Aston-Blair was the third largest developer of children’s educational products in the United States. Their products included books, music, educational software and films. After enjoying almost three decades of outstanding growth and profitability, the company was facing heavy losses due to the combination of declining demand and the company’s overly optimistic sales forecasts. To solve the issue in hand, a meeting was conducted in which the CEO and Chairman of the company, Wynn Aston III,along with other top executives decided to set up a task force which would re- examine the company’s procedure for forecasting sales and bring in the necessary changes. After a thorough reading and understanding of the case, we can see that there were numerous issues in and around the task force which would hamper the smooth working of the team with some listed below.
Leadership plays an important role to maximize efficiency and to achieve organizational goals. Effective leaders have an ability to motivate and inspire the other employees to contribute to the success of the company. Here Bacon did not prove to be an effective leader as :
- He never expressed any desire to be involved in the team forming process as Casey and Trott made all the appointments.
- He did not take the initiative in the first meeting of the task force and never led from the front with clarity on the problem statement nor on the delegation of work among it’s group members.
- He was not an authoritative ,assertive and commanding decision maker whenever the situation demanded.
- The division of the task work, responsibilities were not done properly and members were not held accountable for their work by him.
Organizational structure is the way individuals and groups are arranged with respect to the tasks they perform. There was no concrete structure within the task force. There was no authority and proper direction provided. Having an incompetent leader led to unresolved issues. There were clear groups within the group. Randy Meir was left on his own and was not helped by his fellow members either. The task force comprised of the Product Managers, who were outranked and hence felt supressed while sharing their views ,but not the Marketing Managers who were their heads and resistant to changes. This clearly signifies ineffectiveness of the team which ultimately hinders the overall performance of the team.
INTERPERSONAL TRUST AND COMMUNICATION
Trust is considered one of the most important pillars of a group and in this case it is clearly visible that trust was a big problem not only between some members of the group but also with the leader of the group. When trust issues were brought up to Bacon, he made no significant effort to deal with it nor tried to solve it. Grapevine communication was believed and assumptions were made by Bacon about Randy Meir. It formed a prejudice in Bacon’s mind which led to a breakdown in trust and communication. There was a lack of professionalism and meetings were not conducted on a regular basis.
GROUP NORMS AND ROLES
Group norms are the informal guidelines of behavior and a code of conduct that provides some order and conformity to group activities and operations. These rules are expected to be followed by all the group members. There were no set rules. Members would only communicate with people they wanted to. There were no resistance to any ideas. This form of group think led to a decrease in efficiency as likeminded people were together and faced no opposition and took decisions as per their will. All the members of the group were high on HPC (High-preferred Coworker) and that made them resistant to new ideas and change.
Roles – Although people were hired considering their credentials and fields of expertise, there were no set rules provided to them in the task force. Also, the roles that were taken up by some of them were chosen according to personal biases and not professional requirements. It resulted in a healthy work environment but not a desired outcome. Synergy and group think is good for a group but it leads to complacency as in this case Bacon and his group came out with a solution and nobody questioned ,later in the meeting their board did not find it right.
In this case there were several instances of poor leadership. Firstly on the top executives part, they should have given Michael Bacon ,the leader of the task force, full authority and liberty to select his team as per his choice. This would have surely ensured a smooth working of the team. On Bacon’s part he should have asked all the group members to why they think company is suffering huge losses and submit a report within 2 days . It would have resulted in a bottom to top approach where the employees would have come up with new ideas and a wider scope of problems. Later he could have compiled the problems and discussed with Casey and Trott about the same. Once the refined problem statement was ready they could have allotted tasks according to the expertise and no situations like Randy Meir going solo would have come up.
He should have also kept “Minute To Meeting” records and shared with all the members of the team including Casey and Trott to keep them in the loop. This would have resulted in no shock like elements as it happened in the August 4 meeting. He should have also conducted informal ice breaking sessions with all the group members. A one to one meeting with Meir to clear the air and bury the hatchet before working on this new assignment. As a leader he should have had Holt’s back when he was subjected to intense criticism. More importantly Meir should have been involved in all the team meetings. Organization as a whole should also emphasize on their product line with innovation and lookout for the faults and losses in their market share.
Recommendation to come out of the situation Bacon is in:
- He should set up a urgent meeting with Jed Burns to discuss about the mishandling of the confidential report and apologise for the same.
- Being a close associate of Trott, Bacon should request Trott to resolve the misunderstanding with Dr.Cornelius and apologise for the mishandling of the situation by taking full responsibility.
- As per our interpretation, Meir leaked the information to Dr.Cornelius. Hence Bacon should call up a meeting with Meir and ask him to talk to Dr. Cornelius as Bodin will be in firing line.
This is a case which perfectly sums up all the important and influential factors which can affect the working and processes of a team. There were various instances which demonstrated how an effective leadership is a key determinant to an organization’s success. As mentioned earlier in the case, trust is the cornerstone of any organization. It is the single most important factor on which an organization thrives. Group norms and roles also play an important role in the overall functioning of the organization. They should be strictly followed and any complacency will bring a negative effect on the working .The case also shows that how small things which are usually overlooked can impact the working of a group and its overall efficiency.