Referred/Deferred Assignment 2016/7

 

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Amazing World of Fun

 

The Amazing World of Fun (AWF) is a theme park located in the north end of the Florida Keys, about 300 miles south of Orlando.  It was founded in 1966 by Augustus (known as Gus) and Martha Pinter as a traditional amusement park, but since 1998 has been run jointly by their twin sons George and Eric (universally known as “The Boys”).

 

AWF grew steadily in the early years, boasting the biggest roller coaster in the eastern United States, amusement arcades and various fast food (hot dogs, pretzels etc.) and merchandise concessions (clothing, souvenirs).  In 1978 at Martha’s insistence, AWF acquired a stock of exotic animals from a bankrupt Miami zoo.  In the semi-tropical climate of the Keys the animals flourished and zoo staff, with Martha’s support, developed a number of world-renowned captive breeding programmes, focusing particularly on endangered reptiles.  They attracted significant government and scientific funding, and were a net contributor to AWF’s finances every year from 1980, (with the exception of 2007-2009). 

 

Eric followed his mother’s interests in conservation.  He trained as a biologist and was a world expert on the life cycle of the Gecko – a rare lizard found in warm climates.  George was more commercially minded like his father.  A natural showman, he loved nothing better than to see AWF’s guests spending money and having fun. 

 

A new strategy for AWF was finalised in 2001. The animals were to be the centrepiece, with an emphasis on conservation and education in a “fun” environment.  This was not in itself a new idea, having been developed for example at Sea World and Animal Kingdom in Orlando.  The park was divided into 5 main habitat zones; Safari Adventure, Tropical Rainforest, Marine Enchantment, Dessert Jewels and Wetland Wilderness.  Each zone of the park houses a large ride, a selection of animals, probably an animal show, educational features and various themed concession stands.

 

AWF sought to involve guests in the conservation message of the park, and the major attractions were designed with this in mind.  The “Safari Expedition” is typical.  Visitors are loaded into a Jeep and taken “on safari” around the park by a Park Ranger, a member of AWF staff.  Most of the animals on display are live, and kept to the highest animal welfare standards.  However, some high technology mechanical beasts were included, along with park staff dressed up in animal suits.  “Poachers” would attack the animals and the park guests, with their ranger assistants, would drive the poachers off and rescue the animals.  Of course this is all stage-managed and requires park staff of considerable skill and fitness.

 

Working at Amazing World

 

The management board of AWF consists of 6 people.  Gus is non-executive Chair of the board.  His co-vice presidents are Eric, Vice President of Wildlife and Conservation, (W&C) and George, Commercial Vice President.  Other members of the board are Fred Haskins the Finance Director, Amy Rockbridge the Estates Director and the Director of Personnel, Conchita Alvarez.  Both Fred and Conchita have a small staff with which to fulfil their overall duties.  However, the three main employing directorates are W&C, Commercial, and Estates. 

 

Amazing World of Fun has a complex organisational structure.

 

Wildlife and Conservation

 

W&C is divided up into four sections; Mammals, Birds, Marine, and Reptiles, each with its own Senior Scientist heading it up supported by a small number of Species Specialists.  All these individuals are world experts in their particular field.  These sections broadly mirror the habitat zones of the park, although both the Dessert and Wetland zones are linked to the Reptile section.  The Species Specialists are responsible for a large number of relatively low paid but educated and dedicated Animal Assistants.  These individuals are primarily responsible for animal welfare, conservation work, and handling the animals in the shows and the attractions.  Each year AWF supplements it’s animal staff with a large number of students looking for work and research experience.  They are provided with accommodation and paid minimum wage but are passionate about conservation and have been known to work for free in order to both develop their skills and to make a difference to wildlife conservation.  The W&C activities are managed in quite an authoritarian manner.  A lot of the work is linked to scientific research so the species specialists and animal assistants are used to doing as they are told.

 

Commercial

 

Under George’s immediate direction are five Habitat Zone Heads, roughly equivalent in status to the Senior Scientists but paid considerably more, supposedly because of their commercial responsibilities.    Each Habitat Zone Head is responsible for two main groups of employees:

Hospitality Crew, responsible for making the customers feel relaxed and staffing the gift shops and clothing outlets and keeping the Park tidy, and

Cast, those employees who interact with the customers on the rides or wander around the park dressed up as the animal characters the park promotes (Gary Gecko, Abby Alligator, Dara Deer etc).

These two groups operate quite flexibly.  Cast take on hospitality tasks when they are not performing and hospitality crew cover for each other within their zone and often across different zones when the need arises.

 

Estates

 

Estates, through the Maintenance Crew, is responsible for the upkeep of the Park, the safety of rides and attractions, the structure of the buildings and the integrity of the animal areas.  While Maintenance Crew report directly to Amy Rockbridge, they can be called upon by any park employee, but priority is always given to keeping the animal areas secure and safe.  The saga of the escaped Florida Panther of 1993 still gives Amy sleepless nights!  The maintenance crew pretty much arranged their own work schedules and allocated tasks amongst themselves when requests came in.

 

The informal hierarchy between the four largest groups of staff (Animal Assistants, Cast, Hospitality Crew and Maintenance Crew) is clear.  They each see themselves as the most crucial to the running of the park! 

 

Many Cast members have specific circus or acting skills and perform for the guests.  Putting on a great show is their main aim.  While their pay is reasonable they can double their income through tips. 

 

The Maintenance crew knows that AWF can’t run without them.  They are the longest serving employees, many of them being skilled craftsmen, (engineers, carpenters, builders, electricians, etc). They work flexibly and skilfully with the limited resources available to them and are paid accordingly. 

 

Hospitality Crew make sure the park runs.  Without them no-one would open the gates or sell anything, and, while they don’t earn much money, they sure know how to party!

 

The Animal Assistants are idealists, dedicated to their animals and to conservation.  For them there can be no more important work and they work the longest hours of all park staff.  They look down on “commercial” staff, and as a result tend not to be invited to Hospitality Crew parties.

 

The problem

 

By July 2014 trouble was inevitable.  Commercial’s continuous demands for attractive animals doing cute things were felt to be both trivial and humiliating by the W&C staff.  Meanwhile the Maintenance Crew was fighting a losing battle over the ageing infrastructure of the park, continually having to respond instantly to disruptions to the power supply in particular.  These competing demands were made worse by the conflicting management structure. 

 

The crisis, when it came, was to no-one’s surprise in the Reptile Section / Wetland Zone.  The Senior Scientist – Reptiles, Dr Clark Hopper, was fundamentally opposed to performing animals.  He believed that Alligator wrestling (a curious Florida pastime) was both tasteless and unethical, and felt it interfered with his “real” work of captive breeding and research.  However, it seemed to be all that Commercial ever wanted.  Krista Katz, Zone Head of Wetland was the main source of Hopper’s frustration.  An ambitious and hugely optimistic New Yorker, Katz was vastly experienced at running visitor attractions but had little experience of animals.  She had been “headhunted” by George Pinter from Disneyland Paris in 2013.  He promised to double her salary (putting her earnings at approximately twice those of Clark Hopper) plus offered a hefty performance related bonus scheme if she could turn Wetland Wilderness into a profitable business unit within three years.  She was seen as a possible future director of Amazing World.  She didn’t understand why Hopper was so against her ideas to make Wetland turn in a profit.

 

One Wednesday afternoon in late July, Hopper stormed in to Eric Pinter’s office.

“I can’t work with that woman” he fumed. 

 

Eric was shocked. He had never seen Clark so angry before. 

“Hold on there Clark” he said, “what exactly is your problem here?”

 

“That Katz woman” came the reply.  “Her grand plans for turning my animals into some sort of money machine.  Performing lizards indeed – doesn’t she know their brains haven’t evolved for 20 Million years so they’re hardly going to want to learn how to do tricks.  But you know her latest idea?  She’s making my research students do the work of her idle Hospitality Crew. She made Becky Petterson serve in the Swamp Shop yesterday.  Becky is so close to finishing her Doctorate – I hardly think selling Abby Alligator sweatshirts is going to help her thesis!”

 

Eric had seen this coming ever since Krista’s appointment.  She was undoubtedly talented and her enthusiasm was never in question, she just seemed to rub the W&C people up the wrong way.  Amy Rockbridge had also voiced her concerns to him the previous week.  Her complaint was Krista’s proposal that Maintenance Crew be allocated to particular Habitat Zones rather than operate as a central resource reporting to Amy.

“What does she know about keeping a place like this running?” Amy fumed “A filtration problem in one of the Marine exhibits has to take precedence over a power outage in a Wetland Hot Dog stall.  We must keep the flexibility to allocate key Maintenance Crew into the big problems rather than have them tied down to fixing an oven.”

 

As far as George was concerned, Krista was a breath of fresh air.  If she came across a problem she would solve it without running to him all the time, and to be honest, he agreed with her view that the W&C staff needed to have a few commercial realities brought home to them.  Krista’s Hospitality Crew worshipped her.

“Krista understands that we are the front line service providers.  She’s the only member of management who actually listens to the Hospitality Crew.  We hear what the guests really think– Krista understands that and put our ideas forward.” was typical of their views.

 

Cast members also adored Krista, this was all the more remarkable because Cast typically never had a good word to say about anyone.  Wetland Wilderness in particular had always been viewed as the worst place to work in the park – even the name sounded deeply off-putting.  Since Krista’s arrival Cast members were requesting to be moved to Wetland. 

 

“She understands the customers and how important it is we put on a good show,” said Pete Carlson, a Cast member who usually played Abby Alligator.  “If that means having more understudies for key parts both around the park and on the attractions, she makes sure they are available and that the best people get the parts.  So what if the Animal Assistants have to get their hands dirty actually selling things once in a while.  It’ll remind them what this place is all about – giving the guests a fun time and making money.”

 

The meeting

 

July was one year on from Krista’s initial appointment, and George had arranged a performance review meeting, which Eric and Amy asked to sit in on. This was not unusual; these meetings often generated ideas about the future direction of the park which needed discussion with other directorate members.

 

George started things off.

“Krista, thanks for coming in to talk with us today.  Can I just say up front that I think you’re doing a great job.”

 

“Thanks George” she replied.  “ I‘m sure having some fun and Wetland is well on target to break even this year and should make the profit we hoped for within two years, as long as I can get my little changes approved.” 

 

Eric and Amy were shocked at this opening comment.  Her “little changes” would seriously undermine their authority but George seemed to love the proposals.  However, not wanting to be seen as hostile, Eric ventured

“Well yes, you certainly have some interesting ideas, and from what I hear you have already started implementing some of them without board approval.  Clark was rather upset about Becky Petterson the other day.”

 

“Well I would expect that from him” retorted Krista. “He needs a few lessons in commercial reality if you ask me, as does that Becky, she just comes in with her ‘gator and sweeps off when the poor thing gets tired.”

 

“But Krista, Clark’s research brings in almost twice as much money as Wetland Wilderness makes and Becky herself has just been awarded nearly half a million dollars to carry on her research on “gators” as you put it, although they are actually American Crocodiles native to Florida.  They are subsidising you!”

 

Krista hadn’t expected this and was starting to feel uncomfortable.

“Sure, but we’re all part of the Wetland Wilderness team, we must all pull together.”

 

“But they’re not your staff Krista!” cried Eric with a degree of desperation, “they contribute in a different way.”

 

“They don’t contribute much if you ask me” came the rather curt response.  “Last Friday Becky’s show didn’t run at all and I had to personally apologise to two school parties from Tampa who had come down specially to see the gator – sorry - “American Crocodile”.  That really isn’t good for the customers and I don’t like to be made to look fool by a lizard.”

 

At this point Amy Rockbridge felt she had to put the record straight.

“That wasn’t Becky’s fault.  Some of your Cast had tried to rework the show and messed up the power supply in the process.  When they called in Pedro [Rivaldez, the chief engineer] to fix their mess up, they were so rude to him it was all I could do to stop him leaving permanently.”

 

“But it would have been so much better if they had been allowed to get on with their changes” retorted Krista. “Cast and Crew have had some really good ideas recently that have increased our bottom line significantly.  The organisation of the maintenance teams is another thing. It would be so much more efficient each if the Zone Heads had their own dedicated maintenance team rather than having to rely on Rivaldez and his posse to turn up when they feel like.”

 

By now the meeting was in danger of turning nasty.  In an attempt to allow tempers to cool George stepped in. 

“Look guys, can’ t we take a time out here?  All any of us want is for the park to be a success.  Can’t we at least agree on that and start to find a way forward?”

 

At this, silence fell on the room.  George was left with the distinct impression that his three colleagues were not entirely sure they could agree.

 

Task

 

Write an essay of 2000 words maximum, specifically addressing the team working problems at Amazing World of Fun.  You must use appropriate theory in the area to explain your analysis, and give clear examples from the case study to illustrate your observations.  You should also make suggestions (based on theory and observation) about what could be done to resolve the problems you have decided to address. 

 

 

Presentation Requirements:

 

Word Count: 2000 words maximum

 

 

 

Introduction - do you identify clearly the issues to be discussed and the structure and content of the essay.

Structure, layout and organisation of material - is the structure logical, is the work clearly laid out and well organised?

Content and analysis - do you discuss the problems at Amazing World of Fun using appropriate theory? Do you show evidence of wider reading around the theoretical issues? 

Conclusions and recommendations - Are your conclusions clear, and are any recommendations realistic?  Do you draw the whole piece of work together in summary at the end?

Referencing - do you make correct use of quotations and references? Do you present references accurately in a reference list at the end of your essay?


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