Posted by & filed under Social Responsibility.

Like many other entities conducting business in Libya, Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin took action to evacuate employees from the country. The company took an additional step of indefinitely removing Libyan projects, representing close to 7 percent of its revenues, from its order backlog.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Review the definition for corporate social responsibility in your text. In what ways do the actions by SNC-Lavalin satisfy this definition?
  2. Look at the criteria for evaluating social performance. By removing the Libyan projects from its agenda, SNC is effectively reducing its profitability. In what ways does this action constitute social performance?
  3. What social responsibility strategy is SNC showing? Defend your position.

SOURCE: C. Wong, “SNC-Lavalin Casts Doubts on Libya Projects,” Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/snc-lavalin-casts-doubts-on-libya-projects/article1929926/)

Posted by & filed under Management.

On the eve of the company’s 40th anniversary, USA Today’s Bruce Horowitz interviewed Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Topics include the company’s iconic status, its resiliency, plans for the future, as well as an analysis of successes and failures. One thing appears clear – Schultz is deeply committed to the company and plans to be out front leading it into the future.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Between your own personal experience with the company and your reading of the interview, how well has Starbucks responded to the performance criteria identified in the “Working Today” section of your text?
  2. Does CEO Howard Schultz appear to have a solid understanding of the changing nature of organizations? Analyze Starbucks in terms of the trends listed in your text.
  3. What evidence exists in the interview suggesting that Starbucks embraces the concept of the upside-down pyramid?

SOURCE: B. Horovitz, “Starbucks at 40: An Interview with CEO Howard Schultz,” USA Today (Retrievable online at http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2011-03-07-starbucks07_CV_N.htm)

Posted by & filed under Ethics.

In the wake of the early retirement of former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet are charges she failed to carry out her duties and faithfully investigate disclosures against the government. Mum’s the word on Ms. Ouimet’s part because she has been unable to meet with the Public Accounts Committee since her departure. Official word is she is “out of the country.” It is important to note that the appearance of unethical behavior stems entirely from allegations at this point. Until Ms. Ouimet meets with the committee, it may be difficult to establish any of these. What is clear is that her office failed to take any action on an overwhelming majority of the 228 disclosures received. Public dockets show the commissioner’s determination that she did not have jurisdiction over the matters raised, essentially “passing the buck.”

QUESTIONS:

  1. Putting aside the merits of the disclosures made by whistleblowers. Is there an ethics question in regard to the way Christiane Ouimet’s office carried out its duties? Why or why not?
  2. Assume an ethical dilemma exists. Examine the list of ethical dilemmas in your text. Which might apply in this case?
  3. Given the official explanations for the handling of disclosures, where would you classify Ms. Ouimet’s moral development? Why?
  4. Let’s explore one of the reasons why Ms. Ouimet’s office exists – to investigate disclosures provided by whistleblowers. Among the allegations against her (see related article), are claims she met, or tried to meet, with top government officials. Why is this a problem? How might it potentially affect whistleblowing?

SOURCE: L. Martin, “Former Integrity Commissioner Swept Aside Disclosures of Wrongdoing,” Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/former-integrity-commissioner-swept-aside-disclosures-of-wrongdoing/article1918159/)

See related article at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/disgraced-integrity-czars-400000-severance-deal-includes-gag-order/article1930343/

Posted by & filed under Operations Management.

Without question, Google is the leading search engine on the internet. Advertisers flock to the company. Businesses (and other websites) clamor to move up in Google’s rankings. Yet not everyone is satisfied that Google’s results are the best they can be. University of California Visiting Scholar Vivek Wadhwa says a lot of spam makes its way into the rankings. He sees this as a problem with the exponential growth of information available on the world-wide web. For its part, Google is tweaking its algorithms and cracking down on companies that use gimmicks to improve their ratings.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Let’s begin this mini case study by stepping back to Chapter 3 and the general environment. Most current college students do not remember a time when Google was not the dominant internet search engine. Google is the leading search engine because of its superior algorithms. The present article calls that into question. Is Google’s position guaranteed because of these algorithms? What forces might dislodge the giant?
  2. What is the value creation performed by Google? Describe it in detail from your own perspective. Why would some other company spend its advertising money with Google?
  3. Place Google at the center of the value chain shown in Figure 18.1 of your text. Work your way forward and describe how the last two steps take place. Now work backward and describe the first two steps. Where does Google’s crackdown on “cheaters” fit in the model?

SOURCE: A. Efrati, “Google Revamps to Fight Cheaters,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704150604576166390281747136.html)

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Posted by & filed under Decision Making.

The much anticipated annual letter to shareholders from Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is out and the picture is quite rosy. Berkshire reported a 61% increase in earnings for 2010 and net income swelled to $13 billion. The company is poised to make major acquisitions in 2011. The success of 2010 is due largely to the acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe and a dramatic turnaround at NetJets. The company did not outperform the S&P 500 – Buffett says such expectations year in and year out are unrealistic – for the second consecutive year and just the eighth time in the last 46 years.

QUESTIONS:

  1. In terms of usefulness, how would you classify Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders? If you believe it is useful, what criteria does it satisfy?
  2. Try to imagine what goes on when Mr. Buffett makes investing decisions. What type of thinking is involved? Is it possible that a successful investor, like Mr. Buffett, utilizes more than one style?
  3. Investing always involves a certain degree of risk. In 46 years at the helm of Berkshire Hathway, Mr. Buffett has been able to outperform the S&P 500 in all but eight. Scan the article to see if you can identify some of the strategies he uses to minimize risk.
  4. Consider this issue not directly related to decision making. Mr. Buffett currently serves as chairman of the board, CEO, and chief investment officer at Berkshire. What do you think about this?

SOURCE: S. Ng & E. Holm, “Berkshire’s Buffett Eyes More Major Deals as Earnings Surge,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703796504576168160901144564.html)

See also: Associated Press, “Warren Buffett Remains Optimistic About U.S. Economy,” Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/warren-buffett-remains-optimistic-about-us-economy/article1922176/)

Posted by & filed under Environment, Strategy.

Two weeks ago it was Egypt. This week it is Libya. Who knows where the unrest will be in the future. One thing is certain – the political situation in the Middle East is definitely unstable. Predictions about oil supply and pricing are equally unstable. Few will argue that oil drives the world economy and any interruption in supply will drive prices – all of them – up.

QUESTIONS:

  1. What forces in the general environment come into play with the unrest in the Middle East and its potential effect on oil prices?
  2. Events in Egypt and Libya are thousands of miles away. In terms of competitive advantage and strategic positioning, discuss why businesses in your region must be concerned.
  3. Examine Figure 3.3 in your text. Which quadrant best characterizes the current level of uncertainty regarding oil? Why?
  4. Examine Figure 8.2 in your text. Where does the current oil situation come into play in the strategic management process? How would a company assess its impact?
  5. Pick a company with which you are familiar. Conduct a quick SWOT analysis and be sure to include your prediction about what is likely to happen with oil availability/pricing. Which element of the analysis does the oil situation represent? How would you advise your company to respond?

SOURCE: B. Milner & B. McKenna, “Oil’s Next Danger Zones,” Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/oils-next-danger-zones/article1921789/)

See related video at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/video/how-will-oil-prices-affect-the-economy/article1920267/

Posted by & filed under Individual Behavior.

In the real-life version of life imitating art, males in their late teens and early 20s are following different personal and career paths from their fathers. The net (yes, pun intended) results are exciting developments in technology and social media. The hubris of youth is the engine for innovation and entrepreneurship. So let “boys be boys.” They may just be on the verge of producing the next great social invention.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Think about the typical psychological contract that develops when an individual joins a work organization. Now extend that to a personal relationship such as marriage. The article contends that 20-something men are shunning marriage and traditional careers. What role, if any, does the psychological contract play in this?
  2. What is the stereotype presented in the article? How are individuals like Mark Zuckerberg enhancing and/or changing the stereotype? Is the stereotype today any different from the one a young Bill Gates faced two decades ago?
  3. Use your own experience to determine what personality characteristics drive the new 20 year-olds. What characteristics do individuals like Zuckerberg, Chad Hurley, or Niklas Zennstrom possess that lead to their success?
  4. What forces lead these 20-somethings to shun the usual organizational career path in search of something different?

SOURCE: N. Rabin, “Two Cheers for the Maligned Slacker Dude,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704546704576150771426707108.html)

Posted by & filed under Control.

Following the protests in Egypt and the fall of Hosni Mubarak, many are questioning how the Egyptian government chose to respond to social media and the internet. Rather than harnessing its power or, at least minimally, trying to manage it, Mubarak’s regime simply tried to shut it down. Other governments take different approaches, some going so far as to establish units to monitor and influence the content on social media.

QUESTIONS:

  1. In a very narrow sense, we might think of control as something managers use to ensure a set of correct production outcomes. Check the definition for controlling in your text again. It invites a narrow interpretation. But think about it. What does control mean for a manager, particularly one in today’s information economy? What does control mean for the various regimes mentioned in the article?
  2. What type of control is being utilized by the governments that are “properly” managing social media?
  3. Are governments relying on internal or external control of social media? What form does this control take?

SOURCE: E. Morozov, “Smart Dictators Don’t Quash the Internet,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704657704576150653606688990.html)

Posted by & filed under Management.

Until recently, the Calgary Flames were not considered a playoff contender. Shortly after Christmas, General Manager Darryl Sutter was relieved of duty and replaced by Jay Feaster. Suddenly, things began to change. The team is on an incredible winning streak and everyone, from the administrative offices on down, comments about what a different atmosphere exists within the organization.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Darryl Sutter was described as an “old-school manager.” How would you describe him? From what little is reported, would you say his approach was classical or behavioral? Can you narrow it down any further?
  2. Review the research on employee attitudes and performance associated with the Hawthorne Studies. Compare and contrast this to what happened with the Flames in the last two months.
  3. What aspects of high-performance organizations do the Calgary Flames exhibit under the leadership of Mr. Feaster?

SOURCE: E. Duhatschek, “How the Flames Righted the Ship,” Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/eric-duhatschek/how-the-flames-righted-the-ship/article1913818/singlepage/#articlecontent)

Posted by & filed under Communication.

When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shut down internet access in the country, most thought it was just an attempt to control what was being reported about the situation. What we may just now be realizing is the important role that social media played in the protests and the eventual toppling of the president. Different forms of technology figured prominently in protest movements of the past, namely Iran in 1979 and the former Soviet Union in 1989. But Twitter and Facebook appear to be more effective means for communicating information vital to such events.

QUESTIONS:

  1. How do the new technologies of Facebook, Google, and Twitter compare to older technologies (e.g., fax machines) in terms of effectiveness and efficiency?
  2. Discuss the importance of persuasive and credible communication in the recent protests in Egypt.
  3. Facebook and Twitter are moderately rich channels versus the public gatherings in Tahrir Square. Does channel richness matter in a large-scale political protest movement? Why or why not?

SOURCE: C. Rhoads, “Technology Poses Big Test for Regimes,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704329104576138643482318336.html)