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Internal Organisational Problems of

Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless, Solicitors

Prepared for Arthur Lawton

Managing Partner

By Effective Management Consultants

Table of contents

Executive Summary

1 Problem Identification and Analysis

1.1 The lack of motivation amongst the WPC employees

1.2 Mrs Blakely's leadership style

1.3 Insufficient communication at the firm

1.4 No teamwork exists in the WPC unit

2 Statement of Key Problems

3 Generation and Evaluation of a Range of Alternative Solutions

3.1 Solutions for motivating the WPC employees

3.1.1 Appoint a WPC employee to two solicitors

3.1.2 Have different levels of data clerks

3.1.3 Create goals for the WPC employee

3.2 Solutions for effective communication

3.2.1 Have regular meetings in each department and also between the different divisions

3.2.2 Have regular informal events for all employees

3.2.3 Develop non-identification questionnaires and discuss the findings

3.3 Solutions for providing effective leadership of the WPC employees

3.3.1 Fire Mrs Blakely

3.3.2 Have Mrs Blakely take a personal evaluation

3.3.3 Create a manager of the WPC

4 Recommendations

4.1 Increase Motivation amongst the WPC employees

4.2 Increase communication in the firm

4.3 Create effective leadership for the WPC employees

5 Implementation

5.1 Implementing motivation of the WPC employees

5.2 Implement effective communication in the firm

5.3 Implementing effective leadership of the WPC employees


Executive summary

The purpose of this report is to investigate the major problems that are prevalent at Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless, Solicitors.

One of the major problems that the firm is experiencing, is that the data clerks possess a lack of motivation. This is because they are isolated on the 35th floor and their work is monotonous. Also they are not given any responsibility which then results in a lack of initiative. Furthermore they do not possess any goals. Another major problem is that Mrs Blakely, the WPC unit supervisor, does not possess adequate leadership skills. She does not encourage or inspire the girls, delegate simple tasks, or teach them. She also does not try to solve the problem of data error. Lack of effective communication is also another problem that the firm suffers from. Ineffective communication is present in the WPC unit and between the different divisions of the law firm. This was illustrated when Mr Lawton held a meeting with the WPC employees. The girls told him that they found the work boring and that they felt isolated. His solution was to install a sound system. He did not ask them what was the best solution, hence no active listening was present, nor did he ask whether installing a sound system was the best answer to their problem, hence not allowing feedback to occur.

It is recommended that if the law firm resolved the symptoms of ineffective communication, the lack of motivation amongst the data clerks and Mrs Blakely's poor leadership style, then the two other problems, the weak organisational culture and the lack of teamwork would also be eradicated. Therefore the solution to the lack of motivation of the data clerks is to assign a WPC employee to a maximum of two solicitors, on the same floor as the solicitors. This would then allow them to improve communication with the other employees of the firm. Another solution is for goals to be set by individual employees and departments. This would create a more motivated employee base that would possess clear objectives. Therefore solutions to the lack of communication is to implement informal social events as well as regular meetings for each department, and meetings for all the department heads. This would allow all the employees to communicate with one another.

In regards to establishing better leadership skills in the WPC unit, it is recommended that Mrs Blakely should undertake a work appraisal, which would identify to her and the organisation that she is not managing the WPC unit very well. A manager should then be appointed to the WPC. Mrs Blakely could still remain as a supervisor of the WPC unit and meet weekly with the new manager. In regards to the lack of motivation in the WPC, it is suggested that as individuals and as groups they create goals. WPC employees working on the same level could have their own work area. Consequently, this would increase their skills, sense of responsibility and motivation.

1. Problem identification and analysis

1.1 The lack of motivation amongst the Word Processing Centre (WPC) employees

The WPC employees greatly suffer from a lack of motivation. Motivation is the willingness to exert high levels of effort to reach organisational goals, conditioned by the efforts to satisfy some individual need (Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter, 2000, p.549). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory identifies those symptoms, which contribute to the WPC clerks' lack of motivation. The clerks state that they feel isolated on the 35th floor and have contact only with one another and Mrs Blakely. Also there is a high turnover rate, with only three clerks in the WPC having worked for the firm for more than eighteen months, with the majority staying only about 12 months. As a result they do not possess the initiative for growth and achievement of their potential. The clerks' esteem needs are also undermined because they perform the same monotonous activities. They possess no autonomy as Mrs Blakely assigns the tasks. Moreover, they would like to earn a promotion but find it hard to stay interested. Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory is also relevant. It identifies the intrinsic factors, the motivators, that are related to job satisfaction and motivation, whereas extrinsic factors, the hygiene factors, are associated with job dissatisfaction (Robbins et al., 2000, p.553). As previously identified above, the ones that are relevant are supervision, relationship with the supervisor, working conditions and relationship with peers (Robbins et al., 2000, p.553).

1.2 Mrs Blakely's Leadership style

Mrs. Blakely's leadership style is what the University of Iowa Studies has determined as autocratic: she is a leader who tends to centralise authority, dictate work methods, make unilateral decisions and limit subordinate participation (Robbins et al., 2000, p.596). She achieves this by allocating what is to be done by the clerks each day instead of letting them decide. Also she limits their interaction with people from the other levels by not allowing the clerks to clarify issues with the solicitors. Kathleen Pearce stated that she felt like she was "in school, with someone watching what you are doing and telling you what to do" (Managing People and Organisations Case Study, Semester 2, 2000, p.4.). The Ohio State studies (Robbins et al., 2000, p.596) suggest that a successful style of leadership will provide initiating structure, the extent to which a leader is likely to define and structure her role and those of subordinates, in search for goal attainment. Mrs Blakely is aware that the clerks think their jobs are boring, but she has not established any goals. She lacks interpersonal skills and she does not spend a great deal of time on the WPC level. She does not teach the clerks how to do their job correctly because if she did, there would not be any errors. No feedback is provided because she does not have enough time to check their work. Her statement to Mr Lawton "...that the trouble is that young people these days don't want to work..." illustrates that she does not believe in her work unit. She also does not possess discipline skills as she allows the clerks to arrive late and take long breaks.

1.3 Insufficient communication at the law firm

There is a lack of communication between the other levels of the law firm and the WPC unit. As mentioned previously, the WPC clerks generally do not associate with the employees. Furthermore Mr Lawton did not listen effectively to the clerks' grievances. If he had, he would have realised that installing a new music system in the WPC, would not make the clerks work more productively. After speaking to Kathleen Pearce, he should have realised that the girls' secretarial skills were deteriorating, and that Mrs Blakely does not give them adequate training, preparing them for work as a solicitor's secretary. The solicitors do not know the clerks very well but only know Mrs Blakely, as is suggested by Peter Lawless's remark, "and I hear on the grapevine that a lot of work is sub-standard... ."

1.4 No teamwork exists in the WPC unit

There are nine characteristics that reflect whether a team is effective. Unfortunately, in regard to the WPC unit, the group of data clerks and Mrs Blakley do not possess these. The data clerks have no clear goals. By their arriving late and taking long work breaks illustrates they are uncommitted to their jobs. This then hinders the opportunity to establish unified commitment amongst the WPC employees. They also do not possess the relevant skills for being data clerks because they continually make mistakes. Because the organisation has a weak culture they cannot develop any mutual trust. As previously mentioned, the organisation lacks good communication, which then affects the WPC unit. The clerks also appear to lack negotiating skills because if they had these, the WPC problems would probably have been fixed. Mr Lawton in his meeting with the data clerks shows he lacks these skills too. As previously mentioned, Mrs Blakely does not possess the appropriate leadership skill, to properly establish an effective team environment. She is not present a lot of the time and she does not encourage group behaviour. In terms of the internal environment of the firm, the isolation of the WPC employees also affects the development of team spirit.

2. Statement of key problems and issues

Although it is evident that Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless, Solicitors suffers from a number of dilemmas, the major problems are the lack of communication and motivation amongst the WPC staff, and Mrs Blakely's inappropriate leadership style. If the firm can eradicate these three problems, the other minor ones will be fixed. If the WPC staff can gain a high degree of motivation, the different units of the firm communicate effectively, and Mrs Blakely changes her leadership style, then a strong organisational culture will be created and a positive teamwork environment.

3. Generation and evaluation of a range of alternative solutions

3.1 Solutions for Motivating the WPC Employees

3.1.1 Appoint a WPC employee to two solicitors

Each data clerk should be appointed to two solicitors where possible. This would allow the WPC employees to have increased contact with other people in the firm. Each WPC employee's work area could be near the office of their designated solicitor. All data clerks on the same floor should be located together. This would enable them to perform a greater number of activities instead of doing the same thing all day. Consequently, this would improve their work skills and allow the WPC employees to show greater initiative, establishing responsibility and loyalty. It would also provide better training for becoming a relief secretary. Also the data clerks could meet as a group every week to discuss problems and issues. However, WPC employee skills may not improve because the clerks could feel intimated by the solicitors. It may be difficult to discipline the girls and prevent them from arriving late, talking and slacking off. They may not be able to keep up with the extra workload and their skills may not improve.

3.1.2 Have different levels of data clerks

This would create a work environment where the girls would be willing to work harder in order to receive more interesting work tasks. Consequently, it would limit undisciplined work behaviour. It would provide better efficiency and create fewer errors because in order to graduate to the next level, the employees would need to perform their tasks correctly. It would also identify where the errors are occurring. The clerks on the highest level would be the most capable of relieving the secretaries during their holidays. Nevertheless because the girls are basically doing the same work everyday it could still be considered boring and still may result in errors occurring. It may create a working atmosphere where animosities are present between the employees, because of the bureaucratic environment. It does not solve the problem of the girls feeling isolated.

[Please note: for reasons of length, sections have been removed below.]

3.1.3 Create goals for the WPC unit

. . .

3.2 Solutions for Establishing Effective Communication

3.2.1 Have regular meetings in each department, and also between the different divisions.

. . .

3.2.2 Have regular informal events for all firm employees

. . .

3.2.3 Develop non-identification questionnaires and discuss the findings

. . .

3.3 Solutions for Providing Effective Leadership in the WPC

3.3.1 Fire Mrs Blakely

Firing Mrs. Blakely could increase the clerks' initiative because they could gain more responsibility. At present, she does not give them enough responsibility nor does she respect them, although she genuinely seems to care for them. She has not tried to motivate the girls even though she is aware that they find their jobs boring. Further, she cannot discipline them. However Mrs Blakely is widely respected by the solicitors, and she is efficient. Because she has worked for the firm for over twenty years it would be difficult to find a replacement with the same amount of knowledge.

3.3.2 Have Mrs. Blakely undergo a work appraisal

It is evident that Mrs. Blakely has become complacent in carrying out the role of supervisor. By undertaking a work appraisal evaluation she would be able to redefine her role in the firm. She could review and change her ineffective leadership skills. It would also identify to the firm that Mrs. Blakely needs to improve her leadership skills, as Mr Lawton would undertake the evaluation. However, the review may not be productive because the firm already thinks very highly of her. It is evident that Mrs Blakely does not believe her leadership skills are inadequate, so she may not benefit from the evaluation. The evaluation may not contain the correct questions which identify that Mrs Blakley is largely an incompetent leader.

3.3.3 Create a manager of the WPC unit.

. . .

4. Recommendations

4.1 Increase motivation amongst the WPC employees

In order to reduce the lack of motivation amongst the WPC employees a combination of allocating them to solicitors and setting individual goals should be implemented. Goal setting is very important as it will motivate each individual to assess her role in the firm. Goals can be established for each WPC employee, the WPC employees as a group, and also for the WPC senior staff and solicitors. By appointing a WPC employee to a solicitor, each clerk can learn to recognise their needs, especially their esteem, social and self-actualisation needs in the firm. Motivators such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement and growth can also be achieved (Robbins et al., 2000, p.553).

4.2 Increase communication in the firm.

There should be a combination of all three suggestions, the regular meetings in each division and with the department heads, the informal events between the different departments, and the questionnaires. The questionnaires could be administered every six months and the findings could be discussed at the meetings. These channels are effective and would allow the firm to communicate more effectively because they permit different methods of communication to be used including oral, non-verbal and written communication. The meetings would encourage active listening and provide an opportunity for feedback.

4.3 Create effective leadership of the WPC employees

A combination of Mrs Blakely undergoing a work appraisal and appointing a manager to the WPC unit would combat inadequate leadership skills there. Mrs Blakely should still remain as supervisor of the WPC unit; however, there should be a manager present at all times with the WPC staff, who is able to discipline and motivate them. With the presence of a manager, there is a high possibility that a more democratic style of leadership would be adopted and an initiating structure created. This manager could then contact Mrs Blakely if any problem occurs, given her knowledge. Mrs Blakely should take a personal evaluation because it would identify both to her and the firm that she is unable to effectively lead the WPC unit.

5. Implementation

[Please note that the assignment table cannot be displayed on this screen because it is too complex.]

6. Referencing

Robbins, S., Bergman, R., Stagg, I. And Coulter, M., (2000), Management, Prentice Hall, (2nd edn), Sydney.

Assignment Topic

Case study summary

Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless is a large Sydney legal firm. Among its staff are 22 data entry clerks who work in the Word Processing Centre (WPC). Their job is to process the large volume of legal documents produced by the firm's solicitors. WPC clerks are carefully selected and must have a TAFE diploma or Year 12 with good passes in business subjects. When they join the firm they receive a week of training in specialised legal documents, and extra training sessions are held regularly to ensure they keep their knowledge up-to-date.

The firm occupies 10 floors of a new building in the centre of Sydney. The WPC is located on the 35th floor and has wonderful views around the city and harbour. The centre is very well equipped with excellent furnishings and a very pleasant staff room. The firm is able to attract good quality workers because it offers above average wages and many other benefits. However, all is not well. Senior staff and solicitors have complained to Arthur Lawton, the Managing Partner, that they need to check the work of WPC clerks who work as relief secretaries, because of the frequent errors made. They also believe that these workers are unreliable and lack initiative. Personnel records show that WPC staff do not stay with the firm for very long, despite the opportunities for promotion.

None of the solicitors know the workers in the Centre very well, but all praise the hard work and service provided by Mrs Blakely, the WPC supervisor, who has worked with the firm for over 20 years. Indeed, they tend to see the problem as the result of something wrong "with young people today." When Mr Lawton raises the matter of the WPC's problems, Mrs Blakely reacts a little angrily. She defends her clerks, saying that despite the errors, they do complete a lot of work. She admits that many of them find the job boring, as it mostly involves keying in information. The clerks also, often come to work late, chat at every opportunity, and generally don't work too hard. To stop this, she keeps a firm eye on them but she believes she can't be too hard or they will leave the firm.

Mrs Blakely then explains the WPC system. The work to be done arrives from each solicitor and is allocated to the clerks on a daily basis. To ensure they know what to do, she goes over each piece of work with them before they do the job. When information needs to be clarified, Mrs Blakely goes to the relevant solicitor herself and then passes the information on to the clerks. She collects the output when the job is finished and returns it to the solicitors.

Her job however, also means she liaises with solicitors on other floors, so she is often away from the Centre. Mrs Blakely agrees that the workers do not perform very well as relief secretaries, but thinks this is because the work is more complex than they are trained to do. She says the solicitors do not help the relief secretaries enough and expect them to know everything straight away.

When questioned, the WPC clerks say they like working for the firm and would like to earn promotion, but find it hard to stay interested in a job that is so repetitious and boring. Most say they get sick of seeing the same faces everyday as they are isolated on the 35th floor and have no contact with other staff, except with each other and Mrs Blakely. After trying to improve efficiency through the use of piped music - an experiment which fails - Mr Lawton turns to you, as an external management consultant, for advice.

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