Work Culture Organization
Laura Anderson’s Dilemma
Laura Anderson is a project leader at Engineering Co. and leader of a team operating in six different geographical locations across three time zones. Laura is a mechanical engineer; senior managers at Engineering Co. have recognised her technical skills, and therefore her career progression within the company has been on an upward trajectory since leaving university.
Laura has been the Senior Project Team Leader for six months on a blue chip project, an integrated rail and metro system in the Gulf region of the Middle East. The project went out to global tender and Engineering Co won the contract for supplying rails, switching gear, electrical supply and the metro stations and it secured the contract largely on its ability to deliver high quality projects on time, on budget and fitness for purpose. Engineering Co did not submit the lowest tender for the project but the client was convinced of its technical and managerial capabilities, which have given it a clear competitive advantage. The company enjoys a strong industry reputation and for engineering and management graduates, it is an ‘employer of choice’ as it is widely regarded as having one of the best graduate development programmes in its sector. Engineering Co is essentially a project-based organisation but its structure is nominally a combination of functional and divisional units. There is a clear division between planning and execution in Engineering Co and while strategy is ‘owned’ by the senior management team and the majority of the work is delivered through project teams.
Laura Anderson is thirty years of age, she is seen as having senior management potential, and it is her ambition to become a member of the senior management team and has been given leadership of one of the key project teams. Laura is based in Surrey, close to London, and she travels frequently throughout the UK to meet project team members and she is on-site in the Gulf every six-to-eight weeks but crucially, she is the only one in the team who has met the other members face-to-face. The project is still at the planning stage of the work and it has gone reasonably well up to now but Laura believes that performing ‘reasonably well’ means it is operating sub-optimally and that is not good enough; Laura wants it to be an exceptional team and she is determined to drive it towards that objective. The project team members were all internal applicants and Laura was given the final say on who would be recruited to the team. There was a significant number of internal applicants and the selection process was exhaustive, with each member being selected across a range of competencies. Laura was certain she had the right people with the rights skills in the right jobs at the right time but six months into the project,she senses undercurrents of tension amongst team members. In manyinstances, team members appear to be too quick to agree with each other and it seems to Laura that they are doing their utmost to avoid any overt conflict. Laura is not going out of her way to generate conflict but she believes that a certain level of it would be good for the team as it might bring some of the underlying issues out into the open. This would allow them to acknowledged and addressed, which in turn might allow the team to develop into a more effective and efficient unit.
Laura is angry at the way it is going for she feels she is losing focus on the project as her time is increasingly being taken up with ‘people issues’, an area where she is the first to admit her strengths do not lie. Some of the issues Laura has had to deal with include team members stating that they are still not 100% sure of their role in the team and consequently work has been duplicated and that has cost the project time and money. Laura was sure everything would somehow have fallen into place as at first people appeared to be committed to the project and the team. She was convincedshe had made the immediate project goals clear and assumed everyone knew what it was they had to do as Laura thought she had given the team clear boundaries. Laura has also found that there are cultural issues around gender, authority and responsibility and when it comes to decision-making, several team members look to her to make the big calls. This irritates Laura as he has told people repeatedly that they are empowered to make decisions and they must stop referring every problem back up the line, but several team members countered that they are unsure of what they can make decisions on and that Laura is inconsistent, telling people to be pro-active and then overruling them later.
Laura is a problem-solver and she decided that the best course of action was to get some books on teams and groups to gain insights into what teams are, how they function and to gain a better understanding of some of the dysfunctional aspects of teams. Initially, Laura approached these issues as an engineer; the team is a system and if problems are analysed dispassionately and objectively the analysis will generate solutions, which should be accepted by everyone, as they are the outcome of a rational decision-making process. Laura takes comfort in certainty and she wishes at times that people would just act rationally and accept her decisions as they are based on what is best for the project. Grudgingly, Laura has come to the view that she is a mini HR Manager first and a Project Team – Leader second and the project team is in danger of losing focus and momentum. Laura read Bruce Tuckman’s stages of group development with interest and she is now convinced that the team is stuck at the storming stage and she is unsure of what has to be done to get it to the performing stage. She is desperate for the team to succeed, not only for her own career; Laura wantsthe team members to look back on their time on the project as a positive experience and she wants people to be proud to have on their CV that they were part of the Gulf Metro Project Team.
Please analyse the case and write a report answering the following questions:
- Account for the team’s current problems – who or what is at fault?
- Using your knowledge of groups and group dynamics, what interventions might Laura adopt to allow the project team to ‘get back on track’ and increase their performance. Explain your reasoning here.
- Outline the difficulties involved in (a) being a member of a virtual project team and (b) leading a virtual project team.
- To what extent could it be argued that teams are one of the most widely used but least understood form of work design?You can provide examples from your own work experience but they must be referenced against the academic literature.
- The assessment will be done in pairs and only in exceptional circumstances will this be changed.
- Word count: 3,000 words (excluding references) and the 10% convention applies.
- Minimum use of 15 academic journal articles/ research reports.
- It must use size 12 font with 1.5 spacing and the pages numbered.
- It must include a front cover with the following information on it: Course code, course leader’s name, names of students and registration numbers and the word count.
- Three marks will be deducted for each infraction.
Your coursework needs to be submitted via Turnitin in the Coursework section of the Vision site by one member of your group before 23.00 (GMT) on Friday, 6th November 2020 (Week 8).
Late submission and plagiarism cases will be dealt with according to HWU policy.