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ACS State and Local Solutions

September 9th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The objective of the research paper is to present ACS State and Local Solutions as an organization that can benefit from a change readiness assessment. The twenty first century points to a constant change, rapid growth, and to try to get as much business as possible, however constant search for more capital weakens and strengthens different areas of the organization.

Weisbord proposes his Six-Box model as a diagnostic framework for organizations. He expresses that a blip in any one box cannot be managed independently of its relationship to other boxes. However, six potential starting places give you alternatives when choosing an improvement strategy (Weisbord 1978).

Let us analyze the purpose of the organization. What business is ACS State and Local Solutions in? The organization is in the business of helping people to achieve self-sufficiency, and to process childcare checks on a timely manner to ensure a better quality life for children. Both contracts are with Miami Dade County, the first is twelve million dollars with one hundred forty five employees and the latter is a sixty five million dollars and a staff of forty-five.

That is the “what they have to do”; however when ACS State and Local Solutions what is “what they want to do”: the staff shares the desire to become the best provider offering social services for Miami Dade County.

Goals are not a point of concern for ACS State and Local Solutions; the staff has clarity and understanding of the goals. They are set by the funding agency and neither external nor internal mechanisms can modify the goal.

The company has a functional structure: One Project Manager and under him, the Operations Division and the Finance and Administration Division. The Human Resources Department and the Contract Department report to Finance, not to the Project manager. There is decentralization from the corporate office, this one of the requirements to be a service provider for the funding agency.
Weisbord indicates blips show up in three different areas of the relationship box: people, units doing different tasks and people and their technologies (Weisbord, 1978). The diagnosis shows conflict in the relationship area.

The Project Manager tries to get everyone involved but avoids confrontations at all cost. After applying Weisbord’s Leadership box to ACS State and Local Solutions the radar goes off between the relationship and leadership box. Part of the problem is the main leader, the project manager. His leadership style is more of a visionary than anything else.

He decides which mountain to climb but he gets too involved in the climbing process. His constant asking other for ideas and answers creates a great deal of anxiety for him and his subordinates. The diagnosis detects conflict between the leadership style and the organization style.

The relationship between the Finance Department and the Project manager is a forcing conflict-management. The diagnosis shows an aggressive management style for the Finance Manager; many times she gets clearance from the funding agency directly without informing the Project Manager. Later on when the Project Manager contacts the funding agency to share the memorandum he is planning to develop to address pressure issues; it is through the funding agency he finds out of the doings of his Finance Manager.

This creates a political, cultural and technological conflict. It shows lack of alignment within the three systems (Tichy, 1982). Another blip detected in the Leadership and Relationship boxes. The Project Manager and the Operation Manager tend to have a cohesive relationship. There is agreement between their programmatic and operational agendas. However, issues are pushed aside, and big decisions pile up at the top. Conflict is created at a structural level.

The findings show the two managers (Finance and Operations) need something from each other; there is cooperation and understanding among them. They have conflict when they have to deal with personnel issues.

The fact that Human Resources reports to the Finance Department, takes away objectivity to the process. The Human Resources clerk does not have the authority to make decisions and the Finance Manager has the last word on Human Resources issues.

The conflict comes from structural differences. The Project Manager and the Finance Manager have low-trust, there is frequent misunderstanding, and only one feels that needs from the other. The conflict comes from poor interpersonal skills and absence of coordination.

The Rewards Box evaluates if there are incentives for doing all that needs doing. There is no budget allocation for Staff Development, which hinders the organization at a local level. However the company offers one hundred tuition and books reimbursement, medical insurance, short term disability, life insurance worth the individual’s salary, stress management program, pet insurance and 401k plan.
The pension plan is matched up to four percent. Vision, dental and long-term disability are offered at a minimum cost. ACS State and Local Solutions values its employees’ referrals. After a new employee has been working for ACS State and Local Solutions for six month, the referring employee gets a five hundred dollars bonus. Nine sick days, ten days vacation and eleven holydays. Three weeks vacation after five years of employment. Yearly merit increase is based on the performance appraisals.
The last contract year ACS State and Local Solutions achieved outstanding performance and was awarded a performance bonus of six hundred thousand dollars. The company is planning to take one hundred thousand dollars and use it for cash bonus for employees. The bonus amount will be determined by the employee’s performance appraisal.

ACS State and Local Solutions has many mechanisms in place, but how many of them are really coordinating the technologies for the group reporting to the Central Office?

Policies and procedures is very strong in general for ACS State and Local Solutions as a corporation, however the mechanism is poor at the local level for two reasons: first, the Project Manager calls Austin, Texas to share the situation at hand every time. He also likes to have for sure Finance and Operations Departments in the room every time. That process takes time and it is frustrating. Austin, Texas expects for him to call with decisions already made and it does not happen. After the phone call, he spends time with his team making sure everybody understood what he thinks Austin, Texas wants. There is no a formal meeting for the group on a weekly basis.

They could end up meeting five times in a day informally. The Project Manager walks into his staff office and calls a meeting. The Operation Manager tries not to schedule meetings with her staff in the Central Office. The group does not appreciate it; the environment is not productive or relaxed.
Tichy’s indicates an organization could be seen as a rope made up of three different strands. Each strand represents political, technological, and cultural systems (Tichy, 1982).

The assessment shows the strong and weak areas. It also suggests certain immediate changes and others that could be taking care of by implementing corrective active plans. The following strategies are only a proposal, since it is in ACS State and Local Solutions’ hands to decide which of the following it deems as a fix for them. Unless the organization feels comfortable and open to try new methods, the outcomes would not be positive. Forcing and pretending change do not work.
ACS State and Local Solutions could benefit from a more decisive style of leadership. A weekly meeting with managers to decide on the two main priorities for the week could be beneficial. It would develop in a problem solving meeting as well. Which priorities are achieved could be monitored and a quarterly analysis could be created to track progress.

Human Resources should be a division reporting directly to the Program Manager. The department needs a manager; currently it is made up of a Human Resources Clerk, which reports directly to the Finance and Administration Department. Having a Human Resources Manager would be of great benefit for the organization. This individual could become an effective integrator bringing balance to the different departments. A good monitor tool could be to track phone calls from the centers. How many calls are for payroll, and leave? How many calls are to ask for advise and guidance from Human Resources?

Human Resources needs to offer orientation for new employees at least on a monthly basis, this would help the culture to grow stronger. The organization offers so many benefits and not all the staff is aware of it.

The orientation for new employees could be done at the work site, rather than the main office. This would make the Human Resources Manager more approachable to the staff, as well as more comfortable.

So many calls to Austin, Texas takes valuable time from the Finance and Operation Managers. The phone call should be limited to one or two per week. It will be interesting how the group interacts and cooperates if the Austin, Texas group takes only a minimum amount of work time during the week. Informal devices for meeting strategies should be designed.

Finance and Operations should take get together and design a way to get more accomplished without the Project Manager being involved. It should be a solutions meeting, where top management has no part. Both manager would benefit greatly from trainings as: How to deal with difficult people?, Conflict and Resolution training, managerial strategies for the twenty first century, etc.

Once a month should be time to go discuss planning, budgets, and how to monitor internal and external controls. Create a report that gathers data on those areas and share it with the centers.
Organization should be reminded of the availability of systems but also to keep in mind availability of systems is not a synonymous of solutions. Availability points to solutions as well as it signals challenges, the important part is to keep trying different systems until the organization feels comfortable with them and chooses which really make a positive impact for the organization.
The Basic Change Model should be used for the implementation process, once the organization is ready to begin working on the necessary changes. The Basic model has three phases: unfreeze, change, and refreeze. During the first phase, the organization needs to go through the unfreezing period. It is the phase where ACS State and Solutions begins to prepare for change, accepts the mechanisms that needs to let go off, structures the transition and tries to look at every possible detail, and defines which will be the reward for the change. It is more of a selling time, while the second phase is a participative one.

During the second phase change is implemented, full collaboration makes the process easier for everyone. The third phase is the refreeze stage; at this time the organization goes through a thorough assessment. The reactions to the implemented changes need to be assessed. Probably this period is the one that brings more anxiety to the entire process. Once the process has been completed, the organization goes into a refreeze stage.

It is important to make it clear that all the above-proposed changes operate in cyclical stages and going through the whole process once will not result in the perfect outcome. However, the organization as a whole will benefit and will be closer each time to become the best it can be!

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