1-Kulvinder's approach was not based on the facts and the ground realities in the local context. Rather it was driven by his own perception of the local situation without validating it with local Business Head and HR Head. While he is strategically responsible for all units not taking local leadership into confidence was his biggest mistake. It also demonstrates his over-confidence and in a way lack of professional and business maturity. Presuming that the overall wage increments he was about to roll out would be a game changer and any thing and every thing can be done to stop local movements till then was in a way sign of professional arrogance which backfired badly obviously.
2-Kulvinder failed on multiple fronts
1) He has not gone into depth and breadth of the situation, not gathered adequate and relevant facts to take a holistic view of the situation.
2) He has failed to take the cognizance of the symptoms he received from the business unit and its possible influence and impact.
3) He has failed in taking a pause on his overall compensation plan initiative in the backdrop of the local developments in the business unit
4) He has failed to take buy in from concerned Business Head and the HR Head, this was most critical as they are there running the plant day in and day out.
5) He has failed to provide equal opportunity to local leadership to deal with the situation and come up with their understanding and the game plan. He was any way having overall authority to look at it and give his advice.
6) He has also failed to go beyond Mahesh and cross check how much impact Mahesh has on the workers. Further simply taking Mahesh into supervisory cadre in itself was not
sufficient. He failed in assessing Mahesh's supervisory skills. While Mahesh carries acceptance in the mind of workers and speak for their cause, his supervisory skills in managing the
operations was not assessed at all.
7) He failed in not involving local leadership even in implementing his game plan yet giving them adequate freedom to change the course of action if need be being local Managers.
3-Yes, Mahesh enjoys popularity amongst workers and has visible Union leadership traits which has started to surface in recent past. His assertion in the interest of workers confirm the same. While luring potential nuisance maker a supervisory role is a typical age old strategy, it need not necessarily work in the given context. While Mahesh envisaged personal and professional growth for self in the opportunity to be a supervisor, by doing so he has lost his personal credibility in the eyes of workers. This was selfish move for Mahesh which certainly has taken him psychologically away from workers. Additionally, his background and experience does not seem to be matured enough to handle supervisory role given to him. Mere change in designation into supervisory role can not guarantee success in that role and hence Mahesh failed. Further his selfish movement to supervisory cadre seem to have backfired workers confidence in him and as a result worker went into non-cooperation mode resulting into visible drop in production, quality and productivity.
Mahesh's transfer against his will seems to have triggered the urge within him to lead workers cause and brought him back close to workers. His proximity to workers in both the plant allowed collective efforts in collaboration at both the locations.
4- Accelerating factors in union formation:
1) Lack of involvement of local leadership in the process. Kulvinder lost the battle in first step. His over confidence was the biggest mistake.
2) Over confidence in elevating Mahesh into supervisory cadre. This has lost workers confidence in both Mahesh and the Management. This has accerlated the Union formation.
3) Mahesh's transfer against his will seem to have brought him back close to workers and triggered his urge within to lead workers cause, now in both the plants
4) Lack of involvement of local leaders also lead to lost opportunity to get ground level vigilance and IR symptoms during the entire process
5-Formation of Union is not something to panic about.
1) MD has to assert and give Kulvinder feedback on his failure in handling the situation
2) MD shall call urgent meeting with Kulvinder, Business Heads and HR Heads demanding their assessment of the situation and proposed action plan to salvage and manage the situation as of today and way forward.
3) MD can empower local teams to lead the solution
4) MD can demand Kulvinder to be a facilitator in the process
5) MD to ensure the damage does not spread in the third plant
6) MD should not fire Kulvinder but can give him one more chance with timeline of one year to bring situation under control.
7) MD has to ensure proper Union Management mechanism is in place and is effective.