Using data from a comparative, multisite ethnography, this paper identifies some of the social and organizational conditions that limited the impact of workplace transformation at four manufacturing plants during the 1990s. Although these plants adopted an array of new work practices, most achieved only limited gains and were generally unable to transcend the traditional boundary between salaried and hourly employees. A key reason lay in the managerial orientation toward production that was brought to bear on the process of workplace change. This orientation, which placed substantial emphasis on scientific and technical rationality, limited the firm's ability to provide an overarching normative or moral framework within which workplace change might unfold, leaving team systems vulnerable to anomic tendencies, to status distinctions among hourly employees, and to other sources of instability. The predominance of a technical, expert-centered orientation toward production also introduced salient contradictions into the new work regimes, pitting a logic of standardization against managerial efforts to cultivate a logic of participation. These findings suggest that successful implementation of workplace change may depend on the ability of corporate executives to demonstrate the very capacity for flexibility that they often demand of their hourly employees.