Look Out Ahead

When Tom Miller was hired to head the Administrative Services Division, he was ready for the job. After 20 years of managing procurement and logistics in the military, he knew something about running these important support activities. Now, after three years with Genco, he had the entire operation running fairly smoothly.

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As head of Administrative Services, Tom was responsible for three areas: purchasing, document storage and processing, and the mail room. The mail room was supervised by Rodney James, 32. There were eight people in the mail room who handled the volume of internal communications, mail delivery, and supplies distribution needed to keep Genco running.

Replacing the supervisor in the mail room was one of the first challenges Tom faced at Genco. Not long after Tom was hired, Genco began receiving customer complaints that money they had sent was not being received. Tom care- fully monitored events for a period of about two weeks, found the mail room manager was stealing the money, and fired her. Tom took a chance and promoted Rodney James to the position. At that time, Rodney had worked in the mail room for two years, but he had no supervisory experience.

As Tom thought back on it, he was generally pleased with the results: Rodney emerged as a very capable supervisor. He was good with his employees even if he was not so effective as a delegator. Because of his tendency to do too much of their work himself, he was continually “fighting fires” but doing no planning.

Lack of planning and foresight was something that Tom could just not understand. Effectively anticipating future conditions and making plans accordingly was a learned instinct in the military. Rodney’s inability to make even the most simple plans was like screeching chalk on a blackboard to Tom. Indeed, Tom was good at making such plans. He knew how to make forecasts of project milestones, estimate budget requirements, perform workload estimates, create controls, prepare planning documents and reports, and execute a host of related techniques. To him, it was second nature.

Tom’s frustration with Rodney’s poor planning skills was coming to a head with the system conversion now underway at Genco. This conversion was a sys- tem-wide process of changing from a manual, paper based operating system to one that was an electronic, area-networked, integrated data-base system. In short, the system conversion that was to be fully operational in two months meant a drastic reduction in paper. And this meant a major change for the mail room.

Moreover, the start-up for the new system was timed to coincide with the start of the new budget year. Tom had been cautioning Rodney for the past few weeks that he needed to prepare a budget that reflected a better staffing and workload plan.

Tom had other concerns about the staffing arrangement in Rodney’s area. The biggest concern was the large gap in job titles and grades between Rodney and his staff. Rodney was a grade 12 supervisor, while everyone else was a grade 8 communications specialist. There was a grade 10 position called “senior communications specialist” that was open. Some of the communication specialists had longer tenure in the department than Rodney and were very capable.

Tom thought there could be two problems here. First, Rodney was not creating any backup for himself, in effect contributing to his delegation problems. By moving a few specialists into a senior specialist category, he could give them greater responsibility and ease his workload. Second, Tom was afraid that un- less something like this was done soon, the more capable employees would leave to find better jobs.

Tom mentioned these concerns to Rodney on several occasions. Each time, Rodney would say, partly out of sincerity and partly out of frustration: “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get around to it soon.”

But “soon” never seemed to come.

  1. What are the key issues or problems of the case?

  1. Prioritize the issues or problems.

  1. Is it necessary to identify the cause of the problem?

  1. Brainstorm the options available.

  1. Evaluate the options:
  1. Advantages
  1. Disadvantages
  1. Select the optimum solution.

  1. Describe how the solution should be implemented.


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