August Case Studies

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Devereaux-Dering Group

Dashing to catch a cab at the corner of Sixth and Vine, the account team was exhilarated. After a quick exchange of high fives, three of the four jumped into the backseat of a cab to return to the Manhattan offices of Devereaux-Dering, a global advertising agency with offices in New York, Hong Kong, and Paris. The team couldn’t wait to tell their team leader, Kurt Lansing, that they had won the BMW account that morning. The fourth team member, Brad Fitzgerald, stood apart from the animated group, studying his BlackBerry and then hailing a cab for an afternoon flight out of LaGuardia. After a two-year slump in sales, Devereaux-Dering needed a big score like the BMW account. To drive new business and land high-profile accounts like this one, the company had hired Kurt Lansing, an MBA from Wharton, with prominent status in the advertising industry. His job was to lead a new business team to study the market, develop strategies, and acquire major accounts. Lansing hand-selected four high achievers for his team that represented each area of the business: Brad Fitzgerald, creative director; Trish Roderick, account services; Adrienne Walsh, production manager; and Tyler Green, brand strategy. “That was a shocker!” said Roderick as she scooted across the backseat of the cab to make room for her teammates. “The client didn’t seem too impressed with our presentation until Fitzgerald presented the last set of slides describing the global campaign. They loved it. I think he single-handedly clinched the deal when he presented the tag line for the Asian market,” she said excitedly. “He’s a real whiz, alright,” muttered Green. “The eighth wonder of the world.” Sighing deeply and losing his earlier exuberance, Green said, “We couldn’t have bagged the deal without him, and I know we’ll all get credit. But none of us knew he planned to present that last part of the global campaign. I know he was working on that tag line late last night, but there was plenty of time this morning to get team input on it. I hate surprises in front of a client. I felt like a fool, even if we did win the business.” “He’s a regular white knight,” chuckled Walsh, “riding in at the last minute to save the day. I suppose we should appreciate him, but he’s just so irritating. He snapped at me last week for not telling him about a client who was upset about delays in their ad campaign. I reminded him that I had told him about it in our status meeting, but he wasn’t listening at the time. He was glued to his precious BlackBerry, as usual. Why have team meetings if he isn’t going to participate?” Roderick was surprised by her teammates’ reaction to Fitzgerald. She thought they had been working well together. She was quickly discovering, however, an undercurrent of resentment. This was the first time that she had been exposed to the conflict that was simmering below the surface. No doubt, Fitzgerald did have a strong ego and aggressive personality. A previously successful entrepreneur, Fitzgerald had a track record of success and was very ambitious. However, she did notice that he didn’t show respect for differing opinions or invite collaboration on ideas. She wondered if he was placing his own success above the team’s. But why complain if the team was sharing the credit and earning fat bonuses along with him? She was content to go with the status quo. “You know,” she said, “we’re darn lucky to be on his team.” She stared out the cab window at the passing traffic and listened to her two teammates continue to grouse. “I should have known something was up when I walked past his office last night and saw him working with the new copywriter. They must have been hashing out the new tag line,” smirked Green. “We are a team, aren’t we? The system is bigger than the individual, remember? He doesn’t seem too concerned about the welfare of the team—only his own.” “Well, let’s all have a heart-to-heart with Mr. McWhiz,” said Walsh sarcastically. “I’m sure he’ll see things our way. We’ll give him a brief overview of Teamwork 101. That will go over great!” As the cab pulled to the curb, they tossed the driver a $20 bill and headed to their offices on the 40th floor. They would all stop to see the team leader, Kurt Lansing, first. In the meantime, Lansing smiled broadly when he received Fitzgerald’s text message that they had won the BMW account. Sinking back in his chair, he marveled at the cohesiveness and success of his team. All that time building a shared vision and building trust was starting to pay off.


1. What factors do you think are affecting this team’s cohesiveness? Explain.

2. If you were the team leader, what could you do to bring Fitzgerald into the team more and foster better relationships among the team members?

3. As a team member, what would you do? Should the three members of the team confront Fitzgerald with their concerns? Should they inform Kurt Lansing? Explain your answers.

Daft, Richard L.. The Leadership Experience (p. 319).

Daft, Richard L.. The Leadership Experience (p. 320).


“From This Point On …”

Bernini Foods is one of several companies offering healthy, frozen-packaged meals in the once-laughable and nutritionally challenged frozen dinner industry. Meeting the changing needs of modern, on-the-go, budget-conscious consumers, the new meals offered by Bernini face unprecedented competition from long-time industry leaders including Bertolli, Marie Callendar, Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, and others. Cutthroat competition within the industry means every corporation must hustle for quality ingredients, improved packaging, efficiency in delivery systems, and decreased cooking times. Like its competitors, Bernini looks to increased market share through a combination of price cuts and the introduction of new products. To meet these challenges, CEO Roberto Bernini created a new management position to monitor pricing and purchasing. VP for Finance Ted McCann hired Lucian Wilkes, a retired army colonel, for the new position, giving him wide latitude for setting up new rules and procedures. With an announcement from CEO Bernini, Wilkes was introduced to the company. Following an intense period of in-house research and information gathering, Wilkes zeroed in on what he saw as the major problems—the fragmentation of pricing and purchasing decisions, with managers in various regions devising their own standards and making their own contracts. The process sent up red flags for Wilkes. He made an across-the-board e-mail announcement for new sustainability procedures, basically informing each regional office that “from this point on …” regional managers must inform his office of any price change above 3 percent. In addition, all local purchase contracts above $10 000 must also be approved by Wilkes’s office prior to implementation. Directives for these new standardization procedures were issued to regional managers for their policy manuals. These managers, according to their immediate feedback, were all in agreement with the changes. But as one month followed another, Wilkes’s concern and level of frustration grew and a culture of business as usual appeared to continue. Managers did not resist. Frequent correspondence across the various regions including e-mails, faxes, and conference calls brought repeated assurances that change was coming. “We just need time to make the changes,” one manager said. But weeks dragged on and the situation remained unaltered. Complicating the situation, Wilkes appeared to have no vocal support from company executives, who were busy with their own concerns. While both Bernini and McCann offered lukewarm comments about the need for new initiatives to spur efficiency, neither demonstrated wholehearted support for the changes. The new plan was going nowhere, and Wilkes was aware that the failure of the company to increase profits could result in the loss of his own position. “If nothing changes,” Wilkes complained to his wife, “the regional managers will remain on the job. My job will be cut.” Wilkes wondered what his next move should be. In how many ways could he inform the managers to implement the new procedures? What pressures could he apply? How could he impress upon Bernini and McCann the importance of their support for the changes? He felt at a loss for what he should do. Did Bernini Foods want these new standards implemented or not?


1. Why do you think the regions are not responding to Wilkes’s initiative for change? What did Wilkes do wrong with respect to implementing the change?

2. Should Wilkes solicit more active support from Bernini and McCann for the change he is attempting to implement? How might he do that?

3. Develop a plan that Wilkes can use to successfully restart the implementation of this change.


The New Boss Sam Nolan clicked the mouse for one more round of solitaire on the computer in his den. He’d been at it for more than an hour, and his wife had long ago given up trying to persuade him to join her for a movie or a rare Saturday night on the town. The mind-numbing game seemed to be all that calmed Sam down enough to stop agonizing about work and how his job seemed to get worse every day.

Nolan was chief information officer at Century Medical, a large medical products company based in Connecticut. He had joined the company four years ago, and since that time Century had made great progress integrating technology into its systems and processes. Nolan had already led projects to design and build two highly successful systems for Century. One was a benefits-administration system for the company’s human resources department. The other was a complex Web-based purchasing system that streamlined the process of purchasing supplies and capital goods. Although the system had been up and running for only a few months, modest projections were that it would save Century nearly $2 million annually. The new Web-based system dramatically cut the time needed for processing requests and placing orders. Purchasing managers now had more time to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to identify and select the best suppliers and negotiate better deals.

Nolan thought wearily of all the hours he had put in developing trust with people throughout the company and showing them how technology could not only save time and money but also support team-based work, encourage open information sharing, and give people more control over their own jobs. He smiled briefly as he recalled one long-term HR employee, 61-year-old Ethel Moore. She had been terrified when Nolan first began showing her the company’s intranet, but she was now one of his biggest supporters. In fact, it had been Ethel who had first approached him with an idea about a Web-based job posting system. The two had pulled together a team and developed an idea for linking Century managers, internal recruiters, and job applicants using artificial intelligence software on top of an integrated Web-based system. When Nolan had presented the idea to his boss, executive vice president Sandra Ivey, she had enthusiastically endorsed it. Within a few weeks the team had authorization to proceed with the project.

But everything began to change when Ivey resigned her position six months later to take a plum job in New York. Ivey’s successor, Tom Carr, seemed to have little interest in the project. During their first meeting, Carr had openly referred to the project as a waste of time and money. He immediately disapproved several new features suggested by the company’s internal recruiters, even though the project team argued that the features could double internally hiring and save millions in training costs. “Just stick to the original plan and get it done. All this stuff needs to be handled on a personal basis anyway,” Carr countered. “You can’t learn more from a computer than you can talking to real people—and as for internal recruiting, it shouldn’t be so hard to talk to people if they’re already working right here in the company.” Carr seemed to have no understanding of how and why technology was being used. He became irritated when Ethel Moore referred to the system as “Web-based.” He boasted that he had never visited Century’s intranet site and suggested that “this Internet obsession” would blow over in a few years anyway. Even Ethel’s enthusiasm couldn’t get through to him. “Technology is for those people in the IS department. My job is people, and yours should be, too,” Carr shouted. Near the end of the meeting, Carr even jokingly suggested that the project team should just buy a couple of good filing cabinets and save everyone some time and money.

Nolan sighed and leaned back in his chair. The whole project had begun to feel like a joke. The vibrant and innovative human resources department his team had imagined now seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. But despite his frustration, a new thought entered Nolan’s mind: “Is Carr just stubborn and narrow-minded or does he have a point that HR is a people business that doesn’t need a high-tech job posting system?”


1. Describe the two different mental models represented in this story.

2. What are some of the assumptions that shape the mindset of Sam Nolan? Of Tom Carr?

3. Do you think it is possible for Carr to shift to a new mental model? If you were Sam Nolan, what would you do?

Sources: Based on Carol Hildebrand, “New Boss Blues,” CIO Enterprise, Section 2 (November 15, 1998), pp. 53–58; and Megan Santosus, “Advanced Micro Devices’ Web-Based Purchasing System,” CIO, Section 1 (May 15, 1998), p. 84. A version of this case originally appeared in Richard L. Daft, Organization Theory and Design, 7th ed. (Cincinnati, OH: South-Western, 2001), pp. 270–271.

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