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Everest Simulation Analysis
Section 1: Introduction
As the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest is natural wonder that many people attempt to conquer. However, successfully ascending and descending Mt. Everest requires a meticulous amount of planning, organising and ongoing decision making. In order to emulate the planning and decisions that actual climbers experience, groups of five students participated in a Web-based simulated climb of Mt. Everest, with every member being assigned different objectives to complete. As the team's marathoner, my main goals was to reach the peak without being rescued. I was also assigned the role to predict temperature ranges at each decision point. Unfortunately, only 11% of my goals were achieved. During my experience, the Mt. Everest Simulation gave participants an immersive opportunity to acquire an enhanced awareness of the impacts of decision making, organising and planning.
Section 2: Planning and Controlling
2.1 Description of problem/issue
Due to an input error in the decision making process, I accidentally climbed to the fourth camp when I was supposed to rest at camp 3. This resulted in my health as the marathoner to deteriorate and I was eventually rescued during the simulation on decision 6. This caused many of the team leader's and my own goals to be rendered invalid. This input error indicates a lack of concurrent and feed forward control mechanisms in our decision making. Additionally, the group did not realise that every member received different information with each decision round. The fragmented information included an article on altitude sickness, weather pattern data and wind speed charts. If these information resources were used to the fullest potential, temperatures could have been predicted more accurately and team decisions could have had better outcomes from improved awareness of risks. Consequently, this would have improved individual scores and in extension the overall score.
2.2 Management research evidence
According to the research of V. Daniel (2000), firms that differ from traditional manufacturing firms such as those in the re-manufacturing industry requires far more complex planning and control in production activities. Re-manufacturing is a form of product recovery that emphasises value-adding products as opposed to just recovery of materials (ie. recycling). As such, the static nature of stochastic returns, return and demand rate imbalances and returned products with unknown conditions require careful planning and controlling in the remanufacturing processes (Daniel 2000). The article outlines that in a particular firm, before anything is done with received product, they are routinely assessed with a set of criteria (relating to product durability and functionality) to gauge re-manufacturability. The standardised criteria greatly helps firms establish better product control and predict variable costs. Generally, a re-manufacturing facility will be composed of three sub-sections which are disassembly, processing and assembly. Disassembly is where product information is disseminated, which then determines the kind of processing the product will undergo in the next step. The processing system is a generalised production area made up of smaller niche workstations, which allows flexibility in processing capacity. Due to high variability in times in the processing step, scheduling task allocations times in products "can be done with simple rule-of-thumb techniques" (Daniel 2000, p. 470).
In another case of evidence, Hodgson (2004) examines the impacts of bureaucracy in post-bureaucratic organisations based on empirical work conducted in the IT department of Buzzbank, a UK telephone bank. In order to adapt to the environment of a post-bureaucratic structure, project management has been suggested as a solution. Project management is a process or set of processes that instigate planning, organising and controlling organisational resources to achieve goals within predefined limits (ie. time constraints). Project management is established with the aim of handling discontinuous work, expert labour and continuous and unpredictable change in a post-bureaucratic setting while providing the same levels of control and reliability of traditional bureaucracy (Hodgson, 2004, p. 81). The study showed that attempts to introduce bureaucratic controls into a thoroughly affluent post-bureaucratic structured organisation was met by uncompromising attitudes and sometimes heavy resistance. It is worth mentioning that the decision to introduce bureaucratic systems indicates management's recognition of and response to the risks that are inherent in post-bureaucratic work like the dangers of devolved control and excess autonomy in the workplace (Hodgson, 2004, p. 97).
2.3 Application of evidence to problem/issue
The main problem identified with the planning and control aspect of the simulation was the input error and the loss of composure in the decisions that followed. The evidence gathered from the re-manufacturing industry can be applied to the Mt. Everest simulation in that both contain wide-ranging outcomes. Climbing Mt. Everest involves a multitude of crucial variables such as health (physical and mental), available supplies (oxygen, food, medication, communication etc) and external factors such as temperature. Like the re-manufacturing process, planning criteria for certain situations in the form of contingency plans is vital for raising the success rate of reaching the summit of Mt Everest. The structure of teams and decision making in the simulation is comparable to that of the re-manufacturing approach (disassembly, processing, assembly). 'Disassembly' is present in the simulation where information is provided to each player after every decision round in the form of feedback controls. The 'processing' part of the simulation can be seen in how each member is assigned a specific niche role while the group as a whole is equipped to adapt to varying circumstances. For example, if the group is together, the physician can administer medication to the marathoner should they experience an asthma attack. Therefore, the key to succeeding in the Mt. Everest climb is to keep the team together rather than separating at camps to keep group synergy, survivability and adaptability to its maximum potential. The downside to this, however, is that this would be a difficult feat to accomplish due to time constraints plus the requirement of foregoing several goals of some team members.
Hodgson's work can likewise be applied to the Mt. Everest simulation in that a post-bureaucratic organisation shares some similarities with the group structure of the teams. Facets of post bureaucracy include: placing emphasis on the team's missions, fluid/flexible decision making processes, high need for internal trust and expectations of change. A project management style approach to control may help the group's performance as it facilitates post-bureaucratic characteristics yet maintains some control and reliability, which was stated earlier as lacking in some aspect. Although this course of action may reduce errors, introducing bureaucratic style controls to a team of largely autonomous individuals may cause backlash. This inner conflict resulting from implementing extra control processes is likely to cause team performance to decrease, so perhaps it would help the team more if control levels remain the same.
Section 3: Leadership
3.1 Description of problem/issue
For our team, we took a substitutes for leadership approach. During our simulation, the team leader was not responsible for all aspects of the decision making process; all members had active roles in determining what actions the team should take. In this case, the leadership problem is dependent on whether or not the climb is done in the simulation or out in the field. For the simulation the input error from section 2.1 was purely a technical fault and is not representative of real life situations. In any case, the input error was unlikely caused by any leadership related faults in the simulation. After the mistake however, there was a loss of composure and motivation in team members with an emphasis on finishing the simulation more quickly, which seems to indicate deficiencies in transformational and empowering leadership.
3.2 Management research evidence
In management teams, there is reason to believe that the intersecting roles of knowledge sharing and team efficacy are directly related to the link between empowering leadership and team performance. Based on research by Srivastava, Bartol and Locke (2006), where 102 hotel management teams were surveyed, there is a positive correlation between empowering leadership to both knowledge sharing and team efficacy which supplement performance levels. Empowering leadership is characterised by a set of behaviours dictated by the distribution of power amongst a team with the purpose of raising motivation. Empowering leaders exhibit characteristic behaviour in the form of "leading by example, participative decision making, coaching, informing, and showing concern" (Srivastava, Bartol & Locke, 2006, p. 1240). As a component of empowering leadership, knowledge sharing (sharing of task relevant ideas, information and suggestions) is of vital importance in a team environment as it allows cognitive resources to be fully utilised. Conceptually, the various behaviours of empowering leadership will raise subordinate efficacy. For instance, participative decision making gives subordinates active input roles that enables higher learning and skill experience, thus improving efficacy (Srivastava, Bartol & Locke, 2006, p. 1240).
In another survey, Dong and Avolio (2000) examine transformational and transactional leadership in relation to the effects of trust and value congruence on follower performance. Using a sample of 194 students with varying conditions of transformational and transactional leadership, the experimental study established the theory that both direct and indirect effects affect performance as a result of transformational leadership conveyed by individuals' trust and value congruence. Alternatively, transactional leadership only had indirect effects on subordinate results when conveyed by individuals' trust and value congruence. The study argued that the influence of the leader's vision is especially powerful when it is congruent in their followers' personal values. It is suggested that internalising a transformational leaders' values in their adherents' values results in increased value congruence and willingness to commit to the vision and mission of leaders. In the study, transformational leadership notably had a strong positive effect on performance quality and conversely had a strong negative on quantity (Jung & Avolio, 2000, p. 960).
3.3 Application of evidence to problem/issue
Although communication was effective in that all members were given opportunities to voice an opinion, there could have been more traits of transactional leaders in the group. With a more structured and task oriented approach to decision making, mistakes such as those mentioned in section 2.1 could have been prevented. The research by Dong and Avolio (2000) however, argues that transformational leadership will improve team results by directly and indirectly through trust and value congruence. When value congruence, which is the level of homogeneousness between an individual and a larger body's values, is made uniform among team members there should be an enhanced motivation to accomplish team goals. The simulation's team goals, which are mostly synonymous with those of the team leader (All members reach the summit, no one gets rescued etc), can represent value congruence in the context of this simulation. Therefore, if the team leader took a transformational approach where all team members standardised their values to the leader there would be an increase in team motivation and commitment to the goal at hand and performance quality, thereby improving the potential for better decision outputs.
Similarly, empowering leadership is directly related to the team's performance through making progressions in knowledge sharing and team efficacy. The group lacked some skill with 'knowledge sharing' as not all the data was distributed to the group in its entirety. This can be attributed to the group's lack of experience in these activities; the team leader was just as inexperienced as the other members. If team members had more experience and practice in activities such as the Mt. Everest simulation, it would enable all group members to develop characteristics of empowering leadership (ie. leading by example for a less experienced group member). With this in mind, the team's knowledge sharing capacity will increase which will lead to an increased ability to accomplish team goals. Improved team efficacy, which can vary greatly in effect, may include reducing individual errors during given tasks.
Section 4: Reflection on Evidence Based Management
4.1 Thoughts about Evidence- Based Management
According to Rouseau's study (2007), evidence based management is the use of the best available scientific research to make informed managerial decisions and encourage better or more efficient organisational practices. From this, it is inferred that evidence based management is simply taking a rational approach to managing given that the resource evidence is accessible. It is difficult to believe that this way of thinking about management has only been brought up in recent years. Research evidence has been practiced successfully in fields such as medicine, education, policing and psychology. According to J Pfeffer and RI Sutton (2006), Evidence based management can be split into a multi step process of demanding evidence, acquiring, appraising and aggregating said evidence, applying evidence to decisions and reinforcing continuous learning. I think that this step-by-step process can simplify and organise the information that can be used to deliberate on a decision, allowing faster and efficient action.
4.2 Evidence Based Management in future career
If I were to pursue a career in management, an evidence based management approach would help greatly against issues in the trade. As I lack any real experience in a managing position, using an evidence based approach to management would allow me to augment my skills in the eyes of others and perhaps set myself apart from others who also share my lack of experience. Evidence based management represents a logical way of thinking about decision making that is justified by accepted facts, so there is no reason not to implement an evidence based approach in management fields. The only reason I might not pursue an evidence based approach is if I had executive role in a decision (ie. senior manager). Evidence based research levels out hierarchical powers, allowing anyone to match or surpass the decision making efficacy of those with experience with fact and evidence, thus removing the distinguishing power a leading representative might have had previously. The application of evidence based management also depends on the situation and research that it concerns. The evidence suggested may come in the way of the organisation's or my own interests, making it more suitable to disregard the evidence supported course of action. Purely as a surplus maximiser, I would certainly use an evidence based management approach to resolve issues as long as it does not contradict my personal agendas.
Daniel, V, 2000. 'Production planning and control for remanufacturing: industry practice and research needs', Journal of Operations Management, Volume 18 (Issue 4), pp. 467-483.
Hodgson, D.E, 2004, 'Project Work: The Legacy of Bureaucratic Control in the Post-Bureaucratic Organization', Organization, Volume 11 (Issue 1), pp. 81-100.
Jung, D.I & Avolio, B.J, 2000. 'Opening the Black Box: An Experimental Investigation of the Mediating Effects of Trust and Value Congruence on Transformational and Transactional Leadership', Journal of Organizational Behavior, Volume 21 (Issue 8), pp. 949 - 964.
Pfeffer, J & Sutton, RI, 2006. 'Evidence-Based Management', Harvard business review, N.a (N.a), pp. 1-14.
Rousseau, D.M & Mccarthy, S, 2007. 'Educating Managers From an Evidence-Based Perspective', Academy of Management Learning & Education, Volume 6 (Issue 1), pp. 84-01.
Srivastava, A, Bartol, K.M & Locke, E.A, 2006. 'Empowering Leadership in Management Teams: Effects on Knowledge Sharing, Efficacy, and Performance', Academy of Management Journal, Volume 9 (Issue 6), pp. 1239 - 1259.
Wright, A, 2014, Lecture 2: Planning and Controlling, PowerPoint slides, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Wright, A, 2014, Lecture 3: Leading in Organisations, PowerPoint slides, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
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