This case study provides you with background information on an imaginary context. However the issues faced by the company reflect challenges experienced by many organizations. In the examination you will be asked to take on the role of an external Organization Development consultant and asked a series of questions that will enable you to demonstrate your knowledge of OD theory and practice in response to a request for advice by the HR Director and the Chief Executive.
Servis Ltd. and Npok & Co.
Servis Ltd was a long established (est. 1920) manufacturer of expensive boots for a wealthy clientele. They had a history of very carefully hand crafted products produced by people who have worked with them for many years. Their longest serving employee had been with them for 50 years. The Director of the company trained with them as a young man and was appointed to his role 20 years ago. The company slogan was ‘Tradition is Best – if our traditional methods produce good boots then we will not change’. Servis Factory was based in the UK just south of Manchester. They employed 150 staff and had a small loyal management team. Business had been steady with plenty of orders from their regular network of independent shoe shops. They recognised however that the market dynamics were changing with new competitors and the need to become much more efficient.
Before they could make any of the necessary changes the Director (who was also the majority shareholder) was approached by the CEO of Npok & Co. with an offer to buy the company which he accepted. Npok & Co. are a much younger company with a very trendy set of products focussed on young people and those interested in keeping-fit. They pride themselves on their very trendy designs and social media presence which helps them work closely with their customers directly rather than going through the usual supply channels of, what they see as, old fashioned shoe shops. They tend to sell most of their shoes on-line. Their factory is based north of Manchester and they also have about 150 staff although they have invested a great deal in modern production equipment.
Npok & Co. bought Servis because they wanted to benefit from the skills of the staff and also the high reputation of the name Servis has in the market. They plan to invest in new equipment for the Servis factory and in staff training. They want to merge the staff so that they can work flexibly across all the product lines and on both sites. To maintain some stability the old Director of Servis (John Right) has been retained in the new management structure working alongside the Head of the Npok & Co factory (Jane Left). The CEO (Alison Trendy) retains her role supported by an HR director and Head of Finance.
Whilst this approach seemed at the time of the takeover to make a lot of sense to Alison, things have not worked out at all well. The integration plan has not been fully implemented because of resentment between John Right and Jane Left who strongly believe that the integration plans do not fully take into account the very considerable differences in values and beliefs held by both themselves and their colleagues. There have been lengthy arguments both at board meetings and between managers and workers in the two factories who regularly disagree about what customers really need and how products should be developed and produced. Staff from both factories say they do not feel respected or properly understood by staff in the other factory.
Management team meetings have also become very difficult with constant arguments about what exactly the vision is for the business with John and Jane arguing for the approach they took before the merger. Alison is concerned that John is having a difficult time letting go of his old identity as boss of Servis and Jane, who was recently promoted from her old supervisor role with Npok, is having difficulty understanding what it means to be a senior manager. She does not seem to have the inter-personal and strategic business skills needed for the new role. Her poor performance is causing worry.
A recent review of production quality has identified another set of problems with old, inefficient work practices continuing at Servis’ factory meaning delays in completing orders. At the Npok factory customer complaints about shoe quality and customer services are growing rapidly. There is evidence that staff are being rude to customers via messaging on Facebook. Alison as CEO is communicating her concerns to all staff directly through a monthly company newsletter but this does not seem to be having any impact on performance at all. Indeed there are signs that key staff are planning on leaving and that staff morale is low. Alison still thinks that the merger was the right and the business future will be good if the problems she and the team are experiencing at the present time can be overcome. Change is needed and quickly. There are signs that profits are falling and the reputation of the two different parts of the company is not as good in the eyes of customers and shoe shops.
To help solve the problems Alison asks her HR Director to find an external consultant who can advise her on the action needed.
You are an external OD consultant and the Director of HR sends you the following email:
‘I am pleased to confirm your appointment as consultant to Npok & Co. Alison Trendy, our CEO has confirmed that she wishes you to advise on the following issues/questions (in no order of priority or importance):
· How can the management team become focussed and unified?
· What needs to be done to improve working relationships and staff morale across both factory sites?
· How can staff be engaged in improving customer service?
· How can changes to staff attitudes and behaviours be encouraged and supported?
· What needs to be done to make the whole business more efficient and services more cost effective? How do we get staff ideas and creativity to make sensible changes to business processes?
· Does the current organisational structure work for the best of the company or are there changes that need to be made?
· How can the performance of John and Jane be improved?
· What can be done immediately and what needs to happen in the longer term?
· How can each member of the top team be supported to improve their individual and collective performance?
We recognise that this is not a complete list and we sure that you will identify other issues and questions as you undertake your work. We understand that Organisation Development approaches can offer us some ways in which we can improve performance, commitment and involvement as well as supporting behaviour change amongst staff. It will be useful if you can ensure that you provide us with some of the relevant theory to support your recommendations.
Kind regards etc.’
1. (a) Using the case study as source material state what, in your opinion, are the top five organisational challenges facing the company?
(b) What specific OD interventions (including five factors framework) do you think will be most effective in addressing the challenges you have identified? Explain briefly the reasons for your choice.
2. (a) Assume that the CEO has specifically asked you to take a Dialogic approach to your OD work with the company. What types of activities and interventions do you think will be relevant if you take this approach?
(b) What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of a Dialogic approach in this context?
3. (a) What competencies of an OD practitioner will you need to use in the context of the case study?
(b) How would you recommend someone who wishes to become an OD practitioner develop and maintain OD competencies?