Archive for September, 2010

HBS: Specialty Medical Chemicals (SMC)

This is an interesting case of administrative dilemma of a new CEO and sectional administrators (Vice Presidents) of an organization. It seems that the vice presidents are not happy with bringing new CEO from outside. That may be the reason Carl Burke want to bring an independent consultant, Laura wells, to mitigate the differences. Also Carl Burke knows that the current growth is in Biotech and generic drug markets where SMC has poor performance.  Also he did not receive support from the product development and sales sections to expand into those growing sectors. Those sales and product development are more into providing services to existing customers and not reaching out to new customers.

Most of the vice presidents are in their 40s and 50s except Roberta Janis who is 36. All of them are with SMC for more than 10 years and some of them are with the company for almost 25 years. The CEO Carl Burke is 41 and relatively younger person in the organization. The vice presidents may have some resentment that a young Carl took their opportunity.

Based on the assessment, I welcome the move to create biotech and generics market in the proposed organization structure. This new structure will get rid of (or demote) the previous vice presidents for sales, marketing, and product development who are not willing to explore the growing market sectors like biotech and generic. Also the new organization structure will help the SMC to focus different market sectors more aggressively and independently.


US News & World Reports: Jesica's Story-One Mistake Didn't Kill Her–The Organ Donor System Was Fatally Flawed

I read this investigative article by Avery Comarow appeared in the US News & World Reports on July 28, 2003. This is another example of learning by experience. The author describes the rules followed in matching the donor and recipient of heart and lung transfer surgery and the organizations involved. Heart and lungs transplant surgery is a time critical operation. Clearly a system and a set of rules have already been established. Then what’s gone wrong? The surgeon failed his role in identifying the correct blood type. He failed to keep the records all the time. He didn’t have it and tried to remember when he was at home.

I praise the surgeon, James Jaggers, for not behaving unethically. He did not throw reasons and put the blame on others. He accepted the full responsibility. The Duke hospital failed ethical responsibility by trying to cover up the matter to save their reputation.

I would say, despite all the system deficiencies and blunders, that the time critical nature of these transplant surgery is another factor contributed to Jesica’s death. It does not mean that her death is not preventable. The changes in the system which now requires a dozen of separate checks, double checks and the new oversight by the commission (JCAHO) prevented any further deaths after Jesica. Additional resources are allotted to buy PDAs for surgeon whom now can connect to hospital computers in real-time. It is a matter of money the hospital and the donor system didn’t want to spend earlier.

Business Weekly: Get Healthy or Else

I read an article appeared on Business week on February 26, 2007. This article talks about the initiatives taken at the Scotts Miracle-Gro lawn care company to cut the health care costs. This is a controversial topic. In my opinion, wellness program is a great idea, but employees should not be forced to take part. Nevada is implementing a similar wellness program for its PPO health insurance participants where employees are not forced to take part. Nevada state employees get lowered premiums, gift cards, and vacation packages if they actively follow the health risk prevention guidelines.

How can we assess the health of a person? There are obvious unhealthy behaviors like smoking and chronic alcoholism. Obesity is another issue. At the same time there are people who are slim and fit but still have high cholesterol problems. There are others who have diabetes though they keep up healthy dietary habits. It is believed that high cholesterol and diabetes partly genetic issue. Is it fair to punish these employees with high premiums?

I like the idea of creating a fitness center which is easily accessible by the employees. Many organizations give time to take classes at colleges or take part in-house personal development training or to give blood etc. These hours are strictly monitored and in some cases (as I know) it costs the abusers. Similarly, organizations can offer (or match) a few hours a week for health fitness.

I would love to have a chat with Jim Lowe, the forklift operator at the Scotts Miracle-Gro, to learn the natural way of losing 4 lbs a week. If I can do that, I will reach my target in 10 weeks.

WSJ: Two Football Coaches Have a Lot to Teach Screaming Managers

I read a Wall Street Journal Article titled “Two Football coaches have a lot to teach screaming managers”. It is pathetic that manages still believing that screaming and explosive behavior will lead the organization in a productive way.  In this age, Even a law enforcement officer is not allowed show arrogance while interrogating a criminal. Even though potentially many factors contributed in ousting Bob Nardelli as Home Depot CEO and Micheal Eisner as Walt Disney CEO, I believe that their mercurial behavior is one of them. I came to this conclusion because both organizations hired milder mannered persons as their new CEOs.

I had great people as my managers in my career except a few months. Personally I believe that the manager who scream and show explosive behavior have an unsecured mentality. They usually want to keep up a fiery environment in the workplace rather a friendly environment. The same people usually do sneaky things instead of being transparent. They usually do not share their knowledge and experience with their subordinates.

As mentioned in the article, the words matter. Though some managers are friendly in every day work activities, some of their expressions at meetings hurt the employees.

Mr. Dungy is an example of how to balance the family, faith, and career. I salute his honest answer, in an interview, refusing to put his career at the top of everything. Only a few people have that kind of guts. It is unfortunate that he didn’t get that job.

Stanford University: Southwest Airlines Using Human Resources for Competitive Advantage (B)

If I don’t get a chance to go and see what is happening at the Southwest, I also will be skeptical about the case Southwest airlines (A). It is really interesting to know circumstance that led the Stanford Human Resources Executive Program (HREP) members to the Southwest counter at San Jose Airport. I would say that the HREP members are fortunate enough to meet 5 Southwest employees who were ready to spend time with them. In all answers, nobody ever mentioned about their salaries and benefits are the reason that keep then with Southwest. Only one accepted that he/she may make less but is very confident on the job security. Then what is keeping them happily at Southwest. It is the human resources department and top management. No one is put on the front line (of customers) without a three weeks training and an internship with an experienced person until they are comfortable with the customer. This will keep the moral of the employee at high, will avoid any potential mishap and will increase the confident thus trust between employee and the manager.

Stanford University: Southwest Airlines Using Human Resources for Competitive Advantage (A)

Southwest Airline’s efficient operation is something every organization should follow. Their turnaround time is less than half of other major airlines; their gates handle more flights than other airlines; their employees per aircraft is almost half of other major airlines; But when it comes to the pilots I am bit skeptical. Pilots are crucial in airplane operation. They are like the commander of a battalion.  Southwest pilots make only half of other major airlines and fly 40% more than them. Will this attract the talents in the industry towards Southwest?  Do the retards end up with Southwest?

I am amazed of the strategies of the Southwest Airlines that keep them on the edge even during the economic downturn. Also I learned how important the “label” in keeping the moral at the top. This case shows that theoretically “People” and “Human Resources” may mean the same, but not in real terms. It is an example that without winning the hearts of the employees, costs cannot be cut. Usually cutting costs and winning hearts don’t go together well in any organization.

Herb Kelleher’s approach towards keeping the southwest spirit is another example of how to be a boss. Probably that is the main thing for the excellent customer service shown by the employees. The “team” mentality can be seen in contributing voluntary catastrophe funds. It is unusual the employees voluntarily contribute to manage higher fuel cost. I am pretty sure if the management touches the pay check of the employees just to cut the same voluntary contribution or even less, that would have been a catastrophe.

The handling of competitive threat by other airlines is a typical example that there is no single strategy fit for all organization. Continental literally copied southwest’s policies but could not succeed.

The Journal Report – Small Business: Rules of Engagement

This is an excellent article by Sue Shellengarger. It discuss about the employee engagement in the business.  As mentioned in this article, many organizations started implementing the flexible schedule work hours.  During the last 11 years of my career, I enjoy more and more flexibility at my work places. This allows me to take care of my house hold stuff and take classes at the university.  Also I never bothered about having long days once in a while and I don’t demand overtime payments from my employers for those days (Actually yesterday was a 15 hour workday for me). The employers benefit from employee satisfaction, reduced cost, and customer satisfaction which lead to higher profits.

I believe that personal commitment, creativity, and going beyond the way to do the job are all based on employee’s satisfaction with the employer. All the above increase the productivity and turnover. Flexible work hours program increases the employee satisfaction and does not cost more to the employer. Anther cause to that effect may be increased reward to the employee which will cost the employer.