by Mark Leonard
Meetings are essential in maintaining organizational lines of communication. However, during intense operating conditions, too many meetings can seriously interfere with work.
During the drawdown of troops in Iraq in 2011, I was working on FOB Sykes in Northern Iraq. We were notified that our base would transition to the Iraqi Army between June 1 and July 15. As the Sr. Ops Coordinator, I worked with the Site Manager to organize and complete the transition, which consisted of property inventories, property sign over to Iraqi officials, convoy coordination, final base cleanup, employee terminations/transfers, and a ton more. We literally had a 50 page desktop operating procedure for base closure and transition; it was a huge undertaking with lots of moving pieces.
In the midst of the chaos of closing the base, our oversight at Regional hub Camp Speicher wanted to have daily meetings to receive status updates. This meant that all of our supervisors had to drop what they were doing and meet in the conference room for an hour each morning. It was understandable, the Regional folks were having to report status updates to KBR’s Middle East Headquarters, who in turn relayed the info to military command and KBR Corporate. Still, it was too many meetings, and the interruptions in work were beginning to put us behind schedule. Some tasks can’t be started for a couple hours, left for an hour, and then picked back up.
We eventually convinced Regional to receive updates from the Site Manager alone so everyone could get to work. We were thankful when, five days prior to the final departure of employees, our communication systems were taken down and shipped out. It was five days of peace and quiet, and the remaining employees, some of whom had been on the site for six years, were able to spend their final days in Iraq in peace.
By Nathan Beavers
In chapter 13, O’Rourke details on how to best handle the news media. Overall, this is a very tricky subject. The public is greatly diverse; with everyone having his or her own past experiences, culture and background that shapes them into the person who they are. With all the different types of people in the public, it makes it tricky for people to effectively use the news media to reach a large audience, without trying to alienate or offend a group of people.
One issue that springs to mind that the company’s involved failed when the media found out, was the bailout hearings for the major car companies in the late 2000s. The issue was not what was said in the hearings, but how they arrived. Even though their companies were facing bankruptcy, the top executives at these companies chose to show up in their private jets. When the news media found out, it became a huge story and infuriated most of the public. The issue being that even though they were begging the government for taxpayers’ dollars, they were stilling living extravagantly while the companies they managed were in danger of going under. In response, the next hearing over the subject all of the executives showed up, driving the cars that their company sold, some even carpooling.
Dealing with media can be difficult, with anything being said might be construed as something offensive or distasteful. However, you still must be careful what you say or, in the case of car company executives, how you present yourself.
By: Mandy Bowling
In Chapter 13, O’Rourke writes about how to deal with the media. The media can either be your enemy or your best friend… it just depends how you deal with it. The entire chapter is a great “advice chapter” on how to handle the media and covers the do’s and don’t’s. Out of all the sections, the area of the chapter that I really could relate t is the “should you or shouldn’t you” section on page 350.
One of the most important rules to remember when it comes time to speaking with the media is NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS. Goes back to what you learned as a child. If you don’t know the person, don’t recognize them but they claim to know you or even if you don’t know what to say… dont’ say anything to them. That can just lead to bad news. Dealing with strangers is a high-risk proposition, especially in the news media.
Working with athletics, I come across seeing people talking with the media and even dealing with the media first hand. It is important to remember that you are ALWAYS on the record. The media is a business…
There are times where reporters from TV or paper are at the games and stick around for interviews for the coaches. I standing near one of our coaches when he was getting interviewed during halftime of a game, and I could tell that he didn’t really want to answer the questions that were being asked and this wasn’t the “normal” reporter that is normally there. There are a few newspapers that come to the games, and the coaches begin to be familiar with who the interviewer is. The coach was smart and didn’t answer all the questions and didn’t really say much. It was smart of the coach because, even know we don’t know really what happened… but we didn’t see that reporter again… I am not saying that he wasn’t a correct employee or what… but the important thing is, that the coach followed the important rule but not talking to someone he didn’t know.
As mentioned before, the media can be your friend or your enemy… it just depends who you say what too….
By Jazzmine Davis
Taking on the role of a manager, in any particular industry, can take extensive training to handle the different personalities of employees. Employees may sometimes not like the management style or feel as if the manager is not competent to have the position. I have personally experienced a situation where an associate has challenged the authority that came along with my 2nd assistant manager position.
I have worked for a small women’s apparel company, and taken the responsibility of a 2nd assistant manager for the store. We have about five employees total, and I am one of the younger people on staff. Well, one associate overlooks any tasks that I tell her to do, so I confronted her to have a discussion about our differences. O’Rourke has explained in Chapter eight of the text that listening is a key factor in making a problem stop. I listened to her situation and gave her reasonable feedback on how we could work things out, where we could all work as a team.
Overall, Management Communication: A Case Analysis Approach has covered every major topic that deals with becoming a successful manager. We have covered topics such as listening, writing, and conflicts—and this information will be useful in future situations, just as my learning helped in resolving the issue of a difficult employee.
By: Mandy Bowling
In Chapter 12 of O’Rourke’s Management Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, he goes about explaining appropriate conversations and reasons why to call business meetings. Along with that, he discusses the importance of them and how to make them effective meetings.
I have read blogs posted about chapter 12 and I, like Jazzmine got an interest in when O’Rourke talked about when a manager should call a meeting. The purpose of a meeting is to get things resolved, moves forward and importantly, gives employees a time to voice their opinions, concerns, goals and so on.
There are reasons why meetings are called and sometimes employees don’t understand. A lot of employees either think that the meeting is going to be pointless or they dread going to meetings. The meeting should operate and go through in a positive way covering the information that has been planned to talk about. A lot of times in meetings, things may not always go in the right order or according to plan, but it is important to prepare for the meeting to make sure everything gets covered.
In my work, SFA Athletics, meetings happen everyday and it is important to be there when they do. Most of the time it deals with an event coming up, a sponsorship or maybe just a staff meeting. Regardless of what it is, it is important to pay attention and be prepared. For the person calling the meeting be prepared for questions and concerns and opinions. For ones attending he meeting, be prepared to pay attention and if you need to voice something, that would be in the time to do it. Meetings are meant to be effective and a time to get matters taken care of.
Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 2 of 2)
by Mark Leonard
In some contingency contracts, the initial bid reserves funds for paying out an end of contract bonus. The LOGCAP III contract for the final Task Order supporting the U.S. military in Iraq did not reserve funds for end of contract bonuses. Despite the funds not already being allocated to KBR by the Department of Defense, a well-to-do retired full bird colonel working at KBR’s Middle East HQ developed a proposal for additional funding to support end of contract bonuses for KBR employees in Iraq.
The proposal was a reasonable request and, if accepted, would both reward employees for their service and provide an incentive for staying on through the end of the contract. An entire team of employees worked on the proposal and it carried the backing of KBR’s corporate offices in the U.S. The proposed bonus funds were approved by low and mid level military approval agencies in a long and drawn out process that lasted from the Fall of 2010 to the Summer of 2011. In the end, the approval failed to garner support from senior officials in the Department of Defense.
Throughout the approval process, employees were notified via all hands emails and during all hands meetings where project managers briefed employees on the status of the bonus proposal. Each time the proposal passed through certain steps on its way to final approval, employees’ hopes were bolstered. The rhetoric used by KBR was very optimistic, giving employees every reason to believe that the bonus would be approved.
From an HQ perspective, the proposal was an effective exercise because it convinced some employees to stay on until the end of the contract. From an employee perspective, their hopes for an end of contract bonus were dashed in the summer of 2011, when, in the twilight hours of the project, KBR finally revealed that there would be no bonus. Employees felt that the whole end of contract bonus was just a scheme to get employees to stay on the project longer, and lost faith in program management for pulling the wool over their eyes. It was easy for disgruntled employees to create this narrative of manipulation by HQ and it is hard to say how many managers had good intentions with the proposal and how many managers were using it to keep employees around.
Ultimately, the proposal convinced employees to stay on and thus helped KBR meet its mission requirements, so from a corporate perspective it was successful. However, this example highlights the ethical dilemma inherent in this type of conflict management strategy.
By Jazzmine Davis
In Chapter 12 of Management Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, O’Rourke deems appropriate the conversation about “business meetings that work.” His discussions of what a business meeting is, planning for meetings, and different meetings styles give managers a successful guideline to follow. I had great interest in the section that talks about when a manager should call a meeting. Meetings move group actions forward, and give members an opportunity to discuss and collaborate.
O’Rourke also explains the different reasons why a meeting should be called. To talk about goals, listen to reports, and gather opinions are some of the top reasons. I am particularly experienced with a former retail employer, New York and Company, calling meetings to train people. We would often get new associates, and our manager saw it beneficial to have group meetings—with new and old associates—to talk about the various things that we are trained on. How to use the register, interacting with customers, and how to run the fitting rooms were some of the big issues that new employees should know and what current employees should be reminded of.
Most of the employees dreaded the training meetings, and felt as if it was repetitive and a waste of time. What they did not realize is that the only way something becomes second nature is repetition. New York and Company’s training program is brilliant, and one of the reasons why the company’s customer service and employees are exceptional.
By Justin Bigger
In Chapter 12, O’Rourke briefly discusses the importance of business meetings and covers strategies to improve their effectiveness in a multitude of areas including motivation, education and networking.
While O’Rourke does a fantastic job of succinctly covering the topic and illustrating how a business meeting should operate, I feel that I may add a little bit just from personal experience to flesh out some of the ideas in the chapter. I’m not going to try and specifically weigh each tip in order of importance, because I think that would silly, so I’ll just briefly list a few tips that I have seen work for meetings in which I have been a part.
First and the most obvious is location. The location communicates so much and can make or break a meeting. The location must be reasonable for all parties and it must communicate the particular tone of the meeting. Second, everyone must be made fully aware ahead of time the nature of the meeting as well as the objectives of the meeting. The easiest way to plan a failed meeting is by not making sure everyone is on the same page. Third, and it’s rarely talked about, is balancing task focus with relationship building. Just because you are in a meeting doesn’t mean it has to be serious all the time. Finding the right balance between work and fun is the key to generating the best ideas or making people receptive to potential new ones.
By Nathan Beavers
In Chapter 12, O’Rourke details what constitutes making a business meeting a successful one. It ranges from determining the motivation for the meeting, why you’re meeting, what a business meeting is, when should/should not be called, how to prepare for a business meeting and many other factors. However, more often than not, it is the makeup of the people and their attitude about the subject that makes a meeting successful.
At my current job, we have a work group that meets regularly called the Cultural Council. This group meets once a month with members and nonmembers all welcome. We discuss various topics; anything from what we feel is the most important thing that we should focus on that month, Overall, I feel that we have a successful business meeting each time we meet. Why do I think so? We are all engaged in the topics and things being said and we all want this to be successful. We want our workplace to be the best it can be all while giving our customers what they want in the best way possible. We host “Associate Appreciation Week,” every year for the employees. These are often the most heated meetings, as more people tend to show up than normal, and trivial topics (what foods we should offer on which days and if there should be paid casual days) become the most divisive topics you could imagine. I will give the group leader credit; she does her best every time to keep everything together, and does a good enough job. She compromises so much with so many people, she could probably negotiate major contracts with huge companies if she could, all while giving people mostly what they want. Probably the best thing, everyone goes away with no hurt feelings. We all know we have to work together after so if anybody does anything to upset anyone, they apologize after and go about their business. I believe these meetings were successful because people showed up, were engaged in what was being discussed, and actively participated in the issues at hand.
Not every business meeting can be a successful one, but they all have the opportunity to be. If you know how to make people interested, engaged and want to participate, meetings will almost always be successful.
By Justin Bigger
In chapter 11 of Management Communication, O’Rourke discusses conflict in the workplace and ways to manage the more negative aspects of it. He mentions specifically techniques to use to manage anger and talks about many different “conflict-handling intentions” that can help manage conflict in certain situations.
While O’Rourke discusses many techniques toward approaching conflict, he mainly focuses on things that individuals can do to mitigate some of the more damaging things that can happen when conflicts become a problem. He really doesn’t focus on company-wide efforts that can be implemented to resolve conflicts or actually use them to promote change within the organization.
I used to work for a small business in my hometown. The business was very close knit and everybody knew each other, some for many years. Because of the close-knit family type atmosphere conflict was something that was pervasive within the organization. On the outside looking in, it was very evident that many of the people in the organization knew each other so well that they knew how to get under each other’s skin and sometimes if they were having a bad day it was very easy for conflict to escalate in an unhealthy way. The owner of the organization realized this and set up a conflict management type system that really helped move the organization forward. First, conflicts were either classified as work-related or not. This was especially important in this particular business because people knew each other so well. If the conflict was work-related, then steps were taken to get to the core of the problem. After the core of the problem was discovered, steps were taken to resolve the conflict by using a mediator that would help the two sides come together and discuss differences. Most conflicts were centered around the way things were done, and after a while, many new implementations came about that helped the organization move forward.
While this is a very isolated case, and the locality of it probably doesn’t apply to most organizations, it shows that sometimes conflict can be healthy if approached from a positive frame of mind with the view of the larger organization and its goals.