Monday, May 17, 2010

Chapter 18 - Resisting Change

Chapter 18 defines the resistance of change into 11 reasons

An individual's predisposition towards change
Surprise and fear of the unknown
Climate of mistrust
Fear of failure
Loss of status or job security
Peer Pressure
Disruption of cultural traditions or group relationships
Personality conflicts
Lack of tact or poor timing
Non reinforcing reward systems
Past success

This provides a clear understanding of the common reasons why some people simply hate change. After reading it, I know what are the main points to address when I have to be the one that issues change. Most of these feelings of uncertainty because of change can be combated with in depth information. For example, people wouldn't be that worried about the loss of status if they are well informed of it and how to combat it beforehand. The fear of change is mainly due to the lack of information.

Personally, I resist change mainly because of the surprise and fear of the unknown. There is so much that is unpredictable when it comes to change. I think that's a lot of peoples' concern as well; what is the unpredictable. You can inform someone of change to the extent of what you know is going to happen, but what you don't know is the issue that most people are afraid of. The best that one can do is throw out some educated guesses but that's it. That's my personal reason on why change can be viewed as more negative than positive.

Chapter 17 - Dell and its Single Formula Growth

There was a very interesting article in Chapter 17. It talked about the growth and decline of Dell Computers. Dell is a company that does one thing well and thats selling computers at a cheap price. It doesn't have any retail stores so it avoids overhead fees. They do all their business online. This business model has worked great for Dell, until recently.

The problem is that thats all Dell does. It relies on one formula for its success. The problem is, according to the article, is that when the company exhausts its one forumla, the company starts declining. It needs to start a new growth platform while it can, as there is no point in waiting. Dell is slowly slipping into decline and if it does not change its strategy, they will lose a lot of market share.
The reinstatement of founder Michael Dell as CEO seems to be a good change for Dell. He claims that although his company's main business strategy will always remain it's best one, he want's to implement other strategies to effectively bring the company back up. This is the mark of an organization being effective.

Chapter 15 - Making a Good Impression

Constantly I would hear the same advice before I went to an interview. "Dress to impress. It is better to overdress than underdress. A firm handshake and eye contact will take you far." Are all these techniques proven to give off a good first impression? Or are these formalities overplayed?

In chapter fifteen, impressions, influence, and empowerment are discussed. I was most interested in the section that talked about how much an impression can affect one's work life. There are three types of impression tactics:

Job Focused: manipulating information about ones performance
Supervisor Focused: praising and doing favors for one's supervisor
Self Focused: presenting oneself as polite and kind

It seems as most of these focus around the art of deceiving. I think the best way to make a good impression is by taking the initiative and going above and beyond, like that which was suggested in an excerpt on page 454. One should not try to go out of their way to look as if they deserve recognition when they could spend that time doing something that would ultimately bring them recognition.

Chapter 14 - Privacy in the Internet Age

Chapter fourteen talks about the fastest growing form of communication, internet communication. Although it is filled with advantages, I would like to talk about a very important disadvantage, privacy.

The internet is full of opportunities to make money. Unfortunately, one of the best ways to make money is collecting private information. A rising problem is Facebook. Users of Facebook are giving away a ton of information and most people don't even know they're doing it. Facebook is gathering a lot of information, whether it'd be your demographics or the things you like. Information that is unique and information advertisers would love to get a hold of.

Another example would be the one that was discussed in the book. Google bought this company called Neven Vison which specializes in analyzing and reading facial expressions. This would be great information to buy as well, as advertisers would love to see how their consumers react to ads or webpages, be it a smile or a frown. There is a lot of controversy behind this as people are generally not to keen on having their facial expression read to the benefit of advertising.

Privacy infringement is a growing concern, and the internet is adding fuel to the fire.

Chapter 13 - Cross Culture Conflict

Chapter 13 is all about different types of conflicts. I think one of the most important conflicts that constantly arise, is the cross culture conflict. Cross culture conflict can really make or break a deal, and these deals are often very crucial if they are international in the first place. It is very important to learn how a culture deals with business before engaging them.

I once read an article on how different American contract signings are from Japanese ones. American contract signings would usually consist of a company representative that has the authority to sign a contract and the specialist of the department which will be affected the most by the contract signing. Japanese contract signings would usually have a large team of maybe ten company representatives. Unlike American culture, a contract signing in Japan can take well over a week of constant meetings, negotiation, and simply getting to know one another. While in American culture, contract signings are usually brief, and centered around profit margins as opposed to positive business relationships.

If one were to do international business without knowing the culture of the country they are intending to do business with, conflict, that could have been easily avoided, would indefinitely surface.

Chapter 12 - Basic Intuition

We've all experienced basic intuition to an extent. It could be small, such as calling the all-in bet on the river of a poker game when you only have a pair of twos. It could be buying stock in Apple when it was falling. It could even be going to Dominican when everyone else tells you to go to a different school. We make decisions based off our intuition, or gut feeling, all the time. Whether it turns out good or bad is a whole different story.

Chapter twelve focuses a lot on individual decision making and one form of decision making is simply intuition. Our book defines it as "a process, intuition is automatic and involuntary." The book also provides an excellent example of a great decision that was made because of intuition. The decision was Ray Kroc purchasing Mcdonalds from the Mcdonald brothers. It wasn't a rational decision at the time, but that didn't stop Ray from making $500 million from the purchase.

Sometimes you have to trust your gut on decisions that don't seem right on the surface. It's often these decisions that will net you the most profit. But that doesn't mean you should avoid using rationality as well. The best decisions that you can make are the ones that include both rationality with intuition.

Group Dynamics

Chapter 10 on group dynamics is a very important chapter for everyone to read and make note of. Working in teams successfully is one of the most important skills for anybody to learn. One checklist of sorts, is Tuckman's model. Tuckman provides a 5 step model to follow to successful progress in a group or team. His model is: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. The stages are described in the book like this, "How do I fit in?, What's my role? What do others expect of me?, How can I best perfume my role, and What's next?" His original model had only four points, and adjourning was added later.

This model has been used by many since 1965, so much so that it seems to be more common sense than a theory. I think it is a good model to follow. It addresses the process needed to get tasks done in a group. In groups, if one were to follow this, I believe that the group as a whole would benefit. If used properly, the model can help prevent conflict and confusion on roles and everything as a whole.

J Welch ans S Welch, "From the Old, Something New," BusinessWeek, p 124

Chapter 11 Top-Ranked MBA program

Chapter 11 talks a lot about group processes and I think the perfect example that they provided would have to be the one about how Queens University got ranked the top school for an MBA. The reason they are the best, is that they treat their students more like employees. They assign their students to small teams that are kept throughout the whole program, and they would make sure that each team member would have different backgrounds so conflict would arise. I believe this is a great strategy on preparing the students for the real world. In real world applications, people are forced to work with smaller groups and they don't get to choose them, unlike classroom exercises.

The pros of such a practice is that the students are simply more prepared for the real world through this system. They learn to deal with conflicts and problems that wouldn't normally deal with if they were in a conventional program. Because of this, students will have more experience in team environments.

The cons to such a system is that it might be too much of a job environment. Working long office-hours being assigned to a cubicle to work on assignments and projects could seem too much like an actual job. Except that the students are paying the school.

Although there are cons to this system, it is far outweighed by the pros. Queens University is differentiating themselves from other schools, and it's working. Why else would they be ranked as the top MBA program in the world.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stress Reduction

Reducing stress improves the work environment and often leads to higher efficiency. In order to reduce stress, one needs to be able to first define stress. In chapter 18, I found a section which explains what stress is and how it affects us. The text defines stress as, “an adaptive response, mediated by individual characteristics and/or psychological processes, that is a consequence of any external action, situation, or event that places special physical demands upon a person.”
Stress and methods to reduce it varies from person to person. It is important that people research their personal experience to understand the causes and activities that aid in clearing their mind. An effective manager ensures the efficiency of their department while also setting realistic deadlines to keep stress to a minimum. Stress at the appropriate level can be healthy and encourage hard work.

Organization Design in a Changing World

In chapter 17, a sectioned titled “Organization Design in a Changing World,” discusses various structures that have been used in management. It discusses traditional designs along with the functional structure, divisional structure, and matrix structure. These structures are found in organizations which are typically defined as “the traditional approach.”
A functional structure groups people based on the function they perform and links them with a supervisor who specifically understands their function. A divisional structure groups together activities which work together to complete the product. This allows them to focus on their specific task and share ideas to improve the product. The matrix structure is intended to create a stronger horizontal alignment and is effective when the organization needs to focus on a particular goal.

Power Corrupts

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This has been proven throughout history and is the reason the word power evokes passionate reactions. “Power must be used because managers must influence those they depend on. Power also is crucial in the development of manager’s self-confidence and willingness to support subordinates.” By accepting this reality that power is necessary to our way of life, it is important that we understand how to avoid abusing power. If a manager lacks power, the department’s efficiency will be impacted and the same is to be said if they apply too much pressure.

Management by Walking Around

A section titled “Management by Walking Around” discusses a technique where managers walk throughout the organization and communicate with all levels and departments. Employees favor this method because they often prefer to hear information directly from their manager. It is much more effective than sending an email. This section is informative and offers six different tips when managing this way.
They recommend dedicating a certain amount of time each week without a cell phone which could become a distraction. It is not effective if the manager is distracted during these walks. The next suggestion is to use active listening and to discuss casual topics not always related to business. Showing interest and positively responding to feedback builds stronger working relationships and develops trust amongst the organization.
In my opinion, “Management by Walking Around” is vital to being a successful manager. The atmosphere it encourages is an appropriate balance between levels and promotes a flow of communication which is constructive for the organization.

What is Functional Conflict?

It is important to understand functional verses dysfunctional conflict. The text discusses the difference between the two and provides several examples. Certain types of conflict support the goals of the organization and are seen as constructive. This is functional conflict whereas dysfunctional conflict negatively impacts the atmosphere or performance of the organization. When engaged in functional conflict, negotiation is often necessary which promotes a win- win strategy. This is advantageous and can improve the image of the company.

This section is a reminder that we must evaluate the circumstances and pick our conflict wisely. By approaching conflict with the correct attitude, it is possible to improve conditions are keep the business in line with their objectives. Dysfunctional conflict can sometimes appear beneficial at the moment, but can hold unintended consequences.


Humility is a necessary trait for a manager to have. It is “a realistic assessment of one’s own contribution and the recognition of the contribution of others, along with luck and good fortune that made one’s own success possible.” It is vital that a manager acknowledge the hard work of their department and not overestimate their own performance. Although they are trusted with oversight, they are still a member of the team and must act as such.
Lately we have seen several examples of managers who lack humility. Egos get out of control and CEOs take pride in their personal successes. Without their team backing them, their success would not have been possible and it is important that they acknowledge this. The competition capitalism creates presents luck as a factor in reaching success.

Home Depot - Case Study

In chapter 3, they discuss Home Depot and how its management style created problems amongst the organization. A former CEO of Home Depot fostered a hierarchy culture which stripped managers of their ability to efficiently manage. They saved money but the effects where damaging. The financial records where in decent shape but the culture deteriorated. The individual stores lacked the ability to modify their inventory to what was fitting to the climate. As a result, the stores where stocked with goods for the wrong season.
This example indicates the impact of management on the organization. Had the top executives respected the decisions of management, Home Depot would have been able to provide a better experience for their customers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

ch 12

In chapter 12 it talked about individual and group decision making. The rational model caught my attention because the first step is to identify the problem, and then generate alternatives solutions, selecting the solutions, and implementing and evaluating the solution. My process of figuring out a solution is always indentifying the problem, freaking out a little bit, then selecting the first solution I come up with even though it isn’t the best one. It could be that I didn’t take in the whole information which the book said, which can make it difficult for me to make optimal decisions. This website I got information of how you can become a better decision maker, which hopefully will help me in the future.
Identify the purpose of your decision. What is exactly the problem to be solved? Why it should be solved?
Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
Identify the principles to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgement criteria should the solution meet?
Brainstorm and list different possible choices. Generate ideas for possible solutions. See more on extending your options for your decisions on my brainstorming tips page.
Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences. Use your standards and judgement criteria to determine the cons and pros of each alternative.
Determine the best alternative. This is much easier after you go through the above preparation steps.
Put the decision into action. Transform your decision into specific plan of action steps. Execute your plan.
Evaluate the outcome of your decision and action steps. What lessons can be learnt? This is an important step for further development of your decision making skills and judgement.

ch 10

In chapter 10 it talked about Groups and social networking and how it all starts with 2 or more people freely interacting sharing goals and collecting ideas, then realizing they both share a common identity. As I was reading this chapter it made me realize some of the groups that I am currently in here at school. I also feel that it was easier for me to be in my group because before I came here I played a sport and it a common and quick ice breaker for you to become in a group. Then I thought about being in an all athletic group and a business as my major and how much networking you do. The chapter then talked about women facing an uphill battle in mixed gender task groups. I found an article and video of how that the Navy is now letting females on the submarines for the very first time now.

CH 6

In chapter 6 it talked about counter productive work behaviors and really caught my attention. It said that “these behaviors harm employees and the organization as a whole. It also includes theft, white collar crime, absenteeism, tardiness, drugs and alcohol abuse, disciplinary problems, accidents, sabotage, sexual harassment, and violence. “In an article I found its talked about how violence at work are reaching at a high level in some parts of the country. "Bullying, harassment, mobbing and allied behaviors can be just as damaging as outright physical violence," the authors say. "Today, the instability of many types of jobs places huge pressures on workplaces, and we're seeing more of these forms of violence." In a sports team when a team member gets upset and throws a tantrum during practice it can always bring moral down and to cause an awkward feeling to the rest of the team. The only way for a coach to not let it affect the team is to kick that one person out and to let them cool off.
Amble, Brian. Violence at work has reached epidemic levels. 15 Jun 2006. 7 5 2010 .

Ch 3

In chapter 3 it talked about organization culture and how important it and how it can impact the employees motivation, satisfaction, and turnover. Southwest is also able to maintain low employee turnover and high job satisfaction by creating a positive, employee focused culture. I think that it’s true that if you feel that your organization is taking care of you, you feel that your also obligation to take care of the company and making sure your setting good and positive examples to customers and other people as well. There are also different types of organizational culture such as clan culture which has an internal focus and values flexibility rather than stability and control. One company that is considered a clan company would be Zappos’s a company that sells shoes. They encourage their employees to be free and fun, while still maintaining a productive work environment.
Kreitner, Robert. Organizational Behavior. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2010.

ch 2

In chapter 2 it talked about diversity and how important it is in the business world. In the book diversity is described as the individual differences that make people different from and similar to each other. It’s not an issue of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. The chapter also talked about the positive and negative effects of a diverse work environment and it said that having a diverse environment helps attract and retain the most talented employees also makes a good business sense. In an article I found it’s said "Diversity efforts can silence open and honest communication," McLaurin says. "That's bad for both the company and the individual." Misperceptions about different cultures have become stumbling blocks for communication. McLaurin explains that at times non-minority managers want to give constructive criticism but they're afraid someone will accuse them of being racist.
"Handling conflict in a diverse work environment; find the right place and time to air your differences". Black Enterprise. 07 May, 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Five Bases of Power

Chapter 15 discusses the five bases of power social power, as presented by the work of John French and Bertram Raven. The five bases of power are reward, coercive, legitimate, expert, and referent. A person can obtain compliance from another person by exerting these types of social influence, and sometimes people don't even know they are doing it. Knowledge of these types of social influences that lead to power can help one to behave morally or immorally, and can help one to further their progress in an organization. The exertions of these types of power can also be beneficial or hurtful to an organization's objectives, depending on how they are used by an individual to gain power. For example, reward power can be detrimental to the effectiveness of teamwork because a reward system might increase competition among individuals and make others feel left out. The organization of the reward system is crucial in this regard. Another example is coercive power, which can cause an individual to feel manipulated, or simply used as a stepping stone for another's benefit. Each type of social influence leaves a lasting imprint on the relationships between individuals in every organization.

Social power is about influence. "When we're involved with other people (children, bosses, IRS agents) our ability to satisfy our desires (freedom) has a lot to do with how successfully we influence those people or resist their efforts to influence us in ways we don't want." Social power has an effect on how people feel in work settings and job satisfaction. Social power is not only power that comes from formal authority, but also sources which we do not always acknowledge, and has a large effect on how people move through organizations and relate to others. Even those who are not in formal positions can exert social influence and gain a lot of power over relationships and decisions made within an organization.

Atlee, John S. "Democracy: A social power analysis." The Co-Intelligence Institute. 1952. Date Accessed: 06 May 2010.

Kreitner, Robert. Organizational Behavior. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2010.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fueling the fires of change

It's almost appropriate that this, my last blog post of the school year, is being written while listening to "Innocent at Once" by Fat Jon, off his album Repaint Tomorrow. If you aren't listening to him, then click this link and get ready to fire up your music download service, because this guy will change your life.

But enough of this. It's been a great semester... academically, that is. I'm not one for meeting people and making lots of friends. With the summer comes new routines and responsibilities. I'm going to be working more, spending more time hiking (one of my favorite outdoor activities) and spending some time in Santa Cruz with friends. Yes, it's going to be a glorious summer, but before I can start thinking about summer, I want to talk a little about change, because it's all around us. Make sure you're listening to that Fat Jon track as you read this post. It'll help.

I know I'm a lot older than most of my classmates. I'm 24. Yeah, I'm an old-timer. I was born in the 80's, and I'm gearing up to graduate after next semester. We're all going to graduate, and we're all going to start careers. Some of us are going to get married and start families. Some will go on to be titans of industry. Hell, we may have a couple future congressmen in our midst. The point is that change comes at you fast. But the same can also be said for business. It's changing, and it's because of us, and we don't even realize it.

20 years ago, nobody had computers in their home. 15 years ago, the Internet was just sowing the seeds for growth. 10 years ago, cell phones were much less common. A lot has changed in our lifetimes. We are buying and consuming products at a rate unseen in history, and the products we are craving are so new and so unprecedented, that the entire business paradigm has shifted. In ten years, cell phones went from black and white screens, no SMS messaging, and a high price tag to tiny touch-screen devices that cost a couple hundred dollars. The average cell phone is exponentially faster than the ENIAC computer used in the 40's, at the time the most advanced computer on earth.

Why is this important? Because we are the first generation to ever grow up and reach maturity in an environment like this. 50 years ago, everything we take for granted today was science fiction. The Internet has changed the game. Forever.

And that fact, that we grew up in this world- the world of today- makes us valuable. We have a perspective, a worldview, that is so far beyond our counterparts born a mere 20 years before us, that business has no choice but to change to meet us at the gate. There is a lot of change going on in business. It's not happening because people want it to, but because people are beginning to realize that it's necessary. People are demanding more financial disclosure, codes of ethics are becoming more important to the consumer, and employees (especially those in our generation) are beginning to feel that they wield more power in the workplace than ever before. People are beginning to demand more of businesses, and the current economic downturn has brought ethics and organizational behavior to the forefront of consumers' minds. This is truly an exciting time. For us. The businesses are pissed.

Chapter 18 of our book has a section that touches up on this exact point: resistance to change. Companies don't want to change, just like people usually don't like to change. I used to have a problem with drinking and smoking too much weed. I didn't like the idea of changing those behaviors because I enjoyed them, and nobody wants to stop doing something they enjoy. But I ultimately decided that those behaviors won't serve me when I start a career and so I stopped smoking pot and I drink a couple nights a week these days (as opposed to getting hammered every single day). The point is, there is always a modicum of resistance to any kind of change, because it takes us out of our normal rhythm, and superimposes a different kind of routine on top of one we were already familiar and comfortable with.

The book has a whole section of chapter 18 about resistance to change, and all the points made by the book are legitimate and understandable, but there are three that I think are the most important things that contribute to a person's (or organization's) resistance to change. These three things are an individual's predisposition toward change, surprise and fear of the unknown, and disruption of cultural traditions or group relationships.

First off, people don't like change. It's traumatic, requires extra effort, and takes people out of the familiar comfort zone to which they have become accustomed. It comes down to where you, as a person, learned how to handle change. During your formative years, if change was often forced upon you without explanation, chances are that you don't trust change, and that you'd rather feel secure with the familiar. This describes me quite accurately. Many of the changes that I endured as a child were forced on me (not without good reason, mind you). As a result, I have a hard time adjusting to new environments, people, or routines. It's very difficult for me to open up in situations I find unfamiliar. This is a difficult problem for me, but I'm trying to work on it.

This pretty much goes hand in hand with surprise and fear of the unknown. I hate things I don't understand or know intimately. I pride myself on my logical mind and inquisitive nature, but nobody can know everything. Nevertheless, when I can see a change coming on the horizon, and I don't know how it will affect me, I tend to get kind of riled up. Businesses are resisting change for the same reason: they don't know what lies on the other side. Humanity as a whole is scared of things we are incapable of quantifying and measuring. We fear death, for instance, because we have no idea what it feels like. Unlike most changes though, death is inevitable. Nobody wants to die, but everybody gets to. Other changes, on the other hand, are sort of discretionary. Change comes to an organization largely by necessity or a strong feeling that the change will benefit the organization as a whole. those working IN the organization, however, may be scared because they don't understand it.

Lastly, disruption of cultural traditions or group relationships is another thing that people largely want to avoid. If you went to work for a company largely because you heard that the culture was really great, and then you got used to that culture, and then they changed it, you'd be upset. Obviously, this falls into the realm of change killing what's familiar. If you're working with a great team in your office, and then all of a sudden, management reassigns half of you and brings in new people, that could be traumatic and frustrating. At all levels of an organization, people make friends and get accustomed to the overall culture of their position, and when those things change, they will fight tooth and nail to defend it (sometimes).

Change is in the air as we speak. We are transitioning from the semester proper into finals week, which is already difficult enough for many people. We are also moving from the school year to the summer. This is a time of mixed feelings for some. They go home and see all their home-town friends, but they're leaving behind the great ones they met at school. Schoolwork is replaced by internships and working a crappy retail job for enough cash for summer and the coming year.

Change is inevitable. It will happen many times throughout our lives, and a lot of it may actually go unnoticed. If your employer goes from using 30 pound creme stock paper to 80 pound eggshell stock paper, you would probably only notice how much nicer the card stock feels, and it wouldn't affect your life very much; but, if your employer started replacing all the phones in the office with payphones, you'd notice. Oh yeah, you'd notice.

And that's it for the blogging for the semester. Ladies and gentlemen, good night and good luck.