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Society of Equals


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Ted Shelby doesn’t make very many mistakes, but. ..

“Hey Stanley,” says Ted Shelby, leaning in through the door, “you got a minute? I’ve just restructured my office. Come on and take a look. I’ve been implementing some great new concepts!”
Stanley is always interested in Ted Shelby’s new ideas, for if there is anyone Stanley wants to do as well as, it is Edward W Shelby IV. Stanley follows Ted back to his office and stops, nonplussed.
Restructured is right! Gone are Ted’s size B (Junior Executive) walnut veneer desk and furniture, and his telephone table. In fact, the room is practically empty save for a large, round, stark white cafeteria table and the half-dozen padded vinyl swivel chairs that surround it.
“Isn’t it a beauty! As far as I know, I’m the first executive in the plant to innovate this. The shape is the crucial factor here – no front or rear, no status problems. We can all sit here and communicate more effectively.”
We? Communicate? Effectively? Well, it seems that Ted has been attending a series of Executive Development Seminars given by Dr. Faust. The theme of the seminars was-you guessed it- participative management. Edward W Shelby IV has always liked to think of himself as a truly democratic person.

“You see, Stanley,” says Ted, managing his best sincere/ intense attitude, “the main thing wrong with our culture is that most of the communication is top-down. We in the executive suite send our messages down the line, but we never ask for ideas and suggestions from the rest of the company. Just because we have more status and responsibility doesn’t mean that we are necessarily (Stanley duly noted the word necessarily) better than the people below us. In fact, with our customers’ needs changing so fast these days, we need all the ideas we can get. We’ve got to shift to a culture of participation and employee
involvement if we want to keep up with today’s fast pace of business. ”
“So that’s what the cafeteria table is for?” Stanley asks.
“Yes!” says Ted. “We need better two-way communication – up the line as
well as down the line. We managers don’t have all the answers, and I don’t
know why I never realized it before that seminar. Why, for example, the folks
who run those machines out there. I’ll bet anyone of them knows a thing or two
about how to speed up our manufacturing process that I’ve never thought of.
So I’ve transformed my office into a full- feedback communication net.”
“That certainly is an innovation around here,” says Stanley.
A few days later Stanley passed by Ted Shelby’s office and was surprised that
Ted’s desk, furniture, and telephone table were back where they used to be.
Stanley, curious about the unrestructuring, went to Bonnie for enlightenment.
“What,” he asked, “happened to Shelby’s round table?”
“That table we were supposed to sit around and input things?” she said. “All I
know is, about two days after he had it put in, Mr. Drake came walking through
here. He looked in that office, and then he sort of stopped and went back-and
he looked in there for a long time. Then he came over to me, and you know
how his face sort of gets red when he’s really mad? Well, this time he was so
mad that his face was absolutely white. And when he talked to me, I don’t think
he actually opened his mouth; and I could barely hear him, he was talking so
low. And he said, ‘Have that removed. Now. Have Mr. Shelby’s furniture put
back in his office. Have Mr. Shelby see me.”‘
My, my. You would think Ted would have known better, wouldn’t you? But
then, by now you should have a pretty firm idea of just why it is those offices
are set up as they are.
Questions
1. How would you characterize the culture in this company? What are the
dominant values?
2. Why did Ted Shelby’s change experiment fail? To what extent did Ted use the
appropriate change tools to increase employee communication and participation?
3. What would you recommend Ted do to change his relation- ship with subordinates? Is it possible for a manager to change cultural values if the rest of the organization, especially top management, does not agree?
SOURCE: R. Richard Ritti and G. Ray Funkhouser, The Ropes to Ship & The Ropes to Know Jd. ed. (New York: Wiley, 1987), 176-177. This material is used by permission of]ohn Wiley & Sons, Inc.
,

Answer the following questions in relation to the chosen case study :

1. What is the case study about?
2. What key theories have been illustrated in the case study?
3. What problems can you identify within the case, and what was/were the cause/s of these problems?
4. Looking at your knowledge and  / or experience, what would you have done if you were given an opportunity to solve these problems?
5. What have you personally learnt /  developed reflecting back on the case?

The case reflection should be 1000 words and you can either use the questions as a guide or do your own reflection around the issues raised in the case study.

However there are three themes that need to be covered in your reflection :

1. Case Summary
2. Theoretical Background
3. Your personal views, learning points and reflection on your past experience.

Please also find below 2 UPS examples of a good reflection completed by students last year. These show different styles of writing. Both got fairly high marks.

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