Pre-questions for the final exam, Psychology 360

1. In Working for the Japanese, Fucini and Fucini describe how the organization of work at Mazda's Flatrock, MI plant differed from traditional automobile production. Notably, workers organized into teams were given unprecedented autonomy to orchestrate tasks and schedules. This level of freedom contrasted starkly with Hamper's description of the nasty and brutish conditions at Flint Truck and Bus. In comparison with GM, life at the Flatrock plant should have been a worker's paradise. That is, conditions were ideal to promote progress toward mutual goals by management and workers. Yet, shortly after beginning operations, the Flatrock workforce was in turmoil, culminating in a renegade union election. As the Mazda workers themselves wondered: How did something so right end up turning out so wrong? In thinking about the Flatrock plant's problems, consider the following factors and offer a psychological description of how each factor undermined the cooperative orientation of the Flatrock workers: a) deliberate understaffing of the plant workforce; b) emphasis in training on team problem solving; c) preference for hiring non-auto workers; and d) cultural differences between the American and the Japanese employees. [Hint: Think about characteristics of the Flatrock context that made factors a, b, c & d antecedents to difficulty.]

2. The April 21 issue of Time magazine reports on the explosion in email traffic within American corporations. The article points to three critical problems associated with increased email use. First, managers are overwhelmed by too many email messages. For example, the chairman of a software company found that his managers were receiving 200 to 300 messages each day. Second, email leads too easily to misconstrual of critical or complex messages. For instance, the president of a marketing firm noted that "...e-mail leaves a lot of blank spaces in what we say, which the recipient tends to fill with the most negative interpretation." Finally, email makes it too easy to defer responsibility. That is, workers who would shy from seeking a face-to-face meeting with the boss don't hesitate to type out a "What do you think?" message on the most trivial of matters. Consider these issues and then: a) use the theory of bounded rationality to explain why a high volume of email messages would complicate decision-making for managers; b) use the theory of media richness to describe why email leads too easily to misconstrual of critical or complex messages; and c) use theories about bureaucratic structure and the "chain of command" to explain why using email to defer responsibility would reduce the efficiency of organizational information processing. [Hint: Consider the assumptions and predictions of each theory.]

3. In their classic formulation, Raven and French describe five types of individual power: reward, coercive, referent, legitimate, and expert. In psychological terms, explain the basis of each type of power and the reason each type of power leads to influence over others. Next, describe an example of reward power and an example of referent power that Ross Johnson used in the RJR Nabisco takeover battle, as illustrated in the film "Barbarians at the Gate." Next, describe the political strategies of scapegoating and of secrecy. Give an example of how Johnson used scapegoating and an example of how he used secrecy. Finally, describe how Johnson's use of scapegoating and secrecy ultimately undermined the extent of his referent power. [Hint: Consider Johnson's reputation with the RJR Nabisco board before and after the board discovered the magnitude of his personal profit in the event of a successful takeover.]

4. The importance of leadership was recently observed when 39 members of the "Heaven's Gate" cult committed mass suicide based on the beliefs of their leader, Marshall Applewhite ("Do"). Clearly, Applewhite had tremendous influence over his followers. Some theorists would say that Applewhite was a "born" leader while others would say he was a "made" leader. Describe one theory based on the assumption that leaders are born, and one theory based on the assumption that leaders are made. Then, apply each theory to explain how an individual such as Applewhite could have so flagrantly altered his follower's beliefs and directed their actions. Finally, consider Applewhite as a transformational leader. Describe the behaviors and processes you would expect to observe if Applewhite's ability to transform followers' focus from self-interest to collective interest was a result of idealized influence. [Hint: Consider the characteristics that your selected "born" and "made" theories propose to account for potent leadership.]

5. In terms of structural characteristics, Mazda's Flatrock plant (as described by Fucini and Fucini) differs dramatically from GM's Flint Truck and Bus plant (as described by Hamper). Describe the differences between the two plants in terms of the following dimensions: environmental conditions (stability); the extent of specialization; the extent of formalization; and the degree of centralization of authority. Next, define the features of mechanistic VS organic organizations, and locate each plant on the continuum between mechanistic and organic structures. Finally, compare the characteristics of jobs at the more mechanistic plant with jobs at the more organic plant and, based purely on job characteristics, predict which plant should have workers with higher job satisfaction. [Hint: In thinking about job satisfaction, consider the influence of a more mechanistic structure VS a more organic structure on core job dimensions and associated critical psychological states.]

6. You are a consultant to a management team considering a crucial decision about the launch of a new product. If the product succeeds, the firm will gain a dominant market share. If the product fails, the company will probably go bankrupt. The company's chief competitor is moving quickly to bring a rival product to market, so the management team is under intense deadline pressure. Further, the CEO and founder of the corporation is an outspoken woman with a low tolerance for dissent. Finally, in the past when the company faced risky decisions with high stakes, the management team always made the winning choice. In your report to the management team, define groupthink and assess the team's vulnerability to groupthink surrounding the product launch decision. Next, describe three symptoms of groupthink that the management team can watch for to determine whether groupthink is occurring. Finally, describe three strategies that you would recommend the group use to combat groupthink. [Hint: Remember the groupthink video we watched in class.]