderson, Indiana. They were a happy bunch, free from the shackles of management supervision. They disciplined themselves, punched no time clocks, organised their own work schedules, took whatever lunch hours and other breaks seemed reasonable, and depended utterly on trust and peer-group pressure, to keep the factory running efficiently."

If a company the size of General Motors thinks such ideas are worth trying, perhaps more UK firms will respond favourably to Mr Lewis's successful initiative.


Richmond, Surrey