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You are required to develop a job aid to assist managers with leading continuous improvement in the workplace.
Your job aid should be a step by step process flow with decision points.
Decisions are made differently within organizations having diverse environments. A PDM style includes any type of decision transfer from a superior to their subordinates (Sager, 1999). PDM may take many forms and can run the gamut from informal suggestion systems to direct high involvement at the policy and administrative level. Most researchers agree that participative decision-making is not a unitary concept. Somech (as cited in Steinheider, Bayerl, & Wuestewald, 2006) delineates five aspects of PDM: decision domain, degree of participation, structure, target of participation, and rationale for the process.
Steinheider, Bayerl, & Wuestewald (2006) cited Huang as separating PDM into informal and formal types. Ledford (as cited in Steinheider, Bayerl, & Wuestewald, 2006) distinguishes between three types of PDM: Suggestion Involvement, Job Involvement, and High Involvement. High involvement PDM entails power and information sharing, as well as advanced human resource development practices.
PDM can be broken down into four sub-types: collective PDM, democratic PDM, autocratic PDM, and consensus PDM.
Democratic leadership, also known as participative leadership, is a type of leadership style in which members of the group take a more participative role in the decision-making process. Researchers have found that this learning style is usually one of the most effective and leads to higher productivity, better contributions from group members, and increased group morale.
The democratic leadership style involves facilitating the conversation, encouraging people to share their ideas, and then synthesizing all the available information into the best possible decision. The democratic leader must also be able to communicate that decision back to the group to bring unity to the plan is chosen.
The democratic leader delegates authority, encourages participation, and relies on personal power (expert and referent power) to manage subordinates. The subordinates with democratic leadership:
When the workplace is ready for democratic leaders, the style produces a work environment that employees can feel good about. Workers feel that their opinion counts, and because of that feeling they are more committed to achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.
In an autocratic participative decision-making style, similar to the collective style, the leader takes control of and responsibility for the final decision. The difference is that in an autocratic style, members of the organizations are not included and the final outcome is the responsibility of the leader. This is the best style to use in an emergency when an immediate decision is needed.
In a consensus participative decision-making style, the leader gives up complete control and responsibility of the decision and leaves it to the members of the organization. Everyone must agree and come to the same decision. This might take a while, but the decisions are among the best since it involves the ideas and skills of many other people. Teamwork is important in this style and brings members closer together while trust and communication increase.
Decision makers cannot be experts in all fields. In such situations, the decision maker delegates full or partial responsibility of decision-making for a particular area of concern, to the expert on the team for best management outcomes. The participative leader retains the responsibility of final compilation of the draft responses from all. Such delegation is work specific and singular. It depends on the decision maker to compile the expert reports for the final response. Advantages of this type of decision-making process makes the group members feel engaged in the process, more motivated and creative. Expertise brings focused and result oriented solutions for BATNA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement) as and when necessary. Best management outcomes are obtained by utilizing this strategy. An authoritative decision maker would have a higher rate of success than the Democratic decision maker. This strategy would be a disaster, when applied incorrectly or inappropriately is a major disadvantage.
After Lewin’s early research on PDM in 1947, scholars started to explore different dimensions of PDM (Lowin, 1968). In 1988, it was indicated that six dimensions of PDM had been recognized and analysed. Those six dimensions are as follows:
Based on previous literature, Black & Gregersen (1997) also defined six different dimensions of PDM—rationale, structure, form, decision issues, degree of involvement and decision process—which can be seen in the table below:
Democratic: employees have rights to participate in DM. Pragmatic: high work efficiency, productivity, profits, etc.
Formal: the format has been decided previously. Informal: no fixed format, content, few rules.
Direct: immediately evolve in DM, present personal opinions. Indirect: representatives are assigned to participate in DM.
Includes 4 aspects: work and task design, work conditions, strategies and capital distribution (derived from Cotton et al. 1988).
Degree of Involvement
Different level of involvement generates differential outcomes.
Contains five processes: identify problems, solution-generating, select specific solution, planning and implementation the solution and evaluate the result.
Additionally, employee outcomes can also be evaluated according to six criteria (Brenda, 2001):
Some important constraints (van der Helm, 2007):
According to Oostvogels (2009) in his review of the book "Facilitator`s Guide to Participatory Decision-making" by Sam Kaner et al. (1998), the book is based on a concept called "The Diamond of Participatory Decision-making" which "... is a schematic representation of the different stages in time through which a team has to move in order to develop a solution that is satisfactory to all."
According to Papa et al. (2008), the vigilant interaction theory states that the quality of the group as a decision-making team is dependent upon the group`s attentiveness during interaction. Critical thinking is important for all group members in order to come up with the best possible solution to the decision.
Four questions that should be asked:
To make a good decision, there needs to be a good amount of information to base the outcome on. Information can include anything from charts and surveys to past sales reports and prior research. When making a decision primarily based on the information you are given from your organization, one can come to a conclusion in four different ways.
Decisive – Little amount of information and one course of action. Decisions are made fast, direct, and firmly.
Flexible – Little information available, but time is not an issue and they come up with many different courses of action.
Hierarchic – Much information available, but one course of action is made.
Integrative – Much information is available, and many decisions are made out of it.
A new kind of participative decision-making is communication through the computer, sometimes referred to as "Decision-making through Computer-Mediated Technology". Although a relatively new approach, this way can involve endless possibilities in order to reach a major organizational decision. There is a significant increase in more active and equal member participation. Individuals can talk to many other individuals at any time, regardless of geographic location and time zone. An organization can come together on a virtual site developed to make it easier to share ideas, share presentations and even have a chat room where anyone can add their input. Through a chat room, members of the organizations are able to see what everyone says and no one is blocked from offering their ideas. This method also allows for a convenient archival of past decision-making activities (Berry, 2002).
Some disadvantages of computer-mediated meetings are that sometimes feedback can be slow or there can be many conversations under way at the same time, causing confusion. Flaming (Internet) is another computer-mediated problem which occurs when a person uses inappropriate behaviour or language while interacting with another person online. Additionally, members also feel less personal and related to their team members (Berry, 2002).
Establish systems to ensure that the organisation’s continuous improvement processes are communicated to stakeholders
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is a critical deliverable of any continuous improvement project, and should be an important part of any project plan. The successful facilitation of a continuous improvement initiative requires credible communication systems throughout the organisation.
Communication systems should not be limited to internal use – they must extend to suppliers and customers. For example, if a team was about to collect data from a working production line, team members should notify all supervisors and operators in advance and tell them exactly why, how and when data will be collected.
Similarly, a team studying how employees in an office use their time must be able to allay any concerns that their goal is not to identify lazy people. Effective communication is cited as a critical success factor by organisations involved in continuous improvement.
Effective communication has a two-way flow – it involves sending appropriately crafted and timed messages to the right audience through the right media, and receiving (and acting on) feedback from the audience.
Communicating continuous improvement requires you to identify:
Each of these factors is explored in the following section.
What, how and when to communicate
What, how and when to communicate – strategies and requirements for establishing systems to communicate continuous improvement initiatives.
What to communicate
The choice of the information to be communicated cannot be made without considering the project`s tools and techniques for gathering the information and vice versa. Project communications are not a key deliverable of the continuous improvement initiative, but they should be treated as a project deliverable.
Start with your project plan: does the project charter contain any requirements for information? If it does, the information and its target audience ought to be included in your Communications Management Plan.
After identifying all the needs already expressed in the project documentation to date, you need to identify requirements from the various groups of stakeholders. This identification should be done in the context of what is feasible for the project to deliver.
Be prepared to meet with your process owner or project sponsor to identify their requirements. Be specific as to presentation: should performance be shown as a bar graph with a rolling six-week tally? Should it be shown as a line graph with the benchmark line of 1.0 and a rolling six-month tally? You may even want to mock up some sample reports to let them choose the format.
A project dashboard is a popular instrument for communicating project progress to sponsors and other senior executives. The dashboard is meant to show the status of your project at a glance and may consist of the project`s performance measures. You may also want to include such things as:
Repeat the requirements gathering exercise with each group of stakeholders, weighing their need for information with the project`s ability to gather and communicate it. Share as much of the information reported to the other groups with the project team (the people actually doing the work of the project), as is possible.
Your organisation may have policies or guidelines around what can and cannot be shared outside executive offices; share as much information with the team as possible without violating these policies. You`ll find sharing positive reports will boost morale, while sharing negative reports will stop the rumours that will further erode morale.
Be prepared to capture and report information by stakeholder group, department, or sub-project. The individual groups on your team will want the ability to view their progress in isolation from the rest of the team.
Make sure that you break the work down so that tasks performed by individual groups or departments are identifiable. This will enable you to report performance group-by-group or department-bydepartment and still tally up totals to report for the entire project.
The information you plan to communicate will drive your activities throughout the project. Your plans should include the metrics that must be gathered in order to support the information you plan to communicate. You will need to identify who is responsible for providing the information and where the information is to be stored and reported.
There are two questions you need to ask yourself before you submit a report:
Finally, don`t forget individual accomplishments and rewards when reporting project progress. There`s nothing like a good news story to keep team morale high and the celebration of a team member`s accomplishment is something most sponsors enjoy hearing about.
Review the following web pages for information related to communication and communication skills -
How to communicate
There are many different means of communication available: face to face, email, intranet, internet, regular mail, phone, video conferences etc. etc. These can be categorised into two groups:
Websites and centralised repositories are examples of pull communications, while email and meetings are examples of push communications.
Preference for either push or pull communications is often a personal preference.
Some people deal with information best when it`s presented to them and some prefer to retrieve it at their own convenience. Be prepared for conflicting requirements from individuals in your stakeholder groups. You may have to make the final decision on which method to use if there are conflicting requests.
If you determine that the project must have a new tool, such as a website, to satisfy a stakeholder requirement, you`ll need to justify the cost with a business case. State the benefits to the project in business terms that justify the costs. You can also include benefits that supersede your project. For example a website or tool such as Lotus Notes could benefit all projects your organisation performs, and may even provide a benefit to operations.
When to communicate
Your communication schedule will be driven by the needs of your audience and the availability of the information to be communicated. For example, you could report on any measures managed by a MS Project plan file daily. Alternatively, you can`t report on the results of your project milestone approval meeting until the meeting has occurred.
There is also no reason that a report communicated to one stakeholder group biweekly, can`t be communicated to another group every week. Consider the logistics and costs as well – if you choose to use a mass meeting to communicate to all stakeholders, don`t schedule the meeting to occur weekly. You won’t be popular!
Calculate the cost of your communications – when planning a meeting that involves you or another team member communicating information to an audience, count the audience, multiply that number by the number of hours the meeting lasts and multiply that number by the loaded labour rate for that group. Avoid spending large amounts on frequent communications.
Other meetings, such as status review meetings with project teams must be done more often to avoid the continuous improvement project going off the rails.
When the project is on track, weekly status review meetings are sufficient. When your project encounters problems, you might want to increase the frequency to better control the work. In extreme cases such as a project rescue, you may need to hold them daily.
Tools and techniques
Tools and techniques include tools you`ll use to convey the information, tools you`ll use to gather the information, and tools you`ll use to store and retrieve the information. Conveyance tools include:
What you`re communicating, how you need to communicate it, and your communication budget will determine which of these tools you`ll use.
Lastly, remember that the accuracy of the information you communicate about the project will have a profound effect, either positive or negative, on your reputation. You need to do your utmost to ensure the information you communicate is accurate.
Be open and honest with your communications – tell your audience where the information comes from, how it was compiled, and how old it is. Be forthcoming with any information that could impact on the accuracy of your reports and let your audience form their own opinions of the accuracy and value of your communications.
With the proliferation of digital technology in the late 20th century and early 21st century, communication has never been more personal and powerful. The first cell phone came about in 1984, and the mode progressed rapidly in the 1990s. Now, along with the Internet, myriad communication tools are available.
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