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Just Follow Law is a Singapore-produced comedy that clearly displays the inflexibility of outdated governmental rules and regulations and the rigid mindsets of local civil servants who follow rules to a fault. The title itself is a pun on the Singlish phrase ‘just follow lor’, which means to comply with orders without questioning why.
The movie revolves around two distinct, diverse, yet very much contrasting characters: Lim Teng Zui, a middle aged man who is an electrical technician working for the company, Work Allocation Singapore (WAS). Tanya Chew, on the other hand, is the director of Events and Promotion of Work Allocation Singapore. Besides their contrasting work ranks, their personalities are also a striking difference to each other as Lim Teng Zui is lazy and not good at what he does but is friendly with all his colleagues and even have 2 loyal buddies always by his side. Tanya Chew, who incidentally is Lim’s boss, always has a professional look on and only gains the respect of others through fear.
Early on in the show, the difference between both characters is further clarified as Lim is introduced as a single father with a daughter whom he loves very much but struggles to give her the best as he experiences tight financial constraints; Tanya, as a person of high position and qualification, living in a high class condominium with ample money, but disrespectful and ignorant towards her own mother.
During a VIP visit, the CEO of Work Allocation Singapore orders that everything within the company must be presentable. As an effect, Lim’s department is ordered to work overtime just to clear up the stuff on their floor of the building. It is shown here that even a simple request of switching on the air-conditioner or borrowing a fan has to go through tedious, unnecessary procedures such as writing in a formal request, sending an e-mail and waiting for 3 working days to process such a simple request, while higher ranked office staff actually count down the seconds until they can leave from work. Due to the company’s habit of saving cost, Lim Teng Zui has no choice but to store all the unwanted stuff in the car parking lot and board it all up, with the final piece held together with masking tape when the nails run out. The combination of Lim’s poor work ethics and his incompetence causes the VIP to fall when the wall gives way, leading to an investigation in which ‘finger-pointing’ is done to find the scapegoat. Lim is blamed. As a result, his bonus is cut. Infuriated, Lim confronts Tanya, and he chases her in his vehicle until they hurtle off the bridge and they wind up in a horrible accident. The duo are then sent to the hospital. When Tanya and Lim awaken, they find out that they have switched souls. After this exchange, they try to reverse the process, through mediums and psychological methods but fail to do so. They are forced to accept the fact that they can’t get their bodies back, and adapt to living in each other’s bodies.
Tanya upgrades her skills, while Lim idles around, enjoying his newfound wealth and splurging unnecessarily on his daughter. Due to Lim’s negligence, the department grossly overspends and the CEO, together with Chee and Eric, the other 2 high ranking employees within the company, who had been offended by Tanya earlier, plans to shut down the department that Tanya is working in.
In an attempt to save the department from closure, Tanya and Lim plan to put on a Job Fair Exhibition so that the CEO would think again about shutting it down. Tanya and Lim try some ways of getting publicity, but in the first attempt, red tape gets in their way and they would have to wait at least three months to be able to do anything. In the second attempt, they try using scantily clad guys and girls to promote the event but the company receives complains from the members of the public. The duo decides to forget about the rules by hinting to the VIP about the job fair although their CEO gave strict orders that nobody should mention about the event in front of the VIP. Tanya and Lim manage to make the Exhibition a success, incurring Eric’s and Chee’s wrath, who proceed to sabotage the Exhibition by tearing down one of the stage boards and calling off the dancers that were supposed to perform.
Tanya and Lim deal with the obstacles right to the end of the programme, where the sing-along ends in disaster as sparks from the planned pyrotechnics cause the stage to burst into flames. Luckily, as the board that was sabotaged was held up again by masking tapes, the majority of the audience could flee, but Lim’s daughter is trapped. Lim saves her, but as he is still in Tanya’s body, the daughter runs to Tanya instead. Lao Zha Bo, Tanya’s mother, frets about Lim while the other looks on. They realise several things and they come to appreciate the difficulties the supervisor and the subordinate have to deal with. Tanya, in Lim’s body, also gets congratulated by the VIP for her ingenious idea to create a destructible wall as a fire escape. The CEO tries to steal the credit for the VIP’s praise but accidentally gets described by Eric as ‘covering his backside’ or trying to avoid the blame.
At the end of the movie, it is revealed that the company has folded. The CEO was blacklisted for making too many mistakes. Eric and Chee were sacked when their plot was discovered. Both also had their pension (CPF) confiscated. Tanya and Lim try to re-enact the accident under the exact same situations in an attempt to switch back their bodies. It can be seen that the attempt was not successful, as “Tanya” scratches herself in a manner which she did while the souls were switched, and “Lim” told her off, just like before. This would assume that things are still the way they were, and that the “switch” was not successful. The marriage was the method by which they could both still be with their respective daughter and mother.
In small organizations where the variety of work is low, employees can move between jobs to build up their versatility and interchangeability. As organizations get bigger and as the nature of the work done diversifies, then it is more likely that employees start to specialize in the type of work that they do. It is the division of labor, to portray the extent to which activities in an organization are split into separated tasks.
Specialization is the extent to which there are different specialist roles in an organization: the higher the number of specialist roles the higher the degree of specialization. Specialization also refers to the extent to which employees engaged in similar or closely related tasks are grouped together. This is called routine specialization and occurs when jobs are split down such that employees only do one or a few parts of a job but not the whole job. High specialization has the advantage that employees reach high levels of efficiency, achieving higher output and control is simplified as jobs are tightly defined, thus increasing employee satisfaction. Possible disadvantages include creating a climate of inflexibility, creating workers who do not see or who are not interested in the ‘big picture’, and creating work that, over time, becomes boring. It is simpler and less costly to acquire and coach workers to do certain recurring tasks. Lastly, work specialization increases production by encouraging the invention of unique gadgets and machinery.
Following work specialization is departmentalization, which is the grouping of jobs in order to coordinate tasks. Departmentalization by function is commonly used in all of organizations, modified only to indicate the organization’s objectives and activities, bringing about advantages such as acquiring efficiencies from grouping similar specialists together. Depending on the type of product manufactured by the organization, such departmentalized jobs have better responsibility for product performance as all actions related to a specific product are controlled by a single manager.
Departmentalization, if based on geography or territory, can also be valuable when customers with similar needs are scattered over different regions. When production is organized into several departments, it is deemed to be an example of process departmentalization as each department plays a vital role is the production process. This method is the source for the homogenous classification of activities. The final category of departmentalization is to use the particular type of customer the organization seeks to get hold of, assuming that customers in different departments have a common set of problems and have needs that are required to be met by specialists.
Chain of Command
Two complementary concepts in the chain of command include authority and unity of command. Authority refers to the intrinsic rights possessed by one in a managerial position to give commands and expect them to be complied with. The unity of command principle states that a person is directly responsible to only one superior in order to avoid conflicting demands from several superiors, if it is broken. It helps maintain a constant, unbroken line of authority although the concepts of authority and maintaining the chain of command have lesser importance today. This is due to the fact that employees nowadays have the authority in management decision making.
Span of Control
It determines, to a high degree, the number of levels and managers an organization has. The number of people that can be efficiently coordinated by one person varies between organizations and in particular with the nature of the work undertaken. The number of employees that report directly to a manager is called the span of control. It ranges from one upwards but for practical reasons is unlikely to be above 100. As the span of control increases so does the problem of control and coordination.
The number of subordinates reporting directly to a manager is commonly around 10-12. Above this, some other level of management or supervision is usually introduced. All other things held constant, the larger the span, the more efficient the organization, in terms of cost. However, if the span becomes too large, employees’ performance will suffer due to the supervisors being unable to provide leadership and support. Nevertheless, a wider span can be handled when employees have been trained carefully.
Narrow spans have certain disadvantages such as they increase costs with the added management levels, increase complexity in vertical communication of an organization and encourage employee dependence due to excessively strict administration.
Centralization & Decentralization
Centralization is the extent to which authority for decision making in the organization is centralized, concentrating at a single point so that it rests with top management. In heavily centralized organizations, a head office typically keeps tight control over all important decisions. Divisional managers may be consulted over decisions affecting them but the balance of decision-making autonomy lies with the centre where top managers are given substantial scope to participate in and take decisions at or near the place where the work is performed. The structure is said to be centralized. Such autonomy, when given, commonly includes freedom to work within a budget, choosing ways of working, scope to innovate with products and services and to liaise with suppliers and customers. Centralization gives overall control to a few people and has the advantage that decisions are more likely to be consistent and jobs at lower levels should be simplified because important decisions are removed. The disadvantages of centralization are that it can become a byword for unhelpful bureaucracy that slows down the pace of decision making, and front-line employees can feel that they have little responsibility to think about things that they feel are important.
Decentralization, in theory, provides greater potential for motivation employees and, because decisions are taken nearer the place of work, the organization can react faster and in a smarter way to customers’ needs. In an extensive review, however, Hales (1999) shows that the concept of decentralization is far from clear and cautions that decentralization alone is unlikely to bring about much change to managerial behavior. Only when human resource management practices such as selection, training and reward are changed are the conditions for new behavior created.
Formalization is the tendency of an organization to create and impose written policies, rules and procedures that govern the way work is carried out. It refers to the standardization of jobs. This includes job descriptions and staff manuals detailing the procedures for staff to follow in given situations, many of them trivial in the minds of employees. This results in a consistent and uniform output, compared to a low degree of formalization where employees have excessive freedom to exercise discretion in their job, and even engaging in alternative behaviors.
The mechanistic structure is another generic term for the mechanistic model. This model is a structure characterized by extensive and rigid departmentalization, high formalization, a limited information network, centralization, high specialization, clear chain of command and narrow spans of control. This structure is also suitable for the cost minimization strategy, which focuses on tight control, extensive work specialization, high formalization and high centralization. In other words, innovators seek the efficiency and stability of the mechanistic structure.
The term ‘bureaucracy’ in an organizational context relates to the work of Max Weber (1864-1920). Weber was concerned with understanding the ‘rationalization’ of Western society. This is basically about understanding the ways in which the choices that people have over the ways they do things were increasingly constrained by laws, rules and regulations.
Bureaucracy is a key part of rationalization and it embraces several aspects of organizations such as hierarchical structures, employees having clear responsibilities, rules and procedures, managers having legitimate authority based on their position in the organization, and employees that are motivated to achieve organizational goals. Weber was concerned that the future held out only prospects for greater rationalization. Standardization is the main concept that underlies all bureaucracies, its strength lying in its ability to perform standardized operations efficiently. These operations, together with high formalization, allow centralized decision making.
Weaknesses of bureaucracy include the potential of functional unit goals to dominate the overall goals of the organization and having its efficiency questioned as long as employees do not confront problems that they’ve come across as well as obsessive concern over rules and regulations.
Organizations are constantly organizing and reorganizing their processes and structures. This may involve disbanding various groups and creating others which are formally constructed, usually by middle or senior managers. Formal groups are, therefore, consciously created to accomplish the organization’s collective mission and to achieve specific organizational and departmental objectives. They are primarily concerned with the coordination of work activities and are task orientated. They are embedded and entrapped in the fabric, hierarchy and structure of the organization: people are brought together on the basis of defined roles.
The nature of the tasks undertaken is a predominant feature of the formal group. Goals are identified and developed by the management, and rules, relationships and norms of behavior are established. They have been consciously created and organized, recruited for and put together by somebody for a reason. Formal groups are an important element of the organizational structure.
Because the individuals in formal groups share some commonality of objectives, goals and occasionally rewards, they are more akin to teams-formal teams. They assist people to:
– accomplish goals much less haphazardly than they would in informal groups
– coordinate the activities of the functions of the organizations
– establish logical authority relationships among people and between positions
– apply the concepts of specialization and division of labor
– create more group cohesion as a result of a common set of goals
Charles Handy (1993) identified a number of major organizational purposes for groups and teams. They are to:
– distribute work, having brought together a particular set of skills, talents and responsibilities
– manage and control work
– facilitate the problem-solving process by bringing together all of the available capabilities
– pass on decisions or information to those who need to know
– gather ideas, information and suggestions
– test and ratify decisions
– coordinate and facilitate necessary liaison
– increase commitment and involvement
– resolve arguments and disputes between different functions, levels and divisions
Running alongside and within exist a number of informal groups such as:
– the group of soccer fans
– the lunchtime people
– the cinema-going group
– the folk who enjoy having frequent coffee breaks
The list is endlessâ€¦
An informal group is defined as a collection of individuals who become a group when members develop certain interdependencies, influence one another’s behavior and contribute to mutual need satisfaction. Informal groups are based more on personal relationships and agreement of group members than on any defined role relationships. They simply emerge in the organization. They may be born out of shared interests, friendship or some other social aspect. What informal groups satisfy, in a way that the formal group may not, is a sense of belonging, the idea that we can be wanted, needed and included for what we are and not because the organization has put us to work with these other people. These informal groups can also satisfy a range of other needs. They can:
– reduce feelings of insecurity and anxiety and provide each other with social support
– fulfill affiliation needs for support, love and friendship
– help to define our sense of identity and maintain our self-esteem
– pander to our social nature, as ‘social animals’: they are a means of entertainment, alleviating boredom and fatigue, boosting morale and personal satisfaction
– provide guidelines on generally acceptable behavior: they help shape group and organizational norms
– cater for those often ill-defined tasks which can only be performed through the combined efforts of a number of individuals working together.
Membership of a group can cut across the boundaries created by the formal structure. Individuals from different parts and levels of the organization may all belong to the same informal group. Informal groups tend to have a more fluid, flexible and variable membership than formal groups, which tend to be fairly ‘permanent’.
One way organizations can use teams is in creative problem solving. The term employee involvement team applies to a wide variety of team whose members meet regularly to collectively examine important work place issues. They discuss ways to enhance quality, better satisfy customer, raise productivity, and improve the quality of work life. In this way, employee involvement teams mobilize the full extent of workers’ know- how and gain the commitment needed to fully implement solutions.
A special type of employee involvement group is the quality circle or QC for short. It is a small group of persons who meet periodically to discuss and develop solutions for problem relating to quality, productivity, or cost. QC are popular in organization around the world, but cannot been seen as panaceas for all of an organization’s ills. To be successful, members of QCs should receive special training in group dynamics, information gathering and problem analysis techniques. QCs work best in organization that place clear emphasis on quality in their mission and goals, promote a culture that supports participation and empowerment, encourage trust and willingness to share important information, and develop “team spirit”.
In today’s organizations, teams are essential components in the achievement of more horizontal integration and better lateral relations. The cross- functional team, consisting of members representing different functional department or work units, plays an important role in this regard. Traditionally, many organizations have suffered from what is often called the functional silos problem. This problem occurs when members of functional units stay focused on matters internal to the function and minimize their interactions with members of other functions.
In this sense, the functional departments or work units create artificial boundaries or “silos” that discourage rather than encourage more integrative thinking and active coordination with other parts of the organization. Members of cross-functional teams can solve problems with a positive combination of functional expertise and integrative or total system thinking. They do so with the great advantages of better information and more speed.
Virtual teams introduced as ones whose members meet at least part of the time electronically and with computer support, are a fact of life. The real world of work in business and other organization today involves a variety of electronic communications that allow people to work together through computer mediation, and often separated by vast geographical space,
Virtual teams offer a number of potential advantages. They bring cost-effectiveness and speed to team work where members are unable to meet easily face-to-face. They also bring the power of the computer to bear on typical team needs for information processing and decision making. Virtual teams may suffer from less social rapport and less direct interaction among members. Whereas computer mediation may have an advantage of focusing interaction and decision making on facts and objective information rather than emotional considerations, it also may increase risk as group decision are made in limited social context.
Just as with any form of teamwork, virtual teams rely on the efforts and contributions of their members as well as organizational support to achieve effectiveness. Teamwork in any form always takes work. The same stage of development the same input considerations, and same process requirements are likely to apply in a virtual team as with any team.
Motivation is the force that energizes behavior, gives direction to behavior, and underlines the tendency to persist. This definition recognizes that in order to achieve goals, individuals must be sufficiently stimulated and energetic, must have a clear focus on what is to be achieved, and must be willing to commit their energy for a long enough period of time to realize their aim.
Because motivation is an internal force, we cannot measure the motivation of others directly. Instead, we typically infer whether or not other individuals are motivated by watching their behavior. For example, we might conclude that an engineering friend who works late every evening, goes to the office on weekends, and incessantly reads the latest engineering journals is highly motivated to do well. Conversely, we might suspect that an engineering friend who is usually the first one out the door at quitting time, rarely puts in extra hours, and generally spends little time reading up on new developments in the field is not very motivated to excel.
Working conditions can affect a worker’s performance. Numerous interruptions, extra assignments, or cramped office space may negatively influence performance. On the other hand, a quiet place to work, the help of assistants, and ample support resources, such as equipment, may have a positive effect on project performance. Thus actual performance is likely to be function of ability, motivation, and working conditions.
As a result, it is important that managers hire individuals who have the ability to do what is required. Then the management challenge is providing working conditions that nurture and support individual motivation to work toward organizational goals.
The main elements in the motivation process are shown in the figure below.
Hierachy of needs theory
Acquired needs theory
Social learning theory
Actual performance is a function of ability and working conditions, as well as motivation. Efforts to understand the motivational process have centered on several major elements: needs, cognitive activities, and reward and reinforcement issues.
Needs theories argue that we behave the way we do because we have internal needs we are attempting to fulfill. These theories are sometimes called content theories because they focus on what motivates others. For example, Maslow argues that our needs form a five-level hierarchy, ranging from physiological to self-actualisation needs.
Herzberg’s two-factor theory contends that hygiene factors are necessary to keep workers from feeling dissatisfied, but only motivators can lead workers to feel satisfied and motivated.
ERG theory updates Maslow’s approach by proposing three need levels and including the frustration-regression principle and the satisfaction-progression explanation of movement among need levels.
While the hierarchy of needs and ERG theories view certain needs as inherent, McClelland’s acquired-needs theory argues that needs are acquired or learned on the basis of our life experiences. His work has focused particularly on needs for achievement, affiliation, and power, as well as on how these needs affect managerial success.
Cognitive theories, sometimes called process theories, attempt to isolate the thinking patterns we use in deciding whether or not to behave in a certain way. Expectancy theory posits that in deciding how much effort to expend in a given direction, we consider three issues: effort-performance expectancy (the probability that our efforts will lead to the required performance level), performance-outcome expectancy (the probability that our successful performance will lead to certain outcomes), and valence (the anticipated value of the various outcomes or rewards).
Equity theory indicates that we prefer situations of balance, or equity, which occurs when we perceive the ratio of our inputs and outcomes to be equal to the ratio of inputs and outcomes of a comparison other (or others).
Goal-setting theory highlights the importance of goal commitment, specific and challenging goals, and feedback. Goal setting works by directing attention and action, mobilizing effort, increasing persistence, and encouraging the development of strategies to achieve the goals.
Reinforcement theory argues that our behavior can be explained by consequences in the environment. The four major types of reinforcement are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, extinction, and punishment. Schedules of reinforcement specify the basis for and timing of positive rewards. They include fixed-interval, fixed-ratio, variable-interval, and variable-ratio schedules.
Social learning theory argues that learning occurs through the continuous interaction of our behaviors, various personal factors, and environmental forces. Three cognitively related processes are particularly important: symbolic processes, vicarious
learning, and self-control.
The degree to which activities in the organisation are subdivided into separate jobs.
Example: Lim Teng Zui is the Assistant Event Technician who specialises in repairing and maintaining the operations in the company. Tanya Chew is the Director of Event and Promotion who organises events for the company and promotes all the events that are held by the company.
The basis by which jobs with the similar characteristics are arranged to be in the same department.
Example: There are a few departments in Work Allocation Singapore (WAS) including Event and Promotion department, Finance department, Training department, Job Matching department, etc. All the employees are grouped into these functional departments.
Chain of Command
An unbroken line of authority that ultimately links each individual with the top organisational position through a managerial position at each successive layer in between.
Example: Alan Lui is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WAS. Each individual in the organisation is able to identify his or her boss and trace the line of authority through the organisation all the way to the top position.
Span of Control
The number of subordinates a manager can efficiently and effectively direct.
Example: WAS is an organisation that has a narrow span of command. There is a tight supervision in each department where the employees have little autonomy to make decisions and have to report every detail to their respective Head of Department.
The degree to which jobs within the organisation are standardised.
Example: WAS is an organisation which relies on written policies, rules, procedures, job description, and other documents to specify what actions are (or are not) to be taken under a given set of circumstances. Everything must be in black and white as a mean of formalisation.
The degree to which decision-making is concentrated at a single point in the organisation.
Example: Alan Lui who is the CEO of the company makes all the decisions and the employees have no rights to object their CEO’s decisions.
A strategy that emphasizes tight cost controls, avoidance of unnecessary innovation or marketing expenses, and price cutting.
Example: WAS is a mechanistic structure that performs high formalisation, high centralisation, tight cost control, and extensive work specialisation. In order to save cost, the employees are instructed to keep the unused materials at a proper site where masking tape is used to cover those materials.
Two or more individuals interacting and interdependent, who have come together to achieve particular objectives.
A designated work group defined by the organisation’s structure.
Command Group – a group composed of the individuals who report directly to a given manager. For example, the secretary of Tanya Chew reports directly to her regarding the outstanding job.
Task Group – a group of people who work together to complete a job or task. For example, the employees of WAS are grouped together as team to make the job fair a success.
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