Case Study ‘Acton-Burnett, Inc.’

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1-What were the mistakes made by Ryan and Keene during the whole process?

The mistakes made by Ryan and Keen during the whole progress are fourfold:

1. Formation
Baker is enlisted by commissioning executive Ryan and Keen to do an impossible job, both time and resource wise. Following an initial insight from Acton, the company’s chairman, Baker takes the lead to a newly created, cross functional task force. The idea is cascaded from top to down to him, across two layers of hierarchy. Very little is as well said about Acton’ and Herd’ ideas, except that they ‘feel’ that forecasting is an issue following significant loses in Q1 1975.

Subsequently, Ryan and Keen appoint a task force on behalf of Baker. That Baker had no influence on the appointment of the members will have further knock on effects on Baker’s effective leadership later on (see points 2.1 relative to Baker).

Another issue with both Ryan and Keene commissioning the taskforce to Baker is the multiple objectives incompatibility. Leading the taskforce may prove a good training ground for a tenderfoot like Baker, but at the expense of the success of this taskforce.

2. Selection
a. of the team
The taskforce is appointed with no respect to people’ preferences, level of relationship, experience and personal affinities. The taskforce is hand picking a great variety of employees from eight teams. Each team members has a separate line of reporting, level of seniority, age, experience and personal background (old timers, MBAs). While such diversity is to be expected in a cross functional group and may help further in adopting change, the size of the group and the multiple lines of reporting and agendas are surely complicating Baker’s job to effectively and successfully lead the team.

Some choices are also deliberate but incorrect. E.g. Ryan suggested not appointing any market managers due to their heavy workload. On the contradictory, it may have been a good idea to have a market managers to influence from within, work around the politics and provide coaching to Baker and the team.

Lastly, some of the team members were not even picked by Ryan and Keene, but by other members of the top management. This is problematic, as neither Ryan nor Keene have the last word when it comes to two team members (out of 8). With such a task-oriented group, it is no wonder that the group become a battleground for fighting the departmental conflicts.

Conclusively, the team selection is based on a blend of experience and departmental position rather than skills. To that respect, the task of Baker or any other leader was to be difficult.

b. of Baker
Baker’ choice as taskforce leader can be questioned as well. He is a relatively young yet promising employee with no more than two years of experience at Acton-Barnett. He has enjoyed a good rotation across two teams, and he is well regarded internally. However, there is little information about his background and experience as team leader.

The taskforce may provide him with an opportunity to prove himself as a leader and develop managerial skills. However, the taskforce also provides a great level of exposure to top management which may seriously interfere with his private agenda.

Baker’ choice remains debatable, and in the absence of much detail regarding his leadership experience and understanding of internal politics, it will be difficult for any leader to create a shared sense of purpose, willingness to commit, and mutual respect. To that respect, Baker seems relatively inexperience to conduct the taskforce accordingly.

3. Timing & Reporting
The initial idea is expressed on June 12th. With the first meeting on Aug 4th, It leaves no more than 7 weeks to complete the task. While this is given as a priority by Acton, seven weeks are relatively short to ensure a successful outcome. Moreover, Ryan and Keene are heavily relying on Baker to successfully provide a solution, but there is no mention of...
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