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MANAGEMENT OF TECHNICAL ORGANIZATIONS Problem Assignment Newly Appointed Senior Manager – 1B


Problem Assignment

Newly Appointed Senior Manager – 1B


To provide further appreciation of the types of problems frequently encountered in the process of taking charge of a large technical organization.


The situation is an extension of that described in 1A.  Two weeks have elapsed since you moved into your new job.  You have completed most of the interactions that you had planned, although your initial estimation of the time required had been highly optimistic.  In a number of cases, conversations that you had planned to require half an hour required two hours or more.  Numerous interruptions occurred, some of them in connection with the Navigation project as well as with your new position.  All the reading had to be done outside of working hours, as well as a good many conversations.

As you had initially anticipated, you came across a number of problem areas in your discussions with key individuals, including some quite unexpected ones.  You have carefully kept track of these as best you could and reserved the weekend to figure out how to come to grips with them.

The list you have compiled is as follows:

1.    Bob Boros (Assistant Chief Engineer)

As you had feared, Bob Boros was visibly perturbed, feeling that he had been “passed over” in selecting Chandler’s successor.  He has exhibited no personal rancor with respect to you, but could not disguise his disappointment.  As far as you could tell, his attitude was a mixture of injured pride and a degree of depression.  He responded freely to your questions, and seemed to respond well to your earnest request for his help in teaching you the many things that you would need to learn about the work of the Department.  Apparently Chandler had not worked very closely with Boros, running the technical work personally, leaving Boros to run the Department operations.  Boros did not like this arrangement but evidently put up with it.

2.    Action Correspondence

You found that a large backlog of correspondence requiring action by the Chief Engineer had accumulated on Chandler’s desk during his four-week absence.  A few very critical items had been hand-carried to the Executive Vice President for approval, but Chandler had been quite insistent on personally approving all important actions and did not delegate his signature authority on most such matters.  Therefore, this process had been used extremely sparingly.

The backlog of correspondence requiring action included the following items:

a.    IR&D proposals from the Branch supervisors totaling $1,000,000 about 2-3 months old

b.    Major equipment purchase requests totaling $2,000,000

c.    Internal engineering department reorganization study report

d.    Personnel transfers/appointments and employment offers

e.    Employee recognition pins and letters

f.    Contractually required engineering status reports

g.    Formal replies to customer correspondence (review and signature)

You scanned the customer reports and correspondence quickly and disposed of those items that were overdue and appeared non-controversial.  Item (e) proved to be routine.  After making sure from the Director of Personnel that none of the transfers or offers were controversial, you disposed of them also.  You have not yet taken the time to attack items (a), (b), and (c), which have aggregated a few additional items in the meantime.

3.    Anticipated RFP

You had known six months ago that the company expected an RFP to be issued by NASA for a Synthetic Aperture Radar System.  Preliminary analysis had indicated that one of STA’s spacecraft designs would be applicable and a novel idea for the satellite optical communication downlink had been proposed.  However, the issuance of the RFP had been delayed, and a team had never been assembled and charged with starting to write a proposal, nor a person named to head a proposal effort.  Now the RFP was apparently expected momentarily.  From past experience you had learned that times allowed for responding to RFPs were notoriously short and bidders who waited for the RFP to be issued were seldom successful.  At the same time, STA’s current satellite-related work needed a new start within the coming year.  Action was urgent, if not overdue, if STA were to compete.

4.    STA’s current Computer Aided Design and Manufacture (CAD/CAM) is nearing the end of its useful life.  Plans submitted by the Design and Analysis Branch had been tabled because the budget for new equipment had been preempted by the satellite environmental facility.  Pressure is mounting to make a replacement decision before the software maintenance support is no longer provided by the manufacturer.

The STA Board, which would have to pass on such a large institutional item, has its next quarterly meeting in two weeks.  You are not personally knowledgeable in this area.  You need to decide how and when to handle this problem.

5.    Kevin Kelly (Supervisor, Mechanical Design Group)

In your conversation with Victoria Vaughn (Director, Design and Analysis), she declared her strong feelings concerning the unsuitability of Kevin Kelly as Supervisor of the Mechanical Design Group.  Kelly, 59, was once a fine design engineer and contributed to many early STA programs.  He was appointed group supervisor ten years ago.  Over the past five years his productivity, both as a supervisor and as an idea man, has declined to a point where it has become a group morale problem as well as a management headache.  Kelly is still well liked, and is an old friend and former coworker of Chet Chandler.  Vaughn feels that action cannot be postponed any longer.  If it is, she is afraid that there will be personnel losses in the group.

6.    Over-Optimistic Bid

STA has recently received a Joint Command contract to build 40 joint service communication receivers for battlefield communication.  The contract is cost-plus-incentive for a total of $10,000,000.  In submitting the competitive bid, STA shaved the estimated cost to a bare minimum because it wanted to develop its business with the Joint Command.  Chet Chandler personally handled the final pricing submission.

Now that the preliminary design stage has begun, a cost review just completed predicts a total amount some 20% above the original estimate.  As of this time, this information is within the Engineering organization.



For each of the two problem areas assigned to you for grading (see Announcements for the two problem areas assigned to you), outline the actions you would undertake to resolve the problem.  Indicate actions proposed and timing, additional information which may have to be obtained, rejected options considered and rationale for the actions.  Use the tabular format shown below and provide references from readings.  The first problem area assigned is to be posted to the discussion forum “Module 3 – Your assigned problem to post” in the Discussion Forum.


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