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As a leading pioneer in outdoor retailing and a company at the forefront of the movement for environmental sustainability, we write this letter in response to your request to evaluate your current Workbook Process and appraise the advantages as well as the drawbacks to the system. We are not in favour of the current Workbook Process for reasons that we will list for you. We feel that a company with such a reputation as Patagonia, Inc., needs to adopt a less sophisticated but progressive system.
With the research we carried out it was very clear and apparent to us that the Workbook Process was ineffective. However, it did open up communication among employees, and it also encouraged employees to share their ideas with some upper level management. We do feel that the process can be improved upon.
OVERVIEW OF THE WORKBOOK PROCESS
The Patagonia Workbook Process in our view was designed to make information about the company’s planning, budgeting and quality improvement flow more fluently amongst all the employees. The Process was also designed to encourage the employees to take a more active role in the company’s planning, operating review and decision making process. We will start our analysis by critiquing and listing what we feel are major concerns of the workbook process.
CONCERNS OF THE WORKBOOK PROCESS
* The Process of sharing information could weaken the managers’ powerbase, because selective disclosure of information can be used to control and to manipulate employees to do their work. * Expensive system because training is required for the employees to learn and to understand the system. In addition, training is time consuming. * The poor deliverance of financial information, due to the fact that some employees did not want to participate in the Process. * The one to two months lag behind of paperwork. Thus information was never relevant for that specific time period. * Large proportion of employees refused to engage in the Process because they found it tedious. * The plan was not accepted by all levels of management. * The Workbook Process focuses mainly on planning in advance for the longer term rather than on a day by day basis. * The Workbook Process had difficulty in judging environment, quality and distribution objectives, which are crucial success factors for Patagonia, Inc.
* The Workbook Process is very complex and time consuming. The level of planning and the enormous amount of meetings needed to discuss company plans leaves very little time for constructive work to be done. * The Process could be limiting in the sense that it does not promote innovations; if anything it encourages people to just stick to a set plan and nothing else. * The profit sharing plan that was introduced was not based on merit; it was just allocated in equal percentages of the base salary. On the contrary, the workbook process also has some benefits. Although, the concerns outweigh the benefits, it is for your benefit and to give you a better perspective of the Process.
BENEFITS OF THE WORKBOOK PROCESS
* The Workbook Process has been significantly embraced amongst the employees at Patagonia, Inc. * A significant amount of the employees feel that the Process is worthwhile and that it has given everyone an opportunity to bond; and also optimized better solutions for the company. * The Workbook Process being a much longer term strategy can detect problems or issues before they arise, which is a more proactive approach, rather than waiting for an issue to arise before it gets attended to. * The Workbook Process gave a chance for employees at the top of the hierarchy a better understanding of what lower ranked employees where up to, therefore it created an atmosphere whereby everyone was interested in what was happening within the company.
On the basis of our evaluation, we would like to recommend that Patagonia, Inc. discontinues with the Workbook Process. We are of the view that the Process has served its intended purpose. The Process has worked in the sense that it has educated the employees on how the company operates and how their jobs interface with each other. A control system is applied to ensure that an organization strategy is implemented which is not the case with the Workbook Process. The Workbook Process focuses on long term rather than looking at each scenario as it arises. In looking back at the time dedicated to achieving company objectives is lacking, which we feel is a key component of the future success of the company. A value driver is an objective which can indicate future success. An example would include product design, quality and design, quality and customer service, which are all qualities that Patagonia, Inc. values.
MAIN RECOMENDATIONS AND MODIFICATION
Our recommended replacement for the Workbook Process is a Balanced Scorecard. A Balanced Scorecard is a less sophisticated and more grounded evaluation method. A Balanced Scorecard not only focuses on financial but also non-financial contributors to the success of the company. Management can set objectives that involve different areas of the business. For example the production and distribution could qualify as efficiency objectives, research and development would focus on innovations, and the human resources would look after the quality of life for the employees. We are of a strong view that these aspects are key elements to the success of the company. The Balanced Scorecard will not guarantee success for Patagonia, Inc. but, we see it as a step in the right direction.
The Balanced Scorecard does have some drawbacks as well as advantages. The drawbacks are, a Balanced Scorecard can add a new type of reporting without necessarily improving quality or financial numbers; it could be viewed as a non-value adding report method and a distraction for achieving actual goals. One more disadvantage is that Balanced Scorecard goals are easy to reach but hard to quantify. The advantages of the Balance Scorecard are that, it caters for employees who are both financially and non-financially literate, a Balanced Scorecard is less technical and easier to understand, and the last advantage is that the Balanced Scorecard is less time consuming and will allow workers to focus more on their real tasks.
In concluding, we feel that the time and effort required to keep the Workbook Process operational are too costly. The staff within the organization are only partially committed, which in our view is causing complications with the success of the Workbook Process. The level of training required is exhaustive. The employees who are not financially literate regardless of how much training they receive might never fully grasp the concepts of the Workbook Process. When an organization focuses all its efforts on financial results, other tasks that cannot be measured objectively are neglected. We hope that you will take all of our advice and recommendations into consideration and, we wish you and Patagonia, Inc. all the success in your future endeavours.