Monday, December 5, 2016

Final Critique

Over the course of the semester I have gained a great deal of knowledge on the economic implications of differing organizational strategies, and how economic changes effect the actions of organizations. While I don't feel that there are any new concepts that I learned about organizations from the class, what I do feel I gained was the ability to apply some of the lessons described in class, to situations I have seen in my own life. Being able to better identify some of the situations described from examples in class, and applying the knowledge from those examples to real-life scenarios is something that I have already utilized working with the RSO I am a part of on campus, and something I will continue to utilize going forward in other organizations.

While the blogging and in-class discussions were useful for learning the material, I felt at times that there was a bit of overkill, as far as covering the materials goes. The blog-posts having a word requirement of 600 words minimum, as stated in the syllabus, led me to feel the need to ramble-on in some posts, and delve into irrelevant material simply to fill out the word count. I feel that a word requirement of 400 words may have been more practical, as I feel this is sufficient to cover the topics in the prompt without forcing students to write extra, less relevant material.

The live structure of the class itself flowed well, but would have flowed better without the distraction of electronics in the classroom. As much as our current generation of students loves to have technology with us at all times, it was noticeable that the students who more frequently had their laptops in front of them, were significantly less likely to participate in the discussion much, if at all. Since some of the discussions were somewhat hard to follow if you did not give 100% attention, this caused some of the discussions to have the same people talk repeatedly, while other students did other work on their laptops.

As far as the blogging, I preferred to read the prompt Thursday night in order to give myself some time to think about an appropriate response, and then write the actual blog post the following morning, or afternoon. The actual writing of the blog posts usually took anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on the complexity of the prompt. For the most part, I thought this process allowed me to give sufficient insight into each topic suggested in the prompts.

The excel homework was fairly easy throughout the semester. There were rare situations where I got stuck, or stumped by any of the excel homework questions. I would usually do the excel homework the night that it was due. It would usually take me anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, but usually closer to the fifteen minutes side.

Overall I felt that  the class could have been slightly improved if there were to be slightly shorter word requirements for the blog posts, as I mentioned earlier, and mandatory attendance for the class. The way learning was done in this class was through blogging, and discussing those topics blogged about in class. For those that did not attend class, I feel like they got a significantly diminished learning experience in the class, compared to those who did go at least somewhat regularly. As ridiculous as it seems to require attendance for a 400-level econ class, many of us students can find any information we need for classes online, and there is simply no need to go to classes. In fact in most cases, time can be used more efficiently learning the material from online sources, rather than trying to learn it from class. This is not the case for your class, but students will only realize this if they are required to go to class everyday.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Personal Reputations

It is difficult to describe every aspect of one's actions that contribute to their reputation. A reputation is the perception that others have of an individual. It is not only built by that individual persons actions, but also by the response to those actions from the people in that particular environment. One person's reputation can vastly vary between social groups and different workplaces. One workplace in which I developed a strong reputation was at Grandpa's Bar & Restaurant, where I have worked as a busboy/bar-back for the past three and a half years.

At Grandpa's, I have always had a reputation as a hard worker, who never complains, and always works above and beyond whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I had initially gotten the job because my friend's dad owns the place. Many of my other friends had worked their in the past, because of this connection, and had developed a poor reputation due to the fact that they had different priorities at the time, and never really put their full effort into their work. So, before I had even started working, many of my co-workers expected the same poor work ethic that had previously been displayed by my friends.

Because of this prior misconception about my work ethic, I felt the need to get rid of this reputation as soon as possible. The first couple of weeks, I made sure to develop a strong personal relationship with each co-worker, as well as perform my assigned tasks in the most timely manner possible, as well as accomplish tasks that were not directly a part of my job description.

That summer I also worked at the beach, as a camp counselor Monday through Friday during the mornings, from 9  am to 3 pm, and then went to work at Grandpa's at night, from 4 pm to 10 pm. Because of this fact, coupled with the work I produced at Grandpa's, my reputation quickly changed, to what I  described earlier, as a strong worker.

As I quickly developed this reputation, it began to perpetuate itself. Since my co-workers had the expectation that I would come in and do solid work, I began to expect it from myself whenever I went to work. I enjoyed the personal, and work, relationships I had developed with my co-workers and I did not want to jeopardize these relationships by performing sub-par work.

Since I started attending college, I have gone back to work at Grandpa's over breaks, and during the summers, when I am home. Since that summer, it has been more tempting to stray from the reputation that I had built from the previous summer. Since I had already built the reputation of being a hard worker, I could deviate slightly from the work production that I had previously displayed, and  it would, for the most part, go unnoticed by my co-workers. At the end of the day, I would still be paid the same amount in hourly wage, and tips from servers. 

There was no real immediate personal gain from deviating from the strong work ethic I had shown in my first summer working at Grandpa's. While it may be noticed by my co-workers, I had already built a strong relationship with most of them that it didn't really effect that significantly. Overall the only benefit would be less effort needed from me, or providing less work for equal income.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Triangle Principle Agent Model

In many of my previous posts, I have referenced my military experience, to relate to many of the economic principles discussed in class. The a triangle relationship in the principle-agent model occurs in many situations. Many times it can even be a quadrilateral relationship. An example of this is in the Vietnam war, officers had the responsibility to work under the direction of their commanding officers, providing the best possible situation for their troops, as well as looking out for the well being of the civilians of Vietnam. This kind of responsibility to the people, as well as the broader governing body is typical of most government positions. One recent example of conflict arising from the triangle principle-agent model is the most current presidential election.

In modern presidential elections, in the United States, their is always a choice for voters between two candidates from either the Republican or Democratic party. Each side elects one candidate who is representative of the party's ideals, and political agenda. This has formed a triangular principle agent model in our political system, with the party being the principal, along with the individual candidate from that party, and the agent being the American people. In the past, very little conflict has arose between the two principals, the candidate and the party, as most often the sole reason that the candidate is elected is because of their shared ideals, and political agenda, with their party. In the 2016 presidential election we saw a different situation on the republican side.

Donald Trump ran under the republican title, with no prior experience in government, or any prior serious affiliation with the GOP. Many of his policies, and ideals, did not match up with the GOP, nor the democratic party. The american people decided on November 8th, and elected Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. This means that in the next coming months work must be done between Donald Trump, the republican party, and the democratic party to come to a middle ground on the policies, and ideals, for the good of the american people.

There are several way that this tension can be, and must, be resolved. As we saw on November 10, President Obama, our current democrat president, sat down and had productive discussion about the best ways for Donald Trump, and the current administration to have an effective transition of power. This is a common organizational practice. In the presence of conflict between two principals, both principals meet, and have a civil discussion, to form a unite front, about what is the best plan of action for the agent.

Another way that this conflict  of ideals between parties, and presidential-elect Donald Trump, will be resolved, is through the system of checks and balances.  The congress and the senate are put in place, with representatives from the democratic and republican party to ensure that all actions taken by the government are in the best interests of the american people. This also occurs in organizational practices. when businesses have a CEO, and a board of executives who have to approve certain measures, to ensure that they are in the best interests of whatever agent they serve.

Their are several other ways that this tension will be resolved over the next several years, and it is clear that there is more than one effective way to resolve conflict between principles in a triangular principle-agent model. The actions of the american people are independent of what the government decides. Policies, and laws, can have an influence over the actions of the people, but at the end of the day the people act independently. So if conflict is not resolved, the agent (the people in this case), often act in accordance with one master while ignoring another. This especially apparent, in reference, to politics because of the political affiliation that most individuals attach themselves to. They will act in accordance with the intentions of their party. This happens in other organizations, as favoritism towards one principal, or another, is common, and causes the agent to act in a way more in line with their preferred principal.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Post #8- Altruism in Service

In many of my previous posts I have referenced my experience in training with the United States Marine Corps, and going through the process of becoming a Marine. Altruism is a virtue that runs deep in the United States Military. Many give the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country, which no economic value could ever suffice for that kind of service. I had an extremely unique experience in looking at the psychological effects of altruism in a training environment, and how that is altered when economic decisions are reintroduced as a part of life. To better explain this some background information is needed.

The specific program I am in is for current college student who are looking to pursue a career as an officer in the United States Military. The training is broken up into two, 6-week, training increments. Upon completion of the second increment you officially earn the title of Marine, and commission as a second lieutenant upon completion of your last year of school. During a 6-week increments you are stripped of all your civilian possession, given all necessary gear for training, and are allowed no access to any information outside the training environment. The first three weeks of training are non-stop, 18 hour training days, 7 days a week. After the first three weeks of training, we were allowed 24-hour "liberty" periods to have complete freedom to do whatever we needed to prepare for the next week of training. During these liberty periods many candidates go off base to get hotel rooms, and enjoy some of the luxuries they had been deprived of for the past three weeks.

In the first three weeks, the atmosphere of training is tense. Anyone can be sent home at any time for a variety of reasons including failure to adapt to military lifestyle, performance issues, or integrity violations. Every person who chooses to take on this challenging training has similar personality traits, namely an extremely competitive mindset, a type "A" personality, but, most importantly, unwavering unselfishness. Despite the fact that many of us are competing for a job after college, the drive for candidates to help out their peers is excessive in many aspects. We work as one cohesive unit to accomplish each challenge thrown at us in training. Without distractions of the personal life, cell phones, economic decisions, we were able to remain focused and maintain an altruistic atmosphere.

Upon completion of the first three weeks, my platoon left in high spirits, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and ready to reap the rewards of three weeks of hard work. Over liberty, many reconnected with their families, friends, and essentially the rest of the world. On top of that, we were once again exposed to making economic decisions such as where to purchase a hotel, what gear to buy for training, and where to get food. The intrinsic nature of selfishness that goes into economic decision making shifted the focus of many candidates. Many lost focus on the end goal and developed a more self-centered mindset in such a short time period.

Returning to training the following Sunday, there was a noticeable difference in individual attitudes, as well as the general moral of the company. People made decisions more focused on the well-being of themselves, rather than the well-being of the platoon, or company. Many were less willing to help with small tasks, and more often candidates had to be "voluntold" to do something rather than individuals stepping up to help out others. We had no distractions during the first three weeks and focus was relatively easy to maintain. Now that candidates had once again been exposed to the selfishness of economic decision making, there was somewhat of a psychological shift in the way we functioned as a team.

There was noticeable improvement with the issue addressed above in the following liberty periods. In the article given referencing altruism, and its effects on production in the workplace, there are several scenarios similar to the experience I had. One example that had a striking similarity was the example referencing an 18-month old, and his/her willingness to help in the presence of a reward, or not. At Officer Candidate School, when we were finally rewarded for that first three weeks of training, a willingness to help other significantly dropped.

Service to others brings a perspective to people that drives productivity in the workplace. Good deeds, are often followed by reciprocal good deeds. Working to help others drives an individual's focus towards an unselfish outlook that greatly benefits the team as a whole. In order for our work force to improve overall productivity, we need to first look at the motivations of the individual worker, and drive those motivations towards a team-oriented ideology.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Blog post #7- Risk and Uncertainty

Every decision that we make, regardless of whether it is and financial, social, or personal decisions, has an impact on our future. For the most part, the greater the decisions, the bigger impact it will have on your future.  Certain people make their decisions with an eye towards the future, more so than others. Others prefer to focus on the present and make the decision that is most optimal in the present, with little regard for how it will affect their future. In my own personal experience, I have had brief periods when my decision making has had little regard for the future, and other periods when every decision, small or large, was made with an “eye towards the future.”

Prior to arriving at college, mainly speaking of the high school years, my decision making in all aspects of life was mainly driven by what seemed optimal in the here and now, with little regard for the future. I consider myself lucky with the freedom I was given to make my own decisions, with very little limitations. With so much uncertainty in future outcome from decisions made in high school, the risk was somewhat unknown in this situation. Many high school students, like myself, do not have a clear path for them at such a young age, and have little to no preference for what their future career will be. This lowers the risk of many decisions being made because no clear outcome is preferred. I chose the classes that I found interesting, activities I found fun, and had economic assistance to make any, responsible, economic decisions I needed to without accumulating any debt.

Once I arrived at college the dynamic completely shifted. Since freshman year of college I have been working with the Marine Officer Selection Office to work to become a Marine officer. From the beginning of freshman year on, all of my decisions have been made with regard to accomplishing this goal in the future. Financially, this allowed for a lot of flexibility in decision making, but with a budget. My parents agreed to pay for tuition and housing, while book, food, etc, had to be paid by me. The Marine Corps has allotted me a stipend each semester to pay for these items. This has given me the flexibility to make economic decisions, to work towards achieving my goal, with limitations. This is very similar to a budget restriction incurred by a business, and I, like many businesses, had to decide how to allocate this stipend in the most effective way to improve my progress towards becoming a marine officer.

This career path also had a huge impact on my choice of major. The Marines don’t require a specific major choice for the program, so I had complete freedom in my choice. This eliminated any risk in major choice. Instead of choosing a major that may have been slightly outside my ability, for better job prospects, but with the risk of not succeeding in that major and having to switch, I chose a manageable major that allowed me to get my education without future career implications affecting my decision. This seems to be a rare situation, when compared with organization, as rarely do corporations find themselves with absolute freedom over their decisions, and no effect on their future outcome.

My situation is unique to many college students because of the fact that my ultimate goal drew up a path that limited the amount of decisions that I actually had to make, which allowed for more freedom in some aspects, and several limitations on actions. For example, instead of gaining experience in the economic field over the summers, to gain more knowledge on the subject, I was instructed to go to training for the Marine Corps in Virginia. So while this limited my ability to pursue other interests, it gave me financial freedom, once the training had been completed, to pursue any interests I had. My mindset is very similar to the millions of other who joined the armed services. While the actual service provides a lot of limitations and restrictions, many see “the light at the end of the tunnel,” so to speak. In other words, many armed services members see the freedom that serving in the military allows in the future as far as choosing colleges (paid for by the G.I. Bill), as well as other financial and secondary benefits. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Post #6 Course Reflection

After writing several of these posts, it is clear the intention is for much of the content in the blog posts to connect with the other posts. One clear example of this is with the experience in organizations post, and the team structure post. In the experience with organizations post, we essentially gave our personal definitions of internal structure within organizations, while in the team structure blog post, we build on our own personal definitions of organizational structure by attaching them to whatever official definition exists for organizational structure in the textbook. We also looked at the efficiencies and inefficiencies of working in our specific organization, and what may be the underlying causes, in the experience in organizations blog post. In the team structure blog post, we built off of our analysis of efficiencies and inefficiencies by looking at the textbook's definition of traits of successful organizations.

Addressing course themes by connecting them to subject matter in our blog post is a semi-new way for me to pick up on course material in an econ class. Without, your suggestions of what course themes to connect to the blog subject material, I would find it particularly difficult to find other course themes to weave into my response to blog post prompt. Your suggestions of what to connect the information to, help me better understand what to look for in the prompt, from the perspective of the course.

At the beginning of the course, I wrote the blog posts the day of the due date, or sometimes after, with little to no planning. I now plan my response a day or so before the due date in order to give myself time to mull over my ideas and make sure they can form an adequate response. Then the morning before the due date I write the blog post using the outline I had crafted the day before. This allows me to better articulate my ideas without completely rambling on, as I did in some of the earlier blog posts. I developed this process due to the feeling of being slightly overwhelmed with trying to collect my thoughts in the right way, when articulating my blog posts early  on.

As far as writing the prompt, what I enjoy more than anything is clarity. I understand that many of these posts are intended for us to answer the prompt, but then expand on the ideas suggested in the prompt. I feel that this is best done by having a clear prompt, that asks a specific set of questions, and then suggests the best course themes that the blog post should relate too. This would allow students to not get caught up about the specifics of what the prompt is asking for, and focus more on expanding their subject matter to cover the course themes. A good example of this is by the prompt for this specific blog posts. This prompt asks specific questions, but allows for students to expand on any other concerns they may have with the class going forward.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Post #5- Illinibucks

One of the most exciting aspects of making the transition from high school to college, for students, is their ability to have exponentially more freedom in choosing what they would like to focus their studies on for four years. Often times, in high school, students are forced to take classes that do not fit their interests and this leads to a lack of motivation in said classes for said students. Many students are surprised by the fact that when they get to college they can't take the classes they want due to priority allocated to other students for a variety of reasons. Several reasons for why a student may have a higher priority for a certain class is because they are a James Scholar, an honor student, or the class is in their specific major at the time. This is just one example of a priority system at the University of Illinois that blocks certain students from following their desired educational path.

If the University were to implement a system of "Illinibucks", students would be able to allocate these Illinibucks to these priority systems in order to "jump ahead" of other students based on their desire for a variety of things such as selecting classes, purchasing books, and selecting preferred campus housing. Each of these priority systems would have a designated Illinibucks price for each item in the priority system based on demand. For example, to jump to the top of a priority list for registering for a high demand class, one would have to allocate a greater amount of Illinibucks in comparison to a class with low demand. 

Registering for classes is the easiest example to explain and therefore will be used to try and understand underlying issues that could result from using the Illinibucks system. Illinibucks would be used to jump to the top of the priority list for registering for a certain class, that would, presumably, allow the student, who chooses to use his Illinibucks for that class, to register earlier than the general population. This would ensure that they get a spot in the class, as well as allow them to choose their preferred time slot for that class. 

The biggest issue that could arise from this is too many students allocating their Illinibucks for the same class. This would lead to overcrowding at the top of the priority list, and therefore would negate the need for the Illinibucks in the first place. Another issue is that their could be too many people using Illinibucks to jump to the top of the priority list, and would block certain students, who didn't use their Illinibucks, but are trying to register for a class necessary for their major. This could cause significant inefficiencies in blocking students from graduating on time. One third issue with this is if a class is undervalued, in terms of the cost to jump to the top of priority with Illinibucks, too students will jump to the top of the priority list, completely negating the point of having the system in the first place.

In my personal experience, I would have used Illinibucks to get priority in registering for computer science classes, in order to complete a computer science minor. As an economics major, I had always seen the practicality of adding on a computer science minor in order to diversify my abilities for practical applications in my career path. But due to the demand for intro level computer science classes at this university, it was near impossible for me to get into those classes. In this case the Illinibucks would have been extremely useful in allowing me to pursue this minor, as I would have most likely allocated as many Illinibucks to getting into those courses as necessary.