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Walmart Inc.’s Project-Based Operational Plan Report (Assessment)


Overview of the Project

Introduction

Sam Walton established Wal-Mart in 1962. The company that is headquartered in Bentonville in Arkansas has been struggling to maintain the industry’s leadership due to the increasing competition from other organizations such as Target. Walton Company owns 48 percent of shares, thus making it the main owner. Wal-Mart appeared in the New York stock exchange in 1972. The company accounts for 51 percent of greengrocers sold in the US (Keil & Spector, 2005, p.336). Wal-Mart is an incredible organization for basing a project plan. It has been facing a number of challenges, which have psychological perspectives tied to them. Such challenges are labor and employee relations.

Enhancing good labor relations within an organization requires one to have cognitions of the factors that influence people’s behaviors such as decisions to seek employment from competing organizations within the same industry. Wal-Mart employs over 2.2 million people across the globe, thus making it the leading employer in the US (Keil & Spector, 2005, p.336). It has been experiencing increased lawsuits by employees. The organization also encounters challenges of high turnover rates akin to poor job satisfaction among other factors. According to Harris (2011), labor turnover in the organization is about 70 percent annually (p.17). Lawsuits are filed by employees in relation to claims of poor conditions of working, insufficient provision of healthcare coverage, anti-union policies deployed by the organization to curb strikes, and complaints of low wages (Ingram, Qingyuan & Hayagreeva, 2010, p.63). Upon considering the contribution of Wal-Mart in lowering unemployment levels, it is crucial to conduct a research to determine how to improve employee retention rates.

Benefits of the Project to Wal-Mart

Organizations endeavor to resolve challenges that influence their performance to develop the capacity to fight competitively with rival organizations. Solutions are best implemented when the root causes of problems are known. For Wal-Mart, the establishment of the root causes of employees’ behavior is an important step in restoring their confidence to the organization as opposed to challenging the employees in a court of law. In this regard, the findings of this project are important for Wal-Mart. Through this project, findings on the effectiveness of motivation and empowerment approaches deployed by the company are helpful in aiding Wal-Mart to identify the missing links in the satisfaction of employees

Control at Wal-Mart may result in increased turnover. Such controls include the hindrance of the free engagement of employees with the organization to address their concerns through unions. The controls make the organization non-democratic. Investigating the perception of employees on the hindrances of unionization is beneficial to the organization. It provides an opportunity to learn about the implications of non-democratic management approaches to the ability to use employees in building a competitive advantage for the organization. Controls may also hinder employees from creating and innovating ways of doing tasks in a manner that would save costs (Hall, 1999, p.33). Stiff controls may also hinder information sharing, which is a major driving force for organizational success for a knowledge-based organization. Thus, investigation of the impacts of control deployed by Wal-Mart on employees is important in helping to recommend a new approach to directing, controlling, planning, and organizing employees for Wal-Mart to have high employee retention levels.

Strategic Planning

Vision and Mission Statement of the Project

The vision statement of any project plan acts as the guide for achieving the expected results. The main aim of designing a mission statement is to provide a means of availing clarity together with teamwork focusing on the objectives and aims of a project. For the proposed research, the mission is to conduct evidence-informed research on Wal-Mart focusing on organizational challenges that are central pillars to the increased organizational conflicts with employees. The vision of the project plan is to deliver research findings and recommendations that would help Wal-Mart to regain employee confidence and organizational commitment in the effort to utilize them as sources of organizational strength as opposed to the current state in which the two aspects function as sources of organizational threats.

SWOT Analysis of the Project

The main objective of the project plan is to conduct research in Wal-Mart that would help to recognize the missing links in enhancing workforce motivation, job satisfaction, and retention. In an organizational management context, strength is the trait that enables an organization to have an advantage in comparison with other organizations (Hill & Westbrook 1997, p.47). The strength of the project plan is that Wal-Mart is already experiencing several challenges related to employees’ complaints (Ingram, Qingyuan & Hayagreeva, 2010, p.63). Recommendations that would help the organization to reduce incidences of lawsuits, absenteeism, and turnover have high probabilities of being welcomed. Wal-Mart has been trying to find ways of improving its brand image. The area of concern on the project plan as implied by the stated objective is directly coherent with this initiative. Some weaknesses of the project plan are inevitable. The research will be conducted in a bureaucratic organization. This may affect effective communication between the research team and employees of the Wal-Mart.

One of the major opportunities for the success of the project plan is the increasing concerns of employees to have their concerns addressed in the quest to have a better work-life balance. It is anticipated that inadequate addressing of the challenges encountered in the work environment agitates employees. Hence, opportunities exist for acquiring credible information from them. One of the threats of the project plan is that it is maybe seen by Wal-Mart as an attempt to seek information to justify employees’ complaints pursued through lawsuits. Consequently, the bureaucratic management structure may cause frustration to the project work team members by denying access and opportunity to recruit respondents. Imposition may also be made on information disclosure by creating fear among employees. This would influence negatively the credibility and reliability of the research findings.

Organizational Chart of Wal-Mart and a Strategy Map of the project

The Wal-Mart organizational chart shows pictorially the function and responsibilities of various high-ranking leaders. This chart is schematically illustrated in fig.1 below.

Organizational Chart for Wal-Mart Source: (Keil & Spector, 2005, p.338)
Fig 1: Organizational Chart for Wal-Mart Source: (Keil & Spector, 2005, p.338)

Similarly, a project plan chart depicts the responsibilities together with the duties of various project team members. This chart is shown in fig. 2 below.

Questionnaires clerks
Questionnaires clerks. Source: (Keil & Spector, 2005, p.338).

Internal and External Forces that May Affect the Project

Several factors may influence the successful completion of projects. Such factors emanate either internally or externally within the context in which the project is conducted. From the PEST EL approach, the factors are political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal factors (Simon, 2007, p.125). For the project plan, teamwork members must be paid salaries and/or wages. Hence, they must pay taxes in the form of pay-as-you-earn. The political environment affects the implementation of the project plan through tax policies. The research team must also comply with environmental regulations, tariffs, and employment laws established within various nations where the research is to be conducted. The main challenges of the project plan are that these laws are different for different nations were Wal-Mart has established its stores.

From the perspective of economic factors, the successful implementation of the project plan requires funding. Such funds are used to pay salaries and/or wages and to cater to the data collection and data analysis. Similar to any project, this research project plan has financial and time constraints. Social factors act as an immense success factor of any research. Such factors include the risk of poor management of the research team differences arising from their diversities. Technology affects a project plan in terms of the determination of the appropriate technology for data collection and analysis. In the research project plan, it is expected that it will require a large sample size for reliable representation of the population by the sheer number of the employees employed by Wal-Mart. Since the plan is to collect data through questionnaires, high costs are anticipated since data collection costs are directly correlated to the size of a sample.

Core Competencies of Wal-Mart that Will Help the Project

Collecting data from a large population requires cooperation and willingness by respondents to participate in research with minimal efforts of conviction that the data provided will be treated with confidentiality and anonymity. Where the respondents are the employees for organizations, a research project will progress more effectively and collect the requisite data if the employees are engaged and interested in the results anticipated when the research is conducted. To this extent, Wal-Mart has a key competence in that is has managed to create an organizational culture for all employees to consider themselves associates and owners of the company. In the effort to maintain this culture, the organization is interested in garnering employees’ views on how to improve the performance of the organization (Keil & Spector, 2005, p.342). Culture as a core competence for Wal-Mart will help this project by providing information sought in the questionnaires. Therefore, employees will consider the research an opportunity to air their views on how the organization can enhance its performance and/or make them more satisfied.

Human Resources

Staffing Needs, Training, and Ways to implement Performance Evaluations

Organizations operate under different cultures. Thus, training of the research staff on Wal-Mart’s organizational culture is important to help in reducing conflicts between employees of Wal-Mart and the research staff. This ensures the staff acquires skills that are necessary for the needs of the operations. Training also has the significance of helping to achieve “better service work safety practices and productivity improvements” (Brockbank, 2003. p.338). The research team leader should not lose staff members when the research has commenced. Hence, training is of great importance to enhance staff retention until the project is concluded.

For the research project to attain its objectives, it is important for its performance to be measured continuously. One way of accomplishing this requirement is to measure the performance of the staff in the effective distribution of questionnaires, the capacity to address questions from the target audience in relation to reluctance to provide information, and time management. Utilization of the Q12 approach to measurement of staff engagement can help to implement performance evaluations. This approach aims at “uncovering the things that really matter to employee engagement and business performance” (Bierbusse & Siesfeld, 2007, p. 9). Performance management strategy in the project aims at unifying diversities of the staff to create a homogeneous project execution culture. This helps in the elimination of frictions associated with different staff diversities. Q12 performance assessment strategy focuses on several chief elements, which must be evaluated by the team leaders and their assistants to determine whether research team members under them comply with the best practices. These are absenteeism, theft, quality, profitability, safety incidents, productivity, incidents of patient safety, and turnover. For the purpose of this research, productivity, absenteeism, quality, and staff turnover are important.

Measuring the above aspects is essential for the assessment of the performance of the project. When staff members are better engaged, they consider themselves the heads of the research projects (Richard et al., 2009, p.828). Hence, incidences of absenteeism reduce, with the quality of the data analysis increasing while the probability of success of the research rises.

Appraisal for Potential Needs of Demand Forecast, Labor Supply Forecasts, and Reconciliation of Supply and Demand

The selection of the staff members is based on the professionalism and ability to deliver results. This implies that their chance of successful recruitment to form the research team is limited by the fixed demand of 50 persons even if the supply of such research professionals may be high. Where the number of people qualifying for the research job exceeds the demand, requirements will be reviewed upwards until a reconciliation of demand and supply occurs. This approach helps to make the research opportunities accessible to all interested persons without discrimination and/or prejudice.

Training Areas that may help to improve Performance, Quality, and General Efficiency of this Project

Several training areas are important for the success of the research project in terms of performance, quality, and general efficiency. One of such areas is on the mechanism of resolution of the differences between employees of Wal-Mart and the research staff. The employees of Wal-Mart have existing differences with the organization. This means that asking queries on subject areas, which have resulted in the animosity showcased by the employees often leading to the filing of lawsuits against the organization, may arouse emotional charge. Training on conflict management and anger management forms the essential elements of training requirements for the staff in the effort to obtain reliable and quality data from the respondents.

Team Structures

Types of Teams Forming Part of the Project

Persons forming part of the project team needs to possess the ability to work effectively in a team environment. The goal is to ensure that decisions made by a given workgroup do not depend on the thoughts of one individual. Rather, they need to incorporate different perspectives of different people for them to produce positive impacts on the success of the project. The work teams are made of small workgroups. According to DeChurch and Mesmer-Magnus, “the primary advantage of using small groups and teams is to expand the pool of the available information thereby enabling the groups to reach higher quality solutions than they could be reached by any one individual” (2009, p.535). The workgroups are also organized such that they are composed of persons having different diversities. The team should also facilitate information sharing through the process of the project execution.

How to Manage Conflicts with Individuals in a Group and/or Teams Working in Conjunction with Other Teams Within Wal-Mart

Work teams taking part in the project are composed of members of different genders, cultural backgrounds, and professional diversities. Wal-Mart’s workplace faces many dynamics that must be maintained under control to ensure that the project work teams realize the objectives and goals of the research. Work team diversities often create points of departure of the capacity of the group to arrive at a single decision anonymously. Thus, control of the teams’ diversities together with Wal-Mart’s employee diversities is important in the management of conflicts. Group performance is a function of the capacity to strike common grounds while making decisions based on the opinions among different members of the workgroup (DeChurch & Mesmer-Magnus, 2009, p.544). Using this approach to manage conflicts implies that a decision by team members is satisfying to all members if every member of the group is satisfied that his or her inputs are incorporated in the final research analysis process and findings.

Professional diversities create perceptions of the needs of the work team members to fight for their fragmented professional recognitions. For the project teams, professional accreditation and reward is based on the performance of people in their respective areas of specialization. This provides an opportunity for work team members to put efforts to ensure that the research is not halted due to problems that could be traced in their specialties. However, this issue is a challenge since professionalism diversity may hinder information sharing in the effort to preserve the intellectual property of all different group members (DeChurch & Mesmer-Magnus, 2009, p.544). Management of such conflicts requires changing the mentality of the team members to appreciate that they have collective roles as a team to achieve the success of the project. To realize this goal, it is crucial for some of the bureaucratic procedures used to monitor the project to change. In particular, a change of the procedure requiring reward for the performance of the project team members is based on individual performance. Achieving this goal is expected to be effective in helping to contribute to a better team performance since all team members will work towards fostering the recognition of the teams’ contributions to the success of the project.

How to Build Effective Teams

All team members of the entire project will make decisions, which affect the performance of the project. Thus, it is important for all group members to consider themselves leaders as opposed to looking upon a single individual in the team to take up the responsibility of leading others. This means that the teams should change from considering themselves as composed of research professionals. Rather, they should consider themselves composed of leading professionals. The argument here is that changing the teams’ leadership approaches is directly correlated with the effectiveness of the work teams.

Communication

Fostering Effective Communication

The success of any project in the realization of its goals aims and objectives requires an effective communication plan. The plan needs to be aligned with the goal of the project by delivering reliable and quality research findings that can help Wal-Mart to remain as the market leader in the retail industry. This move is perhaps important upon bearing in mind that the profitability of the company had been on a downward trend from 2007 (Ingram, Qingyuan, & Hayagreeva, 2010, p.55). Fostering effective communication among all work team members requires a democratic communication strategy. This means that the communication will be from top to down and from down to the bottom.

Examples of Ways to Improve Both Interpersonal and Organizational Communication

Communication is an important aspect of organizations and projects. One way of gaining a competitive advantage is by “discovering and implementing a communication strategy that supports a company’s business objectives for its customers, workforce, and partners” (Perry & Bodkin, 2000, p.89). For a project, good interpersonal and organizational communication strategies have multiple benefits ranging from enhancing work team motivations to retention of the most talented persons until completion of the project.

Operational Management

6-Sigma Toolset and Its Use the in Project

The goal of the research is to establish the causes for dwindling employee satisfaction at Wal-Mart. This means that there are variables creating the dissatisfaction of employees as evidenced by incidences of lawsuits and the high labor turnover averaging at 70 percent annually (Ingram, Qingyuan, & Hayagreeva, 2010, p.53). Six sigma tools can form an essential tool for the analysis of the research project problem. Since the aim is to evaluate the cause-and-effect relationships so that the factors contributing to the experienced employees’ behavior at Wal-Mart can be determined, the fish-borne diagram is an important six-sigma tool for use in this research. The utilization of this tool will be based on the responses made by the respondents as recorded in the questionnaires.

The main problem of concern is identified first (head). It is then followed by the identification of the spine components. These are the reasons cited by the respondent for why they are dissatisfied by Wal-Mart as depicted in the fishbone diagram pictorially in terms of the percentages of the respondents citing each reason. Upon listing of all possible variables in the various categories, DMAIC research experts who are the analysts in the case of this project identify three of the most significant factors accounting for the employees’ dissatisfaction with Wal-Mart.

Schematic and/or Chart for Fish-Bone Diagram

The schematic diagram shown in fig.3 shows the fish-bone model used in the research project.

Fish-bone Schematic Diagram
Fig.3: Fish-bone Schematic Diagram

Merging Lean and Six-sigma Transformational Systems

Merging Lean and six-sigma transformational systems in the project is important. As argued before, this research project has constraints of financial resources and time. Hence, while six-sigma in the development of the fish-bone DMAIC model used in the project, Lean’s concepts facilitate the reduction of wastes in the projects. Such wastes include the utilization of time in unnecessary tasks, which do not contribute to the achievement of the objectives, aims, and goals of the research project, and financial resource wastages.

Wal-Mart Categorization

Wal-Mart is a retail organization dealing with consumable products. Hence, it is a product-based company. However, in the process of conducting its business, it also sells services. The employees of the organization attend to customers. The nature and quality of services and products delivered to determine the contribution of employees in enhancing the competitive advantage of the organization. This argument implies that Wal-Mart is both a service and a product-oriented organization. In the service sector organizations, quality is enhanced through the deployment of strategies for enhancing customer satisfaction with services, the utility of services, and the speed of service delivery (Yelkur, 2006, p.110). For Wal-Mart, this includes the speed of customer service at the teller counters. In the product-based organizations, quality is a function of the utility of the product. If a product is capable of satisfying the needs of the consumers precisely, the quality of the product is high.

Use of Benchmarking in the Completion of This Assignment

Before initiating a project, it is crucial to evaluate the chances or sources of failure. Since the project has not been conducted at Wal-Mart before, useful sources of benchmarks constitute the other contexts in which a similar research was done. Once the identification of such contexts is done, the effort is then made to find out the challenges and success factors of such projects. A comparison is made for the current project and the benchmarks while considering the differences in project implementation contexts.

Monitoring Process

Financial Control Worksheets Related to the Project

The proposed project does not seek to sell products or services. This means that balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and financial ratios and such returns on investment among others do not apply to the project plan. However, a financial budget sheet is important since the execution of the research project requires finance to cater for the various experiences. The financial budget sheet is shown in appendix 1.

Bureaucratic Controls to Monitor the Project

Bureaucracy hinders innovation and creativity in organizations. However, for a project plan with specified goals and procedures of executing research, it is useful for various reasons. Bureaucracy helps in emphasizing objectives (Hall, 1999, p.37). In the context of the research, this focus is geared towards enhancing the realization of the vision and mission statements of the project plan. A project is characterized by standard operating procedures formalized in the form of research methodologies. Using bureaucracy to enhance conformance to these methodologies enables the project plan to deliver the proposed aims and objectives.

A project is constrained by time and monetary resources. Hence, bureaucracy is crucial in ensuring that time and financial resources spent by all team members are consistent with the financial project plan to avoid the risk of poor financial accountability and/or the situation where the project runs out of time. Consequently, bureaucratic controls to monitor the project in the form of standard rules and procedures help to save time since no critical decisions are required before starting the next procedure in the line of the project plan execution.

Reference List

Bierbusse, P., & Siesfeld, T. (2007). Measures that matter. Journal of Strategic Performance Measurement, 1 (2), 6–11.

Brockbank, W. (2003). If HR Were Really Strategically Proactive: Present and Future Directions in HR’s Contribution to Competitive Advantage. Human resource management, 38 (4), 337-352

DeChurch, L., & Mesmer-Magnus, J. (2009). Information Sharing and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(2), 535–546.

Hall, R. (1999). The concept of bureaucracy: an empirical assessment. The American Journal of Sociology, 69(1), 32-40.

Harris, E. (2011, May 17). Wal-Mart skips council hearings as impact of stores assailed. New York Times, pp. 17-18.

Hill, T., & Westbrook, R. (1997). SWOT Analysis: It’s Time for a Product Recall. Long Range Planning, 30 (1), 46–52.

Ingram, P., Qingyuan, L., & Hayagreeva, R. (2010). Trouble in Store: Probes, Protests, and Store Openings by Wal‐Mart. American Journal of Sociology, 116(1), 53–92.

Keil, S., & Spector, L. (2005). The Impact of Wal-Mart on Income and Unemployment Differentials in Alabama. Review of Regional Studies, 35(3), 336-355.

Perry, M., & Bodkin, C. (2000). Content analysis of Fortune 100 company web sites. Corporate Communications. An International Journal, 5(2), 87-97.

Richard, P., Devinney, M., Yip, S., & Johnson, G. (2009). Measuring business-unit level: Integrating administrative mechanisms with strategy. Academy of Management Journal, 31 (4), 826-853.

Simon, H. (2007). Rational decision making in business organizations. American Economic Review, 3(4), 123-129.

Yelkur, R. (2006). Customer satisfaction and service marketing mix. Journal of professional services marketing, 21(1), 105-115.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Financial budget sheet

Item Cost in U.S Dollars
Transportation of staff 10,000
Training and recruitment of staff 12,230
Stationery 5,123
Printing of questionnaires 6,790
Data analysis software 5,017
Salaries and wages 65,000
Staff and respondents refreshments 2,780
Data analysis hardware 25,980
Miscellaneous expenses 11,000
Total cost 143,920
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