Introduction of Case and Problem
The Blue Screen of Death case is devoted to the situation that occurred in the international consulting company Big Blue after its acquisition of Peirce and Winehouse, another consulting firm, with its staff being employed. The key figure of the case, a former Peirce and Winehouse senior consultant Anne, is given a high position by the new employer and is thus involved into the process of decision making in the company.
Anne’s cooperation with her new colleagues is accompanied by a range of disagreements. Particularly, the decision about focusing on selling the company’s software products was criticized by Anne but actually advanced by the other consultants. Another controversial situation occurred when Anne was included into a multidisciplinary team invited to work with a South African company Mining Inc.
Being experienced in consulting, Anne had a big range of responsibilities within the bounds of the project; however, when the day of the project presentation to the Mining Inc. came, she found that her companion, Zubair, is not going to participate in it. Anne faces the challenge of conducting the presentation on her own, and asks her colleagues, John and Steven, to help her. Being highly motivated and willing to work for the benefit of her employer, Anne demonstrates initiative and takes actions, but her activity is met with misunderstanding and brings no result.
The described case gives a broad fiend for analysis from the point of problem solving. The aim of this essay is to find the causes of the describe situations and offer an effective action plan for managing it. To offer a solution for the Big Blue case, it is reasonable to apply John Dewey’s five-steps problem solving approach.
Dewey’s model embraces the path from facing the problem to solving it and includes the following elements: 1) defining a problem, 2) analyzing the detected problem, 3) developing solutions, 4) comparing solutions and choosing the best option, and 5) working out a course of action (Narayan, p.133). Thus, it is necessary firstly to detect the problems that took place in Big Blue.
One of the problems that arose in the Big Blue case is the conflicting chain of command. Such problems may occur when teams from different jurisdictions and branches of an organization work on a common task. The teams located in different countries operate based on different logistics, ethical motivations and a harmonized way of doing things. This can be explained from different perspectives: on the one hand, national cultures have their impact on management (Scarborough, 2001, p.5).
On the other hand, each company has its peculiar organizational culture, which sometimes requires time for two and more firms to start effective cooperation (Almeida, Grant & Phene, 2002, p. 74). As a result of these factors, different approaches stemming from local practices come in conflict and act as an impediment for the work on a group task.
Another problem in this situation is distribution of responsibilities which was not distinct enough. It is possible to state that this is a widespread cause for conflicts at the workplace (AstraZeneca, 1999). Firstly, it is not clear from the case whether Anne has an opportunity to influence the decision about selling the company’s software products to the customers, or she is trying to advance her vision simply based on her notion of a company’s optimal strategy. According to the case text, Anne has the related conflicts over several years being not able to insist on implementation of her idea.
One more important aspect in the discussed case is the issue of ethics.
The need to work along the shared code of ethics was not given the importance it warranted. Tasks in the organization have to be done ethically for the organization to appreciate Big blue and give a contractual consultative partnership due consideration. The situation that occurred between Anne and Zubair also illustrates the difference between understanding of ethics at the workplace: while Anne considered Zubair’s decision unethical, he considered it admissible.
The conflict of interests is the issue that seems to be quite difficult to analyze within the bounds of this case. Anne and her colleagues had different views on the way a company should operate: while Anne demonstrated a “customer-oriented” approach insisting on identifying clients’ particular needs and developing optimal solutions, other consultants preferred to follow the “income-oriented” scheme. It is however unreasonable to accuse the consultants of putting their private interests higher than those of the whole company, as they believed selling software products is more profitable and thus more effective.
One more aspect that should be considered is conflict management in team work. Conflicts have to be resolved on a win win basis, which means that either one party of the negotiation proves that their idea is better for everybody and the second one accepts it, or the parties find the compromise. The parties should be able to hear each other and make concessions.
The situation described in the case can be analyzed based on the team development model offered by Tuckman (1999). According to this approach, a group passes through four stages of its “evolution”, which is: 1) forming, 2) storming, 3) norming, 4) performing (p.28). In the discussed case, after the team has been formed, it came to the stage of storming accompanied with a range of problems.
To come to the stage of norming, the team members should be ready to listen to each other and comprehend the situation. For a manager who needs to solve a problem at the workplace, it is necessary to discern a problem and its symptoms in order to be able to develop an effective action plan. After the problems Anne faced have been outlined, it is possible to discuss their causes. This corresponds to the second stage of Dewey’s model, which is analyzing a problem.
One of the roots of the problems is the difference in organizational cultures of Big Blue and Peirce and Winehouse and Anne’s inability to adapt to another company’s culture. Anne felt that the way in which Big Blue did its business violated her personal values. She carried her preferences on how to approach tasks from her experience at Pierce and Winehouse, which affected her approach to work at Big Blue.
Poor conflict resolution had obvious consequences in the case study. Failure to come to consensus before the presentation is a key factor in the given situation. It became especially apparent when the Australian had to conduct the presentation on their own.
The case study emphasizes the importance of resolving conflict before a negotiation. It is necessary to look united and annihilate all conflicts before an important financial negotiation. The presentation should look to have come from a unified team that supports each other than going for each other’s throats because, in the end, it is the organization that loses from the animosity.
While Anne is the team leader for her group, her inability to reconcile with the organizational way of carrying out business, sets up an obstacle for achieving group tasks. It clouds her judgment, and she is sensitive to strategies that are financially viable to her organization because they appear against her beliefs that consultative approaches will benefit both organizations. This is not unilaterally shared by her group members per se, and let alone the South African group (Bass, 1985).
Conflict from protocol, stems a sharp misunderstanding from the two conjunctive groups. The groups cannot find consensus over presentation whereby they fail to agree on the extent of task delegations. Conflict of interest and the way of approaching tasks are cited as indicators of storming in the life cycle of the group.
Thus, John Dewey’s problem solving criteria can be called into question to resolve the conflicts that manifest in the various problems ailing the group. Identifying the felt difficulty, should not be interpreted as an obstacle entirely, but as a way that provides room for its discourse (Belbin, 1993). The difficulty arising allows one to determine the presence of a problem.
Instead of walking out as Anne did, she should have faced the problem and tried to identify the problem by categorically laying out her felt difficulty. This will open up the needed room for analysis and description of the problem. Through expression of the felt difficulty, solutions should be sought and agreed upon with the relevant resources at the two manager’s disposal (Bergmann, Hurson, and Russ-Eft, 1999).
The solutions should be many, and the best should be chosen after clear evaluation and examination. This will allow them to put the solution into action by going into the negotiation with Mining Inc. with a united team and allow the Big Blue to rip full benefits from investing in the partnered consultation with Mining Inc.
Anne should raise her ethical concerns with the Human Resource department at Big Blue so that it does not creep into tasks and raise ethical dilemmas that are prone to be liabilities to the organization. At the moment, she should advance her views and preferred approach to the group members for deliberations that allow for both teams to go in as a coordinated force, and not come out looking completely uncoordinated and unprepared.
Collision of responsibilities in the multidisciplinary team led to a problematic situation before the presentation. It would be useful for the team to realize that they are going through Tuckman’s group dynamic stages, and the present impasse is a conflict that can be solved much to the benefit of the group.
They should face their conflict head on and discuss a way forward before presenting their proposal to Mining Inc. Considering that Anne was not able to foresee Zubair’s decision, she ought to discuss the responsibilities each team has in the very beginning of the work on the project. The described situation occurred in the morning, the day of presentation, which may make one wonder why Anne and Zubair did not prepare to it in advance.
The team was only at the stage of storming according to Tuckman’s model, which means that misunderstandings are likely to appear, and Anne’s responsibility was to make cooperation thorough and detailed. On the other hand, Zubair should explain why the South African team finds it better to have Team Australia do the presentation and offer support. Citing articulation and the power of expatriate word in Africa, or need for a conjunctive group presenting unified work is substantive.
Both teams should apply the organizational approach when dealing with external organizations. Anne should raise her concerns in the house, but must appear, as the same with the organizational policy as her team is, representing the organization and not her personality (McShane, Olekalns and Travaglione, 2010). Her issues can be deliberated and solved within the organization ,and help by concession to ease the impasse.
The advantages of this approach are that it will steer cooperation in the two teams and allow them to work towards organizational goals. The group will work towards selling their organizational proposal to Mining Inc. thus, achieving the group’s task.
It will allow the group move up Tuckman’s tier to forming a group stage that is task oriented, after ironing out the conflict stage and reconciliation with the task and personality friction. The method will avoid the win lose scenario of conflict resolution and excuses later.
The feeling of being shortchanged, and thus, bad blood will derail the negotiation and make it unprofessional (Blackler and Kennedy, 2003). Avoidance of a subject in a conflict situation is not solving it but postponing it.
It has disadvantages, though, one being that not all get what they wanted from the situation, which breeds further conflict. There are those who are forced to make concessions and thus, lose ownership of the group output and reduce their drive to sell the proposal. For instance, Anne will lose ownership if her approach that better appeals to her values is dropped for the financial approach preferred by the organization.
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