The Research and Development Laboratory
Administrative services is part of a large government research laboratory. As part of Administrative services, there are fourteen divisions, one of which is the Engineering services division their own thing in the past and for the last nine months has been completely without supervision, which is the source of our problem. This division has been more or less left alone to do. Although the work has not suffered too much, the employees of this division are beginning to get used to this type of environment. This becomes a problem when the Government decides to fill the vacant manager position with someone from outside the division, Francois Duplessis. When Duplessis starts, he begins by making changes in how things are done in the division. This becomes a problem because these people are used to doing things their own way and they eventually start to resist change. On top of that, Duplessis doesn’t seem to have much of an implementation plan for these changes and comes off as less than organized. With all of these problems, something has to be done to this division back on track.
Statement of the Problem
How does management change to make the Engineering Services Division run efficiently?
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Analysis of the Problem
Within the Engineering Services Division, there were four branches: the Design and Draft branch, the Production and Planning branch, the Mechanical Shop branch, and the Electronic Services branch. The work of the division was to design, develop, and build models, mechanisms, and instruments for use by scientists in their experiments in the research divisions. The type of mechanisms varied in purpose and size, ranging from high precision-measuring equipment to very large structures.
The requests for the actual mechanisms came in to the Planning branch, which in turn, sent the requests to either the Design and Drafting branch or some actually stayed within the Planning branch. The Design and Drafting branch would have an open line of communication with the Research division in working on experiment requirements, and then ultimately, development, design, and drawings for the actual mechanisms. The designers, scientists, and production team worked tirelessly on many different designs, drawings, and various schematics. They would dialogue openly on issues like various types of coatings and finishings on the mechanisms to more intricate issues throughout the creation and design process.
Overall, the Engineering Services Division had a very strong working relationship. The men knew each other very well and even participated in extracurricular activities together, especially the designers. The designers were a very close group, both socially and professionally. This led to a very strong line of communication within that branch as well as within the entire division.
The previous manager of the Engineering Services Division had been promoted well over nine months ago and the position stayed open for that duration. However, the position was being filled with an outsider, Francois Duplessis. The previous manager had very good reputation from her previous employees. She was very much hands off but she was a dedicated hard worker and she expected the same from her employees. Even though they were sorry to see her go, they all felt that she certainly deserved her promotion. In contrast, Duplessis was immediately perceived as aggressive, arrogant, and somewhat nonchalant. He seemed to even consider himself “above the law”. For example, he would have his cigar despite the “No Smoking” signs. Duplessis had somewhat of a positive reputation of making some successful changes in his past experiences, however, he certainly did not have successful people skills and that was obvious immediately. Duplessis began to immediately make changes in very drastic measures. He announced to the Design and Drafting and Planning and Production branches that there would be a new policy of “super” grades for those who excelled at their work. He even changed the salary grid to make it more competitive to make the larger salaries. He essentially pitted the employees against each other for monetary incentives. He also changed the chain of command where many of the employees would have to report directly to the manager rather than the chief engineer. The manager also cut out most of the collaboration between the divisions and placed a lot more responsibility on project engineers. The employees were certainly not too pleased about these new changes but they understood that the manager normally stayed in that position for two years and then he/she would be rotated elsewhere. To make matters worse, Duplessis hired a group of Industrial Engineers and they were not pleasantly welcomed. This group essentially began another level in the organizational structure with no real purpose other than to make things more difficult for the division. The work area began to get more and more crowded, which made it much more difficult for the design and production teams to be as efficient and effective as they used to be.
Duplessis also made the Engineering Services Division start filling out “task sheets” and memos, both of which were pretty much cumbersome tasks in and of themselves. These task sheets pretty much stated what specific projects the division worked on, how long they worked on these assignments and a description of the part that was designed. The memos were to be used to communicate requests for desired alterations between designers and production staff. They also had to keep a copy of all of this written correspondence. The memos cut out essentially all open communication between the two teams.
The Chief Engineer had also asked for more men, namely technicians. Instead of hiring technicians, Duplessis hired contract draftsmen as well as the designers, draftsmen, and production staff had to also send out some work contractually. To this end, the Industrial Engineers had to approve and review the contracts. This did not go over well at all with the designers because the liability of a design’s performance would fall solely upon the designers.
Under Duplessis’ leadership, there was a hostile environment brewing as well as members of his staff constantly leaving. He had made several promises on compensation, but he had not followed through. Duplessis really did not listen to his employees nor did he make himself available to hear what his employees had to say. He seems to be intimidating and nonchalant about the needs of his employees. Just when the Engineering Services division thought that it couldn’t get worse, it did. They found out that Duplessis had talked his boss into giving him an extension on his two year appointment. This really upset the employees so much to the point where several employees thought about trying to find other jobs just to get out of working any longer with Duplessis.
Alternatives and Solution to the Problem
The Engineering Services Division is currently in the midst of some major chaos with the arrival of the new manager, Francois Duplessis. Since his arrival, Duplessis has made several major changes in communication, compensation, interdependence of various branches as well as created a hostile environment by hiring Industrial Engineers that ultimately created a third level in the organizational structure. In looking at this particular case, there are several viable options for dealing with this scenario:
· Using a wheel formation information system which is working with the relationship Duplessis and the employees share.
· A possible formation or coalition being formed with the employees rebelling against Duplessis whether it be through quitting, striking, or petitioning to get Duplessis ousted as manager.
· Brainstorming meetings between management and employees.
· A panel or coalition being formed with the intent on working together with Duplessis and/or higher level management to solve these common problems they share.
· Duplessis simply developing a more accepted legitimate power.
· The employees simply turn to the upper level management for relief from Duplessis.
As we consider all of these alternatives and solutions, there are many advantages and disadvantages for each of them. Using the wheel formation type of information system which is the type of relationship that Duplessis and the employees currently share may have some legitimate areas from Duplessis’ perspective. Instead of having one main person to whom a major branch reports, the Chief Engineer, they all now report to the manager. The branches also have a group of Industrial and Project Engineers. His reward system sought to reward those who were the hardest workers and to encourage all the other workers to strive to work harder. Some of the disadvantages are more obvious. The whole system of communication was completely disrupted with the new written memo and task sheet policy. The reward system began to alienate members of each branch since the compensation was based on performance. The physical space was limited because of the hiring of the Industrial Engineers and Project Engineers. This created dilemmas for completing tasks in an efficient manner.
A formation or coalition with the employees rebelling against Duplessis by quitting in protest, striking, or just resisting his authority has very few advantages. For one, Duplessis may see the “error of his ways” and decide to go easy on his employees. If his employees are continually leaving and having to be replaced, he may get the message from that and seek to do better. If the employees go on strike or simply resist his authority, ultimately, the lab is going to begin losing money and will fall behind on its requests. In the end, it boils down to production and efficiency. The disadvantages of this alternative could be the fact that people will become unemployed and Duplessis will still have his job. This alternative doesn’t necessarily solve the conflict within the organization. By having all of the employees to unionize and rebel against Duplessis, that opens the whole Engineering Services Division up to scrutiny from other divisions within the lab. This would add to the chaos that is already there.
Brainstorming meetings between the manager and employees could be a viable solution. These meetings would be advantageous because they would offer the employees a chance to voice their concerns directly to the manager. The manager could also use these meetings to justify some of his actions and decision-making. However, the meetings could also turn out to be shouting matches as well as more socioemotional in nature versus being task-related. Employees could risk punishments and even dismissal by the manager dependent upon their behavior during these meetings. Both sides would have to be willing to participate in these meetings with the hopes of having some positive results for the good of the whole division.
A panel or coalition being formed to work together with Duplessis and/or higher level management to resolve these issues can also be another viable alternative. This panel could use higher level management as an arbitrator or negotiator of some sort. Each side could voice their concerns without fear, resentment, or intimidation. The key words with this alternative are “work together”. Again, both sides must be willing to sit down and strategize on ways to come together. The disadvantages of this method include having higher level management take part. The employees may not want to go to the upper level management because Duplessis may have some political connections and they may tend to side with him, while simply ignoring the pleas of the employees.
Duplessis simply developing a more accepted legitimate power would seem to be the easiest method, however it may also be the most difficult to achieve. The advantages are that the division can get back on track and begin to run smoothly once again. Harmony and interdependence within branches of the division will once again exist. However, this method tends to place all of the blame and burden solely upon Duplessis. While there is certainly a great deal of responsibility that Duplessis has to take in his restructuring, it is ultimately the whole division’s conflict, therefore, the whole division must come together in some way to find a solution for the betterment of the whole body.
The employees turning directly to the upper level management for relief from Duplessis may seem to be a quick sporadic thing to do. It allows the employees to go directly to the top over Duplessis for results. If enough employees complain, then surely the upper level management has to respond. The disadvantages may include some of the employees being moved out the department while leaving the source of the problem still in charge. The upper level management may simply take the side of Duplessis and ignore the employees and look upon the employees as disgruntled and rebellious.
After looking at all of the various alternatives and solutions, there should be a panel, group, or committee formed to research and investigate many of the practices and grievances that the employees have against Duplessis. This committee would get documentation, statements from employees, and other necessary information to bring to Duplessis’ attention. The goal of the committee should be to help save the division from further chaos. The group will take a specified amount of time to do the necessary research and investigations before they present them to Duplessis. It may also be necessary to get a number of signatures from as many employees as possible, as the saying goes, “there’s strength in numbers!” Part of the group’s research will also include a number of recommendations for Duplessis as well as for the employees. If Duplessis doesn’t agree with the recommendations, and research, the group will then forward a copy of all of their findings to upper level management, including the names of all of the employees. The group may then choose to take their concerns to the next level and begin to strike, rebel, or some other method. The group will essentially be a mouthpiece and representative of the whole employed division. Before that happens, the group will give Duplessis a certain amount of time to respond to the recommendations and research. The group will meet with Duplessis as necessary and if need be, with the whole division. Again, the goal is to resolve the conflicts that are hindering the progress of the division.
In order to make this solution viable and efficient, the employees must come together to form a group/committee. The committee should not have more than two members of each branch, a Project and Industrial Engineer. Once the committee is formed, then they should begin establishing their purpose in researching and investigating the conflicts within the whole division and some possible solutions. The recommendations will include some possible workshops on effective communication and effective relationships in the workplace for the employees and some possible workshops for the manager such as effective leadership courses and intrapersonal skills. The group will take about 3 months to gather this information. The key is to have your information together before you present it to Dupressis. Once all of the information is gathered and the group is satisfied with its work, they will then schedule a meeting with Dupressis where they will begin discussing the issues at hand based solely upon their research and investigation. If necessary, the group may appoint a “chairperson” or “spokesperson” to do the actual talking. The group will continue to keep the focus on the division as a whole while talking to Duplessis. Once the dialogue takes place, the group, along with Duplessis will begin a time table for implementing some of these reforms such as the workshops.
This time table should be no later than 3 months from the day that the group first meets. The group could be a temporary group that will work until some positive results are reached, but at Duplessis’ request, the group could become a permanent group that will meet with him possibly once a quarter. In fact, it may work to his advantage to keep the group. It will show the other employees that he does value his employees and the group can be his springboard for some of his restructuring ideas and plans. The group does not have to be a decision-making body so Duplessis can still keep that “power” but it would make him look good in the long run. This group can help to keep things going for whenever Duplessis is promoted or the manager position becomes vacant again. Every employee along with Duplessis must agree to work together respecting each other and respecting each other’s work. Since Duplessis already has a third level in the organizational structure, he can turn to this group to bring other issues and conflicts in the future to his attention. It is also important for Duplessis to communicate with all of his employees within a week after the group first meets with him. The employees need to see his reaction.
Justification of the Solution
This solution will work for a number of reasons. For one, there is strength in numbers. Duplessis would be hard pressed to terminate the whole division, even a whole branch. If he sees that the employees are serious about these conflicts, then he has to make some decisions about whether he is willing to make the necessary changes, along with the other employees or will he just leave? The group that if formed is made of members of the different branches and that should bring back some of that comraderie that they used to have. The morale of the employees will go up because they at least know that their voices and concerns have been heard. Communication is now open between the manager and employees because of the group. The employees have the power of numbers in strength and they are showing that they are willing to work with Duplessis if he is willing to work peaceably with the employees!