Group Processes and Team Building Case Study: Robotics

Group Processes and Team Building
Case Study: Robotics Chromosomes Inc.
Daniel McKnight
John Barrett
Marie Powers
Kevin Conrad
October 26, 2009
Overview of the company
In case study number two; Robotic Chromosomes Inc. was studied by Sam. Over a
period of several months he discovered many interesting facts about the company. At
the conclusion of his time with the company, Sam reported back to Group Three. Group
Three was responsible for translating his finding and solutions. A detailed report on
what he did to fix the problems were established accordingly. The Robotics
Chromosomes Inc. was founded by Andy, a graduate of Stanford University. He formed
a small company in the bio-informatics market, which fashioned several software
products to help biologists, scientists, and laboratories. His team consisted of
colleagues of his from Stanford, and whom he considered close friends. His office
building has a large open-spaced floor plan with nicely divided sections for each team.
Andy and the other Vice Presidents had corner offices, with great views. There are
seventy-five happy employees that work under Andy’s control of the rapidly growing
company. Starting in 2000, after the first three very prosperous years, Andy received
numerous offers to buy out his company for a fairly decent price. R.C was the first
company to establish itself in the visualization field. Andy denied every offer that was
put on the table.
As the company was finally progressing to a comfortable, well-developed business
they hit their peak and things started to go downhill. After many years of expanding and
being very popular, the company could not keep up with the demands. “The lack in the
Quality Assurance department and their loose bug tracking metrics were becoming
The Players
Throughout this case study, people were recognized and immediately tagged as
needing improvement in several different departments. In each team there were
people who stuck with each other and relayed to one another, as well as members that
would disagree with each other. In each team, members would form a hierarchy within a
hierarchy at a company. A common hierarchy consists of a president, CFO, team’s
leaders of each department and the workers that do the actual work. As commands for
tasks were given by upper management, they are relayed back and forth between the
heads of the department, who manage their crew to get the task completed.
TOM- At the beginning, Andy hired a very talented and reputable engineer who,
although very smart, had quirky habits. While interacting with people in the office,
he found that Tom is an avid martial artist. If someone brushes up against him, he
spins around, with a raised fist ready to fight. He was known for showing up no
earlier than 11 A.M. but worked late into the evening.
BOB- As the company grew Andy hired Bob, a statistician. He is a Stanford Alum
and very good friend of Andy; they play weekly group board games. Andy hired Bob
to help with the analysis tools of the Chromo Rivers Software Program, a very much
needed specialty in this field.
MIKE- As the company kept growing Andy hired Mike as the Chief Financial Officer
(CFO). Mike was hired mainly to help accelerate the company‘s growth by using
tactics such as fundraising. The Robotics’ Company started experiencing
unavoidable bug problems after Mike was hired. There growth has been slowed
and they are feeling the impact of not being able to fix the bugs and loosing
numerous return customers. Andy hired Sam who is an experienced veteran of the
software industry to put together a Quality engineering department.
Sam's Findings
The Problem:
After the company’s slowed growth and high problems with bugs in the system,
Andy hired a professional, Sam, who knows software systems. Sam discovered:
-There was confusion and no recognized bug tracking systems; therefore all
reported bugs were maintained by one person in an MS program.
-The engineers and tech support departments were constantly arguing over what
was and was not fixed for possible bugs in the system.
- Six hour meetings were held every Wednesday. Most of the meeting was spent
going over problems from last week’s meeting.
- Product Documentation, which was run by Chris, a female worker, complained that
no one told her what would be in each release and left her with only a few hours
until it had to be posted on the internet. The features and updates were too intricate
to be completed in such a short time. She needed more time.
- Chris and Bob, along with many others, complained about not being paid enough
for their positions. When Andy hired people, he gave the lowest pay, but in return
gave the new hires stock options to make up for it.
- When Sam investigated, he found over two dozen bugs in the system. He went to
Mike looking for a budget as a way of knowing how much he could put into fixing the
bugs. However, Mike refused to give Sam a budget. The problem was that Mike did
not agree with Andy’s decision to hire Sam and thought it was an unnecessary
Sam’s Solution:
In studying and evaluating the employees and groups at Robotic Chromosomes
Inc., Sam had developed a highly functional team that met and discussed the problems
that he found within the company. He then executed the solutions he deemed
appropriate for fixing the problems. Each engineer was asked to identify who would be
responsible for each feature and then document his or her own work. After months of
progress, Sam appointed a new process to each manager on fixing the bugs for long
term Quality Assurance. Some went along with his advice, while others like Paul,
refused to fix the problem. Sam’s new bugging system did improve the company but
only through tough decisions.
Where the problem starts…
Paul believed that the new debugging system did not apply to him, while other
members of the engineering team told Sam that Paul was not sure how to use the new
system, instead of trying to figure it out. He just had the bugs redirected to a younger
member of the team. Meanwhile, Sam had put a female employee, Chris on probation
for 30 days for failing after receiving a warning because she was not meeting
expectations. Her warnings were discussed in meetings that outlined her goals.
However, at the end of her 30 day probation period she was fired because she did not
meet her goals. Since Sam hired Chris, Mike blamed Sam for a bad hiring decision
which costs the company an unnecessary expense.
Another problem that Sam encountered was on a new release. Tom’s features
were not completed and instead added more bugs to the system that threatened
Chromo River’s product as a whole. When Sam talked to Tom, Tom said that he had
more important things to do and that customers were the least of his concerns, calling
customers a bunch of idiots. Sam fixed Tom's mistake in about fifteen minutes while
Andy backed Tom’s actions.
After Sam left the company …
After 9/11, the company went through a severe crash and Sam and many others
got laid off right before Thanksgiving. The Company went back to its old ways and a
week later released products without testing them; sales went back up. Months later
Andy was forced to fire Tim, one of the V.P.’s for secretly running a competing company
and failing to close sales at Chromo River. Bob left shortly after due to Andy not giving
him a raise in the course of two years. Andy’s only response was that “this is a terrible
economy, and you have nowhere to go. I’m not going to give you a raise.” And after a
couple months Bob found a new job that paid him considerably more money. If Andy
had only gave some indication that he valued Bob as a person he would have stayed.
Now the company is without a statistician and for the past six months, the very much
needed math has been done almost completely wrong. Eventually they hired a new guy
at a low salary who took three months to come up to speed.
Group Dynamics Project Proposal
September 23, 2009
Professor Balzac:
The case study; Assignment number 2 was reviewed by group three for the Robotic
Chromosomes Company. After a detailed analysis from Sam, some of the noted
problems and questions that arouse were the following:
How were the apparent stages of the group developed at R.C.?
What were some of the Manifested values and Beliefs of the group?
What were the apparent communication styles or patterns?
The role of emotions in the group: which emotions are playing out? How are
autonomy, competence and relatedness manifesting between the group as a whole
and different sub groups of people?
Why was there resistance to changes that appeared to address issues that
people were claiming they wanted change or fixed?
Which avoidant behaviors are manifested and what might that mean?
If you were in Sam’s position, what would you have done differently?
What recommendations do you have for the company?
Present you recommendations in a way that a CEO might accept?
Discussion Questions
As we discussed further into the situation, we came to the agreement that Robotic
Chromosomes Inc. needed further help towards a goal that was not met. The goal that
was not met was providing consumers with a quality product that could be used
effectively. Throughout the time that Sam was a part of group three, development was
apparent. In the beginning, everyone and everything revolved around Andy and his
decisions. He was the founder and owner of the company and it was up to him to make
forward movement in the company. At least, this is how things seemed. At times people
disagreed with Andy yet he still stood in charge. We believe that at R.C they were a
decentralized company in which everyone wheeled around Andy. Meaning that if there
was a problem, all information was given directly to the president and he then was
expected to make sure it was controlled. No one took any initiative to take it upon
themselves to control the situation. When Andy brought in Sam, the group changed its
wheel shape and formed a Y-Pattern, where Andy and Sam fought for control over the
department. If someone didn’t like Sam's decision they went to Andy and vice versa.
People like Mike who didn’t like Andy’s decision and refused to help Sam in any way
followed the stem of the Y and all information would have to be indirectly brought up or
given to someone by a middle man. Everybody wanted change but not everybody
wanted to make the changes needed to try a new procedure. This meant that even
though Andy hired Sam it didn’t mean that people were going to develop into a model
image company that Sam wanted it to be over night. Sam was only a basis to try and
give new ideas about how to make an old system better. The process was dull and such
as a knife cutting into a thick piece of meat, was making more of a mess than actually
cutting. Instead of Sam making clean cuts he was really just messing the entire system
up. People that Andy hired were all people he knew in some fashion or another. He
knew Mike socially from game night and Bob, whom he met through college. All were
hired on the basis that they had good social relations. Andy hired each employee for as
little pay as possible, but offered stock options as a way to make up for the lesser pay.
The manifested values and beliefs at R.C are to accomplish as much work at the
cheapest pay possible, and just getting the program to run and out to the public.
People like Tom, who just didn’t want change, resisted the fact that the company
needed an overhaul to help manage a bug free system and to produce quality
products. All short and long term goals were lost and team succession was few and far
between. Employees were not taking the initiative to help out the next link in the chain of
command. The idea was to get the work done, hand it off to the next person in line let it
become their problem to deal with. As in the example; all the program files that the
engineers created go to Chris in the Documentation Department. Here she edits,
formats, and updates all the new features that need to be released to the customer on a
strict deadline. Almost every time she had little documentation, but barely any time to
process the information correctly and still get it out on time. This situation is also
apparent in their communication skills. None of the engineers talked to Tech Support to
see if the bugs in the system were corrected or not. Due to this, many issues went by
the wayside because no one felt like dealing with it. If there was a problem and
someone did speak up, it usually went to either Sam or Andy. Instead of talking to the
person who it affected directly and taking care of it before it went any further, it was
talked about behind that person's back. Nothing ever gets solved long term; only long
enough to get a defected product out to the market, hoping it does not have too many
bugs and the client buys it. This is where the issues of avoidant behaviors come
in. People who avoid obvious problems in a situation, avoid them because they do not
want to be held responsible for making the changes, nor do they want to admit a
setback in the new technology. By not taking responsibility for the bugs, the people who
knew about them and did not say anything are assuming responsibility for being
negligent of a product. This is worse than taking responsibility from the get go. We feel
that in order for the company to run smoothly, employees should not avoid problems as
they come up.
Nothing really seemed to be working smoothly at R.C. with the new policies in place.
People that were a part of the Engineering Department were the least likely to conform
to the new rules. Tom and Paul, who were part of the older aged workforce, still firmly
believed in that process. They were not willing to change to a new process that may be
better for the company. The newer members of the engineering team were willing to
make a change in their routine and were more willing to listen to Sam’s suggestions.
After Sam left the company, it did not take long before people at R.C went back to their
former ways of doing business. Bugs in the system were not solved and mainly left
alone do to time constraints and lack of caring. Paperwork was still a disaster when
given to Chris, and the biggest problem was that people were just plain unhappy in their
working environment. We think that to the people it seemed as if there was no direction
and Andy was not concerning himself and being more involved in what each member
was working on.
Since we are not in Sam’s shoes, we only know from what was provided for us in
the outline about what actually went on at R.C. Group three agreed on the fact that
there would be some things that needed to be done differently. What comes to mind first
is how Sam approached new members of the company. He found very interesting and
necessary finds to make changes to R.C. However, not once did Sam sit with Andy and
build a work relationship with him or anyone else. It seemed that Sam did his findings
and told people to do what he said. Instead of going along with the same thought, we
have made a customized plan of action for each member at R.C. In the area of long
term goals, this would be more successful because people would feel that they were
special in some way and someone cared enough to take the time to teach them. A
statement from Bob, the statistician said “If he’d just given me some indication that he
valued me as a person, I would have stayed.”
Another situation we would have handled differently throughout the entire case
study at R.C would be to have conformed as to how R.C did business and not how Sam
wanted it to be done. Sam would have had more people following him than fighting him
if he had attempted to not drastically change the system. Andy and his team were a
group of very intelligent people, who had a process of doing office work very differently.
Sam came in trying to create a standard system and smooth transitions between
departments. Such things as setting goals for the team and for personal improvement,
time based projects handed in on time, taking the time to ask for help on projects,
scheduled meeting to be on topic and no rehashing previous problems, and finally being
able to confront each other if a problem arose and handling it in a professional manner.
To Andy (CEO) of Robotic Chromosomes Inc.:
Group three has reviewed and studied case study two. We were presented with detailed facts and
findings from Sam, who spent a period of time developing a new process for R.C. Sam implemented such
suggestions as background research on company personal, locating and tracking forgotten algorithms, and
finding over two dozen probable bugs in the Chromo River system. Under Sam’s direction most things were
not accomplished from what he wanted to have changed. Both parties were unsuccessful at managing positive
improvement. Most importantly, the people at Robotic Chromosomes needs were not met.
Therefore group three will be providing Robotic Chromosomes Inc. with Recommendations to help
further the development and success of producing several different software automation tools used in various
Please consider the following suggestions:
Maintain real expectations
Resolve all issues directly and professionally.
Respect others decision
Do not be afraid to ask for help
Make Quality Products for your consumer, they are what keep you in business
Be open to new ideas, and no idea should get left unnoticed
Take the initiative to communicate in and outside your department.
People should not be limited to their job title but to be dispensable when another departments
need the extra help with work
(NOTE: These recommendations are to be used as guidelines only, and are intended solely for the use of Robotic Chromo Rivers
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