Pacific Mines: Brian Boydell's Letter

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This case demonstrates the requirement for complete alignment of values and philosophy with respect to the work system, rewards, human resource flow, and employee influence in order for strategic human resources management to work and be effective. Furthermore, SHRM is a system that evolves, rather than being implemented, from underlying fundamental values that appeals to and fulfills the self-concepts of all employees and requires transformational leaders to tie individuals' self concepts to organizational mission. Pacific Mines Limited and in particular Brian Boydell failed to properly align organizational mission with implementation strategies, and this was exacerbated by the lack of leadership and performance measures. To best understand what went wrong at Pacific Mines, we must examine the organization, its system, its leaders, and situational factors more closely.

Situational Factors
The business strategy of the organization is not very well disclosed, but the competitive advantage of the firm is generated by efficiency and economies of scale in the highly automated process of ammonia and urea production. The fact that this process is completely automated brings to question how challenging and satisfying the job might be, and whether so many operators (8 to eventually 32) are required when the computer is functional. Management philosophy at the Carseland plant is stated as "team concept", which is emphasized by the Employee Relations Document. The document states that the mission of the plant is to provide an integrated approach to human management I order to achieve a safe, highly efficient work environment. However, whether this is actually the management philosophy is questionable. We learn that Pat Irving, the project manager strongly values the soft HRM strategy, while the new VP in Vancouver, Ron Holmes, is hard-nosed and engaged in adversarial relations with the union. This suggests a clash of corporate philosophies, where headquarters and upper management most likely practice a Zeus,or power culture, while the plant is attempting to practice an Athena, task centred culture. In addition, Brian Boydell's noted distrust of the "organization development people" makes it very questionable whether the uniterism is an aligned management philosophy. The document also states that the plant is striving for "creativity and initiative" from its employees, where "employees will be encouraged to develop their job-related skills", but given the high degree of automation of the process, it is difficult to see where these factors fit in for an operator. It is also worth noting that the eight hired operators were chosen form a rather small pool of available skilled labour that severely limits the ability to ensure alignment between new employees and the existing organizational mission and management philosophy.

Work System
The work system is presently organized to emphasize team work and is in line with a soft human resource management strategy. By virtually eliminating the hierarchical system employees envision equality and can work toward the same goals of the company. The management tree is essentially flat at Pacific Mines, which could work to positively influence the soft HRM strategy. In accordance with this approach, the plant possesses a decentralized system that increases the level of responsibility and decision making for all individuals. Thus, the competent functional operator teams are enabled to control their work and the level of employee influence is high. According to Handy's job model, such jobs would be classified as a "big doughnut" where the core, or defined tasks are small, while the undefined region is large in comparison and thus allows an employee great influence in defining their role. Operators are capable of and do perform several jobs, whether less or more sophisticated then their own. If such a system is to work then, as Pacific Mines understands, extensive training is of the highest...
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