The Challenge at Hand
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This reflection paper is based on a team I had to form and manage for a company I worked for. It was one of the first jobs I had in leadership and although a few mistakes were made, I managed to rectify them to make sure they would not happen again. It was a great learning opportunity in my career, which has helped me to be a better leader in similar roles.
The job was to recruit and train a team of 25 to handle a backlog of 50,000 and current cancellation letters for a gas company. With only 2 weeks training on the requirements and issues at hand, I had to develop and implement an efficient strategy to address the problem.
My first task was to select and interview a team with the necessary skills and team work qualities to ensure the job was done as soon as possible. Using agency staff was the best option since the agencies filter applicants and provide a list of the most suitable candidates for the job, making it easier to select my team. After a week of interviews, the next task was training of the recruited team. The team reported in groups of 5, allowing me to train them for 2 days each. At the end of the week, the group trained first was training the groups that joined the team later. This freed me to continue doing other tasks such as organising the work that needed to be done.
“At first one views management functionally such as measuring quantity, adjusting plans, meeting goals, and fore sighting/forecasting” (Management 2012). This applies even in situations when planning does not take place. Henri Fayol (1841-1925), an influential contributor to modern management concepts, considered management functions to be Forecasting, Planning, Organizing, Commanding, Coordinating and Controlling (Cook 2010). I practised these roles leading to excellent team work that resulted in a steady decrease in the number of cancellation letters.
However, the management desired higher performance levels from the team and instituted a daily target of 50 letters per 5 hour shift. I pointed out that the targets were achievable, although on occasion, some letters needed further attention so required more time. Unfortunately, trouble started when the team started working to meet the 50 letter target. Whereas the daily quota was met, the quality of work suffered and I had to double check almost all the work done, wasting time that could have been used completing my management roles just as Demarco and Lister (1999) had stated that “managers jeopardize product quality by setting unreachable deadlines”. The team’s stress levels rose as each worried about his/her job when he/she did not meet the daily target. Fearing that I had failed the team, I sought a new strategy.
At the time I was anxious about my ability to achieve the goals considering the state of the team. As I reflected on my previous challenging roles, I remembered Thomas Edison’s (1847-1931) quote that “many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” (Thomas A. Edison Quotes 2012). I set to work to re-organize the work load.
Past experiences and mistakes helped me identify the pathway to take. Additionally, the challenge forced me to evaluate previous similar situations. I thought about my feelings, analysed the situations that occurred and chose to learn from them for future reference.
I realised that I should have foreseen the setting of targets since management was anxious to clear the backlog. Fortunately, I still had time to re-organize the team so that the extra work could be covered without causing further harm to the team spirit.
I think that I covered all aspects of planning from the recruiting to the training. I made a mistake in not performing the function of fore sighting as this would have helped me anticipate management’s desire higher productivity. The change affected the team and could have jeopardised my job. However, this error could be rectified without too much disruption to the team.
From this experience, I have learnt a valuable lesson. I will now anticipate future changes and include efforts to counteract them in my plan for any project. To move forward, I decided to divide the team into 2 groups. The first group of 20 members handled the normal letters while the second group of 5 members handled the complicated letters. As the 5 became more and more accustomed to resolving the complicated issues, they handled them faster. This enabled the team to handle the daily quota of letters for the entire team without affecting them at a personal level.
My confidence has grown since this occurred and I am pleased to say that it has not recurred in my other positions. It made me a better person and increased the worth I place on other people I work with or shall work with in the future. As Mark Hanna (1837-1904) said “if we can by any method establish a relationship of mutual trust between the labourer and the employer we shall lay the foundation stone of a structure that will endure for all time” (Mark Hanna Quotes 2012)