This case study describes the difficulties which the head of an environmental services and engineering consulting firm (Terra Nova Consulting) faces as the company seeks to address internal cultural divisions. Terra Nova Consulting, which began as a small boutique company, has expanded through internal growth and mergers to become an international professional services enterprise. Over time the company has drifted away from its values and principles. Its survival will depend on the ability to repair the culture damage and convince the next generation of employees to hold up the founders' vision and grow a shared vision.
Ogata, Ken; Spraakman, Gary
North American Case Research Association (NACRA) (NA0280)
Case questions answered:
- Given its operating environment and the nature of its business, describe what type of organizational structure, strategy, decision making styles (structural frame), professional personnel management (human resources frame) culture and artifacts (symbolic frame) and power relations (political frame) would be best suited for this firm and why? Be specific. Consider concepts learned from all frames.
- Discuss the challenges associated with managing professional workers, and how Terra Nova’s strategy and structure may affect this. What actions could be taken to make Terra Nova’s more attractive to junior professionals? How you would bridge the gap between the junior and senior members?
- What is the need for change in Terra Nova? What are the barriers to change?
- Thinking about the possibility of developing a culture of change in Terra Nova, discuss the best model of change that they can use if they pretend to be a great company. Use the models suggested by Bolman and Deal and materials included in Moodle to explain your position.
- Discuss (in detail) the problems faced by the leaders in this case. Use the leadership concepts and points of view reflected in all frames to approach this discussion (all frames should be included and properly and individually referred to in your discussion).
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Building Community at Terra Nova Consulting Case Answers
Building Community at Terra Nova Consulting
When embarking on the discussion regarding organizational structure, strategy, and decision-making styles, it is important to keep in mind the general attributes that make up the structural frame. This frame, as explained by Bolman and Deal, reflects a mindset largely dependent on the fact that “a suitable array of formal roles and responsibilities will minimize distracting personal static and maximize people’s performance on the job” (2013).
By conforming to the assumptions that center around efficiency, objectives, coordination, rationality, and structure, Bolman and Deal explain the framework essential to creating an effective organization that provides results. With the help of its two central tensions – differentiation and integration – we can restructure an organization towards a division of labor and coordination of efforts. By providing a layout for the operations of a specific organization, the structural frame can either serve as a catalyst for effectiveness or as a detriment if the structure provided does not facilitate the work environment.
Terra Nova Consulting presents an organization structure that lacks appropriate coordination and definition. In the case study, partners in the organization attempt to explain how they utilize a “flat organizational structure” largely composed of a fluidity, which includes various partners, managers, and other members of the staff directing efforts throughout various projects and offices.
While this supposed structure may be a good fit for the partners and managers, it presents a clear dilemma with the junior staff, who felt that there was “a need for more structure, including the codification of policies and procedures regarding things like professional development, equipment requests, and international assignments” (Ogata and Spraakman, 2014).
Although Terra Nova informally presents a structure composed of five components, a clear divide exists that segments the groups between a more experienced, tenured senior staff (including partners, project managers, etc.) and a new, inexperienced junior staff. The first group seems to think that Terra Nova Consulting demonstrates a structure that encourages collaboration, but the second group is absolutely clear of the differences in power and respect that they hold. This inefficient structure produces a work environment that stagnates results and serves to drive away the same junior staff which represents the future of Terra Nova.
The organization represents a divide when it comes to their strategy and decision-making, as they are overrun by a style where excellence prevails over financial stability, to the point where cost is deemed irrelevant and employees are slow to collect on finished projects. Instead of focusing on the future of the company, some of the high-level employees are too cultured to change and allow their reputation to serve as a substitute to change. By continuing to adhere to a structure largely resembling an adhocracy, characterized by “ambiguous authority structures, unclear objectives, and contradictory assignments of responsibility”, Terra Nova Consulting is creating an environment that does the opposite of stimulating creativity and results (2013).
Similarly, Terra Nova Consulting presents problems regarding their professional personnel management. Once again, seeing as this relates heavily to the human resources frame, keeping its characteristics in mind is pivotal to comprehending the happenings at the organization. The human resources frame conveys people as its most important asset; depicting motivation, communication, and effective management as the ultimate tool for creating a great organization. By satisfying human needs, establishing a good fit between organization and individual, and being a source of ideas and energy, the human resource manager effectively creates a work environment where communication and diversity is fostered.
In order to help identify the problems in Terra Nova Consulting, it hired an HR specialist firm, OCI Consulting. One of the main faults regarding personnel management found in Terra Nova Consulting during the organizational assessment was the lack of work/life balance felt by the junior employees: “Although hard work, extended out-of-town fieldwork and pressure to meet client deadlines were accepted as parts of the job, younger staff were not prepared to sacrifice their personal lives for the firm” (Ogata and Spraakman, 2014). Not only did these junior employees not feel empowered to sacrifice much of their time for their employer, but there was also a prevailing sense of unfair treatment from this group when compared to the senior management.
In the eyes of the younger staff, the firm was more concentrated on the partners than on the development of the staff who represented their future. These factors contributed to a dwindling sense of satisfaction, which culminated in the junior employees feeling that the odds of remaining throughout their career in Terra Nova Consulting was unlikely. By not seeing a clear sense of career progression, it was obvious why a lot of these employees felt frustrated and unwilling to commit to Terra Nova Consulting. The communication displayed by higher management was absolutely inefficient regardless of whether the firm actually felt a need to develop their younger talent, this lack of communication isolated one of the most important components of their organization.
The symbolic frame, which pertains to the culture and artifacts used in Terra Nova Consulting, receives its significance from…
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