In previous blogs, we have talk about the case study method used in the EMBA program. Typically, we were given all the information required to do the analysis. Until this week, we had mostly analyzed the cases as individuals or groups. It was always easier to analyze a case with collaborative efforts from team members.
At the end of the previous class, our lecturer hinted that our next case review will involve role playing. Everyone was to read the case before coming to class. However, we were not to discuss it in our groups. So we went to read as advised but no one knew what to expect.
On the day of the discussion, we went to class expectant. The class started with a review of the case as follows.
Chris was in the business development team of BCPC, a telecommunications company. BCPC provided local, long distance and cellular telephone services to an area comprising over 30 million lines. A new technology has emerged called HIP. HIP allowed access to internet services six times faster than the existing analog technology. Faced with a surging customer demand for HIP, BCPC had to decide whether or not to offer this service directly to consumers. By law, BCPC would have to allow third parties to use their infrastructure “at cost” for HIP. Meaning, BCPC would charge $30 per customer to third party companies or $40 directly to consumers.
The CEO of BCPC put together a team to explore the possibility of launching this new product directly to consumers. Chris was to lead this team consisting of Morgan Jones, VP of Finance; Alex Wilson, VP of Marketing; Jan Trow, Senior Project Director of Information Systems; Robin Rhee, Director of Operations Management and Terry Maneri, Director of Human Resources.
With this background in mind, we selected a role to play in this meeting to decide the future of BCPC. The only rule was that you could not share the information you have with other members of the team. I was assigned the role of Jan Trow. Therefore I discussed with other people assigned the same role before breaking into groups.
Jan Trow joined BCPC two years ago after the dot-com crash, because of the perceived stability of the company. He was pragmatic and concerned about losing his job if the project failed. His new boss had put him on the team to “get to know his work.” Consequently, Jan Trow did not support the launch of HIP. He thought this was best to save his job.
In the meeting, Chris let each person present their views. Morgan spoke first and gave very vague figures on the profitability of HIP launch. Unfortunately, I spoke after Morgan. However, I had limited information at that moment. There was no opportunity for a rebuttal based on Morgan’s presentation. So, I laid out my concerns as well as I could, not knowing what others will say.
Terry spoke next and gave me a little hope because his data supported my opinion. Then came Robin to denounce the project with hard facts. I was excited.
Finally, Alex spoke and broke my heart. Alex was advocating for the project to go ahead based on the readiness of his department to sell the product. He even came up with hypothetical solutions to problems that would not work in reality. Before I could debunk anything, Robin was at his throat. It was clear that Alex had no clue about the requirements for deployment, but wanted to impose. Morgan as was asked to clarify some figures to support his argument but answers fell short. Eventually, Chris had to settle the matter with an explanation on the technical aspect to Alex to move the conversation forward.
We eventually settled on the fact that it was too risky to launch directly to consumers. It was better to offer to 3rd parties and learn from their mistakes before we launch.
Back in class after the break out session, each group gave a summary of their meeting as well as the performance of the Chris. Thereafter, the lecturer revealed the motivation behind each person’s role.
It turned out that Chris was in it to please the CEO to get a promotion. Morgan was promised a bonus if the product launched. So everyone had a hidden agenda about the outcome of the meeting.
This exercise was to illustrate to us that in reality, we may not have all the information to make a decision. Also, people may with hold information for selfish reasons. Accordingly, we were to try to fish out them using different methods to ensure the best reason is reached.