Module 1 – Case
Action Research and Organizational Development
For this assignment, first carefully review the required background materials. Make sure you are highly familiar with the main steps involved in action research and organizational development discussed in the readings. When you are finished reviewing the background materials, take a close look at the four scenarios below.
For each scenario below, think about the reasons why things did not work out well for the company in question. More specifically, think about which standard action research or organizational development step was not taken.
Your task for this assignment is not to explain what steps the organization should take—you would need to go into the company and do some lengthy action research in order to do this! Instead just review the standard action research and organizational development steps covered in the background materials and try to assess which key step was missing in the scenarios below.
Then write a 4- to 5-page paper addressing the following for each scenario:
Make sure to discuss at least one of the required readings in your discussion of each scenario, and to cite all three of the required readings in your paper.
1. Sales have gone down at the XYZ Widget Corporation and nobody in the organization, including the CEO, seems to know why. They decide to hire an organizational development consultant to do some action research. The consultant and the CEO spend a lot of time discussing how to proceed and create a contract. The contract specifies that the consultant will limit his scope to finding factors that led to the decrease in sales and he will come up with a plan of action within one month. The consultant is busy with several other clients and doesn’t get much time to spend at XYZ. Facing the one month deadline, the consultant decides to repeat a recommendation he gave to several previous clients. The consultant then writes up a report recommending a large pay increase for the sales staff, which worked well for his previous clients. This change is carefully planned, and is implemented with strong support and enthusiasm from the sales staff. However, six months later sales are still down.
2. The Allmart Corporation is very concerned about the poor functioning of their inventory control and accounting processes. They hire a consultant who is an expert in this area who makes a good impression on them during the interview, and they immediately put him to work the day after the interview. The consultant conducts a survey with all employees in the accounting department and also has in-depth interviews with all managers in the department. The consultant shares his findings with Allmart’s top management team, and makes the primary recommendation that they implement a newer and more expensive accounting software package as he believes it is out of date software that is leading to inefficiencies in the department. Allmart’s CEO gets extremely upset that the client relied only on interviews and surveys and did not spend time directly observing the department’s accounting practices in action. Allmart ignores the consultant’s advice, and decides to hire a new consultant instead.
3. The Kooltrendy Internet software company has recently purchased Hardwrk, a competing Internet software company. Kooltrendy wants the merger to go through as smoothly as possible with minimal conflicts between employees of the two companies, so they have hired an organizational development consultant to look at ways to help ease this transition for all employees.
Kooltrendy interviews several consultants, but settles on one consultant who has a lot of experience with these types of mergers. After extensive discussions, it is agreed that the consultant will conduct extensive one-on-one interviews with employees as well as a large-scale survey that assesses employee values and attitudes. After carefully reviewing the survey and interview data, the consultant concludes that Kooltrendy has a very fun and laid-back corporate culture, whereas Hardwrk has a more competitive and serious corporate culture.
Satisfied that it knows how to fix the problem after hearing the consultant’s report, Kooltrendy immediately decides to implement “Fun Fridays” for Hardwrk employees that involve water gun fights, costume contests, or other activities every Friday in order to bring Hardwrk’s culture more in line with the laid-back culture of Kooltrendy. However, they are puzzled to see that every Friday more and more Hardwrk employees quit and they are unsure why the “Fun Fridays” solution did not work.
4. HN Motors is a large manufacturer of both cars and motorcycles. Given the new demand for high mileage vehicles, the company has decided to develop a car/motorcycle hybrid that has three wheels and looks like a tiny race car. However, neither the car department nor the motorcycle department wants to take the lead and the project keeps getting stalled.
HN Motors decides to hire a consultant to mediate the differences between the car and motorcycle departments, with the agreement that the consultant will spend a lot of time with both departments to get to the bottom of why they are so resistant to working on the new vehicle. During interviews with both departments, the consultant finds that all employees think the new hybrid vehicle is a good idea but they hate the idea of having “two bosses” and none of them wants to be in the position of having to report to both the director of the motorcycle department and the director of the car department.
The consultant recommends that HN Motors create a new “Hybrid Department” that only focuses on the new hybrid vehicle, and that this new department bring in a mix of employees from both the car and motorcycle department as well as some new employees.
HN Motors' management likes this recommendation and pay the consultant, but say that they can take it from here and don’t need the consultant’s services anymore. A few months later the project is still stalled and they don’t know why. They call up the consultant to try to get him to come back, but by now he is busy working with other clients.
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