Foresight Systems. Case Study

Executive Summary

Foresight Systems is one of the fastest-growing companies in Melbourne, Australia. It deals with the development of an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) which is a computer networking system whose quantity and speed of information delivery cannot be compared to any other. Accordingly, this has created great demand for the product. This has been attributed to their rapid growth. However, the organization is experiencing challenges that are leading to a high employee turnover despite the prestigious salary. Conflicts, lack of motivation creativity and even coordination within the different departments seem to be the order of the day in this organization. The most probable cause could be poor leadership that is not addressing employee complains and plights. In addition, communication breakdown can result in such a working environment.

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This report therefore addresses the likely major problems which are employee motivation and inadequate leadership skills. As a recommendation, intensive leadership training would be the most appropriate solution for the organization. Consequently, the report has outlined a training program that should be implemented by the organization in order to help the leaders attain the relevant training skills.

Problem identification and analysis

Successful as it might look, Foresight Systems shows signs of internal problems. The employees’ characters portray some disconnections which result from these problems. What problems are present and how are they evidenced by the employees?

Internal competition

From the case study provided, Foresight Systems is experiencing internal competition. The evidence of this can be seen from symptoms like quarreling for excellence of each employee’s ideas. For example, Sanjaya Chouchury and Matt Scott tend to engage in heated arguments about whose ideas should be implemented concerning the features of the software being developed for Ford. In another case, Susan Moore who is a trainee systems developer comes up with ideas of how the code writing systems could be improved and hands the proposal to Matt. After several weeks of silence, Moore finds her ideas being incorporated into the procedure by the Clients Services Operations. This causes a rift between her and Matt. She feels that she should have been given credit for her excellent ideas. On his part, Matt doesn’t want to acknowledge the efforts of his junior employees. He wants to be seen as the developer of the great ideas. This causes personal competition within.

Birkinshaw and Lingblad (2001, p. 15) argue that decentralization of decision making, marginal cost of duplication and environmental uncertainty form the major components of an organization that could lead to the development or termination of internal competition within an organization. This shows that with appropriate management of these three factors, internal competition could be eliminated. Accordingly, Foresight Systems has shown a weakness in one of these areas. According to the study, decentralization of decision-making gives room for the development of internal competition. Equally, this company has allowed some of its managers like Matt to make final decisions that do not reflect the company’s position. To be precise, John Anderson is not very much aware of the decisions being made by Matt until he decides to get to the root of the problem.

Lack of Coordination

While the good functioning of a company depends on coordination of the different departments, Foresight Systems seems to have failed in this organizational process. There is great evidence of disjointed activities between different departments. Furthermore, employees within the department have also shown signs of disunity. All this has been caused by broken communication. Matt has formed a barrier that happens to act as an impediment to communication flow between the different departments. The head of clients’ Services Operations, Chouchury seems to be in a constant disagreement with Matt, employees in other departments cannot approach Matt due to fear and yet they are not allowed to face any other person before they have gone through him.

This causes a big problem in the well functioning of any organization. Without communication, coordination between the different departments would be a pipe dream. As Forster (2009, p. 101) points out, communication acts as the “lubricating oil’ or the ‘lifeblood of any organization. Without lifeblood, nothing consequential can be achieved within an organization. Interpersonal communication is the key to success. Members within the organization must learn to listen to the views of others because nobody is such intelligent that he cannot make a mistake at some point (McNamara, 2008, par. 6).

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Lack of Motivation and Empowerment

Motivation is always directly proportional to employee productivity. Without motivation, employees cannot perform to their maximum. As a result, an organization that fails to offer motivation to its employees completely hampers its success. Accordingly, operations at Foresight Systems are affected by this problem. When three employees approach Matt to complain about the intensity of work they were handling and how often they have had to stay overtime, no action was taken. According to Matt, this was a matter of having “unreal expectations.” He tells them that they were lucky to be working in an organization that pays them handsomely in comparison to what other organizations were offering their employees. Therefore, they had to work for their pay. Despite their efforts, Matt does not thank his employees. He fails to acknowledge exemplary performances. Instead, he is quick to point out mistakes in case an employee commits them. This lack of recognition and acknowledgment had resulted in George and Michael’s decision to abandon their projects that were meant to improve the code writing systems. The rate of employee turnover is another indication of lack of motivation. This is evident in the case at Foresight Systems.

However, does employee motivation and empowerment have any implication on the success of the business organization? In their analysis of employee motivation, Forster (2009, p. 165) and Aldrich (1979, p. 32) argue that with high employee motivation, the workers’ performance improves as employees do their best. Job enjoyment is also evident in an environment where the employees are motivated. He further points out that employees work diligently and show more commitment to their employers. On the contrary, demotivated workers show signs of indecisiveness, underperformance and are usually unhappy. To ascertain the evidence of these suppositions, he quotes Carlopio et al who point out that a work environment that is motivated is “… alive, energetic, co-operative, flexible and fun to work in. A de-motivated workplace is immediately experienced as sullen and apathetic, is full of conflict, is characterized by absenteeism and lowered productivity, and is unpleasant to work in” (p. 165).

These characteristics are present in Foresight Systems. The workers are demotivated as characterized by those who resign and those who ask for transfers, involved in conflicts as characterized by Chouchury and Matt, unpleasant working environment as characterized by Bill who finds Matt to be doubtful of his capability and lowered productivity as expressed by George and Michael who prefer not to continue with their projects because they feel that nothing extra is worth. This means that they could have performed much better only, they didn’t feel the importance of an extra effort.

Lack of Leadership skills

Administrative skills are essential for the day to day running of a business organization. A skilled manager will always make decisions concerning his work and his employees without causing conflicts and strife. While his decisions are supposed to champion for the interest of the organization, they are also supposed to consider the welfare of the employees. At Foresight Systems, Matt is promoted to a managerial position because he is found to possess good computer knowledge after a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in computer science. This implicates positively on the on the quality of the job in his department. However, the lack of leadership skills becomes an impediment in the development within the department and also the coordination between the different departments. In addition, Matt’s limited leadership skills make him impose excessive supervision on his subordinates. This makes them feel like they are not trusted and hence work with a reduced morale. In addition, the failure of Matt’s leadership skills makes him fail to understand the role of motivation, how motivation can be acquired, and the role of communication in an organization. This has acted as the major source of conflicts within Foresight Systems.

Forster (2009, p. 22) identifies a neat difference between a leader and a manager. In his definition, he points out that a manager is a person who would be more concerned with how a task could be cleared in the quickest time possible and with the greatest efficiency. On his part, a leader will identify other factors that would act as drawbacks to the efficient and quick completion of the task. In addition, managers have a tendency of wanting the employees to accomplish a task there and then irrespective of the surrounding circumstances. On their part, leaders look beyond now and within. They contemplate relevant changes that would help facilitate the efficiency of the employee not just at that point but also in other tasks in the future. Finally, he argues that while managers emphasize control and performance monitoring, leaders are concerned with the development of ways through which the performance of the employees can be improved and enhanced (Hayes & Wheelwright, 1988, p. 56).

From the given definitions by Forster, it is evident that Matt has all qualities of a good manager. However, he falls short of a good leader. But is leadership important to the development of an organization? (Utterback, 1994, p. 41) purports that the leader plays a very important role. The leader is usually the mentor and motivator, he is the goal setter and the coach of the organization, he is the stirrer of creativity and innovation, and he is the interpreter of rules and practices which are important for the success of the organization. It is therefore important that an organization develops its managers into leaders so as to achieve sustainable success. Unfortunately, Matt plays very few of these roles. In fact, he is a complete opposite in some roles. He does not act as a mentor neither does he act as a motivator. Instead of motivating, he stifles innovation and creativity as evidenced by the case of Susan, George, and Michael.

Statement of Major Problems

Mentioned above are several problems that afflict the growth of Foresight Systems. These are problems that have led the boss, Anderson to find the need for a solution that would lead to a better working environment and reduced employee turnover. However, two problems happen to be the major contributors to the turmoil in the organization. The two main problems are inadequate leadership skills and lack of employee motivation and empowerment. Most of the other minor problems stem from these two. For instance, poor leadership skills lead to lack of coordination and also internal motivation. On their part, lack of employee motivation and empowerment has resulted in high employee turnover and low productivity by the employees. Solution to these two main problems will thus result in great positive change within the organization.

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Evaluation of Alternative Solutions

There are several solutions that can be identified for these drawbacks. If well implemented, very limited conflicts shall be witnessed at Foresight Systems.

Employee motivation

To solve these problems employees’ plight must be addressed. One of the causes of employee demotivation has been identified to be a lack of acknowledgment and appreciation of good ideas and also quick pointing out of mistakes. Secondly, employees have been demotivated because of lack of growth and personal development within the organization. To solve this, the management will have to ensure that development chances are developed within the organization. Employees should be given opportunity to grow career-wise. This can be done by offering leadership development and also giving employees decision-making power. This is essential for their motivation.

This method has advantages in that employees, being human beings, would want to grow and have leadership positions. Naturally, identifying open chances of growth would not only make them work hard for these positions, but also retain them within the organization. However, this method has a drawback. It would mean an increase in expenditure. The organization will spend more money in comparison as it tries to meet the financial obligations of the new leadership positions.

Secondly, employee plights should be addressed adequately. They should be appreciated and whenever they come up with a good idea, it should be acknowledged. This will be important because it will offer them a chance to work hard so that they come up with new ideas. To be precise, it will improve their creativity and innovation strings. This can be done by the development of an employee complaints department whose role will be to listen to the employee plights analyze the situation, make recommendations and forward the recommendations to the relevant persons.

This approach has an advantage in that employees will feel part of the organization if they talk and they feel that they are heard. This will also improve the condition of the working environment and a more energetic and vibrant atmosphere will be developed. However, this alternative can result in an overlap that will be a waste of organizational resources and time. This is because the same can be tackled from leadership reforms. If leadership is reformed, employee plight will automatically be solved.

Inadequate Leadership Skills

This is the most important part whose reforms will impact all the identified problems. There are a few alternatives to this problem though. To begin with, there can be a total overhaul of managers whose reputation has been deemed wanting. For example, Matt seems to have a problem with his department and even other departments. He could be sacked and replaced by another person who will be able to handle the employees in that department and also facilitate communication with other departments.

The advantage of using this alternative is that Matt who is viewed by most of the employees negatively will not be there to terrorize them. However, this approach poses a disadvantage in that sacking Matt could mean losing one of the very determined, hardworking and experienced members of staff.

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Because leaders are made and not born, leadership skills training program could be launched in the organization so that managers who are short of leadership skills are molded into good leaders. This method is very effective. This is its main advantage. Also, the organization will not lose its experienced members. However, this method has its own disadvantages. Unfolding this program would be very costly to the organization.

Recommendations

Considering the various alternatives, one of them stands out as appropriate in the solving of Foresight Systems’ internal problems. This alternative includes leadership training.

The management should organize a leadership training program that will allow current managers in the organization to be imparted with adequate leadership skills. While this program is rolled, the organization should be considering reforms in the organization structure that will allow for growth and career development for the employees. Why are these alternatives deemed important?

Forster (2009, p. 509) argues that good leaders do not just pay lip service to the old cliché that “people are the most important asset of the organization.” What Foresight Systems need is leadership that will address the plight of the employees. For example, the leadership that would recognize the employees’ need for recognition and appreciation, their need for growth and personal development, their need for autonomy and powers to decision making, leadership that acknowledges the importance of communication – both horizontal, top-down communication and bottom-up communication models. With this in place, Foresight Systems will start functioning smoothly. But how does leadership learning influence this? Forster clarifies the importance of learning in the development of the above characteristics in leaders.

According to Forster (2009, p. 28), the part of the brain that is responsible for self-awareness and regulation, empathy and social skills is the Amygdala. This part is important for emotional stimuli processing, emotional memory storage and is responsible for the regulation of fight-flight human response. Full development of the amygdala enables an individual to be emotionally intelligent, good at managing interpersonal relationships and building influence networks. The people then become outgoing, self-confident, desire to be involved with other people and hence serve with a passion for work and not for status and money. The good news is that the development of amygdala is promoted through “learning, practice and feedback.” This points out that Matt and other leaders’ leadership skills could be promoted by the development and the amygdala. This therefore calls for learning opportunities for the leaders so that they can be imparted with the relevant skills of which they will put into practice and provide feedback that will eventually lead to the development of the amygdala.

Implementation

To implement this program, the management will have to be involved intensively. Firstly, Anderson, as the head of the organization will have to take the responsibility of inserting into the company program a training session for leadership. This should be a continuous process that will facilitate application of the learned skills by the leaders. Consequently, a continuous program will offer an opportunity for feedback. Gradually, the leaders will develop their amygdala which will consequently develop their leadership skills. With the skills developed, all other problems including employee motivation will be solved. The following is a proposed program for Leadership training. It has been arranged to be held after every three months. Owing to the fact that a good business addresses the environmental changes within and without the organization, the programs will continue to be held while addressing newer challenges that the organization will be faced with. The costs mentioned include allowances for the five managers, payment of Olive & Olive Business Consultants, refreshments and hiring of teaching material.

Program Facilitator Date Venue Cost
General leadership Olive & Olive Business Consultants Mon 11th, Jan, 2010 to Friday 16th, Jan, 2010 Office Board room $ 1, 750
Communication and employee motivation training program Olive & Olive Business Consultants Mon 6th, April 2010 to Friday 10th, April, 2010 Office Board room $ 1,800
Managing power, politics, and conflict Olive & Olive Business Consultants Mon 5th, July 2009 to Friday 10th, July 2009. Office Board room $ 2,000

Reference

Aldrich, H. (1979). Organizations and Environments. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Birkinshaw, J. and Lingbald, M. (2001). An evolutionary theory of intra-organizational competition. Academy of Management Meeting. 2009. Web.

Forster, N. (2009). Maximum Performance: A practicle guide to leading and managing people at work. Cheltenham: Edward Edgar.

Hayes, R. H., Wheelwright, S. C. & Clark, K. (1988). Dynamic Manufacturing: Creating the Learning Organization. New York: Free Press.

McNamara, C. (2008). Basics in internal organizational communications. Free Management Library. Web.

Utterback, J. (1994). Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School.

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