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David Baker Case - Organizational Behaviour

In: Business and Management

Submitted By KudrigY
Words 1934
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Client: David Baker - the leader of a task force created to investigate the sales forecasting procedures at Acton-Burnett (‘the Company’)
Problem: Baker’s team has been unable to deliver results expected by all the stakeholders
Root causes: Although some external root causes (environment) were present, such as fluctuating gold prices and recession that led to the Company's wide crisis, most of the root causes were internal, stemming from the Organization and David Baker’s behavior and abilities (Client).
Organization root causes out of David Baker’s control:
Several critical root causes were due to erroneous decisions made by Ryan and Keene (‘the sponsors’) in the team design. Based on the ‘Team Effectiveness Model’ (Team Effectiveness Model) one of the key elements is the Team Design that should respond to the proper Task Characteristics (in the analyzed situation requiring cross-division experience and knowledge), Team Size (in this case 8 people – size of the team could be smaller to allow better coordination of tasks and outcomes) and Team Composition. Ryan and Keene decided to assign a young person – David Baker - with limited experience to lead the team of people at different ages, from various divisions and with different level of experience within the Organization. David had limited formal authority over the other team members and he faced challenges in building Informal Leadership because of his age and short experience within the Company. He either did not know some of the team members well (e.g. the three Product Managers) or he had some negative experience working with one of them in the past (e.g. Steve Eldredge).
The task force members were selected by the sponsors regardless of their competencies as the team members (missing five C’s of Team Member Competency). Sponsors wanted to avoid conflicts with Market Managers.
Several key people in the Organization (i.e. Market Managers) were not selected under the assumption they might be against the additional workload, despite they should be among the most motivated employees to receive accurate inputs and produce better forecasts.
The aforementioned decisions resulted in a task force consisting of a leader with insufficient ability to lead, little empowerment and authority over the task force members, who were internally conflicting with their formal roles in the Organization.
Root causes under David Baker’s control:
In accordance with MARS Model, David Baker’s motivation to lead the team was positive.
He felt that the group has been making enough progress by certain point in time however in the process of preparation for the presentation of results, he showed:
- Low ability to act as a team leader as he has not kept control over the group’s work and he has completely lost control over the outcome of their work i.e. report prepared by Bowe that was unrevealed to people outside of the task force (Eldredge and his boss) due to Baker’s lack of diligence to hinder access of unauthorized persons to the report.
- Wrong role perception as he did not have a clear understanding of his and the team’s specific roles and responsibilities, how to behave to perform task and what should be a priority.
- Situational factors clearly constrained his effort even further (e.g. wrong team composition mentioned above, but also lack of his true empowerment and influence over the team).
Baker did not establish Formal Organization within the team to support the Informal Organization (System Thinking Theory) that has developed after the team’s cooperation started (team was split into sub-groups at its first meeting). The team’s kick-off meeting was ineffective because Baker did not provide clear instructions of what was expected from the team and what was his vision to achieve the goal. The tasks and timeframe were not clearly defined and assigned to the sub teams by Baker. Protocols of cooperation and communication were not set.
Baker was unable to develop team identity, motivate and engage the team members as well as to enforce the Team Processes:
- He did not set clearly Team Norms i.e. behavioral rules at the beginning of cooperation among the team members (e.g.: Organizational Citizenship Behavior).
- He did not take actions to ensure Team Cohesiveness by neglecting Eldridge detachment from the other team members. The team members were not feeling the need to protect each other from failure (he failed to build Team’s Trust).
- He did not emphasize the Superordinate Goal (cross-divisional) and did not motivate the team members towards it.
Conflicts were rising from the interdependency of tasks assigned to team members coming from different divisions, pursuing different and conflicting goals. Taking into account the organizational approach to conflict resolution, Baker did not reduce differentiation and did not manage to improve communication within the team to build cohesive and effective team. Baker did not even try to anticipate and solve conflicts. He did not apply problem solving approach, he handled with the conflict by yielding to satisfy Bowe's need to maintain a good relationship with his colleagues.
Baker did not establish an information sharing / communication protocol and meaningful interaction between team members e.g. through more frequent team meetings, reporting, task force confrontation and discussions, informal meetings personal contacts over e-mail, phone, etc.
Work of sub-teams was not structured well to allow consistence and cooperation with each other. Eldredge from one side and Schraff and Bowe from the other side were assigned to separate sub-teams dealing with problems affecting the same division (it was not taken into consideration that the inputs provided by the Sales Division to the Marketing Managers depend on the Regional Sales Manager contribution). Product Managers were included in the same sub-team and were involved in examining possible issues in forecasting process of their own division which resulted in their possible exposure to conflict of interest with their supervisors i.e. Market Managers.
Baker had a wrong perception of the other team members. He was missing Emotional Intelligence, awareness of the others’ emotions, needs and motivation. He did not react to a conflict of different and interdependent interests between Bowe and Eldredge. Both were motivated to be loyal towards their formal supervisors rather than to the team.
Baker did not react on the statement of Eldredge regarding his concern that the regional Sales Managers were hiding information from him. Eldredge did not get any feedback nor support in gathering data. Later it turned out that Bowe could support him in this process. Baker did not build proper relationship with Eldredge. Baker was directed by his emotions triggered in the past and unconsciously approached Eldredge in a negative way. Baker did not focus on relevant, current and concrete factors that Eldredge presented to him.
Baker did not organize properly the final presentation. He allowed key team members to prepare and present their results in an uncoordinated and not fully crosschecked way. The preparatory meeting was clearly not sufficient to “go on action”.
The perspective of the Market Managers was not considered. During the meeting, their subordinates (three Product Managers) had to analyse, explain drawbacks as well as commit and defend the task force results against their superiors. Baker’s behavior and the team composition caused the relationship conflict between the Market and Product Managers.
The conflict escalated at cross-divisional level. Eldredge inform his boss about the finding of the Bowe’s report which was agreed to be confidential. Baker did not secure the Bowe’s confidential report.
Solutions that should have been adopted by David Baker:
Before current situation (retrospective):
1. Given the fact Baker was unable to change the team composition, he should have sought more empowerment and formal authority from Ryan. Ryan should at least have been invited to the kick-off meeting, clearly stating the role of Baker and the goals of the team.
2. Baker should have reflected upon his skills (self-efficacy), sought help and support from people experienced in this type of work, or even educate himself a bit in project management.
3. He should have reported the progress or lack of it to Ryan and Keene (to escalate the empowerment) before the presentation took place.
4. After the first meeting, Baker should have documented and later confirmed with Ryan and Keene and the team members: goal to achieve, indicators, expected results of their work, division of tasks, procedures, methods, timetable and deadlines.
5. Baker should have asked the Market Managers to validate the input provided by the Product Managers to the Task Force.
6. He should have focused on effective team behavior, reducing differentiation and focusing on work coordination, regular communication/information sharing, conflict resolution and effective information exchange between the team members, which was crucial for interdependent tasks (Reciprocal Interdependence).
7. Baker should have had a more active role in the Team Development Process, especially in the norming stage. At that time, he should have enforced clear team norms leading towards a subsequent cohesiveness.
8. He should have adopted a situation based approach including directive and participative style of leadership while he was only participative.
9. Baker should have organized team meetings regularly, improving communication in the team and facilitating the sharing of the findings between the team members.
10. Baker should have put more focus on handling the task (re-examine the forecasting sales procedures of the Company) instead of the preparation of the presentation itself. He should have anticipated the reaction of the audience and prepared them for the findings prior to the presentation session.
11. Baker should have adopted a problem solving approach by redirecting conflicted team members towards a superordinate goal (the need to identify the weaknesses of the whole Company’s procedure for forecasting sales).
12. Baker should have postponed the whole presentation session until Bowe would have communicated the results of the report on the Sales Division inputs to his boss in order to provide a complete and agreed presentation of the analysis carried out.
Solution to be adopted now:
Baker should meet with his team prior to the second part of the presentation, illustrating his intentions for the incoming presentation session. During the presentation, he should lead the discussion, adopting a compromising approach to solve the conflicts. He should refer to some shared responsibilities between Divisions: a sum of several individual mistakes that affected considerable the Company’s procedure for forecasting sales.
Example of Actions (reference to the solution to be adopted now):
Baker should call for a Task Force briefing at 2.30 p.m., before to restart the meeting presentation at 3 p.m. and explain the way out as follows:
• What is the content of the Bowe’s report. Inform them that it is not confidential anymore and that the findings of the report will be presented in full.
• He will take the responsibility and lead the presentation clarifying the responsibilities and adopting full transparency on findings since the beginning.
• To avoid further conflicts, he will show that all Divisions made minor mistakes with an equal distribution of responsibilities between different persons (shared responsibilities = mutual gain for everyone = equity theory) and how the sum of those mistakes affected considerably the whole Company’s procedure for forecasting sales. Specifically:
- Macro-economy forecasting Division missed to consider properly how the Congress decision was going to influence the market.
- Sales Division provided a wrong input to the Marketing Division due to the behaviour of Regional Sales Managers.
- Marketing Division could improve the forecast according to what was presented by Cassis in the morning.
• The Company’s procedures for forecasting sales may be improved by enhancing coordination between the Manufacture Division and the Sales Division. An analysis on the possibilities to improve delivery without increasing inventory might be carried out as the next assignment.…...

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