Midterm Essay Exam

 

Kos Semonski

BMGT 364, Section 6982

Prof. Miriam Redcay

July 15, 2003

 


BMGT364

MIDTERM EXAM

 

 

 

This exam is open book, open notes. Please answer 4 out of the 6 questions below in essay format. Make sure that your introductory paragraph sets forth all the points that you will make in your answer and that the conclusion summarizes what you have discussed in your text. For your answer to be complete, you will need to include not only information from the book, but information discussed in class by both your classmates and me. As this exam is open book and open notes, make sure your responses are detailed and complete. Answers must be in essay format; do not include lists as part of your answer.

 

 

 

1) Compare and contrast a learning organization versus a traditional organization. Would you be more comfortable in a learning organization or a traditional one? Explain your choice.

 

2) Compare and contrast an effective culture for a relatively stable environment and a dynamic environment.

 

3) What factors affect a personÕs ethical response? Describe the behaviors of someone you consider to be an ethical person. How could the types of decisions and actions this person engages in be encouraged in the workplace?

 

4) Perform a SWOT analysis on a local business you think you know well. What, if any, competitive advantage has this business staked out?

 

5) What are the criticisms of management? If planning is so crucial, why do some managers choose to not do it? What would you tell these managers?

 

6) Define the four decision-making styles. In which style would you classify yourself? What are the decision-making implications of these labels? What are the implications for choosing an employee?


1) Compare and contrast a learning organization versus a traditional organization. Would you be more comfortable in a learning organization or a traditional one? Explain your choice.

 

A traditional organization and a learning organization have much in common.  Each provides communication channels for the company, and each provides a reporting structure and accountability path.  However, just as the names indicate, there are significant differences between their logic and structure.  Neither is any better than the other, but each of the structures provide a solution for particular scenarios and challenges in which companies can experience.

 

A traditional organization is that: traditional.  It is commonly found in three different variations: Simple, Functional, and Divisional.  The number of employees usually dictates which variation will be used from the traditional organization lineup, where the Simple structure is used with few employees, and the Functional and Divisional structures are used when many employees are involved and some separation of group functionality is needed or desired.  Companies usually evolve into the Functional and Divisional structures.  This happens as a new company grows beyond the point of being manageable by a single individual.

 

 The Simple structure is usually considered for businesses with a small number of employees such as a sole proprietorship or a newly started company.  In general, this structural form is easy to maintain, inexpensive to run, flexible and able to react quickly to market changes.  There is usually a wide span of control for management, an absence of departmentalization, and little if any formalization (Robbins & Coulter, 2003, p. 267).  A single manager usually drives the company, which in most cases, is the owner.

 

The advantages of the Functional structure occur when the number of employees on the payroll reach levels that become unmanageable by a single individual.  It is difficult to say what that number is, for it is more based on the capacity of the manager and the goals of the owner(s) of the company.  This Functional structure provides significant savings when considering duplication of efforts, for the employees are usually grouped together based on the services they provide to the company.

 

A major drawback to the Functional structure organization is that as the departments grow and forge their own goals and initiatives, they tend to forget the big picture of the company and may not necessarily make decisions that are best for the overall performance of the company (Robbins & Coulter, 2003, p. 267).  Additionally, as they specialize even more, the employees in the various functional groups become insulated and may have little or no understanding of what other departments do within the company.

 

Another approach to the growing company is Divisional structure.  This type of organization is focused on results.  Regions are created based on geographic boundaries or product / market boundaries.  The individual division managers are responsible for their "piece of the pie."  While their individual contribution to the company aggregates to the overall performance of the company, they (division managers) are more concerned with their areas of responsibility (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  This can be seen as both a benefit and detriment depending on the economic influences that surround the company.  Additionally, there is much duplication of efforts within the company to support multiple divisions.

 

Finally we have the Learning Organization.  A "Learning" organization is not so much a structure of management as it is a philosophy (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  The organization that has chosen this path is attempting to harness the synergy of its employees.  It is an attempt to bridge the gaps that grow between the divisions and functional groups.  The philosophy is designed around a concept of free sharing of timely and accurate information, and it revolves around a shared vision and total collaboration of the main stakeholders of the company: the employees.

 

Similar to the Traditional structure in its stages of functional and divisional evolution, the Learning structure incorporates teams, but a big difference is that the teams in a Learning organization will be created from cross-functional members.  This blending of talents, experiences, and knowledge brings together for the company's benefit a wonderful medley of employees to analyze, scrutinize, and solve current and future problems that the company faces. 

 

Moreover, the Learning structure uses a concept of being "boundaryless."  What this means in comparison to our Traditional structure is that the organization is not limited by the "traditional" horizontal and vertical hierarchical charts (Robbins & Coulter, 2003) (page 271).  Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, coined the term "boundryless" to describe his vision of a company that could handle the ever changing and fluid nature of their markets yet still provide for some type of communication and accountability structure within the organization.

 

The boundryless concept extended the reach of the employees to the management team, the customers and the suppliers.  This removing of the "traditional" roadblocks associated with communication and accountability provided an environment that was wildly synergistic.  This synergy, however, was not possible without management "empowering" the employees to "make it happen" when considering the business of the business.  This releasing of control is in direct contrast to the traditional structure of management.

 

Culture plays a significant role in a company, and the Learning structure is no exception.  In a Learning structure management MUST foster a sense of community, caring, trust, and strong relationships with the employees.  In contrast to the Traditional structure, the Learning structure tends to maintain its culture by allowing the employees to "drive the ship."  While management still maintains control and will most certainly adjust the culture in the event that negative interloping ideas infiltrate,  the life blood of the culture is the fact that the employees make it their own.

 

Finally, when considering the leadership aspects of the Learning structure, we can see significant differences to the Traditional structure.  In a Learning structure, management demonstrates its leadership by fostering a shared vision for the company with the employees.  On the other hand, in the Traditional structure, the management team generally dictates the company vision to the employees.  Furthermore, within the Learning structure, collaboration between management and employees occurs more frequently and spontaneously than in the Traditional structure.

 

My personal preference would take me and keep me in a Learning structure as I believe the companies with this philosophy will not only survive the new millennium, but they will probably chart a new course for traditional business.   Currently, I find myself with much investment in not only a traditionally structured company,  but also a company that has experienced (until recently) stability that has fostered a very structured hierarchy.  I hope that through my continuing education and sharing of concepts within my team, I can illustrate and provide a catalyst to effect change within my company to move them towards a more unstructured Learning environment.

 

In conclusion, the market influences, the products, the culture, and the long term goals of the company stockholders (and stakeholders) will dictate whether a company selects a Traditional or Learning structure.  Neither structure by itself is any better than the other.  Each has its place within the continuum we call business.  And just as the Learning structure was spawned from the needs (or seeds) of companies locked in the Traditional structure, so too another philosophy will probably emerge to offer solutions to the drawbacks that the Learning structure will ultimately create.

 

 

 

References

 

 

Robbins, S. P., & Coulter, M. K. (2003). Management (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

 


2) Compare and contrast an effective culture for a relatively stable environment and a dynamic environment.

 

Organizational culture is an integral part of any company.  Weather your company consists of a few individuals or if your company is a multi-national conglomerate, the culture within the ranks will have far reaching effects on the moral of your employees and ultimately the productivity of your company.  Additionally, the environment of your market and the style of your senior management will dictate the type of cultures that are possible within your organization.

 

In general, there are two different types of markets: stable and dynamic.  While these two types of markets are actually on the extremes of a continuum, I will consider them in their pure state to illustrate two separate models of cultural design.  Cultures make the company, and the company propagates the culture.  To understand and define the type of culture that is necessary in a particular business environment you must recognize and consider the symbiotic relationship between the company (management), the culture, and the employees.

 

To begin with, I must first visit Organizational Culture as defined in "Management" by Stephen  P. Robbins and Mary Coulter.  According to Robbins and Coulter, organizational culture can be separated into seven different segments.  Each of the segments is present in the culture with varying degrees of influence. 

 

First, "Attention to Detail" is explained as the level of expectation that is placed on the employees in relation to precision and analysis (Robbins & Coulter, 2003). Second is "Outcome Orientation."  This defines the way management focuses on the results or the means to the results(Robbins & Coulter, 2003).   Third "People Orientation" is considered.  This is the level of concern that management has toward the employees in the decision making process(Robbins & Coulter, 2003).   Fourth we find "Team Orientation."  This explains the degree in which work is organized around a team rather than individual efforts(Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  Fifth we see "Aggressiveness."  This particular segment defines the dynamics of the cooperation  and / or competition between employees(Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  Sixth, we have "Stability."  This illustrates the degree in which the organization tends to maintain the status quo(Robbins & Coulter, 2003). And finally seventh we have "Innovation and Risk Taking."  This explains the employees ability (based on management encouragement) to be innovative and take risks(Robbins & Coulter, 2003).

 

In consideration to Attention to Detail, I personally believe that a high emphasis is required for any company in a  growth environment.  Stability within the market may allow for some disregard to details, as things have been done the same way for years, however, you can never forget the commitment to the customers and the company. Therefore, while this segment may be varied on the low to high scale whether in a dynamic or stable environment, I believe that the setting for Attention to Detail should always be high regardless of the environment.

 

Outcome Orientation is a required high for a dynamic environment.  When the market changes with systematic consistency and the only constant you can rely on is that things will change, you can not afford to bog the company down with procedural issues.  Worrying about the result rather than the means will assist greatly in a dynamic environment.  However, in a stable environment, controlling the means can actually assist the company with cost reductions.  When the environment can be trusted to remain the same, managers can concentrate on the "best way" rather than simply trying to get something done.  Therefore, in a dynamic environment, I must rate Outcome Orientation at high, and score it with a medium to low in a stable environment.

 

People Orientation is considered next.  To be successful in either market type, the company MUST provide a good environment for their employees.  If a strong culture is desired, then the employees have to "buy in" to the cultural definitions and direction.  Without good employee relations, the company is hobbled internally and externally.  Therefore, I rate the necessity of People Orientation as a high in both situations. 

 

Team Orientation requires a position of high in a dynamic environment as teams should be used and the teams should work together.  Dynamic environments present so much change at such a fast rate, that a single individual would probably find it difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with everything. Therefore, the requirement for the "team" to work together and react together is paramount to the success of the business.

 

This does not negate the necessity for a team approach in a stable environment, but the stable environment allows for much individual specialization of repetitive tasks.  Therefore, the team concept while not required in a stable environment, should be considered and used when appropriate. I place the setting for Team Orientation in a stable environment at medium.

 

Aggressiveness of the company is also a consideration in the make up of the culture.  In a stable environment, I place this at a medium.  While it is quite important to maintain an aggressive posture when considering customer maintenance, with a stable environment, the supply chain, the market influences, and the "needs" of the customers are relatively predictable.  However, in a dynamic environment, aggressive tactics are necessary to scout out new prospects and help discover new and emerging markets.  Therefore, I rate the Aggressiveness  scale for a dynamic environment at high.

 

Stability is desired by any company.  If you can maintain your profit margins and maintain internal stability then you are a very fortunate manager. In a stable environment, you must strive for stability to maintain stability.  However, in today's environment stability is often thought of as something from legends.

 

Michael Kelly, a fellow student, commented in our conferences that " An effective culture for a relatively stable culture would be one with standardized procedures, standards, and practices. While achieving stability would allow a company to try new methods, this would not be likely to be easily approved by management. The motto 'if its not broke, don't fix it' would be hard to overcome by those who see the past conservativism of the company as its reason for success."  I have to agree, and I rate the necessity of Stability at high for a stable environment, likewise Mr. Kelly has captured the essence of stability within a stable environment.

 

Stability in a dynamic environment is somewhat of an oxymoron.  You can't be dynamic if you are stable.  In a dynamic environment the only constant is change.  Therefore, within a dynamic environment, I rate Stability at a low to a medium.  Jennifer L. Wadley, a fellow student, agrees with her comments of " The degree of change and degree of complexity in the organization's environment is constantly changing (i.e. technology affects the market niche continuously, new competitors enter the marketplace rapidly, and products breakthroughs are made constantly). Simply stated, a dynamic environment involves unpredictability; everyday brings a new issue for which managers must address or their companies will fail to maintain their position in the environment."

 

Finally I consider Innovation and Risk Taking.  When considering a dynamic environment, risk taking is necessary to break into new and emerging markets. To coin an axiom from my computer selling days, "there is a thin line between the leading edge and the bleeding edge." While we do not necessarily want to "bleed" as the "guinea pig" of new technologies and ideas, there is most certainly benefit of being the first "human testers."  Innovation and Risk Taking is rated high for a dynamic environment.

 

Conversely, in a stable environment, risk taking upsets stability and status quo.  And as summarized by my instructor, Miriam Redcay, "A stable culture wouldn't necessarily push innovation; however, as a few of you pointed out, a stable company still needs to seek innovation to maintain an edge in the marketplace."  I have to agree with Professor Redcay.  While stability is the prize in a stable environment, some consideration to innovation will keep the company on their "toes" in order to watch for new trends and market changes.  Therefore, I place the rating for Innovation and Risk Taking at a low to medium for stable environments.

 

In conclusion, when considering the culture of the company, as a manager we have the ability to adjust the variables of the culture. The most important part of any culture is the active participation of the employees and the management team.  Without everybody working together (regardless of stability) a company can not achieve its goals.  Much like a rowing team, if one side of the boat rows in a different direction than the other, the boat simply spins in place and is subject to the whims of the current.  Teamwork is the key and lifeblood of any company, and culture is the nourishment of that team.  As managers we must insure that the "food" we feed our team is healthy, tasty, and nourishing.  Because if the "team" won't eat the "food" you present you can't expect them to "win the game."

 

References

 

 

Robbins, S. P., & Coulter, M. K. (2003). Management (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.


5) What are the criticisms of management? If planning is so crucial, why do some managers choose to not do it? What would you tell these managers?

 

Management planning is as necessary to a business as water is to a fish.  Without planning, you cannot possibly accomplish goals as you can not define what it is you set out to do.  Planning is the basis in which you can set criteria to measure success. Planning will help a manager navigate a project.  Planning will keep a business on track. For a business to stay in business, planning is good, necessary, and crucial.

 

I'll start with addressing the criticisms of planning.  The critics of planning claim that "planning may create rigidity" (Robbins & Coulter, 2003) (page 188).  Furthermore, they support this claim by assuming that formal planning locks an organization into specific goals.    Additionally, they say, "Plans can't be developed for a dynamic environment" (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  This concept is further supported with their idea that in current dynamic business environments, constant change will make planning impossible.

 

The critics also claim, "formal plans can't replace intuition and creativity" (Robbins & Coulter, 2003). By attempting to formalize a "vision" you will lose the spontaneity and innovation that a company needs to survive.  Additionally, critics site that "planning focuses managers' attention on today's competition not on tomorrow's survival" (Robbins & Coulter, 2003). Their assumption is that formal planning will focus solely on existing business opportunities. And finally the critics assert that "formal planning reinforces success, which may lead to failure" (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  The critics say that success today may lead to failure tomorrow because of the fluid market environments that businesses face.

 

In my opinion, managers that choose not to plan are simply taking the easy road.  Additionally, Todd E. Mandley, a fellow student said "Simply put for me it is a time management issue. Planning is very time consuming and in a number based organization with time constraints it very difficult to take the time to plan."  This supports my assertion of the manger not having or taking the time to plan.

 

 While there are a handful of dynamic individuals that may be able to create the fa¨ade that they were successful without a plan, this illusion is merely smoke and mirrors.  In Disney's cartoon "Alice In Wonderland," while wondering around Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat "Which way should I go?"  The Cheshire cat replies, "That all depends on where you want to go."  Alice retorts, "It doesn't really matter." And then the cat replies, "Well, then it doesn't really matter which way you go!"  Without a plan, you have no direction.

 

Planning is the foundation to success.  In order to succeed you have to define what it is you were setting out to do.  If I attempted to secure an undergraduate degree by simply throwing a dart at the schedule of classes and then taking the class that the dart selected, I would be called a fool, as I would have no idea what my degree may be in, and I would most certainly waste time and money attempting to randomly fulfill the requirements of ANY program.

 

In order to rate success, there must be structure and measurable progress.  To shy away from planning simply for the fact that you are worried that the environment may change is reckless.  Making a plan does not negate the necessity or possibility of adjustment to that plan.  To say that a plan can not be created for a dynamic environment is also a misleading statement.  Planning during times of tribulation and uncertainty are critical if you want to possess any control to the uncertainty. Creating a contingency plan for possible troubles at least provides you the opportunity to envision the possibilities and hopefully practice your reaction.

 

To choose not to plan because you feel that formal plans cannot replace intuition and creativity is wrong.  If your business needs innovation and creativity, then simply PLAN to include brainstorming sessions in the ongoing plan.  If you find that adjustments are necessary, then by all means make them.

 

To attempt to hide behind the statement that you don't plan because planning only addresses today's competition instead of tomorrow's survival simply does not address the fact that today's competition may be the nemesis that keeps your business from seeing tomorrow.  Short term and long term plans are the key to short term and long term success.

 

Assuming that because a plan reinforces success and success MAY lead to failure is silly.  Any business is rated on its success.  Without success a business will not be in business for long.  What I have found to be the real secret to success is simply continuing to try.  The main difference between successful people and unsuccessful people, is that successful people fail significantly more, but they keep trying.  Without a plan (even if it fails) you have nothing in which to base your next move.

 

I highly advocate planning.  I believe that successful people that say they don't plan really do plan, they just don't write it down.  As in the theatre a good script (plan) and rehearsal (plan review and practice) make for a successful show, so does a business plan and review make for a successful company.  In the infamous words of some obscurer motivational speaker, "failing to plan, is planning to fail."

 

 

References

 

Robbins, S. P., & Coulter, M. K. (2003). Management (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

 


6) Define the four decision-making styles. In which style would you classify yourself? What are the decision-making implications of these labels? What are the implications for choosing an employee?

 

Management decision-making styles are as different as the individuals that make them.  To attempt to define a particular "best" way would be absurd, however, to say that we can't analyze the styles would be an incorrect assumption as well.  The analysis of how managers make decisions is interesting and enlightening.  Additionally, it provides a better understanding of the matrix that ultimately illustrates decision-making personality types.

 

According to Stephen P. Robbins and Mary Coulter, there are two main variables associated with management decision making styles(Robbins & Coulter, 2003, p. 165 - 166).  These variables create a matrix of quadrants.  The variables are the tolerance for ambiguity and the individual way of thinking.  An individuals position on the matrix is directly dependent on the presence (or absence) of these traits in their individual style.

 

The first style is called "Directive."  Managers that fall into this category tend to have a low tolerance for ambiguity and a very rational thought process.  They tend to make decisions quickly with little need for assessing alternatives or much information (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  This style is certainly needed in situations where a quick decision is paramount; however, it can also create trouble if important data are overlooked while making "quick" decisions.

 

Second, I'll consider the "Behavioral" style.  This type of manager tends to be quite intuitive in their way of thinking and has low tolerance for ambiguity. Concern for the achievement of their subordinates is important to them so they tend to use meetings to solicit opinions from others, and they most certainly try to avoid conflict.  They try to make decisions that will be accepted by the group (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  While their decisions will generally gather much support from the group, they can run the risk of failing to make a "tough" decision because it was unpopular with the group.

 

The third style is "Analytical."  The analytical manager tends to have a high tolerance for ambiguity and a rational approach to thinking.  They tend to desire considerably more information before making a decision than does the directive type of manager.  Analyticals are considered very good at adaptation in unique situations (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  These managers will most certainly give you a good decision based on ALL of the available data; however, they can be shackled with the "paralysis of analysis" if they are not cognizant of their desire to seek more information.

 

Last is the "Conceptual" style of decision-making.  The conceptual decision maker tends to have a high tolerance for ambiguity and a very intuitive thinking style.  They provide a very broad arena when considering alternatives with a focus on long term creative solutions (Robbins & Coulter, 2003).  This manager is a wonderful asset for any business, and must insure that when quick decisions are needed that the turn off the need for the "long term" view. 

 

To attempt to pigeonhole any individual in a particular quadrant is somewhat useless. While they may tend to have a particular dominant style, they will also drift and gravitate to different areas depending on the situation.  Good managers will be like a chameleon in that they can change their approach and their styles as the situation warrants. 

 

In general, my dominant style tends to be balanced between analytical and directive.  I have the ability to react quickly in crisis mode and make quick decisions, however, if time permits, I appreciate data to support my decision.  I find that I get somewhat impatient with other more "pure" analyticals, as I don't necessarily want to analyze the "world" when making a "local" decision, and the pure "analyticals" may tend to delay the decision in search of more data.  Moreover, I find that I take issue with directive managers making what I consider to be a rash decision when available data is not considered. 

 

My intuitive style only emerges when using the relaxed "what if" machine.  I find that even when I'm away from work, I tend to think of work.  Not in the sense that breeds ulcers or headaches, but more in the intuitive sense in a somewhat subliminal way.  Ideas come to me as I wake from sleep or while working in the garden.  It is not that I was attempting to consciously think of a solution at the time that the thought emerged, but rather that I had handed off to my subconscious a particular issue or problem (sometimes days or weeks ago) and said "take a look at this and get back to me."

 

Employees, as managers, are humans. Therefore the ability for them to span the spectrum exists. The type of position that you need filled will help to determine the preferred dominant trait of the employee. For instance, if you need an employee to scrutinize data and look for erroneous errors in calculations and reports, then a analytical dominance would be in order. However, if you needed an employee to fabricate parts based on evolving designs, then a little intuition would certainly be welcome.

 

In support of this custom fit approach, Melanie A. Dowler, a fellow student, feels that the employee should be selected to fit the type of job with her statement of  "I think that they (the) type of employee that an employer chooses would depend on the job that the person is being hired for. A fireman must be an intuitive thinker relying on all of his past experience and knowledge to act quickly in a situation. A business consultant would be a person who is quite systematic because they would consider all of the possible outcomes of their actions before recommending a decision to a client."

 

Furthermore, Todd E. Mandley, a fellow student, reminds us that the hiring manager's style should be considered in the selection process to help augment and compliment the team.  Todd's comments of "If you know what type of a decision maker that you are you can hire a mix of types to compliment your style which would create an environment to make clearer and more concise decisions as a team," illustrate the necessity of team dynamics in the managing of a business.

 

Regardless of the dominant style that an individual projects they should still possess the ability to move between the quadrants.  Different styles may come more naturally to someone, but because of our human nature, everyone has the ability to adapt to the situation.  Knowing when to consider the different approaches is the mark of a good manager.  And actually applying the different approaches when needed is the mark of a great manager.

 

 

References

 

 

Robbins, S. P., & Coulter, M. K. (2003). Management (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.