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Past Papers - Examiner's Solutions

December 2010
Essay Questions
Essay 1 Your organisation has gone through a period of downsizing following the global credit crunch. The organisation is still profit-making, but a recent and extensive consultancy report has identified that employee engagement has reached a very low point. You have been asked by the corporate Board to identify actions that managers can take to address this issue. What would you advise that managers can do to enhance work-related attitudes? (60 marks)

Essay 1
Your organisation has gone through a period of downsizing following the global credit crunch. The organisation is still profit-making, but a recent and extensive consultancy report has identified that employee engagement has reached a very low point. You have been asked by the corporate Board to identify actions that managers can take to address this issue. What would you advise that managers can do to enhance work-related attitudes? (60 marks) The three key concepts on work related attitudes are Job Satisfaction (JS), Organisational Commitment (OC) and Job Involvement (JI). JS is a pivotal construct that includes facets of work, rewards (extrinsic and intrinsic), attitudes of fellow workers, supervision and promotion. The fact that the company has gone through change including downsizing and de-layering indicates that JS will have been affected by these changes. Downsizing usually involves changes in work load, inevitably results in changes in personnel, and cuts down possible career options through a flattened structure. For the individual, the determinants of JS are years in career and expectations, the latter being effected by downsizing/de-layering. The organisational determinants of JS are supervision (reducing through downsizing/de-layering), job challenge (possibly increasing), job clarity and incentives (including, of course, the idea that people look for equity in pay). There is an indirect link between performance and JS with rewards being a mediating function. It is not clear that the company is regularly measuring JS currently and there are methods available that can be adopted, such as the Job Description Index and the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire. Once measurement has taken place, the key actions to encourage greater engagement are: Communicating clearly how people can achieve promotion with a possible refocusing on job enlargement or involving additional job challenge through alternative progression structures like career changes. Careful design of rewards systems to ensure that these are being perceived as equitable alongside a wider understanding that rewards need not always be about money are important. Through downsizing and de-layering, the role of supervision is likely to have changed especially if selfdirected teams have been introduced and the consequences of this need to be clearly communicated to staff, possibly through training. OC and JI are two other work-related attitudes that have been more recently researched. OC is about employees buying into organisational objectives, a willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the company and a desire to remain part of the organisation. Employees with OC will be ambassadors for the

Organisational Behaviour Edinburgh Business School

Past Papers - Examiner's Solutions / December 2010

organisation and defend its reputation. OC is different from JS because it involves a wider perspective going beyond the job to the whole organisation. JI is about how much an employee identifies with his/her job, active participation in the job and is a key element of how the individual identifies their selfworth. JI is less at risk from the effects of downsizing/de-layering because the attitude is tied to the individual job rather than organisational factors. The Board is not clear what the current position is and there is, therefore, a need to collect data to diagnose what the problem actually is; Defining clear promotion paths, equitable reward structures (both extrinsic and intrinsic), and having clear roles, especially for supervisors, are practical methods for ensuring that individual expectations lead to JS; For OC and JI managers need to: Demonstrate that they care for employees; Create opportunities for people to achieve personal goals; Modify jobs through job design and enlargement to increase opportunities for intrinsic rewards; Find ways to reward people regularly and equitably; Set goals including both organisational and personal development issues that are meaningful to employees. Essay 2 As part of the team-briefing system in operation in your company, your team of highly qualified technical managers have said that they are disillusioned by the organisational approach to managing conflict in the work-place. Currently, they feel that senior managers ignore conflict as an issue and imply that it does not impact on the delivery of key objectives. Your senior manager has given you permission to trial a different way of working with conflict. From your understanding of OB, what would you do? (60 marks)

Essay 2
As part of the team-briefing system in operation in your company, your team of highly qualified technical managers have said that they are disillusioned by the organisational approach to managing conflict in the work-place. Currently, they feel that senior managers ignore conflict as an issue and imply that it does not impact on the delivery of key objectives. Your senior manager has given you permission to trial a different way of working with conflict. From your understanding of OB, what would you do? (60 marks) Conflict can be dealt with in a number of ways, each of which are appropriate depending on the circumstances. Avoiding conflict, often seen as having negative connotations, can be seen as a passive ignoring of conflict that much research would suggest is detrimental to achieving high performance. It is, however, appropriate when the conflict is trivial and there is no chance of change, or when dealing with the conflict would be too disruptive, or when there is a need for a breathing space, or when gathering information is more important than immediate action. Accommodating (letting others have their way), forcing (using power to impose a solution) and compromising (reaching a mutually acceptable solution) are more active ways of dealing with conflict. In the team sense, however, collaboration is usually seen as the most appropriate as it involves participation of the parties involved in the conflict reaching mutual commitment to a solution that will provide a permanent solution to the problem. It is also important to recognise that conflict is part of the process in which teams develop towards being high performing. The team development process of forming, storming, norming and performing inherently recognises that conflict is expected and necessary within the storming phase so that team members become accepting of their own roles within the team and buy-in to supra-ordinate goals for the team.

Organisational Behaviour Edinburgh Business School

Past Papers - Examiner's Solutions / December 2010

The role of the team leader is important in managing the processes described above both as a role model and a coach. Especially when taking a situational approach to leadership, the leader can help the team to manage conflict in a way that is most appropriate for any particular set of circumstances. From the question it appears that your manager is leading a team that is somewhat stuck in the Storming phase of development. The action that he needs to consider includes: Clarifying with the team what the over-riding objectives of the team are; Helping the team, by example, to identify what the important areas of conflict really are and how these could be overcome using an appropriate conflict resolution strategy; Looking at the size of the team to see if it is of an appropriate size to deliver the objectives it has been set; Encouraging the group to develop norms for: Dealing with conflict; Sharing information; Creating solutions. Managing the team in such a way as to give the group time to develop relationships and trust, for example, by organising a team-building event away from the work place; In decision-making, to separate ideas generation from evaluation of ideas; Giving the team and individuals, feedback on behaviours that are helping or hindering the team process. The use of team building to implement these changes would be the most effective way forward.

Essay 3 You are a partner in a medium-sized professional consultancy organisation. In the past year, the mission of the organisation has been changed from a concentration on delivering consultancy reports to providing implemented solutions to client problems. It is generally accepted that to fully achieve this shift in focus there needs to be a much more entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. Some of the other partners have heard this described as encouraging intrapreneurial behaviour. You have been asked, having just completed your EBS MBA, to advise what the organisation needs to do next. What would you advise? (60 marks)

Essay 3
You are a partner in a medium-sized professional consultancy organisation. In the past year, the mission of the organisation has been changed from a concentration on delivering consultancy reports to providing implemented solutions to client problems. It is generally accepted that to fully achieve this shift in focus there needs to be a much more entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. Some of the other partners have heard this described as encouraging intrapreneurial behaviour. You have been asked, having just completed your EBS MBA, to advise what the organisation needs to do next. What would you advise? (60 marks) To promote intrapreneurship the organisation needs to encourage the characteristics that are found in entrepreneurial people. Entrepreneurs tend to be tenacious and make sacrifices in their family life and standard of living to create and run with a new idea. They are achievement driven and retain the drive to succeed even in the face of failure along the journey. The have a clear vision of where they are going with an idea and are able to explain it to others. They seek situations in which they can take responsibility for success, failure and problem solving. They catch the things that other people miss and appreciate new ideas. They feel that they are in control of their destiny and that they can cope with a high degree of uncertainty. They take calculated risks and handle failure as a temporary phenomenon.
Organisational Behaviour Edinburgh Business School

Past Papers - Examiner's Solutions / December 2010

To achieve the above needs, individuals have to be psychologically prepared to accept responsibility; and the organisation needs to be prepared to empower employees through effective delegation of authority. To ensure individual preparedness requires that employees experience meaningfulness in their work, have responsibility for work outcomes and have knowledge of the work results. In a consultancy organisation it is likely that these individual motivators already exist. At the organisational level, effective delegation would be achieved through a flat organisational structure in which managers are prepared to give up power and responsibility to empowered staff. The partners, in this case, need to be able to walk the talk to ensure that everyone buys in to the proposed changes. As the organisation has been living with the change in approach for the last year, it is unlikely that any major planned change process would be necessary but there may be a need to use a team approach to ensure effective implementation. Finally, it is important to ensure that the organisational reward system is aligned to the new ways of working. Whereas in the past, a key metric might have been delivery of consultancy reports, for the future, customer feedback may be seen as a key driver for reward. In terms of systems to ensure that innovation is encouraged, it would be advisable to identify ideas champions who can generate ideas and retain ownership for developing the idea in the company. Ideas champions recognise problems or opportunities and generate solutions. To support these champions, the organisation needs to identify sponsors who will provide support and apply organisational resources to develop new ideas. At senior level in the organisation, there is a role for a godfather who can help to overcome internal, political, barriers to innovation happening. The appointment of these three roles within the organisation will encourage entrepreneurial employees and demonstrate that the organisation is serious about changing ways of working. In addition, if the organisation is large, there may need to be horizontal control mechanisms put in place to protect innovation teams from outside interference. That interference could come from line managers wanting to apply the skills of those involved in an innovation in more traditional work roles. To avoid this, ring-fencing of some teams to create islands of excellence is appropriate and these can then be used as examples throughout the rest of the organisation. This role modelling of the new behaviours that the organisation wants to encourage can be the most powerful way of demonstrating that the organisation is serious about making the change part of the way of doing business. In aiming for more creativity, the organisation needs to ensure that groups of employees have a common goal or clear focus on where they are going. These groups will have a standard method of decisionmaking that will ensure that the generation of ideas is separated from their evaluation. Ideas should be evaluated on their own merits by the group who create the evaluation methodology. Conclusions reached about new ideas are freely shared with the wider organisation. Internally within groups there is a recognition of the value of each others time and contribution; members should feel at ease to participate; the group should not be dominated by a single individual and should not be deflected from its stated purpose. The group should have access to high level management for support and should have a standard of high creativity from its members. Finally, there should not be a blame culture in operation as this would inherently stifle creativity. This paragraph defines many of the attributes of a high performing team.

Organisational Behaviour Edinburgh Business School