Archive for November, 2009

The Men’s Wearhouse

This was an interesting case this week.  This is the first time that I have read a case in which a sales team was on commission and the company was actually growing.  I think that it was do to the fact that the CEO Zimmer had created a culture from the beginning that fostered a teamwork mentality.  decease of this culture they were able to prosper in an industry that was seeing many short-comings.

I also think that there might be some bad with the good, as with any and most companies.  I do think that because of the commission system that it did lead to some “sharking”  among the sales team.  Which could lead to some animosity among the “team”.  However, with high sales numbers also came an inquisition into those sales to make sure that it was based on their skills and not because of “sharking”.  There were also consequence if they were found behaving in such a manner. 

In general, i think that their success was based on the fact that they treated their employees with respect and fairness.  They offered good benefits such as 401k’s, stock options, and much more.  They also did most of their hiring and promotions from within, further deepening the family culture that had been engrained in the beginning.

Treadway in the Trenches

Treadway Tire Company has been a long-standing leading brand of tires.  However, at what cost is being the leading name in tires costing them.  The goal is to make affordable and long-lasting products for their customers.  Yet, time is money and labor is not cheap.  Keeping the employees happy is what is ultimately going to help them succeed in the future.

However, after reading this case study, it is clearly apparent there is little value placed on their employees.  Through a labor union into the mix and you have one messy situation on your hands.  To further perpetuate the company’s fleet morale, those in middle management feel they have little to no control over their workers, not only on the lines but also in the hiring and firing process.  They are just there to make sure that the workers they are given are doing their jobs. 

I think that the key to helping Treadway Tires and Walls boost morale in the company is to give more responsibility to those managers.  By giving them the input about the kinds of people they are hiring they will put more effort into making them succeed because they have personal owner ship in them.  Furthermore, there needs to be more open communication between those who deal with the unions and those who work with the laborers.  By bringing them into the mix, they become more aware of the actions that are being taken within the company. 

In general, there needs to be more straight-talk among the workers at Treadway Tire Company.  With it, they will continue to be a company with low morale and productivity.

Chapter 11 Readings

This week i read a couple of articles about leadership.  Although each uniquely different in their own right, they all exhibit elements of a true leader. 

Friends til the end:  the first article I am going to discuss is about the connection made between a Lt. during WWII and a jewish concentration camp survivor.  This was a truly  touching piece about how a Lt. John Withers went against the regulations of the Army to help a young man who had recently been liberated from Dachau.  At first hearing of his Company housing two jewish men, Lt. Withers initial reaction was to make them leave.  This was not only because it was against Army regulation but because he wanted to make sure that his recorded was not tainted in the process.  After seeing these two men, he instantly changed his mind and let them stay at the camp.  Not only did he give them food and shelter, but he taught them to speak english, shoot a gun, and drive.  He made a decision to put his own needs aside and think of those that his decisions would affect.  He wanted to set the right example for the men that looked up to him, and to maintain his own moral values.  As an African-American living in the South he knew what it was like to be discriminated against.  He knew by making the boys leave, he would be no better than the people who made use a different entrance.  He displayed true leadership because he was true to himself and to his values.  he did not let his own personal needs cloud is judgement.

The Price of a Man:  the next article was about a Marine whose career was ended because he believed the value of a mans life was worth more than a couple of hours driving time.  Although going against orders from the general, Col. Joe Dowdy decided that he would not risk the lives of his men to save them a couple of hours of driving time.  Although, in my opinion he exercised good leadership but thinking of how his decision would affect other lives and taking full responsibility as to what happened on the battlefield, Col. Dowdy was released from his position after the completion of a mission without any formal reasons for dismissal.  Although to those who knew him, he was revered as a spectacular leader whose main goal was to keep him men alive and well.  My question is, how can a man who was so well-loved by all who knew, and who would not put the lives of United States Marines lose his title?  An un-answerable question but one that requires reflection on both ends. 

Put yourself last:  this article was about how good leaders put the interest of the company before their own personal interests.  This means that they are upholding not only the integrity of the company and their value but the values they hold for themself and the integrity that comes with holding that kind of position of authority.  Having that kind of power can cause most leaders to forget who they were when they first enter into a position of authority and become overwhelmed with the new found rights and privileges that come with being a manager.  In others words, to be a good leader you have to put the integrity of the company before your own personal interests. 

New wine, Old Bottles:  This article by Stephen Covey discuss a different kind of leadership style called a servant leader.  Basically the idea is to repackage old leadership with a new and fresh outlook.  One that does not require them to micromanage their subordinates, or scare them into submission.  It suggests that you build a new kind of relationship.  One of trust, understanding, and a confidence in your employees to let them do their work without interference.  It also suggests that once this kind of relationship is established that you now are only used as an addition source of information that they cannot find themselves or do not have access to.  In general, this is not really a new idea but one that most leaders do not consider because they lack the trust in their employees.   However, it is with building this trust that this leadership is built.

The Layoff Letdown

This week i read a case study on the difficulties of layoffs in the workplace.  From personal experience I can honestly say that this is not an easy decision to make or to hear.  Fortunately, I have not been on the receiving end of the dreaded “pink slip”, but I have been witness to it.  There is so easy way to make that kind of drastic decision.  It takes time and opinions from those who are working in the trenches and who know the numbers to make that kind of decision.

In this case, Robin Astrigo was not going to be the only one with suggestions about what to do with their recent earnings decrease.  He employed the help of those in upper management with not only the knowledge of the company but their own personal opinions and experiences to guide them.  The many suggestions given to Astrigo reflected these differences.  In regards to the first option, first in first out, I do not think that in the long run this will be beneficial and cost-effective for the company.  Paying severance package would be just as costly as keeping them on board as employees.  That is not to say that a ranking system, which was the counter suggestion, is any better.  Forcing people into forced rankings can be extremely dangerous for a company.  It can lead to heavy competition, resentment, and biased figures when it comes to expected rates of failures. 

Then there is the option of seniority.  Those who have been with the company the shortest  amount of time will be the first to go.  This, as stated in the article, can result in the loss of essential employees that have the potential to be great management.  This leads to the idea of then keep up the morale of the company.  With a company that is primarily focused on the customer service it provides, losing morale can be extremely dangerous.  When employees are constantly worrying that they may be next how can they focus on better serving the customer. 

In general, Astrigo is faced with a very difficult decision.  However, he is employing some very good leadership skills.  he is asking the opinions of those around him.  He is bringing in people who are not of upper management because they offer good suggestions and what them to have a learning experience.  He is also taking personal responsibility for what is currently happening to the company. No matter the decision that is made, the fact is that one had to be made and not all people are going to be happy with the results.