Critical Analysis of the Nut Island Effect Essay

The Nut Island Effect (NIE) is a sad but true outcome of what happens when communication breakdown within an organization. The following is a critical analysis of the events that ended in a terrible catastrophe at the Nut Island treatment plant. In our analysis we will cover the following topics as well as reference supporting articles and excerpts that will support our position: 1. Key arguments in the article. 2. Sampling and analytical strategies. 3. Interpersonal relationships. 4. Implications of results and its relevance. 5. Analyzing current organizational design.

. Our assessments and methods to improve strategies and managerial skills.

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By analyzing these topics, we will have a better grasp on becoming effective managers and leaders so we will not fall victims to the “NIE” in our organizations. Key Arguments in the Article The article The Nut Island Effect: When Good Teams Go Wrong, talks about how a management’s dream team was tainted by too much empowerment. Initially, senior management preoccupied themselves with other issues and did not take the time to look at what was going on behind the scenes.

They allowed workers to ultimately make decisions on how the plant would run. In essence, senior management’s lack of interest or control over day-to-day operations set the ball in motion for total chaos. Secondly, when team members approached senior management with their concerns over faulty equipment and the need for parts and supplies, their requests were ignored and taken for granted. A resistance to senior management followed. Team members stayed out of management’s radar, even if it meant solving their own problems. They incurred out-of-pocket expenses and working long hours without reporting overtime.

This behavior unified the team’s ability to digest problems and dish out solutions, even if they were not the most appropriate. At this point the workers were making their own rules. Management did not take responsibly or an interest in the tasks at hand. Meetings were not set up to educate the team on appropriate practices. Instead of offering guidance, they avoided the problem all together, allowing the team to do as they pleased. This was a major factor in the deterioration of the team’s performance. Finally, came the denial phase. The team and management did not listen to the concerns of outsiders.

Instead of controlling the situation, they continued to work as they had been doing so, until a terrible event broke the deadlock. Unfortunately it was too late because the four major machines stopped working which caused unprocessed waste to wash up onto the shores of Quincy, Massachusetts. Sampling and Analytical Strategies The NIE is a true situation that can occur in companies. However, the article does not describe or inform readers on adequate sample sizes or methods used in carrying out the study. Within the article, the author mentioned talking to upper management as well as former employees when gathering detail.

In addition, the author explained how he had described this syndrome to other managers and their awareness on this type of situation did exist. The upper managers in this article did a good job of keeping their heads in the sand since they allowed this terrible effect to develop over a long period of time without addressing the issue. Interpersonal Relationships Unfortunately, there was a division within the organization between management and employees. There was no hierarchy structure. We believe that due to the lack of management support, the members of the team became stressed.

Their mental, physical, and emotional well-being was not preserved. This caused them to form a resistance against management and isolate themselves from the world, so to speak. Even though the workers were not out to sabotage their work; that is exactly what happened. Till this day, employees that worked at the plant believed they did the best they could with what they had to work with. Furthermore, there was no trust between management and employees. We believe that improving the health and communication of an organization is a priority.

Moreover, it is important to put employee needs first as well as sharing information regularly. Companies such as Southwest Airlines and Amazon. com instill this discipline in efforts to improve the quality of their organization’s ideals. Implications of Results and it Relevance When examining the results of the NIE, there were evident signs that should have been acted upon; this might have avoided this collapse. “Managing remote teams takes much more involvement and care than any of us would have imagined, especially when the remote teams have a history of acting independently.

We encounter even more challenging issues when the remote teams are inexperienced in information development because they are located offshore in emerging economies. ” (Hackos, 2004) As Levy (2001) points out, “a team can easily lose sight of the big picture when it narrowly focuses on a demanding task. The task itself becomes the big picture, crowding other considerations out of the frame. ” Analyzing Current Organizational Design Utilization of high performance work teams (HPWT) would have given the treatment plant a higher chance for success.

The team seemed to possess characteristics of a HPWT. They were cohesive and highly dedicated to the company’s mission. However, a true HPWT should be clear on their mission, know their priorities, and act towards supporting the team’s goals. Furthermore, their goals were antiquated and did not have the support of senior management or access to outside sources to enhance their ability to set new goals, based on the latest technology. They worked well together and had good communication within the team. However, having good communication is of little use if what is being communicated is not viable.

They cross-training each other, teaching new hires only what team members knew which was outdated and lacked outside training opportunities. Furthermore, HPWT are effective at identifying and resolving problems, as well as making successful group decision because they can detect and resolve conflicts. (Holmes, 2010) Truly the NIE missed the mark in this area. Even though management was unresponsive, the team should have been more persistent, instead of recoiling as they did. Implementation of a HPWT would have been effective in the organization if it would have been able to collect information before and after the application.

The major emphasis would have been the involvement of senior management in both scenarios. “The task of getting organizations to function effectively is a difficult one. Understanding one individual’s behavior is a challenging problem in and of itself. A group, made up of different individuals and multiple relationships among those individuals, is even more complex. In the fact of this overwhelming complexity, organizational behavior must be managed. (Nadler, Tushman, Hackman, & Lawler, 2001) Our Assessment and Methods to Improve Strategies and Managerial Skills The NIE can subtly take root within any organization.

We feel that the warning signs are the key to recognizing such occurrences and should promptly be addressed. As leaders within our respective organizations, we should work hard not to isolate anyone. Furthermore strong leaders need to fight for their team’s cause. One article has this to say about the NIE, “…we must keep them from becoming isolated, unable to look at their work in a larger context. We must keep our own teams and especially our remote teams from becoming exclusively focused on deadlines. Instead, they need to participate in a strategic vision that is aligned with larger corporate goals and customer needs. (Hackos, 2004)

As managers, the lessons to be learned from the NIE, is blatantly simple. Managers must be aware of the activities of a team even if they do not want to micro-manage. We must understand that even though we want our team to be able to function independently, a major part of our job is to supply the right amount of supervision vs. employee empowerment. Empowering a team is not a onetime process; managers cannot assign a task and send their employees on their way. According to Bailey (1992), how we define empowerment within our projects will depend upon the specific people and context involved.

In conclusion, the NIE scenario discusses how managers neglected to serve as mediators and coaches. As managers, leaders and directors the knowledge of the NIE has alerted us that it is critical to always provide direction to our teams and to listen to their needs. We need to train and prepare our employees for empowerment regardless of their background, education, or experience. Lastly, keeping leaders involved, integrating team members, and bring in outside experts is important in creating an effective environment within organizations.


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