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PPMP20013 Project Management For Operators Of Large Assets

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Course Code: PPMP20013
University: Central Queensland University

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Read case study “OPEN PLAN” then Answer the questions given in the case study

Case Study: Open Plan
Cheetham and Wynne, a fast-growing law firm started in 1976 by Owen Cheetham and Jack Wynne, had been located in a downtown Auckland office for nearly 40 years. The company specialised in commercial law, with many of their clients being banking, insurance and finance organisations. For a long time, all of the lawyers had been white males, most of whom had gone to the same school as Owen and Jack. The administrative and paralegal staff were mostly younger women. Late on Friday afternoons the lawyers often went to the O’Connell Club, a members-only club, styled on those found in London, where they could eat, drink and play snooker and darts. Originally, it was an all-male domain, but when the club had been accused of discrimination it had opened its doors to female members. Only a few women had joined in the past decade, though, and there were also only a few non-white members. Many deals were done by the Cheetham and Wynne law firm in this club or on the golf course.
New blood
Two new partners had joined the firm four years ago, Mark Cheetham and Cathy Wynne. Like their fathers, they had been classmates at university. Cathy was the first female lawyer to be hired. Since the two had started at the practice, the number of clients—many of which were internet, mobile and software companies—had grown significantly. These firms were aggressively sought by the two young lawyers, who specialised in the protection of patents and other intellectual property. It had taken considerable persuasion from the two younger partners for the firm to hire Anand Moodley, who concentrated on environmental issues, and Pauline Herata, who had strong connections with Mãori businesses and community organisations. The two senior partners had initially been reluctant to employ lawyers, who, as Jack had put it, were ‘not like us’, or to go into fields that were different from the safe commercial arena they knew well. However, they had softened their stance somewhat when the firm experienced strong growth in the newer areas.
The size of the firm had grown, too, from a stable 14 to a total of 30 staff, and the premises were found to be too small. In addition to the four partners there were 13 other lawyers, five legal executives (staff who concentrate on debt collection and property transfers but who are not qualified lawyers), six secretaries, a receptionist and an accountant.
A mixed response
A few weeks after the move the two senior partners were lunching, at the expense of the firm, at an upmarket restaurant and discussing the staff response to the new office setting. ‘Cheeky buggers’, said Jack, ‘I saw a fake memo claiming that some people are more equal than others. Probably referring to our office, Owen. And was that picture of two fat pigs supposed to be us? Of course we aren’t equal, never were, never will be! Some senior associates complain that they have lost status without their own offices and that the online booking system does not work properly. And I think that “playpen” that Cathy created just encourages them to loaf and chat. Law is a serious business.’
The old boys’ club
One day, Anand and Pauline were in a meeting room discussing an issue that had arisen with a Mãori community in the Bay of Islands. A plan to develop a new community centre had fallen foul of local council regulations because of concerns about the safety of the site on top of a cliff. The two lawyers had become firm friends since joining the firm within the same week two years ago.
‘This has been a fantastic career move for me’, enthused Anand. ‘Working for a distinguished law firm really opens doors. Mark and Cathy have been really supportive and winning some of the cases we have taken on is incredibly gratifying. I recall that time we won the case over the toxic fertilisers used on a farm near the Waikato River. Both Mark and Cathy came to court in Hamilton for a week to give me a hand.’
Communication issues
Meanwhile, after a meeting, a few of the paralegal staff had stayed behind in one of the meeting rooms to talk about their jobs. Anna Ivanova was clearly unhappy. ‘When I joined I was told that that I would get a salary increase if I had a good performance review. So how good is 4 per cent? That is barely above the cost of living increase everyone else got. And since I got that contract for my brother’s property company, you would think I would have been given a bonus for that alone. Telling me I had done a good job is one thing—being properly rewarded is quite another.’ What she did not say was that she had given her brother some confidential information about one of his competitors, who was also a client of the firm. Jack had suspected this but could not prove it. He had, however, voiced his opinion to Owen, who had said nothing about it to Anna.
‘So you think that is bad!’ exclaimed Mai. ‘I got no increase except the 2 per cent everyone got. You don’t even know what they expect from you or how you are going to be judged in these performance reviews. In mine Mr Wynne said that I was too slow to process contracts and that I make too many mistakes. When I asked him what mistakes I had made he said he had seen quite a few but had just corrected them himself. I don’t know whether to believe him or not. And when I asked if I could handle the McArthur contract myself he told me I did not have enough experience. He did not say one nice thing about what I have done. He just dumps work on me then goes off to play golf!’
Discussion questions:

Identify the reasons for employees resisting the change to an open-plan office approach.

Explain what the partners might have done better to have minimised the resistance.

a.Analyse the barriers to communication (‘noise’) that appear to exist in the law firm.b.Discuss how they could be overcome.

a. Discuss the sources of power the partners and others appear to have and the impact this may have on other employees.b.What influence tactics have been used by some of the partners and employees and how effective might they have been?


Open plan relates to a term that is commonly used in architecture to denote floor plans characterised by large spaces which are open. The outcome where such designs are used for offices includes increased collaboration. However, some challenges should be anticipated particularly where workers are resistant to change.  The research endeavours to establish the factors which might pave the way resistance to the changes that the law firm under scrutiny and the barriers evident concerning communication in the firm. Strategies that should have been applied by the law firm to avoid any of the hurdles noted can then be adequately articulated.

An Identification of the reasons for employees resisting the change to an open-plan office approach.

Employees cannot engage in private conversations. The plan has paved the way for situations in which confidential information can be overheard by others (Kerzner and Kerzner 2017). The implication is that employees cannot comfortably communicate with other individuals with whom they might have a relationship outside work. Moreover, conversing with the firm’s clients is also impeded owing to the new office plan.
Workers have been forced to become more self-conscious. For example, the secretaries working in the law firm could not converse with their significant others because of the possibility that the conversations could be overhead (Petrou, Demerouti and Schaufeli 2018). Owing to the concern that other workers might be unduly disturbed, employees such as Mai Ling were forced to find locations outside the space provided for work to communicate with their loved ones.
Some of the employees believe that there was inadequate communication during the implementation of the plan for the new office (Knoke 2018). The decision for the changes which were implemented did not result from consensus. The views among workers were that Cathy Wynne singlehandedly developed the transformation concepts.
Senior members of the team were opposed to the plan owing to the distractions it portended. The outcome is that productivity is negatively impacted. In 2005 scholars such as Georgalis et al. (2015), determined that an employee’s efficiency at work resulted from their propensity to ensure that distractions were effectively weeded out. Moreover, Jack Wynne regarded the “Playpen” which was Cathy’s idea as a significant distraction.
The cumbersome procedures implemented to aid the access to meeting rooms were also part of the reason for the resistance encountered concerning the implementation of the new plan (Burke 2017). The firm has implemented an online system which could be used to ascertain that the rooms were booked. However, some of the workers felt that it was not as efficient as had been expected.
Limited proximity to other amenities was also a matter of concern the law firm’s workers.  For example, Candy Wood-who is one of the employees in the law firm – noted that the shops were quite a distance from the premises (Burnes 2015). Moreover, the eateries close to the office offered products which were quite expensive for the enterprise.
2. An explanation of what the partners might have done better to have minimised the resistance.
The resistance would have been countered through adequate communication (Herrmann and Herrmann-Nehdi 2015). Cathy Wynne should have made an effort to have some face-to-face conversation with the firm’s employees to ensure that they were aware what was to be expected with the new plans which were to be adopted for the office. However, relying on the use of emails to inform staff members served to create some of the difficulties evident for the changes intended (Voinea et al. 2015). Strategic communication ensures that any concerns prevalent among workers are addressed to ensure that the transition anticipated occurs smoothly.
Change programmes should have sought to incorporate the employee’s input (Katzenbach and Smith 2015). Through employee engagement in processes that relate to implementation, they become partly responsible for the success which might ensue. Implementing employee input ensures that consensus is achieved which is essential for the desired modifications to be made. The outcome is that they are given an opportunity to become part of the process of creating spaces that are innovative with activities which are meaningful to them. For example, some of the décor chosen for the office should have been selected after consultation with the firm’s workers. Moreover, the activities that appeal to individuals cultures would have been determined owing to the consultations held (Doorley and Garcia 2015).
The resources availed to employees should have been appropriate (Pearson 2016). For example, specific locations should have been set up for employees to have some private conversations. The system used to ensure that meeting rooms are booked should be improved to ensure that it operates more efficiently (Cardon and Marshall 2015). The outcome is that employees can be expected to adapt easily to the new environment set-up. Moreover, employees should have been notified of the channels to use concerning some challenges experienced in the utilisation of the resources availed.

An analysis of the barriers to communication (‘noise’) that appear to exist in the law firm.

Cultural barriers impede communication in the firm. The impediments emanate from the differences in societal cultures and legal practices in certain communities. The aspects tolerated by an enterprise as part of its culture can collide with what is allowable among individuals from different regions geographically. Challenges arise particularly where common provisions are not developed to guide how interactions can occur. In the firm, hurdles are evident where Owen Cheetham makes jokes aimed at Jewish, Maori as well as Asian lawyers. Moreover, Anand was at the receiving end of some ridicule in the course of the picnic for the delicacies he had brought to share with fellow employees. The result was that the targeted individuals perceived the jokes to be in bad taste which failed to elicit a reaction.
Physical barriers are evident in the law firm. Top executives including Owen Cheetham and Jack Wynne are the only individuals allowed to share a closed space. Hence, effective communication is curtailed. Moreover, workers become resentful towards their bosses due to the perception that they are being accorded some special treatment. The outcome is that the firm’s senior fellows are not able to obtain some feedback which can be geared towards the improvement of the premises. Moreover, the meetings held at O’Connell Club ensure that exclusive information is only available to male workers who interact with the firm’s proprietors. For example, John is informed of the possibility that he might be accorded a position as a general manager with time after some of the changes intended in the organisation are implemented.
Status is among the barriers evident in the law firm’s communication. The outcome is that some impediments are presented such that information cannot flow freely in an enterprise. Hence, select information is offered to certain individuals to ensure that the differences evident in the status of those involved are maintained. For example, Mai Ling involved herself in circulating some information which was intended to damage Candy’s reputation. Also, the executives operating in the firm conversed regarding the information obtained from their subordinates without articulating the actions which would be more suitable for the firm.
The premise suffers from the prevalence of gender barriers. Business deals at the firm are mostly discussed and closed at O’Connell’s Club. However, the location is primarily a reserve for the male lawyers working with the firm. Anand and his counterpart Pauline are made to feel out of place as they are the only workers in the firm who are women. Moreover, they have never been the recipients of invitations to the club that would ensure that they are part of the discussion of matters affecting the firm. In addition, the meetings are subject to non-verbal restrictions which present some difficulties when the individuals invited to make some attempts to leave.
2. A discussion of how they could be overcome.
The barriers that exist physically in the firm can be tackled where employees can make use of available technologies to ease their interactions. For example, message apps can be used to review various topics for which employees can obtain instant feedback. The result is that the conversations which may be held online can be tracked by the employees involved. Innovations such as video conferencing can be used where some issues are to be discussed in the firm.
Open Door Policies can also be implemented at the firm where status barriers are involved. Hence, executives can anticipate some interaction with employees to ensure that communication is kept open. Matters considered to be significant by employees can be discussed ensuring that they are able to obtain the feedback sought instantly. Such conditions would help to develop some trust from the organisation’s workers. The details communicated by workers can also be relied on to ensure that additional positive changes are implemented.
Cultural differences should be appreciated by allowing the firm’s workers to share some aspects common in their respective communities. Moreover, provisions can also be made to ensure that the cultural requirements evident among workers are accommodated. The firm’s workers should be made aware of the importance of being culturally sensitive. The outcome is that the deals which may result and any accompanying communication will be characterised by some respect for the background of those involved.
The hurdles presented where genders are concerned are involved can be overcome where appropriate strategies are developed to facilitate networking. Corporate meetings or outings should feature both sexes, and new connections must be fostered among employees. Activities conducted should seek to ensure that all people are included. The outcome is that information can flow seamlessly to ascertain that the desired improvements are fostered in the enterprise.

A discussion of the sources of power the partners and others appear to have and the impact this may have on other employees.

The partners exercise their reward power in the enterprise. Reward power relates to an individual’s ability to influence how incentives are allocated in the firm (Stainback, Kleiner & Skaggs 2016). Such actions serve to motivate employees resulting in actions which are considered to be desirable. For example, in convincing John- who is the firm’s accountant- to assume his designated responsibility in the firm, it was communicated that over time, he would supervise the activities of the paralegal as well as administrative staff. In addition, John had been made to believe that the $30 000 which accrued from his masters’ studies would be catered for by the firm. While Anna Ivanova got a 4% salary increment, Mai only managed to be accorded a 25 increase from Mr Wynne.
Most of the employees such as Anand Moodley, Pauline Herata and John exercise expert power. Such power arises from the knowledge possessed by an individual. Hence, any tasks that require completion is considered to be their responsibility. Therefore, such workers are considered to be indispensable (Mills 2018).  The opinions provided by employees wielding expert power are given some careful consideration. The addition of other workers to the team resulted in the firm’s growth from 14 to 30 employees.
The power accruing to the partners makes it possible for them to determine what accrues to other workers (Thompson 2017). Where the expectations of employees are not met with respect to the incentives promised, the outcome is that numerous complains arise. Over time, such circumstances pave the way for a reduction in productivity and resentment among other workers. In addition, the firm’s employees feel obligated to work for extended hours to ensure that they are able to earn some of the incentives promised (Pettigrew 2014).
The worker’s expert power ascertains that some positive outcomes are evident in the establishment. For example, the profits that accrue to the firm have extensively increased. Moreover, it is possible for the company to cater to other clients who were previously considered not to be within the scope of the firm’s operations (Esping-Andersen 2017). Through the engagement of additional employees, the firm features individuals whose backgrounds are diverse.
2. The influence tactics have been used by some of the partners and employees and how effective might they have been?
The partners make use of the effective compliance of the employees to exert their influence over them. The outcome is that the parties under target are required to perform the actions designated to ensure that they obtain any of the rewards which might have been promised while averting any of the punishments which may result (Holmes and Stubbe 2015). The tactics have proven to be effective in the recruitment as well as the retention of some of the workers.
Employees such as Mai use the information in their possession to influence the response from other workers and their perspectives. Mai makes use of political tactics to attempt to sway the decisions that her co-workers might make about fellow employees. Albeit the fact that other workers do not articulate their sentiments, it is imperative that some damages are bound to accrue as a result of Mai’s actions. Hence, the methods she uses may prove to be effective over time.  On the other hand, workers such as Candy opt to render their support to the proposals made by the agent owing to internalisation processes. Hence, compliance emanates from the belief that the actions to be undertaken are not only desirable but also correct.
The firm’s potential for growth is quite immense. However, communication hurdles must be adequately addressed. Moreover, employees should be included in processes through which various organisational decisions are made. The expectations evident among employees should be considered to avoid their demoralisation.
Pettigrew, A.M 2014, The politics of organizational decision-making. Routledge.
Burke, W.W 2017, Organization change: Theory and practice. Sage Publications.
Burnes, B 2015, Understanding resistance to change–building on Coch and French. Journal of Change Management, 15(2), pp.92-116.
Cardon, P.W & Marshall, B 2015, The hype and reality of social media use for work collaboration and team communication. International Journal of Business Communication, 52(3), pp.273-293.
Doorley, J & Garcia, H.F 2015, Reputation management: The key to successful public relations and corporate communication. Routledge.
Esping-Andersen, G 2017, Politics against markets: The social democratic road to power Princeton University Press.
Georgalis, J., Samaratunge, R., Kimberley, N & Lu, Y 2015, Change process characteristics and resistance to organisational change: The role of employee perceptions of justice. Australian Journal of Management, 40(1), pp.89-113.
Herrmann, N & Herrmann-Nehdi, 2015, The Whole Brain Business Book: Unlocking the Power of Whole Brain Thinking in Organizations, Teams, and Individuals. McGraw-Hill Education.
Holmes, J & Stubbe, M 2015, Power and politeness in the workplace: A sociolinguistic analysis of talk at work. Routledge.
Katzenbach, J.R & Smith, D.K 2015, The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organisation. Harvard Business Review Press.
Kerzner, H & Kerzner, H.R 2017, Project management: a systems approach to planning, scheduling, and controlling. John Wiley & Sons.
Stainback, K., Kleiner, S & Skaggs, S 2016, Women in power: Undoing or redoing the gendered organization?. Gender & Society, 30(1), pp.109-135.
Knoke, D 2018, Changing organisations: Business networks in the new political economy. Routledge.
Mills, C.W 2018, The power elite. In Inequality (pp. 71-86). Routledge.
Pearson, R 2016, Beyond ethical relativism in public relations: Coorientation, rules, and the idea of communication symmetry. In Public relations research annual (pp. 77-96). Routledge.
Petrou, P., Demerouti, E & Schaufeli, W.B 2018, Crafting the change: The role of employee job crafting behaviours for successful organisational change. Journal of Management, 44(5), pp.1766-1792.
Thompson, J.D 2017, Organizations in action: Social science bases of administrative theory. Routledge.
Voinea, D.V., Busu, O.V., Opran, E.R & Vladutescu, S 2015, Embarrassments in managerial communication. Polish Journal of Management Studies, 11.

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