The recent Analysis Business Problems (ABP) class involved role play. It was a case study on the Big City Phone Company (BCPC) hovering around the decision to play either in the wholesale or retail space of the High-speed Internet-access Product (HIP) which was then newly introduced (circa early 1999/ 2000). I played Terry Maneri, the Director of Human Resources.
The internet strategy team leader of the company, Chris Berkowitz, had arranged for a meeting with other members of the BCPC team including Morgan Jones, Vice President of Finance, Alex Wilson, Vice President of Marketing, Jan Trow, Senior Project Director of Information Systems, Robin Rhee, Director of Operations Management and Terri (whom I roleplayed). Other classmates played the other roles.
Each participant was given a guideline on participating in the exercise and we were not to reveal the positions we were meant to defend. The exercise was to brainstorm on whether to play in the High-speed Internet-access Products space. Playing the role of Terri, I was meant to be opposed to the idea given the Herculean nature of recruiting and training staff for the project, especially against the backdrop of the meticulous BCPC’s hiring process.
The organisation ranked high in terms of client satisfaction, and it had a reputation for excellence in service delivery. It was not a reputation that was gained overnight.
Jan Trow and Robin Rhee were also meant to be opposed to the role out, citing various reasons which were also tied to the unpreparedness of BCPC to embark on the project. Chris, it was later revealed, had to do toe the line of the BCPC Chief Executive Officer who felt the need to roll out operations. What perhaps jolted me, and perhaps other classmates, was the revelation that Morgan Jones, the Vice President of Finance, would get a bonus if the attendees at the meeting agree to roll out the project.
It was at that point that the reality of the exercise we just embarked upon hit me. All the while, Morgan had argued about the potential profitability of the project as well as the availability of finances to execute the project. This was even as he listened to the submission of the Human Resources Director about the difficulty of hiring staff, as well as the potential pitfalls pointed out by Jan and Robin.
This sort of exercise was not new to me as I had gone through this on the Global Virtual Teams course held earlier. It is not uncommon for individuals to have personal decisions driving their positions. People will always negotiate over factors such as time for and potential venues for meetings and even representatives just to get things in their favour. But perhaps putting the fortunes of an organisation at risk to satisfy pecuniary benefits was the highlight of the case for me. I was startled because I did not see it coming.
This is why it is important to take cognisance of the impact of decisions on those who may be saddled with the responsibility of making them. It is worth taking a second look at what decision-makers stand to gain from making certain decisions.