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A Critical look at some of the Business Issues

Introduction

The development of a business in an industry in response to the market is considered an art, though others have insisted that it is a science (Stead & Starik, 2004, pp. 22).  The relevance of these two views is brought into context when dealing with the problems faced by companies while operating in their various industries (Allison & Kaye, 2005, pp. 23).  The nature of problems in a business setting is such that by solving one problem the business may appear to be giving in to another problem or threat (Stead & Starik, 2004, pp. 21).  Therefore, the solution of the problems require the science in formulation of the solution and the art in implementation though the interplay of the two aspects is prevalent in both cases.  Organisations are faced with problems, ranging from corporate to cultural, that actively or passively affect their productivity by undermining their operations (Stead & Starik, 2004, pp. 22).

Case

Fisher & Paykel is a manufacturing company based in New Zealand that deals in household white goods and is also renowned for its manufacture of healthcare products.  It employs 400 employees and another 170 people for support role.  The company has had a long reputation for its

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efficient implementation of teamwork, though the formal definition of the teams is non-existent in any of the companies papers.  The company restructured its approach due to the concerns that the teams had little impact on individual direction.  When the Australian market was flooded by competitive products the company considered an innovation and creativity direction implemented by the use of teamwork as a means of ensuring and maintaining its position in the industry.  The company sent key operational staff on a tour to Japan to learn more on the team approach it intended to use.

 The vision of their plan was to manage the division through a number of  networked teams each of which could manage itself, after the members had been trained and empowered to make improvements on their own.  The teamwork approach was the main mechanism that was to be used in incremental gain of quality, control of costs and facilitation of continuous change in response to the needs of the market.

 The everyday workplace teams (EDWT) were built on  a common belief that this team approach would become part of the norm of the organisation.  The plan further encouraged the adoption of a unified vision, appreciation of quality management, positive approach to business and development of individuals, teams and processes.  Additional project teams were created to deal with the aspects of communication, ideal training, pay scale and implementation.  The EDWTs were built on existing teams which were based on functional boundaries.  The plan was faced with the challenge of winning the support of the organisation to implementing the changes while at he same time dealing with the resistance that characterise any change process.  Some previous projects had been management stunts and had failed seriously.  The implementation team trained in weekly meetings and engaged more team building activities as they moved to improvement appraisal tasks.  The team leaders were to facilitate the activities with the help of activity based workbooks.  The aspects learnt included communication skills, team building, running meetings and working together.  The  workbook approach was aimed at developing functional teams and supporting team skills in the companies labour force.

Team leaders experienced the most change as they were now charged with the responsibility of handling issues that were more people based and lacked in the technical aspects (Root & Koenig, 2006).  The leaders had increased responsibilities and had to engage in almost all aspect of the operations.  A number of leaders chose to step down and their positions were filled with people from outside the organisation.  But in the end team working was embedded in the culture of the company and many have developed skills not defined by their professional knowledge, though resistance in a passive form is still present.  Moreover, the workers who have accepted the new approach to operations expect the management to consider their contribution.

Analysis

Strategic Vision
Strategic vision is an aspect in business development that plays a significant part in the development of a more people friendly approach to implementation.  Having a clear vision is not only desirable for a company but it is fundamental to its future (Allison & Kaye, 2005, pp.10).  The vision should be made up of goals, strategies, mission and the culture (Allison & Kaye, 2005, pp.15).  A good vision statement should relate the mission of the organisation with the goals and should clearly bring out the organisational culture (Allison & Kaye, 2005, pp.99).  In the case the strength of the vision statement is that it relates the strategic directions to the vision as seen in ‘ manage the divisions through network of teams’ which is surely a strategic approach or priority which will help in meeting the objective of ‘incremental gains in quality’ so as to facilitate the mission which is ’employee acceptance of continuous change and market response.’  Furthermore, the mission and thus the vision is realistic though arguably unattainable as employees will never be fully acceptant of continuous change and market responses is an aspect that is so dynamic and is seldom met fully (McGrath, 2000).  Therefore, the mission is good in igniting the passion in the employees and in giving them a direction due to its clarity and promise of a better future.  On the other hand, the vision statement does not in any way articulate the organisational culture, in fact the aspect of organisational culture is not featured in the vision.

The culture should be addressed in the vision in that it creates a feeling of belongingness, in that, a vision that does not in any way address organisational culture is viewed by those that will implement the strategic plans derived from it as irrelevant in meeting the needs of a company (Spinelli & Timmons, 2004, pp. 32).  Communication of such ‘irrelevant’ vision to the entire organisation is a nightmare that may organisation would wish to never experience (Spinelli & Timmons, 2004, pp. 10).  The non-communication or inefficient communication of the vision statement leads to poor communication of strategic plans whose basis is the vision statement which leads to inefficiency in the implementation phase of the plan.  Therefore, the main problem with regards to the strategic vision is the exclusion of the organisational culture in the vision and thus the mission.

Team Work
Team work is an aspect of the organisation that has been brought out clearly in the case.  Many organisations employ the aid of teams in their daily operations though the formal recognition of such undertakings written on paper or any other form of documentation lacks (Strauss, 2004, pp. 35).  This is seen in the case as the company had been implementing team work in most of its activities but it was until the implementation of the EDWT that the utilisation of teams was officially recognised as an implementation mechanism.  The use of teams in operations leads to efficiency and cost cutting if implemented well (Stutely, 2006, pp. 11).  The main motivation behind Fisher and Paykel’s adoption of the team approach is to control cost and facilitate the acceptance of continuous change.  It is quite logical to implement a change agenda in groups that share a lot in common or rather a team as the implementation of a change process in such manner helps in improving the rate of change as the adoption of the new process by the teams will quickly diffuse to the rest of the organisations (Truly, 2005, pp. 12).

The efficiency of team work largely depends on its implementation (Truly, 2005, pp. 30).  For a successful team approach, team building and other aspects of communication and creation of a team culture that is propagated by involving the team members in activities that require the proper implementation of teams is important.  Leadership and teams go together for in the consideration of a group made up of people from different backgrounds conflict of mechanics to solution of problems, professional orientation and skill levels may hinder the efficiency of the teams (McKeever, 2007, pp. 21).  Lack of leadership in a group setting or inefficient leadership will lead to more problems and rip little benefits if any, therefore every group should have a leader who is charged with the responsibility of coordinating its activities and ensuring that they are done in a hassle free manner.   Teamwork is seen to be very important to innovation, in that in any activity all members may contribute their views on possible approaches, such diverse views that encompass almost all the possible solutions is the basis of innovation (McKeever, 2007, pp. 29).  To ensure the success of any approach the whole organisation should be appreciative of the approach, training is one of the most effective means of inducting positive attitudes on the people charged with implementation of the plans, in the case the leaders were trained in Japan whereas the workers are trained in groups.  The strategic use of teamwork that characterises the EDWT as opposed to the former implementation of teams or rather group is a change process.  The organisation intended for gradual change but the implementation led to an overhaul of the old system; such rapid implementation of the change process is to blame for the problem faced by the team leaders.

Recommendation

A vision in a strategic planning process is a very important constituent (McKeever, 2007, pp. 99).  The importance of a strategic vision as the platform for strategic planning is deterministic of the entire planning process (Fugere & Warshawsky, 2005, pp. 85).  Inequities in the vision is therefore a problem that requires a restructuring of the vision to include it.  The organisation should research on its values, norms, beliefs and system.  An organisation’s culture is unique and therefore the organisation should research on all the aspect of their culture especially those that make them unique and identify the roles they play in their success or failure.  The results should then be analysed and any competencies that the organisational culture gives to the organisation included in the strategies as opportunities.  Furthermore, the vision should be structured in such a way that the effect of the weakness of the organisational culture are fully addressed.

To deal with the problem of team approach that are as a result of change the organisation should implement the EDWT as a change process.  A change process requires change management which encompass measures and policies that if well implemented will aid the transition from one mode of operation to the other.  Change management is defined as a procedural process of transition to a desired state and therefore include both individual change and organisational change (Fugere & Warshawsky, 2005, pp. 24).  Applying the freeze -change-refreeze theorem to the situation helps in overcoming the inertia associated with change.  The company did quite well by training all the employees, the second phase; change is what was done wrongly.  The change process should be incremental in that improvements should be introduced gradually such that the total change is an integral sum of the small changes (Fugere & Warshawsky, 2005, pp. 16).   Kurt Lewin described the refreeze stage as where the new values are integrated into the society (Stead & Starik, 2004, pp. 11), the organisation is at that stage as a considerable number of its personnel have accepted the changes as part of their daily operations.  To ensure more success the last two stages can be adjusted such that the changes are done is small bits, integrated and then other changes added after the adoption of the previous.  Another version of individual change could implement a system where the whole process of individual change management is done in bits.

Change management at the organisational level is a far much more broad subject and involves tools and managements.  According to Schon theory of reflection-in-action, the organisation should reflect on the effects of their proposed action, implement them and analyse their effects to find out if they meet the expectations.  A failure in meeting the expectation results in redress of the problem and the cycle is repeated.  The approach is well suited for constant change and is therefore a complement to the recommended small changes approach.

Bibliography

Allison, M. & Kaye, J. 2005, Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide and Workbook, New York, John Wiley and Sons.

Fugere B. & Warshawsky, J. 2005, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide, New York, Simon & Schuster.

McGrath, M. E. 2000, Product Strategy for High Technology Companies: Accelerating Your Business to Web Speed, NY, McGraw-Hill Professional.

McKeever, P. 2007, How to Write a Business Plan,  New Orleans, Nolo.

Root, H. & Koenig, S. 2006, The Small Business Start-Up Guide: A Surefire Blueprint to Successfully Launch Your Own Business, Naperville, Sourcebooks, Inc.

Stead, E. W. & Starik, M. 2004, Sustainable Strategic Management, New York, M.E. Sharpe.

Spinelli, S. & Timmons, A. 2004, Business Plans that Work: A Guide for Small Business, NY,  McGraw-Hill Professional.

Strauss, D. S. 2004, The Small Business Bible: Everything You Need To Know To Succeed In Your Small Business, New York, John Wiley and Sons.

Stutely, R. 2006, The Definitive Business Plan: The Fast-track to Intelligent Business Planning for Executives and Entrepreneurs, NY, Prentice Hall.

Truly, T. 2005, Making Music Your Business: A Practical Guide to Making $ Doing What You Love, Napperville, Sphinx Pub.

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