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HR Management Case for LRH Financial

Scenario:
You are a project manager in the corporate headquarters finance department for a global investment management firm, LRH Financial. The finance department consists of three different teams, one in headquarters (Chicago) and two regional offices (Little Rock, Arkansas and Boulder, Colorado). Each regional office used to be its own company but was then bought up by LRH. You are managing a project that will result in a large number of operating processes and procedures being updated and standardized in response to recent legislation. The project will involve documenting processes and procedures from all the offices, analyzing each one for effectiveness and adherence, making changes, and then training all the offices on the finalized processes and procedures. The project's sponsor, Katy (Chief Operating Officer), has stressed to all the offices that headquarters' procedures are not the default; something better may exist in the regional offices. The sizes of the Boulder and Little Rock departments are the same, which is about half the size of the Chicago department.
This is the first project you are managing with the regional offices. You have heard from your peers that it is very difficult to get the regional offices to participate they do not dial in for meetings, do not respond to e-mails, and only finish deliverables late (if at all). In many cases, your peers had to replace those team members with people from headquarters. You know this project will be difficult from a people perspective the ways people work are going to be analyzed and evaluated. This is a perfect opportunity to completely destroy working relationships among the different groups if it is not done right.

What Katy knows (and your peers do not) is that you used to work in one of the regional offices before it was purchased by LRH. Nine months before the purchase, you left that company, moved from Boulder to Chicago, and joined LRH. You used to work in the purchasing department, but you took the job as the finance department manager when you joined LRH. You suspect that Katy thinks your past experience in the Boulder office will make you a more inclusive project manager, resulting in better business value from the project.

Question:
You have spoken with the managers of the Finance departments in the Little Rock and Boulder offices. You were talking with them about their communication styles and how their teams best work together. You wanted to make sure that they knew you were interested in their teams' active involvement in the project, and that they have critical roles in making sure their departments' processes and procedures are considered equal inputs to the project.

The manager from Little Rock, Bud, told you that his staff prefers face-to-face, informal conversations. They are a small, closely-knit group that has worked together for years with little turn-over. Meetings are not scheduled when people need something, they just go up to the person and ask. E-mail is seldom used to communicate decisions. They are always amused at the e-mails they get from corporate because it seems that everything is done via e-mail. They feel that they are looked down on by the people at corporate, are never asked for their input, and are seldom told the final decision/outcome of anything. They "know they are the third-class citizens" of the company; the staff at Boulder is the "second-class" staff. They think they are being included in the project so that corporate can gloat and show how their processes are superior to the ones in place in Little Rock. They believe that corporate procedures will be very cumbersome and make it very difficult for the staff in Little Rock to get any work done moving forward.

The conversation with the manager from Boulder, Betty, was not much better. She and her staff also feel that they are only involved in this project from a checklist perspective. Giving her staff non-impact roles on the project is just one of the things on your checklist to get done. The culture at Boulder is very different from Little Rock; meetings are scheduled for any significant discussion, and meeting minutes are always produced and approved. Project directories are always established on the directory, and deliverables are version-controlled. E-mail is not used much; their views on the people at corporate are very much in line with their views at Little Rock. Interestingly, though, the Boulder staff thinks they are the third-class citizens and the staff in Little Rock is the favorite!

You know that the culture in Chicago is very different. Everyone is working on multiple projects (their assumption is that they do twice as many projects as the people in the regional offices), is too busy all the time, and has a lot of pressure from the internal customers. They think the people in the regional offices have the easy jobs and just do not understand the pressures the Chicago department is facing. Meetings, when they are held, generally start late. There is seldom an agenda, and any follow-up is documented via a series of e-mails (not minutes). E-mail is the preferred method of communication and people sitting next to each other will send a note instead of talking to their neighbor. The staff seems to thrive on the pressured, rushed atmosphere.

Prepare an e-mail to Katy describing the results of the meetings and your concerns about the project team. Identify your top three communication challenges, and explain how you think you will overcome them.

Solution Preview

Key concerns:
Organizational culture can loosely be defined as the shared assumptions, beliefs, and "normal behaviors" (norms) of a group. These are powerful influences on the way people live and act, and they define what is "normal" and how to sanction those who are not "normal." To a large degree, what we do is determined by our culture. Culture is very powerful. (One example is the cultural change effort at British Airways, which transformed an unprofitable airline with a poor reputation into a paragon of politeness and profit).
Reference: www.toolpack.com/culture.html

There is a cultural mismatch amongst three teams that is of headquarters and the regional offices. This is because these regional offices are buyouts or acquisitions which had different culture originally. Moreover when a company is acquired, the decision is typically based on product or market synergies, but cultural differences are often ignored. It's a mistake to assume that people issues are easily overcome. As in this case the employees at a target company (now regional office) were accustomed to easy access to top management, flexible work schedules and informal communication. These aspects of a working environment may not seem significant, but if new management removes them, the result can be resentment and shrinking productivity. Thus the organization has to implement change management for smooth integration. Organizations need to adapt to innovative techniques while avoiding the pitfall of adopting unproven methods and/or fads that may not fit with the culture of the organizations.
Reference: http://www.ethicsquality.com/mergerintegration.htm as retrieved on 8 Feb 2007 03:55:56 GMT.

Another concern is of improper communication between the offices. This is dealt in detail in the next section of communication challenges. Also, another concern is of lack of synergies between the offices which is leading to the loss of productivity.

Top three communication challenges:
1) Differences in the style of communication amongst various offices
Little Rock staff prefers face-to-face, informal conversations. E-mail is occasionally used to communicate a decision which is different from the Head Office. At Head office Email is a preferred mode. The culture at Boulder is very different from Little Rock; meetings are scheduled for any significant discussion, and meeting minutes are ...

Solution Summary

This solution answers the case study for LRH Financial's HR Management Case.

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