ACT Change

My response to ‘Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves’:

Gandhi, Martin L. King, Jr., and Jesus are great examples of people that inspired real change in others by personal sacrifice and true commitment.  By self sacrificing for the cause you’re relaying a message that you truly believe in the greater purpose. When you start to self-sacrifice you’re selling the change to yourself.  This commitment to the cause drives you to change yourself.  Overall, this commitment and self sacrifice are only truly motivating when it is for the right reasons.  You must have purpose and find the common good in the situation and feed off that motivator.  Martin L. King, Jr., as with the others, was doing the right thing.  He self sacrificed for the common good and he changed himself for the right reasons.  Furthermore, he was literally living on the edge.  His actions and words were border-line enough to get the attention of the people and not too over whelming that his actions were not respectable.  Jesus had faith in others – just like the others did – and gave people the benefit of the doubt.  He gave the people the autonomy to do the right thing and inspired them to change for the cause.  These traits are very interchangeable with the work place actions required to inspire change.  Commit to the cause; care about the purpose; do what’s right; and have faith in others. Later in the article there is a story about a mother-daughter relationship and how these same notions followed by Jesus, King, and Gandhi helped the mother build a successful relationship with her daughter and how her grades improved.  The quote that from the article that relates the best with me is this, “I was outwardly encouraging, but inwardly I mistrusted her, and she felt that message from me.”  You have to believe and have faith in the people that you’re working with.  You have to inspire them to change, trust that they will and believe that they can.

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Organizational Silence

My response to the Sounds of Silence by Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison and Frances J. Milliken:

The article claims that there are two main factors that promote ‘organizational silence’: that top managers’ fear negative feedback and that top managers’ have a set of unstated beliefs that employees have self-interested and untrustworthy ideas.  Even though I agree with this opinion I do believe that the later statement is more prevalent than the first. 

Working for a utility where a majority of the employees work under a collective bargaining agreement and most of the system in which we all work was negotiated for has created an atmosphere where many top level managers have come to distrust the lower level worker.  As a management employee works her way up the corporate ladder, she becomes less and less engaged with the blue collar worker.  It’s not a natural occurrence; at least I would hope it’s not, but I do believe that ‘group think’ will play an inevitable role on an individuals thought process.  As a rising employee moves her way up the ladder she spends less time with the front line workers.  She continues to receive less direct feedback as she spends more time with upper management.  It’s a result of a lack of convenience and familiarity with the workers.  The more time you spend with people -in this case blue collar worker or upper management- the more interaction and comfort you have with them, and vice versa. 

Cause and effect:

Because an upper level manager is now spending a majority of her time with upper management; there is a distrust developed between both the manager and the workers.  There is now less engagement and interaction and therefore as a result there is now a distrust and silence that occurs.  As an alternative solution to what the article mentioned, one way to fix this ‘organizational silence’ is to get involved.  It’s important to spend time with the workers and familiarize yourself with their environment and concerns.  Laugh, joke, and connect with your workforce.  The more time you spend with people in general; the more trusting and open people will feel to voice their thoughts and ideas.  This interaction and friendship will eventually destroy any silence that plagues a company.

The Treadway Tire Company

My response to the ‘Treadway Tire Company, Job Dissatisfaction and High Turnover at the Lima Tire Plant’:

This place has an eerie resemblance to my work.  We too have a majority of our workforce as union employees and a smaller percentage as salaried employees.  We also have the same problems as mentioned in exhibit 5; the employees like the work, the money, the people, but dislike the management, the system, and the training.  It’s very similar.  As with us, our front line supervisors, or as they call them foreman, handle all of the day to day business.  They are swamped with work and drowning in the job.  There is just too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Because of that, important things like training have fallen apart.  There’s just no time and no correctly budgeted money for it.  This director of HR, Ashley Wall, is in big trouble.  Good luck with that company.  The only reason it’s still running is because the blue collar employees are the type of people that know what it takes to finish a job and do it right. 

Here’s the way to save this company:

Upper level salaried employees need to spend a portion of their time on the production floor.  Go interact with the employees. Get involved.  Talk.  Reach out and become respectful and engaged with the workers.  Respect the employees for what they’re capable of doing.  Forget about fixing the foreman position, that’ll come as a result of getting involved on the production floor.  Impose a training environment and get people that care about relationships and create good long lasting relationships.  Get trainers from both college graduates and the union.  Put them together.  It’s important to get the right college graduates though.  Don’t just grab the best GPA and throw them into the position.  You need college graduates that can interact with union employees.  You need employees that have pride.  I bet the senior management at Treadway is completely disconnected from the floor.  That’s what needs to change.

The Men’s Wearhouse

My response to the article ‘The Men’s Wearhouse, Success in a Declining Industry’:

I agree with Zimmer’s perspective on his five stakeholder groups.  Employees should come first.  That’s the people you trust to build the business.  The business is essentially a team and aren’t your team members the most important.  Like Jim Collins says, the people you have on your bus really matter to the potential of your business.  Also, when Zimmer is talking about the stakeholder groups and the end of the paragraph he mentions this, ‘I am only interested in long-term shareholder value’.  That is a great perspective and it helps you ride through down times.  It also is clear for investors that some decisions may negatively affect shareholder value but those decisions will be made with the long-term effects in mind.

Another aspect I like about the Men’s Wearhouse philosophy is the continued training.  It reminds of SEL U, a continuing education and training program hosted by SEL Inc. for power engineers.  Training is not only a great way to standardize your mission and values, but it also brings people together and offers a sense of respect for the employees.  What I’m saying that any company that is willing to invest time and money to train an employee is showing that employee that they care about them and want them as an employee.

One of the impressive behaviors by Zimmer is the ‘touch’ philosophy.  The fact that he’ll work the floor and get around to many parties and districts and get involved in the individual stores is inspiring.  That’s the type of person that people want to work for.  It gives an employee the feeling that employees matter and allows people to build relationships with upper management.  It sounds like a great company especially when they can grow in an industry that’s shrinking.

The Layoff

My response to the HBS article, ‘The Layoff’:

After reading the article and the responses I believe that they are all reasonable. 

For Stybel and Peabody the idea is to minimize the concerns by leaving the employees alone and assuring the shareholders that there will be a downturn in the company’s price per shares but in the long run it will recover and it will be the best decision for the company.  This is not a bad idea.  I believe that this decision would encourage employees that the company trusts them and knows that this is an effect of the economy and they’ll all get through it together. 

For Jurgen Dormann I agree with his point of view.  Executives should not be meeting in a fancy restaurant to discuss layoffs.  What an ironic slam to the employees.  These would be two of the first people that Robin should let go.  They aren’t even thinking of better ways to handle the situation.  What a waste of company money.  Layoffs should be the last answer to the problem.  Now, as much as I agree with Jurgen, I work for a utility as a substation protection engineer and ABB products are terrible.  Their reclosers and breakers are poorly constructed and they don’t hold a chance against real leaders in the industry like SEL.  So it’s hard for me to really believe what he’s advocating.

As for Sutton, his advice is clear and perfectly worded.  Layoffs are a bad idea.  I’d reconstruct the most senior management and task them with finding better ways to saving money by going from the bottom up.  I’d do it quickly and I release a statement that would let the shareholders know that the decision to retain the employees was made with the long term goals of the company in mind.  Share prices will likely suffer for the time being but that Robin is confident in his employees and the business and in the long run that this would be the best course of action.

The End of Management

My response to the WSJ article, ‘The End of Management’:

This article is great. It sounds a lot like the book ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink. It also relates with the Stanford School of Business article on SAS. This article is more over the top as it makes statements like the new era will be similar to the Italian Renaissance. Collaborative efforts and individual contribution does seem to be key to this new ‘era’. I could imagine individual experts all working separately and only a small organized group that would tie the work together to create the final product or service could exist. Many entrepreneurs could pool outside help quickly and effectively without ever forming an actual modern business structure. I would think that as long as your idea is structured, your business plan is realistic and structured, you provide autonomy to highly educated people, and the idea actually works any form of business perception is possible. You wouldn’t necessarily need to be in a large corporate building with motivational posters and bad cafeteria. Like Jim Collins has said, as long as you have the right people on the bus, your business has an opportunity to thrive.

I think it’s interesting that Google offers 20 percent time, because if it does work so well, why not offer 100 percent time. Autonomy is good but maybe it can’t be 100 percent of the business structure. Like the housing market in 2005 are too many people going to jump onto the 20 percent autonomy time fad and then businesses will lack the traditional structure that supports the foundation like the trunk of a tree supports all the branches? Don’t get me wrong, I completely believe in autonomy but it seems like there’s a necessary balance to the new ‘era’.

WSJ Articles on Lt. Withers and Col Dowdy

My response to the article ‘For Lt. Withers, Act of Mercy Has Unexpected Sequel’:

What an incredible story.  Talk about humbled and strong.  Mieczyslaw went through hell and buried it in the past.  The difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager does the things right.  A leader knows how to do things right but also does the right thing.  Lt. John Withers was a leader.  He definitely did the right thing.  It didn’t matter whether the two young refugees had diseases or not.  They had already spent time with the soldiers anyways.  Plus, like the article says, the mean had already made the decision for him.  Withers didn’t have a choice.  He would have been on the wrong side of the decision if he had done anything else.  Besides, they two refugees lifted the soldier’s spirits and gave ‘purpose’ to the cause.  Why else were they there besides to help remove Hitler and save the accosted.  I believe that the choice to keep and house the refugees was critical.  I hard to say the situation but that’s the type of key that brings teams together.  It gives purpose to the day and unites the soldiers and gives them a reference point to judge the war by.  It’s a great article and a better story. 

My response to ‘How a Marine Lost His Command In Race to Baghdad’:

General Kelly seems to be very non-committal.  Colonel Dowdy seems to be patient and his style is methodic.  Major General Mattis seems to be intelligent and decisive but moderately disengaged.  If one of the key factors to the mission is speed then Kelly and Mattis should have expressed that clearly.  If you don’t express your opinion or feelings clearly you can’t expect those exact results.  Dowdy was given a choice and a motive.  He made a choice based on his surroundings and completed the mission.  Mattis was frustrated with the way the mission was completed but if that was going to be the case then it’s on him to either be clear or except the results.  Kelly doesn’t seem to be a major player in any of it.  He doesn’t commit to the decision made by either other person and didn’t work with Dowdy in a positive manner.  He was more of a crutch than a support.  I agree with the article when it says that war time decisions are difficult to question because too many factors way in.  My opinion is that Mattis should be clear about his expectations and get out of the way.  His plans sound as if they were solid but he didn’t relay the importance of how he expected the plans to play out.  Dowdy was doing what he thought was right.  He was doing the right thing.  As a leader, he was both looking to do the right thing and complete the mission.  This all sounds like a miscue in communication and method.