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Human interfaces

Human interfaces

Part One: Critical Thinking Questions

Instruction: Answer only 4 questions and 5 marks for each question. Question to be answered in full sentences, not point form wherever possible.

  • 1. You are a special assistant to the commander-in-chief of a peacekeeping mission to a war – torn part of the world. The unit consists of a few thousand peacekeeping troops from Canada, France, India, and Japan. The troops will work together for approximately one year. What strategies would you recommend to improve mutual understanding and minimizing conflict among these troops?
  • 2. Socialization is most intense when people pass through organizational boundaries. One example is your entry into the university that you are now attending. What learning and adjustment occurred as you moved from outsider to newcomer to insider as a student here?
  • 3. Two characteristics of creative people are that they have relevant experience and are persistent in their quest. Does this mean that people with the most experience and the highest need for achievement are the most creative? Explain your answer.
  • 4. From an employee perspective, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working in a matrix structure?
  • 5. Leaders of large organizations struggle to identify the best level and types of centralization and decentralization. What should companies consider when determining the degree of decentralization?
  • 6. Suppose that you were put in charge of a virtual team whose members are located indifferent cities around the country or origin. What tactics could you use to build and maintain team trust, as well as minimize the decline in trust that often occurs in teams?
  • 7. Administrative theories concluded many decades ago that the most effective organizations have a narrow span of control. Yet today’s top-performing manufacturing firms have a wide span of control. Why is this possible? Under what circumstances, if any should manufacturing firms have a narrow span of control?
  • Separating the Steam from the Haze
  • Nokia’s Evolving Organizational Structure

Part Two: Cases Studies (Total: 20 Marks)

Instruction: Answer only 1 Case study

“We need more steam mix for our Hamburger buns”, a veteran employee calls out to the new hire at a McDonald’s restaurant. “Get another package of mix, please.

For the newly hired McDonald’s employee, this is just another task to learn in the confusing world of fast-food restaurants. For seasoned employees, it is a ritual for newcomers that usually brings hilarity to the otherwise serious work-oriented setting.

Some new employees get the joke immediately, but most scurry to the food storage area in search of the elusive package of steam mix. They check among the stacks of Hamburger buns and in the freezer around the boxes of French fries for any package that says “steam mix” on it. After five or ten minutes, the discouraged recruits return empty-handed and ask for further directions.

Sometimes, if it isn’t too busy, co-workers might say: “It’s the big bag clearly marked “Steam mix”-the one with the picture of a kettle on it. Occasionally, the hazing might go one step further. With a straight face, an employee might reply, “Oh, that’s right”. We’re out of steam mix. Here take this bucket and go next door to Tim Hortons. We often borrow some of their mix.

Eager to please their fellow employees, newcomers jaunt across the parking lot with a McDonald’s bucket in hand and politely ask a Tim Hortons employee for some of their steam mix. A few Tim Hortons staff members have learned to play along with the game by telling the visitor that their steam mix is different than what McDonald’s uses. More often, the new McDonald’s worker is politely reminded that steam comes from boiled water and does not require any other ingredients.

Across the parking lot, co-workers watch the embarrassed (and occasionally angry) newcomers return with the empty MacDonald’s bucket. Somehow, the hazing ritual never loses its appeal, maybe because it provides a welcome break from the work. No one has quit over the experience, although most newcomers are subsequently cautious whenever co-workers ask them to retrieve anything from the storage area.

Discussion Questions

  • What negative effects, if any, does this hazing activity have on the socialization of new employees? Why? Would this type of hazing have a positive effect on socialization in any way?
  • What hazing rituals are you aware of in organizational settings? Why do they occur? Should they be discouraged or are they of some value?
  • Identify any organizational behavior topics that would explain why this hazing activity occurs and what consequences it has for the employee, co-workers, and restaurants.

Nokia Corporation has experienced considerable change over the past three decades and its organizational structure has changed just as dramatically. In the early 1990s, The Finnish firm had a product-based organizational structure designed around its diversified businesses: consumer electronics (television, audio equipment), cable for construction and power transmission, industrial rubber (tires, footwear), and its recently acquired telecommunications business.

Nokia became the market leader in cellphones by 1998 (overtaking Motorola), so it sold most other divisions and designed a new organizational structure around its cellphone and consumer electronics businesses as well as several function groups (finance, human resources, etc.). The consumer electronics business was not sufficiently profitable, so it was sold and Nokia drew a new organizational chart in 1999 around cellphones, the emerging business of mobile networks, ventures (emerging internet technology), and communication products (digital terminals).

By 2003, the cellphone market was converging with photography, games, music, and other multimedia content, so Nokia added a new “multimedia” division to keep the company at the forefront of those developments. In 2006, the company’s burgeoning network division was spun off as a joint venture with a similar product group at Siemens.

Nokia’s earlier organizational structures gave some priority to Internet and multimedia technologies, enough to put the company at the forefront of the quickly emerging “smartphone” market. But with increasing competition from Canada’s Research in Motion (which makes the Blackberry) and Apple (which makes the iPhone), Nokia recently announced the new organizational structure that will focus more power and resources around this segment.

The new chart (a simplified version is shown in Fig. 1) includes a “Smart Devices” division, mobile phones division,a “Markets” division (responsible for global sales and supply chain operations), and a few functional groups (e.g., finance, human resources). “Nokia’s new organizational structure is designed to speed up execution and accelerate innovation, both short-term and longer term”, explain Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. “We believe that this will allow us to build stronger mobile solutions”.

Fig1.The new chart


Discussion Questions

  • What form of departmentalization has Nokia relied on throughout most of the past three decades? Why have these forms of departmentalization been adopted?
  • Evaluate Nokia’s changing organizational structure against the changing characteristics of the external environment over this time. Has the structure mostly contributed to Nokia’s success or been a hindrance to it?
  • Although not explicitly described in this case, in your opinion, in what parts of Nokia would you expect to find the most organic organizational structure, particularly low formalization and high decentralization?What parts of Nokia would be most mechanistic?