Case 4: Stuff This Stupid Job

The Story

Janice Meighen was the Project Management Coordinator hired 6 months ago to install automated project management systems in Building Resources Ltd. (BRL), a small, highly specialized architectural firm. In the beginning, Janice had suffered from three problems in the organization:

  1. Only two of the 20 architects in this company had any project management and computer experience. The others considered such systems as unnecessary to their chosen field.
  2. Janice was one of only four women in the company with professional status. All of the support staff in the company were female, however, and the professionals had a tendency to look down on the female professional staff in the same way that they did to the female support staff. Janice also played a facilitation role for the support staff who looked up to her for advice and, from time to time, protection against obvious examples of male chauvinism.
  3. Janice was not an architect by trade. She was an electronics engineer who had taken an interest in computer science while in university. She did not fit in to the clubby atmosphere of the architects’ office. Unfortunately, the “Architects’ Club” didn’t seem to produce anything more positive than Friday afternoon beer and unsavoury joke sessions.

The last straw came last Thursday when six of the architects banded together to go visit the President of the company at his home to complain about what they called “Janice’s disruptions of their work”. Yet, Janice was able to prove a 34% increase in the bottom line due to the excellence of the system that she had introduced. Her feelings were that, by and large, her energies were being sapped by on-going resistance by a few to her efforts to help the company. And if she wasn’t smooth all the time, well, that was her personality at play.

By Friday afternoon she had worked herself up to a frenzy and hastily banged out her resignation. By 4:15 that afternoon she had placed her resignation on the president’s desk and left for the afternoon.

The Intervention

Introducing a new element into an organization, for example a new person, requires careful thought and planning, something that the President of BRL had obviously overlooked. What needs to happen now is:

  • Preparing a transition and communications plan to frame the company’s expectations for change;
  • Holding information sessions on the Janice’s role in the company for all those affected by the changes she is bringing about;
  • Mentoring of Janice to ensure that her assertive personality doesn’t deter from the changes she is trying to bring about;
  • Careful attention to the old boy’s club culture with a view to bringing about much needed change in the area of respect for diversity and emotional intelligence;
  • Monitoring of the environment to ensure that meaningful change is taking place.
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