Sunday, June 3, 2012

Business management

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1. (0 points) Managers require a wide variety of skills. Not all types of skills, however, are equally important at all levels of management. For the following three types of skills, identify the level of management (top management, middle management, or front line management) for which the skill is most important and why you think it is most important for that level.

• Technical skills

Technical skills are most important in front line management. When I complete my BBA with an emphasis in management I don’t expect to go to work managing a chemistry lab at M. Although I may be an excellent manager, I would have no idea how to guide the chemists in their work. I could, however go to work as a construction site foreman for xxx, a national construction firm. I could use my knowledge about which construction materials are needed, how they are put together and my management skills to lead and develop the crew’s construction skills.

• Conceptual skills

Conceptual skills are important to top level management. If I were the CEO of xxx I would not want to worry about the day to day operations of each individual construction site. I would not need to know much about construction or even which end of a hammer to use. I would need to have extensive knowledge of how my organization’s parts fit together and what this makes it capable of. I would use this knowledge to develop a vision for where I would lead xxx and make it capable of expanding into these areas of the construction market.

• Communications skills

Communication skills are important in absolutely every level of management. Management is coordinating the activities of people to get work done that you cannot do your self. To do this you have to effectively communicate what you want done to the people doing it for you. This is true for front line management to communicate to labor what needs to be done for the day to get the next phase of construction done, middle management to communicate to the frontline managers to coordinate the construction of the entire building complete and for top management to communicate to the middle managers who are setting up operations on the east coast so that we can start bidding on projects in the growing construction market there. Each level must effectively communicate to and receive communication from the level below it to successfully direct it in the way you want it to go.

. (0 points) For years, the tuna canning companies bought tuna from fishing boats that caught and killed dolphins (the mammal) as a “by-catch.” Some years back, this practice was brought to light by activists, which caused an uproar among the public. Threats of boycotts against the companies ensued and there was substantial negative publicity. Fearing a loss of revenues, most tuna canning companies adopted a policy of not purchasing from boats that engaged in this practice. To communicate this policy to the public, the companies put a small logo on their cans of tuna guaranteeing that they were “dolphin-friendly.” Using the authors’ terminology, what level of social responsibility would you ascribe to the tuna canning companies? Justify your answer.

Considering that the tuna canning companies put the “dolphin friendly” seal on the cans of tuna in response to a threatened boycott originated by the International Marine Mammal Project and the negative publicity that ensued, I would ascribe to them the Social Reaction level of social responsibility.

Tuna fishermen used to actually look for dolphins and set their purse seine around them because for unknown reasons the tuna stay close to the dolphins. Canners such as Starkist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee all knew that this fishing method was being utilized, and would have been classified as “social responsiveness” had they stopped before public outcry forced them to.

I think that this level has changed since then. Congress passed legislation setting a standard of non-encirclement of dolphins which became the U.S. legal standard for the Dolphin Safe tuna label. Because of this they are required to follow this standard and now are at the “social obligation” level. The tuna industry has also adopted another method of catching tuna that have adverse environmental effects. This is called “log fishing” where all marine life including turtles, sharks, and other animals are caught along with the tuna. The canners know the effect this has on sea life but continue. Until they voluntarily quit this type of practice before they are forced to by either social or legal obligations they will never be a socially responsive industry.

. (0 points) Describe the following concepts or terms. Where do these concepts or terms come from and to what do they apply?

All four of these concepts come from Geert H. Hofstede and his work on four dimensions of cultural variability, commonly referred to as Hofstedes Dimensions. Hofstede originally published these concepts in his 180 publication, Cultures consequences International differences in work-related values. This study took existing survey data (sample size of 116,000) collected from a multinational corporation. The result was a score in each of the dimensions for 40 different countries. Hofstede calculated scores for these dimensions (on a scale from around 0 and 100) for many countries.

• Power Distance

Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Power distance can be described in terms of high and low power distance. In a high power distance culture people are subordinate than in a low power distance culture. In a high power distance culture such as China, employees would never expect to be consulted about a task; they just do what the supervisor asks. China has a power distance score of 80. Israel has a very low power distance score of 1. In this culture supervisors would be expected to be very democratic and take input from subordinates on decisions.

• Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty avoidance is how comfortable a culture feels about the unknown. Cultures with higher uncertainty avoidance express a need for formality, predictability and clear rules so that there is no question about how things are done. They also have more anxiety when faced with situations where the unknown is a factor. Denmark has very low uncertainty avoidance at while Japan’s is very high at .

• Individualism versus Collectivism

In individualistic societies there are few ties between the members of that society whereas in collectivist societies people belong to strong, cohesive groups. The United States, as we know, is very individualistic. We are actually the most individualistic society with a score of 1. We could not care less what others think, we will do whatever we please. Many Asian countries tend to see themselves as a part of the whole. Some examples of these are Taiwan and South Korea who have individuality scores of 14 and 18. This is one of many reasons for the rapid economic rise of these countries in the last century. They work as a collective to effectively accomplish a task that a number of individuals could not.

• Masculinity versus Femininity

As you said in class, this has nothing to do with gender; it has to do with the aggressiveness of culture. More aggressive cultures are considered more masculine and more passive cultures are considered more feminine. In a more masculine culture people are assertive, tough, and concerned with material success. In a more feminine society people are more modest, tender, interested in the quality of life and display very little confrontation.

Austria is very masculine at 7 and Denmark is more feminine at 16

All of these concepts are important to keep in mind when dealing with other cultures.

4. (0 points) In the Boston Consulting Group Portfolio Matrix, the preferred action when dealing with a cash cow is to dedicate just enough resources to keep it going but not engage in any meaningful investment in the unit. What is the reasoning behind this strategy?

This is because you have a situation where one of your strategic business units is experiencing low market growth rate and high relative market share. Now that I have learned what a cash cow is in this class I realize that my former employer is a cash cow and is an excellent example for this paper. xxx Fuel is part of a larger organization that includes other fuel companies and barging outfits. I worked for them for 7 years and in that time we took over most of the residential, commercial and marine fuel market share in xxx. The only competition has just enough of the market to keep others from coming in to compete. We set up the local infrastructure such as storage tanks that enable us to get the cheapest fuel possible, warehouses to store resale items and maintenance facilities to keep everything running. Everything is as efficient as possible and there is no more room to grow so any further investment would be pointless. The larger organization can use the cash generated in xxx to invest in strategic business units where they have a high market growth rate and high market share which would be considered a star.

5. (0 points) Explain the phenomenon known as “heightened commitment” or “escalation of commitment.” Why does this occur and how might you as a senior manager avoid it in your company?

This is a situation where you become increasingly committed to a poor choice of action. This can occur if emotion becomes involved in your decision making or if a project is fundamentally flawed and it is not realized right away. You may have a project that is your “pet” and you want it to work so badly that you keep “pouring good money after bad” in an attempt to make it work. I saw a good example of this on TV the other day. A sex education instructor had what she thought was a great idea. She sewed a small pocket into a pair of underwear that was to contain a condom. She figured that if it was right there when it was needed it was more likely to be used. Her students thought it was a great idea and were supportive so she invested twenty thousand dollars into producing a bunch of this underwear. She got some interest from small clothing outlets but was rejected by large distributors because it was too risqu�. (Possibly like this example!) She wanted it to work so badly that she ended up investing one hundred thousand dollars into it, but still not many people wanted to buy it. She poured good money after bad because her emotional involvement in wanting to increase condom use caused her to invest more money in a product that had little appeal to consumers.

If I were a senior manager I would avoid this in the following ways First I would instruct my project leaders to keep emotions separate from decision making. Secondly, I would set goals for a project which if they are not met by a certain time the plug will automatically be pulled. Lastly, I would have one person start the project, then have another carry it from there, the second will be more likely to have an objective view of its success or failure. The woman in my example should have done more market research by contacting distributors to gauge their interest and use focus groups made up of her target market that have no bias toward her product.

Bonus Question (5 points) What are the advantages and disadvantages of group or participatory decision-making?

Personally I like to make important decisions on my own. If I just consider all of the facts that I can and make the decision I save myself a lot of frustration. The hardest part of involving a group to make a decision is to deal with their dynamics. If everyone would focus on the question at hand it would make the process easier. I was the president of the Cooperative Preschool last school year. I was the only male there and it was very hard to get a bunch of moms to focus on the task at hand. I decided to grin and bear it and chalk it up to leadership experience. It would take a lot of time to get a simple decision during a ½ hour long 1 hour meeting because it was hard to fit important topics in between the conversations about quilting and stuff. There was one woman, the treasurer, who had a very strong personality. Everyone was afraid to make a decision if she wasn’t there and when she was there she tried to dominate the meeting. I had to do some careful stepping to make sure that she did not have undue influence on our decisions. It is very hard to get the right mix of talents when your talent pool is the parents who happen to enroll their kids in the preschool that year. I did my best and tried to get the right personalities in the right positions.

It may sound like this was a bad experience but, no way, it was a great experience. I learned that I cannot always make all of the decisions and that if I included others they were generally more accepted. All of the moms, and me, put our heads together, brought our individual talents to bear, and made some great decisions like getting xxx to help us get all new tables, chairs, play equipment and learning materials. I learned that I did not always have all of the information necessary to make a proper decision. Once I wanted to have the accounting done professionally, and almost did it before I decided that the entire board should make this call. A parent told us that she knew someone who would donate accounting services to us. I did not have that information! Being president of the preschool was beneficial to me and the other parents because we all developed lasting relationships and learned much about decision making.

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