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Thinking About Management Issues

1. Can an organization's structure be changed quickly? Why or why not?

2. Would you rather work in a mechanistic or an organic organization? Why?

3. What types of skills would a manager need to effectively work in a project structure? In a
boundaryless organization? In a learning organization?

4. The boundaryless organization has the potential to create a major shift in our living and
working patterns. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

5. With the availability of advanced information technology that allows an organization's work
to be done anywhere at any time, is organizing still an important managerial function? Why
or why not?

Log On: Internet-Based Exercise

If an organizational chart (a visual drawing of an organization's structure) isn't available, an


organization's choice of structural design often can be determined by reading descriptions of what it
does. Find seven companies on the Web. Describe in a short paragraph what organizational structural
design each is using and how you came to that conclusion

Working Together: Team-Based Exercise

In relatively decentralized organizations, managers must delegate (assign or turn over) authority to
another person to carry out specific duties. Read through the Skills Module on Delegating. Form
groups of three or four students. Your instructor will assign groups to either "effective delegating" or
"ineffective delegating." Come up with a role-playing situation that illustrates your group's assignment
(effective or ineffective delegating) that you will present in class. Be prepared to explain how your
situation was an example of effective or ineffective delegating

Case Application

In the Know

Buckman Laboratories, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, manufactures more than 1,000


specialty chemicals. The company employs over 1,300 people in 90 countries and its annual revenues
exceed $300 million. Although this small, privately-held company depends on its research laboratories
for the products that bring in its revenues, the whole company itself is a learning laboratory.

What is it about Buckman Labs that attracts executives from AT&T, 3M, Champion International, US
West, and other Fortune 500 companies, who trek to Memphis to see and learn? They're coming to see
how the company stays so fast, global, and interactive. Bob Buckman, Buckman Lab's CEO from
1978 to April 2000, recognized the power of knowledge and information long before others did.
Buckman and his associates began treating knowledge as the company's most important corporate
asset back in 1984. They believed that being (and remaining) competitive in a knowledge-intensive
global environment required three things: (1) closing the gap between the organization and the
customer; (2) staying in touch with each other; and (3) bringing all of the company's brainpower
together to solve problems for each customer. Beginning in the early 1980s, Buckman was concerned
with staying connected, sharing knowledge, and functioning anytime, anywhere, no matter what.
Buckman Labs has organized its associates and their work around its knowledge network, K'Netixt.
This global electronic communications network resulted from Buckman's desire to close the gap
between his associates and his customers—instantly. He started thinking about how important
information and knowledge were—not just to him but to all of Buckman Labs' associates. What he
needed and what his associates needed was a steady stream of the latest information about products,
markets, and customers. And this information needed to be easily accessible and easily shared. As an
ardent reader of business and management literature, Buckman remembered a comment from the well-
known and well-respected CEO Jan Carlzon (Scandinavian Airlines' former CEO) that stuck in his
mind, "An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given
information cannot help but take responsibility."

Buckman realized that the way to maximize each individual


associate's power was to connect each associate to the world.
He wrote down the characteristics of his ideal knowledge
transfer system. Here's what he wrote: (1) It would be possible
for people to talk to each other directly one on one, to minimize
distortion. (2) It would give everyone access to the company's
knowledge bases. (3) It would allow each individual in the
company to enter knowledge into the system. (4) It would be
available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (5) It would be
easy to use. (6) It would communicate in whatever language
was best for the user. (7) It would be updated automatically,
capturing questions and answers for a future knowledge base.
But the technology of the system was not the most important Bob Buckman, CEO of Buckman
Laboratories.
barrier to knowledge sharing. Such a system would require a
total cultural transformation—literally turning the organization
upside down by getting associates to be deeply involved with knowledge sharing and collaboration.
And that's what Bob Buckman set out to do. It wasn't easy however, to transform the company from
an old top-down, bureaucratic, command-and-control organization into an organization in which every
associate had complete access to all information and one in which no one would be controlling
associates by telling them what to do all the time.

Getting the physical hardware and software in place to support such a system was the easy part of the
battle. Getting associates to use the knowledge base and contribute to it required a corporate culture
change. After all, a knowledge-based company is successful only if knowledge is shared among all its
organizational members, because knowledge has value only when it moves across the organization.
What was particularly difficult about this type of cultural transformation was that employees in
traditional organizations had always been rewarded on their ability to hoard knowledge and, thus, gain
recognition and power. This is how the situation at Buckman Labs was described: "There were people
whose file cabinets were locked and filled with everything they knew, and that was the source of their
power." But that philosophy had to change if the knowledge system was going to work. Not long after
K'Netixt went online, Buckman made his expectations clear: "Those of you who have something
intelligent to say now have a forum in which to say it. Those of you who will not or cannot contribute
also become obvious. If you are not willing to contribute or participate, then you should understand
that the many opportunities offered to you in the past will no longer be available." What ultimately
emerged at Buckman Labs has been a mixture of visible incentives and invisible pressure to use
K'Netixt the Buckman Knowledge Network.

Because Buckman Labs competes in a variety of markets, often against competitors three to five times
its size, its commitment to knowledge takes on a new urgency. Salespeople need the right answer for
each customer and they need it fast. K'Netixt has made getting answers simple and rapid. But the
company's commitment to speed, associate interactivity and knowledge sharing, and its embrace of
globalization would not be possible without a recognition of the learning which is taking place.
Questions

1. On the basis of the case information, describe what decisions you think Buckman Labs has
made regarding the six key elements of organizational design. Be as specific as possible.

2. Would you describe Buckman Labs as more of a mechanistic or an organic organization?


Explain.

3. According to Exhibit 10.9, is Buckman Labs a learning organization? Explain.

4. Go to Buckman's Web site. Answer the following:

• Find the statement of mission. What is it?

• Locate the company's code of ethics. Summarize some of the company's basic
principles.

• Find the Knowledge Nurture page. What is the Buckman Room? What is the Starter
Kit? What is the Library?

• Find the page that describes K'Netixt. What does it say about the Buckman
Knowledge Network?

5. What could other organizations learn from Buckman Labs' approach?

Sources: Company's Web site, Buckman Laboratories International, Inc., February 24, 2000; Thurm,
S. "What Do You Know?," Wall Street Journal, June 21, 1999, pp. R10+; Sunoo, B.P. "How HR
Supports Knowledge Sharing," Workforce, March 1999, pp. 30–32; Rifkin, G. "Buckman Labs Is
Nothing But Net," Fast Company, April 17, 1997; Bruzzese, A. "Sharing Knowledge Breaks
Hierarchy," Springfield News Leader, October 17, 1997, p. 7A.

Mastering Management

In Episode 6 of the Mastering Management series, you'll learn about the relationship between work
design, job satisfaction, and productivity. Some of CanGo's employees feel under-motivated, under-
appreciated, and out of the loop. Warren and Liz must work together to solve the problem.