Business Memo in Applying Critical Thinking Model
Business Memo in Applying Critical Thinking Model
In the memo by Anil Ravaswami, Leadership Development Programs, October 10, 2014, to Ms. Cynthia Castle, there are a number of issues that need to be analyzed critically. A good analysis of the memo involve asking right questions. To effectively analyze this memo, a multi-step method developed by Browne and Keeley (Browne and Keeley, 2007) will be used.
Issues and Conclusion
In this memo, the main issue is the decision of whether Cliffside Holding Company of Massapequa (CHCM) should establish and fund a new leadership development program for their junior insurance executives or not. The proposal of the need to establish and fund the program was advanced by Ms. Forsythe. However, Mr. Anil Ravaswami, Vice President of Human Resources, concluded that CHCM should not invest in the proposed initiative to send its junior executives for annual leadership training because it is a waste of money.
Ravaswami’s conclusion that CHCM should not pursue the program of training its junior executives was based on a number of reasons. Firstly, he said the program was not necessary because it would waste a lot of money. He argued that there is no value for money spent in the program. To him, leaders are born and not made and that there is no point training someone who was not born a leader. Secondly, he pointed out that the person who advanced the proposal, Ms. Forsythe, had ill motives. Ravaswami said that the decision to invest in the program was Ms. Forsythe agenda and she wanted to use it as a way of personally discrediting him. Thirdly, he suggested that if the company was to pursue the program, it would have resulted in requests for other programs which would have drained the company’s financial resources. Fourth, he pointed out that the company’s performance has been impressive for the last 50 years without investment in any leadership training program. Fifth, his conclusion was also informed by a survey he conducted which suggested that all members of staff except one agreed that leaders are born. In addition, his decision that the program was not necessary was based on his literature review of leadership which not only defined what leadership is but also stated traits possessed by leaders. For example, he found out that leaders are people who are capable of motivating, influencing, and enabling others. He also found that leaders possess certain traits like intelligence, self-confidence, and ambition. His own experience suggest that leaders possess tall physical stature. Further, Ravaswami believed leadership theories taught at Aspen Institute are not in line with the culture existing at CHCM.
Ambiguous Phrases and Words
The memo contains not only ambiguous words but also ambiguous phases that make the understanding difficult. For example, it was mentioned that the program was to help the junior employees advance to executive positions. However, the specific executive positions were not clarified. In the memo, it was also mentioned that the program was not only to cost $100,000 for the 20 employees to attend the leadership program but also approximately $100,000 in form of lost time on the job. How the lost time in job is estimated in terms of monetary value is ambiguous. Approximate can mean higher or lower by a certain value which is not stated. It was mentioned that the average performance of the company has been 12% for the past 50 years it has been in operation. The statement is not clear on whether there has been periods when the company’s performance was negative. Then there is the definition of leadership. There is no universal definition of leadership (Winston and Patterson, 2006, p.6-66). In the memo, the definition of a leader has been said to be someone who can enable, motivate, and influence others. The words enable, motivate, and influence have more than one meaning depending on the context in which they are used. It was also stated that leaders have common traits including intelligence, self-confidence, and ambition. Measuring all these traits is subject to controversy. While using tallness as an indicator of leadership potential, the author said that he prepared a table showing heights of the greatest presidents of US. Greatness is perceived differently from individual to individual. What happens if an individual possess leadership traits and is short? Or when someone is tall but does not possess leadership traits? The author suggested that if the company spend money in training program, it would be left with little for recruitment. However, there is no clarification as to how much is usually spent on recruitment. The author said he spoke not only for truth but also for common sense. What is truthful and what is common sense to him may not be in agreement with the views or opinions of others. It is pointed out that the advocate of the training program is pushing for the theories of Aspen Institute which are not appropriate for the culture of CHCM. There is no clarification of the theories taught at Aspen as well as the current culture of the company and the appropriate culture needed at CHCM.
Value and Descriptive Assumptions
There are value and descriptive assumptions in the memo. It was suggested that it would cost the company $100,000 per annum to sponsor the junior employees for the training program and an approximate amount in terms of job lost. The assumption is that the Aspen Institute will not increase or lower the fees charged. It is further assumed that the training program would have no impact to compensate for the lost time on the job. It was assumed that because the company has been performing at an average of 12 % for the past 50 years it has been in operation and that the senior’s executives have never attended a training program, there was no need for training. If all the surveyed staff except one agreed that leadership is inborn and not made does not necessarily mean it was true because majority are of the same opinion. There was also an assumption that whoever possess certain physical stature such as tallness has a potential to become a leader. There was also an assumption that the proponent of the leadership training program is motivated by ill motives and liberal intentions. That the decision to invest in the training program would have opened a gateway for other program is a descriptive assumption. Investing in the training program would have utilized all the money available for recruitment was another assumption. The opponent of the program assumed that the leadership theories taught at Aspen Institute were not in line with the desired culture at CHCM.
Fallacies in the Reasoning
In the memo, Ravaswami concluded that CHCM should not pursue the leadership program because it is a money-wasting investment. Following this, he made fallacious statements to support this view. His idea that the proponent of the idea is motivated by ill motives and liberal notion is fallacious. The author also suggested that the decision to invest on the program would have resulted in numerous requests for programs they could not afford. Further, the statement that investing in the leadership program would have utilized money meant for recruitment is a fallacy. That the author argued he spoke for the truth and common sense is also fallacious. Further, the statement that the advocate of the program is interested in pushing for the theories taught at Aspen Institute is also another fallacy. The opponent of the program further pointed out that he believed theories learned at Aspen Institute were not appropriate for CHCM.
In this memo, there are instances where it is very difficult to use evidence as a way of proving that one thing caused another to happen. For example, the proponent’s advocacy of the establishment and funding of the leadership program was influenced by her decision to not only personally discredit the vice president for human resources but also by her liberal notions. It is very difficult to establish whether there was relationship between her decision to propose the program and the need to discredit the author. The advocate of the program might have been coveting the position of the vice president for human resources but it is difficult to link her coveting and her support for the program. It is also very difficult to establish whether education can cause people to achieve anything they desire. The author suggested that investing in the program would have caused numerous other requests for other programs. It may be difficult to know how investing in leadership and training program would result in numerous requests for other programs. It is equally difficult to understand how spending on the program would affect the money needed for recruitment.
In the memo, the author used statistics to reinforce his claim. However, the statistics he used are deceptive. While referring past performance of the company, he said that the company has been growing at an average rate of 12% per annum for the past 50 years. There are three ways of finding the average: mode, mean, and median (Baker, 2001, p.286). The author did not specify whether the 12% mention is either a mean, mode, or the median. The author also mentioned surveying senior staff and that all but one agreed that leadership is born and not made. However, he failed to tell the number of senior staff surveyed and the total number of senior staff. The author is of the opinion that tall people are more likely to be leaders than short people. He supported his claim by collecting statistics of former US presidents. However, the statistics are only for a few presidents. It would have helped if the heights of all past US presidents were presented.
Significant Information Omitted
Certain claims in the memo are incomplete without additional information. For example, the author did not mention whether all the senior executives for the company has been working all along for the company or some joined the company from other companies. The definition for leadership was picked from one source. There was a need to use more than one source. There is a mention that there are certain theories which suggest leaders have one thing in common yet the leaders presented are political or religious in nature. Leadership in the business and political context might be different. While presenting the heights of US presidents thought to be the greatest, the author would have also included heights of the presidents who were deemed the worst in the US leadership so that we can compare. There is also the omission of what could be the likely motive of the proponent’s move to discredit the author.
The ultimate conclusion as per the author’s view is that the leadership training program should be halted on grounds that it is a wastage of money. There are other possible conclusions. The company should proceed invest in the leadership training program if it is discovered that the allegations by the author that the proponent is motivated by malice are proven false. The company should also invest in the leadership and training program if it is found that the benefits outweigh the cost. If there is evidence to support the claim that leadership training is an industry-wide practice to improve company’s performance, it should continue. Evidence presented by the author are not convincing and the program should be established and funded.
Baker, D. Key Maths. Nelson Thorne Ltd: Cheltenham.
Browne, M.N. & Keeley, S.M. (2007). Asking the Right Questions: A guide to critical thinking. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Winston, B. E., & Patterson, K. (2006). An integrative definition of leadership. International journal of leadership studies, 1(2), 6-66.