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Discussion Question 1
Manning (1991) defines team morale as the enthusiasm and persistence with which a member of a team engages in the prescribed activities. Figuratively speaking, it is the fuel that keeps the engine (team) running. Only this fuel is intangible, hard to put a number on (Stack, 1997, par. 1) and, therefore, often left underestimated and undervalued.
This notion is not simply wrong but dangerous at times. If one does not measure morale, he/she ends up taking it for granted. The person misses the opportunity to fix problems easily and inexpensively. Instead, they just sit there and fester (Stack, 1997, par. 2).
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Taking that all aspects of a project are interlinked, a good preliminary step for Harry would be to review productivity and absentee reports. High attendance and performance usually mean that the morale is up. If the people involved into Harry’s project are not working to their potential, it is time to go further and conduct more detailed surveys on how they are feeling (Feigenbaum, 2013).
The choice of the morale measurement techniques may differ depending on the scale and length of the project. On a small project, for instance, “management by walking around” (Borysowich, 2005) coupled with a simple employee satisfaction questionnaire will be enough to evaluate team morale. On a long-term project with multiple subprojects and/or a distributed team, more formal techniques, such as team surveys, may be used to identify problem areas that require corrective action (Borysowich, 2005).
According to Jack Stack (1997), “there is only one way to know how good morale really is in your company: ask the people who work there”. All commonly used morale measurement techniques seem to be built around this simple principle, and it is up to Harry as a manager to choose the best combination of team morale measurement and monitoring tools depending on the scale of his project:
One-on-one meetings can be a valuable morale gauge, especially for small companies/teams. If held in a safe and confidential environment, they prompt the employees to open up and share their opinions more willingly. The manager should assure the employee that his/her view on the state of things is welcome and important (Feigenbaum, 2013). It may also help to encourage the employee to give suggestions on how to solve the existing problems.
Employee Satisfaction Surveys
Some companies, especially medium and big ones, where private sit-downs with individual employees will be uninformative, conduct periodic employee satisfaction surveys (Feigenbaum, 2013). The frequency and scope of such polls depend on the size and duration of the project, the number of the people involved, the number of areas that need to be surveyed, etc. Being presented in the form of anonymous questionnaires, they allow the manager to survey such key areas as job satisfaction, engagement, appreciation, and consideration from management (“How to Measure Employee Morale”, 2012). The manager can compare and contrast the results of different polls and thus assess the effectiveness of the previously enforced corrective measures. Using online visual survey tools, such as Happy Points, the manager can even track the team morale throughout the day, which can be particularly useful during short-term project.
Some big companies may go as far as set up an employee-satisfaction committee comprised of volunteers from every step of the social ladder within the company (Stack, 1997, par. 11). Such committees act as a link point between the management and the staff. Besides, it is psychologically easier to open up to your equals on the committee rather than to a manager that may not know the first thing about your job and, therefore, will not fully understand your needs or complaints.
Discussion Question 2
Although some team members may view project meetings as an interruption to their work and a waste of time, their importance for the success of the project is incontestable (Symonds, 2011). Project meetings keep the employees informed, interacted and accountable. They give the team the opportunity to review and assess the results of every completed stage of the project before proceeding on to the next one.
Carefully planned team gatherings are a way of keeping track of individual and team progress through a healthy discussion (Exforsys Inc., 2009). The manager gets the chance to address any pressing issues succinctly, informatively and objectively (Plowman, 2013). When some urgent or crucial matters that require group decision-making arise, project meetings are a perfect place to brainstorm and arrive at a unanimous decision.
When it comes to extensive long-term projects, it is essential to co-ordinate different teams or departments working on the project that do not interact on a daily basis. The manager also needs to occasionally clarify business requirements to the employees, manage risks and discuss the quality of work. Project meetings are a perfect place to achieve all of the above (Symonds, 2011).
Upon reaching important milestones, project meetings serve as a tool to remind the team of the key project tasks and keep them on track regarding work matters (Exforsys Inc., 2009).
In Nancy’s case, the socialization factor of project meetings comes to the fore. In the data-processing company she works for, the majority of employees spend most of their working lives in front of a computer and deal with their colleagues via emails hence lack of personal interaction (Symonds, 2011). Under the circumstances, regular project meetings will strengthen interpersonal bonds, improve communication and team work (Plowman, 2013).
On top of that all, project meetings are an opportunity for the manager to acknowledge the accomplishments of the group members through public recognition (Exforsys Inc., 2009) thus boosting employee satisfaction and morale.
Written reports may be considered by some the perfect alternative to team meetings mainly because they keep the members of the project posted about its progress in a concise, clear and concrete form without disruption of the working routine. Nevertheless, there are a lot of potential downsides associated with written communication that can impair team productivity and, in the long run, the success of the project as a whole.
One of the major drawbacks of written reports is no immediate feedback, characteristic for face-to-face communication. This can cause real frustration and uncertainty in situation where prompt response to the problem is needed, or group decision-making is required. (Encyclopedia of Business, 2013)
A comprehensive report can take a lot of time and effort to compose. The goal of the manager is to avoid excessive paperwork and resort to it only when absolutely necessary. Regular team meetings make it possible to quickly solve whatever minor issues associated with the project, whereas written communication adds two additional steps prior to the problem solving stage, namely “study of the report” and “forming of the opinion”.
Written reports are formal and distant. They deprive the project manager of the opportunity to see the immediate reaction of the employees to the received information. The manager cannot perceive the attitude of the people to this or that aspect of the project and thus loses the chance to gauge the team morale.
No room to openly voice one’s opinion and discuss the problematic areas as a team is another downside of written reports. Dry written communication does not give people the opportunity to actively engage into the decision-making process, especially when it comes to junior staff. As a result, they feel left out and, therefore, lose enthusiasm and persistence.
Besides, written reports allow for misconceptions and varying interpretations of the received information yet give no chance to clear the doubts and clarify the misunderstandings on the spot.
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