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Without doubt, a lot of behind-the-scenes work is necessary to pull off an event as big as the Olympics. Nowhere is the competition for a volunteer spot more fierce than with flower sweepers, children skaters that clear the ice of “gifts” tossed by adoring fans following figure skating performances. Only 30 skaters were chosen from among 135 that applied. Those selected had to show skill, grace, and the ability to work as a team.

QUESTIONS:

  1. As manager of figure skating operations, which role(s) will Bev Viger serve to facilitate teamwork and accomplishment of the important task of ice sweeping?
  2. Consider the nature of the task represented by sweeping and communication to get it accomplished. What type of group is likely to be most effective? What type of communication network should be utilized?
  3. What decision-making method is used to deploy the sweepers? Is this typically a method associated with effective teams? Discuss the circumstances under which this method might or might not be effective.

SOURCE: G. A. Fowler, “Eleven-Year-Old Makes Clean Sweep in Olympic Figure Skating,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703494404575082250954936946.html)

See also J. Branch, “Volunteers at Whistler Do the Grunt Work, and Love It,” New York Times (Retrievable online at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/sports/olympics/25weasel.html)

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“People are just dying to get in here,” the old joke about cemeteries goes. While death is inevitable, the options for dealing with post-death are not. Sales in the casket industry have been declining for nearly a decade. Industry leaders Hillenbrand, Inc. and Matthews International Corp. are faced with the grim reality that their business is not likely to grow even when the economy rebounds. Both companies are revamping their business strategies in order to remain viable.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis for Hillenbrand, Inc.
  2. What master strategy is Hillenbrand, Inc. employing in response to declining sales in the casket making industry? How is this master strategy being implemented (i.e., what form does it take)?
  3. In what ways is Matthews International’s strategy similar to and different from Hillenbrand’s strategy?

SOURCE: D. Mattioli, “Casket Makers Dig in as Sales Take Hit,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704511304575075811946202750.html)

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In a much celebrated public case of multiple indiscretions, superstar Tiger Woods has fallen out of favor with many. He temporarily suspended his golf career – although that appears likely to resume soon – lost several lucrative marketing contracts and briefly entered a rehabilitation facility. Now Woods is trying to salvage his public image, if not the relationship with his wife. The golfer put together a very tightly controlled “public” press conference to apologize to supporters and fans and offer some perspective on his life in recent days. The case highlights the importance of social capital and offers several opportunities to discuss communication following negative publicity.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Think about the nature of the press conference (i.e., who set it up, how it operated). Evaluate the meeting in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
  2. View the related video. Is the press conference a form of persuasive communication? Did it enhance Tiger Woods’ credibility?
  3. In terms of the message, was this an appropriate channel? Talk about the importance of channel richness here and alternate ways Woods could have conveyed the same message.

SOURCE: D. Everson & S. Vranica, “Woods Offers Tightly Scripted Apology,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703787304575075051038318196.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLEForthNews)

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Toyota continues to address numerous quality control problems in the wake of a massive recall of several million vehicles and halting sales of eight popular models in the United States. Initially, Toyota was quick to blame everyone and everything but the company. It was also slow to move on problems, recalling the Prius only after the Japanese government put pressure on them to do so. In a frank admission, Akio Toyoda, grandson of Toyota’s founder, says the company has not lived up to its standards. Shinichi Sasaki outlined a number of systemic failures, including failure to properly analyze and respond to customer complaints. Toyota’s own success may have been the biggest contributor, as the company was unable to grow effectively and maintain the “Toyota Way” of manufacturing.

QUESTIONS:

  1. As the article noted, Toyota’s problems stem from rapid growth of the company. Toyota’s structure did not allow it to respond effectively to engineering and quality problems. For example, sticking gas pedals were discovered and replaced in Europe, yet no one in the United States was alerted. What type of divisional structure does Toyota likely utilize? How might that contribute to their problems (like the one identified here)?
  2. Examine Figure 9.8 in your text. What organizational form does Toyota use? What organizational features (identified in the article) guide your choice?
  3. Imagine that Toyota wants your advice on how to fix the issues that led to this massive recall. What trends in organizational design would you recommend? Why?

SOURCE: B. Harden, “’Toyota Way’ Was Lost on Road to Phenomenal Worldwide Growth,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/12/AR2010021205371.html?sub=AR)

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After years of toiling in futility, the New Orleans Saints – a team born the year the Super Bowl started – finally won their first. Despite trailing 10-0 early in the game, Team Who Dat battled back and won professional football’s championship game in stunning fashion. With the Saints clinging to a 24-17 lead, Tracy Porter intercepted a Peyton Manning pass and ran it back 74 yards for a touchdown. To intercept Manning, arguably the NFL’s best quarterback, was one thing. To score at the same time provided the exclamation mark that proved the team from the Big Easy was not a joke nor was their victory a fluke.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Read the opening quote by Casey Stengel then discuss the outcome of the game by comparing the performances of regular season MVP Peyton Manning and Saints quarterback Drew Brees (a player many teams were not willing to consider when he was a free agent in 2006).
  2. What is a norm? Examine the article for normative statements. How did these influence Saints players’ mindsets both leading up to and during the game?
  3. What is the best way to make decisions in teams? Under what circumstances might other methods be effective? Discuss the two key decisions made by Saints Coach Sean Payton (i.e., the decision to “go for it” on 4th and goal on the 1-yard line, calling for an on-side kick to start the second half). What decision rule was used? What made these decisions effective?

SOURCE: J.Bell, “Saints Stump Colts 31-17 to Win Franchise’s First Super Bowl Title,” USA Today (Retrievable online at http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2010-02-07-super-bowl_N.htm?obref=obinsite)

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On the heels of becoming the world’s largest automobile manufacturer based on sales, Toyota is faced with a recall of nearly seven million vehicles in the United States. In addition, the Japanese company halted production and sales of its eight most popular U.S. models beginning February 1. The actions stem from a problem that causes accelerators to stick. At present, no one is suggesting that the situation raises any ethical concerns (note: be sure to stress this prior to discussion). Nevertheless, it is a case that offers a number of factors related to ethics and provides a good opportunity to examine Toyota’s actions through an ethical lens. The case is also effective for examining a number of operational issues including quality management.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Describe the ethics intensity of the Toyota situation. What factors contribute to this intensity?
  2. How do the internal and external environments of Toyota influence decision making on the recall?
  3. Toyota first identified the accelerator problem in March 2007, yet the actions announced this week took nearly two years to implement. Consider the following explanations: “We needed time to study the problem and develop an adequate fix,” and “We considered this to be a drivability issue unrelated to safety.” A Massachusetts-based firm said its research identified 2,274 incidents of sudden unintended acceleration causing 275 crashes with 18 fatalities. A Toyota spokesperson stated, “I would say those data, based on the very diverse nature of his sources, are impossible to verify.” Discuss the legitimacy of these responses. Would any of them be consistent with rationalizations for unethical behavior?

SOURCE: K. Linebaugh & N. Shirouzu, “Toyota Halts Sales Over Safety Issues,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704905604575027671658649384.html?mod=WSJ_article_MoreIn)

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Laura Silsby and nine other Americans from Idaho were arrested and detained in Haiti on charges that the group was attempting to abduct Haitian children. The group, representing Central Valley Baptist Church and Ms. Silsby’s charitable organization, claim they were taking the children to the Dominican Republic to start an orphanage. Haitian officials counter that the group did not have proper documentation and were warned not to move the children or face arrest. The case is still pending. Group members have been charged with child abduction and criminal association.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, describe Laura Silsby’s motivation for going to Haiti.
  2. The article describes Ms. Silsby as having considerable financial problems back in the United States, including having her house foreclosed upon and her business being in jeopardy. What level of needs (in Maslow’s categorization) are represented by these? How do you reconcile Silsby’s motivation for going to Haiti with this? Does it make sense in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy? In what ways might ERG Theory offer a better explanation?
  3. Consider Ms. Silsby’s experience in Haiti. If she avoids prosecution and is released from custody, how likely is she to continue her work in Haiti? Examine her motivation using Expectancy Theory. What elements would contribute to her motivation or lack thereof?

SOURCE: J. Millman, J. Ball, & M. Schoofs, “Missionary Stumbles on Road to Haiti,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703357104575045794048725562.html?mod=WSJ_hp_editorsPicks)

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This week saw the much anticipated announcement about the release of the Apple iPad. Almost immediately, technology watchers began discussing the implications for the thousands of applications currently available for the iPhone. Apps makers also weighed in on whether they would work to port their offerings to the iPad. Netflix is currently not planning to develop an app for the iPad. Makers of Pandora, most visibly affected by the iPad’s inability to have background tasks, say they view this as a challenge but hope to adapt. The reaction is obviously mixed. One thing is certain – Apple i-technologies definitely create a lot of buzz.

QUESTIONS:

  1. The Working Today section of your text lists technology as one of the major forces shaping the way we interact into today’s global economy. Are Apple’s i-technologies changing the way people interact? How is the iPad creating opportunities for business? What type/size businesses do you believe are most affected? Flexibility was listed in the text as a benefit of technology.  Does the iPad create flexibility?
  2. Consider the number and range of applications now available for Apple i-technologies. Single digital identity is identified as one of the prevailing technological conditions in the general environment of business. What are the pros and cons of mobile technologies and the proliferation of applications that run on these?
  3. Imagine that you are a developer of applications for mobile technologies. Does technology drive apps or do apps drive technology? Consider what apps makers are saying about the introduction of the i-Pad. In what ways does this represent improvisational change?

SOURCE: Y. I. Kane, “Apple’s iPad Changes the Landscape for App Makers,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704194504575031561969855580.html)

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Internet-based phone service Skype allows users to communicate virtually for free. This is not just fad. Skype use for international calling has been increasing steadily over the past few years, but domestic use is also increasing. With a web camera, users can also see one another. Nearly one-third of all Skype use is for video calls.

QUESTIONS:

  1. The Working Today section of your text lists technology as one of the major forces shaping the way we interact into today’s global economy. Is Skype changing the way people interact? How is Skype creating opportunities for business? What type/size businesses do you believe are most affected? Flexibility was listed in the text as a benefit of technology. Does Skype create flexibility?
  2. Telecommuting once used to refer to working from home rather than the office. However, mobile technologies now allow business to be conducted just about anywhere. Discuss the implications of Skype for connecting businesses. Is it a viable option for meeting with clients/customers? What about meeting with the boss or coworkers?
  3. What type of service technology does Skype represent? Do you see Skype as productivity enhancing, productivity neutral, or a productivity detriment?

SOURCE: K. L. Gray, “Long Distance Viewing,” Columbus Dispatch (Retrievable online at http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/01/23/skype_talk.ART_ART_01-23-10_A1_UVGCS7V.html?sid=101)

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Conan O’Brien’s reign as host of The Tonight Show ends on January 22. However, the parting with NBC has been anything but amicable. NBC first announced that it was moving O’Brien’s show past midnight to bring Jay Leno back to late-night television. When O’Brien balked, negotiations for an exit spurred a furry of bad-mouthing. In the end, NBC will pay heavily to get O’Brien to leave and leave quietly – for a while.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Describe the conflict between NBC and Conan O’Brien. What form does it take? While the conflict seemingly is dysfunctional, can you argue that it is functional (even for NBC)?
  2. Which conflict management style best characterizes the way NBC handled Conan O’Brien. (Note: you could argue for one style initially that eventually gave way to a different style)
  3. What were NBC’s goals in negotiating with O’Brien? Was the negotiation distributive or integrative? Was it effective? What, if any, negotiation rules were violated?

SOURCE: L. A. E. Schuker & S. Schechner, “Conan O’Brien Seals Deal to Exit NBC,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703699204575016514111492610.html?mod=loomia&loomia_si=t0:a16:g12:r1:c0.593109:b29955310&mg=com-wsj)

See also S. Ovide & L. A. E. Schuker, “Gag Order: Conan O’Brien Promises Not to Be Mean to His Old Bosses,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703699204575017450198490036.html?mod=WSJ-hpp-LEFTTopStories)

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