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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Styles and Forces of Influence

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Decision-making often comes from people’s experience, thinking, and preferences. Sometimes a decision can make perfect sense in theory, but it may not work in a real life situation. To make a good decision requires critical thinking skills. How the management of a company makes decisions has a big impact on the outcome. Recently, the management of our company made a decision to restructure a division and this has raised some issues in our workplace.


The division is developing flight-scheduling software for airlines. In order to develop a quality product, it has to go through a cycle, which includes developing, unit testing, integration, system and production testing. Each team has to contribute diligently and work as a team in order to produce a quality product. Most importantly, we need effective management. I have been working for the company for six years. During this period, there has been great teamwork. Management managed projects and project team leads; who had a lot of management experience and technical skills. As a result, a quality product was always delivered ahead of schedule. Recently, management restructured the division, which caused the employees to face an enormous challenge.


Due to fact that the client requested delivery of their products in lesser time and for lesser money, management has come up with several different ideas in order to satisfy the client’s request. One of the ideas is to divide the workload by salary level. This means that higher salaried employees become project leads and lower salaried employees engage in more regular work.


When this decision was made and put into practice, several issues came up. For example, some higher salaried employees are good at the jobs they are doing, but they may not possess effective managerial skills. Therefore, as they attempt to manage a project; they assign tasks without considering their co-worker’s abilities. Also, they do not communicate well with team members, or they just want everything done in their way. If someone who lacks managerial skills manages a project, the team members will experience confusion and frustration. Most importantly, the product will not be delivered to the customer on time. Consequently, the customer is dissatisfied.


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Whether or not a company is successful, its management really has a lot to do with it. A good decision will produce a good outcome. Therefore, leaders who make important decisions must have critical thinking skills. Before a decision is made, they must first analyze the project with a number of questions in mind. What are the pros and cons? Who are suitable for the assignments and how much work can they handle realistically? What are the possible solutions/resolutions to the problem conflicts or issue? They also need to evaluate questions such as what is good or bad? What is applicable or not applicable? What are the advantages or disadvantages? What should or should not happen? These questions are a good beginning to critical thinking. Once these questions have been evaluated, the better decisions can be made.


There are two ways in which this problem can be framed. The first, is the on the side of management. The management feels that the employees in the organization should fulfill the roles that they have been assigned. This opinion implies that all employees are equal and can be readily moved from one assignment to another. This makes the organization very fluid and resilient to change. A single employee is not so important to the organization that he/she cannot be lost.


The second way to frame this problem is on the side of a majority of the employees. This is that the management should not have reassigned the roles of the employees. This suggests that the structure of the company should be returned to it’s previous state because the new organization will not succeed. Most of the employees feel that they were happy and successful in the positions they were previously. Perhaps the only reason they remain at the company is because they enjoy their job and the tasks they have been assigned. If the employees feel that they are less successful in their new roles, this will lead to a decrease in morale.


The first solution uses creative and persuasive types of critical thinking. The management team is trying creative ways of reorganizing the company to try and save the end customer money and to drive the cost of business down. This is why management is where it is. It is up to these people who have been hired as leaders to lead the people. Perhaps they know that this solution will work because it has worked in other companies. Perhaps they are just “trying something new”. Whatever the case, they have been assigned as leaders, and the employees should follow suit.


The second solution uses logical and persuasive types of thinking. The employee group feels that the management team is acting irrational and has no basis for the decisions that are made. They have created a mass feeling of doubt in management among the entire organization. They believe that their argument is based on years of their own experience and the feelings of comfort they have in their current positions.


One of the things that can influence greatly the way this problem is framed is experience or age. The employees who have been at the company the longest seem to be the most afraid of change. They have been performing their roles for so long, and the thought of having to adapt to something new scares them. The newer, younger employees would like opportunity in the company to expand their roles, always taking advantage of ways to increase their responsibility. The younger employees seem to be more accepting and resilient of change. Economic status also plays a factor in the framing of this problem. If an employee has a lower economic status, they are less willing to take the risk of losing their job. These employees will do “whatever management asks them to” so that they are seen as loyal, hardworking employees. This comes from a fear of not being able to find another job if the situation is required. Education also plays a role in this for similar reasons. The lower educated employees will not risk as much either, because they may feel that finding another job comparable to their current one would be near impossible.


Before a decision is made, management should go through critical thinking and questions evaluation processes. If these processes are carried out effectively, a better decision will be made. This could include interviews with employees, surveys, evaluation of other companies making similar moves. Before the management made the decision to restructure the division, they should have also gone through these processes. For example, does the higher salaried employee have the necessary skills to be a team lead? Or, are they willing to be a team lead? On the other hand, the lower salaried employees are overloaded with too many assignments! Therefore, it is very important for management to have critical thinking skills. If the employees were brought into a meeting structured as a discussion, they will feel that they are part of the solution, and some of the concerns could be addressed. I think that whatever the solution is, it should be agreed upon by most of the company. This allows the company to move forward together and give more a more cohesive message to their customers. The employees will be happier in this kind of environment and this will, in the end, benefit the customer. After all, that’s who the change is being made for.





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