Larry Field had a lot of fun in high school. He was a fairly good student, especially in math, he worked harder than most of his friends, and somehow he ended up going steady with Alice Shiflette, class valedictorian. He worked summers for a local surveyor, William Loude, and when he graduated Mr. Loude offered him a job as number-three man on one of his survey crews. The pay wasn’t very high, but Larry already was good at the work, and he believed all he needed was a steady job to boost his confidence to ask Alice to marry him. Once he did, events unfolded rapidly.
He started work in June, he and Alice were married in October, Alice took a job as a secretary in a local company that made business forms, and a year later they had their first child. The baby came as something of a shock to Larry. He had come to enjoy the independence his own paycheck gave him every week. Food and rent took up most of it, but he still enjoyed playing basketball a few nights a week with his high school buddies and spending Sunday afternoons on the softball field. When the baby came, however, Larry’s brow began to furrow a bit.
He was only 20 years old, and he still wasn’t making much money. He asked Mr. Loude for a raise and got it—his first. Two months later, one of the crew chiefs quit just when Mr. Loude’s crews had more work than they could handle. Mr. Loude hated to turn down work, so he made Larry Field a crew chief, giving his crew some of the old instruments that weren’t good enough for the precision work of the top crews, and assigned him the easy title surveys in town. Because it meant a jump in salary, Larry had no choice but to accept the crew chief position. But it scared him.
He had never been very ambitious or curious, so he’d paid little attention to the training of his former crew chief. He knew how to run the instruments—the basics, anyway—but every morning he woke up terrified that he would be sent on a job he couldn’t handle. During his first few months as a crew chief, Larry began doing things that his wife thought he had outgrown. He frequently talked so fast that he would stumble over his own words, stammer, turn red in the face, and have to start all over again. He began smoking, too, something he had not done since they had started dating.
He told his two crew members that smoking kept his hands from shaking when he was working on an instrument. Neither of them smoked, and when Larry began lighting up in the truck while they were waiting for the rain to stop, they would become resentful and complain that he had no right to ruin their lungs too. Larry found it particularly hard to adjust to being “boss,” especially since one of his workers was getting an engineering degree at night school and both crew members were the same age as he. He felt sure that Alfonso Reyes, the scholar, would take over his position in no time.
He kept feeling that Alfonso was looking over his shoulder and began snapping any time they worked close together. Things were getting tense at home, too. Alice had to give up her full-time day job to take care of the baby, so she had started working nights. They hardly ever saw each other, and it seemed as though her only topic of conversation was how they should move to California or Alaska, where she had heard that surveyors were paid five times what Larry made. Larry knew his wife was dissatisfied with her work and believed her intelligence was being wasted, but he didn’t know what he could do about it.
He was disconcerted when he realized that drinking and worrying about the next day at work while sitting at home with the baby at night had become a pattern. Case Questions 1. What signs of stress was Larry Field exhibiting? 2. How was Larry Field trying to cope with his stress? Can you suggest more effective methods? Case :2 Humanized Robots? Helen Bowers was stumped. Sitting in her office at the plant, she pondered the same questions she had been facing for months: how to get her company’s employees to work harder and produce more.
No matter what she did, it didn’t seem to help much. Helen had inherited the business three years ago when her father, Jake Bowers, passed away unexpectedly. Bowers Machine Parts was founded four decades ago by Jake and had grown into a moderate-size corporation. Bowers makes replacement parts for large-scale manufacturing machines such as lathes and mills. The firm is headquartered in Kansas City and has three plants scattered throughout Missouri. Although Helen grew up in the family business, she never understood her father’s approach.
Jake had treated his employees like part of his family. In Helen’s view, however, he paid them more than he had to, asked their advice far more often than he should have, and spent too much time listening to their ideas and complaints. When Helen took over, she vowed to change how things were done. In particular, she resolved to stop handling employees with kid gloves and to treat them like what they were: the hired help. In addition to changing the way employees were treated, Helen had another goal for Bowers. She wanted to meet the challenge of international competition.
Japanese firms had moved aggressively into the market for heavy industrial equipment. She saw this as both a threat and an opportunity. On the one hand, if she could get a toehold as a parts supplier to these firms, Bowers could grow rapidly. On the other, the lucrative parts market was also sure to attract more Japanese competitors. Helen had to make sure that Bowers could compete effectively with highly productive and profitable Japanese firms. From the day Helen took over, she practiced an altogether different philosophy to achieve her goals. For one thing, she increased production quotas by 20 percent.
She instructed her first-line supervisors to crack down on employees and eliminate all idle time. She also decided to shut down the company softball field her father had built. She thought the employees really didn’t use it much, and she wanted the space for future expansion. Helen also announced that future contributions to the firm’s profit-sharing plan would be phased out. Employees were paid enough, she believed, and all profits were the rightful property of the owner—her. She also had private plans to cut future pay increases to bring average wages down to where she thought they belonged.
Finally, Helen changed a number of operational procedures. In particular, she stopped asking other people for their advice. She reasoned that she was the boss and knew what was best. If she asked for advice and then didn’t take it, it would only stir up resentment. All in all, Helen thought, things should be going much better. Output should be up and costs should be way down. Her strategy should be resulting in much higher levels of productivity and profits. But that was not happening. Whenever Helen walked through one of the plants, she sensed that people weren’t doing their best.
Performance reports indicated that output was only marginally higher than before but scrap rates had soared. Payroll costs were indeed lower, but other personnel costs were up. It seemed that turnover had increased substantially and training costs had gone up as a result. In desperation, Helen finally had hired a consultant. After carefully researching the history of the organization and Helen’s recent changes, the consultant made some remarkable suggestions. The bottom line, Helen felt, was that the consultant thought she should go back to that “humanistic nonsense” her father had used.
No matter how she turned it, though, she just couldn’t see the wisdom in this. People worked to make a buck and didn’t want all that participation stuff. Suddenly, Helen knew just what to do: She would announce that all employees who failed to increase their productivity by 10 percent would suffer an equal pay cut. She sighed in relief, feeling confident that she had finally figured out the answer. Case Questions: 1. How successful do you think Helen Bowers’s new plan will be? 2. What challenges does Helen confront? 3. If you were Helen’s consultant, what would you advise her to do? Case: 3 Difficult Transitions:
Tony Stark had just finished his first week at Reece Enterprises and decided to drive upstate to a small lakefront lodge for some fishing and relaxation. Tony had worked for the previous ten years for the O’Grady Company, but O’Grady had been through some hard times of late and had recently shut down several of its operating groups, including Tony’s, to cut costs. Fortunately, Tony’s experience and recommendations had made finding another position fairly easy. As he drove the interstate, he reflected on the past ten years and the apparent situation at Reece. At O’Grady, things had been great.
Tony had been part of the team from day one. The job had met his personal goals and expectations perfectly, and Tony believed he had grown greatly as a person. His work was appreciated and recognized; he had received three promotions and many more pay increases. Tony had also liked the company itself. The firm was decentralized, allowing its managers considerable autonomy and freedom. The corporate Culture was easygoing. Communication was open. It seemed that everyone knew what was going on at all times, and if you didn’t know about something, it was easy to find out. The people had been another plus.
Tony and three other managers went to lunch often and played golf every Saturday. They got along well both personally and professionally and truly worked together as a team. Their boss had been very supportive, giving them the help they needed but also staying out of the way and letting them work. When word about the shutdown came down, Tony was devastated. He was sure that nothing could replace O’Grady. After the final closing was announced, he spent only a few weeks looking around before he found a comparable position at Reece Enterprises. As Tony drove, he reflected that “comparable” probably was the wrong word.
Indeed, Reece and O’Grady were about as different as you could get. Top managers at Reece apparently didn’t worry too much about who did a good job and who didn’t. They seemed to promote and reward people based on how long they had been there and how well they played the never-ending political games. Maybe this stemmed from the organization itself, Tony pondered. Reece was a bigger organization than O’Grady and was structured much more bureaucratically. It seemed that no one was allowed to make any sort of decision without getting three signatures from higher up.
Those signatures, though, were hard to get. All the top managers usually were too busy to see anyone, and interoffice memos apparently had very low priority. Tony also had had some problems fitting in. His peers treated him with polite indifference. He sensed that a couple of them resented that he, an outsider, had been brought right in at their level after they had had to work themselves up the ladder. On Tuesday he had asked two colleagues about playing golf. They had politely declined, saying that they did not play often.
But later in the week, he had overheard them making arrangements to play that very Saturday. It was at that point that Tony had decided to go fishing. As he steered his car off the interstate to get gas, he wondered if perhaps he had made a mistake in accepting the Reece offer without finding out more about what he was getting into. Case Questions: 1. Identify several concepts and characteristics from the field of organizational behavior that this case illustrates. 2. What advice can you give Tony? How would this advice be supported or tempered by behavioral concepts and processes? . Is it possible to find an “ideal” place to work? Explain. Case:4 Teams at Evans RV Wholesale Supply and Distribution Company? Evans RV Wholesale Supply and Distribution Company sells parts, equipment, and supplies for recreational vehicles-motor homes, travel trailers, campers, and similar vehicles. In addition, Evans has a service department for the repair and service of RVs. The owner, Alex Evans, bought the company five years ago from its original owner, changed the name of the company, and has finally made it profitable, although it has been rough going.
The organization is set up in three divisions: service, retail parts and supplies, and wholesale parts and supplies. Alex, the owner, CEO, and president, has a vice president for each operating division and a vice president of finance and operations. The organization chart shows these divisions and positions. In the warehouse there are three groups: receiving (checking orders for completeness, returning defective merchandise, stocking the shelves, filling orders), service parts, and order filling for outgoing shipments.
The warehouse group is responsible for all activities related to parts and supplies receiving, storage, and shipping. The retail sales division includes all functions related to selling of parts and supplies at the two stores and in the mobile sales trailer. Personnel in the retail division include salespeople and cashiers. The retail salespeople also work in the warehouse because the warehouse also serves as the showroom for walk-in customers. In the service department the service manager supervises the service writers, one scheduler, and lead mechanics and technicians.
The service department includes the collision repair group at the main store and the service department at the satellite store. The collision repair group has two service writers who have special expertise in collision repair and insurance regulations. Two drivers who move RVs around the “yard” also work in the service division. The accounting and finance groups do everything related to the money side of the business, including accounts payable and receivable, cash management, and payroll. Also in this group is the one person who handles all of the traditional personnel functions.
Alex has run other small businesses and is known as a benevolent owner, always taking care of the loyal employees who work hard and are the backbone of any small business. He is also known as being real tough on anyone who loafs on the job or tries to take unfair advantage of Alex or the company. Most of the employees are either veterans of the RV industry at Evans or elsewhere, or are very young and still learning the business. Alex is working hard to develop a good work ethic among the younger employees and to keep the old-timers fully involved.
Since he bought the business, Alex has instituted new, modern, employee-centered human resource policies. However, the company is still a traditional hierarchically structured organization. The company is located in a major metropolitan area that has a lot of potential customers for the RV business. The region has many outdoor recreational activities and an active retirement community that either lives in RVs (motor homes, trailers, or mobile homes) or uses them for recreation. The former owner of the business specifically chose not to be in the RV sales business, figuring that parts and service was the better end of the business.
Two stores are strategically located on opposite ends of the metropolitan area, and a mobile sales office is moved around the major camping and recreational areas during the peak months of the year. When Alex bought the company, the parts and supplies business was only retail, relying on customers to walk in the door to buy something. After buying the business, Alex applied good management, marketing, and cash-management principles to get the company out of the red and into profitability. Although his was not the only such business in town, it was the only one locally owned, and it had a good local following.
About two years ago, Alex recognized that the nature of the business was changing. First, he saw the large nationwide retailers moving into town. These retailers were using discount pricing in large warehouse-type stores. These large retail stores could use volume purchasing to get lower prices from manufacturers, and they had the large stores necessary to store and shelve the large inventory. Alex, with only two stores, was unable to get such low prices from manufacturers. He also noted that retired people were notorious for shopping around for the lowest prices, but they also appreciated good, friendly customer service.
People interested in recreational items also seemed to be following the national trend to shop via catalogs. So for a variety of reasons Alex began to develop a wholesale business by becoming a wholesale distributor to the many RV parts and supply businesses in the small towns located in the recreational areas around that state and in surrounding states. At the same time, he created the first catalog for RV parts and supplies, featuring all the brand-name parts and supplies by category and supplier.
The catalog had a very attractive camping scene on the cover, a combination of attractively displayed items and many pages full of all the possible parts and supplies that the RV owner could think of. Of course, he made placing an order very easy, by phone, mail, or fax, and accepted many easy payment methods. He filled both distributor orders and catalog orders from his warehouse in the main store using standard mail and parcel delivery services, charging the full delivery costs to the customers.
He credits the business’s survival so far to his diversification into the warehouse and catalog business through which he could directly compete with the national chains. Although it is now barely profitable, Alex is concerned about the changes in the industry and the competition and about making the monthly payments on the $5 million loan he got from the bank to buy the business in the first place. In addition, he reads about the latest management techniques and attends various professional conferences around the country.
He has been hearing and reading about this team-based organization idea and thinks it might be just the thing to energize his company and take it to the next level of performance and profitability. At the annual strategic planning retreat in August, Alex announced to his top management team that starting on October 1 (the beginning of the next fiscal year), the company would be changing to a team-based arrangement. Case Questions: 1. What mistakes has Alex already made in developing a team-based organization? 2. If Alex were to call you in as a consultant, what would you tell him to do?