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April 22, 2007
Random thoughts on Lesson 1 (OB)
As discussed during the introduction meeting, the theories shall be reviewed critically, always having in mind what are the assumptions and limitations of the case reviewed.
Here is one example that illustrates this concept: Chapters 2 and 3 speak about the different factors that motivate people for better performance. On page 12 the authors speak about scientific management and the reasons this theory is demised. Currently I am reading a book called “Fast Food Nation” – Eric Schlosser, 2002 - that besides other things reviews the economical background of the different fast-food chains (it doesn’t matter whether this is McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King). All of them have a basic model to divide the job to single elementary actions, that allow people without training to perform them after very short or no training at all – as paying them minimum wages is key to the financial performance. Reviewing scientific management description and mass production descriptions given in the book, it turns out at least for me, that these methods are still around. Having in mind that the fast-food corporations are between the largest recruiters in the world these practices obviously have certain % of usage even now. So it seems that
a) the economic model of the companies is the one that drives the management and HR practices used –it doesn’t matter for fast-food chains what do people think for the job and how motivated are they since the whole model is built on low wages, relatively unsophisticated workforce, quick start-up of new personnel and simple, easy to learn operations. The low wages factor is key for the profit of these organizations therefore it restricts the wide usage of methods for motivation of the personnel. (It also depends on the reputation of the food chain in different countries as well)
b) having people with low motivation who leave after spending 5-6 months in the fast-food restaurant is not a big deal for the food chains as this is one of the factors they accounted for in their business plans. Creating a training program that allows people who sometimes cannot even speak other English than McDonalds English shows that this is part of the business model.
c) Reflecting what EBE lesson 1 speaks about, the food chains converted some of the fixed costs to variable costs with some of the tools discussed in organizational behavior. They actually use them in a way opposite to the one discussed in the book. Keeping people not motivated and making them leave after some months helps them keep the wages at minimum levels.
On selection process (p.23)– it is interesting though that in my practice it is often difficult to describe the job itself. When I started, the job description consisted of, say, 10 tasks. One year later, when I interviewed the next person in the team, it has already grown to 20 key tasks. The third person had to face a challenge of 25 tasks J So in my opinion the personal attitude towards learning and development is more important than coverage of the skills required from day one (which is not possible in most cases anyway due to the specifics of the job itself). The book that we discussed in the bar (“Blink – the power of thinking without thinking”) lists several examples where the “gut feeling” prevailed over long and detailed studies in order to create desired results.
Social needs (p.59) – the text here seems to me a bit outdated. Now people can satisfy their social needs even without going out and meeting people – MySpace, Second Life, ICQ and similar can help in this direction quite well. It seems that OB itself will face some challenges to study all implications coming from the Internet and other modern technologies.
Generally, a tough reading with lots of references. The PDF file (Lesson 1) helps to bring all ties together.. looking forward for the following material next week
Reading 5 that speaks for bureaucracy mentions things that sound very familiar