The company has recently put into effect a change which has involved moving away from the present structure and putting in place a task force. The task force operates via a matrix structure with members of the task force answering to both their functional boss and the task force boss. The role of the task force was to improve flexibility and also to incorporate diversification, with the task force designed to make recommendations and drive change in these areas. However, the task force is not achieving what it was designed to do. It is in fact just creating more problems.
While this flexibility is recognized as being important to the company, the changes have not been effective in providing it.
The problems occurring are summarized below:
Task force unsuccessful - as a team the task force has been unsuccessful. The members have no clear purpose, there is little involvement from the team members, there is no clear leader and none of the team members have any enthusiasm for being part of the team.
Matrix structure unsuccessful - the dual chain of command has created confusion and frustration. There have been many meetings but little action. Conflict is occurring due to the contrasting divisional and functional goals with the managers of people in the task group getting upset about their involvement.
Insufficient leadership - there is no unified direction, there is little support or belief in the changes, motivation for the changes is lacking and their is little cooperation. An effective leader should be able to establish direction, motivate people and encourage cooperation. Currently, none of these things are occurring.
Resistance to the changes - there is much resistance to the changes from employees in the team and employees outside of the team.
The recommended solution is that the task force continue to be implemented as it does have the potential to provide the diversification and flexibility needs of the organization.
The major problems identified are the disruptive and unproductive nature of the matrix structure, resistance to the new structure, unsuccessful operation of the task force and lack of leadership within the organization.
It is recommended that the organization perseveres with the task force and matrix structure, which if successful, will create a prime diversification framework. A plan has been recommended that will eliminate the distractions the matrix structure caused, reduce resistance and gain support for the new structure and for organizational changes, creating an efficient and highly productive task force and motivated and multi-skilled employees.
JUSTIFICATION FOR PROPOSED CHANGES
It is recommended that continuing with the task force, incorporated into the organization via a matrix structure will be the most acceptable solution. Several changes are required however for this to be successful in the future.
A task force is the best way to incorporate changes into the organization. One of the most important factors in successfully making changes is having members from key departments cooperating on the changes (Daft, 1997, p398). The task force best allows this to occur. Employee commitment towards the new activities is also vital to their success. Employee commitment is increased in a task force since employees are more empowered and hence motivated. Employee commitment is an especially important factor where uncertainty is high, such is the case here. Flexibility and adaptability are also vital for uncertain times and the task force provides this as well.
For the team to be effective however the specific problems identified need to be addressed.
Three vital characteristics for a successful team include (Robbins, 1997, p521):
Members share a common purpose and are clear on how to achieve the task.
Members have some degree of empowerment.
High morale for team members.
Few of these characteristics are observed in the task force.
Written, clear guidelines need to be developed and distributed, to ensure guidelines of the team are aligned with that of the organization and that employees are fully aware of what their contributions are to be. The team also needs to be carefully selected to ensure members can work productively together and the organization needs to support the team, both monetary, time-wise and by providing leadership. Individual and team incentives also need to be provided to encourage participation in the team and productivity of the team. All of the above factors have proven successful in creating efficient and productive teams.
The matrix structure is also the most suitable for the situation. It is flexible and uses minimum resources which is important at the early stages. Minimum resources, both human and material will ensure costs are kept to a minimum. It is said that while the task force structure can be cumbersome, it is the most effective and creates the changes both effectively and efficiently (Chambers, 1998, p169).
Another important factor is that the underlying structure of the organization can be maintained, allowing the organizations initial and prime activity to continue without its effective structure being disturbed. The most vital problem in the success of the matrix structure was the dual chain of command. This created anger in managers whose people were involved in the task force instead of doing their usual tasks. One of the major contributors to the problem was the fact that those in the task force had no suitable replacements. Continually varying the members of the task force with each project would help combat this problem. Members of the task force gain diverse skills, this creates more widely skilled employees, the result being that more than one person can do a particular job or solve a particular problem, thus providing suitable replacements for the people in the task force.
The implementation and resistance to both the matrix and the task force can best be handled by providing information to employees and involving employees in the changes. Participation is best used when employees need to feel involved. Participation of employees greatly increases their motivation and productivity, and aligns individual goals with organizational goals. It is also noted that empowering employees requires a culture that reflects this (Billsbery, 2000, p292). All of these factors are extremely beneficial when the changes are great, important and when acceptance and involvement are vital to success. The provision of information is probably most relevant to the higher management levels. The managers need to have the correct information to understand the implications themselves and thus prepare their employees for the changes to occur. All employees need to feel that they are part of the changes, not just having the changes forced upon them. This can be achieved by holding participative meetings with employees to discuss their feelings about the changes and to allow their input.
Leadership is the final aspect that is missing. With such a major change it is vital that an effective leader is found to take on the role of motivator. The leader needs to focus on gaining support for the changes, providing a clear organizational goal and relating it to all members of the organization. A leader from inside the organization would be most beneficial. The leader would be most effective if they dealt with small groups of employees in an informal setting, as well as this being more personal for employees, it will also encourage communication and discussion in a group setting.
Diversification is a part of a strategic plan and needs to be accompanied by specific plans for implementation. Strategy implementation is the most difficult and important part of strategic management. Strategy plans are of no use if they cannot be carried out.
There is evidence to suggest that many employees both in the team and outside are resistant to the new task force or matrix structure. This is to be expected, as many managers have noted, employees often seem to resist change for no apparent reason (Daft, 1997, p548). Major reasons for resistance include (Daft, 1997, pp. 548-550):
Self-interest, fear of losing power or prestige.
Lack of understanding in regards to the changes
The middle level managers appear to be particularly resistant, with their major concerns being the loss of their employees, part of this concern could be in their losing control and power over their employees.
Lack of understanding could also be a problem, employees do not appear to be informed enough to realize the reasons for and the implications of the changes.
Uncertainty regarding the changes is another likely problem. Uncertainty is often a problem where employees have a low tolerance for change. In this company, the structure has been the same for a long time, so this change appears as a major one for employees and causes concern. When things stay the same for long periods and then suddenly change, it is natural for employees to worry that something is wrong and perhaps that the company and their job security may be in trouble. This kind of concern does not motivate employees towards the changes, instead employees need to know why the changes are being made and what benefit they have, to themselves and to the organization.