Thursday, December 5, 2013

Final Blog Post - Class Reflection

This class was taught in a fairly different way than most of the college courses I have taken thus far. Typically, it seems that in most classes the format is as follows: the professor will introduce an idea, explain it, give examples, and then give students a chance to play around with the idea through discussion or other assignments. Contrary to that, I felt like in this course, students were given an assignment dealing with a new concept, causing them to work through the ideas on their own, and then the concept was formally introduced and explained in class afterwards.

This method of class organization initially frustrated me quite a bit. I felt confused by the homework assignments and frustrated when I didn’t understand the concepts behind them. Once I settled into the pattern of the course, I found that there were aspects of this setup that I liked, and aspects that I didn’t like. I enjoyed the way the assignments ‘forced’ me to look at the material before it was formally explained. That gave me an opportunity to think about it on my own first, which primed me to better understand the importance of the explanation given in class. Without having to work my way thought the homework first, I think I would’ve been more inclined to tune out the in-class explanation because I wouldn’t have as much context to look at it with. One way I feel this setup could’ve been improved, however, would be by having a quick assignment after the explanation as well. I think this would have benefited me by giving me the opportunity to make sure I fully understand the concepts after the lecture about them. I think it would also improve my remembering of the concepts.

As for the blog posts, I thought they were interesting and a good preparation for the essay questions in the exam. I think the amount of work and the amount of time it took was reasonable. The blog posts typically took me maybe 5 minutes of preparation to think of personal example that I thought might fit the prompt, and then I continued the thought process while I wrote the post. I think the combination of math-type modeling and more thought-based concepts was interesting and allowed the class to take a broader look at the topics covered.

I think one of my biggest takeaways from this class is that it has made me more aware of different inefficiencies within organizations. I hadn’t ever considered concepts such as transfer costs, the actual effect of reputations, or the costs of monitoring. I always just thought of firms and organizations as entities that were set up and then went about accomplishing tasks, without considering many of the actual mechanics behind how they work. I learned that organizations are not necessarily efficient, but that much of that inefficiency is simply a part of how organizations run and is in a sense an unavoidable part of the system.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reputation and Branding

Although the bank I work at may now have a very well known “name brand,” it is a good example for me to discuss because I am familiar with our goal image and the things we do to help enforce it. My bank has 10 branches all in the central Illinois area, with our main branch being located in Central Illinois. I will speak about my branch in particular, but the same ideas apply to all of our bank’s branches. We have to compete with other local banks as well as the larger banks in the area. One way that we compete with those banks is through the brand and the reputation that my bank tries to project.

I would say that our brand is a local bank that offers competitive banking services both for businesses and individuals. We work to develop our brand by maintaining the name “First Bank” and the same logo. I actually recently heard my manager and another employee discussing how there was an issue when the branch in Savoy, and then the branch in Champaign opened. The branch in Savoy opened with the name “First Bank of Savoy” and the branch in Champaign opened with the name “First Bank.” The issue my manager was discussing was that people were confused when the Champaign branch opened about whether or not it was the same bank, but by that point it was too late to rebrand the Savoy branch. We also offer the same products at all of our branches and try to embody the same idea of a personal customer service. As a teller, I am supposed to provide excellent service and be able to interact with customers well at the same time that I take care of the banking needs. We are often reminded that our customers need to have our full attention, and that we should never make them feel as if they are interrupting anything that we’re doing. We also focus on having conversation with customers when they come in.

I would say that our reputation is a bank that offers some of the amenities of a larger bank, but still maintains the personal feel of a small local bank. We are able to greet most of our customers by name when they walk in, and we are able to work with everyone personally to set up accounts and other services in ways that meet their specific needs. Even with that small-town feel, we still have a broader range of services such as a range of personal and business checking and savings accounts, and other services such as savings programs, mobile banking, gift cards, and many other things. Our loan department also offers many different personal and corporate loans. These services help us to appeal to customers who want all of those options, but still want to have the small bank feel and atmosphere. Some of the things we are known for that don’t relate directly to our banking services are the dog bones and candy we hand out, the coffee we offer to customers daily, and our popcorn Fridays.

It seems that the difference between branding and reputation is that branding is more so about what services the company provides, whereas a reputation is more about how people perceive the company. The relationship between the brand and the reputation could be that part of a businesses brand is its reputation. I think another way they relate is that a business will try to make its branding goals a part of their reputation. If, as a bank, we try to brand ourselves as a bank with a local feel but larger service offerings, we want our reputation to be that customers feel as if we offer those things that are a part of our brand. I think another main difference is that the company sets the brand, however the customers in a way have a say in determining the reputation, because the reputation is completely dependent on what outside people see and think about the company.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Personal Reputation

I hope that I have a strong reputation among all groups with whom I interact, however for the purpose of this blog post I will discuss my reputation at work. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I work at a bank in downtown Champaign. I started working here at the end of this past May, so I’ve been at the bank for about six months now.
I believe that I have a pretty strong reputation at work. I actually asked one of my coworkers what she would consider my reputation to be, and she said that she would consider me to be hard-working, but also fun and “goofy in a good way.” I started working on earing a good reputation at work from the first day. I have always made sure to dress very professionally and be professional with how I wear my hair and makeup. I paid very close attention during my training because I wanted to show that I cared about learning everything I needed to know for the job, and I wanted to pick up the necessary skills quickly. During my first few weeks on the job, I asked questions frequently about things I didn’t understand so that I could expand my knowledge, and so that I would not make mistakes. I still ask questions whenever something comes up that I don’t know about. Recently I told my manager I wanted to learn more about FDIC coverage, and he gave me some reading material about it. I think that continuing to try to grow my knowledge at work, even in areas that I don’t need to do my daily job, helps to further my reputation as a hard worker and as someone who is willing to put in extra effort. Another way that I have developed a good reputation as a hard worker at my workplace is by always being willing to do any task that needs done. I frequently ask my manager if there is any extra work that needs to be done, and I always offer to help if one of my coworkers seems extra busy.
My reputation for being fun is something that my coworkers see more so than my boss. It is important to me to have a good relationship with the people I work with because we spend so much time together. My coworker told me that at first, she thought I would be a “bosses pet” and that I was trying to suck up to the boss by asking for extra work to do during down times. She said that she soon realized though, that I actually did want to do extra tasks when needed, and that she really appreciated that I could still be fun and interact with her and the other teller. I have spent time with my coworkers outside of work, and we have also done small office pranks on each other. These type of activities have helped me to develop a good reputation as someone that is friendly and fun to be around, instead of someone who cares only about the work.

Some days I do “cash-in” on my strong reputation at work. Since I am a full time student taking 16 credit hours in addition to working 20-25 hours a week, it is sometimes necessary for me to use down time at work to get studying done. While this is okay with my boss, I think it would be less ‘okay’ if I did not work as hard when we were busy. Another way in which I sometimes cash-in on my reputation is by occasionally making calls at work, such as setting up doctor appointments or advising appointments and other things like that which typically must be done during the work day. When I need to make a quick personal call, one of the other tellers always covers my station for me. This type of thing also is much more easy for me to do because I am such a dedicated worker.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Principal-Agent Model

The first two triangle arrangements I’ve participated in that came into my mind were the triangle arrangement that occurs when I am at work, trying to solve a problem for a customer, and the triangle arrangement that has occurred within my family as a result of my parent’s divorce.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I work at a bank in downtown Champaign. I work as a Customer Service/New Accounts Representative. When a customer comes into the bank or calls with a problem, it is my job to do what I can to solve the problem. This sometimes means that I need to represent the customer and whatever their issue is when speaking with people or calling around to help resolve the issue. I also, however, am obviously still an agent of the bank and am representing the bank while I help the customer.

A specific example of when this occurs is when a customer sees a charge on their account that they think shouldn’t be there. I have to get information from the customer and have them fill out a form, and then I typically end up speaking with the bank employee who looks into those disputes. When I speak to her, I explain the customer’s issue and the reasons why they think the charge is illegitimate, and so in that sense I am acting as an agent for the customer. At the same time, I am an agent of the bank because I am a bank employee, and ultimately I have to call the customer back and explain to them how the bank is going to handle the issue. If there is every any tension, so in this example, if the bank employee I spoke with says they think the charge is legitimate, I will often restated the customer’s argument against that point, and in my experience so far, the result is that the charge gets refunded but the bank won’t return a charge from the same company again. The tension, in this circumstance, usually ends up getting resolved with that type of compromise. However, if it came down to it, I would definitely satisfy the bank while ignoring the need of the customer (to get the charge refunded).

I am uncertain if this example completely applies, however, because I am only acting as an agent for the customer because that is what being an agent of the bank requires, so in that sense, dealing with the customer is not dealing with a separate principal, but instead a part of dealing with the bank’s principal. This makes my performance in the view of the bank take complete precedence over my performance in the view of the customer.

The other example I mentioned is a much more clear fit with the bilateral principal-agent model. My parents got divorced when I was seven, and have continued fighting almost constantly ever since. This means that I was often in the middle of an argument, or being asked to do different things by each parent. One example of this would be a situation in which I a family event on my mother’s side was occurring during time I was scheduled to be with my father. My mother would count it as good performance only if I told my father I wouldn’t see him so I could go to the event, and my father would only count the opposite (if I told my mother I couldn’t go to the event because I wanted to see my father) as good performance.

Situations in which there was this type of tension because the two agents (my parents) had different goals and expectations occurred very frequently. There would typically be many ways to resolve the situation, be that completely taking ‘one side’ or picking some variation of a compromise. Typically though, most options would end up with the agent (myself) failing by satisfying one ‘master’ at least partially, and ignoring the other. In practice, I usually tried to stick with the least confrontational approach; I would usually try to find some sort of compromise that would not make either of my parents completely happy, but would not make either completely unsatisfied either.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Interaction Experiences

I am having some trouble thinking of parallel experiences in which one experience was bad, and the other was good. I think that my experiences have been much less distinctly tilted one way or another. I can much more easily come up with aspects of my current job, for example, that I like, and aspects that I dislike.
The post says to use aliases, so I’ll try to be vague instead of giving specific names. I work at a bank in Champaign. When I started the job this summer, the bank had just lost all two of its three previous tellers. E (female) has been working at the bank part-time for over a year, B (male) had been hired about a month before me to fill the full-time teller position, and I was hired to fill the other part-time teller position.

I will start with an experience where things went poorly. Our branch is open every day during the week, and just our drive-thru is open on Saturdays. On Saturdays two people have to be at work, because we each only receive half of the vault codes for security reasons, even though it only takes one teller to run the drive-thru. On one of the Saturdays that I had been assigned to work this summer, the other teller I was scheduled to be working with, B, did not show up. I waited until 15 minutes after the drive-thru was supposed to have opened at 8am, and then because the manager was out of town on vacation, I called one of our branch loan officers. The bank’s CEO ended up having to come in to help me get into the vault until the loan officer I had called was able to get to the bank to sit there with me until the drive-thru closed at noon.

B called into the bank at about 9:30 and said he had forgotten to set an alarm, and the loan office had me tell him to just stay home for the day. On top of not showing up on this Saturday, B had already called in sick to work on five separate occasions that summer (several of those being on a Friday). The loan officer spoke with me that morning about the situation, and he was clearly angry that B had not shown up for work. The loan officer mentioned that B had called in sick more days in the 2 1/2 months B had been working at the bank than he had taken as vacation days all year, and said that if the decision was up to him, he would fire B. Apparently the manager was supposed to tell B not to come in on the following Monday, and so the loan officer asked me if I could come in early that day.

B did show up for work on Monday though, and said that the manager never told him not to come in. When K, the manager, got back from vacation on Tuesday, he told me that I would have to work fewer hours later that week because of the hours I came in early on Monday. He then told B that B could work extra hours that week if he wanted to so that he could make up his hours for “missing Saturday.” Unfortunately, the buddy-buddy system between B and the manager K was not just noticeable on this day, but is evident most days that I am at work. This is problem with a type of ‘clique’ feel happening at my workplace. This incident also occurred because of B’s lack of commitment to work. All-in-all, this situation is very frustrating because the other teller and I frequently feel that we are treated unfairly.

I have had very good experience, though, working with the other teller, E. We are both good about helping the other person when they get busy as opposed to only working on ‘our work’. The way we are able to share work fairly to get things accomplished makes both our work and personal relationship go very smoothly. This has a lot to do with E’s personality, because she is a very friendly and open person, which makes her easy to get along with, and with her commitment to the work, because it causes her to care about getting things done regardless of who’s ‘job’ it is to do the task. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Individual vs. Team Production

I thought this piece was very interesting. The ideas in it made a lot of sense. It just seems natural that if two people have to work together to produce something, they should both share the product, especially in the case where neither of the two would have been able to produce the ‘marbles’ alone. This idea seems to be so common-sense that I never really thought about why it is that so many people act as if that is the case.

The first example of this I was able to think of was the bank that I work at. At any place of employment, a group of people work together to produce something – in my case that is banking services for our customers. Under this line of thinking, my paycheck is my share of the ‘marbles’ that I helped to produce. The bank would not be able to run and make a profit at all if there was only one person trying to produce the services by themselves; in the case of most businesses team production is necessary. And since all members of the team are needed for production, the rewards, or profits, are shared by means of paychecks and bonuses.

One aspect of the idea of sharing rewards in group production is the decision of how much of the rewards each team member receives. It seems to make sense that the team members who did more work should get more rewards, and those who did less work should get less of the rewards. In the article, both children had to pull the rope in the exact same way, but if one of the children had to pull their rope harder or longer than the other, it would be interesting to see if they were allowed to keep a larger portion of the marbles. The size of a team member’s paycheck can be related to this idea—I make less money than the branch manager of my bank, because I don’t put in as much effort to produce the good as he does.

I really agree with the conclusions offered by this piece. I think that people have a desire to share the gains when they had to work together to achieve them. This may be because it feels like the ‘right’ or moral thing to do. It also, though, may be an individualistically motivated action too; if you don’t share the rewards with the person or people who helped make it possible for you to get them, then they have no motivation to help you bring about the rewards again in the future. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Transfer Pricing

It seems to me that anything that the Illinibucks can be applied to would be something the students would use them for. The main possible uses that come to mind would firstly be to move to the head of the line at any on-campus food provider, so for example using one would allow you to move to the front of the line at Chipotle. I think that this use would work pretty well, especially if students were only given a set amount of Illinibucks and could not buy more, because that means that students don’t have to wait in line when they are in a hurry, however the set number means that it won’t be impossible to get food if you are waiting in line, because only so many people will want to use up their Illinibucks at that particular time.

Another possible use would be that these would allow someone to go to the front of the line at bookstores as well as food providers, which would be especially handy at the beginning of the semester when everyone is purchasing books and the lines at the Illini Bookstore and TIS tend to get extremely long. Once again, though, if some people were able to get more Illinibucks than others because they could afford more, it would put the students would couldn’t at a disadvantage because they would likely have to wait in line even longer without having the added benefit of being able to, at least to some degree, predict how much longer the line will be like students have now.

A third possible use would be to jump ahead in registering for classes. This would change the allocation method from being based on your year in school, any possible honors programs, and your major. I think that this would be particularly ineffective, because it would make it more difficult for students who need a class, for example a senior who needs a particular class for their major, to get into the course.

I personally think that in all of these circumstances the llinibucks would work better if everyone was given a set amount, rather than being allowed to purchase them. If students were able to purchase as many as they wanted, then there is the potential that Illinibucks become almost necessary in order to get to the front of whatever line the situation involves, because if one student doesn’t use them, they will just have to wait longer because so many other students will.  I personally would spend my Illinibucks when I did not have the time to wait in a line, or if they were used for class registration, when it was a class I urgently needed. I would try to not waste them because I have a limited budget and would want to avoid ever having to buy more.

If the administered price was too low, there would be an issue with Illinibucks becoming the norm as I mentioned above. A majority of people would use them fairly frequently, and the more people that used them, the more beneficial it would become to use one yourself. If the administered price was too high, then they could serve as a differentiator between students who have enough money to feel comfortable spending it in that way (or who’s parents have enough money), and students who don’t. This seems unfair to me, however this would not be the only place where money serves as a divided in that aspect, and so it would probably seem normal if this policy was administered.