CASE 8-2: Technology-driven Job Redesign Mei Shen and Jack Compton are employed at the Waterside Company, a small life insurance firm. Both Mei and Jack have been with the business for more than 10 years but are now quite upset by recent events. The office manager announced yesterday that all employees must attend several all-day training sessions on two coming changes. A new computer system is replacing the old one, and jobs are being restructured to improve processes that will lead to greater efficiency and productivity. Unlike past practice, the new plan will have each person in the office doing all of the tasks now done separately. The training will prepare them to do everyone else’s work, but all work will be done on the computer. To even the workload, all 10 standard insurance policies will be loaded in each computer, and employees and salespersons will be assigned specific customers on an alphabetic basis. When a salesperson calls with questions, the designated office worker can find the answers immediately. With the old system, answers might take as long as two weeks to get to customers. The new computerized system has been installed but will not be used until the employees are all trained. They have just returned from the first day’s training session. The following conversation takes place: Jack: I don’t know about you, Mei, but this change is just like coming to an entirely new job. I don’t know how all of this is going to work out. Mei: We should have at least been told about this in advance, rather than have it come as a complete surprise. We could easily get a job at another insurance company. Maybe we should quit. The company isn’t willing to give us more money to learn all the new procedures, new software, and new computers. With our experience, we shouldn’t have any trouble finding a new job. Jack: Hold on, Mei. We shouldn’t be too hasty. We make good money here, but I agree that they should have told us about this so we could have been doing some reading and getting ourselves ready for the change. If the system works well, our jobs will be more secure. Most other insurance companies already operate the new way. Mei: From what we learned today, we could certainly make the company sorry that they didn’t get our opinions before deciding to change computers and our jobs.

THINK CRITICALLY 1. Describe what mistake the Waterside Company management made in replacing the computer system. 2. In what ways could Mei make the company regret not involving the employees in the decision? Explain. 3. If the new computer system is to be successful, will it be because of restructuring the work, installing a new computer system, or both? Explain your answer. 4. If the new changes are successful, how will the salespeople and customers benefit?


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