Organizational Behavior Case Study

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Boston College
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In this case study, the General Motors (GM) organization faced culture crisis that involved ignition switch problem that contributed to at least 13 deaths according to Volukas report. The ignition switch crisis has portrayed a sad culture story because the problem wasn't addressed accordingly and instead, firing, many policies, and procedure changes were applied to solve the problem. One of the key attributes of this organization is that there is a big issue in the top management officials. The senior management, therefore, they have portrayed one the organization's weakness. Another weakness is that the officials that were involved in the ignition switch problem failed in their responsibilities to fix it. Through a sense of thoughtfulness, the organization had a weak channel of communication since some of the parties at GM including investigators knew the problem but failed to alert the top management. Since the ignition switch problem affected the consumer, it is a weakness of the organization by failing to meet and satisfy the customer needs. Concerning the strength of this organization according to the insights provided by the case study is that it had a significant global position and minimal competition at that time which sustained its position for eleven years. To sum up the views, this organization has an inadequate and ineffective management starting with chief executives, i.e., Mary Barra downwards to its senior managers and engineers. In this analysis, the rest of the paper will address organizational modeling, leadership theory, culture, and lastly the insights obtained from the study.

Organizational modeling

Organizational models or structures outline how the organization directs its activities such as allocation of duties, coordination, and supervision (Cameron, & Whetten, 2013). Organizational modeling is also responsible for the chain of command in the enterprise. Depending on the firm's objectives, the model should allow a smooth workflow and allocation of duties. Concerning the MG case study, the organization applied a functional structure behavior whereby the company consisted of distinct activities, for instance, duty assignment, supervision, and coordination. The employees were grouped according to their function within the organization such as production, investigators, and supervisors. This model had advantages to the firm by enhancing operational efficiency but failed in many ways. One of the greatest failures was communication within the company since the ignition switch was persistent or eleven years. To make matters worse, some of the responsible parties knew this problem was prevailing but failed to communicate to the top officials. It is clear that the company experienced a rigid communication channel thus making it inflexible and slow in solving the problems.

Through the functional organizational modeling, the company lacked a lateral communication between its functions, for instance, the production department and the management. For one reason or the other, the high levels or formalization contributed to the rigid communication between functions. Additionally, the operation standards also added to the barriers of communication experienced in the firm. The ignition switch problem could not have persisted for that long if a different organizational model had been put in place. Even though this organizational modeling behavior might have enhanced high levels of efficiency concerning production, the poor cooperation experienced between the distinct functions compromised the company. Again, the presence of in-fighting among the functional units of GM such as the firing of employees contributed to the reduced commitment that also made the project to lag behind and eventually making it difficult for the organization to meet its goals. Although the organization modeling behavior had its advantages, its negative impacts are not comparable to other models applied by other industries such as divisional structure and matrix structure.

A comparison between the functional organizational modeling behavior applied by GM and divisional structure is that in this model companies operate through independent divisions. The divisions, in this case, consist of various functions within the organization that are grouped to enhance production efficiency among other goals such as profitability and competitive advantage (Cameron, & Whetten, 2013). Another advantage of this model over functional structure is that it applies delegated authorities to increase the performance that can be measured from each division. This structure also increases manager's performance and employee motivation. Concerning coordination and communication within the organization, the divisional structure as applied by other organizations provides flexibility in the company where employees are free to share their ideas. Similarly, crises observed in the GM organization following a functional structure could also have taken place when a divisional structure was applied due to unhealthy relationships and rivalries between various divisions. Another organizational model employed by other industries is the matrix structure. In matrix organizational structure, the firms combine two or more models or structures (Cameron, & Whetten, 2013). Another difference in this model as compared to other modeling behavior is that the organization uses teams of employees to accomplish its objectives. The matrix structure applies a more horizontal structure as compared to the functional structure that used a more vertical structure thus hindering distribution of information. Organizations that have implemented this structure have enhanced specialization among their employees thus promoting their morale and acquisition of knowledge. Among the three structures, the matrix model has a more advantage over the two in enhancing coordination and production efficiency within the organization.

The reasons why there are differences between the organizational model applied by GM and those used by other industries is because of communication, coordination, and delegation of duties rigidity. According to the case study report, the organization failed mainly because of the weak organization behaviors such as standardized operations and vertical communication. The functional structure allowed a vertical communication and chain of command which contributed to a slow and inflexible coordination. Again the different functions experienced infighting within the organization leading to independence rather than embracing teamwork. If a matrix structure was used, a lateral communication could have enhanced solution of the ignition switch problem. Additionally, matrix model promotes teamwork for an efficient and quality production. In a functional structure, it's hard to escalate issue experienced by employees to the senior officials. Another reason for applying a matrix organizational structure is to strengthen the process of expeditious reporting of any issues within the company. The delegation of duties is another significant reason for employing a matrix organization structure that would have strengthened the industry in implementing evidence-based changes.

Culture involves the norms and beliefs contained in the company which shapes how things are done (Epstein, Rejc, & Yuthas, 2010). It depicts how managers and people communicate within the organization. The impact of culture on current organizational models which include a flatter, flatarchies, and holocratic organizations is that it affects decision-making process as compared to the past organizational model, for instance, the traditional hierarchy. Traditional hierarchy organization model had an easier decision-making process since the top officials were responsible for every decision. Another impact of culture is the effect of problem-solving strategies employed by the organization. For instance, at GM, the hierarchy model or functional structure applied an escalating process of problem-solving that affected the efficiency and flexibility of the company.

Regarding operation within an organizational model, the GM Company is not operating within its unique model. This organization used a functional model or a hierarchy structure where duties and policies of the organization are defined and delegated from the top officials. In the organization, the chief executive official Mary Barra failed in her position by not conducting a supervision of how the company operated. In this model, we expect issues to be shared in an escalating process which failed since some of the involved divisions in car manufacturing and marketing were aware of the ignition switch problem but failed to share this information with the top officials for corrections.

Motivational models have shifted as compared to the trending organizational modeling. As illustrated earlier, the current organizational structures that include a flatter, flatarchies, and holocratic organizations have improved employee satisfaction thus enhancing their motivation (Balas, 2009). In one way or the other, the above-named models enhance lateral communication of issues within the organization, and they also reduce the barriers of communication. Employee satisfaction is the critical issue when promoting their motivation within the organization and therefore, the organizational modeling trends are looking forward in improving employee relations. The trends will have also enhanced effective and efficient problem-solving strategies.

Leadership theory

In the case study, a leader-member exchange theory (LMX) is present whereby the relationship between the leaders and other employees depicts a transactional leadership style (Bolden, 2011). From the report, employees were motivated by firing, and these leaders used a chain of command which are assumptions applied in this type of leadership. Throughout the case study, the chief manager Mary Barra also shifted to other leadership styles such as transformational leadership to try getting organizational in the right direction. Leadership styles play a critical role in defining the culture of an organization (Bolden, 2011). Additionally, shifting of leadership styles was applied in GM to strengthen the chain of command or to enhance employee commitment and motivation.

From the GM organization, there are characteristics and decisions by the management that contributed to shifting of leadership style. One of the characteristics is the reluctance to bring out the issues and problem by avoiding responsibilities by the management. When people boycott their responsibilities, the top leadership is forced to shift its leadership to accommodate effective ways of delegating duties. Another characteristic is ignorance that was observed throughout the case study. The committee members and some of the key managers ignored the problem and therefore shift to authoritative leadership style is appropriate to address such a problem. Concerning the decisions that contributed to shifting in leadership, one is "accountability bait" by Mary Barra where she decided to fire all individuals who had acted inappropriately. The firing of employees following their mistakes is an assumption of transactional leadership to motivate other workers. Another decision was establishing of decision-making process where the senior management was placed at the center thus embracing another leadership style specifically transformational leadership.

Internal and external factors influenced the shift in leadership. Concerning the internal forces, safety and quality performance is one of the internal factors that pressured the senior management to change their leadership style. Safety was responsible for identifying and addressing issues within the organization. Quality performance, on the...

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