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Running Head: THE WASHINGTON POST CASE STUDY
The issue involved in the case of 'The Washington Post' is to face the challenge of reorganizing its inefficient advertising art department completely. For this purpose the design manager and her team wishes to introduce new technology while they are confronted with critical human resources issues. The team, while wanting to downsize the operation, also aims at integrating the typographers and graphic artists into a more effective and higher quality operation that not only satisfies the employees but also considers the improvement in services to the customersimproving the overall efficiency of the organization. This paper introduces background information contributing to 'The Washington Post's' impending decision. The introduction provides insight into the company so that the apparent problem can be addressed. After the apparent problem is addressed, an analysis is presented to probe further into whether the apparent problem is the real problem. Following the unfolding of the real problem, two alternatives are describedproviding an early retirement option for the unwilling staff with a fair and beneficial package, and the provision of training to the willing employees who volunteer to work in a flexible work system. Lastly, the consultant gives the recommendation to choose Operation 'Training Vista'an aggressive yet measured plan to integrate new technology, and restructure the function of the staff.
In order to get a broader perspective of whether the company was positioned to make the advertising business grow, the company appointed the 'Future of the Advertising Committee' (FOAC). The FOAC consisted of managers of the affected departments, and was created to study and recommend measures to improve the sales process, production quality, and speed associated with producing display ads. The committee recommended significant changes in the way the newspaper was handling its advertising business. Most of the suggestions related to organizational restructuring and reorganization. The FOAC recommended staffing and streamlining procedures for soliciting and billing small accounts. Next, the committee recommended producing ads along with the creation of teams for sales, production, and accounting operations. Finally, the recommendations included the change and installation of new technology, which would fit the reorganization of the entire staff and the ad production process to eliminate the assembly line approach.
The recommendations given by the FOAC were obviously strategic and needed. However, the apparent problem that the design manager and the team have is to implement the suggestions outlaid by the FOAC. 'The Post' will face challenges with the change and installation of the new technology; nevertheless, the greatest apparent problem will undoubtedly be to organizationally restructure and reorganize due to its existing myriad layers of departments and third party members. At times, from beginning to end, and ad passed through up to forty pairs of hands. The teams worked together moderately well given the structure of the organization; nonetheless, in-house productions were a maze of people and paperwork. Second, 'The Post' had good relationships with its unions, but the frustrations resulted from the impositions of the archaic union practices. The union practices made it difficult to initiate effective and efficient change.
After studying 'The Washington Post,' the analysis portion seems evident: The company is unable to get into the stream of new technological developments swiftly due to the problem that no current technological development has the instant capability to accommodate the size of the advertising business performed by the newspaper. Second, the presence of strong unions in the company has always been against the introduction of new technology, which would threateningly replace the workers.
In view of these problems, the company's ad production department was found to be inefficient spending lot of time in between the receipt of the customer order and the creation of the ad work for publication. At the same time, the company wanted to maintain the quality of its ads to the utmost satisfaction of the customers. The company appointed FOAC to investigate into four major areas; (1) the profiles and needs of small advertisers, (2) sales support, (3) advertising operations and (4) advertising accounting. After a thorough study of the existing procedures and systems, the committee recommended the introduction of a new technology that would take care of the existing problems and at the same time integrate the staff by a thorough reorganization.
After the committee's recommendation to introduce new technology, the design team considered two alternative technological options. First, a MAC/DTI technology, which would offer new design opportunities and improved quality control. This system is also efficient from the viewpoint of staffing. However, this system has not worked on the scale required by 'The Post'. There would be major problems that need to be resolved if it is to be successfully implemented. Second, Camex or Xenotron, the readily available technological systems available off-the-shelf in the market can be processed and implemented quickly. In this case, it would be difficult to implement the suggestions of the FOAC with regard to its recommendations on staffing. The design manager is also of the view that creativity and quality control would also suffer if they take up any of these readymade options. Moreover, the company would become dependent on the technology suppliers for service and maintenance, which may eventually prove to be too expensive. Therefore, the design team is keen to develop and introduce the MAC/DTI option.
The major issue that confronts the design team is to accomplish the non-pressured acceptance of the new ideas and new technologies by the staff. In the process of developing the MAC/DTI system the design team was using some of the unionized staff. Therefore, another issue is to find the ways to encourage those of the unionized staff who expressed interest in the computers and who took part in the development to assume leadership roles in the future. The design team also wanted to implement a selection process in which the team would be able to select the staff that would join the operation team without leaving this option to the union. Therefore, the problem lies in developing a plan that would work toward implementing the technology combined with the training and staffing strategy, working to the advantage of the employees and unions, as well as 'The Post'.
After a thorough study of the scenario the following two alternatives emerge for the committee's consideration:
Operation 'Early Retirement Scheme.'
The first plausible option is to offer an irresistible early retirement scheme with a fabulous compensation that will lure most of the printers to take it up and opt for an early retirement. The advantage of this scheme is that the company can look forward for a considerable reduction in the number of old employees who are unlikely to fit in the new scheme of functioning of the operations; although, this may cost the company heavily since it is a one-time affair the company should be prepared to absorb the cost. However there is the potential danger of some of the undesirable workers stay back without taking up the offer. This may also lead to some of the workers who are already trained to take up the option of leaving the company under the offer.
Operation 'Training Vista'
This option requires a series of convincing communications with the union and the workers about the superiority of the system and the need for the company to adopt technological innovations to remain competitive in the industry. Under this system, the employees may be offered special incentives to take up the training in the new technology. The workers must be educated about the utility of the technology and the fear in their minds about their replacement by the machines must be removed. This requires a continuous series of talks and discussions with the employees. The workers through negotiations and persuasive talks should be convinced to accept that they would be assigned involuntarily to any work at the choice of ad operations management. This alternative provides the management to choose those workers who in their opinion are suited to do the computerized work. By educating the workers on the superiority of the technology and by providing special incentives to take up the training the management may be able to attract those workers who are really interested in the new working environment.
Considering the potential advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives, the Operation 'Training Vista' alternative should be adopted for bringing about the improvement in the process of production of ads in 'The Washington Post'. This alternative would allow the company to implement the recommendations of the FOAC with respect to the integration of technology and to the reorganizing of the staff. Next, there will be drastic improvement in the production quality and speed of the process of production of ads. One person can be made responsible for the creation of ads, which enhances the interest of the workers and makes them accountable for the time and quality. Once the workers have agreed to their work assignments at the choice of management, the design team can select those workers who are otherwise found capable of working on the system. The workers who were already involved in the development of the system can be given leadership roles in providing training to the other interested workers. By offering additional incentive to those workers who opt to take up the training, the workers become more motivated to know they get the twin advantage of improvement in their skill while also benefiting financially. This is the message to be conveyed to the workers while informing them about the introduction of the new technology.As an added benefit for choosing the Operation 'Training Vista,' by partially incorporating the 'Early Retirement Scheme' alternative the company can offer the workers who are otherwise not qualified or capable of working in the new technology with a promise of employment to their children who hold the necessary qualification, and in addition, the hefty compensation. 'The Washington Post' and its employees will greatly benefit from the implementation of the Operation 'Training Vista' alternative.