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AeroTech, Inc. specializes in conducting aerospace technology research and manufacturing associated products. The position of the firm in the market is not stable, and some of the company’s engineering teams do not demonstrate expected results while affecting marketing and sales (Anderson, Cases, and Exercises 154). The purpose of this paper is to analyze what problems AeroTech has with the focus on specific underlying problems, what data gathering methods to use, and what advantages and disadvantages of the proposed methods should be taken into account.
The Client’s Requests
In this case, Patrick Delacroix, the executive vice president of engineering, is a client who is interested in receiving consultation and assistance for improving the work of the company’s laser systems team headed by Todd Lyman. Delacroix asked Cassandra Wilson, the firm’s organization development consultant, to assist in planning time management and prioritization training for engineers from the laser systems team with the focus on providing them with training in project management. In addition, Delacroix requested to provide management coaching for Lyman in order to develop his skills (Anderson, Cases and Exercises 156). These requests reflected how Delacroix saw the problematic situation in AeroTech, and they represented his priorities in evaluating the faced issues.
Presenting and Underlying Problems
Presenting problems are issues that are usually provided in the form of explanations of situations given by leaders. These problems are initially accentuated by clients seeking assistance because they are easy to become aware of (Anderson, Organization Development 132). In this case, presenting problems are those reported by Delacroix: affected productivity as the inability to release or present products in time and win the market share and inappropriate time management associated with the work of the laser systems team and ignored deadlines. One more associated problem is over budgeting that is typical of the laser systems team. As a result, the productivity of the whole firm is affected, the market share is potentially lost, deadlines for product releases are not followed, and over budgeting is observed.
Underlying problems are issues that should be considered as the key causes of presenting problems. If presenting problems demonstrate symptoms of an issue or a problematic condition recognized by a leader, underlying problems demonstrate what particular aspects caused the development of these issues (Anderson, Organization Development 132). In this case, the conversation between Delacroix and Wilson indicates that the company suffers from some underlying problems associated with the work of the laser systems team.
Firstly, the members of the laser systems team experience the pressure of working in this newly designed environment, the period of adaptation is required, they still feel that their desires to work together were ignored, but they are strictly controlled by Delacroix, and this aspect can contribute to creating stressful environments in addition to regular overwork.
Secondly, the managerial style of Lyman can be inappropriate for working with a team that includes new and tenured employees, he is inclined to complete inaccurate projections, and his approach is not correlated with Delacroix’s expectations. Thus, Lyman can lack appropriate goals set for him by Delacroix in terms of managing the team. The most likely problems, in this case, are the inability of Lyman’s team to cooperate because of its composition and the lack of adaptation, and Lyman’s unawareness of exact goals to complete according to the company’s expectations.
Data Gathering Methods to Use
It is important for Wilson to collect data that can support the assumed underlying problems. The data that can illustrate that engineers from the laser systems team cannot work appropriately because of experienced barriers, pressure, and dissatisfaction are their narratives and opinions regarding the situation in the newly designed team. It is necessary to understand what specific factors influence engineers’ time management and productivity from their personal perspective. Moreover, the data that can illustrate potential problems with Lyman’s managerial style and inabilities to set accurate goals and deadlines are official documents of AeroTech and reports, including the information regarding differences in deadlines and budgets used before and after assigning Lyman as the manager of the project.
In order to collect the first type of data, it is reasonable to conduct the focus group session involving the members of the laser systems team without Lyman. The method of focus groups is selected because it allows for contacting the whole team and initiating debates in order to collect data regarding the atmosphere and communication in the team. The task of Wilson is to schedule a meeting, prepare questions to discuss, and conduct a meeting that can last several hours. Questions formulated for the focus group should be similar to these ones: “How can you describe your experience of working in the laser systems team during the past year?”, “What problems can you identify in the work of the team?”, “In your opinion, what are the causes of these problems?”, “What are strong and weak sides of Lyman’s leadership?” and others.
To gather the second type of data, it is necessary to use unobtrusive measures, including the collection of information from AeroTech’s historical documents and reports regarding the performance of the laser systems team and other teams in terms of following deadlines, using budgets, distributing resources, scheduling, and forecasting among other issues. It is necessary to collect these unbiased and valid data in order to understand what tendencies are observed in the work of teams with the focus on their productivity and contributing to the company’s profits without the impact of Delacroix’s and Lyman’s opinions. Table 1 illustrates the timeline for conducting proposed data gathering with reference to the limited time available for these activities.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Methods
The key advantages of focus groups are the possibility to collect data from several persons at once and save resources and to gather information in the form of a conversation or debates to provoke participants to declare their opinions. In the context of the discussed case, it is possible to stimulate thinking and analysis of the team’s dynamics during the focus group session for the laser systems team.
However, there are also disadvantages associated with potential avoidance of conflicts during the meeting, dominant thinking of some members of the team, and the impossibility to discuss private issues appropriate for interviews. In addition, the process of analyzing the recorded data can take more time than it was planned initially (Anderson, Organization Development 134). Using these data, it will be possible to plan team building activities, work redesign, and regular negotiations for team members.
Potential advantages of using unobtrusive measures are the possibility to gather data that are not influenced by the interpretation and vision of Delacroix or the team leader. Furthermore, the analysis of documents allows for collecting objective and valid information. These measures are also important to support or not data collected with the help of other approaches (Anderson, Organization Development 136).
There are some disadvantages associated with this method. In this case, the collected data can be inappropriate to some extent to demonstrate how Lyman’s management influences the productivity of the team. Furthermore, much time can be required to collect and analyze these data. Still, this objective information is important to be gathered by the consultant because of leaders’ reliance on subjective conclusions. Further individual assessments should be conducted to assess and influence Lyman’s managerial style.
For the case of AeroTech, data gathering methods should include the use of focus groups and unobtrusive measures. As a result, both subjective and objective data will be collected to make reasonable and evidence-based conclusions regarding the problems observed in the company. The data that will be collected with the help of the selected data gathering methods will be used for planning appropriate interventions for engineers working in the laser systems team and for Lyman.
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Team interventions will be oriented to creating positive and collaborative relationships between the members of the team. Work redesign and negotiations can be used as approaches to improving the situation in the laser systems team. Individual interventions for Lyman should include individual assessments to help him adapt his managerial style to the company’s needs.
Anderson, Donald L., editor. Cases and Exercises in Organization Development and Change. 2nd ed., SAGE Publications, 2017.
—. Organization Development: The Process of Leading Organizational Change. 4th ed., SAGE Publications, 2017.