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Peppercorn Dining

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Peppercorn Dining is the diner on the campus of All-American University. The dynamics of the diner consists of fulltime workers, temporary workers, and student workers. The three partners of Square One Consulting; Roger, Lynn, and Erica, were having lunch at Peppercorn one afternoon; Erica worked at Peppercorn two years ago as a student worker. The manager of Peppercorn’s name is Drew Randall; he recognized Erica and came over to say high and chit chat with her about the “old days” when she worked at Peppercorn. During the course of their conversation, Erica asked Drew how things were currently operating; Drew replied by saying, “Staffing is a nightmare. We can’t find qualified people anywhere; recruiting and retention has become a constant challenge” (Cummings & Worley, 2008, p. 217). Of course, the other consultants were all ears and wanted to hear everything that Drew had to say. However, although Drew knew there were many symptoms of a much bigger problem, he had no idea what the “root” of the problem was. He would eventually enter into a contract with the consultants to get their unbiased, external point of view as to what the bigger problems really were at Peppercorn. The consultants would use various data collection methods involving the management, workers, and the customers to get a clearer picture as to what the actual problems were and why the students working at Peppercorn were unhappy and why recruitment for additional student help was unsuccessful. Actually, Peppercorn used to be predominantly run by student workers, but in recent years, due to the shortage of student workers, temporary workers had to be brought in to fill the gaps and keep the diner running. There was animosity between the fulltime workers, temporary workers, and the student workers. Each section resented the other for one reason or another and the tension was only getting worse. The fulltime employees on staff have been working at Peppercorn for numerous years, according to the case, the longest fulltime employee, Bob, the day cook has been at Peppercorn for 28 years and is looking forward to working there for another 15 years. Although the consultants were hired for their expertise and unbiased opinions, there was concern that Erica could not be unbiased because she worked at Peppercorn before and there was a different culture when she was there than what it is today. The consultants observed the workers in their day-to-day activities and even talked to some of the customers to get their feedback on the service at Peppercorn. There were some significant underlying issues brewing at Peppercorn and the consultants were slowly uncovering what those issues were. However, the findings were not fed back to the members of the organization at the management nor the individual level. This was the most crucial part; Drew, as the manager, needs to know what the underlying problems are and the workers need to know what the entire workforce is thinking to hopefully rectify the tension at Peppercorn.
Entering and Contracting The entering part went smoothly, “the partners explained they are usually contacted by organizations when management believes an external opinion could provide a fresh outlook on operations” (Cummings & Worley, 2008, p. 218). The partners explained their expert services and how they do an initial operations audit and present the findings back to management. They even went on to stress how essential it was to become familiar with the organization before suggestions are made. On the other hand, the contracting part was missing some crucial pieces. The contract included the partners fee and the times and dates they would be working the project, but the partners failed to mention how they would go about collecting the data, how they would analyze the data, how to feed it back to management and the workers, and there was no specific timeline given to complete the project. Additionally, the project would not be given their full attention because they were attending a seminar during the time of the evaluation of Peppercorn. Since the consultant’s did not give Peppercorn their complete attention, the collection methods that were used were not completely adequate.
Data Collection Process The quality or quantity of data collected by the partners was informative, but there should have been more. The primary methods that were used were interviews and observations. Although the interview process is very effective for allowing the partners to ask more in-depth questions, it can be very time consuming because the person may have a lot to say, as evidenced by Lynn’s lengthy conversation with Doug in the kitchen area. The advantage of an interview can usually establish trust early and the session can dig deep into the subject matter. The disadvantage of the interview is that it is only one person’s judgment or opinion and it can be flawed or very narrow. Observing can be very effective as well, but there is a drawback to it, the person could perceive to see things that are not really there. Everyone doesn’t see and interpret a situation exactly the same. If three people witness an accident, there would be three very different versions of the same account. However, observing puts the person doing the observing right in the midst of what is going on to witness the behavior firsthand and not rely on the recollection of others to determine what is real and what is perceived. The partners had dinner with the student managers (group setting), which was another form of gathering data (sampling). The advantage of this meeting was that the student managers could “feed” off of each other by hearing what the other had to say in response to the questions and agree, disagree, or/and share more information about the situation. The sampling method is small but more people can be reached than in the interview process. The partners would have definitely benefited from putting together a questionnaire that asked the same specific questions of everyone. The questions that should have been devised could have been closed questions (one answer) or more open-ended questions that warranted comments. The closed question approach would have allowed for easy scoring, but the bad part is that it does not allow much depth to the answer. The open-ended questions would have allowed for more individual response, but it would be difficult to score or tabulate. The bottom-line is that the strength of either questionnaire option would yield more responses, but there is a drawback, the partners would not be able to see the person’s response through nonverbals. But the questionnaire approach would have given the partners credible data to analyze based on the questions that were asked.
Data Analysis Since the primary means of collecting data from the workers and customers was the interview and observation process, the qualitative tool, content analysis would work well in this case. Content analysis “attempts to summarize comments into meaningful categories. When done well, a content analysis can reduce hundreds of interview comments into a few themes that effectively summarize the issues or attitudes of a group of respondents” (Cummings & Worley, 2008, p. 130). The content analysis process can be used to compress the interviewer’s words and group them into categories for coding. In this case, content analysis would be a good tool to “sift” through the data obtained via interviewing in a systematic manner. It would be a useful tool for allowing the partners to discover and describe the focus of the individual, group, culture, and the overall organization of Peppercorn.
Complete Analysis of Peppercorn First and foremost, the partners should have been introduced to the staff, and an explanation should have been given for their presence. The workers should not have had to ask the partners who they were and what they were doing there. The input for the analysis and diagnosis of Peppercorn should begin at the group level and stem from the management staff, to include the student management, fulltime and part-time employees, and the student workers. Drew stated to the partners not once, but twice the goals he would like to achieve, “to increase productivity and to improve morale among the workers” (Cumming & Worley, 2008, p. 218). Since the partners specialized in strategic intervention, Drew’s goals were the foundation of the project. The design components at the group level as it applies to Peppercorn should consist of: • Goal Clarity – Increasing the productivity and morale of the entire staff • Task Structure – What group or individuals are responsible for what task • Group Composition – A clear understanding of who reports to who and what member’s belong to which group • Group Norms – The basic culture of the group • Team Functioning – How well is the team working together, currently not very well
When the partners complete their diagnosis of the workers, inform management, and feed it back to the entire staff, hopefully this will prompt the much needed changes to occur and produce the output that is desired, which is one cohesive team working well together. There was concern about Erica not being able to conduct a successful project because her judgment could potentially be tainted because she was a former employee. However, Erica provided some good insight into the structure of Peppercorn by outlining the hours of operation, talking to a few older employees that may have been reluctant to talk to an outsider, and she was helpful in gathering organizational chart information that showed the hierarchy of Peppercorn. After Erica relayed the information that she was assigned to gather, she sounded as if she wanted to gossip a bit about more issues that came up during her conversations with John and some of the pantry workers. Erica said, “Enough about the routine stuff”, which implied venturing off into areas that weren’t relevant to the project (Cummings & Worley, 2008, p. 228). Roger and Lynn knew where the conversation was going and knew that it was time to cut it off. Drew was under the impression that the cooks were very proud when they would run out of food, assuming that it meant the students really liked it and therefore numerous students would come to the diner as opposed to going somewhere else to eat. This was not the case, the reason the diner kept running out of things was because of Larry and his inability to master the supply ordering system. It caused food supplies to be late, which resulted in borrowing from other units on campus, and the workers would run out of aprons to wear. Although, all the issues mentioned were playing a part in the mounting stress, there are some specific, crucial issues: • The culture had changed; fulltime employees vs. student employees • Belief that management does not care; at the organization and group level • Lack of communication • Union only visits when there are grievances • Temporary workers and student management relationship • Uncomfortable working conditions; extremely hot in the diner
Fulltime workers think the student workers are lazy and don’t care about the operations of the diner. Even the organizational structure is ambiguous because the students are responsible for the daily operations, the student workers, and the temporary workers (on paper). But, the temporary workers report and are trained by the professional managers, which is a direct contradiction of the organizational chart. Additionally, older workers think the student workers are stupid, which is another reason for the animosity between the groups. Roger and Lynn collected data mainly by observing the operations at Peppercorn and interviewing workers from various parts of the diner. The conversation continued to lead back the conflict between student and nonstudent workers and that the roles of the workers were unclear. The workers were also frustrated because they didn’t have the tools to do their jobs; this is a direct result of Larry and his lack of skills when ordering supplies for the diner. Peppercorn used to pay for the workers to attend culinary classes, but have stopped doing so and the student workers are feeling slighted because management is still getting the classes that they want or need. This relates to climate transfer and transfer of training, the student workers still want training classes, but the current culture will not allow it. The interview data was collected, and discussed as a group to pinpoint the problems, but the partners were unsure if their assessments would mean anything since Drew was leaving Peppercorn. In order to meet the goals of increased productivity and to improve morale, the information that was gathered would have to be fed back. For instance, the fulltime staff members have been at Peppercorn for many, many years and have seen student workers come and go. They also perceive the students and being lazy with a do not care attitude. The temporary workers are supposed to be supervised by the student workers, but in most cases, the temporary workers are older than the student managers and don’t feel like it is appropriate to be managed by someone that is junior to them. The student managers know what the fulltime and temporary workers think of them and it makes tension rise and the situation only gets worse. The culture of Peppercorn has drastically changed and to eliminate or reduce the tension, changes will have to be made. In regards to feeding the information back to the staff, the partners need to thoroughly review the responses from the individual’s that were interviewed, categorize and code key words that were repeated several times, analyze the data and arrange it in a logical flow, inform management of the findings, then the entire staff should be told in a group forum. The forum should consist of the findings and the corrective action (changes) that will be implemented to improve the working conditions.
Conclusion
Peppercorn can obtain the goals previously identified with the assistance of the three partners of Square One. However, when entering into the contract there needs to be specific areas identified; fee for service, the process that will be used to collect data, how will the data be analyzed, and the estimated timeline it will take to complete the project; the contract did not fully state the intentions. The partners should have been completely dedicated to the project and not working for Peppercorn and attending a seminar at the same time, the project deserved their full attention and expertise. Although interviews and observing are great tools, prewritten surveys and questionnaires would have given the partners more accurate data to analyze and would have been much easier to track and tabulate. There was a lot of animosity and ambiguity between the student and nonstudent workers and the project revealed some interesting information why the problem is there and lingering; however, the project would not be successful if the information is not fed back and changes instituted to correct the problem. At the end of the case study, a meeting of all the employees at the diner would have been the perfect setting to relay the information and put everything on the table. If Peppercorn adheres to their organizational chart hierarchy, clearly define their duties and roles, stress respect to everyone, devise ways to ensure promotions, and allow for training and creativity, morale would increase and the culture would return to normal or become better than ever.

References
Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2008). Organization Development and Change (pp. 130). South Western: CEN GAGE Learning
Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2008). Peppercorn Dining (pp. 217, 218, 228). Organization Development and Change. South Western: CEN GAGE Learning…...

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