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Frank Choy is normally a quiet person, but his patience has already worn send by inter-departmental battles. Choy joined Resonus Corporation, a hearing aid designer and manufacturer, eight months ago as a director of engineering. Production of the latest product has been delayed by two-months and Choy’s engineering services department (ESD) – which prepares final manufacturing specifications – is taking the heat as the main culprit for the delays. Similar delays have been occurring at Resonus for the past 15 years. The previous engineering director was fired after 18 months, the director before him quit after about the same amount of time.

Bill Hunt, CEO of Resonus for the past 15 years, typically responded to these problems by saying “I’m sure we can resolve these differences if we just learn to get along better.” Hunt disliked firing anyone but felt the previous engineering director was too confrontational. Hunt was groomed by the company’s founder and took great pride that Resonus operated best through informal relationships among its managers. Only production director Jackie Blanc opposed this informality. Hunts tolerated Blanc’s formal style because soon after joining Resonus five years ago she discovered and cleaned up fraudulent activity between two production managers and suppliers.

The organizational chart shows that Frank Choy oversees two departments: ESD and research. In reality, “Doc” Kalandry, the research director, informally reports directly to the CEO (Hunt) and has never considered the director of engineering as his boss. Hunt actively supports this informal reporting relationship because of Doc’s special status in the organization. “Doc Kalandry is there a gold mine,” Hunt told Choy soon after he joined the firm. “He’s unusual, yes, but he is one of the worlds greatest innovators. With Doc in charge of research, this company will continue to keep ahead of the competition.” Hunt’s first job at Resonus was in the research group and Choy expected that Hunt still favoured that group.

Everyone at Resonus seemed to be enamoured with Doc and his hyper-enthusiasm, but some of Choy’s ESD staff are also privately concerned. Says one engineer: “Nothing can stop Doc when he discovers a new technology or design. He has incredible optimism – too much optimism – about the potential of the idea and perpetually underestimates how long it takes to get that idea into production. Doc has caused us to make almost 200 production change orders already this year. Even if we try to stop him (and we try to you, sometimes), Hunt backs him up. Frank really needs to draw the line on new development so we can hit our deadlines for once!”

Soon after joining Resonus, Choy realized that ESD employees get most of the blame and little of the credit for their work. When production staff find a design fault, they directly contact the research design engineer who developed the technology rather than the ESD group who prepare the specifications. Research engineers willing work with production because they don’t want to let go of their prop project. “These designers are very busy, but they don’t want to let go of their design work,” Choy explains. “So, when something needs to be corrected, the designer’s steps in rather than have to clean up work completed by ESD engineers.”

Meanwhile, Choy noted that production supervisors regularly critique ESD staff whereas they tend to except explanations from the higher status research department engineers. “Production routinely complains about every little specification error, many of which are due to design changes made by the research group,” says one frustrated ESD technician. “ESD engineers and technicians with 10 or 15 years’ experience shouldn’t have to prove that they are capable, but we spend as much time defending ourselves as we do fixing the research group’s design errors.”

Choy’s latest troubles occurred when Doc excitedly told Hunt (Resonus’s CEO) about new nano-processor technology that he wanted to install on the forthcoming high-end hearing aid product. As with most of Docs previous last-minute revisions, Hunt endorsed this change and asked Choy and Blanc (the production director) to show their commitment, even though production was scheduled to begin in less than three weeks. Choy wanted to protest, knowing that his department would have to tackle unexpected incompatibility design errors. Instead, he quietly agreed to Hunt’s request to avoid acting like his predecessor and facing similar consequences. Blanc curtly stated that her group was ready if Choy’s ESD unit could get accurate production specifications ready on time if the sales director would stop making wild delivery promises to customers.

When Doc’s revised designs specs arrived more than a week later, Choy’s group discovered numerous incompatibilities that had to be corrected. Even though several ESD staff were assigned to 12-hour days on the revisions, the final production specifications weren’t ready until a couple of days after the deadline. Production returned to the specs two days later, noting several elements that required revision because they were too costly or difficult to manufacture in their current form. By that time, the production director had to give priority to other jobs and move the new hearing aid product further down the queue. This meant that manufacturing of the new product was delayed by at least two months. The sales director was furious and implied that Frank Choy’s incompetence was to blame for this catastrophe.

Assuming the problem is the lack of coordination between the two teams is causing ill-will to company and the employees, use FOUR organizational behaviour theories from the in-class theory list to explain WHY?


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