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It is very likely that during
a person’s professional working career to be exposed to poor leadership within their
respective organization.  These interactions
may directly or indirectly impact the individual or bear witness to co-workers that
are burdened with more assigned work, more responsibilities, and longer working
hours than their peers.  This perceived unbalanced
workload distribution develops into normalcy within the team but can easily
begin to cause disharmony, frustration, resentment and discord amongst the team
members and between team and management. 
An experienced and engaged organizational leader must be constantly on alert
in order to prevent, identify, and provide solution to these types of
issues.  Using this situation as an
example, this case study will analyze this workload discrepancy at Thermo
Fisher Scientific from the Structural Frame perspective (Bolman & Deal,
2013).  Furthermore, provide appropriate leadership
theory suggestion that can help the company address and mitigate employee
dissatisfaction stemming from unequal workload. 
Last, provide a change plan utilizing the Eight-Step Process for Leading
Change model (Kotter, 2012).

            Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS) is
large company that has in the past several years acquired hundreds of smaller
biotechnology companies in order to expand its impressive product line portfolio,
increase market share and global presence in the life science industry.  The result of this growth is TFS Stock
Keeping Units (SKU) to balloon to nearly 700,000 unique parts.  In order to accommodate and process this many
SKUs efficiently through the supply channel, the company must use Enterprise
Resource Planning (ERP) software. The global Product Data Management (PDM) Team
is responsible for maintaining data integrity and harmony of all ERP systems to
ensure that SKUs are configured correctly in order to be manufactured, sold,
and shipped to customers quickly and in the most cost effective manner.  There are specific technical step-by-step
task oriented requirements and policies that govern the work of the PDM team
thereby best fitting into Bolman & Deal’s (2013) Structural Frame.

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            At a high-level, the structural
frame is described as top down leadership organization where work tasks are
divided into group structure that is controlled by policies to achieve goals
and objectives (Bolman & Deal, 2013). 
The PDM team is organized into four specialized work groups of approximately
5-6 staff members, each group led by a manager all of whom report to the PDM Director.  This vertical hierarchical organization structure
makes it difficult for individual contributors of the PDM teams to feel
empowered to drive innovation and change even as TFS continues to expand its
capacity.  

The rapid growth of the
company’s SKU list has driven the need to increase head-count.  New employees are expected to learn a large
amount of data including functionality of the ERP systems, SKU data standards,
global regulatory requirements and the overall change management lifecycle
process.  The aptitude of employees varies
therefore some team members learn only one ERP system and are restricted to limited
work assignments.  However, the team
members that become knowledgeable in multiple ERP systems are given more
responsibilities.  Working to meet critical
timelines, it is common that these “advanced” team members have more
responsibilities and often must working longer hours by coming in early and
working late nights to meet business deadlines. Meanwhile, single ERP members
log exactly eight hours daily and unburdened with workload are able to take hour-long
lunches and frequent socialization. While not verbally expressed, employees are
beginning to show signs of animosity and disharmony develops within the PDM
Team.

The unequal workload
distribution displayed by the PDM team is a critical issue that the organizational
leader must regulate quickly or risk employee dissatisfaction, unrealistic work
pace, lack of training and motivation that will eventually lead to decreased
productivity and high employee turn-over rate. 
By allowing workload assignments to be controlled by simplistic “single
ERP workers” versus the smarter more motivated “multiple ERP workers, the PDM
team has organically created dysfunction within the team.  Rather than addressing the clear disparity in
responsibility within the team, management has enabled ineptitude and
stagnation of the single ERP members. 
Furthermore, there is no incentive for the single ERP group members to
increase their skill sets, nor is there drive for the multiple ERP group
members to go above and beyond to contribute to company success.  Due to expansion and increasing complexity of
integrating more systems and data together, the management of the PDM team must
consider a different leadership approach: The Situational Leadership Model (Hersey
& Blanchard, 1969).

  Leadership is not a one size fits all approach.
“It is building consensus and motivating people to work together around shared
objectives; it is a highly interactive process that doesn’t depend on a trait
of the leader, but on the kinds of relationships that the leader establishes
with the followers” (Vroom, 2011, January 01, para 26) .   The business needs and consistently strict deadlines
required of the PDM team are fixed; the variation of skill level and motivation
in individual contributors is what the Situational Leader can approach in a
case-by-case basis.  The Situation Leadership
model focuses on the readiness of the follower in order to shift the leadership
approach specific to the needs of the subordinate (Hersey & Blanchard,
1969).  Therefore, it is recommended that
the managers of PDM first identify those that are “low directive and low
supportive” as these employees will operate independently.  Next, identify the members that are “high
directive and high supportive” and start conversation to better understand the
specific needs to facilitate professional development opportunities.  Management now has more bandwidth to focus on
engaging in open communication with single ERP members to better guide and direct
these employees thus eventually regulating the workload distribution
disparity.  Additionally, the high
performing multiple ERP members will feel a sense of empowerment and trust in their
capabilities after no longer being micromanaged to do their job.  This approach follows Kotter’s (2012) Step 5 for
the multiple ERP group and Step 6 for the single ERP group respectively;
followed by Steps 7 and 8 for sustainment of the change.  As defined by Kotter:   

STEP 5: Empowering broad-based
action by removing as many barriers as possible and unleashing people to do
their best work

STEP 6: Generating short-term
wins to creating visible, unambiguous success as soon as possible

STEP 7: Don’t Let
Up! Consolidating gains and producing more change

STEP 8: Make It
Stick Anchoring new approaches in the culture for sustained change (Kotter,
2012, pp.3-5).

Being persistent and consistent in implementing these
changes are the most important aspects to ensure success.

            In a workplace full of team members with different personalities,
diverse skills sets and experiences, an organizational leader must exhibit
flexibility in the leadership approach needed for specific situations.  The effective leader will step back and view
the organization from the balcony in order to gain insight on what type of
leadership style is needed to become effective. At Thermo Fisher Scientific,
the leaders of the teams will need to review and assess training gaps and
specific needs for employee development, hold poor performance accountable,
empower high performers by recognizing their contributions all while emphasizing
to the entire group the importance of teamwork and shared responsibility.

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