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Comment: The president of Walters Electronics, C. R. James, met with his vice president of personnel and labor relations, Beth Hernandez, to discuss the upcoming labor negotiations. During their discussion, C. R. asked Beth to attend tomorrow’s executive committee meeting as his stand-in and to let him know what the committee’s recommendations are for the negotiations.
It was nearly 5:30 P.M. when Beth returned to her office. She checked her calendar and discovered that she had to conduct the regular employee orientation program at the same time that the executive committee was to meet. She caught her subordinate, Lorri Sutter, on her way out and asked her to sit in for her at the executive committee meeting the next day.
When the executive committee met, Lorri was not in attendance. Beth discovered this fact when C. R. later asked for her feedback. It seemed that Lorri was ill and had missed work altogether on the day the committee met.
I. Who was responsible for attending the meeting?
II. Who is accountable for attending the meeting?
III. How could this situation have been avoided?
2. A Culture Mismatch
Harty Press operates out of a complex of one-story cinder-block buildings in the industrial section of New Haven, Connecticut. A commercial printer of everything from local advertising to slick annual reports, Harty has stood unfailing since its founding in 1911. Inside the plant, the air is ripe with the smell of ink and the hum of presses. Harty’s CEO George R. Platt grew up working in the company, first during summers, and then full time after college to work alongside his father and founder, George E. Platt.
When George R. Platt took over Harty Press, the business had 20 employees and $1 million in sales. With a keen eye for assessing Harty’s strengths and weaknesses—and with a drive to grow—Platt beefed up quality and customer service. He found higher-margin market niches. The rapid technological changes overtaking the industry, however, limited future growth. Printing was moving quickly from the world of film, type, and light to the computer-driven, digitized world of the desktop. Platt tried to solve the problem by hiring a specialist to computerize Harty’s prepress process. But Platt soon learned that building digital desktop capability from scratch would cost more than a million dollars.
The solution to that problem—and to growth—came in the form of Pre-Press Graphics. Based in nearby Branford, Connecticut, Pre-Press Graphics had been one of the first in the state to aggressively use advanced desktop technology. It had already done much of the costly research and development work Platt knew he would have to undertake. In addition, because the owner of Pre-Press had been spending a lot of time, money, and energy on the development of technology, the business had plateaued. The owner was looking for a buyer.
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Harty Press bought Pre-Press Graphics for $500,000; and the merging of the two companies began. Platt immediately had major problems with the change
• It was hard to imagine two more different cultures than those of Harty Press and Pre-Press Graphics.
• Harty is based in the heart of an industrial neighborhood. Pre-Press sits twelve miles away, out in the bustling world of office parks and fast food joints.
• Harty’s workers, many with 10 to 20 years of service, wear smudged aprons, have ink under their fingernails, and carry union cards. At Pre-Press, people in running shoes and jeans sit in front of computer screens.
• Harty’s management is low key, loose, and creates autonomy. The management at Pre-Press was intense, precise, and controlling.
• The move of Harty’s twelve-person prepress department to consolidate with Pre-Press created chaos. The firms’ procedures and systems did not dovetail. Neither group had been given enough notice to plan for and comprehend the effects of the merger.
• Although Harty had bought Pre-Press specifically for its knowledge of desktop publishing, Pre-Press employees who knew how to operate the computers saw that Harty workers lacked those skills. They became protective of their knowledge and jobs.
• A key Harty employee was sent to Pre-Press to work on the transition. He was sent with no job description and no defined role; an immediate hassle resulted with former Pre-Press managers.
Training courses on computer technology lasted for only one session. Then “familiarization training” on the computer was announced. No one knew what that meant, and no one ever figured it out because it never took place.
Source: Edward O. Welles, “Mis-Match,” Inc. (June 1994), pp. 70–79.
I. Based on the experiences of Harty Press and Pre-Press Graphics, what is the importance of culture in the change process?
II. What specific cultural factors caused problems in the change process? Cite examples to support your answer
III. What specific mistakes did Harty and Pre-Press make in the change process? Cite examples to support your answer.
3. Trouble on the River
The manager for overseas operations was facing a real problem. Her company’s drilling team in the Amazon basin has just radioed a message asking for immediate help. The exploration team is in a remote area accessible only by helicopter. Their pump and water treatment equipment have quit operating and new machinery must be flown in immediately or twenty people will have no fresh water.
The necessary equipment is available in a neighboring country but not in the host country. If the equipment could be flown in the problem will be solved but the host country requires a variety of import documents to be prepared and a number of government approvals to be obtained before it will allow importing of the equipment to take place. Several days may be needed to get official government clearances and then a day or two more to arrange for the airlift. Past experiences with the host country’s government tells the overseas manager that some “palms will have to be greased in order to
The overseas operations manager has a company code of ethics that specifically forbids any payments of any kind to foreign officials when such payments represent bribes. The host country has laws on its books forbidding such payments as well. U.S. law is somewhat vague on the matter because it does not involve the purchase or sale of goods.
When the overseas operations manager took the problem to her boss, a corporate vice president in charge of Latin American operations, he told her to get the needed equipment to the jungle crews as quickly as possible. He also reminded her that company policy is clear. His specific instructions to her were as follows: “Get the equipment to those people as fast as you can. I don’t want you to break any laws but you have got to move quickly. The health and sanitation needs of those people must come first. I know you can do it, that’s why we pay you so well. Don’t give me the details. Just get me the results.”
I. What are the ethical issues in this case?
II. If you were the president of this company and discovered that the crisis was handled by paying host-country officials to get speedy approval for importing the equipment, what would be your reaction?
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