Libby JohnsonHagedornManagement 305L.J. Watkins Case Study The L. J. Watkins Companymanufactured large sliding doors made of many narrow aluminum panels heldtogether by thick rubber strips, which allowed the door to collapse as it wasopened.
When L. J. Watkins began the business, his was the only firm thatmanufactured the large sliding doors. But, recently, several other firms hadbegun to market similar doors. One firm, in particular, had been bidding toobtain business from Watkins’ major customer. Fearing that the competitor mightbe able to underbid his company, Watkins began urging Pat, the vice president,to increase efficiency and cut production costs.
At that time, we startedrunning into issues in the warehouse. Paul Watkins, L.G. Watkins son, had justrecently been given the production manager job.
Other employees began tocomment that he only got the job because of his father or that he would only docertain things in hope to impress his dad. These same employees had been knownto take frequent breaks and earn overtime to compensate for their low pay. Oncecost reduction programs were implemented, the employees fought back. Theproduction employees didn’t change their work habits as a result of thepressure put on them by the supervisors. Instead, a growing spirit ofantagonism between the production employees and the supervisors had developed. Afterseveral weeks of no improvement in production, Pat called a meeting with allthe production employees to announce that the plant would go on a four-day,10-hour per day workweek to reduce operating costs. Some employees liked thisidea but most did not.
After the meeting, several employees in the door jambdepartment made plans to stage a work slowdown so that the department wouldfall behind schedule and they would have to work overtime to catch up. Theemployees continued to deliberately violate the posted rules. This was noticedby Paul. Pat needs to know what steps to take to solve these big issues in thewarehouse and get the company back to where it needs to be. It’s hard being the vicepresident of a big company. Especially when you run into such hard issues withthe employees. As vice president, it is important to know what steps to takewhen solving issues like these. The best course of action in this situation is implementinga path goal theory to the business.
This theory is key, especially in situationslike these. Because these employees seem fueled on rewards and satisfaction,the path goal is a great theory. While other contingency theories try to matchleadership behaviors with specific situations, the path goal theory ofleadership takes a different approach. According to House, the most important aspectin leadership is the followers’ expectations that they can complete a task andupon competition will gain rewards and satisfaction. If followers believe theycan complete a task, they will participate and therefore gain these rewards. Thepath goal theory identifies a situational variable with a sliding scale, a followers’belief in completing a task, as an explanation to how leaders can invoke thebest performance in the transactional leadership. Transactional leadership mostimportantly focuses on supervision, organization, and performance which are themost important things to have in place at L.
J. Watkins at this point. A good alternativeto the path goal theory would be leadership substitutes. Substitutes and neutralizers,an extension of the path-goal theory, provide more insight into how leadersshould behave to complement characteristics of a situation. Substitutes areaspects of a situation that allow subordinates to operate at optimal levelswithout leaders.
An organization that has strict rules of conduct alreadyprovides a clear path to achieving results; thus, a worker can easily figureout the optimal work level with given constraints. Because Paul implementedrules so late into an issue, employees basically laughed in his face and feltas if they weren’t actually expected to follow the rules, which they didn’t. I’mnot saying you can’t change the rules or implement new rules, but, in thissituation, it would’ve been helpful to have the employees 100% knowledgeable ofwhat’s expected of them earlier on. So, at that point the employees arebasically left with neither a strict set of rules and or a great leader. Reasons for taking thiscourse of action include the fact that followers need to feel certain aboutcompleting a task and gain rewards. This comes from three sources; thecharacteristics of the task, the characteristics of the followers, and thebehaviors of the leader.
While some people aren’t looking up to Paul as a goodmanager, we already have issues. It would be better for Paul to addressproblems and situations himself instead of putting it on the other supervisorsto make them look the “bad guys.” It would also show more seniority in Paul ifhe addressed problems himself and stood a stern ground.
Employees would look upto him more that way. While the nature of the task and characteristics of thefollower can provide some of that certainty, a leader must complement what ismissing with emotional support or guidance. A leaders most important job is toenhance satisfaction and performance by increasing payoffs for work, removingobstacles from attaining goals, and making the work more personally satisfying.Because the employees at L.J.
Watkins aren’t happy with their jobs at all, Patand Paul need to be doing their best as leaders to keep employees motivated andsatisfied. When the employees aren’t motivated or satisfied, we run into issueslike these. Setting a path goal theory will also set the artifacts of thecompany in place. Artifacts are the visible organizational structures,processes, and languages in a business. Because they were so lenient onemployees before the cost reduction programs, artifacts of the company werelost. Employees got used to taking advantage of overtime and taking frequentbreaks so that when it was time to start acting serious, the employees foughtback. They got to use to not putting in 100% effort.
This is why it’s importantto keep the path goal theory and artifacts of the company in line. Employeesneed to know what’s expected of them. Being lenient of these can cause trouble inyour company.
The first step would be forPat and Paul to get together and assess the path-goal theory. Set the theory inplace and then meet with the supervisors about it so that the higher-ups areall on the same page. While going through the path-goal theory with the supervisors,go through the artifacts of the company together.
Once everyone has agreed onboth the path-goal and artifacts, set a time to meet with all the employees asa group. Lay down the law and explain to them the new plan. Get the artifactshung up around the warehouse and in the break room so that not only theemployees are reminded of them, but when they aren’t following them, they haveno excuse to not know how to behave in the work place. From there, theemployees will grow into the new work environment. In the future, Paul willwork on addressing situations himself and with that he will be able to buildbetter relationships with the employees.
I believe with a strong path-goal theoryand strong artifacts of the company, increasing efficiency and reducingproduction costs should be no problem.