Luna Café : A Leader Conscious-Community Focused Company
Within most every organization, somehow, someway it embodies Bolman and Deal’s four frameworks, the Human Resource Frame, the Structural Frame, the Political Frame, and the Symbolic Frame, in some capacity. Luna Café in Wichita isn’t any different. They strive to implement successful leadership processes, as well as empowering at risk youth through hands on job training, and acting as a high quality café in the community. Luna Café strives to provide at risk youth, specifically those with a criminal record, with an alternative lifestyle through work experience and mentorship. We are the number one restaurant in Wichita who hires felons in order to provide them with a second chance through the One and Done foundation. The foundations name is unique, as it is in reference to one big mistake, and done. Meaning they are working to make a better life for themselves and their families. So, with that Luna Café strives to provide the individual with learning valuable workplace skills. Luna Café offers several programs for personal development for employees. Luna Café wants to be able to not only help, but encourage the young individual to continuously set and achieve new goals with the intention of moving on to bigger and better things. Part of Luna’s program is for those who were imprisoned or jailed before graduating high school, they help prepare/tutor them for obtaining their GED. They also provide the individual with group therapy, which stresses that they accept accountability and responsibility for their actions. As for every action, there is a reaction or a consequence of that action. Luna also participates in several different charities throughout the community. Luna Café is very similar to that of Panera Bread, Luna offers a variety of sandwiches, bagels, breads, pastries, hot beverages, alcoholic beverages and breakfast items. Bolman and Deal’s frameworks provide valuable insight, the Human Resource Frame applies particularly well when analyzing this organization. Their ability to structure the business with an emphasis on the Human Resource Frame, and bring together both organizational elements, is what makes Luna Café so unique.
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In this we will analyze Luna Café using the congruence model. This is one of the most effective ways to run an organization, as it considers the four crucial components of an organization’s processes. The four components, which collectively constitute the transformation process in the model, are task, informal organization, formal organization, and individual. Each component interacts with each of the other three components individually.
Inputs are the factors that affect performance due to the organization’s situation. These are the resources that are used by the organization, its history, social, economic and market positions. Resources utilized by Luna Café include the volunteers, charitable donations, students, and Megan’s time and expertise, and so much more.
Tasks, these are the things members of the organization must do, and can differ from person to person or organization to organization. A good example would be the students at Luna’s Café have the task of getting the business ready for the opening of the café for business, working the line, positive customer service, stocking, clean up, and closing. A crucial foundational point about organizational tasks is that they must fall in alignment with the skills of those people completing them.
Luna Café’s informal structure basically refers to the culture and norms that exist within the organization. These essentially govern many interactions and relationships within it. Some organizations have a laid back culture, and others have more of a no-nonsense culture, and then there are those that fall somewhere in between the two. The culture at Luna’s appears to be relaxed, yet structured, but not overly structured, which appears to work well for the group of students who are not particularly accustomed to rules and strict structure outside of prison/jail life. Many of these students prior to incarceration lacked any kind of structure in their home life. There can be a downfall to that, in which students sometimes feel, either consciously or subconsciously, that they can take advantage of Megan Henry, who is the Executive Director. While this can possibly pose a serious threat to the organization’s ability to succeed, Megan’s primary goal is to hold on to the students for as long as she can, believing that every moment they’re at Luna’s it’s time they are not on the streets. Megan essentially takes on the stress, knowing that Luna Café is making a huge difference in these young peoples lives, even if they aren’t aware of it or not. There are downsides in dealing with the students’ disrespect and the associated stress, and it can lead to other problems within the organization.
Luna Café has a flat organizational structure, with Megan at the top who maintains contact with all eight students in the program. The newly hired manager also has some authority over the students, but his position within the formal organizational structure hasn’t yet been solidified yet due to he is still in the probationary period. Megan takes the responsibility right now for coordinating and working with the volunteers who help out at Luna’s, this will eventually go to the new manager in time. In terms of who is directly reported too, nearly every member of the organization reports directly to the Executive Director. The café’s formal organization is functioning at this point, but is unlikely to remain sustainable with so much pressure on one person.
In order to understand all of the individual factors that go into the transformation process, one should ask themselves, what are their needs and preferences? What are their perceptions and expectations about their work? What knowledge and skills do they bring to their work, if any? Of course, the answers to these questions are very different when asking them of Megan versus the students. Megan is educated, has an abundance of experience in the food service industry, and also has experience leading nonprofit organizations. On the other hand, the students employed by Luna have little professional experience in any environment really. Determining the individual needs of these extremely inexperienced individuals therefore falls once again into the lap of Megan Henry who works endlessly to provide opportunities for the students to do work they enjoy and gain value from.
In order for a desired performance the organization must constitute the outputs an organization must produce. Within the congruence model, every part of the transformation process must be placed with the desired results, whether in mass quantity or quality. This model measures the outputs at the group, individual, and organizational levels. It is important to understand each of the four components of the congruence model, as well as it is extremely important understanding how they interact with one another and create fit. Fit almost always exists between every combination of two parts of the transformation process. One of the relationships that affect the daily operations and the daily success of Luna’s is that of between task and individual. Like I stated above, those students who are accepted into the program at Luna Café are typically ex-felons who have had very limited work opportunities. In their life many of them have experienced socioeconomic backgrounds that create interesting obstacles, which they must overcome in order to sustain steady employment. With that being said, unfortunately due to their needs and abilities, it does not always mesh well with the tasks assigned to them at the café (in other words, the congruence within the relationship isn’t particularly high). One relationship is primarily high congruence at Luna’s which is the relationship between individual and the informal organization. The culture and diversity at Luna, is not overly structured, and appears to work well for the group. These students are not always accustomed to the fact of strict rules and structures. The smooth and broad culture allows them to feel comfortable most of the time, freeing them to do their work to the best of their ability. Despite these young students unfortunate pasts, they are able to build a strong bond with Megan, a lot of due to the informality of the culture. Megan has always adored these students, and probably stated it best when she said these kids meant everything to her, and they would do anything for her. There are issuesthat arise from time to time, but the relaxed culture at Luna’s is primarily beneficial in that it cultivates trust and feelings of positive self-worth.
Megan tries very hard to run the Luna Café effectively, professionally and morally. She works really hard to make sure that she is charging people prices similar to those of Panera and/or other sandwich shops/bagel shops, as well as match the quality of products and services that they provide. Megan wants for her customers to be happy with not only the service but the products at Luna Café. While the culture here at the café is mostly relaxed one, it is important and essential that the employees provide a fun and friendly, yet a professional environment, but also be willing to work hard to provide a quality experience for their customers. Employees that are running the sandwich area are therefore expected to behave and interact with the customers in a certain manner in order to keep customers happy and satisfied. When people enter a sandwich shop for a cup of coffee and a bagel, they expect a certain level of professionalism from the employee and the business as a whole.
Organizations like Luna Café also wish to find fit between the individual and the formal organization. This may be one area in which Luna Café struggles, as the structure in many ways may not fit with many of the individual’s characteristics. As mentioned earlier, many of the employees are ex-felons and troubled youth. This means that many of them may require a lot of attention and supervision to keep them focused and on task. One of the critiques Megan mentioned of her own business was that it needed a more organized formal structure. Many of the employees require special attention, as some suffer from learning and psychological disorders as well as substance abuse problems. Some of the employees really struggle to stay on task and complete their assigned jobs effectively. Without much help, Luna Café’s lack of structure tends to put more stress on Megan to be able to cater to each employee’s needs. Rather than just overseeing their work, Megan in many instances feels as if she has to constantly “baby-sit” employees who are in need of her attention.
Along with the congruence model, there are four frameworks that Bolman and Deal suggest are useful ways of analyzing an organization. “The human resource frame centers on what organizations and people do for one another” (Bolman & Deal, 2008). This is in direct opposition to the ideology that organizations exploit workers and treat them as pawns in a greater game of chess. Rather, the Human Resource Frame focuses on investing in people, and occasionally sacrificing costs to strengthen the fit between the individual and the organization. Luna Café in Wichita relies heavily on the Human Resource Frame, with their goals targeted toward personal development, responsibility and accountability, and empowerment of an oftentimes-underserved youth population.
Luna functions as two organizations in one, developing and empowering the under-reached community of ex-felons and serving timely and delicious food. It is this hybrid that makes Luna so special, and both elements work to improve the function of the other. Founder and Executive Director Megan Henry calls “every aspect [of Luna Cafe] a learning experience.” Though the café does provide programs such as GED preparation, tutoring, and psychological support, Megan highlights that even being in an environment in which collaboration with others is necessary can teach valuable life lessons. The work habits necessary for success in the food service industry, such as arriving on time, maintaining a clean workplace, and serving customers in a positive manner, work to develop skills necessary to enter the work force as well as to cultivate basic life skills. Further, the personal development workshops for the employees after-hours increase dependability and are constructive to interpersonal conflict resolution. Though Megan often runs into bumps with this system, it is the perfect example of how investing in people can lead to increased positive work output.
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In this situation of transition for employees, tensions can rise quickly and escalate to high levels. In the Human Resource Frame, conflict resolution is based on agreeing on the basics, searching for common interests, and treating individual differences as a group responsibility (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Megan reflects this structure through what she calls “restorative resolution.” This involves addressing conflict as a group using talking pieces in a sharing circle. For this group, restorative resolution is extremely effective: it leads to personal application and growth, as well as direct application in the workplace. For example, during one of their sharing sessions, tardiness was discussed in terms of the “ripple effect.” The workers learned that tardiness affects their ability to complete their tasks effectively, and that, on a larger scale, their choices and actions impact those around them. As Bolman and Deal articulate, “Many employees feel little responsibility for an organization’s performance…the organization needs to build an ‘ownership culture…’ [and] ‘employees [must] both learn and drive the business disciplines” (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Restorative conflict resolution helps build this ownership culture at Luna Café.
In an organization like Luna, it is very easy to unconsciously and frequently commit the fundamental attribution error. Society places certain labels on youth with criminal records, and removing that lens when viewing employees can be challenging. For example, one student was scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. each day, but consistently arrived drastically late. Megan intervened, and told the student that he must arrive on time or risk suspension. From then on the student arrived at 7 a.m., but would nap in the backroom for nearly half of his shift. Megan assumed the student was struggling with some sort of drug addiction, and simply told him to sleep it off. She later discovered that he had been riding the train all night because he’s lived on the streets since age sixteen, and to avoid being robbed had to stay awake all night. In any organization, but in the case of Luna’s especially, it is vital to maintain the ideology of Theory Y, not Theory X. Theory Y dictates that “the essential task of management is to arrange conditions so that people can achieve their own goals best by directing efforts toward organizational rewards” (McGregor, 1960, p. 61). This is the target for Luna’s: helping youth achieve personal goals that better the organization as a whole, and finding a balance between not enabling and not abandoning. It is far too easy to treat the “symptoms” of a problem (i.e. bad behavior, inefficient work, negative attitudes) instead of getting to the roots (homelessness, insecurity, addictions, etc.). This is a very real example of the necessity to avoid rewarding A not B.
While the Human Resource Frame provides a great lens for analysis, it has several limitations in analyzing organizations. According to the Human Resource Frame, Luna Café appears to be a highly successful café, because it consciously caters to the needs of its people. However, Luna Café is currently suffering from several problems, notably financial issues and an overpopulated staff. The frame does not look at the formal structure of an organization, such as the power hierarchy and decision-making structure. Since the Human Resource Frame looks primarily at the human aspect of the organization, it doesn’t necessarily consider problems with the underlying structure of the organization. For example, because Luna Café is a non-profit organization, it must rely heavily on fundraising efforts, grants, and individual donations for money. This means that they may be unable to provide the financial security that its employees need.
Additionally, the Human Resource Frame does not look at the economic aspects of the organization—the give and take, the limited resources, etc.—that will need to be distributed amongst the individuals within the organization. These are aspects that affect but exist separately from the well-being of the individuals. For example, Luna Café has a limited amount of resources—particularly money. The Human Resource Frame doesn’t necessarily consider how that can be divided amongst the employees and director; in order for one individual to receive higher compensation, some must be taken away from another employee’s compensation. This can actually be seen in Luna Café current structure. Luna Café currently has a problem with too many employees; according to Megan there are too many kids, but she “doesn’t want to turn them away” because “they need [the Café].” This is an excellent example of how the Human Resource Frame succeeds, if we look at it from the perspective of helping as many ex-felons as possible. However, if we look at it from an economic efficiency standpoint, it fails by attempting to spread its resources too thin and not being able to fully satisfy the needs of anyone.
As quoted in Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Organizations, “Individuals need (1) to see their work as meaningful and worthwhile…(2) to use discretion and judgment so they can feel personally accountable for results, and (3) to receive feedback about their efforts so they can improve” (Hackman, Oldham, Janson, & Purdy, 1987). The Human Resource Frame describes that an organization is akin to a living organism, constantly growing and changing as individuals function in the organization.
The Human Resource Frame causes certain limitations for Luna Café that create downfalls for the organization. However, the three other frames can make up for these limitations if applied correctly. Many of the problems within the organization are centralized around the downfall of not having a formal structure in place. The Structural Framework states that an organization is a machine. There are structures of hierarchy in place to allocate tasks to different people in their assigned roles (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Luna Café does not have a formal structure or hierarchy set in place. This lack of structure causes issues between the Executive Director and her employees. There needs to be set roles that accomplish a set number of targets for the organization to make the company run smoother.
The Political Framework, if implemented correctly, could help Luna deal with both of the problems addressed previously—scarcity of resources and over-abundance of employees. Scarcity is a major problem that arises within the organization. The Political Framework discusses how to correctly allocate those resources to make the organization run effectively. One way to allocate correctly would be based on job performance. This framework views the workplace as an arena to compete in (Bolman & Deal, 2008). If each employee of Curt’s Café competed to a high level for the money they earn, profits would hopefully rise. Allocating resources correctly also goes back to keeping the right staffing level. Luna Café keeps far too many employees because Megan does not want to turn away any at-risk youth. However, keeping that many employees creates even more scarcity of resources. Resources, especially money, are what keep an organization moving effectively. To maintain the right amount of resources, there may need to be a cutback on the amount of people working at Luna Café.
The last framework, the Symbolic Framework, addresses an organization as a tribe with rituals and symbols to drive it forward (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Luna Café is a symbol of hope for the entire community that at-risk youth can lead a better life with a little help from outside sources. This symbol needs to be able to generate donors for this non-profit organization. Focusing on the at-risk youth is very important, but using that to gain supporters for the organization will help Luna’s in the long run to stay in business. The Symbolic Framework, using the youth as a symbol, can help the organization generate more money than it does currently. Having ceremonies and rituals within the organization can also help the at risk youth to be more motivated to work feeling more apart of a group bigger than themselves. To motivate a group of younger people who are naturally not very motivated is a difficult task, but having rituals is one way to make a more cohesive group work towards a goal, because these rituals and symbols drive it forward.
In summary, Luna Café is an organization that highlights both the selling points and the drawbacks of the Human Resource Frame. Bringing a positive environment for at-risk youth to work and learn is a strong positive that Luna’s offers as an organization. On the other hand, running an organization that is non-profit has its drawbacks. As discussed earlier, resources can be limited, and a formal organizational structure may be difficult to implement. To try and solve these problems using the other frames will be necessary. The Structural Frame, the Symbolic Frame, the Political Frame, and the Human Resource Frame need all be utilized when analyzing the organization and also when applying the congruence model to assess (and improve) ‘fit’. All of these aspects working together can help make Luna Café work even more efficiently and effectively than it does now.
- Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. (4th
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- Hackman, J. R., Oldham, G. R., Janson, R., & Purdy, K. (1987). A new strategy for job
- enrichment. In L. E. Boone and D. D. Bowen (Eds.), The great writings in management and organizational behavior. New York, NY: Random House.
- McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- Mercer Delta Consulting. (2004). The congruence model: A roadmap for understanding
- organizational performance. Stanford University School of Education: Learning, Design, and Technology, 01-13.
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