found that quality performance in the team-based production process employed at the Saturn Corporation was significantly influenced by the amount of communication among team leaders. His study illustrates the links between cognitive and interactive skills, since he showed how the union at Saturn had created a dense social network among these team leaders that facilitated communication, coordination, and problem solving on production and organizational issues.
Appelbaum and Berg (1999) demonstrated the growing importance of coordination and communication in a three-industry study of work organization. They found that, compared with workers in traditional job structures, those working in teams reported higher levels of participation in problem solving, communications with supervisors and managers both in their units and in other parts of the organization, and greater responsibility for a wide range of duties traditionally reserved for supervisors and managers. One effect of these changes is to blur the traditional lines of demarcation between blue-collar and managerial work in settings that rely heavily on teams, as well as the distinction between blue-collar workers and the technicians and other professionals who design and support the technical and organizational systems associated with their work. Box 4.1 illustrates the blurring of these traditional occupational boundaries in several industries.
Relationship management for blue-collar workers is not limited to shop floor work teams, labor-management committees, or cross-functional problem-solving groups. By reorganizing work from functionally driven lines to product- or customer-focused centers, employers are able to more directly link customers to workers, and blue-collar workers need to develop customer relationship management skills. Box 4.2 provides an example of this; it is taken from a case study of Corning, Inc., a company that has worked collaboratively with the American Flint Glass Workers Union to create team-based work systems.
A large number of recent empirical studies have shown that technology is changing blue-collar work in significant but