Green Mountain Resort
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(Dis)solves the Turnover ProblemPlease help with the following case study found in the textbook: Managing Organizational Change: AMultiple Perspectives Approach written by Ian Palmer, Richard Dunford, and Gib Akin (2006). Pleaseanswer questions in detail.Green Mountain Resort (Dis)solves the Turnover ProblemGreen Mountain Resort was not expected to be in business for very long, not that anyone was makingpredictions. It was a small resort with golf, tennis, and, most notably, some skiing-on machine madesnow for the most part-set in the Appalachians. It was a fair distance from major population centersand had none of the history of the famous southern spas of an older era, places like the Homestead.But it didn’t have to stand fully on its own: it was built as a draw for buyers of vacation homes at GreenMountain. The resort was the center of sales hospitality and an attractive amenity of home ownership.Being a property owner got you membership in the resort with ski passes, discount golf, and the like.Salespeople pointed to the resort as a symbol of their commitment to community: they were not justselling lots; they were offering a lifestyle.
Of course, the salespeople also knew that when the real estate sold out, the function of the resort as asales tool would disappear along with the sales staff, and, if this were like other similar developments,the resort would lose its luster and perhaps even go out of business. The resort wasn’t there forvacationers but for buyers. Soon, there would be no more buyers. And soon after that, the resort wouldhave to make it on its own, as only a resort. The top management of Green Mountain at this time came to the operation when the originaldevelopers failed. They were sent in by the investment bank that had financed the original operationto put the place in order and get it sold. But the bank’s workout team fell in love with the rural beautyand lifestyle and bought it themselves. Actually, it was a very complex plan that structured eventualownership for the homeowners, with part ownership by the remaining management company thatwould continue to run the operation.
The former bankers were committed to building an actualcommunity, one they wanted to stay in themselves, and to having the resort become a first-classoperation on its own. They were explicit about their goal: make sure that Green Mountain, thecommunity and the resort, didn’t go to seed when the land sold out.With the new structure, the resort manager was an owner. He decided to stay on, motivated by hisownership share as well as the opportunity to have his own show, no longer just an adjunct to sales.Gunter had been part of the original management and had expected to eventually leave for anotherresort job, enacting a pattern typical in the hospitality industry. But now he was an owner, not just andemployee and he had a vision of a first-class mountain resort. The architecture of the lodge, and of most of the vacation homes, was more up-country that ski-country. In contrast to this uniquely American look was Gunter, in his Tyrolian hat, his accent recallinghis native Austria. He didn’t wear lederhosen but would have looked natural in them.
His wife, Hilde,actually had blond braids, and when they were together, you could only imagine that they were off ona hike to an Alpine meadow. Their house was perfectly Teutonic, immaculate, and welcoming in a waythat made you think you shouldn’t touch anything. Gunter was nothing if not rational. That is why Gunter was worried about the turnover of staff. Green Mountain Resort was in a beautifulrural country, but that county was also the poorest in the state. That meant that it was hard to findgood employees locally, and those that were good, whether local or imported, didn’t stay long. Highturnover meant added training, plus the predominance of novice staff. And it was mainly the bestservice people who moved on, leaving behind the poorest performers. That, Gunter knew, underminedefforts to build a first-class operation. Turnover had to be reduced. There weren’t a lot of options. In such a small operation, the opportunities for promotion were few, and Gunter was faced with the irony that if he reduced turnover, there would be even fewer openings foradvancement.
Structural arrangements to keep people from leaving, such as term contracts, benefitsthat took time to vest, and the like, were seen as coercive and drove people away. Besides, suchmeasures seemed out of character for Gunter and for Green Mountain. The so-called hospitality industry, in its training and management development literature, sawturnover as a problem needing treatment, as well. One difference in the industry association view,however, was that turnover was defined as chronic, always there, something to be endured. Allmanagement could do, went the advice, was to minimize the debilitating effects: streamline training,simplify jobs, don’t become dependent on individuals, make HR processes more efficient.Gunter knew this perspective but didn’t want to settle for a chronically sick organization. His efforts,though, had turned out to validate the industry view and even, sometimes, make things worse. Gunteralso was beginning to see the paradox of his situation and recognize that he needed not just some newideas but some new ways of thinking about his situation. So he called in a consultant. The consultant was already working with the development company that was marketing the land andowned the resort but was not an expert in the hospitality industry.
This was deliberate, as Gunteralready knew the conventional industry take on turnover. Perhaps an outsider, someone with a freshlook, would see something new. The consultant listened to Gunter’s retelling of all he had done to reduce turnover, how it hadn’tworked and had even driven away some of those he wanted to keep. After listening to the litany of failures, the consultant asked just what it was that Gunter really wanted, to which the reply was,reduce turnover, of course. It was said in a way that made the consultant think that Gunter believed heknew what to do and only needed help in the execution, help in finding a better tactic for reducingturnover. The consultant told Gunter, with some embarrassment, that he couldn’t really think of anything else totry. But he also was suspicious that, since nothing worked and some reasonable tactics just madethings worse, they ought to try something different. The consultant suggested rephrasing the oldaphorism, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” to say, “If at last you don’t succeed, don’t justtry again, do something different.”
The issue now was how to break out of the set of failed solutions, allof which, even with their differences, left the situation essentially intact. What would be reallydifferent?Since the so-called solutions continued to fail, perhaps a real difference would come from stoppingattempts to solve the turnover problem. If turnover is so resistant to being changed, perhaps there issomething functional about it. What if turnover were embraced, rather than scorned? The consultantsuggested looking into what actually happened when good people left. Where did they go, and whatdid they do? In short, Gunter and the consultant went after the answer to a new question: What isgood about turnover? Things liked different from this perspective. The best employees, the ones Gunter most wanted tokeep, usually left for better jobs, jobs that required the good training and variety of assignments theyhad at Green Mountain. And they tended to be high performers in their new jobs, which led to morepromotions.
It began to look like turnover, an anathema to Green Mountain as an institution, was a good career development move for those who turned over. More investigation of those careersrevealed-no surprise-that the best people, the ones Gunter wanted most to keep, did the best in theirnew jobs. But what was most interesting, they attributed their success, in large measure, to thetraining and early responsibility they had been given at Green Mountain. Their employers, usuallyother resorts, came to regard Green Mountain alumni as prime recruits. The word got around: If you wanted great training, early responsibility, to get on the fast track, GreenMountain was the place to go. That meant that smarter, ambitious people began to apply for jobs atGreen Mountain, expecting to work hard, learn a lot, and move on quickly. Gunter could now imaginethe resort mainly staffed with these career builders, working hard and smart in order to learn anddevelop, and in doing so, providing exemplary levels of service. So what if turnover was high?
The staff would always be highly motivated, and other potential top performers would be waiting at the gate.Now with an explicit strategy for recruiting high-potential people, offering them the promise of rapidcareer development, turnover might actually increase, but it would mean something different: It wouldbe a sign, given the reformulated strategy, of success rather than an organizational problem. Thesituation had been reframed, the facts given new meaning.Was the problem solved? The answer is both yes and no. No, the facts of turnover remained, but, yes,that no longer was troublesome. It might be better to say the problem had bee dis-solved, that is, ithad been neutralized, and, by being given a new context, now had no effect. What had once been aliability was now transformed into an asset, and so there was no longer a need to engage in problemsolving. The reframing of the situation rendered the failed first-order change efforts irrelevant, and socontinuing efforts to reduce turnover could stop. Turnover had been a problem partly because of theefforts to get rid of it. (Problems are problems, in part due to the ongoing efforts to fix them.) No morefix: no more problem.
This is an example of second-order change, one distinguishing feature of which is that changeinterventions are directed at the “solution.” At Green Mountain, continuing efforts to reduce turnoverwere interrupted by the technique of reversal, that is, finding a plausible interpretation of the factsopposite in meaning to the generally accepted interpretation. (Turnover is bad, versus turnover isgood.) With the new meaning, no fix was required, and when you aren’t fixing something, there mustnot be a problem.Green Mountain continues to fast-track new hires on to other resorts. Gunter has not moved to anotherresort but has expanded his own role to be a mentor. The six change images that were discussed in the chapter were: Change Manager as Director Change Manager as Navigator Change Manager as Caretaker Change Manager as Coach Change Manager as Interpreter Change Manager as Nurturer
Questions:1. Which of the six change images discussed in this chapter can be identified in the assumptions aboutmanaging turnover that were held by
The hospitality literature?
2. How did these assumptions influence prescriptions for dealing with “the turnover problem”?3. Choose another change image and apply it to “the turnover problem.” To what new insights does itlead?4. What conclusions do you draw from this about the statement at the start of the chapter that “if weonly draw upon one particular frame, then this will take us away from thinking about what is going onfrom an alternative perspective”?
Questions:1. Which of the six change images discussed in this chapter can be identified in the assumptions aboutmanaging turnover that were held by � Gunter? In this case Gunter’s role can be identified as that of the coach. He becomes a mentor to new students who provide excellent service at his resort so thatthey get good training. The training helps them in advancing their careers. The resort of GreenMountain has achieved a good reputation for being an excellent place for obtaining training. Thehospitality literature? The hospitality literature plays the role of the navigator. It defines the turnoveras a problem and makes several suggestions that may reduce the deleterious effects of turnover. Itgave a gloomy description of the turnover problem, called it chronic and said that this problem was tobe endures. The consultant?
The consultant played the role of the interpreter. He simply interpretedthe problem of turnover and presented it to Gunter in such a way that his perspective on the problemchanged. The problem did not remain one instead it became a matter of pride to Green Mountain tohave successfully trained so many young persons. 2. How did these assumptions influence prescriptions for dealing with “the turnover problem”? Each of these assumptions influenced the prescriptions for dealing with the turnover problem. When Gunterwas the nurturer he tried to solve the problem but when the problem was reinterpreted for him and hebecame the coach, he liked the situation and turned the problem into an advantage. He derived theadvantage of attracting a large number of young men who wanted to make a career for themselves. These young men worked hard at Green Mountain. The hospitality literature was the navigator and itsaw the problem as chronic and one to be endured. The management should work to reduce itsdebilitating effects, that is streamline training, simplify jobs, and do not depend on individuals. Theprescription told managers to make HR processes more efficient.
The consultant was the interpreter. Itreinterpreted the problem for Gunter. It told him not to look at the problem as a problem but to see thepositive side of the problem and thrive in its positive effects. 3. Choose another change image andapply it to “the turnover problem.” To what new insights does it lead? Another change image is that of an obstacle to be overcome. The obstacle needs to be avoided. The strategy will be to mechanize asmuch work as possible, outsource some other work and hire temps from an agency to tackle what isleft. This would be the strategy of overcoming the obstacle by avoiding it as much as possible. In otherwords, Gunter would have to minimize the number of full time workers he employed. The new insightsit leads to is that several jobs can be eliminated. A greater use of mechanical aids and machines maybe used and contractual ties can be established with temporary employee suppliers. However, it wouldbe difficult to provide top class service by avoiding the obstacle 4. What conclusions do you draw from this about the statement at the start of the chapter that “if we only draw upon one particular frame, then this will take us away from thinking about what is going onfrom an alternative perspective”?
We draw several conclusions about the statement “if we only draw upon one particular frame, then thiswill take us away from thinking about what is going on from an alternative perspective” When aproblem is viewed from different perspectives we get different view of the problem as well as differentsuggestions for solving the problem. From the perspective of the consultant, the turnover problem hadits advantages and if these were played up, there would be advantages for Gunter. From theperspective of development literature relating to the hospitality business, turnover was a chronicproblem that had to be endured but its effect minimized. From the perspective of Gunter, turnover wasa problem for which a solution has to be found. Finally, we took the perspective that turnover was anobstacle to the development of the resort and so had to be avoided. Every alternative perspectivegives suggestions and that makes the analysis richer. However, it also provides the opportunity toassess the different perspectives and select that perspective that best addresses the problem in hand.