Unit ranked it the l4th most efficient of 133 aluminium smelters it  surveyed around the globe an impressive performance considering it was competing against smelters in countries where environment control costs were minimal. But the research also predicted that by 1991 the Point Henry smelter would fall to 41st on the list. A management group was assembled to discuss issues such as where the business wanted to head, how long it had to make changes needed to achieve its goals and how to make those changes.
From these discussions came a list of problems and desired outcomes. For example. the company decided it needed a pay system that encouraged people to take part in continuous improvement programs to help lift productivity, and that also discouraged absenteeism. O'Driscoll says the system that was devised means people take days off on sick leave, resulting in more overtime payments for their work mates and no loss to themselves.
This new bid for change was different because the company started with a vision of where it wanted to go, from which all changes flowed, rather than trying to impose a packaged solution.
Management decided the best way to effect change was by making people responsible for redesigning their own jobs. It set up teams around the plant, charged with finding better ways to do work. This required people to know more about the business and why different processes were done - knowledge that had been the preserve of management. How a business worked was management's little bit of power, little bit of authority, O'Driscoll Says. To win commitment at all levels Alcoa held a two day workshop at Ballarat. Representatives from senior management to the shop floor attended, along with outside union representatives. The groups were first split between workers and management and asked to list separately what they expected or hoped would come from change.
O'Driscoll says award restructuring was dominating the union movement at the time: unionists' requests included better pay, career paths and more skills and knowledge. Management wanted a more flexible workforce and increased productivity. Bringing the groups back together, senior management argued that the requests boiled down to much the same thing: a more flexible workforce is one that has greater skill, for which it is entitled to be paid more. Bob Holland, a senior shop steward with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union on the site, says employees were working an average of eight to 12 hours' overtime a week ? more if they wanted ? and knew the company was earning big profits. They questioned why they should have to change, but the company persuaded them it was necessary because of the global market and desirable because of the potential to improve their jobs.
The next step was to sell the message to the whole workforce. Over several weeks, management and union representatives