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“Michael Clayton” as it represents systems theory

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1 “Michael Clayton” as it represents systems theory
Analysis of the movie. Exploring and evaluating the impact of systems theory By Marla Smith

2 Introduction This presentation explores the systems theory as it pertains to an organization portrayed in the movie “Michael Clayton” written and directed by Tony Gilroy and produced by Sydney Pollack. Concepts relating to the theory will be presented, including organizational structure.

3 Definition of Systems Theory
Organization – human systems of cooperation and coordination assembled within identifiable boundaries to pursue shared goals or objectives. “Systems theory provides a simple way to model organizations by focusing on the structure and relationships or interdependence among parts of the organization. A systems approach conveys the idea that organizations are made up of parts and that the parts interact with each other to accomplish the organization’s goals.” (Hodge, Anthony, & Gales, 2003)

4 Differentiation & Integration
Structure – the total sum of the ways in which an organization divides its labor into distinct tasks and then coordinates them. Differentiation Division of labor into tasks Allocate tasks among workers Integration Involves the various means that organizations use to pull together highly differentiated tasks into cohesive output.

5 Senior Litigation Partner
The Organization The organizational charts show differentiation The law firm’s differentiation complexity was highly vertical and highly horizontal Clayton had informal reporting relationships, often feeling pulled in too many directions Kender, Bach, and Ledeen – a Law Firm specializing in litigation. Employs upwards of 600 lawyers. Partial Organizational Chart Senior Partner Kender Bach Senior Litigation Partner Edens Litigation Partner Grissom Associates Legal Assistants Investigation Special Counsel Clayton Ledeen Informal reporting relationship Formal reporting relationship

6 Differentiation at the law firm
Under the three senior partners were their own branches of litigation & teams (Kane, 2009) Branches Investigation, pleadings and discovery Pre-trial, settlement and appeal Teams Senior Litigating Partner Litigation Associates Legal Assistants Legal Secretaries

7 Integration of the law firm
Each team worked with a client throughout the legal process. The many branches assisted the team in different parts of the process. Michael Clayton worked in the Investigation Branch. He interviewed the client, assessed the situation, and referred the client to a team.

8 Integrating Structure of Firm
Stardardization at the Firm: Process: Practice in seven areas of litigation process, accounting, human resources, public relations, and advertising Inputs: Clients (U- North), employees, labor, financing Outputs: Litigation services, responding to government agencies that tax and regulate business, dealing with unexpected events (Arthur stripping down naked and chasing a member of the client’s opposition). Formalization - High The firm had many formal rules, policies, and procedures in place, including contracts and agreements signed by employees. Centralization – High Centralization Decision making vested in top management. Spans of Control – Narrow spans Standardization: Process, Input, and Output (see side panel)

9 Nonstructural Means for Integration
Liaison Roles – coordination and communication was necessary between each branch of the firm. Clayton acted as the investigation liaison to the litigation team. The senior litigation partner acted as a liaison for his team to all other branches. Teams – employees and managers are organized into work and interunit teams in order to enhance communication, coordination, and control. Each team represented clients throughout the legal process Culture – composed of the informal and unwritten values, norms, and behavior patterns that are commonly accepted and observed by members of an organization. Firm members shared a thick culture. Employees were expected to behave professionally and dressed in business wear. Information Systems – The firm used , conference calling, and local area networks to perform business. Some information was classified according to hierarchy.

10 Goals and Effectiveness
Goals – statements that identify and endpoint or condition that an organization wishes to achieve. Official Goals, or Mission Statements Establishment of broad strategy, setting guiding principles The law firm had a mission statement as a base for setting operative goals Operative Goals Specific actions to enact strategy, guiding divisions, or business units The partners decided how the firm should be organized and set directives in place Operational Goals Individual jobs or tasks, guiding individuals’ behaviors Each level of the organization had specific duties to perform that were integrated to conduct business

11 More on Operative Goals
Ethical Principles are part of social responsibility and ethical behavior. Ethical behavior = doing good Market goals Financial Performance Goals Resource Goals Innovation Goals Productivity Goals Management Development Goals Employee Performance and Attitude Social Responsibility and Ethical Behavior

12 Focus on Social Responsibility
The premise of the story revolved around the unethical behavior of the firm’s client U-North and its chief legal counsel Karen Crowder. The senior litigation partner, Arthur Edens, exclusively handling the settlement case found substantial information in regards to the health hazards caused by the chemicals of U-North’s product. Instead of continuing to argue the case for U-North, Arthur moves toward representing the opposition as he felt it was part of his social responsibility. He was about to present his evidence to the firm, but was victim of a hired hit by Ms. Crowder (unethical behavior).

13 The firm’s response Senior partner Bach was informed of the information that U-North was hiding about cancer- causing chemicals (unethical behavior) He informed Clayton to stay quiet because the news would force U-North to settle and it would ruin the planned merger of the firm with an organization in London (hidden agenda) Ms. Crowder finds the information and encourages U-North to settle, while the firm feverishly makes an effort to complete the merger

14 Michael Clayton’s ethical decision
Michael Clayton feels that concealing the information on U-North is unethical and sets out to expose U-North and Karen Crowder (social responsibility) With the help of his brother who is a police detective, Clayton confronts Ms. Crowder (she thinks Clayton’s dead, because she ordered a hit on him too-what a surprise) He gets her to confess that she knew about the hazardous chemicals and that she ordered the hits. She accepts his bribe for him to stay quiet (unethical behavior) and the police arrest her

15 Summary & Conclusion The law firm in the movie was an example of a large organization, which could be differentiated and integrated as such The firm had many people working in a structured environment producing output from input to obtain the goal of the organization (to be a successful and lucrative firm), a perfect example of systems theory This movie portrayed hidden agendas, unethical behavior, and poor management of resources Poor management of resources was evident where Bach demanded Edens get better in a unreasonable time frame and that Clayton and Edens do everything possible to correct Edens’ outburst. When human resources started to experience problems, management ignored the problems in hopes the merger would be complete before everything fell apart.

16 Evaluation I feel that the organizational structure was effective for this type of business, with the exception of the extent of Clayton’s informal reporting. However, because of hidden agendas, human resources were poorly managed and unethical behavior hurt the firm’s reputation. With the firm’s reputation soiled, large clients would bring their business elsewhere and the business would not be as lucrative, deterring the London firm from merging. No matter how well an organization is structured, unethical behavior can destroy it.

17 References Gilroy, T. (Director). (2007). Michael Clayton [Motion Picture]. Hodge, B., Anthony, W. P., & Gales, L. M. (2003). Organization Theory (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Kane, S. (2009, October 30). The Role of a Litigation Attorney. Retrieved May 9, 2010, from a/litigationatto.htm

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