Maureen Frye at Quaker Steel and Alloy Corporation
What were the mistakes made by Maureen Frye?
Frye made several mistakes with respect to her initial attempt to implement change, however there are wider company issues beyond Frye’s immediate control that also contributed to the failure of her initiative.
Having seen her original memo attract criticism for its arbitrary nature, Frye failed to fully comprehend the reasons for the initial rejection of her proposal, when she proceeded with her January 1995 meeting with the DSMs. This is due to the fact that Frye did not properly understand the way in which the sales department worked. On page 7 it is mentioned that “Frye had not been able to spend as much time in the field as she had hoped”, while on page 9 Frye says “we gave them a rough outline of what we wanted done, and we expected the DSMs to follow through as they saw fit”. As a result of this, we speculate that she was unaware of the large degree of autonomy afforded to individual salespeople by the regional DSMs. In a scenario where there is ordinarily a large degree of autonomy, a “rough outline” presented to people who then have to pass on the concept to their respective subordinates is totally inadequate.
Frye showed a complete lack of empathy with the changes involved for the sales force. She has not solicited widespread feedback on her proposals and from her position behind a computer analyzing cold hard numbers, she has entirely underestimated the change involved to the nature of the sales force’s work. Additionally she has made no effort to understand their motivations and frustrations.
Frye does not appear to have engaged the General Sales Managers at all. By sidelining them in this way she removes their motivation to ensure correct implementation. She thus effectively discards what could be very effective resources that exert direct line responsibility over the employees who will ultimately need to implement Frye’s proposed changes.
Finally, Frye was not properly empowered by her superiors and seems to have made no effort to address this. As evidenced on Page 2 the complicated “responsibility lines” that cut across departments meant that typically managers who joined Quaker from other companies found Quaker a “confusing place to work”. These complicated responsibility lines (Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 3) meant that Frye was not given explicit control over the people who would ultimately implement her proposals. “In the workplace, credibility grows out of two sources: expertise and relationships” Coupled with the fact that Frye did not have established working relationships, this confusing structure meant that in the absence of explicit empowerment, Frye lacked the credibility to effect change.
The two overriding themes that we have identified are that:
• Frye has demonstrated a clear lack of people skills. She has shown no understanding of the key motivators of the sales force and communication around implementation of her idea has been poor both in terms of content and its direction.
• Frye has been unable to exhibit leadership due to both a complicated organizational structure and her personal lack of established credibility due to lack of relationships.
What would you do if you were Maureen Frye, at the end of the case?
One standalone alternative that Frye could pursue is for Israel to send a direct order to his entire department asking that they comply with Frye’s proposals. This proposal benefits from the fact that Israel has direct line authority over the salespeople and is in a better position to monitor the implementation plan.
This alternative however entirely fails to address concerns around soliciting feedback and ignores the “…generally accepted norm of influencing through persuasion and analyses rather than through formal authority…”. Additionally this entirely underestimates the change for the...
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