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This week was an interesting week to say the least. After taking a big hit to our shareholder value in the previous rollover, my team and I all worked especially hard to make sure that it did not happen again. We used the theory learnt from the previous week's reading and nitpicked our operations. We were absolutely positive that this would be our comeback.This result very nearly happened except for one thing. The figure that my operations manager had given me for the cost of goods sold was eight million dollars out, which resulted in a five million dollar loss and our shareholder value taking an even bigger hit. In two rollovers we had fallen from second place in our country to second to last. 

The problem at hand is not to do with the hit to our shareholder value (focusing on that would be single loop learning), but with who was at fault. After speaking with my operations manager I discovered that there had been a miscommunication that had gone unnoticed for the whole semester. The figure that she had been giving me for her operations had been solely for her operations while I I was under the impression that it was her cost of goods sold. At first I held her solely responsible. However after actually talking with her about it I remembered what I had written in my week seven reflection. In this reflection I had written about how I had realised "that even when things are going well, there is nearly always something that could have been done to make it even better". The point I was trying to make with this was that no matter what the problem is, at least some of the responsibility lies with myself. Had I clarified with my operations manager what exactly her figure was instead of assuming that she would know that cost of goods sold was the responsibility of the operations manager, we might still have taken the hit to our shareholder value but it wouldn't have been a surprise.

I don't feel that there's very much to write about the learning outcomes for this week as they are pretty simple. The root of the problem is not very deep and easily fixed. In order to stop this kind of mistake from happening again in the future simply requires that we specifically check that our understanding of our responsibility is clearer. If I were to take this course again I would do this right at the beginning and include it in our team agreement. The single loop solution to this problem would simply involve me saying that I won't make assumptions in the future about what people mean. I can't check what people mean every time they give me a figure so clarifying this at the beginning of the semester seems to be the double loop solution.

Aside from the learning outcome from using Daudelin's structure I felt as if I learnt two other things this week. I don't feel that it will result in a change of behaviour but after thinking about who was to blame for our poor performance, I feel as if I understand how teams work a little better than I did before. In a team it is very rarely (I don't want to say never) the case that a failure is one person's fault. I would say that in this instance both me and my operations manager are equally at fault for our teams poor performance. I would be very interested to know what the rest of my team would say if presented with the question that Argyris (1991) used as an example, "How can we be more effective in the future". I do not believe it is anyone else's fault but I wonder if they feel the same way. The second thing I learned was how difficult working through problems with a fellow team member can be. As I previously mentioned, we have been a relatively successful team up until the last two rollovers, so it was a new experience for me. Once we had clarified what I had thought the figure I had been given was, I felt as if my operations manager felt solely responsible for our teams poor performance. Her reaction made me feel as if I was telling her off, which is something that felt horrible to do to my team member and friend. It is somewhat comforting to know that it is normal to feel this way about the situation based on the paradox of roles (PeiPerl, (2001)) but it doesn't make it any easier. My only wish is that the next time I have to be in this situation it will be with a subordinate. At least then I will have the excuse of it being my job to deliver the bad news.

Sources

Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learnReflections, 4(2), 4–15

France, J. (2013). Where Did I Go Wrong

Peiperl, M. A. (2001).Getting 360° feedback rightHarvard Business Review, 79(1), 142--147

4 Comments

  1. Hi Jacob

    A really interesting journal that was careful not to place blame of the teams process on any single person. You highlighted where the miscommunication occurred, but you were cautious not to pin the blame on the person closest to the weak link the process, spreding the failure across the whole team, and partially with yourself. It was good that you used the theory (of single and double-loop learning) to support your thinking around how to understand and react to the problem of miscommunication 

    You did well to draw some insight from your emotional response when confronting your team member. You said "Her reaction made me feel as if I was telling her off", so I wonder if this response was due to a lack of strategic tact, failure for you to predict how your logic would be interpreted by others, or if it was just the nature of the person.

    I'm really interested to know how you make your decisions ( with key decision figures being derived from COGS), and how the profitability of the whole company hangs on one figure. I'm interested to know how someone being your subordinate would it easierto tell bad news? –Don't you have a duty to tell your team mate bad news too? You said that this problem is "not very deep and easily fixed", but I wonder if this was just the surface, and there are other miscommunications that you haven't yet unearthed?

    Overall you did a really good job in pulling together both themes and lessons from across the past weeks and combining them in a very structured way. Your entry was very in-depth this week, an improvement on last weeks, so I challenge you to keep up this constant improvement in depth and structure for your summative journal.

    Good luck

    Reuben (smile)

    1. Thanks for your speedy feedback Reuben. 

      1. I think her reaction was perhaps a mixture of all three reasons you have listed. 
      2. We make all our decisions for our departments individually while allowing for the input of anyone else in the team that feels they have something important to say. Most of the time the final decision is made by the head of the department. Then once all of the departments have their figures they give them to me (the CFO) to see whether or not we will make money. This week my initial budget which had been adjusted to be safer than previous weeks budgets, started with a 22 million dollar deficit. After a lengthy process of finding places to efficiently cut costs, my operations manager gave me the figure which I talked about in my journal. Everything else about the budget was close to exactly how I had estimated, but of course the operations figure was out, which was the difference between us making a reasonable profit or a loss.
      3. I hadn't thought about the significance of bad news yet so thank you for raising this issue. I guess I just feel that as a manager it is officially your job to be the bearer of bad news as it happens. People expect you to tell them when they've gone wrong. However, even though it is your duty to tell your team mate bad news, it is more of an unwritten duty. Even if it is a written duty, it's never nice telling your friends that they've made a big mistake.

      Once again thanks for your feedback. I feel as if it has really added value to my reflection.

       

       

  2. Hi Jacob, It's me again haha.. 

    I felt really really interesting reading you journal (I've read it twice indeed). I couldn't figure out what have we done wrong in the past two weeks and I think it is because I don't understand how influential the mistake we made as much as you do. I could see different view from different position. In fact, this makes me feel guilty as I should have studied more about how the whole operation works instead of only focusing on my job area. 

    Refer back to your journal, although you didn't use any of the readings from this week, I felt that you have actually came up with something more valuable (i.e. further development of previous knowledge). Based on what you mentioned of using single loop learning, it was a great way for us to find out the problem or mistake we made. I reckon that your journal would be much more effective if you could expend a bit on how we can improve or solve the problem by using double-loop learning as well. For example, I thought that we could have made a clearer conceptual frameworks and a clearer value to help us making a most suitable decision and avoid the same mistake we made. Although we can't change anything right now but at least we learnt from failure.

    To sum up, I think this week was a dramatic and challenging week for us, but it gave us a valuable opportunity to learn which I could see from your journal as well. Your journal helped me developing my thinking and knowledge, thank you for this and great work! I believe that we still have chance to get back up to the top of the mountain! Never give up, team(big grin) 

     

     

  3. Hi Jacob,

    Your learning journal is very enlightening. I don't have a same problem but I understand what is going on in here. 

    The way you link theories and concepts to highlight your problems were brilliant, you have addressed the problem in depth and it was very well to read. 

    In terms of improving your learning journal for this week, I really enjoyed the way your analyzed the problem but I didn't catch any examples or solutions that you would use to solve this problem? I know how you said you felt responsible as well as your operational manager, could that be used as a solution? so next time you would take extra attention to assist her? It would be great if you can provide some sorts of plan to address this problem, and you can draw on it next time if this problem is recurring.  

    Great learning journal, all the best to your team.