Management Effectiveness Case Study – Introduction/Background
Management effectiveness is one of the key aspects that influence organizational performance. For organization management to be effective, all persons involved should have essential skills that facilitate management of organizational resources to achieve long and short-term objectives. Managers frequently face situations which require them to make strategic decisions and undertake actions to solve certain problems and hence, improve organizational performance. As Lunenburg (2011) explain, a decision or an action undertaken by one member of organizational management may have an amplified impact on the overall performance of the organization. This explains the importance of ensuring that all individuals involved in organizational management posses essential management skills.
This paper analyzes a case study in which Kay Learned encountered a situation that required her to apply management skills. Kay was recruited in a company as a manager for Customs Adhesives production department that dealt with manufacturing of glues. Soon after joining the company, she became anxious on how to improve the performance of her department. Initially, she felt that the company had contradictory strategies that focused on cost reduction and enhancing closeness with customers at the same time. After assessment, she realized that there was a problem with supply of raw materials, which affected the performance of the department. The department largely relied on small quantities of raw materials that were purchased from large chemical companies. About 20 percent of the inputs comprised of unique solvents that were sourced from other departments within the company.
Kay identified that one of the key problems that affected the performance of her department was delays in the delivery of the unique solvents from the internal source. She found that the company had a strict policy that limited inventories and priority was given to external customers who purchased larger volumes of the chemicals. Sometimes, the department was supplied with lower volumes of solvents than ordered. The problems made it difficult for Kay’s department to meet deadlines for customers’ orders. Kay felt that this was one area that needed improvement in the department. She felt that the problem could be solved through purchasing equipment for manufacturing the solvents. She identified equipment that could produce the small quantities needed for her department that was being offered by a small Orogon company known as Dill Chemicals. She forwarded her proposal to the relevant authorities and the equipment was finally purchased after a series of negotiations with managers and other persons within the company. However, various issues with the performance of the equipment emerged after installation, which led to less than satisfactory outcomes.
Based on the information provided in the case study, this paper examines the whole situation and various management issues that have been disclosed. In particular, the paper addresses Kay’s managerial effectiveness by evaluating the manner in which she handled the initial problem and examining how she contributed to the issues that emerged later.
The information provided in the case study shows that Kay had some qualities of an effective manager. As Evans and Ward (2007) explain, an effective manager is one who is able to identify areas of improvement within an organization, set measurable goals and establish ways of achieving those goals. After joining the new company, Kay was quick to identify an ambiguity in corporate strategies that had negative impact on the performance of the department in which she was in charge. She soon noted that the performance of her department could be improved if the process of supply of raw materials was improved. After identifying the problem, she established a way of solving it through purchasing manufacturing equipment for the input chemicals.
Secondly, the actions of Kay show that she was a self-motivated individual. Self motivation refers to the drive and determination to proceed with a course of action irrespective of the obstacles involved (Daft & Lane, 2009). After making a decision to purchase manufacturing equipment for glue, Kay sought the support of managers from various departments. She knew that the company was emphasizing on a cost reduction but still pushed her proposal through. Despite discouragement and lack of support from some of the managers she consulted, she did not relent until when the equipment was purchased. Further, Kay remained optimistic despite facing barriers in the process of achieving her set goal. From the initial point, Kay remained optimistic that her project would be supported by the senior managers and would produce the intended results. She estimated that the equipment would give a return on investment of 15 percent. However, the sales units during the first few months after installation were below projections. Her new strategy that focused on improving product mix and customer service started paying off gradually. By the end of the fiscal year, she had only exceeded the total budget for implementation of the project by 2 percent. Despite this, she remained optimistic that the following year would give much better results.
Confidence is another important quality of an effective manager that was portrayed by Kay during the process of implementing her project (Daft & Lane, 2009). Despite the fact that some follow managers questioned whether a woman would be able to effectively manage the manufacturing side of the business, Kay had enough confidence to proceed with her responsibilities. Her self confidence drove her to pursue her goals to improve the performance of the same department and she was not deterred by negative comments. At some point, her self confidence earned her support of some of those she consulted such as Juan and Mike.
However, it is clear from the case study that Kay lacks some of essential managerial skills. As Al-Tarawneh (2012) explains, the main role of a manager in an organization is to plan, organize, direct and control resources in order to achieve organizational objectives. The ability of a manager to make effective plans marks the difference between a successful and unsuccessful manager. One of the key aspects that influence the effectiveness of the planning process especially when solving a problem within an organization is the ability for a manager to make effective decisions. Decision making refers to the process to identifying and selecting the most appropriate option among various alternatives to solve a problem (Al-Tarawneh, 2012). Decision-making skill is one of the key aspects that influence the management effectiveness. Numerous scholars have shown the importance of managerial decision making skills in influencing organizational performance (Gambrill, 2012). Precisely, problems occur frequently within organizations which require managers to select the most appropriate solution options.
Decision-making is a process that has to be undertaken through various stages for it to give the best results. To start with, a decision maker should take time to asses the problem or the situation at hand as well as the specific issues involved. As Nutt (2009) explains, enough time should be taken to determine the depth of the problem. Before taking any action, the decision maker should make consultations and acquire relevant information from other individuals with adequate knowledge or experience in handling such a problem. If the decision-maker has prior-knowledge or experience about the issue or the problem, he/she should apply the personal knowledge and skills gained in the process of making decision (Raynor et al, 2005).
In the case study, the problem identified by Kay was delay and shortages in input chemicals which led to a delay in meeting customer orders. However, Kay did not take adequate time to reflect on the problem before deciding to engage in any action. By reflecting on and seeking adequate information regarding the problem and issues involved, she would have avoided being absorbed into the urgency of making decision that would lead to unsatisfactory or les than satisfactory outcomes. At the initial point, she could have consulted her predecessor in the department, other managers within and outside the company with knowledge and experience regarding the problem. However, as Michel (2007) explains, information gathered from other people needs to be critically evaluated and the decision-maker has to be clear about the extent of involvement of the other persons. Some may give wrong information while others may intentionally give discouraging information.
Secondly, effective decision-making process requires a decision maker to take time to determine available options for solving a problem (Schwarber, 2005). After identifying various alternatives, a decision-maker should critically asses the suitability of each of them. This can be achieved through brainstorming and by considering their merits, demerits, impacts, whether they are achievable and how well they fit to the set objectives or goals. After gathering the relevant information from the process of evaluating the available options, the decision-maker should select the best option (Schwarber 2005). In the case, Kay did not take time to identify different options for solving the problem of delay in inputs. After identifying the problem, she only focused on the equipment offered by Oregon Company. She felt that the small equipment would be suitable since it could produce the small quantities of chemical inputs that she needed in her department. Eventually, her option gave less than satisfactory results.
Kay could have possibly achieved better results from other options. An alternative option, for instance, would be to write a report indicating the impact of the problem and expressing the importance of giving priority to her department on the performance of the whole organization. A relevant report would most likely be supported by senior managers. Another alternative would be to discuss the problem with inventory manager and other managers and express the need to increase supplies and improve the supply process to the department. The possibility of augmenting the raw materials with supplies from outside the organization could also have been assessed, although this option could hardly have been supported by the senior managers. Generally, by evaluating different options, Kay would have possibly identified a better option than purchasing the manufacturing equipment. It is also clear that Kay did not take time to critically asses the suitability, impacts, merits and demerits of purchasing the manufacturing equipment. She only focused on cost and the likely returns. As a result, various unexpected problems emerged after implementation of the project, including production of liquids that could not have been used immediately and emission of hazardous fumes from the equipment. However, the process of identifying and assessing and selecting an option among various alternatives could have taken a long period of time to complete (Santovec, 2013).
As well, Kay had not established an effective procedure for implementation of her option. As Santovec (2013) explains, effective decision making requires one to establish an effective procedure for the implementation of the option selected. This is achieved through development of an action plan. An action plan describes the procedure, resources needed and time required for effective implementation of the project. Although the implementation process of the manufacturing equipment seemed successful, some problems that emerged afterwards indicated that Kay had not taken enough time to asses the resources that were needed for successful implementation. Later after installation, additional resources had to be added such as exploitation proof storage vessels and replacement flue. In addition, it is clear that workers operating the equipment were not being compensated for the additional work. This problem could have simply been solved through prior assessment of all resources that were needed and including them in an action plan.
Further, there were some communication issues that occurred during the introduction and implementation of the new equipment by Kay. The importance of communication especially during the time of change has been widely highlighted. As Heras (2008) explains, the success of the process of introducing and implementing change within an organization is highly dependent on effective and continuous communication proccess. According to Heras (2008), communication should move via the horizontal, upward and downward channels. Horizontal communication refers to exchange of information between individuals of equal rank within an organization. Downwards communication refers to transfer of information and messages from the management to the lower-level personnel. On the other hand, the transfer of information and messages from the workers to the management is known as upwards communication. As Heras (2008) argues, success in the introduction and implementation of any equipment within an organization can be achieved if communication from the management moves in all directions to cover all individuals who will be affected. Communication in all those channels should be honest and open. Communication should cover important details such as the short-term and long-term goals, the merits and demerits of the new equipment and the phases of implementation process. In other words, communication should be interactive and should disclose all important details.
As a manager, Kay had the responsibility of ensuring that communication in all directions was effective. However, Kay concentrated more on communicating with fellow managers. Although she informed the workers about the need to introduce the new equipment, she did not disclose all the essential details to them and the communication process was not interactive. While developing the action plan, Kay should have made consultations with all parties involved. Some issues advanced by workers later such as the issue of wages and cleaning of the facilities could have been solved through discussions with workers before installation of the equipment (Mohamad, Aliandrina & Feng, 2005). At some point, Kay withheld important information to Chris in order to win his support. She told Chris that only 30 to 40 percent of the solvents that were supplied from the organization would be lost after successful installation of the new equipment. This information was hypocritical since Kay knew that the whole order would have been lost after successful installation. Generally, more effective communication would have encouraged the workers and more managers to give more support to the initiative (Heras, 2008).
Further, Kay adopted the top-down approach during the implementation of her project, which tends to ignore the contribution and opinions of the lower-level personnel. The top-down approach is based on traditional views of classical writers. In the top-down approach, the managers identify problem areas and initiate and implement change with regard to specific goals. In this paradigm, the opinions of workers or lower-level personnel do not count in the process of decision making (Tuladhar et al, 2009). The lower-level personnel are just required and expected to follow and implement instructions that are given by managers. This approach has been associated with increased resistance or low motivation of workers to change. Agents should not be forced to adopt change; they should be persuaded either to adapt to or to initiate change through sensitising them on the importance of the change.
The top-up paradigm contradicts the bottom-up approach whereby initiatives for change come from lower-level staff. In the bottom-up approach, the opinions of the lower-level staff count as much as the opinions of the top managers in decision-making. This approach is based on the notion that changes can be more effectively implemented where lower-level staff are allowed and encouraged to use their job-knowledge and experience in facilitating change (Madura, 2006). Kay adopted the top-down approach by failing to incorporate the opinions of workers in the process of introducing and installing the new equipment. A more successful approach that Kay would have adopted is one that includes both the top-down and bottom-up approaches. By adopting the combined approach, the wishes of the workers would have been taken into account, they would have had greater motivation and issues that emerged after installation of the equipment would have been avoided.
In conclusion, the information disclosed in the case study shows some of the qualities of an effective manager that were demonstrated by Kay from the initiation to the final stages of implementation of her project. Some of the essential management qualities demonstrated by Kay were ability to identify areas of improvement or problem areas, self confidence, motivation and ability to remain optimistic despite encountering barriers during implementation process. At the same time, the case study exposes some of the essential management skills that Kay lacked. In the case, it is clear that Kay did not have skills that were needed to make the process of decision-making effective. Secondly, she did not have essential skills that were needed to enhance effectiveness of communication process with the organizational members who were affected by the change. Finally, Kay adopted the top-down approach in while introducing her project, which tends to hinder successful implementation process. The deficiency of the key skills culminated into several issues that had to be dealt with after installation of the equipment.
- Al-Tarawneh, H. A. (2012). The Main Factors beyond Decision Making. Journal of Management Research, 4(1), 1-23
- Daft, R. L & Lane, P. (2009), Management. New York (NY): Cengage Learning
- Evans, G. E., & Ward, P. L. (2007). Management basics for information professionals (2nd ed.). New York (NY): Neal-Schumann Publishers Inc
- Gambrill, E. (2012). Critical Thinking in Clinical Practice: Improving the Quality of Judgments and Decisions. London: John Wiley & Sons
- Lunenburg, F. C. (2011). Leadership versus management: a key distinction – at least in theory. International Journal of Management and Business. 14(1), 1-4
- Madura, J. (2006), Introduction to Business, New York (NY): Cengage Learning
- Michel, L. (2007) Understanding decision making in organizations to focus its practices where it matters, Measuring Business Excellence, 11(1), pp.33 – 45
- Mohamad, S., Aliandrina D. & Feng, Y. (2005). Human Errors in Decision Making. MPRA Paper No. 8171. Retrieved from http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/8171/1/MPRA_paper_8171.pdf
- Nutt, P. C. (2009). Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps That Lead to Debacles: Easyread Super Large 20pt Edition. California: ReadHowYouWant.com
- Raynor, M. D., Marshall, J. E., Sullivan, A. & Sullivan, A. (2005). Decision Making in Midwifery Practice. London: Elsevier Health Sciences
- Santovec, S. L. (2013). Seven steps to making wiser decisions. Women in Higher Education, 22(5), 16
- Schwarber, P. D. (2005). Leaders and the decision-making process. Management Decision, 43(7/8), 1086 – 1092
- Tuladhar, S. D., Yuan, M., Bernstein, P., Montgomery, W. D. & Smith, A. (2009). A top-down bottom-up modelling approach to climate change policy analysis. Energy Economics, 31, 223 – 23.