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Case: Western Oceanography Institute
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Case: Western Oceanography Institute
This case illustrates the importance of building social networks within an organization. Astrid Young appears to be technically competent, but she ignores the need to build positive relationships with project stakeholders. As a result she has little positive credit to absorb the fallout when Murphyï¿½s Law strikes the project.
1. How would you respond to the Director at the end of the case?
This is an emotionally charged situation, and before reason can be applied, the anger and frustration need to be dissipated. Astrid should avoid responding defensively and accept the ï¿½verbal whippingï¿½. She should acknowledge that the project is currently experiencing some problems but these problems are solvable. She needs to restore confidence in the project and her ability to complete the project. If there is a blackboard available, she should write down the problems identified by the Director and ask if there are any others. She should record the names of the people who have been affected by the problems so that she can follow up after the meeting. People are likely to be more forgiving if they perceive that you are diligent in correcting mistakes.
2. What mistakes did Young make that contributed to the problems at the end of the case?
- Committed the cardinal sin of not keeping her sponsor (Green) informed on the status of the project (this needs to be highlighted)
- Failed to anticipate the fire safety problems
- Ignored signals that there was a negative attitude within the Institute about the IS department (for example, Smoky the Bear sign, 70% response to her email).
- Deleted the wrong files
- Mismatched the relationship with Samantha so that she was unwilling to share the problem she was encountering with Netscape web pages.
- Failed to build positive relationships with key people at the Institute
- Failed to build support for the conversion beyond Green.
3. How could she have better managed the conversion project?
Corresponding suggestions include:
- Young should have informed Green about the problems at the end of yesterday and planned to attend the meeting so that she, not Green, could absorb the criticism.
- She should have contacted the fire department and discussed expectations concerning the inspection prior to its actually taking place.
- She should have enhanced the standing of the IS department with the Institute by initiating contact with key people and being more of a problem solver than a problem creator.
- The deletion of files was a judgement call. Since time was not crucial , she could have deferred the decision until she had better information.
- Young needed to instill the norm within her group that it was ok to make mistakes, but it was not ok to tell her about mistakes.
- She needed to sustain contact with key people within the Institute. She needed to make it a point to interact on a regular basis with people at the Institute. If she canï¿½t eat restaurant food, than she could take her lunch with her or have coffee/tea with people. She should have continued attending staff meeting to keep abreast of developments.
- When talking to different people, she should take advantage of opportunities to point out how the new system would make their lives easier.
Discussion of the case should conclude by emphasising the importance of identifying who the project stakeholders are and the need to develop positive social relationships with key players.