Progressive Case Study: Bill’s Grills
This course includes a progressive case study based upon the three levels of organizational behavior analysis; Individual, Group and Organization and is divided into 5 parts: Introduction, Individual, Group, Organization and Conclusion/Recommendations. After reading through the information, answer the questions based on the Individual level of behavior analysis
As you begin the process here are a few tips:
Part 1: An Introduction to Bill’s Grills and Key Players (For use with Chapters 1 and 2)
Date: January 1, 2012
Bill Carpenter was an engineer. He worked for many years as a mechanical engineer in the petroleum industry, developing large equipment that was used in refineries. It was there that Bill learned about heat, and how heat impacted metal in various ways. During that time, Bill also had a passion—barbeque ribs. Bill was an avid barbeque-er, and competed in local and regional competitions. He found that many of the grills he used in competition were not good—they heated unevenly, had poor ventilation, and flamed out when gas pressure was too high or too low. In the mid 1980’s after a decade of growth, an oil bust wreaked havoc on the local economy—tens of thousands of former oilmen were out of work. Bill had no choice; find a new career or go under. With the help of family and friends, he started his new business: Bill’s Grills.
Bill’s Grills started in Bill’s garage. He and another former oil engineer made large, custom built gas and charcoal grills by hand. Each grill was made to customer specifications and took between 3 weeks and 4 months to build. While the work was steady and he enjoyed it, Bill found that margins were narrow and the physical labor quite intense. He began to re-invest all of his earnings into expanding production. Things had been going well for Bill. Although he had big competition like Weber and Char-Broil, the niche market they were in (high performance, special order) helped them to remain unique, with a loyal fan base. The management team had been able to increase year-over-year sales, while simultaneously decreasing costs for 12 years in a row. By the early 2000’s Bill’s Grills had $200 million in sales and employed nearly 500 people in two shifts. Most operations took place in two factories located within 30 miles of each other in southern Texas, while R&D was located in three separate facilities located in Texas, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Then, disaster struck. When the dot-com bubble burst, so did the market for high-end barbeque grills. However, after some adjustment Bill and his management team were able to right-size the business, and eventually even grow. When the great recession hit in mid-2008, Bill’s Grills had $300 million in sales and employed nearly 500 people at a single factory, working on three shifts. The business continued to operate out of the two production facilities and three additional R&D facilities.
While Bill was able to weather through the first two years of the recession, by mid-2010 it became obvious that this time it was different. Sales were low and morale among employees was lower. Employees, who had been paid generally below average for the area decided to unionize. Still, the average wage among hourly employees was only $12.75 per hour.
To make matters worse, the leadership team had very little contact with Bill. When business took a turn for the worse, Bill had a hard time dealing with the problem. Rather than give up the reins, he simply stopped participating; he stopped going to meetings, stopped responding to emails, and stopped taking phone calls. Everyone was concerned. Bill’s Grills had gone from a 500-person strong company to a headless monster in a little over a year. This was when Patrick was called. Patrick was brought in as a management consultant then hired full time as the Plant Manager.
See below file for organizational chart to help describe the hierarchy.
Patrick was faced with turning around a company that operated in the red every month, with historically low levels of productivity in the factories and an R&D group that had not developed a patent or new product in nearly 5 years. Over the next several weeks, you will be asked to put yourself in Patrick’s shoes. What should he do to save Bill’s Grills?
Bill: (Original owner and creator of Bill’s Grills)
Male, 60 yrs. old, Mechanical Engineer, 20 yrs, experience in Petroleum industry.
Once respected, he has been out-of-the loop for about a year. This has left plant leadership unable to make important decisions, and hourly employees with questions about the state of the company.
Patrick: (Management Consultant/Plant Manager)
Male, 30 yrs. old, MBA.
Fresh out of school with his MBA, his prior experience had been at a company with less than 50 people, which was sound financially. He was discovered and hired by a recruiter who needed to fill the leadership role at Bill’s fast. Patrick has a lot to do, fast, to keep Bill’s alive.
Jose: (Plant Quality Manager)
Male, 40 yrs. old, originally from South America, English is second language. He has been at Bill’s for 5 years, starting as a quality engineer, and working his way up.
When he was first hired, he had high ideals for how Bill’s should run. But, after a few years, he realized that none of his hard work seemed to matter, so he just kind of gave up. As long as Bill’s wasn’t sued for a major quality problem or some type of liability issue, he would just go with the flow.
Janet: (Plant Operations Manager)
Female, 35 yrs. old, new on the job – she started just a week before Patrick.
She is adjusting to the norms and culture at Bill’s. She has some plant operations experience. She is under tremendous pressure to improve productivity.
Troy: (Maintenance Manager)
Male, 26 yrs old. He was one of the original employees at Bill’s, and had risen from the ranks within Bill’s, starting on the production line and working his way up. He had just taking on the role of Maintenance Manager a year before.
Sue: (Research and Development (R&D) Manager) Works remotely from the North Carolina R&D site.
Part 1/Introduction – Answer the following questions:
Part 2: Examination of Bill’s Grills on an Individual Level (For use with Chapters 3, & 4)
Date: February 19, 2012; 9:00 AM
It was a Sunday morning, and Patrick decided to make a quick visit to the plant. He knew that several people were working overtime that day, and the plant would be running at full speed—and that is was important for the hourly employees to see him there, too (for the sake of morale). Also, earlier in the week Patrick had overheard some supervisors complaining about the maintenance department. He had heard that they were not keeping up and many of the machines were not working. He wanted to check it out for himself.
Patrick knew that the Maintenance Department is one of the most important departments in the factory. ‘Let’s face it,’ he thought. ‘No maintenance; no machines. No machines; no product. No product; no company.’ He knew that the Maintenance Department had to be operating effectively for the rest of the plant, and the company, to succeed.
As soon as Patrick entered, it was clear there was a problem. It was 10:00 AM (the middle of a shift), and yet there were at least 20 hourly employees milling around a machine and it was not running. He asked the hourly employees what was going on. One employee responded: “It is down. Again. Maintenance says they need a work order, or they won’t work on it. We put one in already today. And yesterday. And the day before. Maintenance never seems to be around.”
Machine #8 was known to have problems, and it was often down. Unfortunately, it was key to the production process, and no grills could be made unless Machine #8 was working.
Upon further inspection, he noticed that there were several machines that were not running. With so many machines down, Patrick knew he was in for a bumpy ride—his productivity numbers would be in the tank unless someone did something fast. He walked past the maintenance office, and noticed several people huddled in a circle, talking. As he started to walk toward them, they scattered quickly, apparently not interested in talking to him. He saw them again 20 minutes later in the break room. 40 minutes after that, they were taking smoke breaks. Machine #8 was still not working, and a member of maintenance had not arrived. He then decided to send the whole shift home. As long as Machine #8 was not working, there was nothing for them to do. Patrick left as well.
The following day, Patrick called a meeting with the Operations and Quality Managers, Janet and Jose. Before the meeting, he briefed them about what he had seen the day before, and then asked that they call in Troy to discuss the matter. Patrick wanted Janet and Jose to lead the meeting, and discuss the issues with Troy. Patrick believed that Troy might be more willing to “buy-in” to a problem, if he was hearing it from his direct boss (see organization chart in case 1). Patrick would simply watch. Within ½ hour, Janet, Jose, Troy and Patrick were in a conference room, ready to talk. The meeting started with a little light joking, then they got down to business.
Janet: “Troy, I am having some serious concerns on the Operations side that too many machines are down. I am very worried that our productivity numbers will do down….”
Troy: (interrupting) “What do you expect me to do about it? I need more maintenance guys.”
Jose: “As Janet was saying, from the quality side, we can’t expect the hourly employees to make good products when their equipment is out of order. And when the equipment is running, they have it at full speed, just to catch up. Too many defective parts get misses, and are shipped to the customer.”
Troy: “Well, if you expect anything to change, you are crazy. This equipment is all old, and you should expect it to break down.”
That statement seemed to satisfy Janet and Jose, so the meeting was adjourned. Patrick was still not satisfied.
Part 2/A – Individual: Answer the following questions:
Part 2: Continuation of Examination of Bill’s Grills on an Individual Level
(For use with Chapters 5, 6 & 7)
Date: February 19, 2012; 4:00 AM
After another exhausting day, Patrick has a few minutes to reflect back upon the exchange between Troy, Janet and Jose. Since that time, he has received two more reports of machines that have been down for more than 48 hours. Yet, Troy seems unable or unwilling to acknowledge his responsibility for the problem. Worse, Janet and Jose, who should be holding Troy accountable, seem to accept it.
Things took on an even worse turn when Patrick received a visit from the union representative. The employees from Machine #8 were angry because Patrick sent them home early Sunday, and they were threatening a “work slowdown’ because of it. When they were sent home, they lost a large portion of their earnings for the week; Sunday pays double-time, and an eight hour shift means a lot of money to them. Yet, Patrick was stuck. He couldn’t afford to pay them to work on a machine that was out of order; nor could he afford to have them carry out a work slowdown. When Machine #8 was running, he needed them at their best. Now, the union was asking questions, and Patrick needed to answer them fast, before this issue got out of control.
Part 2/B – Individual: Answer the following questions:
Part 3: Examination of Bill’s Grills on the Group Level (For use with Chapters 8, 9, 10 & 11)
Date: February 10, 2012, 3:00 AM
TriTech is a Chinese company that manufactures gas valves and igniter switches—ones that could easily be used for the grills. The leadership team at Bill’s had been trying to make contacts and develop a strategic partnership with TriTech for several years. Igniter switches are both costly to make, and have a high potential for risk. Any product in which you take responsibility for mixing gas and fire is relatively risky—one bad valve on a gas grill, and you have a consumer with no eyebrows, or worse. TriTech was known for its high quality and low cost products, with relatively low shipping costs. Bill’s needed the strategic partnership to work—it would help them to reduce cost and improve quality all in one, which is something they badly needed. Patrick and Ken were able to cut a deal with TriTech. After a month of designing the igniter at Bill’s R&D facilities (located in Texas, North Carolina, and Rhode Island), the final prints were sent to TriTech.
Date: May 22, 2012 9:30 AM
Bill’s had been expecting the shipment of igniters from TriTech, and in anticipation of the shipment premade several thousand grills that left only the igniter to be welded into place. Several dozen large orders were on backorder, and awaiting the arrival and placement of the igniters—as soon as the igniters were welded into place, the orders would be filled. Everything was good. When Patrick arrived at the factory today, he heard that the shipment was just delivered and being unpacked. Yes!
Date: May 22, 2012; 10:30 AM
Patrick was called into a meeting. Janet, Jose and several supervisors were in the room, and there were big problems. Apparently, the igniters were the wrong size. Worse, in addition to being 3 cm too small in diameter, they included an ignition module that corroded during shipment. It was found that the original igniter design included a small battery that was not fully enclosed. The shipments were made in large containers that were placed close to the door of the cargo ship that carried it between the Chinese and US ports. The battery (and area around it) corroded during the month it spent in the salty ocean air during shipment. Between the incorrect sizing and the corroded battery, the shipment of igniters was useless. In a conference call between Sue the R&D manager, the leaders at the Texas and North Carolina R&D facilities (The Rhode Island leader was not available), the lead engineer at TriTech, and Patrick’s leadership team, the following conversation was took place:
Sue: “Let me start by saying that I oversaw this design process myself, and I stand by our design. I don’t understand what went wrong—the design that went to TriTech was perfect.”
TriTech Lead Engineer: “We were instructed to use the battery, rather than an electric module by your North Carolina design team. We recommended the electric module, but battery power reduced cost significantly. We were only following the instructions of our contact from North Carolina.”
North Carolina R&D leader: “That is true, but our original design included full water resistant covers over the battery. The cover would have prevented the corrosion. What happened to the covers?”
TriTech Lead Engineer: “The cover was removed from the design by our contact at your Texas facility.”
Texas R&D leader: “That is true. We designed the igniter based upon the needs of the factory. After reviewing the materials, we determined that removing the watertight battery cover and reducing the diameter by 3 cm would reduce materials costs by $350,000. But, we only implemented the changes based upon recommendations and approval by the Rhode Island R&D team leader.”
Jose: “But why didn’t anyone tell us that the igniter would be 3 cm smaller? We have now built 6,000 grills with holes in the side waiting for a 12 cm igniter. We can’t weld a 9 cm igniter into a 12 cm hole! We will need to do some significant retrofitting to make them work. To fix this will take weeks, and the orders we planned to fill are already on backorder. We are at risk of losing several good customers.”
Janet: “I don’t care what happened. Fix it.”
Patrick: “The size of the hole doesn’t matter now. With all of the batteries corroded, we cannot use these igniters anyways. We will need to find another solution.”
Clearly mistakes were made, but why?
Part 3/A – (Chapter 8) Answer the following questions:
Date: March 19, 2012
After several steps to try to motivate Troy, nothing seemed to work. While Janet and Jose seemed to be responding to the goals that Patrick had put in place, Troy was still resistant, bemoaning all of Patrick’s efforts as a waste of time and a waste of resources. Worse, the maintenance workers seem to be even less responsive to the needs of the hourly employees than usual and were more combative. A supervisor even caught several maintenance workers napping in the storage area. While they were reprimanded, Patrick was told that rather than stop napping, they simply moved their hiding place. They would disappear from the factory for hours, then reappear looking rested.
While this was disturbing enough, two maintenance workers were recently written up for fighting. The fight started as a verbal confrontation, but turned physical. Yet, when the two men were asked questions by the Chris, the Human Resource Manager, they vehemently denied that a problem existed and defended each other, which seemed very strange to both Chris and Patrick.
Also, there were new allegations and reports of sexual harassment of hourly employees by some members of the maintenance department. Patrick wondered if this was a new problem, or one that had been covered up in the past. He would need to find this out soon as it was clear that big changes were needed. Patrick contemplated replacing Troy with a new maintenance manager. But would that make the problems even worse?
Part 3/B – (Chapter 9) Answer the following questions:
Date: May 1, 2012
Just a month ago, Troy was fired, and replaced with Jamaal, a three year veteran of the maintenance department. He had a good attitude and was eager to please. He was well known and popular throughout the plant. And, while a few of the maintained workers resented his new position, Jamaal was mostly well respected and provided good leadership.
After replacing Troy, the maintenance department made huge strides—productivity was up in every area of the factory, due in large part to better run-times on nearly all of the machines. While that is exactly what Patrick was looking for, he had been hearing reports of more in-fighting within the group. The same two maintenance workers that got into the physical fight a couple of months ago did it again. But, this time they didn’t defend each other. Instead, they blamed each other.
Interestingly, while conflict among the maintenance department was increasing, conflict among the leadership team was decreasing. Dramatically. Even though things were better, they were far from perfect. Quality was still a huge issue, and little improvement had been made in that area. Also, the scrap rate was through the roof; they threw away nearly as much steel as they used, leading to a 50% scrap rate. With the price of steel constantly on the rise, it was worrisome. More worrisome was the fact that much of the scrap was the result of the machines—while they were running, many of the steel cutters and steel benders had divots, pocks, and cracks that led to bad cuts. These bad cuts inevitably meant that nearly half of the pieces of steel being cut were being sent to the scrap heap—no one wanted to spend big money on a grill with a dent or chip.
In the last leadership meeting, Patrick expected that Janet and Jose would discuss the issue of scrap with Jamaal. Yet, when Patrick raised the issue in the meeting, neither spoke up. Patrick wondered why.
Part 3/C – (Chapters 10 & 11) Answer the following questions:
Part 4: Examination of Bill’s Grills on the Organization Level (For use with Chapters 12, 13, 14 & 15)
Date: July 1, 2012; 12:30 PM
After the big igniter problem, the company is still reeling. The ramifications were severe; they lost several big customers over it, along with creating a huge amount of scrap. To make matters worse, they were not able to recoup their payment from TriTech because the igniters were delivered as they had been designed. It was their own fault, not TriTechs. After a few weeks, purchasers were able to find replacement parts, but delivery took several weeks, and at significant cost. During that time, Patrick had hourly employees take a two-week unpaid leave. After employees were asked to return, productivity was low—presumably because morale was low after the forced leave, and they were likely performing a work slow-down that was not sanctioned by the union. After what they have been through, Bill’s cannot afford to have poor productivity now—all of the gains made between March and May were wiped out with the igniter snafu.
Part 4/A – (Chapters 12 & 13) Answer the following questions:
Date: July 15, 2012
Early in July, Patrick noticed that productivity numbers were very low and attributed the problem to a work slow-down. Knowing that the union had not sanctioned the slow-down, Patrick took a hard stand. He implemented strict new rules for bathroom breaks, smoking breaks, and lunch. Productivity seemed to go up. He walked through the factory 3 times a day to be sure that the machines were running, and that they had an hourly employee working on them. Even though they complained about the new rules, employees seemed to be generally following them and working harder. He assumed this resolved the productivity issue once and for all.
But, three days after implementing the new rules, the earnings report came in, and things looked bleak. In the last 3 months, Bill’s had lost over a million dollars per month. At this rate, Bill’s could only survive another 4 months before they were completely insolvent.
Patrick would have no choice but to lay people off. He decided to lay off 100 people with the lowest seniority, and move other employees around to get the work done. Many hourly employees would have to change shifts and work days to accommodate the new schedule. Patrick knew this would cause problems for people’s personal lives, but he had no choice, what else could he do? They would also have to work harder since they continued to have the same amount of work, but had 100 fewer people to complete it.
After a week of planning with Susan and Janet (the managers of HR and Operations) and a few key supervisors, Patrick executed the layoff. Within an hour, union officials from within the plant and state union representatives were calling. They were threatening a walk-out. Patrick needs to fix things. Now.
Part 4/B – (Chapter 14) Answer the following questions:
Date: July 20, 2012
It has been a taxing, exhausting first six months for Patrick. In that time, he learned a great deal about the financial and accounting systems, the hierarchy and reporting structures, and the market. However, upon reflection be began to notice that while he had spent a great deal of time thinking about money and structure, he hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the company itself. As he reflected, a number of things popped out at him. The next morning, he started to open his eyes to his surroundings and the results were enlightening.
First, he noticed the parking lot, and realized that there were actually two—one out front for the office people, and a much larger one behind the factory where hourly factory employees and supervisors parked.
Next, he noticed that when you walk into Bills’ there are several grills sitting in and around the offices. But none were Bill’s Grills—they were grills from competitors. There were several pictures from the old days—pictures of Bill in the original garage where the company started, pictures of their first factory in the old warehouse, and pictures of Bill at the company picnic. But, all the while he had been there, few had mentioned Bill’s name.
Finally, he went onto the factory floor. Within minutes of entering, he noticed an employee bending steel for the gas line that connects the propane canister with the grill itself. After observing for a moment, he realized that the employee had removed the safety shield that kept her arm from entering the metal bending press. Further, when she bent the steel, it left a stress crack in the metal—one that went unnoticed. Knowing what he did about steel and pressure, Patrick was concerned that the crack would turn into a full-blown hole when under pressure from the propane coming out of the propane tank. Patrick watched the employee bend three pieces of steel, each resulting in a stress crack. Out of curiosity, he stepped up to the employee, who continued to work, and asked “Did you know that you are making bad product?” She responded “Yes”, and went on with her work. “But why?” said Patrick, “this is a huge liability and potentially very dangerous for consumers.” Her response was simple: “Because my supervisor told me to. She said the order had to get out–if we missed this shipment, we would lose the account.” And, with that, she went back to work. ‘Ironic’ thought Patrick. All of this took place beneath a large banner that said “Quality is our Top Priority”. This exchange left Patrick thinking about the organization’s culture in a totally new way. What was he going to do?
Part 4/C – (Chapter 15) Answer the following questions:
Based upon the previous case discussions and everything you’ve learned in this course, what level(s) of OB are most in need of change. Why?
What recommendations for organizational change do you think would be most appropriate and why?
-The group should answer in its own words responses to each of the questions asked within the case study. When asked for an opinion, state them by providing the reasoning that supports the opinions.
-Bring in key concepts and terminology learned throughout the duration of the course in order to state your case. If there are contradicting opinions, please state both within the paper and the reasoning for each.
-Through exploring the Metropolitan State University Library online databases, the written case analysis should have some current information about the organization, person, etc. interwoven in the responses related to the topic(s) of the case. Please review the grading rubric prior to submission (best to view prior to starting the analysis).
-There is no length to this final paper, yet it is suggested that you ensure that each question is fully responded to with detail and integration of course/learned material. Use your best judgment.
-The completed case should be submitted at the appropriate dropbox by one member of the group for grading with all team member names present.
-I would also like each individual member to submit a Team and Self-Evaluation of Learning Contribution as well. This should be an assessment of your role and contribution to the team as a team member and facilitator, and I’d like you to do the same for each of your team peers. Be critical in your assessment analysis, be honest, and be fair. The criteria for team participation and facilitation are included below. Use these as guides when assessing yourself and your team members.
Team Participation and Facilitation Criteria
Use these as guides when assessing yourself and your team members.
General Contribution to Self and Team Members’ Learning:
Assumed Responsibility for Facilitating Group: