Emerson, Ross and Partners – A Management Case Study Report Essay

Emerson, Ross and Partners – A Management Case Study Report

I.                   Executive Summary

Assessing management issues that confront today’s workplaces is key to ascertaining where business leaders are going wrong, what ideas or modes of thinking they need to overhaul, and which areas they need to enhance for organizations not to flounder.

In the present business environment, management flair and creativity coupled with ample working capital may successfully get the business off the ground, like in the case of Peter Emerson and Andrew Ross, the design consulting partners who go their company off to a good start. Sadly, great talent alone no longer suffices in sustaining a business. Managers or business owners who do not have the foresight to see beyond a profit-making agenda nor the openness to new insights tend to fail in steering their companies to success.  A few years after expanding to interstate branches and appointing new partners and employees, the company faces the major problem of an unmotivated and disgruntled managerial team.

New leadership styles, broadminded business judgment and strategic management approaches will have to be adopted  to enable companies to soar.  These are the very things sorely lacking in Emerson, Ross and Partners, whose internal problems have been overlooked by people at the helm. Moreover, the very people it intends to appoint to man its international operations lack the forward-looking perspective of a global manager.

Apart from setting in place the necessary financial controls and reporting, top-level management especially of companies expanding to several business units, are called upon to transcend their traditionally rigid top-down management styles and embrace something more team-supportive and business-enabling.  Emerson, Ross and Partners clearly needs to have a more focused management effort. It should also adopt a more people-oriented approach and align its workforce with the  company’s vision and core values. The company should mobilize from the top, foster cooperation, trust, and “freedom from stifling hierarchies” (Champy, 1995, p. 205) and ensure that superior thinking skills are utilized throughout the organization. By not neglecting its people, opening up communication, aligning leadership development initiatives with an overall strategy, reshuffling rising stars throughout the organization (Cohn, Khurana, & Reeves, 2008, p. 60), engaging in high-level planning and continuous institutional learning (De Geus, 1988, p. 70), a company like Emerson, Ross and Partners may grow and prosper.

II.                Problem Identification and Analysis

Managing a business is no mean feat.  It “successfully revolves around balancing the immediate demands of the market place with the emerging trends that force strategic change” (Hywood, 2005, para. 1).  The main problem in the case of Emerson, Ross and Partners is that those at the helm use traditional management models that do not work anymore given “the global nature of business today” (Menkes, 2006, p. 71). Consistently overlooking a company’s most valuable resource – its people – in terms of due recognition and rewards not only alienates even the most talented staff (Menkes, 2006, p. 70) but also leads a company to its ruin. Moreover, the cynical stance or cockiness coupled with a business judgment that fails to evolve with have a great negative impact on business operations (Menkes, 2006, p. 71), as illustrated in Emerson, Ross and Partners. In the case study, the senior partners have failed to focus on their responsibility to address the individual needs of their key people, which must encompass “developing the individual’s potential – both professional and technical and in the `human side of enterprise” (Adair, 2007, p. 74). Indeed, history has shown that “if you look at companies which failed, they are companies with poor leadership… poor competitiveness” (Peh, 2008, p. 96).

It turns out that “the people side has become the focal point for most companies and societies” because neglecting this crucial element can lead to an organization’s rapid decline.  New needs and requirements of one’s workforce need to come into focus.  An authoritive old-school management style may not be favored anymore by the new breed of workers who thrive with much leeway in carrying out their tasks. In all probability, these are also the workers who desire a consultative approach in implementing strategies that will redound to company benefit.  Management by walking around is oftentimes misconstrued as a manifestation of distrust, but leaders who are able to inspire employees to realize that “the best learning takes place in teams that accept that the whole is larger than the sum of the parts, that there is a good that transcends the individual” or in short there is a company vision or mission to help propel it to success, are those who command the greatest respect. In the case of Emerson, Ross and Partners, it is characterized by a fragmented culture “in the sense that most people have no deeply felt sense of company purpose” (1993, Thompson & Strickland, 1993, p. 254) to pull them together.

In this regard, the absence of constant communication emerges as one of the underlying causes of company friction, conflicting interests and ambivalence in supporting top management thrusts.

It must be noted that open communication and healthy personal interaction are vital even in the contemporary business milieu. “As companies open more outposts in more emerging markets, the need to gather” (Lowry & Balfour, 2008, p. 48) and have a regular interchange of ideas, sentiments and insights is highly beneficial to the organization.  In like manner, managing the global workforce entails new mindsets and processes. In certain cases, a global team of human resource managers strive to meet and address loopholes and consolidate methods and systems based on a more “collective ethos” (McGregor, 2008, p. 46).

As for companies planning to expand overseas, they essentially need to know the real challenges and requirements in that global setting. More than an understanding of local culture, “the global manager has to be characterized by an adventurous spirit, optimistic perspective and personal philosophy which enthusiastically accepts different cultures” (Simic, 2005, p. 227). At Emerson, Ross and Partners, one of the partners  has not obtained the trust of his key executives, a situation aggravated by the fact that he desists from “paying attention, personalizing recognition…actively appreciating others” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 294). Another one does have the cultural ties to the country targeted for expansion, but balks at the opportunity simply because he knows that he lacks the technical competence or has not really been groomed for the position of global manager. “Ultimately the longer term health of any organisation is based on its ability to understand the big economic and market trends… If an organisation does not understand the full context in which it is operating, the risk of longer term failure is real” (Hywood, 2005, para. 5-6). Indeed, global business expansion experts or consultants oftentimes note that in the global arena, “the skills required are far more complex” (Rai, 2008, p. 22)

III.             Statement of Major Problems

A major problem in the case of Emerson, Ross and Partners is its inability to uphold or give importance to the human side of enterprise.  Top management fails to adopt a people-centered management style and motivate its workforce, thereby creating the risk of leading the company to its downfall. Notwithstanding a reputation for quality work, a rigid management style that does not motivate or inspire greater productivity does not serve the business well. Apart from not being able to tap or unlock the vast  potential of human resources, the other key issues include lack of transparency on the part of senior executives, and a dearth of strategic management techniques and foresight that makes their ambitious plans to expand to the global market a preposterous proposition, especially in the eyes of their core staff or team members.

On the part of other team members, there is the tendency to “communicate antagonistically across the borders of their territories” (De Geus, 1988, p. 74) and misjudge the intentions of top management. Control over one’s area of responsibility or scope of work must also be balanced with proper coordination and integration.  It is management prerogative to ensure that separate activities are “coordinated and integrated back together as a whole so the business functions effectively” (Pearce & Robinson, 2009, p. 351), even if workers down the line fail to see this, especially if their judgment is clouded by dissatisfaction with work processes perpetuated by top management, which boils down to lack of constant communication and consultation which is essential to the collaborative realization of organizational goals.

IV.             Generation and Evaluation of a Range of Alternative Solution

Leadership must be nurtured by top management, and in doing so it gives a company an edge (Rai, 2008, p. 22).  First and foremost in the agenda of top management should be to “take the significant step toward opening up communication and thus the learning process by keeping one fact in mind:  institutional learning begins with the calibration of existing mental models” (De Geus, 1988, pa. 74).  The advantages of having top management change an existing mindset is that it may take time, especially if these key decision-makers insist on doing things their own way, but a closer look at the benefits that will be reaped by the entire organization may prevail even in the most stubborn minds, to changing `existing mental models’ stand a good chance of being adopted.

Hand in hand with opening up communication is laying down the company’s vision, mission, goals and objectives so that employees may align themselves with these.  Also crucial is the setting up of accounting controls and regular reporting of corporate financial updates and status of projects to build anew trust and transparency.

Once communication channels are opened, the next step of addressing workforce needs and complaints may then be addressed through a forum as well as regular, healthy face-to-face interaction. With rigid processes dismantled and management styles enhanced to be more attuned to the human side of enterprise, the real work of generating new ideas from key staff and giving free rein to creativity and innovation may start,

V.                 Recommendations

Attaining organizational goals through effective and efficient planning, organization, and control of organizational resources, including human resources, are crucial for business survival and differentiation. As encapsulated in an online article on the human side of management published in Finance India:

The emerging management paradigm focuses on leadership, on harnessing people’s creativity and enthusiasm, finding shared vision and values, and sharing information and power.  Teamwork, collaboration, participation, and learning are guiding principles that help managers and employees maneuver the difficult terrain of today’s complex business environment (Meena, 2005, para. 1).

            It is also best to open the communication channels which may now be done in a variety of ways or with the advent of electronic media. Yet even in the present age, there is still no substitute for face-to-face interaction (Lowry & Balfour, 2008, p. 48) to voice out apprehensions, resolve conflicts and build relationships, all of which may have far-reaching impact. Holding “one-to-one meetings at regular intervals to offer constructive criticism, as well as encouragement or support (Adair, 2007, p. 74) It is highly recommended that key executives “launch a formal, high-level succession-planning conference for senior executives… (and) create leadership development programs that fill holes in your company’s talent portfolio” (Cohn, Khurana, & Reeves, 2008, p. 60).

Managers in a globalized economy need to adapt to the changing business environment as well as evolving ways of conducting and buoying business.  Success, in most cases, is hinged both on a visionary leadership and a dedicated team effort.  “Mobilization begins at the top, with a vision and a business idea, but the energy comes from pushing authority and accountability down to where the action is” (Champy, 1995, p. 67). It must also be noted that “multibusiness companies are changing the role of corporate headquarters from one of control, resource allocation, and performance monitoring to one of coordinator of linkages across multiple businesses, supporter, and enabler of innovation and synergy (Pearce & Robinson, 2009, p. 351).

As far as the aggressive expansion thrust of Emerson, Ross and Partners is concerned, the potential profit-increasing move may help to “differentiate product offering and marketing strategy from country to country” (Hill, 1999, p. 364). Managers with an eye towards international expansion must arm themselves with a thorough understanding of, and preparation for, “all the chances and the dangers which global business carries” (Simic, 2005, p. 225).

VI.             Implementation

Senior management will do well to bolster their track record of experience by updating their knowledge and skills. “Moving the company through its next growth phase requires gaining experience by getting out and walking around the market” (Champy, 1995, p. 50).  This may be accomplished not only by getting the pulse of the market and ascertaining prevailing trends and problems in the business environment, but also by effectively mingling with one’s own people who may have good ideas.

            Ranking executives, especially those poised to expand overseas, should likewise “be careful about taking on new fixed obligations” (Bartecki, 2005, para. 14) unless there is certainty of covering them. While decision-makers may be able to successfully initiate their business ventures, the tendency to rest on their laurels or past accomplishments must be overcome and new feasible endeavors or avenues for growth focused on. Regular planning and consultative sessions with key staff are therefore very much needed.

These strategic management moves that must be initiated by top management, when simultaneously carried within a quarter of a fiscal year, are estimated to reach an amount equivalent in value to about three to five major projects or deals closed, but they are expected to deliver significant changes for a company turnaround.

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