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Conflict, Decision Making, and Organizational Design Essay

1. Discuss how you could apply negotiation strategies to address potential conflicts in the workplace. The primary focus at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is patient/Veteran care and establishing new Veteran enrollees. This is done by direct marketing among other forms of outreach. For VA, negotiation will be important in not only establishing a new enrollee, but keeping that enrollee as well. According to Hellriegel and Slocum, integrative negotiations are used to “achieve results that benefit both parties” (2011, p.397). By consistently explaining and showing Veterans the benefits, they gain by maintaining their health care through VA, and how the outcome will benefit them, VA will continue to receive the federal funding to continue sustained operations for the coming years.

According to Hellriegel and Slocum in order for integrative negotiations to be successful, VA should follow these principles:

* Separate the people from the problem- VA’s staff must not allow their personal issues with Veterans to interfere with the negotiation process instead focus on the issue at hand.

* Focus on interests, not positions – Understand the needs and interests of the clients instead of being concerned about title.

* Invent options for mutual gains- This is where creative decision making comes into play. By presenting the client with several alternatives to meet their needs, Winston has a better chance of finding one that the client finds appealing.

* Insist on using objective criteria – When dealing with marketing, it is imperative that goals are measurable and obtainable.

2. Determine how evidence-based management could be applied to the work environment you researched. Evidence-based management is defined by Hellriegel and Slocum as “the premise that using a better, deeper diagnosis and employing facts to the extent possible enable managers and leaders to do their jobs better” (2011, p.425). Hellriegel and Slocum also outline five diagnostic questions to be used to help leaders avoid “simpleminded quick fixes” (2011, p.425) which address how assumptions are used, if the assumptions are reasonable, and what alternatives could address the same issue more consistently. At Winston there are a few areas where evidence-based management could apply, specifically human resources and scheduling.

The human resource department at Winston is responsible for recruiting talent and developing training. Both these tasks are found in almost all organizations, therefore extensive data about how to best approach them is available. In such an instance, utilizing tried and true techniques for evaluating prospective employees and training them to properly do their job saves Winston time and money because they do not have to risk failure trying to develop their own techniques. Scheduling is also an area where there is extensive data that supports how to properly schedule employees to ensure that all client goals are met in the predetermine time frame. In fact, scheduling is one of the major components of Operations Management.

3. Analyze the blocks, stages, and methods of creative decision making to determine the best approach the employer you researched should follow when making managerial decisions. The very nature of the business at Winston lends itself to creative decision making since all the tasks involve the use of some form of creativity. From packaging design to visual stylists, the team at Winston is constantly using their creativity to meet client expectations. As a result of the artistic environment, using creativity when making managerial decisions comes naturally at Winston. There are several blocks, stages and methods of creative decision making yet only one approach would work the best at Winston, Osborn’s Creativity Process.

Creative decision making involves several things, but before beginning the process it is important to recognize the blocks that can it from working properly. Perceptual blocks happen when one does not interpret a problem correctly based on a limited scope of understanding. When applied to the type of work done at Winston this can happen if an Account Manager incorrectly stereotypes the target demographic based on their personal experiences. Cultural blocks happen when one has a desire to conform to societal norms, avoid conflict, be practical, and believe that open-ended exploration is a waste of time (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p. 431). The staff at Winston must not be held back by cultural blocks because often the brands they work for are being marketed to an extremely diverse customer base with no clearly defined culture. In fact, part of what Winston does is create the brand’s culture so that like-minded individuals feel a sense of connection and will purchase the products.

The final block, emotional, is most often seen as the presence of fear. Whether it is fear of failure, fear of others, or fear of making a mistake this emotion is a strong deterrent to the creative process. According to Hellriegel and Slocum, “For many organizations, fostering creativity and innovation is essential to their ability to offer high-quality products and services” (2011, p. 432). For Winston’s continued success, creativity and innovation must occur with every client on a consistent basis or they will lose business.

For a brand to stand out in the increasingly crowded retail environment, their marketing efforts must be memorable and identifiable. This holds especially true when Winston designs the space a client will occupy in a brick-and-mortar retailer where brands are often thrown together based on functionality. If the space looks like something that has already been done, chances are customers will overlook it and go for something else that catches their eye.

Once the three blocks are addressed, the creative process can begin. There are five stages to the creative process that are similar to the phases that are a part of Osborn’s creativity process. The first and second stages of the creative process, preparation and concentration, is similar to Osborn’s first phase, fact-finding. All three focus on identifying/defining and investigating the issue or problem. It is important to note that identifying the problem must be followed by “gathering and analyzing relevant data” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p 434) so that there is a solid base to build upon during the following stages/phases. For Winston this may mean discovering that a problem with accessibility and visibility, not the product itself, are the reasons why buyers were not interested in a particular brand at a trade show (supported by sales data). The team at Winston can then use pictures and diagrams of the last trade show booth and layout to create new designs for the next one during the incubation stage or idea-finding phase.

The incubation stage is the third of five stages in the creative process and is similar to the idea-finding phase of Osborn’s creativity process. During this stage/phase, management brainstorms alternative solutions to the problem or issue identified in the previous stage/phase. In order to come up with the best solution possible, no idea should be rejected during this stage and team members should let their imaginations run wild since this is the perfect opportunity to be innovative and separate the client’s brand from competitors. This stage/phase is the most important to a creative services firm such as Winston because the generation of several ideas gives the Account Manager several options to pitch to the client. With a variety of options it is more likely that the client will find one they like and decide to do business with Winston instead of another firm.

The fourth stage in the creative process is the illumination stage which “is the moment of discovery” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p.432). Similarly, Osborn’s creativity process has the solution-finding phase which involves generating and evaluating possible courses of action and deciding how they should be implemented (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p.435). During this stage management must come to a consensus about which of the ideas generated during the previous stage/phase would best address the problem or issue identified at the beginning of the process. At Winston this would mean narrowing down the ideas generated to the top two or three, pitching them to the client, and then working with the client to implement the one chosen.

Verification, the final creative stage, has no counterpart in Osborn’s creativity process. According to Hellriegel and Slocum, this stage “involves the testing of the created solution or idea” (2011, p. 432). At Winston this may mean building a small version the revamped trade show booth and using it at a few minor shows as a test run before unveiling it at the industries larger trade shows such as WWD MAGIC in Las Vegas. Testing is important because it allows the kinks to be worked out before producing something on a large scale which could mean a huge financial loss if done improperly.

Although there are other creative decision making methods, Osborn’s creativity process works best for Winston because it is straight-forward and simple to execute. The other models of creative decision making are electronic brainstorming and De Bono’s lateral thinking. Electronic brainstorming is also not a good option for Winston because the software required to correctly utilize this method is an expense that such a small firm cannot afford when trying to keep their prices competitive. Also, the artistic aspect of the work done at Winston is best collaborated on in-person so that drawings and models can be seen by all involved. De Bono’s lateral thinking method involves the usage of techniques such as analogy, cross-fertilization, and reversal. This method is not the best for Winston because the techniques used to foster the development of new ideas are not feasible for the type of work done at Winston.

For instance, the cross-fertilization technique requires the use of outside experts from other fields which means additional expenses that a small firm such as Winston may not be able to afford. The analogy technique requires specific and concrete analogies, whereas the nature of the messages and work done by Winston are abstract. Finally the reversal technique “involves examining a problem by turning it completely around, inside out, or upside down” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p. 433). This is the one technique that may work for Winston, but it is a more complex process than Osborn’s and therefore harder to follow.

4. Discuss the environmental and strategic factors that affect the organizational design of the company you researched. Winston utilizes a decentralized network design to ensure efficiency and profitability. According to Hellriegel and Slocum, “Decentralization is the delegation of authority to lower level employees or departments” (2011, p.460). Decentralization relies upon upper management delegating certain tasks which allow lower level employees to make decisions within predetermined constraints. For instance, Winston’s field merchandisers often need to make changes to their schedules. There are a number of Staffing Managers who are able to review and approve these changes, thus allowing the Senior Manager of Staffing and Analysis to focus on more important tasks.

Winston’s horizontal organizational design type is a network. “Organizational design is the process of selecting a structure for the tasks, responsibilities, and authority relationships within an organization” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p.446). In the case of Winston, although there are two main offices, New York and San Francisco, a large portion of the work is done by independent contractors throughout the nation in the field. According to Hellriegel and Slocum this is a network design, meaning an organizations “subcontracts some or many of its operations to other firms and coordinates them to accomplish specific goals” (2011, p. 467). There are several environmental factors that affect organizational design including suppliers, distributors, competitors, and customers (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011, p448).

The first environmental factor to be considered when developing an organizational design is suppliers. Although Winston does not use raw materials to create a product, they still need suppliers to provide office goods and technology. Office goods are used at Winston for basic needs such as printing, taking notes, etc., but also for industry specific tasks such as preparing storyboards and interior space design drawings necessary to acquire and service clients. Technology suppliers are needed for things such as phone and internet service as well as cell phones, analytical software, and computers. As a mid-sized company, Winston must ensure that they work with suppliers that are not only reliable, but also cost-efficient. To guarantee a streamlined ordering process, Winston employs a full-time Purchaser whose sole task is to negotiate with and order from suppliers.

The second environmental factor that affects organizational design is distributors. Hellriegel and Slocum define distributors as “the various organizations that help other organizations deliver and sell its products” (2011, p.449). As a provider of a service, Winston has a small distribution channel in terms of tangible goods, but a large one in terms of intangible service providers.

To deliver materials such as tags, name badges and other marketing goods to their network of field merchandisers Winston has a business account with FedEx. Within the organization the Account Managers are responsible for getting material to their subordinates get in a timely manner so that goals are met in the required timeframe. On the intangible side, Winston’s nation-wide network of independent contractors is responsible for delivering the in-store services that clients rely upon Winston to deliver.

Competitors are the third environmental factor to be considered when determining organization design. Hellriegel and Slocum wrote, “Competitors can also influence the design of an organization because they drive the organization to become more productive” (2011, p.449). As a mid-sized company, Winston must work extremely hard to ensure they remain cost competitive against larger retail marketing firms. To do so, Winston needs to utilize a design that is “simple and easy to manage” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 201, p. 449). One way major way Winston does this is by keeping their employee count low. Account Managers handle several accounts at once, decreasing the need for a large number of employees on this level. Also Winston uses part-time independent contractors in the field instead of full-time staff to make the payroll process simpler as it does not include tax or benefit deductions.

The final environmental factor that influences organizational design is customers. At Winston the customers are the retail companies that hire them to do a wide variety of marketing tasks such as merchandising, brand promotions, environmental design, etc. To develop and maintain accounts with valuable clients and remain competitive, Winston offers personalized services with an eye for detail. As mentioned in paragraphs above, Winston works hard to ensure that overhead remains low so that they can offer competitive pricing.

References

Hellriegel, D., & Slocum, J. W., Jr. (2011). Organizational behavior: 2011 custom edition (13th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Krivis, J. (2006). Can we call a truce? Ten tips for negotiating workplace conflicts. Employment Relations Today (Wiley), 33(3), 31-35. doi:10.1002/ert.20115

Supplier Relationships.(2012). Retrieved September 7, 2012 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/term/82658.html


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