Peter Browning Action Plan
Richard Hoffman, the Executive Vice President, could not have been more right when he acknowledged that Peter Browning had a difficult job in front of him. It was Peter’s job to revitalize a mature business in the face of serious competitive threats, but without discouraging the loyalty and morale of a family style culture. Under Continental’s management, Peter Browning was faced with several issues. First and foremost, some managers as well as most employees of White Cap’s were resistant to change. Many of the employees were older and had been with the company for a long time. Additionally, employees had a tendency to bring both their friends and family on board. They had not only become accustomed to a culture of little change, but also one that consisted of years worth of rituals, ceremonies and traditions by the White family. Employees came to expect job security, generous benefits, and a management structure that was built on personal relationships rather than job performance. Because of these expectations, employees were extremely loyal. Due to this loyalty, employees did not push for a union. They felt they were treated fairly and that pushing to unionize would sever connections between the employees and management. Rapid change by Peter Browning could run the risk of an employee uproar. Next, Browning was asked by Continental to reduce salary and administrative costs. Continental’s management saw these high costs as a weakness. Simultaneously, he was supposed to communicate a sense of urgency of the absolute collapse of White Cap if things did not change quickly. At the same time, Browning was to do this without disrupting the marketplace image of White Cap as well as without weakening its employee loyalty. These changes needed to be accomplished from beneath the ranks of Art Lawson, the successor of Bob White. Bob White was the founder’s son. Bob had established a multi-layered, formal, and restrained organization. This was known in the organization as “management without confrontation”. Bob’s beliefs were still very much a part of the employee morale and Browning was forced to preserve Bob’s beliefs despite making the necessary changes. This was yet another difficult task. Following, Browning was forced to deal with White Cap’s marketing team. The team was not spending time listening to the customers about their needs nor were they addressing what was going on in the competitive marketplace. Browning saw the entire department and its management team to be a huge weakness for White Cap. In addition, Browning uncovered weaknesses in other departments. These weaknesses led to Browning’s issues with members of the management team that reported to him, such as Jim Stark, Director of Marketing, and Tom Green, Manager of Human Resources. Peter Browning had a much greater need for accomplishment at White Cap as opposed to his successes at Bondware. At Bondware, Browning was appointed to fix a business that was dying in the eyes of management. Any failures that could have occurred at Bondware would have been attributed to the natural downfall of the business and not associated with Browning. This alleviated the pressure put on him to perform at a flawless level. On the other hand, White Cap had not only been successful for 50 years but it was Continental’s number one division. The White Cap assignment was also seen as a testing period of Browning by management. Another issue that faced Peter Browning was his strong attachment to his own belief system that he tried to instill on others. An industrial psychologist suggested that although the majority of individuals shared his ideals, there were those who held different beliefs and values and they found it difficult to relate and understand him. The issues facing White Cap as a whole were much different. White Cap’s technology was falling behind that of its competitors. Competitors began cutting prices to gain market...
Cited: Peter Browning and Continental WhiteCap (A). Harvard Business School
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