Acetate Department

1. Analyze the Acetate Department’s technology, before and after the change, by identifying its task variety and analyzability. The task variety was lower and the conversion process was more analyzable before the change. Before the change, there were more employees responsible for the actual process of taking the raw materials and creating the product. Employees had specialized tasks and the problems typically occurred less when employees had specialized tasks.

The employees were seldom absent and they all worked as a team (as groups in a big team) before the change. After the changes, employee teamwork declined because of the job cuts, machines took over the conversion process. Employees were no longer mixing the batches by hand as a team. After the change, absenteeism increased markedly and several judgmental errors by operators had resulted in substantial losses.

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2. Imagine that the Acetate Department is a column in the previous Workbook exercise. Analyze goals, authority structure, type of technology, etc. as required by the exercise. Then determine if the structure and other characteristics fit the technology. According to Woodward, a continuous-process production should have employees with higher skill level (which Acetate did after the change), low formalized procedures, low centralization, high verbal communication and low written communication and an organic structure. I believe the structure and characteristics of the Acetate Department fit the technology.

Acetate Department’s organizational goals are to convert mass amounts of raw materials into acetate where it would be used by another department. After the change, the process went from a large-batch/ mass production to a continuous process production. Before the change there was more of a sense of teamwork and interdependence because there were more employees involved in the step by step process of taking the raw materials and converting it into acetate.

The department is more organic now because it is more decentralized and operators are making more decisions. Specialization was higher before the change because there were a large number of employees who had more specialized tasks. The company is decentralized because there are four supervisors to handle problems (opposed to all problems being funneled up to one boss). Standardization is low because products and tasks are routine. The expertise involved is technical.

3. Discuss what improvements you would suggest to the Department, realizing that their financial investment in new technology cannot be turned back. The Departments main problems are absenteeism and judgmental errors by the operators. Improving joint optimization of the social and technical aspects of the workplace will help these problems. To fix the judgmental errors by the operators, a more mechanistic structure should be designed. More rules and procedures should be implemented to stop operators from making the same judgmental errors.

Operators will be more comfortable with a set of procedures so they do not keep making mistakes. Absenteeism can be decreased by improving employee job satisfaction. Implementing a more team oriented work place (like before the change when absenteeism was low) and more communication should improve job satisfaction. Implementing higher rewards and stronger penalties on absenteeism should help fix that problem as well.