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Diagnosing Global Engineering Systems Essay Sample

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Diagnosing Global Engineering Systems Essay Sample

This study will examine the organizational framework, the environment, the formal and informal systems and the concept of power in the Global Engineering Systems (GES) of The Timken Company, using the system analysis. The system analysis will be done using the Six Box Model overview.

            GES at The Timken Company is small compared to many departments within Timken and their IT departments but it serves a major role for the engineering and production systems for the company. The staff members are the System Specialist in the US and India that provide technical support for the design and enhancement of the non-CAD computer systems that are used by the engineers, production managers, and production partners of Timken. GES is included in all three of the current divisions within the company: Automotive, Industrial, and Steel. On the organizational flowchart GES reports directly to the Manager of Global IT – Asia but also reports indirectly to the managers of the Product, Tooling, and Production Engineering. The projects done by GES supports these three engineering groups and the majority of the budgets for projects are supplied by them. If you continue up the organizational flowchart the Manager of Global IT – Asia reports to the Senior Vice President and CIO, who reports to the Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration, who reports to the President and CEO.

Figure 1.

            Since this study is utilizing the Six Box Model for the system analysis of GES, the research has to seek for the mission statement of the company as stated by Senior VP and CIO John Elsasser in their web page, “We are dedicated to improving our customers’ performance by applying innovative technology and our associates’ knowledge and skills to deliver valued information solutions, services, and consulting all around the world.” While, the CIO also states how the mission statement for IT reflects the recent changes to the overall company’s mission statement, “Like the new vision statement for Timken, the IT mission statement focuses on performance, innovation, value, customers (in our case both internal and external), the knowledge of our associates, and our global reach.  It also reminds us of the three main “products” we offer our IT customers – services (infrastructure, running of applications), solutions (projects, delivery of applications), and consulting (helping our customers to pick the best way to solve a requirement).”

The customers of the GES department are the internal and external engineers and production groups that maintain and utilize the information about Timken’s products. Since there are a limited number of human resources in GES, and a great demand for these resources, each request for work is assigned a priority. Even though it is not formally written, production problems are considered to be the number one priority because these types of problems keep other groups from working or affect the quality of products.

            The problem with the purpose of this department is that the priorities constantly change and the number of request made for resources continues to rise. The priorities change because of the internal and external environments that GES interacts with. Like most departments, budgets and work for the upcoming year are negotiated based on the business plan. When acquisitions are made, GES is required to evaluate their engineering related systems and find a way to integrate these systems to work with, or be absorbed, into Timken’s current engineering systems. The global environment has also caused changes in the priorities for GES. Since Timken has established manufacturing plant in many countries, the most recent being China, it has requested that GES secure specific data that is consider technical properties of the company from being viewed and possible stolen by employees and sold to competitors. When a production partnership is formed with another company, GES is required to establish a security way to provide these companies with just enough information for them to produce the desired product. The government sector also mandates what data can be viewed by non-US citizens. Changes like these, even if they weren’t considered during the planning for the upcoming year, are elevated to top priority and all other work must stop to implement these changes.

            The structure at Timken is what Daft refers to as a global matrix structure but GES is a mutifocused group (100, 218). Because it is an IT department, new projects are easily started, teamwork is encouraged, the contact points to consumers are clearly understood, people in the group develop many skills, and they are flexible and able to react quickly to changes in their complex unstable environment. Because of the knowledge GES members gain from working in IT, they also have the knowledge to work in several other areas of the company. Perhaps, the rapid growth of technological advancement in the society has brought people so much ease in all the things they do. Part of this technological advancement is the emergence of the Information System. Information System (IS) is often regarded as the unquestioned cornerstone towards competitiveness in the 21st century. These technological advancements have brought people especially those in the business world to utilise a strategy that would be helpful in enhancing the business value of any organisation (Ramsdell, 2000). The intricacies of achieving business achievement through increased efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness, combined with innovative applications of IT, has heightened the awareness of both IT and business managers towards more strategically oriented approaches for planning and management (Luftman et al, 1993).

In particular the need to strategically align business and IT planning has been emphasised as both critically important but increasingly problematic (Niederman et al, 1991; Burn, 1993; Brancheau et al, 1996). Some companies have used IT to achieve strategic objectives. Taking advantage of technological advances in computing and communicating through the use of information system, they provide new ways of rendering work in a certain organisation. Some companies which have strategically used this information system are now known as leaders in the marketplace and those who have not give enough focus has faced their downturn.

Work in GES is divided based on several variables. Who has the knowledge of the system, the technical skills needed, and availability based on their current assignments. Each member of the US team is responsible for several of the main system that GES supports. When a request is made for one of these systems, the person responsible for that system is required to make an initial evaluation of the request to assign it a priority. This priority is influenced by company directives or policies, engineering or production needs, or the value to the customer or the company. Even though a request ranks high in priority, there is no guarantee that it will be worked on immediately.

Depending on the technical skills needed to evaluate a request, it sometimes takes several resources to evaluate it. High priority requests which require a limited amount of time and resources are usually worked on immediately. Larger requests must be forwarded to another IT committee for approval. Several resources in GES might work on evaluating a request and a totally different group of resource might work together to implement it. Each resource in GES is usually involved, directly or indirectly, with several projects at the same time, at different stages, and could perform a different role for each project. Each member in GES performs the liaison role with the departments they work with and many times global teams and global virtual teams are created to gather information and to resolve problems (224).

            The rewards for working in GES are basically the same for any other salary employee. They are based on the policies for IT and the company. There aren’t any special incentives for doing their job. If there is a problem in the middle of the night, sometimes because the person having the problem is halfway around the world in a different time zone, and they call a member of GES to resolve it, it is their responsibility to resolve it. It is considered part of their job requirements. If they can’t resolve it themselves, it is their responsibility to get the necessary people involved to resolve it. Also, if overtime is required to resolve a problem or to complete an assignment on time, no consideration is promised and they’re expected to work their scheduled hours also. Rewards are given once a year in the form of a raise and profit sharing but a promotion can happen at any time. They’re based on what projects an individual worked on during the year, how visible these projects were to IT and their direct manager, and how these projects and the individual contributed to the success of GES and the company. Howard and Dougherty state this in their strategy that suggests “Individual Output strategies involve liking rewards with an individual’s contributions to output, including consideration for productivity, work quality and effort” (42). Each individual’s contributions in IT are compared to the contributions of every one else in IT to determine a ranking for that individual. It then depends on how the divisions performed during the year. Since GES supports all three divisions, even if one division didn’t have a good year, GES members could still receive a good profit sharing check.

            In these circumstances, knowledge workers appropriate the technology according to their needs and given organizational norms. Although top management may have a specific output in mind, the invested communication technology is adopted by organizational members who make the eventual decision regarding the use of the technology. The underlying idea is that communication technology is created and changed by human action, yet it is also used by people to accomplish organizational aims. Knowledge workers may, for example, decide to use group support systems for the purpose of generating ideas, yet refuse to use these for overcoming conflicts. These choices are basically actions that are selected according to in-built preferences and the information-processing capacity of actors (Whittington, 1988, p. 254). This means that knowledge workers are limited in their full range of media choices. Furthermore, political processes within organizations demand the negotiation of appropriate media choices. These negotiation processes adhere to established social patterns that have developed over time. This means that the media choices of organizational actors are partially predetermined by established organizational norms. This in addition to the inability to make media choice decisions under perfect information limits the ‘optimal’ use of communication technology within organizations.

Although knowledge workers may have a certain degree of influence over the use of communication technology, the communication technology environment has properties that cannot simply be denied by knowledge workers. This means essentially that communication technology has both objective and negotiable properties. Objective properties are given by the type of communication technology employed as well as the inherent features of the technology. Groupware leads to a different impact on the organization than does electronic mail because of the features that the technology provides. Groupware allows several people to communicate simultaneously, while electronic mail is an asynchronous medium. Communication technology has objective properties, but it is its subjective properties that are negotiated through social interaction between organizational actors. These subjective properties develop through repeated patterns of use of communication technology, which in turn form routine practices within the organization, and, over time, these become objective features of the organization.

Once the communication technology implementation decision has been made, the introduction of communication technology has to be viewed as an occasion in the life of an organization (Baker, 2002) that affects the processing of information by knowledge workers. With the implementation of communication technology, an external parameter has been introduced within the organization that changes the creation and manipulation of information. The fundamental question arising is concerned with the relationship between this external parameter and the agents – knowledge workers – of the organization. As communication technology is introduced, knowledge workers have to make media choices that translate into alternative ways of processing information. These media choices are made in the context of having to achieve an expected level of individual performance.

Communication technology has objective properties, but it is its subjective properties that are negotiated through social interaction between organizational actors. These subjective properties develop through repeated patterns of use of communication technology, which in turn form routine practices within the organization, and, over time, these become objective features of the organization.

            There are many formal relationships established for GES, but since they interact with a large variety of people, most of their relationships with other individuals and departments are informal because they are too numerous to write down. GES communicates with people around the world through the use of emails, instant messaging, and net meetings. When conflicts arise external to GES, a meeting is held to clarify the problem and discus possible solutions. Once a workable solution is found, which is not always a consensus from the members affected or involved in the decision process, a resolution is implemented. GES also provides their customers with a feedback system that allows them to report problems or changes that need to be made to their applications. As mentioned before, the person responsible for the system is required to review these feedbacks and assign them a priority. Conflicts internal to GES seem more difficult to resolve because they usually deal with the use of technology and individual’s perceptions and past experiences. Since there are many ways to implement an application in IT, a case can be made to support several different solutions.

Members of GES work on several projects at a time and could be the project lead for one, a programmer on another, and also a consultant on another. If a consensus can’t be reached on an appropriate solution, unless there are clear flaws in the proposed solution, the project manager usually makes the final decision based on the information provided. Sometimes, even if another solution is better, a lesser solution is implemented because no one in GES has the necessary time to implement the optimal solution. Forcing also occurs because the person with the most knowledge of the system uses it to influence decisions. GES also utilizes many informal systems to resolve problems in a timely manner. Since there are experts for different technologies and applications, internal and external to the company, GES uses them as consultant to resolve conflicts or problems because the formal system takes too long to respond. GES also has the freedom to solicit information from any one to evaluate and resolve conflicts and problems.

The direct manager for GES, which is the Manager of Global IT – Asia, uses a management style that complements the specialist in the group that is all at a readiness level of R4. The manager’s leadership authority is rational-legal authority and their leadership behavior style is what Hersey and Blanchard refer to as delegating (Daft 340; Hersey 186-7). Since the maturity levels of the members in GES are high, a “less close” supervision style is used (Schen 138).  The manager ensures operational consistency and empowers the GES staff to take the necessary action to fulfill the requirements of their customers. The company and the manager promote a learning organization where information is shared and provides and open environment that promotes continuous improvement. “The management structure is organic (Daft151). Each member of GES has expert knowledge of specific applications and technologies. Management loosely monitors each individual’s assignments and only gets involved when there is a problem. When they need to get involved they are supportive and understanding of the unique problems that GES and IT deal with. The manager provides the vertical linkage while the members of GES provide the horizontal linkage (93-5). The primary function of this manager is to resolve problems with the allocation of the resource of GES with their customers, perform evaluations, negotiate rewards, and approve request for helpful mechanisms.

As such, managers should be creative as well as discerning when it comes to analyzing and assessing the resources of the company. Developing and evaluating the efficiency of a particular operation strategy will be helpful in maintaining the overall competitiveness of the business organization. In effect, being able to contemplate the factors that will greatly influence the success of the business should be highly considered through objective investigation of the current conditions of the business environment particularly the industry to which the company belongs. It is impossible for a leader to get extraordinary achievement alone. Moreover, teamwork is needed in an unstable market and most especially in the business we are in. If you can’t depend on others, you will never become a leader because the better we are able to innovate if we feel we are more trusted. If a leader trusts his staff, his staff will trust him back.

To keep going despite set backs, is the hallmark of all successful leaders. A good leader must have a positive attitude, should be optimistic, has ideas, always sees a way out and will not give up easily. They take every mistake as a learning experience Strength of character and will are the moral qualities of a leader, the principles that motivate and control his functions to make the right choices. On the other hand, humility is necessary to define a leader’s ability and limitations especially and most importantly the correct measuring of other people’s worth and value.

Leadership comprises the aptitude and ability to inspire and influence the thinking, attitudes, and behavior of other people (Adler, 1991; Bass, 1985; Bass & Stogdill, 1989; Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Kotter, 1988). Leadership is a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of other individuals in the achievement of a common task. Although this specification seems relatively simple, the reality of leadership is very complex. Intrapersonal factors such as ideas and emotions, interact with interpersonal processes (i.e., attraction, communication, influence) to have effects on a dynamic external environment. Each of these aspects brings complexity to the leadership process.

As part of influential and powerful business organizations, leaders with political motivations and self-centered interests and intentions should exercise their power based on moral standards in order to protect the welfare of the company and the society as a whole. The empowerment brought about by the economic success of the organization should not be the root of its downfall. True test of leadership can be best tried when confronted with big responsibilities and societal issues. Good leaders should be discerning and disciplined in whatever takes they embrace most especially when such decisions are detrimental to the good of the people.

            GES also reports indirectly to the managers of engineering. Their power is rational-legal also. These managers are task oriented because they provide the money for the projects GES works on. They’re much more involved with the daily work done by GES because it affects their budgets, production, product quality, customers, and the performance of the engineering and production departments. When there’s a conflict between GES and these managers it is the responsibility of the direct manager to intervene and resolve them.

            GES members also report to other GES members when they are project manager. There power is base on this temporary formal role and comes from their knowledge and expertise of a system, application, or technology. These project managers are task oriented but their leadership styles vary.

            When diagnosing an organization, in this case a subsystem within the organization, it’s important to do homework to be prepared to ask pertinent question in an organized manner so the information obtained can be used to make a more accurate perception of the organization. In the case of GES, their purpose is clearly stated by Timken’s CIO and the members within the group have accepted and understand what function they provide. The problem that exists is that there isn’t enough resource in GES to handle the planned and unplanned request for these resources. Because of this lack of resources, the backlog of requests continues to increase and their priorities must be changed frequently. The structure that defines GES is complex but adheres to traditional structures for IT departments.

Reporting to a manager in IT and to the manager of their customers is a common practice. One manager manages the people while the other manages the task and the budgets for these tasks. The reward system is mandated by the policies for all salary employees at Timken, but because of the extra time required in excess to their 40 hours a week, there needs to be more incentives for this extra effort. Unlike many departments within Timken, IT associates are on call 24 hours a day to resolve problems. Timken and the managers of GES are supportive and provide GES with the materials they need to do their job efficiently. Conflicts external to GES are adequately resolved but internal conflicts are never resolved or are resolved using the golden rule. The one with the gold, or power, makes the rule. The leadership style used is appropriate for a group with this level of maturity but the direct manager should intervene more with internal conflicts.

            GES could be improved by creating a central point where all request enter the group and a persons should be assigned to oversee this process. This would allow members to concentrate on completing the task they’ve already been assigned without constant interruptions.  Management could intervene to understand the sources of internal conflicts and mediate a resolution through standard procedures or to address specific conflicts individually. Also, comp-time or some other form of compensation could be given for working overtime. The managers, and the company, realize that GES and their other IT department function differently than most departments within the company. This is because GES provides crucial information for associates around the world and are required to resolve problems any time of the day or night.  Because the members of GES are specialist and experts in what they do, they have the drive and desire to deliver quality solutions, and they know what it takes to deliver these solutions in a timely manner. Improving the work environment of GES will benefit everyone who interacts with them.

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Bass, BM & Stogdill, RM 1989, The Handbook of Leadership. New York: The Free Press.

Bennis, W & Nanus, B 1985, Leaders, New York: Harper and Row, p. 26-28, 225.

Brancheau, J.C., Janz, B.D. & Wetherbe, J.C. Key Issues in Information Systems Management:  A Shift toward Technology Infrastructure. MIS Quarterly, pp. 225-242., 1996.

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