DR JAMES BREAUGH
MANGEMENT CASE ANALYSIS KAY LARNED
Newly promoted manager Kay Larned was eager to make an impact in the department by implementing a new production machine. Although this production machine is a simple equipment purchase from a small department, Kays proposal has been met with much resistance from managers within the departments. With determination, skills and relentless effort, Kay Larned was able to acquire the equipment and get it up and running through many problems in the first year. Although the project was fulfilled and completed in the first year, Kay could have done more to improve the working relationships with managers and supervisors and get them on board with her future projects.
There is few missing key information that could really help us understand the circumstances and better analyze the case study. One of the missing information is the educational and management experience of Kay Larned. We only know that Ms. Larned is a new manager in the department and she was eager to make a different on her new job. Credentials and experience of Kay Larned would help us gauge the level of her competence. Based on available facts, there are doubts among Kays peer managers about her competence because either she is a female manager or she has little manufacturing experience. Also, study shows that longer transitional period and better working relationship with upper level managers will increase the probability of success for new managers (Gabarro, 2007).
Second missing important fact is Ms. Larneds tenure at the firm. We know that Kay was new to Custom Adhesive department but there was no evidence regarding her employment time with the firm. However, as a new manager on the job, Kay displayed a strong personality and determination to pursue her own goal despite doubts from fellow managers. Discovery of new equipment, due diligence performance analysis, on-the-job learning and clever navigation through corporate politics showed that Kay Larned would be more likely to be successful in developing managerial competencies. Managers with high developmental characteristics and strong focus on goals are perceived as highly competent by their supervisors, have more access to developmental projects, and more opportunities to practice and hone their managerial skills (Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, 2009).
Third, there were little known facts regarding the conflict between Kay Larne, a junior manager of Custom Adhesive and Chris Doppi, a senior manager of a bigger department, Process Chemicals (PC). Kay just assumed the managerial position in Custom Adhesive and she already had conflict with a senior manager in different department (PC). This interdepartmental conflict could be caused by weak interpersonal managerial skills from Kay Larned. Moreover, the conflict could also be the result of task-related asymmetries between the two department whereas Kays department was dependent on in-house materials from PC had little incentives to purchase from them. The asymmetrical benefits of collaboration between departments are among the causes of conflict while symmetrical patterns of initiation encourage cooperation (Walton & Dutton, 1969).
Moreover, there are differing perspectives among managers and workers in the firm about Kays project that might have contributed to the opposition against the new equipment purchase proposal.
First, Chris Doppi, the tough manager of PC had reasonable opposition against Kays project. According to Chris, using raw material from PC with zero production cost is more beneficial than 15% return on investment of the new equipment. disregard the 5% inefficiency cushion he had from Custom Adhesive order,
Retrospectively, there were certain issues should have been addressed and things might have been easier for people at the firm. First of all, Kay as a new manger on the job, should have connected with peers and supervisors and build a rapport before taking on any assignments or implementing change in the department. When we are new in the position, we feel anxious and follow a standard approach to deal with new situations while failing to make proper introduction and connection (Rollag, 2015). Having the strong network and social connections are among the valuable resources to gain leverage and wield power effectively (Pfeffer, 2010).
Second, before implementing change in the department, Kay Larned should have established a dialogue with peer managers and supervisors in relating departments to learn about their opinions, concerns, and needs. Listening to peoples perspectives and incorporate them into a shared solution is an effective persuasion technique (Conger, 1998). Kay could have developed a dialogue with Chris to understand his concerns and needs in order to come to a compromise to get the resources she needs. Also, Kay could have established a working connection with her supervisor Mike. By understanding Mikes perspective, concerns, and helping him achieving his goals, Kay would have received more managerial support and influence. Thus, Kay could have harnessed the power to leverage with Mike. Research shows that in the science of persuasion, to receive the desired behavior, we have to display it first (Caldini, 2001).
Kay Larned displayed strengths and weaknesses in her actions as a new manager. Kays strength was the determination and relentless effort to finish her project. With the focus on improving the performance of her department, discovering of new equipment, and performing due diligence research and data analysis, Kay Larned had the characteristics of a great manager. Moreover, Kay showed her persistence and willingness to work with everyone from shift worker to tough boss to get her project done. As we discussed in Advice for new manager, Kay was right to communicate with everyone, treat people with respect and get things done when necessary because successful persuaders should engage in one-on-one conversation with all the people they intend to persuade. (Conger, 1998).
However, being new and inexperienced manager, Kay also made critical mistakes. One of Kays mistakes was that she failed to have a clear vision of what is important for the department. The ambiguity in corporate strategy could either mean that the tone at the top was not clear or that Kay did not fully comprehend the firms vision and under the known circumstances, the latter is more likely than the former.
Another critical mistake from Kay was that she did not seek advice and technical insights in the area she lacked the expertise. Although Kay had done detailed analysis of the data and projections, the numbers and financial indicators alone do not represent values. As we discussed in managerial effectiveness, there was the possibility of juking the stats since the limited data came from a single source, the only company that bought the equipment, and the validity of the data. Effective modern manager should look beyond the data, incorporate own judgement with the perspectives of subordinates, peers, and supervisors as well as the timing constraints to achieve short-term target or long-term goal.
With respect to Kays managerial actions, there are two preferred actions that she could have done to get the project executed more effectively. The first course of action was building allies and forging working relationship before implementing change. In the discussion of Advice for new manager, we know that people do not like change they will resist change. A change no matter how small, would push people out of their comfort zone, challenge the ones in power who get to the top by doing the old ways. Chris Doppi, the manager of PC, had been comfortable in his position, the legal department had been preparing the contracts the standard ways, both resisted the change Kay Larned, the new manager trying to impose. As mentioned above, the principle of persuasion from Caldini research is that we have to help people first before receiving help. Communicating with everyone in the firm to understand their backgrounds, their needs, and concerns would help Kay and other managers see the shared advantages and how to achieve them.
As a result, the clearer Kay clarify the shared benefits, the more chance she will persuade her peers and supervisors. The advantage of this approach is that it does not cost anything but time and persistence. Building working relationship, getting to know people, and assisting other to achieve their goals require dedication and time in the short-term but it would pay off in the long-term. Another advantage is that Kay would have the opportunities to show her credibility, backgrounds and experience to eliminate the doubtfulness about her competence. Establishing credibility is the first challenge persuaders have to overcome before implementing new idea (Conger, 1998). However, the disadvantage of this approach is that Kay would have less focus on managerial tasks, duties as well as on-the-job learning considering she is still settling in her new position. In the short-term, this approach requires Kay to spend time and effort to smoothen any rough connections within the firm but in the long-term Kay would be able to navigate and execute her projects more effectively.
The other preferred action that Kay Larned should have done is that improve the current production and marketing in Custom Adhesive without the new equipment. First, Kay could have negotiated with Chris to increase her order from 5% to 6% and to receive the order at the end of the production period so it would not interfere with the larger orders at Process Chemicals. From Chriss point of view, this 1% increase in production output would not create significant cost because it is still within the departments capacity and he still would have a nice cushion for production errors. From Kays point of view, this 1% increase means that she would have 20% more in raw material available for Custom Adhesive production. This would increase her raw material storage and significantly reduce the delivery delay. Kay should also consult Phyliss Cyzak in maintenance and storage to tackle any incremental costs due to stock increase.
Second, Kay should have consulted Joan Colon in marketing to implement new marketing strategy to improve sales since her department sales depended on marketing department. Moreover, Kay should have included Jim Travis of technology department to incorporate technological advantage in marketing strategy to boost Custom Adhesives sales. Social proof, as Caldini identified, using the power of peers and their expertise is an effective tactic to influence and convince others (Caldini, 2001).
Third, Kay should have consulted purchasing manager to figure out the economic order quantity which minimize the total holding cost and ordering cost of the raw materials. Since most of Custom Adhesive raw materials were purchased in small quantities, increase in order size might reduce order cost. This approach would require involvement of Phyliss Cyzak of maintenance, manager from purchasing department, and Kays friend from finance department. The advantage of this approach is that Kay has good working relationships with all the parties involved thus it would have more chance to be effectively executed. The disadvantage would be the increase in finance for raw material purchase that might not be approved by Kays boss, Mike Graflin, whose focus is on budget cut. However, with the power of social proof mentioned above, the involvement and collective effort of expertise that Kay have assembled, there is a good chance that this approach would get approved.
Because of the ambiguity in corporate strategy at the firm, the constraint for our preferred actions is time. Marketing strategy and production management take time to implement and results are difficult to quantify. Besides, as we discussed in Introduction to Management PowerPoint, every task has different complexity and requires interdependence therefore managers often struggle and fail to implement simple changes because of oversimplification. As we witness Kays struggle with her new equipment project, there were a great amount of effort and perseverance to persuade and convince many involved parties just for a simple task, a relatively small equipment purchase.
Furthermore, we should view the situation with Chris Doppis perspectives to better understand the conflict. First of all, Chris was the manager of a big department Process Chemical and he probably did not get to the managing power for being incompetence. There could be an inverse relationship between being competent and being warm (Porath, 2015). Being the head of a big manufacturing department, Chris was probably overwhelmed with work and had no time to connect with others therefore he was viewed as tough, macho, and an old guard. The second issue with Chris was that knowing there was inefficiency in his production line yet he did nothing to improve except juking the statistics by increasing production for inter-department purchase. One of the possible explanations was lack of upper management oversight. As we discussed earlier, the corporate upper management was ambiguous about the planning and strategy, therefore the leaders of the firm were not in touch with current issues in the production department. Another explanation was that Chris Doppi let inefficient production exist because improving efficiency means more work. As small inefficiency accrued over time, the manager fell into the slipper slope of adverse behavior because things happen gradually (Bazerman et al, 2011). Inefficient production might have existed in Process Chemical before Kay came as a new manager of Custom Adhesive. Gradually, inefficiency grew to the point that it was still manageable but fixing it would mean changing the old way of doing thing, thus the old guard manager Chris resisted. Third explanation was that there was no reward system for efficient production or the current system resulted in negative behaviors. We often implement a failed reward system of hoping for certain results but rewarding other outcomes (Kerr, 1995).
3) Suggest preferred actions and acknowledge potential advantages and disadvantages of the actions you have recommended (e.g., speed and cost of implementation? long-term vs. short-term effects? How different individuals in the case would react to what you have recommended?). How can you convince key players to implement your ideas?
4) Note one or more alternative courses of action in case your recommended action(s) are not accepted by those in power and discuss its/their advantages and disadvantages.
5) Note how the problems being faced might have been avoided (or of lower magnitude) if action had been taken earlier. What actions should have been taken earlier?
6) In doing the preceding, you should communicate clearly and succinctly. If it is a written case, use your space wisely.
The case focuses upon the actions of Kay Larned. In addressing her actions, you
should consider what she did well and what she might have done differently.
Clearly, you would also want to address how others might view Kays actions.
Do not ignore other parties in the case in your analysis.
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