MediSys Corp: The IntensCare Product Development Team

Donnellon, A & Margolis, JD 2009, Harvard Business Publishing, no. 4059.

 

Andrew Kuszczakowski

 

 


Contents

Question 1. 3

Creation of Executive Committee. 3

Product Development Process. 3

Different Decision Making Process. 3

Question 2. 4

Product Delivery and Modular Design.. 4

Points of Conflict 4

Resolution Strategy. 5

Regulatory Compliance. 5

Points of Conflict 5

Resolution Strategy. 6

Question 3. 7

Personal Goal 7

Organisational Goals. 7

Influence Tactics. 7

Question 4. 8

Team versus Group Analysis. 9

Team Development Tactics. 9

References. 11

Appendix A – Decision Making Style: Formation of Executive Committee. 13

Appendix B – Decision Making Style: Implementation of Cross-Functional Teams. 15

Appendix C – Conflict Map: Product Launch Date. 16

Appendix D – Conflict Map: Modular Design Issue. 18

Appendix E – Conflict Map: Regulatory Compliance. 20

Appendix F – Merz’s Organisational & Professional Goals. 22

Appendix G – MediSys Corporation: IntensCare Structure. 23

 

 

Question 1

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.

Creation of Executive Committee

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 (DuBrin, Dalglish & Miller 2006). It would appear that this decision was based on information that was available to him, together with intuition and perhaps his professional experience.

Product Development Process

In order to be first to market with new products, Beaumont saw the need to speed up product development times. Nohria, Joyce and Roberson (2003) suggest that an agile corporation can deliver innovative products and anticipate events rather than reacting when it may be too late. Beaumont set about formalising a fast-tracked product development process by ensuring that the critical functional areas work in parallel from the conceptual stage to final production. It appears that Beaumont also made this change in an autocratic manner, as per Vroom, Yetton and Jago’s normative decision making model (DuBrin, Dalglish & Miller 2006).

Different Decision Making Process

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.

In Beaumont’s situation, I would make use of Vroom, Yetton and Jago’s decision-making tree (DuBrin, Dalglish & Miller 2006). Based on my analysis (Appendix A) of the decision to form the Executive Committee I would have adopted an autocratic (AII) decision-making style. This approach involves gaining information from the Vice Presidents and the board of MediSys Corporation before making a decision.

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.

 

Question 2

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.

Product Delivery and Modular Design

Points of Conflict

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.

Resolution Strategy

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 (Thomas 1976). A collaborative approach is most suitable if there is a desire for both parties to satisfy their own concerns and those of the other party (Thomas 1976). An ideal outcome would be a resolution where the engineering team commits to a modular design, however in order to meet the immediate deadline this design will be incorporated in the next release of the product.

Regulatory Compliance

Points of Conflict

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.

Resolution Strategy

Since launching a product that does not comply with regulatory requirements poses a significant risk to MediSys Corporation, Baio is entitled to hold a ‘competitive’ position, according to Thomas’ (1976) conflict handling model. This creates a problem for Fogel, in that Baio could make it difficult for the IntensCare team to meet their product launch deadline. In this situation, I recommend that as the Product Lead, Fogel should educate O’Brien, Mukerjee and Merz on the importance of the role of Regulatory Affairs and to encourage these parties to adopt an ‘accommodating’ conflict handling style (Thomas 1976). By accommodating Baio’s position, there is a possibility for the parties to work more collaboratively to meet the product launch date.

Question 3

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?

Personal Goal

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 (Stanford University n.d.). Merz graduated in 2007, so it appears that this is her first job after completing her MBA studies. It is interesting to note that Beaumont recognises that that Merz is potential “GM material”. My observation is that Merz’s behaviour may correspond to the pattern of the ‘Home Run Hitter’, as described by Waldroop and Butler (2000). I assume that Merz is personally driven to move into a senior management position in MediSys Corporation.

Organisational Goals

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).

Influence Tactics

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 (2003) suggest three possible outcomes (resistance, compliance, commitment) depending on the power exerted by a leader.

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 (Zand 1997). Coercive power could be used, however Bartol et al (2003) suggest this can lead to a resistive reaction and therefore it is not recommended. Merz may be able to exert personal power, in particular referent and expert power (DuBrin, Dalglish & Miller 2006). It would seem that Merz may lack the charismatic traits based on her interactions with O’Brien and Baio.

Rational persuasion can be an effective influence tactic when both parties share a common objective (Yukl 1990). My suggestion is that Merz should identify the specifications that will deliver MediSys Corporation a competitive advantage (perhaps through suitable market research) and based on this, use rational persuasion tactics with the technical team. To support this tactic, Merz should also enter into consultation with the technical team, as this is more likely to result in team commitment (Falbe & Yukl 1992).

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 (DuBrin, Dalglish & Miller 2006). For example, she could adopt bargaining tactics to gain more allocated resources to the IntensCare engineering team. Formation of coalitions much also provide Merz with informational power from such interactions.

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.

 

Question 4

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?

Team versus Group Analysis

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.

Team Development Tactics

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’ (Hitt et al. 2007). There are number of tactics that can be applied to progress the team to the ‘performing’ phase as quickly as possible.

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 (Kotter 2001). This serves to align the team to a common purpose.

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 (Hersey, Blanchard & Johnson 2002). It appears that MediSys Corporation has competent and talented people, although there may be some insecurity or slight unwillingness of team members. As per the Situational Leadership model, I suggest that the Product Lead should encourage the group with a participative style of leadership (Hersey, Blanchard & Johnson 2002). This will help in gaining buy-in from team members and allow them to feel a sense of ownership.

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 (Brett, Behfar & Kern 2006). Understanding cultural differences will allow the leader to adopt the most effective motivational strategy. Team diversity can also be leveraged in problem solving as a greater breadth of perspectives can be incorporated, with possibilities for high quality decisions.

External to the team, the Product Lead should work with the Executive Committee to ensure that the right balance of individual and team-based rewards can be provided to the team (Thamhain 2004). Currently, individual team members do not report to the Product Lead but continue to report to their individual managers. The corporation’s structure should be addressed to ensure team members report to the Product Lead, which would also provide the leader with legitimate power.

References

Bartol, K, Tein, M, Matthews, G & Martin, D 2003, Management – A Pacific Rim Focus, McGraw Hill, Macquarie Park, NSW.

Brett, J, Behfar, K & Kern, M 2006, 'Managing Multicultural Teams', Harvard Business Review, vol 84, no. 11, pp. 84-91.

Donnellon, A & Margolis, JD 2009, 'MediSys Corp: The IntensCare Product Development Team', Harvard Business Publishing, no. 4059.

DuBrin, AJ, Dalglish, C & Miller, P 2006, Leadership, Asia-Pacific, 2nd edn, John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Falbe, CM & Yukl, G 1992, 'Consequences for managers of using single influence tactics and combinations of tactics', Academy of Management Journal, vol 35, no. 3, pp. 638-652.

Hersey, P, Blanchard, KH & Johnson, DE 2002, Management of Organizational Behavior - Leading Human Resources, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Hitt, MA, Black, JS, Porter, LW & Hanson, D 2007, Management, Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

Kotter, JP 2001, 'What Leaders Really Do', Harvard Business Review, vol 79, no. 11, pp. 85-96.

Nohria, N, Joyce, W & Roberson, B 2003, 'What Really Works', Harvard Business Review, vol 81, no. 7, pp. 45-52.

Stanford University n.d., , viewed 12 September 2011, <http://www.stanford.edu/about/>.

Thamhain, H 2004, 'Team Leadership Effectiveness in Technology-based Project Environments', Project Management Journal, vol 35, no. 4, pp. 35-46.

Thomas, K 1976, 'Conflict and Conflict Management in M.D. Dunnette (Ed.)', in Handbook of Industrial & Organisational Psychology, Rand McNally, Chicago.

Waldroop, J & Butler, T 2000, 'Managing Away Bad Habits', Harvard Business Review, vol 78, no. 5, pp. 89-98.

Yukl, C 1990, Skills for managers and leaders, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Zand, DE 1997, The Leadership Triad: Knowledge, Trust, and Power, Oxford University Press, New York.

 

 


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?

 

Appendix B – Decision Making Style: Implementation of Cross-Functional Teams

Question: Should cross-functional teams be used as a mechanism to accelerate the product development process?


Appendix C – Conflict Map: Product Launch Date

 

Appendix D – Conflict Map: Modular Design Issue

 

Appendix E – Conflict Map: Regulatory Compliance

 

Appendix F – Merz’s Organisational & Professional Goals

 

Appendix G – MediSys Corporation: IntensCare Structure