Total Length: 3612 words ( 12 double-spaced pages)
Total Sources: 25
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Theory vs. Practice
When it comes to working in any sort of organization or corporation, one of the obvious chasms that becomes clear here is the relationship between theory and what is practiced in a small business setting. To truly look at and assess that paradigm, the author of this report has interviewed an owner/manager at a small business to discuss what they do to make things work, what is suggested in theory and scholarly literature and how those frameworks and lessons do or do not work for their particular situation. The author of this report will personally be making a comparison and contrast between what is asserted within the literature and compare it to the feedback and personal experience narrative of the owner/manager. A common refrain seen in the blogosphere and elsewhere is that there is a disconnect between what is suggested in the minds of theorists and within the so-called ivory towers of academia and political think tanks. There is perhaps some truth to that common anecdote but there surely has to be some fire to go with the smoke that is the innovation and ideas that come out of academia. After all, not everyone in the academic and scholarly sphere is an insulated wonk with no real-world exposure. While the applicability of theory to real-world situation and practice might be hit or miss in some instances, the interview with the owner/manager that is the subject of this report clearly shows that academic sometimes gets it completely right.
Analysis of Experience
The author of this report took the time to sit down with the owner/manager of a business that has about two dozen employees. The epicenter of the analysis and ideas that are being looked at by the author of this report and as reflected by the owner/manager is a small team of four people that all share in about six total tasks. Anyhow, there was the idea that rose with the manger himself as well as the team that perhaps it would be more efficient and wiser to consolidate some tasks to two (half) of the people and the other tasks to the other half. Further, about half the of the tasks were client contact-related while the others were mainly internal in nature. The general idea was to keep each half of the team as homogenous as possible in terms of the jobs they did so as to avoid the number of differing tasks and multi-tasking that went on. This surely has its roots, at least in part, in a lot of the scholarly literature that is out there. Indeed, there are some sources out there that suggest multi-tasking is just another way of saying that one is doing more tasks without properly or fully excelling at any of them. In other words, doing one task and to completion is always going to be better than trying to juggle two or more at the same time (Weightman et al., 2017). Further, there is perceived benefit from many scholars when it comes to limiting the number of overall tasks, meaning the consolidation of as much like tasks as possible so as to avoid variability in tasks and keep people more productive (Camden, Nickels, Fendley & Phillips, 2017). Separating the people-based and non-people-based tasks would also tend to limit interruptions that the non-people task people are doing (Szumowska & Kossowska, 2017). Anyhow, the manager explains that the consolidation of tasks did show some promise and at first seemed to coincide fairly well with the theorists when it came to the subject. However, there were some adjustments that were necessary and there are some interruptions that are just not preventable. There will always be the urgent email that comes through and the demands of clients do not always align clearly with what could happen in theory. Even if some people disagree, there are many in the scholarly sphere that suggest that the loss of performance occurs at the brain level and it is not just something that is perceived or guessed about (Al-Hashimi, Zanto & Gazzaley, 2015).
Even with the proverbial speed bumps when it came to translating the common feelings and research about multitasking to the practice of the small business in question, there was still the personal and internal perception that the variability of tasks and the commonality of interruptions led to decreased performance.
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There was the further perception that perhaps keeping half the tasks entirely with half the team and half the tasks with the other half of the team. To test this, there was a look at how things before in terms of perceived performance as well as measurable metrics such as service level agreement performance, quality of work done and so forth. There was then a compare and contrast with what happened after the changes were implemented. As noted already, there were some bumps in the road but those were ironed out by testing and experimentation. Generally, it can be said that the theory was solid and strong overall but that adapting that to the particular situation at hand was something that required some diligence and adjustments. This is to be expected as no cookie-cutter or general approach is going to work without at least some customization and details being hammered out. A key part of making things work is asking the hard questions, hammering out the details and making sure that the ownership and management is on board with letting the chips fall where they may rather than trying to force something that is not going to work.
While the task reassignment project was one of the major overhauls that the owner of the business engaged in, there were other challenges and questions that at were discussed. As was the intention, the author of this report touched upon a litany of topics and theories and the owner gave his feedback based on what he has seen and done as it relates to the topic. Before getting into that detail, it should be noted how the business came to be. As noted earlier, the manager is also the owner. The owner/manager initially started working in the private sector as an employee for another business. It came to be that he was considering doing his own business and operation within the same industry and he concurrently felt he could do things better than what he witnessed in his employee job. However, he had to scratch up the money to do so and he also had to have a contingency to keep himself afloat and his bills paid while he brought the business online. It took him about a year, but he used all of his own funds and transitioned from working for someone else to working on his own over the course of a year or two. The additional twenty or so employees that work for him now have been added in the two to three years since then. He is having to add a new head to his staff about once every month or two, on average. This is obviously a break from what is seen with startup firms in Silicon Valley and other places that get significant amounts of venture capital and investment that allow a firm to lose money for months or years while they build up a consumer base and eventually become self-sufficient. The owner/manager interviewed for this report used all of his own money and still had to make ends meet from the inception of the business until it was self-sufficient for at least him. Now that it is self-sufficient and self-sustainable, he is much happier and feels that the long hard and effort was all worth it, even with the trial and error. He says that some frameworks and ideas in the scholarly and news sphere have been helpful but he also feels that every business has to devise a framework and solution that works for their industry, their geographical area and their goals. In many ways, this aligns very well with the verbiage and ideas put forth by many people in the scholarly sphere in that no solution or frameworks is entirely "plug and play" (Pullins, Timonen, Kaski & Holopainen, 2017).
As already noted, the author and the owner/manager segued through a number of theories and ideas surrounding small businesses and how they remain competitive and innovative. First up is the idea of shifting alignment of workloads, lot splitting and….....