Case Study: All Star Sports Catalog Division 1 Case Study: Decision Making at the Top – The All Star Sports Catalog Division August 16, 2010 Case Study: All Star Sports Catalog Division 2 All-Star Sports Catalog Division (ASC) participated in a consultant-led study that reviewed the company? s strategic decision-making process. As Hellings writes in his book of case studies for use by business schools, ASC sought improvement ideas to maximize utilization of successful elements from divisions of its various businesses (Hellings, 2007, p. 57).
Through application of Organizational Behavior (OB) theories it is possible to understand and explain behavior of ASC employees involved in making key decisions that steer ASC business practices and strategic initiatives. The consultants assessed the format utilized by ASC to identify, articulate, and solve business challenges, as well as the communication practices exhibited by leadership and decision makers. As Hellings writes, the results quantified three focus areas – conflict, closure, and commitment – that require attention for ASC to improve its decisionmaking processes and employee integration (Hellings, 2007, p. 8). The consultants determined that initiatives at ASC typically involve the division? s president, Don Barrett, and 12 other senior management team members, who are functional area vice presidents appointed by Barrett accountable for ASC delivery businesses. As Hellings writes, many staff credit Barrett with leading All-Star Express to become ASC? s most profitable business before his move to a division president at ASC, as he makes decisions on strategies and investments by building consensus among his management team and seeking their input on objectives (Hellings, 2007, p. 8-59).
Barrett is the clear leader of ASC, and he builds trust among his team members by typically utilizing the Rational Model of Decision Making, which Stephen P. Robbins writes in his book on OB as “consistent, valuemaximizing decision-making within specified constraints (Robbins, 2005, p. 85)”. He conducts weekly two-hour management team meetings when the group reviews and discusses concerns, shares updates on key projects, and outlines decisions on particular issues (Hellings, 2007, p. 62). While these exchanges include all members of ASC? management team, staff asserts that decisions are not made by the group in this forum. Instead, “the group engage[s] in a decision-making process that combine[s] team interaction, subgroup discussions, and one-on-one meetings with Barrett (Hellings, 2007, p. 62). ” Staff considered Barrett to be “non-confrontational,” as he discourages disagreement among team members during team meetings which produces many “offline” discussions when differing strategies exist (Hellings, 2007, p. 60). Case Study: All Star Sports Catalog Division There are various stages of the decision process at ASC during these meetings. The group first frames problems by discussing areas that require attention, either within individual business units or the division as a whole, and exchanging points of concern and inconsistent opinions about possible resolution.
Then, the group identifies alternatives by forming subgroups of two-to-four self-appointed members from the senior team to discuss more challenging issues and analyze strategies (Hellings, 2007, pp. 2-63). As Robbins further writes about OB, the three-component model of creativity is helpful in complex problem-solving as it relies upon “expertise, creative-thinking skills, and intrinsic task motivation (Robbins, 2005, p. 87). ” ASC? s Director of Strategy, Kate Walton, often chairs subgroups which work off-line to formulate action plans that consider suggestions received from middle-managers who gather input from their respective organizational units impacted by the problem at-hand (Hellings, 2007, p. 3). The subgroup conducts a detailed analysis of various solutions in order to present Barrett with rationalized approaches to consider an appropriate course of action. While this approach tends to elicit support and commitment from middle management, as Hellings continues, some managers believe this process promotes territorialism and empire-building when those involved promote their areas over others (Hellings, 2007, p. 63).
The subgroups extensively analyze alternatives – the third stage in the decision making process – through a qualitative and quantitative cost-to-benefit approach and devise a recommendation for a course of action that details potential risks. Barrett meets with the subgroups through various meetings where they collectively review the prepared analysis, discuss concerns, request additional information when necessary, and determine the best solution (Hellings, 2007, p. 63).
With the exception of Barrett the larger senior management team remains uninvolved when these off-line subgroups make decisions, although Barrett listens to concerns voiced by proactive senior management. Instead the final phase of ASC? s decision-making process occurs when the subgroups seek ratification of their decisions at the weekly senior management meetings. When dissention occurs, subgroups gather feedback and then meet again off-line away from the larger group. They present a revised plan of action to the senior management team, which focuses on implementation of the solution. Case Study: All Star Sports Catalog Division These stages of decision-making reiterate four underlying attributes of the ASC organizational culture, or as Robbins writes on OB, ASC? s “system of shared meaning held by members that distinguishes [ASC] from other organizations (Robbins, 2005, p. 230). ”
These four traits include a strong reliance on analytical processes, consensus among staff and teams with division and organizational goals, intolerance for employees Barrett describes as “political animals” or those who value selfpromotion above team contribution, and opportunity for broad participation during meetings (Hellings, 2007, pp. 4-65). As Stuart Levine writes in his book on the fundamentals of success, ASC? s culture and communication patterns establish a rhythm among its employees that “provides the structure and urgency team members need to stay in step with each other [which] creates energy and momentum, improving productivity, (Levine, 2004, pp. 57-58). ” There are challenges, however, to ASC? s processes that the consultants stressed impact overall team cohesiveness and, at times, creates potential for the senior management team and the subgroups to miss alternatives when analyzing problems.
Although Barrett encourages wide participation during meetings his comments, as Hellings illustrates, sometimes inconsistently target specific individuals which creates an environment where staff perceive an inequality of participation (Hellings, 2007, p. 65). This contributes to the consultants? findings of three primary concerns of ASC? s decision-making processes: insufficient debate during group meetings; inconsistent closure on issues of concern; and, inadequate buy-in and commitment from group members on important decisions (Hellings, 2007, p. 6). When considering these implications, paramount is Levine? s assertion that satisfied employees contribute to satisfied customers (Levine, 2004, p. 180). As Robbins describes emotions as “intense feelings that are directed at someone or something” and OB relates the impact of employee emotions on individual job satisfaction, the consultants? findings illustrate the potential for reduced productivity and increased turnover for ASC employees if these major concerns remain unaddressed (Robbins, 2005, p. 41).
Simultaneously considering employee basic personality types – described by the Big-Five Model as extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience – may help ASC leadership to maximize employee efficiency within the dynamics of the ASC organizational structure (Robbins, 2005, pp. 35-36 and p. 46). Case Study: All Star Sports Catalog Division Upon conclusion of the consultants? review of ASC, Barrett delivered the findings to the senior management team for discussion. The team identified three possible approaches for ASC? s decision- making processes that would address the consultants? findings: 1) increase employee buy-in for decisions by eliminating subgroup and off-line meetings, which would define senior management team as the entity for all decision-making; 2) create “a small „top management team? ” with the responsibility for all key strategic division decisions, which would increase dialogue and debate; or, 3) adjust the existing decisionmaking process to minimize weaknesses without changing the overall structure or creating an impression of an elite team that limits input from the larger group.
Redesigning ASC? s decision-making process would initially create some uncertainty as senior management, including Barrett, adjusted to the changes. Some self-monitoring behavior, where senior management team members adjusted their behavior to the changing situations while remaining sensitive to external influences, would be required if Barrett? s decision-making authority equalized with that of the team (Robbins, 2005, p. 37).
Understanding and limiting the influence of various biases – like overconfidence, anchoring, confirmation, availability, and representative – would assist senior management team members through this transition. Essential to integrating a wide spectrum of contributions to maximize decision-making is recognizing the value of all employees, and with ASC that equates to placing value in the consultants? findings to minimize conflict, maximize commitment, and achieve closure.
Regardless of his personal discomfort with open conflict, Barrett needs to give senior management team members room to disagree with each other like he gives them room to disagree with him personally. As John Maxwell writes in his book on biblical leadership, “Leaders have the ability to step back from what? s happening and see not only where they and their people have gone, but also where they are headed – as if they can smell change in the wind (Maxwell, 2007, p. 90). ” Case Study: All Star Sports Catalog Division 6
References Hellings (2007). Prentice Hall Custom Business Resources. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing. Levine, Stuart R. (2004). The Six Fundamentals of Success: The Rules for Getting It Right for Yourself and Your Organization. New York: Doubleday. Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The Maxwell Leadership Bible: Lessons in Leadership from the Word of God, NKJV, Second Edition. Nashville, TN: Maxwell Motivation, Inc. Robbins, Stephen P. (2005). Essentials of Organizational Behavior (4 ed. ). Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.