MediSys Corp: The IntensCare Product Development Team
Donnellon, A & Margolis, JD 2009, Harvard Business Publishing, no. 4059.
Art Beaumont joined MediSys Corp in January 2008. Within weeks he introduced a series of changes. What were those changes and how did he go about making them? If you were Art Beaumont what would you have done under the circumstances? Support your opinions with appropriate evidence.
Beaumont identified areas in the corporation that he believed required changes in order for MediSys Corporation to continue to grow its business. He identified a lack of strategic focus within the corporation and he realised the need to be the first to market with innovative products.
In reaction to the
lack of strategic focus, Beaumont created an Executive Committee comprising of
the five Vice Presidents that reported directly to him. Beaumont was hired into
the role of President to sharpen the strategic focus of the corporation. Based
on the Vroom, Yetton and Jago’s normative decision making model, it appears
Beaumont made this decision in an autocratic (AI) manner
In order to be first
to market with new products, Beaumont saw the need to speed up product
development times. Nohria, Joyce and Roberson
In Beaumont’s position I think I would have followed a different decision-making process. There is no question that Beaumont identified some valid problems within MediSys Corporation that required some decisions to be made. To his credit, Beaumont acted quickly and forcefully however I believe he did not consider all of the stakeholders that would be impacted by his decisions.
situation, I would make use of Vroom, Yetton and Jago’s decision-making tree
Applying the same model to the use of cross-functional teams, my analysis (Appendix B) suggests the adoption of a group-based (GII) decision-making style. My approach would involve meeting with the Vice Presidents of the functional areas to discuss the goal of faster product development times. The role I would play would be to provide direction but also to empower the group to design the product development process and make the final decision. I suggest that senior managers within the functional areas would be formed into a committee to design the process, with guidance from their respective Vice Presidents. Senior managers would discuss possible solutions with their teams and reach compromises with other functional areas senior managers.
There is a significant amount of both underlying and obvious conflict in MediSys Corp. What conflicts have you ascertained? What conflict resolution strategies would you recommend for each situation? Support your recommendations with evidence.
The key areas of internal conflict that I have identified in this case study include the pressure of launching the product by August 2009; the incorporation of a modular design into the product; and, the need to meet regulatory compliance requirements.
Pressure is being exerted by Merz on the engineering team to meet the product delivery deadline and to incorporate a modular design. Merz believes that her concerns are aligned with delivering the most profitable product for MediSys Corporation. Being first to market with the IntensCare product will provide greater possibility of product profitability, which is a key driver for Merz. Beaumont has made it clear that the corporation’s reputation is on the line and has made it a requirement that MediSys Corporation are first to market with IntensCare.
The engineering team is dealing with a number of technical issues and their task is made difficult by recent staff cutbacks (hence scarcity of resources). The delivery of the software (that was outsourced to India) is delayed. This is the first time that MediSys Corporation has outsourced the software development function. The conflict map related to the product launch date is shown in Appendix C.
The requirement for a modular design has not been formally specified or approved in the design of the product. Bret O’Brien, the Senior Engineering Manager has declared that he will make a demand to be “let off the team” if Fogel doesn’t get Merz “off his back”. Considering O’Brien is a valuable team member, Fogel will want to keep him in his team, so it is in Fogel’s interest to resolve this conflict. To date, Fogel has adopted an avoidance position regarding the conflict within the IntensCare team. The conflict map regarding the modular design issue is shown in Appendix D.
In reviewing the
conflict between the engineering team and Merz, common ground between parties
exists (i.e. everyone appears to be committed to delivering a profitable
product). The key issue is around the timing of delivery and what will be
delivered by August 2009. I believe this conflict is best resolved by Fogel (as
Product Lead) acting as a mediator to broker a win-win scenario, through a
‘collaborative’ conflict-handling style
The issue of regulatory compliance acts as a point of conflict between Baio (Regulatory Affairs) and Merz (Marketing), O’Brien (Engineering) and Mukerjee (Software). In this case, Merz, O’Brien and Mukerjee appear to downplay the importance of the regulatory process being implemented by Baio. This gives Baio the feeling that the team is not committed to ensuring regulatory requirements are met. It appears that Merz, O’Brien and Mukerjee see regulatory requirements as an overhead that simply slows down the path to market. O’Brien suggests that they Regulations simply throw up “roadblocks in front of everyone”. The conflict map for the issue of regulatory compliance is shown in Appendix E.
Valerie Merz is facing a professional dilemma. What are the personal and organisational goals she is working towards? Describe the power she has at MediSys Corp. What influence tactics would you recommend that Valerie use to achieve her goals?
In terms of Merz’s
personal goals, the case study does not provide specific details on what these
may be. It is also interesting to note that Merz has an MBA from Stanford
University, which is a highly regarded teaching institute in the heart of
‘Silicon Valley’ in California
MediSys Corporation have set a goal of launching an innovative, world-class product by August 2009. Merz can contribute to the achievement of this goal by ensuring that IntensCare is a profitable product (I see this as Merz’s key organisational goal). Being first to market with the product would place the corporation in a strong position compared to its rivals. Merz also believes that a modular design is the key to gaining a competitive advantage in the market-place and will improve long term profitability of the product. Meeting immediate organisational goals and delivering a profitable product should contribute to Merz’s personal goals (see Appendix F).
Merz can improve the
possibility of achieving her organisational and personal goals if she can align
key people in the organisation with her goals. Tactics can be adopted to
persuade and influence, however the consequences of such tactics should be
considered. Bartol et al
In terms of position power, by her own admission Merz does not have
legitimate power over the technical teams as they are not expected to comply
with her decisions
can be an effective influence tactic when both parties share a common objective
In parallel with these
activities, Merz should look to form coalitions with key people, such as senior
managers in the corporation. I strongly recommend avoidance of political game
playing. However, Merz should recognise the need to be politically savvy and be
aware of internal organisational politics. Forming coalitions can help to keep
Merz gain this awareness and importantly, Merz may be able leverage favours and
make use of bargaining with coalition members to help her achieve her goals
In terms of tactics that could be adopted externally, Merz could make use of rational persuasion and referent power to influence her customers in the marketing of the IntensCare product. This could help achieve greater sales revenue and hence increase product profitability.
It would seem that the IntensCare team at MediSys Corp is not functioning effectively and therefore not achieving its strategic objective. Is it currently a team or a group? Who should be responsible for the development of the team and what tactics would you recommend the leader adopt to enable the teams to function more effectively, as a team?
I believe that the current IntensCare team is currently a group, not a team. However, within this group there is a ‘technical’ team that has worked on the product for quite some time and therefore is a reasonably well-functioning team. The technical team is involved in active problem solving and working towards delivery of the IntensCare product and consists of Fogel, O’Brien and Gersen (see Appendix G). Mukerjee is also part of the technical team but plays less of a role as he is spending a lot of time in India with the outsourced software development effort. Within the IntensCare core group, there are representatives from Marketing and Regulatory Affairs. The interactions within the IntensCare core team appear to be individualistic and there is a lack of a shared common goal, resulting in a lack of cooperation and teamwork.
In this situation, I believe that Jack Fogel (as the Product Lead) should be responsible for team development. Beaumont identified Fogel’s lack of business focus. Fogel seems unwilling or unable to engage the Marketing and Regulatory Affairs representatives to promote assimilation into the team. Leadership of the team has been made difficult by a lack of underlying business processes for the development of new products. For example, Merz has a desire to see a product with a modular design, however there appears to be no formalised way to resolve this issue. Instead, the issue has been simmering away unresolved and creating a point of conflict.
New teams usually move
through distinct development phases as they mature, these phases include
‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ and ‘performing’
The IntensCare team
requires the Product Lead to build trust amongst members and promote
cooperation and teamwork. I suggest that the first step is to align the team to
a common vision and communicate this direction to the team
In terms of
decision-making, the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model suggests
that the leader’s role depends on the ability and commitment of team members
The group is currently operating at varying levels of urgency, for example Gerson seems unperturbed by the tight deadlines. The Product Lead should regularly challenge the status quo and create a sense of urgency amongst team members.
As the team achieves set milestones, these achievements should be celebrated by the team. This will help the team to create an identity, which is important in the development of effective teams. Building on team effectiveness, the Product Lead should understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of the team members and there may be scope to address weaknesses through training programs.
It is unclear from the
case study whether there are cultural differences within the group; however I
suggest that leaders should adopt an adaptive strategy in such a situation
Appendix A – Decision Making Style: Formation of Executive Committee
Question: Should an Executive Committee be formed to promote a more strategic focus within MediSys Corporation?
Question: Should cross-functional teams be used as a mechanism to accelerate the product development process?
Appendix G – MediSys Corporation: IntensCare Structure