This is a unit solution of LSBM Managing Communications and Information Assignment given in HND Business level 4 course. Here LSBM stands for London School of Business & Management.
Apple has always been regarded as one of the best organizations to work for. Both in terms of employee and customer service Apple has always been in good books. It was last in 1990’s that Apple faced a major dispute. However later on after a major change in its marketing strategy Apple was able to turn around its fortunes due to a major restructuring of its marketing strategy. During that time the manufacturing strategy and plant layout design was considered not a contributor towards the long term sustainability of the Apple brand. The market was new and competition as less. It was only in the late 2000’s that Apple realized the need for manufacturing restructuring. With increasing competition from Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Apple realized that to be in the market the organization needed a major overhaul.
AC1.1 Discuss the range of decisions to be taken by your chosen business.
Apple Inc. has been in the news lately because of the recent labour controversy that’s surrounding the company. This controversy has put a major dent on the image and brand of Apple. Another major issue that apple is facing is with respect to its suppliers. The suppliers are not able to meet the deadlines of the raw materials as sent to Apple due to ongoing controversy. It is also posing a problem with the inventory processes of Apple. Apple was always known for its best in class business processes and product quality (Stevenson, 2007). Apple employed some of the most skilful labour in the entire US region. This recent controversy has compelled Apple to modify and change its marketing strategy in order to improve and rectify its brand image in the market. Apple Inc. while focusing on changing its marketing strategy should also focus on changing its manufacturing strategy. For a company like Apple Inc. that manufactures electronic devices, it is imperative that its manufacturing strategy is in sync with its marketing strategy (Medsker, 1997). In order to alter its manufacturing and distribution strategy, Apple should start by targeting to alter its manufacturing processes. By improving its processes and layout firms in the past have shown considerable improvements in the productivity and efficiency of its operations. We will begin analysing the different types of manufacturing facility layouts that can be adopted at Apple Inc. (Dean, 1991).
AC 1.2 Examine the information and knowledge needed to ensure effective decision taking.
To make decision making effective information is needed both on qualitative and quantitative front as it would govern the bottom line of the company. Plant layout basically means, to arrange the equipment and machines in the manufacturing facility, to ensure a smooth flow of the material, information etc. on the shop floor. There are four basic types of facility layouts that help in planning material movement throughout the shop floor (Stevenson, 2007).
- Process layout - It is a design of the floor plan of a plant which aims to improve efficiency and movement of resources by arranging machinery and equipment’s according to the need and requirements.
- Fixed position layout –In this type of a layout, the resources and materials travel to the end product or customer instead of it being the other way round (Mills, 1995).
- Cellular Layout–In this type of layout the resources are divided into small clusters so as to reduce the complexity of process type layouts.
- Product Type Layout–In this kind of a layout the main focus is the flow of product and material on the shop floor. The layout of the machines and equipment is in the sequence of the operations that need to be performed on the raw material to turn it into a finished good.
Improving the layout and not changing the job design and job responsibilities of the workforce will not help as they need to be perfectly in sync for the manufacturing strategy to work (Stevenson, 2007).
Job Design is one of the major factors that influence the performance of a worker or an individual while performing the operation or a function, at a particular machine. It is basically work arrangement in such a way that it reduces worker dissatisfaction that may arise due to the job or the operation. These work arrangement techniques are basically non-monetary in nature.
AC1.3 Assess internal & external sources of information & understanding.
After studying the various journals and reports and interacting with consultants the following information is aggregated. Job Design approaches in Apple
- Task – Work at hand and which needs to be completed
- Job Enlargement – Increasing tasks in a particular job function to give more responsibility to the worker. It makes them feel important and empowered.
- Job Rotation – Instead of combining different tasks this makes workers change job functions so that they become adept in dealing with all the tasks on the shop floor. It also enhances their skill set.
- Job Enrichment – It basically tries to provide the workers with more opportunities to try and learn what it takes to be a higher level in hierarchy thereby motivating them to acquire these skills before they are actually promoted (Flynn, 1987).
The major advantages of Job design are that: -
- Increasing worker satisfaction
- Increasing productivity
- On time delivery of Goods
- Cordial atmosphere at work place
- High quality performance with less defects
After interacting with the workers and officials at Apple the following thoughts can be shared. Apple already uses a product type layout. Thus if the layout can be changed to process type it will help in increasing the efficiency of its processes. Apple is already the market leader and in order to maintain a long term sustainable competitive advantage it should try building on to customer relationships which can be brought about the customizing the products according to client’s needs.
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AC 1.4 Justify recommendations for improvement to different departments.
There is no individual approach in particular that should be followed in a company like Apple. In fact it should be an integration of all these approaches that will bring synergy into the processes and enable Apple to successfully adopt a new manufacturing strategy without affecting its long term profitability and market share. Apple needs to modify the layout of the shop floor for all its facilities in order to incorporate the customizations that the consumer is demanding. As discussed a process type layout needs to be adopted by Apple. This will enable it to reduce the process dependence. Apart from changing the facility layout it will also need to change the way it has been designing jobs for its workers (Dean, 1991).
AC 4.1 Report on existing approaches to the collection, formatting, storage and dissemination of information and knowledge.
The different approaches relating to the collection, formatting and storage of information are mainly by use of media such as mails, surveys, database etc. For collection of information regarding Apple Inc.’s process and job design focused group discussions were carried out. Also face to face interviews were conducted with the teams at Apple. These were all the sources of primary data and information. Once the primary data was collected, journals and reports were studied. The best practices followed regarding facility layout and job design were analysed and accordingly an implementation strategy was devised for Apple Inc. The information was loaded on to the central database and tools were used to analyse the same to arrive on results. One the output data was obtained the same was passed on the respective departments with the set of recommendations to implement the same in a phased manner. Apple was trying to counter the existing threat from Samsung and other smartphones and laptop majors. To counter Apple was trying to venture into the portable tabs market. The consumer surveys regarding usage of Galaxy Tabs were carried out to evaluate the user experience related to the same.
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AC 4.2 Carry out appropriate changes to improve the collection, formatting, storage and dissemination of information and knowledge.
Few changes based on the strategy followed with respect to data collection and information dissemination would be:
- Primary Data collection regarding the smartphone and Tab usage should be evaluated first.
- Hypothesis needs to be set before the analysis of primary data is taking place.
- Secondary Analysis needs to be carried out regarding the entry of other companies of the same domain in the new markets.
- The ‘Go’ or ‘No Go’ decision with respect to implementing the decision should be taken basis the primary and secondary data (Olson, 1975).
- Workforce availability and location of facilities needs to be evaluated before venturing into the new market.
- The political scenario and setup should be understood in case of any external business environment influences.
AC 4.3 Implement a strategy to improve access to systems of information and knowledge.
To succeed in new geographies and in new product line Apple needs to reduce its process dependence. Apple needs to follow a process type layout for its expansion plans in the Asian Market. Apart from changing the facility layout it will also need to change the way it has been designing jobs for its workers. Once Apple Inc. becomes aware of the political landscape of the Asian Market and the user needs they can plan by launching the new product line by setting up demo workshops in malls and complexes. Users need to be explained in detail about the UI features and changes from the old line as well as the ways in which its features are better than the competitor product lines. Once the demo workshops get over the feedback can be taken from customers about the product and then after incorporating the changes if any, the product line can be launched. In a competitive scenario and a market like Asia where the products face a risk of being re-engineered patent laws should be applied for well in advance to safeguard against any IP infringements. Once these processes are completed and the manufacturing facility is in place Apple can start manufacturing the product lines and deliver it to the customers.
AC 2.1 Identify stakeholders for a decision-making process.
Stakeholders are the people who affect the business or are affected by the business. They are either a part of the business itself or have an influence on the business. The stakeholders may be classified as:
- Internal Stakeholders: The internal stakeholders of an organization are the people who are in the organization. This primarily includes the employees, stockholders, customers, suppliers, creditors and the management of the organization. The internal stakeholders play a significant role in the processes within the organization. This includes the functions like planning, coordination, implementation, evaluation and control. The internal stakeholders can influence the functioning of the business by playing a direct role of participation in the business. They are involved in economic transactions with the business. For e.g. is the supplies do not deliver the required products in time, the entire supply chain shall be disturbed which might lead to shortages and hence influence the overall productivity, profits and even the image of the organization (Olson, 1975).
- External Stakeholders: Government Agencies, Public Communities, Competitors and Media are the important external stakeholders of a business. The external stakeholders may not directly participate in the day to day functions of the business, but their views and cooperation towards the activities play a very important role in influencing the business functioning. The different stakeholders have varied interests in the business.
The proper identification of stakeholders and analysis of their interests is important as it widens the horizon of the though process and helps in better generation of ideas. It also increases the degree of involvement of the stakeholders and they possess a feeling of ownership in the business which leads to better participation and results. This also increases the credibility of the organization and also increases the chances of success for the efforts made by the business.
AC 2.2 Make contact with those identified and develop business relationships.
As mentioned above, stakeholders are an important element of business and maintaining a proper communication with them is also very essential. The communication plan while dealing with the stakeholders should include the following:
- All the key stakeholders and the information related to them should be noted.
- The requirements of the stakeholders should also be taken into consideration.
- The organization should prepare an effective and flexible schedule for communication with the stakeholders.
- Another important consideration while communicating with the stakeholders is to identify a suitable medium of communication. The stakeholders may not be directly a part of the process but they still deserve to know the proceedings of the same.
- The communication to stakeholders should contain relevant content like goals, mission, vision, objectives etc.
The different forms of communication techniques which may be used for developing business relations with the stakeholders are:
Direct mail: The information can be send to the internal stakeholders using the system of direct mails to everyone (Hage, 1971).
Discussion Forums: The organization may have discussion forums for both internal and external stakeholders to know their views about a certain decision making process.
Advertisements: Another method of communications can also be through advertisements via print or media.
Meetings and Conferences: Conducting meetings and conferences is another forum used by the organization for communication with its stakeholders.
Personal Interviews: Taking personal interviews of the stakeholders and getting first-hand information from them regarding their opinion or experience about the business is another method by which the stakeholders can be made a part of the decision making process in an organization.
Public Relations: Another method of disseminating information is with the help of developing public relation (Larsen, 2006).
The different methods of interacting with stakeholders help the stakeholders to know about the business strategy and hence help to develop better relations. It is necessary to make a report in the written form of whatever was discussed.
AC 2.3 Exhibit how you will involve the key stakeholders in decision making and design strategies for improvement.
The key stakeholders of the business like customers, competitors, suppliers, creditors etc. need to be an active part of the decision making process at an organization. There various methods which may help in involving the stakeholders in the process of decision making. These are online discussion forums which help to take the views of the different stakeholders on a common platform. Sometimes, the top level management also engages itself in personal interviews with some of the important stakeholders. To know the opinion of the stakeholders at large, individual or group mails are also sent to all the stakeholders to know about their point of view. Another method which is often adopted by organizations to take the feedback an opinion of some of the major stakeholders is by calling a meetings or a conferences.
The most important element in the relationship between an organization and the stakeholders is to have a level of mutual trust and confidence. The level of trust is important and relevant on both the sides. The organization should trust its stakeholders and give them access to the right information. In order to ensure that the decision making process is efficient; it is important that the organization shows a decent amount of trust in its stakeholders and offer them the right platform for discussion.
For e.g. if the top level management calls a meeting of its first line managers to discuss some of the issues related to the financial situation of the company, the management should show trust in its employees and share all the relevant information with them. This will help in getting an amicable solution of the problem (Larsen, 2006).
Similarly it is the prime responsibility of the stakeholders to maintain the confidentiality of the information shared by the organization with them. For e.g. A Company wants to launch a new brand and is confirming the quotations of the same from its suppliers. Now it is the responsibility of the suppliers to maintain the confidentiality of the information regarding the new product launch, especially from the competitors.
A healthy relationship between the organization and its stakeholders is required. But this is a two sided affair. The organization should show trust in the stakeholders and share the right information with them and the stakeholders in return respect the confidentiality.
There are no doubts about the fact that it is important to make the stakeholders an integral part of the decision making process. The stakeholders have a stake in the business and hence also in the decision making process (Hage, 1971).
However, this can sometimes lead to a lot of challenges for the organization:
- Firstly it makes the entire process of decision making very time consuming.
- The entire process becomes very complicated and since different groups of people have different thought processes, sometimes it gets difficult to satisfy all.
- It also leads to a question mark in the issue of trust and confidentiality.
- Over a long time, the stakeholders tend to become casual in their approach and take things for granted.
The various strategies which may be implemented to maintain healthy relationships with stakeholders are with the help of conducting annual meetings, recreational trips especially with the internal stakeholders. The use of social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook is being done to build up a network and maintain personal and business relationships with associates.
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AC 3.1 Report on existing processes of communication in a selected organization.
Communication in an organization is the flow of information regarding the different processes of the organization so as to ensure that work efficiency is achieved and the goals of the organization are met. There are various methods of communication which are used in an organization. They are:
- Letters and E-mail: The electronic mail system or letters are used to transfer information both to the internal as well as the external stakeholders.
- Telephone: Making a telephonic call to the concerned person is another way. It offers a two way communication.
- Face to face: the organization may interact face to face with the stakeholders and discuss the issues, if any.
- Fax: Written communication may also be exchanged with the help of fax machines.
- Meetings & Conferences: The organizations often conduct meetings for the flow of information to the both internal and external stakeholders.
- Internet: With the increased use of technology, the internet is widely being used as a medium of communication with both the internal and external stakeholders.
- Advertising: Another method of mass communication i.e. addressing an issue to a large segment of stakeholders at once is the method of advertising.
- Reports: The organizations also issue reports which provide useful information to the stakeholders regarding the functioning of business.
- Notices & Memos: Notices and Memos provide a written document of evidence for the information to both internal and external stakeholders.
- Team briefings: This method is generally used for internal stakeholders.
AC 3.2 Design ways to improve appropriateness of communication process.
No method of communication is complete in itself. There are various disadvantages associated with the methods mentioned above. These are:
- The letters and emails are a means of one sided communication. Though e-mail is an instant method of communication, letter is a time taking one. The major disadvantage is that only either side can express its view at a time. It takes time for the entire process to complete (Hage, 1971).
- Telephone is a more instantaneous method of communication where both the parties may share their views simultaneously and come to a conclusion. The disadvantage associated with this method is that neither the result nor the course of discussion is documented. If a person wants to refer to the result or the steps which led to the conclusion, no reference can be obtained. Also there can be a communication gap as the concerned people are not face to face.
- Advertising: Advertising is an effective method of addressing a larger audience, it is a time taking process and gauging the reaction of the stakeholders is also a difficult task later.
- Reports, Notices and Memos: Though these are written documents of information, it provides one sided information only.
AC 3.3 Implement improvements to ensure greater integration of systems of communication in that organization.
To ensure greater integration and successful passing of the information from one department to another, the organization needs to introduce a common LAN and Intranet facility where the communication stays within the organization. This way the company wide communication can be shared securely and freely with the employees as only company employees would be able to access company information. Secondly important communications shall be shared through face to face meetings rather than on e-mail to avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. Thirdly the employee grievances and complaints should be addressed through a common channel where they can be tracked and addressed considering the priority. Only informal communications can be shared through the e-mail but that should also be through the company intranet LAN.
AC 3.4 Create a personal plan to improve own communication skills.
The strengths and weaknesses of my own communication skills are as follows: -
- Regular Follow-up
- Written communication
- Verbal Communication Skills
- Group communication
- Communication in Meetings
The different approaches to improve upon the weaknesses would be to be a part of maximum possible meetings and group communications (Jung, 2007). One needs to be aware of the fact, that in group communication multiple people are present. Every individual understands, comprehends and replies in the way he seems desirable. The communication should thus be clear, crisp and concise. Before attending any meetings the agenda should be communicated well in advance. The objectives should be defined and flow of the meetings should be as per plan.
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The first part of the assignment talks about the various issues faced by Apple Inc. with respect to the ongoing controversies and their strategy to enter into the Asian market with their new product line in competition to galaxy tabs. Apple Inc. has decided to launch IPad Mini in the Asian market. They also plan to alter their manufacturing and marketing strategy by changing their facility layout to Process type and including new approaches to job design. The second part of the assignment talks about the various methods of communication used in the company and how to make the collection and dissemination of information effective. It also talks about by using appropriate methods of communication while conducting meetings and group gatherings as communication is the most important facet of any leading organization.