Managing Organisations And People Management Essay

The Everest Simulation my group and I participated in during the semester of this course helped us understand the skills and techniques we all provided which allowed us to succeed in the Everest Simulation. This Everest Simulation was undertaken as a project to understand and implement the main topics being studied during the duration this course Managing Organisations and People. The simulation is based on climbing Mount Everest, the tallest mountain above sea level, within 6 days through 4 camps and eventually the summit by using communication, leadership and team skills.

Teams were composed of people with differing priorities and backgrounds without the ability to choose one’s own team. The consisted of an environmentalist, a marathon runner, a photographer a physician and the team leader. In the job descriptions given to the five of us, I was the Italian environmentalist where my goals were to complete the climb without rescue and spend an extra day at camp 4. However the aim of the simulation was to maximise the point outcome of the group and personal goals which proved to be in direct conflict with the rest of the groups’ personal goals. Therefore we each collaborated to make a trade-off between a group member’s personal goal and the groups’ total goal using the information displayed to us about our resources, weather forecasts, health and hiking speed.

Body

I had elected to join the Managing Organisations and People course rather late, in fact during the semester. This was due to my disappointment of another course I elected to complete in the first week. I believed that from using my knowledge of a previous course I had completed called Managing People that I’d be able to transfer some of the course topics I have learnt in that course such as groups, leadership and communication to this current course. I believed this course would also help me in the future during my employment at which during one stage I would have to manage or be placed into some group or team with a particular role.

I was the environmentalist, a role which I would have least liked out of the group as it gave me absolutely no chance to act in a leadership, independent role I am normally used to and instead was reversed as it stated in my brief that I needed to rely on others to help me in my cause to clean up rubbish left on the mountain. I have never liked to rely on others so heavily and asked people to do something that has no obvious advantage for them. Although my role in the simulation was disappointing I decided that this would not put me down in actually conducting the simulation with my peers and I would still offer my views and opinions.

During the short group meetings we had at class time as being an all male group we dismissed pleasant talk very quickly of introducing each other, what courses we were doing and such. Rather we discussed what each of us were expecting out of the simulation, our roles and a suitable time to meet. This was done quite collaboratively between the members except for Manu which was absent during that day but we decided that we would let him know what the rest of the group decided on. The absence of a tutorial during week 6 allowed us to quickly decide that this would be the best time to meet and complete the first simulation. So when the time came around all of my group members was already waiting even though I came on time which gave me the feeling they were really committed to this assessment. Although most of them were there Manu wasn’t, we had real fears that because none of us has seen or talked to him throughout the course he may not have received the information or forgotten that we were to meet today. Therefore we decided to wait 5 more minutes and if he still didn’t show up then we would have to take action to contact him directly. Because none of us have met Manu before, we did not have his phone number so therefore after the more than 5 minutes of waiting I decided to call my tutor, James Anderson and ask for Manu’s number that way. Fortunately Manu showed up around 15 minutes late whilst I was in conversation of getting Manu’s number and we headed off to find spare computers to complete the simulation.

Groups and Teams

Myself and one other group member brought our laptops as I thought in case there were not enough computers for the five of us, we had the laptops to fall back on. Because we couldn’t find any suitable locations in the Law building someone suggested we move to the computer labs in the quad, as we were making our way over there, I thought to myself this could be a form of groupthink if anyone else had opposing views but because without much discussion we all started walking in the direction of the quad. However I did not have any opposing views and genuinely believe that this was the best course of action and I believe in a sense I was conforming to the groups view a bit more as they had completely sensible ideas and I thought if I were to have a different view it may be suppressed because the group idea may be better than my own, even though this might not be the case.

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From the results we concluded from the first simulation we all thought we could do a much better job if we were to effectively coordinate the information given to us after each climb and learn from our mistakes such as not pushing forward too quickly from the deteriorating weather which gave our physician Steve frostbite and therefore needing rescue off the mountain. We quickly learnt that the second simulation was a direct replication of the first simulation and therefore we tried to learn from our mistakes as “team learning is fundamentally based on dividual learning, but when viewed as more than a mere pooling of individual knowledge it can be distinguished as a team-level property that captures the collective knowledge pool, potential synergies among members, and unique individual contributions” (Kozlowski & Hgen, 2006).

As stated in a journal article “team members typically have a different and unique roles, each representing critical contributions to collective action…this interdependence requires coordination and synchronisation among members and integration of their contributions to achieve team goals” (Zaccaro et al., 2001), this is especially true in the case of completing the Everest simulation in which we all had differing roles and goals but heavily relied on each other to compete those goals. For example without the physician there in the team to administer me an inhaler for my asthma and without the photographer there who had information on the symptoms of an asthmatic I would have suffered an asthma attack and be rescued off the mountain in the first few days of the hike. Fortunately during the first and second simulation we quickly discovered that I had a severe problem with my health and using the information given to the photographer Robert the group quickly realised that in order to save me from being rescued Steven the physician needed to give me an inhaler. Another example of our interdependence as a group was that we needed each person in order to successfully log into the simulation, this was a problem during both the first simulation and the second when Manu the marathon runner showed up late for the first simulation and during the second simulation due to his circumstances could only do the simulation at his house. This required us to communicate with him online while the rest of us talked in person. This caused a variety of problems associated with it.

Communication

During the first simulation we all agreed upon completing the simulation in person during the free tutorial time which was considered a sound plan. We all agreed that communication would be much easier if we were all in the same room near each other rather than online which would result in ambiguity and loss of information which may be crucial to the understanding and process of the team and the simulation. Once we did enter a suitable computer room we sat down and unpacked our notes and started the simulation. Being in this room with many other people had a complication, because we were also split up across two tables we were forced to have higher volumes of speech in order to effectively communicate as stated by (Fussell et al., n.d.)”Increased volume of communication in any modality may lead to better coordination. Because the interactivity improves communicators’ ability to reach common ground, use of face-to-face communication may improve coordination more than the use of electronic mail”. In addition because there were so many people in the computer lab there was much background noise from people talking, coughing, phones and computers themselves which further added to the difficultly in the communication medium.

We found face to face communication very effective in displaying intangible aspects of our communication such as body language, tone and pitch. This helped us display emotions to each other such as when myself and a few team members were shouting at Manu and becoming agitated when it seemed he was too busy talking to a friend of his rather than actively participating in the simulation. Because this was not online we were able to quickly convince him to focus his attention on the task at hand as “various researchers have examined the team processes necessary for effective project team performance. Of these processes, communication, coordination and cooperation have been examined as facilitating the success” (Webber, 2001). During each decision making process when we were discussing whether or not to move ahead to the next camp or to stay. Because of the ability to cross communicate with the person in question we established very quickly what needed to be done. If done online there would be only a few participants otherwise there would be a complete overload in the amount of text in the chat box with some people who may be discussing a subject in the past in which others would have already moved on because there is a delay in the time that a text is sent, to when it appears in the box. This causes the entire process to slow down and conversations would overlap with the complete loss of non-verbal communication making it much more difficult to explain a persons’ situation and much easier to misinterpret information given.

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During our second simulation communication overload in the chat box was apparent as Manu could not attend the simulation with us so instead worked from home. At first I decided that I should contact him by phone to make sure he was ready to start the simulation, I thought this was the best way to communicate as email and sms would take too long to return and in case his phone was off I would know if I called him. After I established contact with him and he was ready to start we agreed that because of phone costs, we would talk online using the chat box available in the simulation itself and hung up the phone. Although only one person was using the chat box to contact the rest of the group, rather than each group member contacting each other over the system there was still an issue with overlapping communications and text overload as each of us would be talking to Manu online about the same issue causing the process to become inefficient. This quickly became an issue as there would be so much text in the little chat box that one would have to scroll back up to see the start of the text entry, reading the same data over again and answering the same questions to a different person. I found that the other members had already stopped communicating back to Manu either because they were too busy with other things or they noticed the overload, I then proceeded to halt communications using the online chat system to Manu and let the leader, Will communicate with him instead. This proved to be much more useful as Will would be kept informed on all situations within our group and then relay that information as a summary to Manu who would reply accordingly.

Leadership

During our first simulation Will who was the group leader did not take such an active role but was however still very active in the simulation itself like the rest of my group members who were also committed to developing good work. Due to the high levels of commitment by my group and myself the group leader had no intentions of trying to direct a certain course of action as we all had almost equal input to each situation and confrontation. During the course of the lectures and tutorials I learnt that this is called democratic leadership out of the three types of leadership discussed in class of autocratic, democratic and laissez faire style. Will was democratic because I observed him being very involved in the simulation giving us supportive advice and introducing a voting system in which we would all vote for a particular course of action as determined by our personal goals.

However during the second simulation this voting system was overridden by him going against what the majority of the team voted for, this allowed me to see Will exercising his authority that was given to him. Because Will had been given his authority and from reading lecture notes, it has occurred to me that there is a difference between a leader and a manager even though each can influence other people a manager can only do so with the amount of power given to him. For instance Will could only influence us to the amount of progressing the simulation and we didn’t have to agree on what he wanted in case he would be using an autocratic leadership style. If Will were to use an autocratic leadership style I’m certain many of us in the team would be very uncomfortable and become irritated at him too and as a result work less efficiently as a team because “when members experience a behavioural context in which they have ample opportunity to interact with each other, the group capacity to decipher ill-defined problems and come up with innovative solutions is increased and, by implication, work outcomes are improved” (Carmeli & Waldman, 2010).

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During the first and second simulation although not entirely the role of the environmentalist I was very outspoken about the way things should be approached and quickly putting information together from each team members personal brief and therefore coming to quick conclusions about what must be done for the group as a whole and the individuals. For example during the oxygen allocation I went around to each members screen and found different pieces of information to collaborate and hence worked with the team leader in establishing how many oxygen tanks to allocate between each person. I was assisted by Will the team leader as “[leaders] have interaction with aspects of the situation including a variety of tools, routines, and structures” (Spillane, 2005) which was particularly true of the Everest simulation as the leader was the only one who had the power to progress all the group members forward.

Finally the score attributed to the team and my own individual score are:

Climb

Team Score

Individual Score

First

50%

29%

Second

72%

86%

Conclusion

Although the simulation was a valuable experience in itself, I believe that the processes and coordination that the group managed together unconsciously was much more rewarding. From these processes and interdependency on each other we were able to complete not one person themself could have, climbing Mount Everest.

At a personal level I believe that this exercise has reinforced my opinions and views that I am able to express openly within a group without criticism even though I was given a very far from leader like role being the Environmentalist. Working within a group is not easy but being able to quickly establish social norms along side with good project planning, clear communication medium an effective leader and a group which focuses on our individual qualities can create a very strong group that can accomplish the most complex and hardest of tasks.

Appendix 1: Goals on Track

First Climb

Goals

Complete climb without needing to be rescued

Spend extra day at camp 4 during ascent

1

Your Points for Personal Goals

1

Round 2: Medical Challenge Points

1

Round 3: Weather Challenge Points

Round 4: Oxygen Tank Allocation Points

Your Total Points

2

Your Total Possible Points

7

Percent of Your Goals Achieved

29%

Percent of Team Goals Achieved

50%

Second Climb

Goals

Complete climb without needing to be rescued

3

Spend extra day at camp 4 during ascent

1

Your Points for Personal Goals

4

Round 2: Medical Challenge Points

1

Round 3: Weather Challenge Points

1

Round 4: Oxygen Tank Allocation Points

Your Total Points

6

Your Total Possible Points

7

Percent of Your Goals Achieved

86%

Percent of Team Goals Achieved

72%

Appendix 2: Team Contract

Team Procedures

Day, time and location of team members for Everest 2:

Tuesday 14th September, 0900, At tutorial room to find suitable computer room

Preferred method of communication before and during Everest 2 (i.e., e-mail, mobile, chat function, face-to-face in a specified location).

Before the climb

Face to face in a specified location

During the climb

Face to face in a specified location

After the climb

Face to face in a specified location

Team goal for Everest 2:

Collaborate information much more effectively

No one being rescued off the mountain

Achieving maximum amount of points possible

Decision-making policy (By consensus? By majority vote? By team leader?):

Majority vote but can be overridden by leader

Team Particpation

How will we resolve conflict?

Using a majority vote system

Debating which issue is more important

Strategies for encouraging/including ideas and debate from all team members:

Allow a culture so ideas are not suppressed due to fear of ridicule (just culture)

Allow open conversation about the simulation and other topics

Strategies for achieving our goal:

Pre-task planning

Face to face communication

Authority of power must be well used

Preferences for leadership (team leader only, shared leadership):

There should only be a single team leader to guide others in the team to the situation of the climb and there is only one person to speak to about certain information hence one person has all the knowledge rather than a few.

Personal Accountability

Expected individual attendance, punctuality and participation at Everest 2:

All members of the group are expected to come on time to complete the simulation with everyone engaging in the climb about their goals, information and group goals.

What are the consequences for lack of engagement in Everest 2?

Without an active engagement of team members the teams score and individual score is expected to decrease. As well as having less content to discuss during this assessment.

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