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Improving Decision Making and Customer Service


Decision making and customer service are interrelated issues based on organization’s strategic plans and management systems. The case of the King County Library System vividly portrays that decision-making determines overall success of the organization and its development. Also, leadership style of Bill Ptacek enables him to be accepted by others. Decision-making mechanisms adopted by the Library are based on the assumption that jobs and the organizational situation are relatively constant and stable, allowing for formalization of practices such as job definitions, job evaluations, written strategic goals and standards, and other relatively permanent mechanisms of customer service. Information decision-making and institutional barriers, central selection policy and poor culture are the main threats for further development and change.

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Discussion of Problems and Opportunities

For the Library, the characteristics of high technology settings dilute the effectiveness of these static mechanisms that violate the systemic nature of the work. Change process coupled with the need to innovate and high interdependence mean that specifications and goals are quickly eroded. The job evaluation systems as the basis for compensation job practices can work against the need for employees to continually update their skills, perform new tasks, and be flexible in their contributions. In rapidly changing social and economic conditions, job definitions and goals have to be frequently updated (Fulton and Maddock 1998). The Library is spending thousands of hours updating job descriptions that the managers said would be obsolete within two years. Employees in all divisions reported spending time on tasks that were of lower priorities than emerging workflow needs because they were locked into objectives. More insidiously, employees often reported working on low-priority issues because their managers’ yearly objectives and bonuses are at stake (Armstrong, 2003).

In the Library, the success of decision-making is based on effective appraisal system and compensation. Decision-making is a natural and necessary part of organizational life, and forms the cornerstone to many basic human resources management practices. In spite of its central role in the HR drama, the reviews of decision-making practices have been mixed, at best. In particular, problems in rater accuracy and consistency, negative impacts on employee commitment and motivation, poor administrative choices for system design and operation, and faulty rating scales all work to compromise the potential value that appraisals can provide (Fulton and Maddock 1998). The common assumption about decision-making and appraisal systems is that the system should help a supervisor manage employee performance more effectively. The ways by which this is accomplished include specifying desired customer service, monitoring customer service, coaching and customer service feedback, and linking rewards to performance. Though, this goal may not always be achieved in practice. For this research project, you are to interview a manager or supervisor who participates in employee evaluations appraisal in order to learn of his or her experiences in using decision-making (Mayo 1998).

Before further improvements and changes, the leader of the King County Library and his management team should set goals and strategies for employees in order to overcome conflict situations and agree a plan of actions. To be an effective manager, Bill Ptacek must have an idea of where one wants to go and where one wants to be. To do this, an effective manager must anticipate the future in order that his organization may play a role in that future, rather than being totally subject to it. When envisioning the future, one should attempt to see what new opportunities will be there that will allow their organization to prosper and to grow (Armstrong, 2003).

Proposed Plan

The proposed plan for the King County Library System is based on leadership strategies and management tools which help Bill Ptacek to motivate, inspire and direct employees during training sessions. During the first stage of training, it is important to inspire and motivate trainees. Several decades ago, it was a common belief that team formation was the root of many problems, therefore it was an accepted practice to do whatever was necessary to break up these teams. Today leaders realize that team formation is a very natural phenomenon, and that effective leadership techniques dictate that we actually encourage subordinates to work in teams. Effective motivation is the core of strategy formation and effective training. The main tactics used at this stage are friendly working environment, helping employees to set goals, open door policy (Mayo 1998).

The customer services will manifest themselves in very cohesive groups affording greater productivity. Bill Ptacek should be referred to as the manager that holds the productive work team together. The tighter the staff is held together, the more productive the team should be. To improve the cohesiveness of the staff there are many things the effective leader should do. Just like team structure, team conflict, earlier on, was also believed to be of no advantage whatsoever to an organization and was to be prevented at any cost. Though, researchers now realize that team conflict is also inevitable and on some occasions can actually be beneficial to the greater well-being of the organization. While it is still a good course of action to prevent misunderstanding, when it does arise the effective leader needs to understand the nature and the causes of the conflict and then choose an appropriate action to deal with it (Armstrong, 2003).

Effective motivation will help the Library and its leader to improve productivity and ensure effective training. Another factor of transmitting messages between divisions, which is as equally important to effective communication as is the selection of the medium, is the direction of the medium. An effective communicator will focus on the desired outcomes of the message and then envision possible consequences to the direction of the message. For example, to accomplish a particular goal, a trainee might be well-advised to communicate the message upwardly into the organization in order to enlist the support of management. In other situations it may be more prudent to communicate the message downward to one’s employees in order to obtain the feasibility of accomplishing a particular task before approaching top managements being unprepared for their questions. After the medium and direction of the message have been selected, the sender then transmits the message. Upon receipt of the transmission, the receiver will then begin the image reproduction process. The effective interpersonal communicator will not allow the communication process to terminate here. He or she will elicit feedback in order to ascertain to what extent the original image transmitted is the image that the receiver reproduced. This processing and reprocessing of feedback is an activity that requires some very well tuned behavior, sensitive skills, and a little more processing time than some managers are willing to give (More e al. 2008).

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The research in this area does point the way to how appraisals can be improved. Such practices as work analysis, aligning purpose with process, and more frequent feedback are all essential steps forward. In particular, rater guidance is yet another piece of the improvement puzzle. Training raters how to view and evaluate behaviors reliably can be done by presenting vignettes of decision-making for common evaluation and discussion in a training setting. A promising step in this same direction is self-assessment education. Here, workers learn how to rate themselves more accurately and adjust their expectations accordingly. Decision-making are not a perfect process that produce only positive outcomes. Because appraisals are so critical to many of the other HR functions, judgment and instituting ways to make the process work as effectively as possible is a major concern of the human resources management function (More e al. 2008).

From the perspective of customer service, the emphasis is on recognizing and responding to the changing interests and needs of employees as they grow and mature within the organization. Decision-making, on the other hand, takes the organization’s point of view in putting together job ladders, career paths, rotation programs, and planned learning activities to improve the supply of talent among current employees. As such, career management can play a vital role in supporting the business and human resources planning process (Schuler 1998). Workers will learn on the job. Without a well-planned and managed training function, however, the education that takes place can easily be incorrect, incompetent, and, in the long run, demoralizing and counterproductive. For that reason, worker training and development is an essential tool for effective human resources management. Certainly, the view is increasingly voiced that strong guidance (or human resources development) can provide an essential basis for achieving and sustaining decision-making in the organization. To be done effectively, the training should be well planned. This means applying the appropriate instructional methodologies to identified education needs. Further, the transfer of skills learned during training back onto the work should not be assumed but rather managed and encouraged. The training program should be evaluated and actions taken accordingly. Decision-making and self-directed learning can also be promoted (Armstrong, 2003).

At the stage of customer service improvements, the main leadership methods applied to the training program will be result-based leadership method and the transformational leadership method. The method will help the Library to concentrate on results and outcomes of the training program and analyze its efficiency. The focal point of the model is the role clarification and creative talents of the leader. The effective leader utilizes these talents to envision many different scenarios that may exist in an environment that contains both opportunities and threats for the organization. Next, it is important for the leader to see what the organization is, and based upon his or her perceptions of the future environment, what the organization is to be. With these images focused in mind, the leader then looks to his or her subordinates and reflects upon their needs, expertise, abilities, and expectations. Then the leader mentally examines the complexity and desirability of the goals to be accomplished in order to move the Library forward, ever mindful of time constraints existing in the situation. Lastly, the leader will look deep within his- or herself, perceiving his strengths and weaknesses and finally selects a leadership style that would be appropriate, given all of the above key variables (Schuler 1998).

The Library’s management underlines that without a properly managed customer service in place, there are several undesirable outcomes that may occur. First, the instruction that is done may be uneven in quality and effectiveness. This means that the wrong skills may be taught and/or that employees are inadequately prepared for all their job duties. Second, without adequate training, employees are more easily flustered and stressed in trying to do their work. This can lead to increased errors and customer ill will. Consider the case of a bank teller who is uncertain what to do while the customer being served is watching her every move. Uncertainty leads to delays and mistakes, irking the customer and generating frustration all around. Such stressful working conditions can de=motivate the employee and even create pressures on the employee to quit. Third, mistakes made in doing a task mean that the work must be corrected. Corrections take time and cost money. Decision-making and development is a specialized application within the context of employee training. In the Library, decision-making deals with systematic employee learning. The framework for decision-making and development, though, is broader: The span of a worker’s career within the organization is marked by the person’s progression and movement through different jobs (Storey, 1989).

Decision making has a great impact on organizational development and successful customer service. The five steps in decision-making process are statement of the problem, alternatives identification, evaluation of alternatives, decision stage and implementation of decision. Other leadership tasks include the use of consensus for decision making in organization. Consensus requires unity but not unanimity or concurrence. Consensus may or may not represent the majority. In the final analysis, employees agree to support the team decision even though members may still disagree with some aspects of it. Many times, consensus represents compromise. Employees must guard against compromising too soon, and thereby failing to consider all the alternatives (Storey, 1989). The result may be groupthink, a form of peer pressure that causes individuals to withhold comments about a decision that they know is wrong. Other tasks include ensuring that the team is staying on the topics at hand and not wasting time. A danger is that it may become a social forum. This is because people generally try to get along in teams. They can drift off track, and it is the leadership’s task is to keep them focused on the task. Decision-making requires a careful analysis of the situation and evaluation of all alternatives. In many situation, interdependence calls for teams of knowledgeable people to share knowledge for more effective problem solving and decision making. It is past time to break with tradition and to start using teams more effectively (Price, 2004). Good managers will take advantage of this powerful mode of interaction when and where appropriate. An effective decision-making process develops a kindred spirit by focusing the strengths of each member on a clear and challenging goal. Then, just as in decision-making models, various planning models are used to depict the need for listing alternatives or options to be considered in achieving specified goals. A segment that deals with ordering or organizing the steps to be completed is not included in all models. In some models, the assumption has been made that the steps will be sequenced in a way that enables the persons using the plan to achieve the desired outcomes. In one form or another, implementation is contained in most models (Armstrong, 2003).

The structure of the Library depends upon and is influenced by strategic and size. Large organizations, like the Ling County Library System, require greater control over their operations and have centralized and bureaucratic structure based on span of control. Smaller companies have decentralized structure based on information relations and communication inside the company. In stable environments where change and interaction are at a minimum, functional organization can be more effective. However, there are specific situations when employees outperform the functional units of the traditional hierarchically structured organization. First, employees are effective as coordinating and integrating mechanisms, especially for complex tasks requiring specialized knowledge. Therefore, teams are used more effectively in a knowledge/service-based organization. The capacity to coordinate in an organization environment is especially useful within a structured organizational environment where information tends to get held up in organizational channels. Technology allows decentralization and effective implementation of matrix structure. Now more than ever, managers are turning to employees to accommodate new technologies and achieve creative, significant customer service within their organization. The centerfold for creating, developing, and managing an innovative team is a clearly defined goal. The true measure of a team’s effectiveness is how successful it is in accomplishing the goal or purpose (Hartley, 2005). Customer service is the primary objective, while a team remains the means, not the end. It is the degree of the team’s commitment to the goal that makes the team function as a unit and, in large measure, will determine its success. At this point, integration takes place. Through these discussions, managers attempt to attain alignment between their goals, the individual’s goals, and the organization’s goals. This step integrates the strategic planning process with individual goal setting. Though, given that the individual has been allowed to set his or her own goals, even if there is agreement to support the manager’s and organizational goals, that still does not guarantee a deeply felt personal commitment (Robbins, 2002).

In the Library productivity and changes will begin to suffer as the individual becomes lackadaisical about his or her duties. The individual then becomes habitually tardy and incurs a much higher than normal level of absenteeism. Eventually the stress can push a person into a situation of alcohol or drug abuse. Clearly the effective leader must do everything possible in his or her power to eliminate the sources of stress that prevail in the work environment. All of the efforts mentioned above that encourage team cohesiveness and minimize team conflict will have a positive effect in reducing stress. In addition, seeing that people are properly trained and that they understand their job responsibilities is also a very important stress reduction technique. Probably the most effective means of encouraging a healthful work environment is to maintain an open communication channel that people are invited to utilize knowing that they can find a sensitive ear to their problems (Robbins, 2002).

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The proposed plan for the Library will need effective leadership and management policies to ensure its success and positive outcomes. If too much stress is placed on getting the work done, human motivation will suffer. The main strategies applied to the plan will be motivation and inspiring employees, cooperation and support initiatives. If all of the emphasis is placed on employees’ satisfaction, then productivity will suffer. Further, a leader can share this expertise with other managers and employees, so that the total organization expands and articulates its images of the future in preparation for that future. The effective leader will reduce the occurrence of these types of unpleasant situations by using strategies and leadership tools to open up the communication channels and airing these differences. Organizations, like the Library, that actively scan their environments, anticipate emergent problems and take advantage of opportunities that may arise over time.


Armstrong, M. (2003), Human Resource Management. Kogan Page.

Fulton, R. L., Maddock, R. C. (1998), Motivation, Emotions, and Leadership: The Silent Side of Management. Quorum Books.

Improving decision-Making and Patron service in the King County Library System. The Electronic Hallway.

Hartley, R.F. (2005). Marketing Mistakes and Successes (Marketing Mistakes). Wiley; 10 edition.

Mayo A. (1998), Creating a Training and Development Strategy. London: Institute of Personnel and Development.

More, H. M. et al. (2008). Organizational Behavior and Management in Law Enforcement (2nd Edition). Prentice Hall.

Price, A. (2004). Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 2nd edition. Thomson Learning.

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Robbins, S. (2002). Organizational Behavior. Pearson Higher.

Schuler, R. (1998). Managing Human Resources. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Publishing.

Storey, J. (1989). New perspectives on Human Management, Routledge, London.

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