Organizational Behavior Case studies
Choose any of the 5 Cases out of 6 and briefly answer each case with detail explanations
José has been appointed chair of a steering task force to design the primary product line for a new joint venture between companies from Japan, the United States, and South America. The new joint venture company will make, sell, and service pet caskets (coffins) for the burial of beloved pets, mostly dogs and cats. One month earlier, each company had assigned personnel to the task force:
From the Japanese company, Furuay Masahiko from Yokohama, assistant to the president of the Japanese company; Hamada Isao from Tokyo, director of marketing from its technology group; and Noto Takeshi from Tokyo, assistant director of its financial management department.
- From the United States company, Thomas Boone from Chicago, the top purchasing manager from its lumber and forest lands group; Richard Maret from Buffalo, the codirector of the company’s information systems group; and Billy Bob “Tex” Johnson from Arizona, the former CEO, now retired and a consultant for the company.
- From the South American company, Mariana Preus from Argentina, the head of product design for that company’s specialty animal products group; Hector Bonilla from their Mexico City division, an expert in automated systems design for wood products; and Mauricio Gomes, in charge of design and construction for the plant, which will be located in southern Chile to take advantage of the vast forest there.
These members were chosen for their expertise in various areas and were taking valuable time away from their normal assignments to participate in the joint venture.
As chair of the task force, José had scheduled an initial meeting for 10:00 A.M. José started the meeting by reviewing the history of the development of the joint venture and how the three company presidents had decided to create it. Then, José reviewed the market for the new high-end, designer pet coffins, stressing that this task force was to develop the initial design parameters for the new product to meet increasing demand around the world. He then opened the meeting for commentsandsuggestions.
Mariana Preus spoke first: “In my opinion, the current designs that we have in production in our Argentina plant are just fine. They are topnotch designs, using the latest technology for processing. They use the best woods available and they should sell great. I don’t see why we have to design a whole new product line.” Noto Takeshi agreed and urged the committee to recommend that the current designs were good enough and should be immediately incorporated into the plans for the new manufacturing plant. José interrupted the discussion: “Look, the council of presidents put this joint venture together to completely revolutionize the product and its manufacture based on solid evidence and industry data. We are to redesign the product and its manufacturing systems. That is our job, so let’s get started.” José knew that the presidents had considered using existing designs but had rejected the idea because the designs were too old and not easily manufacturable at costs low enough to make a significant impact on the market. He told the group this and reminded them that the purpose of the committee was to design a new product.
The members then began discussing possible new design elements, but the discussion always returned to the benefits of using the existing designs. Finally, Tex spoke up: “I think we ought to do what Mariana suggested earlier. It makes no sense to me to design new caskets when the existing designs are good enough to do the job.” The others nodded their heads in agreement. José again reminded them of the task force’s purpose and said such a recommendation would not be well received by the council of presidents. Nevertheless, the group insisted that José write a memo to the council of presidents with the recommendation to use existing designs and to begin immediately to design the plant and the manufacturing system. The meeting adjourned and the members headed to the golf course at 10:45 A.M.
José returned to his computer and started to write the memo, but he knew it would anger the presidents. He hoped he would not be held responsible for the actions of the task force, even though he was its chair. He wondered what had gone wrong and what he could have done to prevent it.
A. Which characteristics of group behavior discussed in the chapter can you identify inthiscase?
B. How did the diverse nature of the group affect the committee’s actions?
C. If you were in Jose’s position, what would you have done differently? What would you do now?
Case2. Using Teams in Organization
Teams at Evans RV Wholesale Supply and Distribution Company?
Evans RV Wholesale Supply and Distribution Company sells parts, equipment, and supplies for recreational vehicles-motor homes, travel trailers, campers, and similar vehicles. In addition, Evans has a service department for the repair and service of RVs. The owner, Alex Evans, bought the company five years ago from its original owner, changed the name of the company, and has finally made it profitable, although it has been rough going. The organization is set up in three divisions: service, retail parts and supplies, and wholesale parts and supplies. Alex, the owner, CEO, and president, has a vice president for each operating division and a vice president of finance and operations. The organization chart shows these divisions and positions.
In the warehouse there are three groups: receiving (checking orders for completeness, returning defective merchandise, stocking the shelves, filling orders), service parts, and order filling for outgoing shipments. The warehouse group is responsible for all activities related to parts and supplies receiving, storage, and shipping.
The retail sales division includes all functions related to selling of parts and supplies at the two stores and in the mobile sales trailer. Personnel in the retail division include salespeople and cashiers. The retail salespeople also work in the warehouse because the warehouse also serves as the showroom for walk-in customers.
In the service department the service manager supervises the service writers, one scheduler, and lead mechanics and technicians. The service department includes the collision repair group at the main store and the service department at the satellite store. The collision repair group has two service writers who have special expertise in collision repair and insurance regulations. Two drivers who move RVs around the “yard” also work in the service division.
The accounting and finance groups do everything related to the money side of the business, including accounts payable and receivable, cash management, and payroll. Also in this group is the one person who handles all of the traditional personnel functions.
Alex has run other small businesses and is known as a benevolent owner, always taking care of the loyal employees who work hard and are the backbone of any small business. He is also known as being real tough on anyone who loafs on the job or tries to take unfair advantage of Alex or the company. Most of the employees are either veterans of the RV industry at Evans or elsewhere, or are very young and still learning the business. Alex is working hard to develop a good work ethic among the younger employees and to keep the old-timers fully involved. Since he bought the business, Alex has instituted new, modern, employee-centered human resource policies. However, the company is still a traditional hierarchically structured organization.
The company is located in a major metropolitan area that has a lot of potential customers for the RV business. The region has many outdoor recreational activities and an active retirement community that either lives in RVs (motor homes, trailers, or mobile homes) or uses them for recreation. The former owner of the business specifically chose not to be in the RV sales business, figuring that parts and service was the better end of the business. Two stores are strategically located on opposite ends of the metropolitan area, and a mobile sales office is moved around the major camping and recreational areas during the peak months of the year.
When Alex bought the company, the parts and supplies business was only retail, relying on customers to walk in the door to buy something. After buying the business, Alex applied good management, marketing, and cash-management principles to get the company out of the red and into profitability. Although his was not the only such business in town, it was the only one locally owned, and it had a good local following.
About two years ago, Alex recognized that the nature of the business was changing. First, he saw the large nationwide retailers moving into town. These retailers were using discount pricing in large warehouse-type stores. These large retail stores could use volume purchasing to get lower prices from manufacturers, and they had the large stores necessary to store and shelve the large inventory. Alex, with only two stores, was unable to get such low prices from manufacturers. He also noted that retired people were notorious for shopping around for the lowest prices, but they also appreciated good, friendly customer service. People interested in recreational items also seemed to be following the national trend to shop via catalogs.
So for a variety of reasons Alex began to develop a wholesale business by becoming a wholesale distributor to the many RV parts and supply businesses in the small towns located in the recreational areas around that state and in surrounding states. At the same time, he created the first catalog for RV parts and supplies, featuring all the brand-name parts and supplies by category and supplier. The catalog had a very attractive camping scene on the cover, a combination of attractively displayed items and many pages full of all the possible parts and supplies that the RV owner could think of. Of course, he made placing an order very easy, by phone, mail, or fax, and accepted many easy payment methods. He filled both distributor orders and catalog orders from his warehouse in the main store using standard mail and parcel delivery services, charging the full delivery costs to the customers. He credits the business’s survival so far to his diversification into the warehouse and catalog business through which he could directly compete with the national chains.
Although it is now barely profitable, Alex is concerned about the changes in the industry and the competition and about making the monthly payments on the $5 million loan he got from the bank to buy the business in the first place. In addition, he reads about the latest management techniques and attends various professional conferences around the country. He has been hearing and reading about this team-based organization idea and thinks it might be just the thing to energize his company and take it to the next level of performance and profitability. At the annual strategic planning retreat in August, Alex announced to his top management team that starting on October 1 (the beginning of the next fiscal year), the company would be changing to a team-based arrangement.
a. What mistakes has Alex already made in developing a team-based organization?
b. If Alex were to call you in as a consultant, what would you tell him to do?
c. Using the organization chart of Evans RV Wholesale Supply and Distribution, describe how you would put the employees together in team
Case 3. Foundations of Individual Behavior
Differing Perceptions at Clarkston Industries
Susan Harrington continued to drum her fingers on her desk. She had a real problem and wasn’t sure what to do next. She had a lot of confidence in Jack Reed, but she suspected she was about the last person in the office who did. Perhaps if she ran through the entire story again in her mind she would see the solution.
Susan had been distribution manager for Clarkston Industries for almost twenty years. An early brush with the law and a short stay in prison had made her realize the importance of honesty and hard work. Henry Clarkston had given her a chance despite her record, and Susan had made the most of it. She now was one of the most respected managers in the company. Few people knew her background.
Susan had hired Jack Reed fresh out of prison six months ago. Susan understood how Jack felt when Jack tried to explain his past and asked for another chance. Susan decided to give him that chance just as Henry Clarkston had given her one. Jack eagerly accepted a job on the loading docks and could soon load a truck as fast as anyone in the crew.
Things had gone well at first. Everyone seemed to like Jack, and he made several new friends. Susan had been vaguely disturbed about two months ago, however, when another dock worker reported his wallet missing. She confronted Jack about this and was reassured when Jack understood her concern and earnestly but calmly asserted his innocence. Susan was especially relieved when the wallet was found a few days later.
The events of last week, however, had caused serious trouble. First, a new personnel clerk had come across records about Jack’s past while updating employee files. Assuming that the information was common knowledge, the clerk had mentioned to several employees what a good thing it was to give ex-convicts like Jack a chance. The next day, someone in bookkeeping discovered some money missing from petty cash. Another worker claimed to have seen Jack in the area around the office strongbox, which was open during working hours, earlier that same day.
Most people assumed Jack was the thief. Even the worker whose wallet had been misplaced suggested that perhaps Jack had indeed stolen it but had returned it when questioned. Several employees had approached Susan and requested that Jack be fired. Meanwhile, when Susan had discussed the problem with Jack, Jack had been defensive and sullen and said little about the petty-cash situation other than to deny stealing the money.
To her dismay, Susan found that rethinking the story did little to solve his problem. Should she fire Jack? The evidence, of course, was purely circumstantial, yet everybody else seemed to see things quite clearly. Susan feared that if she did not fire Jack, she would lose everyone’s trust and that some people might even begin to question her own motives.
?a. Explain the events in this case in terms of perception and attitudes. Does personality play a role?
b. What should Susan do? Should she fire Jack or give him another chance?
Case 4. Organization Change and Development
Spooked by Computers
The New England Arts Project had its headquarters above an Italian restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The project had five full-time employees, and during busy times of the year, particularly the month before Christmas, it hired as many as six part-time workers to type, address envelopes, and send out mailings. Although each of the five full-timers had a title and a formal job description, an observer would have had trouble telling their positions apart. Suzanne Clammer, for instance, was the executive director, the head of the office, but she could be found typing or licking envelopes just as often as Martin Welk, who had been working for less than a year as office coordinator, the lowest position in the project’s hierarchy.
Despite a constant sense of being a month behind, the office ran relatively smoothly. No outsider would have had a prayer of finding a mailing list or a budget in the office, but project employees knew where almost everything was, and after a quiet fall they did not mind having their small space packed with workers in November. But a number of the federal funding agencies on which the project relied began to grumble about the cost of the part-time workers, the amount of time the project spent handling routine paperwork, and the chaotic condition of its financial records. The pressure to make a radical change was on. Finally Martin Welk said it: “Maybe we should get a computer.”
To Welk, fresh out of college, where he had written his papers on a word processor, computers were just another tool to make a job easier. But his belief was not shared by the others in the office, the youngest of whom had fifteen years more seniority than he. A computer would eat the project’s mailing list, they said, destroying any chance of raising funds for the year. It would send the wrong things to the wrong people, insulting them and convincing them that the project had become another faceless organization that did not care. They swapped horror stories about computers that had charged them thousands of dollars for purchases they had never made or had assigned the same airplane seat to five people.
“We’ll lose all control,” Suzanne Clammer complained. She saw some kind of office automation as inevitable, yet she kept thinking she would probably quit before it came about. She liked hand-addressing mailings to arts patrons whom she had met, and she felt sure that the recipients contributed more because they recognized her neat blue printing. She remembered the agonies of typing class in high school and believed she was too old to take on something new and bound to be much more confusing. Two other employees, with whom she had worked for a decade, called her after work to ask if the prospect of a computer in the office meant they should be looking for other jobs. “I have enough trouble with English grammar,” one of them wailed. “I’ll never be able to learn computer language.”
One morning Clammer called Martin Welk into her office, shut the door, and asked him if he could recommend any computer consultants. She had read an article that explained how a company could waste thousands of dollars by adopting integrated office automation in the wrong way, and she figured the project would have to hire somebody for at least six months to get the new machines working and to teach the staff how to use them. Welk was pleased because Clammer evidently had accepted the idea of a computer in the office. But he also realized that as the resident authority on computers, he had a lot of work to do before they went shopping for machines.
a. Is organization development appropriate in this situation? Why or why not?
b. What kinds of resistance to change have the employees of the project displayed?
c. What can Martin Welk do to overcome the resistance?
Case 5: Managing People and Organizations
Helen Bowers was stumped. Sitting in her office at the plant, she pondered the same questions she had been facing for months: how to get her company’s employees to work harder and produce more. No matter what she did, it didn’t seem to help much.
Helen had inherited the business three years ago when her father, Jake Bowers, passed away unexpectedly. Bowers Machine Parts was founded four decades ago by Jake and had grown into a moderate-size corporation. Bowers makes replacement parts for large-scale manufacturing machines such as lathes and mills. The firm is headquartered in Kansas City and has three plants scattered throughout Missouri.
Although Helen grew up in the family business, she never understood her father’s approach. Jake had treated his employees like part of his family. In Helen’s view, however, he paid them more than he had to, asked their advice far more often than he should have, and spent too much time listening to their ideas and complaints. When Helen took over, she vowed to change how things were done. In particular, she resolved to stop handling employees with kid gloves and to treat them like what they were: the hired help.
In addition to changing the way employees were treated, Helen had another goal for Bowers. She wanted to meet the challenge of international competition. Japanese firms had moved aggressively into the market for heavy industrial equipment. She saw this as both a threat and an opportunity. On the one hand, if she could get a toehold as a parts supplier to these firms, Bowers could grow rapidly. On the other, the lucrative parts market was also sure to attract more Japanese competitors. Helen had to make sure that Bowers could compete effectively with highly productive and profitable Japanese firms.
From the day Helen took over, she practiced an altogether different philosophy to achieve her goals. For one thing, she increased production quotas by 20 percent. She instructed her first-line supervisors to crack down on employees and eliminate all idle time. She also decided to shut down the company softball field her father had built. She thought the employees really didn’t use it much, and she wanted the space for future expansion.
Helen also announced that future contributions to the firm’s profit-sharing plan would be phased out. Employees were paid enough, she believed, and all profits were the rightful property of the owner—her. She also had private plans to cut future pay increases to bring average wages down to where she thought they belonged. Finally, Helen changed a number of operational procedures. In particular, she stopped asking other people for their advice. She reasoned that she was the boss and knew what was best. If she asked for advice and then didn’t take it, it would only stir up resentment.
All in all, Helen thought, things should be going much better. Output should be up and costs should be way down. Her strategy should be resulting in much higher levels of productivity and profits.
But that was not happening. Whenever Helen walked through one of the plants, she sensed that people weren’t doing their best. Performance reports indicated that output was only marginally higher than before but scrap rates had soared. Payroll costs were indeed lower, but other personnel costs were up. It seemed that turnover had increased substantially and training costs had gone up as a result.
In desperation, Helen finally had hired a consultant. After carefully researching the history of the organization and Helen’s recent changes, the consultant made some remarkable suggestions. The bottom line, Helen felt, was that the consultant thought she should go back to that “humanistic nonsense” her father had used. No matter how she turned it, though, she just couldn’t see the wisdom in this. People worked to make a buck and didn’t want all that participation stuff.
Suddenly, Helen knew just what to do: She would announce that all employees who failed to increase their productivity by 10 percent would suffer an equal pay cut. She sighed in relief, feeling confident that she had finally figured out the answer.
A. How successful do you think Helen Bowers’s new plan will be?
B. What challenges does Helen confront?
C. If you were Helen’s consultant, what would you advise her to do?
Case 6: Managing Global and Workforce Diversity
Warren Oats was a highly successful executive for American Auto Suppliers, a Chicago-based company that makes original-equipment specialty parts for Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Rather than retreat before the onslaught of Japanese automakers, AAS decided to counterattack and use its reputation for quality and dependability to win over customers in Japan. Oats had started in the company as an engineer and worked his way up to become one of a handful of senior managers who had a shot at the next open vice-presidential position. He knew he needed to distinguish himself somehow, so when he was given a chance to lead the AAS attack on the Japanese market, he jumped at it.
Oats knew he did not have time to learn Japanese, but he had heard that many Japanese executives speak English, and the company would hire a translator anyway. The toughest part about leaving the United States was persuading his wife, Carol, to take an eighteen-month leave from her career as an attorney with a prestigious Chicago law firm. Carol finally persuaded herself that she did not want to miss an opportunity to learn a new culture. So, armed with all the information they could gather about Japan from their local library, the Oats headed for Tokyo.
Known as an energetic, aggressive salesperson back home, Warren Oats wasted little time getting started. As soon as his office had a telephone—and well before all his files had arrived from the States—Oats made an appointment to meet with executives of one of Japan’s leading automakers. Oats reasoned that if he was going to overcome the famous Japanese resistance to foreign companies, he should get started as soon as possible.
Oats felt very uncomfortable at that first meeting. He got the feeling that the Japanese executives were waiting for something. It seemed that everyone but Oats was in slow motion. The Japanese did not speak English well and appeared grateful for the presence of the interpreter, but even the interpreter seemed to take her time in translating each phrase. Frustrated by this seeming lethargy and beginning to doubt the much-touted Japanese efficiency, Oats got right to the point. He made an oral presentation of his proposal, waiting patiently for the translation of each sentence. Then he handed the leader of the Japanese delegation a packet containing the specifics of his proposal, got up, and left. The translator trailed behind him as if wanting to drag out the process even further.
By the end of their first week, both Oats and his wife were frustrated. Oats’s office phone had not rung once, which did not make him optimistic about his meeting with another top company the following week. Carol could scarcely contain her irritation with what she had perceived of the Japanese way of life. She had been sure that a well-respected U.S. lawyer would have little trouble securing a job with a Japanese multinational corporation, but the executives she had met with seemed insulted that she was asking them for a job. And the way they treated their secretaries! After only a week in Japan, both Carol and Warren Oats were ready to go home.
A month later, their perspective had changed radically, and both looked back on those first meetings with embarrassment. Within that month, they had learned a lot about the Japanese sense of protocol and attitudes toward women. Warren Oats believed he was beginning to get the knack of doing business with the Japanese in their manner: establishing a relationship slowly, almost ritualistically, waiting through a number of meetings before bringing up the real business at hand, and then doing so circumspectly. It was difficult for Oats to slow his pace, and it made him nervous to be so indirect, but he was beginning to see some value in the sometimes humbling learning process he was going through. Perhaps, he thought, he and Carol could become consultants for other executives who needed to learn the lessons he was beginning to understand.
A. What specific errors did Warren and Carol Oats make during their first week in Japan?
B. If you were talking to a non-U.S. businessperson making a first contact with an American company, what advice would you give?