Describe how contracts apply in the allocation of tenders.

Organization Development: B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corp due in 3 hours


Group Case Study:

B. R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation

HRD 520

Spring 2010

Jordan Alkire, Erinn Hopkins, Jeff Joliffe,

Michelle Madsen & Tara Sherwin

May 12, 2010

Jack Lawler, a management trainer and consultant, was contacted by Richard Bowman, the industrial relations officer at B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation, in hopes of conducting a “motivation course” and improving morale within the plant. Lawler agreed to meet with Bowman and the company president, B.R. Richardson, to assess and diagnosis the lamination plant. Lawler found several problems that became evident after evaluating the plant. Motivation and morale were just two factors within the plant that needed to be changed. Lawler found that after visiting the plant, that this would be a much larger undertaking then what he had been originally led to believe.

When Lawler visited B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation, he went through the initial steps in the OD process, entering and contracting. “They involve defining in a preliminary manner the organization’s problems or opportunities for development and establishing a collaborative relationship between the OD practitioner and members of the client system about how to work on these issues” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 75). When arriving at the plant, Lawler first met with Richardson and Bowman to discuss the plant and share their thoughts and feelings. Lawler was then taken on a tour of the plant before leaving, and promised to write them a letter about the next steps that should be taken.

When entering the plant, we believe that Lawler executed many of the proper steps. He sat down with the two gentlemen that had contacted him and discussed their feelings on the plant. Lawler then described to the client his methods for going about training and consulting; first he would diagnose the problem, then implement a training and action plan that was believed to be needed.

Once leaving the plant, he wrote to Bowman outlining the methods that he believed would be most effective. Richardson and Bowman agreed that “a more adequate diagnosis was probably a useful first step” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 713). Therefore, the three came upon the agreement that graduate students would visit the plant for a day with Lawler to gather further information and make a presentation on their findings. Entering the company this way would reduce the overall cost, with the only expenses incurred by the client being three days for Lawler’s time plus travel expenses for Lawler and his students.

Lawler ended up getting two students, Mike and Mitch, that would accompany him to the lamination plant and perform a diagnosis and gathering information on the plant. Mike and Mitch, as well as their class, were informed about the plant and were “provided with information that might be usefully sought and how informal interviewing on the work floor might be accomplished” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 716). Soon after, the three gentlemen made their way to Papoose, Oregon where they would attempt to further diagnose the problem.

During the entering and contracting stage, it is important that when entering into an OD relationship that (1) the organizational issue is clarified (2) the relevant client is determined and (3) the OD practitioner is selected properly. Typically, the issue that is present within organizations is “only a symptom of an underlying problem” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 76). Therefore, it is important that the issue within the plant is addressed immediately so that diagnostic and intervention activities are focused appropriately. Within this article, Lawler finds that motivation and morale is low. Although other issues become evident when more information is gathered, it is important to start off with a defined issue. This is why it is useful to collect preliminary data on the plant.

Relevant clients were then determined. This not only included managers within the plant, but also the other staff and personnel. This way all perspectives are heard and issues can become more apparent, as well as how to solve them. Relevant clients were defined based upon the issues that were unveiled within the lamination plant.

The final step when entering into an OD relationship is to make sure that the right OD practitioner is selected. The OD practitioner must outline “goals, action plans, roles and responsibilities, recommended interventions, and propose fees and expenses” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p.77). This had already been done with Lawler’s follow-up letter to Bowman. Lawler was also recommended to Bowman from a friend in a regional association for training and development persons. This allows Bowman to have further confidence in him as an OD practitioner and his abilities.

Developing a contract is the next step. “Contracting is a natural extension of the entering process and clarifies how the OD process will proceed. “It typically establishes the expectations of the parties, the time and resources that will be expended, and the ground rules under which the party will operate” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 79). The overall goal for the contract is to make sure that it is the best possible solution, and how to carry out such a process is executed upon. “The contract that is agreed on during the entry and contracting stage should reflect the amount of time required to conduct an efficient and thorough evaluation phase of the OD process” (Jones & Brazzel, 2006, p. 239).

In this case, Lawler decides to use graduate students in a one-day visit to the plant to further gather information. That information would then be analyzed by Lawler and presented to Richardson and Bowman. Lawler would be involved in the process, but allow the students to examine the plant and input their observations. The only costs would then be three days of Lawler’s time and expenses for travel.

“The contracting steps in OD generally addresses three key areas: setting mutual expectations or what each party expects to gain from the OD process; the time and resources that will be devoted to it; and the ground rules for working together” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 79). Both Lawler and Bowman discuss what they want out of this relationship. Lawler wants to involve his students with the hopes of making a diagnosis of the problem within the plant. Whereas Bowman hopes to not spend a lot of money, while still utilizing Lawler’s expertise to help within the plant to improve morale and motivation.

Time and resources were again laid out between the client and Lawler. One day of observation plus travel expenses for the students, and three days of Lawler’s time and expertise were agreed upon between the two sides. The last part of the contract is to come to terms with ground rules and how plant personnel and Lawler will work together. It was agreed that the students would come in to interview and observe operations to draw conclusions about the plant. This will allow for strongest possible feedback in the end.

There are several factors in Lawler’s entry and contracting process that we believe could have improved, creating a better diagnosis of the problems. First off, Lawler did not seem to gather a lot of information about B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation, its industry or its competitors. Further research may have given a better outlook on the company and problems that may have existed. For instance, he could have compared statistics such as pay, work attendance and benefits with those of B.R.’s competitors. This would have the potential to provide better insight as to what drives similar plants successes where B.R. Richardson Timber Products is lacking.

It would have also been helpful for Lawler to talk to other people at the plant when first visiting. How is he able to properly diagnosis the problem if he does not see all points of view? Lawler seemed to rush into the process, only listening to Bowman and Richardson. If he would have talked to other employees, he may have been able to pinpoint certain problems and be able to further examine them on his next visit, rather than having his students thrown in there blindly. We felt as if the employee interviews could have been conducted more efficiently. A more accurate diagnosis could have been ascertained if only certain key employees were pinpointed. However, it is a good idea to have a broad sample of employee ranks to provide the best feedback. One person in particular that we believe should have been talked to at length was Joe Bamford, the plant manager, because of concerns shared by Bowman and Richardson.

We also questioned Bowman’s decision to hire Lawler. Bowman hired Lawler based on word-of-mouth, and really did not second guess himself as to whether Lawler was the best person for the job. This could be extremely risky, especially when money is involved and especially since the plant did not want to pay a premium for the services rendered. Lawler’s entry and contracting process was not overly effective, however we liked the use of graduate students to keep costs down and provide an effective classroom. This not only proved to be more cost effective for the lamination plant, it also allowed for fresh eyes to view the plant. We believe this added more insight and may have prevented underlying issues to go undetected.

There are several models that we can use to go about organizing the information that was collected with B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation. Since information was gathered differently by three people, we chose the Open Systems Model to help make sense of the data. We went through the information provided by Jack, Mitch, and Mike and sorted each of their findings into the model components. When diagnosing an organization, it is important to understand how the total organization functions with its inputs, design components and their alignments, and the outputs.

The inputs include the general environment and the task environment. The lamination plant at B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation requires lumber and personnel in order to produce custom-made laminated beams and trusses. At the time of the case the lumber market was very unpredictable, but continuously growing as the economy stabilized. This is important to the environment of the company because one of their main goals was to maximize their profits every year. Despite cost of cutting increases, the plant managed a 10% increase in production. Seventy percent of the laminating plant lumber was purchased from outside companies, primarily four different Oregon-based companies, and the other 30% was from the Richardson mill. We believe more data should have been collected by Lawler and his students on the inputs of the timber company.

The strategy represents the way an organization uses its resources to achieve its goals or competitive advantage (Cummings & Worley, 2009). This is another area that remains unclear as it appears the goals for the lamination plant are not formally written down. There is no mention of a mission statement and functional policies are not clear to employees, let alone the OD consultant.

Technology is concerned with how the timber plant converts its lumber into the custom-ordered laminated roof trusses and beams. The lumber arrives at one end of the plant, undergoes a series of processes through shift work, and in an assembly line–like fashion as it moves through the building. Through a series of sorting, gluing, curing, cutting, planing, storing, finishing, and shipping the customer will receive their beam. The technology is relatively certain and very interdependent. Each department is dependent on the other before they can move on. For example, the planer often finds himself waiting around for hoists as there were not enough. The end-to-end process is slow and the workers would like to see it speed up. Workers were frustrated because they are expected to work faster, yet at the same time are limited by the equipment. The equipment and the machinery were “antiquated with costly and time-consuming maintenance” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 725).

There is not enough space for the beams to cure properly. The plant manager expressed his frustration for the size of the plant; he felt that it is too small and they aren’t able to accomplish their summer work properly due to the size of the plant. If workers truly feel that the size of the plant is having an impact on production, then their outputs are not going to be what they need them to be. It is also noted that “there was a lot of metal laying around in the aisles, making it very hard to maneuver and walk around; there were bandsaws with no type of guarding at all; no safety signs hanging around the shop; and one worker didn’t even have on a safety helmet, while the other safety helmets were of very poor quality” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, p. 725).

According to Cummings and Worley (2009), the structural system design component describes how resources (work and people) are focused on accomplishing a task. The lamination plant at B.R. Richardson Timber Products shows work divided by function on the organization chart. However, many employees and supervisors were doing work cross functionally. No one seems to know what each other should be doing. There is a specific position for a scheduler, yet the plant manager is also scheduling. The plant manager also dabbles in purchasing, engineering, bidding, and sales. He recently worked on engineering drawings, which was something usually done by the customers. The secretary creates reports that are repeated by the manager or vice versa. The plant manager is considered a hands-off supervisor and poor at following up with all of the areas he puts his hands into; but at the same time he is widely recognized as a hard worker. The plant manager is great at coming up with projects but throws off other employees when they seem to have to finish his project; a task they had not planned for.

The plant often lacks going through the proper channels of leadership and supervisors on the floor were receiving orders from multiple people. Likewise, supervisors reporting upward are skipping past managers who need information. The organization chart lists Dirk as the scheduler, yet the floor supervisor, Rolf, calls Dirk the head of finishing and planing. Rolf mentions that the plant manager makes the schedule and gives it to both Dirk and Rolf. Then, at the end of the day they spend a lot of time going over what happened and plan ahead.

Departments are informal. There seem to be a lot of different people crossing into other positions to fill in without really knowing how to do the job, therefore pulling away from the job they should be doing. The maintenance workers fall behind in their tasks as they pitch in on the line. A planer was coaching a finish helper and the Quality Control manager and others just jump in on the line when they are short handed, all items that did not seem to contribute to a successful operation. Quality control traditionally is the group that inspects a product before it goes out. The plant Quality Control manager seems to spend much of his time on the line or creating reports from machines.

The main office sits atop a hill and overlooks the entire plant. We feel that in this instance, in order to provide better communication all around the organization that it would be a better idea to have the main office situated somewhere closer to the plant. This will allow employees easier access, and with the serious accidents that have happened, it would allow more supervisor interaction and access. Another logistical challenge is that the floor supervisor, Rolf, has a desk right next to the plant supervisor. This compounds the problem of unclear roles and crossing job duties. Many employees don’t even realize Rolf is the supervisor, calling assistant to the plant manager. The desks are located in an office off the side of the secretary’s office and serve as an entrance to the building. Structuring the offices in

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