Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Operations Management | Value Chain Management

Describe the goal of value chain management.

The goal of value chain management is to create a value chain strategy that meets and exceeds customers’ needs and desires and allows for full and seamless integration among all members of the chain. 

A good value chain is one in which a sequence of participants work together as a team, each adding some component of value—such as faster assembly, more accurate information, better customer response and service, and so forth—to the overall process.

The better the collaboration among the various chain participants, the better the customer solutions. When value is created for customers and their needs and desires are satisfied, everyone along the chain benefits. 

For example, at automotive interior supplier Johnson Controls Inc., managing the value chain started first with improved relationships with internal suppliers, then expanded out to external suppliers and customers. As the company’s experience with value chain management intensified and improved, so did its connection with its customers, which ultimately will pay off for all its value chain partners.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Operations Management | Operations Management and Importance

Define operations management and briefly discuss the importance of this management process.

The term operations management refers to the design, operation, and control of the transformation process that converts such resources as labor and raw materials into goods and services that are sold to customers. The system takes in inputs—people, technology, capital, equipment, materials, and information—and transforms them through various processes, procedures, and work activities into finished goods and services. Marketing, finance, research and development, human resources, and accounting convert inputs into outputs such as sales, increased market share, high rates of return on capital, new and innovative products, motivated and committed employees, and accounting reports. Operations management is important because it encompasses both services and manufacturing, it’s important in effectively and efficiently managing productivity, and it plays a strategic role in an organization’s competitive success.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Control | Controlling, 3 Approaches to design control system, and effectiveness

Define controlling within an organization. In a brief essay, list and describe characteristics of the three approaches to designing control systems that have been identified. What determines the effectiveness of any control system?

Control is the process of monitoring, comparing, and correcting work performance. 

Three different types of control systems have been identified:  market control, bureaucratic control, and clan control. Market control emphasizes the use of external market mechanisms, such as price competition and relative market share, to establish the standards used in the control system. Bureaucratic control systems emphasize organizational authority and rely on administrative rules, regulations, procedures, and policies. Under clan control, employee behaviors are regulated by shared values, norms, traditions, rituals, beliefs and other aspects of the organization’s culture.  Regardless of the design, the effectiveness of any control systems is determined by how well it facilitates goal achievement.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Motivation | Concept of Motivation - 3 Key Aspects of Motivation

Explain the concept of motivation. Then identify and describe the three key aspects of motivation.

Motivation refers to the process by which a person’s efforts are energized, directed, and sustained toward attaining a goal. Although, generally speaking, motivation involves any effort exerted toward a goal, we’re most interested in organizational goals because our focus is on work-related behavior. 

Three key elements are important to this definition: energy, direction, and persistence. 

The energy element is a measure of intensity or drive. A motivated person puts forth effort and works hard. However, the quality of the effort must be considered as well as its intensity. 

High levels of effort don’t necessarily lead to favorable job performance unless the effort is channeled in a direction that benefits the organization. Effort that’s directed toward, and consistent with, organizational goals is the kind of effort we want from employees. 

Finally, motivation includes a persistence dimension. We want employees to persist in putting forth effort to achieve those goals.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Behavior | Describe how managers might manage negative behavior in the workplace

Describe how managers might manage negative behavior in the workplace.

When it comes to negative behavior in the workplace, the main thing is to recognize that it’s there. Pretending that negative behavior doesn’t exist or ignoring such misbehaviors will only confuse employees about what is expected and acceptable behavior. Although there’s some debate among researchers about the preventive or responsive actions to negative behaviors, in reality, both are needed. Preventing negative behaviors by carefully screening potential employees for certain personality traits and responding immediately and decisively to unacceptable negative behaviors can go a long way toward managing negative workplace behavior. But it’s also important to pay attention to employee attitudes since negativity will show up there as well. When employees are dissatisfied with their jobs, they will respond somehow.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Behavior | Describe the focus and goals of organizational behavior

Describe the focus and goals of organizational behavior. 

Organizational behavior is a field of study that is concerned specifically with the actions of people at work. It focuses primarily on two areas, individual behavior and group behavior. Individual behavior includes topics such as attitudes, personality, perception, learning, and motivation. Group behavior includes norms, roles, team building, leadership, and conflict. The goals of organizational behavior are to explain, predict, and influence behavior. Managers need to be able to explain why employees engage in some behaviors rather than others, predict how employees will respond to various actions the manager might take, and influence how employees behave.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Human Resource Management | Discuss job analysis, job description, and job specification

Discuss job analysis, job description, and job specification.

Job analysis is an assessment that defines jobs and the behaviors necessary to perform them. Information for a job analysis can be gathered through the following methods: directly observing or filming individuals on the job, interviewing employees individually or in a group, having employees complete a structured questionnaire, having job “experts” identify a job’s specific characteristics, and having employees record their daily activities in a diary or notebook. With information from the job analysis, managers develop or revise job descriptions and job specifications. 

A job description is a written statement of what a jobholder does, how it is done, and why it is done. It typically describes job content, environment, and conditions of employment. 

A job specification states the minimum qualifications that a person must possess to perform a given job successfully. It identifies the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to do the job effectively. Both the job description and specification are important documents when managers begin recruiting and selecting.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Human Resource Management | Explain why human resource management is important to organizational success

Explain why human resource management is important to organizational success.

Various studies have concluded that an organization’s human resources can be a significant source of competitive advantage. And that’s true for organizations around the world, not just U.S. firms. 

The Human Capital Index, a comprehensive study of over 2,000 firms in North America, Europe, and the Asia–Pacific region conducted by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide concluded that people-oriented HR gives an organization an edge by creating superior shareholder value. 

Achieving competitive success through people requires a fundamental change in how managers think about their employees and how they view the work relationship. It involves working with and through people and seeing them as partners, not just as costs to be minimized or avoided. That’s what people-oriented organizations do. 

In addition to being an important part of organizational strategy and contributing to competitive advantage, an organization’s HRM practices have been found to have a significant impact on organizational performance. 

For instance, one study reported that significantly improving an organization’s HRM practices could increase its market value by as much as 30 percent. Another study that tracked average annual shareholder returns of the publicly traded companies on Fortune’s list of 100 best companies to work for found that these companies significantly beat the S&P 500 over 10-year, 5 year, 3-year, and 1-year periods. High-performance work practices lead to both high individual and high organizational performance. 

The common thread in these practices seems to be a commitment to improving the knowledge, skills, and abilities of an organization’s employees, increasing their motivation, reducing loafing on the job, and enhancing the retention of quality employees while encouraging low performers to leave. 

Even if an organization chooses not to implement high-performance work practices, there are certain HRM activities that must be completed in order to ensure that the organization has qualified people to perform the work that needs to be done—activities that comprise the human resource management process.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Organizational Design | Describe a learning organization. What structural aspects does a learning organization need?

Describe a learning organization. What structural aspects does a learning organization need?

A learning organization is an organization that has developed the capacity to continuously learn, adapt, and change. In a learning organization, employees continually acquire and share new knowledge and are willing to apply that knowledge in making decisions or performing their work. Some organizational theorists even go so far as to say that an organization’s ability to do this—that is, to learn and to apply that learning—may be the only sustainable source of competitive advantage. What structural aspects does a learning organization need? First, it’s critical for members in a learning organization to share information and collaborate on work activities throughout the entire organization—across different functional specialties and even at different organizational levels. To do this requires minimal structural and physical barriers. In such a boundaryless environment, employees can work together and collaborate in doing the organization’s work the best way they can and learn from each other. Finally, because of this need to collaborate, teams also tend to be an important feature of a learning organization’s structural design. Employees work in teams that are empowered to make decisions about doing whatever work needs to be done or resolving issues. With empowered employees and teams, there’s little need for “bosses” to direct and control. Instead, managers serve as facilitators, supporters, and advocates.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter) 

Organizational Design | Describe the boundaryless organization. What types of boundaries are there? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this organizational design?

Describe the boundaryless organization. What types of boundaries are there? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this organizational design?

Another approach to contemporary organizational design is the concept of a boundaryless organization, an organization whose design is not defined by, or limited to, the horizontal, vertical, or external boundaries imposed by a predefined structure. Although the idea of eliminating boundaries may seem odd, many of today’s most successful organizations are finding that they can operate most effectively by remaining flexible and unstructured: that the ideal structure for them is not having a rigid, bounded, and predefined structure. There are two types: internal boundaries—the horizontal boundaries imposed by work specialization and departmentalization and the vertical boundaries that separate employees into organizational levels and hierarchies; and external boundaries—the boundaries that separate the organization from its customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. To minimize or eliminate these boundaries, managers might use virtual or network structural designs. The advantages of a boundaryless organization are that it is highly flexible and responsive and draws on talent wherever it is found. The disadvantages are that there is a lack of control and it presents communication difficulties.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Organizational Design | List and discuss the five common forms of departmentalization

List and discuss the five common forms of departmentalization.

a.     Functional departmentalization—jobs are grouped by the functions (i.e., marketing, finance, human resources) performed. This approach can be used in all types of organizations, although the functions change to reflect the organization’s objectives and work activities.

b.     Product departmentalization—jobs are grouped by product line. In this approach, each major product area is placed under the authority of a manager who’s a specialist in, and is responsible for, everything having to do with that product line.

c.      Geographical departmentalization—jobs are grouped on the basis of a territory or geography such as southern, midwestern, or northwestern regions for an organization operating only in the United States; or for a global company, maybe U.S., European, Canadian, and Asian-Pacific regions.

d.     Process departmentalization—this method groups jobs on the basis of product or customer flow. In this approach, work activities follow a natural processing flow of product or even customers.

e.     Customer departmentalization—jobs are grouped on the basis of common customers who have common needs or problems that can best be met by having specialists for each.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Organizational Design | List and explain the six key elements in designing an organization’s structure

List and explain the six key elements in designing an organization’s structure.

a.     Work specialization—this concept describes the degree to which tasks in an organization are divided into separate jobs. The essence of work specialization is that an entire job is not done by one individual, but instead is broken down into steps, with each step completed by a different person.

b.     Departmentalization—the basis by which jobs are grouped together is called departmentalization. The five common forms of departmentalization include functional, product, geographical, process, and customer departmentalization.

c.      Chain of command—this is the continuous line of authority that extends from upper organizational levels to the lowest levels and clarifies who reports to whom. It helps employees answer questions such as “Who do I go to if I have a problem?” or “To whom am I responsible?”

d.     Span of control—this concept is important because, to a large degree, it determines the number of levels and managers an organization has. All things being equal, the wider or larger the span of control, the more efficient the organization.

e.     Centralization and decentralization—centralization describes the degree to which decision making is concentrated at a single point in the organization. If top managers make the organization’s key decisions with little or no input from below, then the organization is centralized. In contrast, the more that lower-level employees provide input or actually make decisions, the more decentralization there is.

f.      Formalization—this refers to the degree to which jobs within the organization are standardized and the extent to which employee behavior is guided by rules and procedures. If a job is highly formalized, then the person doing that job has a minimum amount of discretion over what is to be done, when it’s to be done, and how he or she could do it.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Strategic Management | List and discuss the three competitive strategies, according to Michael Porter. Include specific examples of companies that pursue each of the three competitive strategies

List and discuss the three competitive strategies, according to Michael Porter. Include specific examples of companies that pursue each of the three competitive strategies.

a.     Cost leadership strategy—when an organization sets out to be the lowest-cost producer in its industry, it’s following a cost leadership strategy. A low-cost leader aggressively searches out efficiencies in production, marketing, and other areas of operation. Overhead is kept to a minimum, and the firm does everything it can to cut costs. For example, at Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, office furnishings are sparse and drab, but functional. Although low-cost leaders don’t place a lot of emphasis on “frills,” the product or service being sold must be perceived as comparable in quality to that offered by rivals or at least be acceptable to buyers. Examples of companies that have used the low-cost leader strategy include Wal-Mart, Hyundai, and Southwest Airlines.

b.     Differentiation strategy—the company that seeks to offer unique products, which are widely valued by customers is following a differentiation strategy. Sources of differentiation might be exceptionally high quality, extraordinary service, innovative design, technological capability, or an unusually positive brand image. The key to this competitive strategy is that whatever product or service attribute is chosen for differentiation must set the firm apart from its competitors and be significant enough to justify a price premium that exceeds the cost of differentiation. Practically any successful product or service can be identified as an example of the differentiation strategy: Nordstrom (customer service), Sony (reputation for quality and innovative design), Coach handbags (design and brand image), and Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies Pull-Ups (product design)
c.      Focus strategy—the aim of the focus strategy is at a cost advantage or a differentiation advantage in a narrow segment. That is, managers select a market segment or group of segments in an industry and don’t attempt to serve the broad market. The goal of a focus strategy is to exploit a narrow segment of a market. These segments can be based on product variety, type of end buyer, distribution channel, or geographical location of buyers. Research suggests that the focus strategy may be the most effective choice for small businesses because they typically do not have the economies of scale or internal resources to successfully pursue one of the other two strategies.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Strategic Management | Discuss the concept of competitive advantage. Include specific examples of companies and their respective competitive advantages to support your answer

Discuss the concept of competitive advantage. Include specific examples of companies and their respective competitive advantages to support your answer.

Competitive advantage is what sets an organization apart, that is, its distinctive edge. That distinctive edge comes from the organization’s core competencies, which might be in the form of organizational capabilities—the organization does something that others cannot do or does it better than others can do it. For example, Dell has developed a competitive advantage based upon its ability to create a direct-selling channel that’s highly responsive to customers. Southwest Airlines has a competitive advantage because it is skilled in giving passengers what they want—quick, convenient, and fun service. Or those core competencies that lead to competitive advantage also can come from organizational assets or resources—the organization has something that its competitors do not have. For instance, Wal-Mart’s state-of-the-art information systems allows it to monitor and control inventories and supplier relations more efficiently than its competitors, which Wal-Mart has turned into a price advantage.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter) 

Planning | List and discuss five characteristics of well-designed goals

List and discuss five characteristics of well-designed goals.

(1) A well-designed goal should be written in terms of outcomes rather than actions. The desired end result is the most important element of any goal and, therefore, the goal should be written to reflect this. (2) Next, a goal should be measurable and quantifiable. It’s much easier to determine if a goal has been met if it’s measurable. In line with specifying a quantifiable measure of accomplishment, (3) a well-designed goal should also be clear as to a time frame. Although open-ended goals may seem preferable because of their supposed flexibility, in fact, goals without a time frame make an organization less flexible because a manager is never sure when the goal has been met or when he or she should call it quits because the goal will never be met regardless of how long he or she works at it. (4) Next, a well-designed goal should be challenging but attainable. Goals that are too easy to accomplish are not motivating and neither are goals that are not attainable even with exceptional effort. (5) Well-designed goals should be written down. Although actually writing down goals may seem too time consuming, the process of writing the goals forces people to think them through. In addition, the written goals become visible and tangible evidence of the importance of working toward something. (6) Finally, well-designed goals are communicated to all organizational members who need to know the goals. Making people aware of the goals ensures that they’re “on the same page” and working in ways to ensure the accomplishment of the organizational goals.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)

Planning | Define management by objectives (MBO) and list four elements of this type of goal setting. What are some problems associated with this approach?

Define management by objectives (MBO) and list four elements of this type of goal setting. What are some problems associated with this approach?

Management by objectives (MBO) is a management system in which specific performance goals are jointly determined by employees and their managers, progress toward accomplishing these goals is periodically reviewed, and rewards are allocated on the basis of this progress. Rather than using goals only as controls, MBO uses them to motivate employees as well. Management by objectives consists of four elements: goal specificity, participative decision making, an explicit time period, and performance feedback. Its appeal lies in its focus on employees working to accomplish goals they have had a hand in determining. One problem is that MBO may not be as effective in times of dynamic environmental change. Under an MBO program, employees need some stability to work toward accomplishing the set goals. If new goals must be set every few weeks, there’s no time for employees to work on accomplishing the goals and measuring that accomplishment. Another problem of MBO programs is that an overemphasis by an employee on accomplishing his or her goals without regard to others in the work unit can be counterproductive. A manager must work closely with all members of the work unit to assure that employees aren’t working at cross-purposes. Finally, if MBO is viewed simply as an annual exercise in filling out paperwork, employees won’t be motivated to accomplish the goals.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter) 

Planning | List and discuss the four reasons for planning

List and discuss the four reasons for planning.

a.     Planning establishes coordinated effort. It gives direction to managers and nonmanagers alike. When employees know where the organization or work unit is going and what they must contribute to reach goals, they can coordinate their activities, cooperate with each other, and do what it takes to accomplish those goals. Without planning, departments and individuals might be working at cross-purposes, preventing the organization from moving efficiently toward its goals.
b.     Planning reduces uncertainty by forcing managers to look ahead, anticipate change, consider the impact of change, and develop appropriate responses. It also clarifies the consequences of actions managers might take in response to change. Even though planning can’t eliminate change, managers plan in order to anticipate changes and develop the most effective response to them.
c.      Planning reduces overlapping and wasteful activities. When work activities are coordinated around established plans, wasted time and resources and redundancy can be minimized. Furthermore, when means and ends are made clear through planning, inefficiencies become obvious and can be corrected or eliminated.
d.     Planning establishes goals or standards that are used in controlling. If managers are unsure of what they are trying to accomplish, they will be unable to determine whether or not the goal has actually been achieved. In planning, goals and plans are developed. Then, through controlling, actual performance is compared against the goals, significant deviations are identified, and necessary corrective action is taken. Without planning, there would be no way to control.

Source: Management, 11e (Robbins/Coulter)