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By the narrowest of margins, the U.S. Senate voted to bring President Obama’s health care reform bill to the floor for debate. The 60-39 vote ensures there will be no filibuster, but does not guarantee that the bill will pass. Key Democrats that voted to move the bill forward express serious reservations about the way the bill is currently crafted. Few believe the bill will pass in its current form.

QUESTIONS:

  1. The health care reform debate has been quite divisive. What conflict management approaches could be applied and how effective might they be? When two sides disagree, we often hear calls for compromise. What are the drawbacks to this conflict management style?
  2. Evaluate the handling of this debate in terms of the three criteria of effective negotiation.
  3. When Senate majority leader Harry Reid negotiated to get Senators Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln to vote in favor of moving the bill forward was it distributive or integrative negotiation?

SOURCE: J. Fritze, “Negotiations Begin Anew Over Health Bill,” USA Today (Retrievable online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-11-22-health-negotiations_N.htm)

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Toledo-based Lott Industries employs developmentally-disabled workers to perform light assembly work. Most of their contracts are with the automotive industry. Lott workers excel, allowing employees to earn good incomes to support themselves and, sometimes, other family members. In fact, Lott was awarded the prestigious Q1 status (highest quality rating) by Ford. While the slumping economy has hurt the company, workers remain confident in their abilities and highly motivated.

QUESTIONS:

  1. The jobs at Lott Industries fall under what basic job design approach? Typically, how motivating are these kinds of jobs? Why do Lott workers excel?
  2. Why are Lott workers so motivated (consider Robert Ertle’s insistence on going back to work right after surgeries)? Use Self-Efficacy Theory to explain how Lott Industries’ approach produces highly motivated workers.
  3. Would you utilize the Job Characteristics Model at Lott Industries? Why or why not?

SOURCE: C. Ansberry, “Haven for Disabled Workers Feels Job Market’s Sting,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125918205048464519.html)

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The 2009 National Football League season is more than halfway completed. The Washington Redskins won their third game by defeating the Denver Broncos 27-17. The team has not had many reasons to celebrate and their coach, former NFL player Jim Zorn has been criticized and rumored to be on his way out. Yet for this one game, the Redskins looked like the champions Washington fans expect them to be.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Technically, the Washington Redskins are a team, but their 2009 record might suggest otherwise. Break down the definition for team and apply it to the Redskins. What elements might explain why this team is not performing well?
  2. Analyze the Redskins in terms of the three key aspects of effectiveness.
  3. In the game against Denver, it could be said that the Redskins were a high-performance team. How did the team fulfill the requirements of distributive leadership in order to achieve victory?

SOURCE: J. Reid, “Redskins Buck Up,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/15/AR2009111502002.html?hpid%3Dartslot&sub=AR)

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The new limited-release film “Precious” owes its existence to an unusual pair. Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness are no strangers to business success, but not in the film industry. Their unlikely partnership with film producer Lee Daniels is rocking movie-making status quo and providing capital for a script that had been shunned by Hollywood.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Why are Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness described as “angels?”
  2. As you read about the production of “Precious,” Ms. Siegel-Magness’ involvement suggests a different form of ownership (from her angel role). What form best fits and why?
  3. Discuss the Daniels-Magness relationship in terms of diversity and entrepreneurship issues.

SOURCE: L. A. E. Schuker, “Novice Film ‘Angels’ Took a Leap of Faith With ‘Precious,’” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704538404574537721627768260.html)

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In the face of one of the toughest economic recessions in recent memory, many companies are increasing the amount of cash reserves they maintain. Even with claims that the economy is improving, companies continue to stockpile cash and increase these reserves. Stockpiling seems to be highest in the technology sector, but giants like Alcoa and Pepsico are following a similar strategy. Cash helps abate risk. Companies want to be sure they have access to cash without paying exorbitant fees to get it.

QUESTIONS:

  1. What are some of the benefits associated with holding extra cash reserves?
  2. What type of planning does this represent?
  3. The article reports a general trend reflecting what type of master strategy? Now look more closely. What type of strategy is Texas Instruments employing and what specific form does it take?

SOURCE: T. McGinty & C. Tuna, “Jittery Companies Stash Cash,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125712303877521763.html)

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Disney’s newest animated film release, “The Princess and the Frog,” is a return to its roots of hand-animated films. Despite the success of Pixar computer-generated films vis-à-vis recent Disney hand-animated versions, Pixar co-founder John Lasseter believes “Princess” will work. Lasseter believes box office success is due more to plot and characters than animation techniques. The shift back to hand animation, after switching from that form to computer animation in 2003, has not been easy. Many of the hand animators employed by Disney were laid off and much of the equipment was in storage.

QUESTIONS:

  1. What issues of performance and change are associated with Disney’s decision to switch from hand animation to computer generation and then back to hand animation?
  2. What are possible reasons for Disney’s decision to lay off Ron Clements and John Musker?
  3. In terms of some of the general issues associated with work today, how would you describe the changes taking place at Disney over the last five years? Describe the changes in terms of talent, technology, and careers.

SOURCE: E. Smith, “For ‘Princess,’ Disney Returns to Traditional Animation Style,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704746304574508552919095862.html)

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Pink Martini is a musical group that is hard to define. They are part classical, part jazz, and, by the group’s admission, part Latin. One thing is certain, they do have a loyal international following. When asked about the composition of two of their latest songs, an interesting creative-collaborative process is described.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Why is creativity (or innovation) important in general and specifically for a musical group like Pink Martini?
  2. What are the drivers of creativity for the group’s music? What characteristics of the work environment support Pink Martini’s creativity?
  3. After reading the story and/or listening to the report, would you call the group innovative? Why or why not? If you consider them innovative, what type of innovation do they display?

SOURCE: “Pink Martini: A Tale of Two Songs,” NPR (Morning Edition) (Retrievable online at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114167342&sc=nlcc=mn-20091028)

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In one of the more celebrated government bailouts, General Motors received $58 billion in taxpayer money to stay in business. The auto maker still filed for bankruptcy protection and emerged from that process with the federal government holding a 60 percent stake in the company. Now members of Congress are seizing the opportunity by putting pressure on GM decision makers in order to protect jobs and businesses in their home districts. This is dramatically affecting the way the company does business. The experience provided lessons learned for other bailed-out companies, some of whom are returning bailout money rather than risk government meddling in their own affairs.

QUESTIONS:

  1. As represented by the article, what type of control is General Motors experiencing? In what ways does this control mirror that imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?
  2. From an operational standpoint, why is this control necessary?
  3. What is a stakeholder? Identify the stakeholders in this story (note, some of these may be implied). What role, if any, should stakeholders have in the operations of a company like General Motors? Defend your answer.

SOURCE: N. King, “Politicians Butt In at Bailed-Out GM,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125677552001414699.html)

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The economic recession is forcing companies to reduce costs in order to remain viable. Labor costs, both pay and benefits, represent one of the biggest cost items for companies. As a result, health insurance and pensions are increasingly scrutinized. Many employers are transferring responsibility for managing benefits to workers. This means that workers are expected to shoulder the bulk of contributions to retirement accounts and bear a greater share of the costs of health plans.

QUESTIONS:

  1. The traditional model for maintaining a quality workforce involved competitive pay and benefits packages. Has this model changed? Aside from the economy, what are the arguments employers are making for restructuring compensation?
  2. Since the economy appears to be the big driver when it comes to compensation and benefits, what can companies do to attract the best talent and keep workers motivated?
  3. The article closes by describing the changing nature of the employment relationship. Is it realistic for workers to expect traditional employment contracts and benefits packages where the employer picks up the bulk of the cost?

SOURCE: P. Dvorak & S. Thurm, “Slump Prods Firms to Seek New Compact With Workers,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125590984649093245.html)

See also S. Bomkamp, “3 State AGs Threaten to Sue FedEx Over Contractors,” USA Today (Retrievable online at http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/regulation/2009-10-20-fed-ex-suits_N.htm)

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The launch of Windows 7 renews debate about technological change in organizations. Many companies skipped the upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista and are now wondering whether to make the move to the latest version. At the same time Microsoft competitors are touting Linux as a viable alternative.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Would upgrading from earlier versions to Windows 7 be considered incremental or transformational change?
  2. Examine the common targets for change. Which target would be affected by upgrading to Windows 7? The obvious answer is technology, but look more closely. Can you argue for more than one target?
  3. What challenges does the pace of technological change present to organizations? How does improvisational change address this?

SOURCE: B. Acohido, “Despite Windows 7, Linux Raps Harder at Company Doors,” USA Today (Retrievable online at http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2009-10-22-windows-microsoft-linux_N.htm)

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