Posted by & filed under Management.

With the exception of just a few elite teams, it could be argued that the teams appearing in this year’s NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament are roughly equivalent in terms of talent (a key component of work today). What separates the winners from the losers? It is the management of that talent and the performance of the individual players during each game. Certainly a strong case can be made for Cornell University as an exemplar in their first-round game against Temple. The Ivy League champions took control of the game just before halftime and never looked back.


  1. Describe the Cornell University basketball team’s performance both in general and specifically, in terms of the first-round game against Temple. What does the team’s heavy reliance on un-recruited/unwanted players say about performance efficiency?
  2. Put yourself in Cornell Coach Steve Donahue’s shoes. How would you utilize each of the four functions of management to build a successful team? Be sure to draw on elements expressed in the article.
  3. How do the managerial activities associated with coaching in the NCAA Tournament compare to managerial activities in general?
  4. Where does Coach Donahue fall on the spectrum of managerial skills? Discuss Donahue’s responsibilities in each of the three main skill sets.

SOURCE: J. Feinstein, “Cornell Did Just About Everything Right In Its 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament Opener,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Decision Making.

One of the most intriguing aspects of March Madness is the potential, in any given game, for the lower-seeded team to beat the higher-seeded team. After all, that’s what makes the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament special – upsets. In this year’s edition, arguably there is no bigger upset than 14-seeded Ohio University’s win over 3-seeded Georgetown. As soon as the game was over, everyone – sportswriters, fans, and Georgetown players and coaches – questioned factors that produced the inconceivable result. The game and post-game analysis provides an excellent context to discuss decision making.


  1. Discuss the relevance of multidimensional thinking when it comes to coaching a basketball game. As you read the last half of article, what does it say about Coach John Thompson’s strategic opportunism?
  2. On paper, Georgetown had all the key success factors in its favor. However, games are not played on paper. What does this indicate about the type of decision environment a coach faces at tournament time? If Coach Thompson had a chance to play this game again, what advice would you give him about preparing?
  3. Although not discussed in your text, the post-game analysis of Georgetown coaching represents hindsight bias to a degree. As you read the article, what other decision errors and/or traps are evident in Coach Thompson’s thinking?

SOURCE: L. Clarke, “In 2010 NCAA Tournament Loss to Ohio, Georgetown Struggles to Determine Why It Went Wrong,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship.

Venture capital firms, like many other businesses, are experiencing a decline. As many of these firms are closing out funds associated with the dot com boom, they are not starting new funds to replace them. Investors are hesitant and available capital is dwindling. Nevertheless, the top venture capital firms are still investing, but they realize returns may not be as lucrative because they are coming from acquisitions more than initial public offerings. The article profiles the top ten venture-backed companies and offers a link to a table with the top fifty backed companies.


  1. Examine the top ten venture-funded companies (included in the article). What do you notice about the founders? What inferences can you draw about the characteristics of founders associated with successfully funded startup companies? [Note: a random look through the top fifty venture-backed companies should produce the same effect.]
  2. Does your investigation of these top funded companies suggest the presence of a glass ceiling in entrepreneurship? Why or why not?
  3. Discuss the options for financing a new venture. What are the pros and cons of venture capital? What are the risks and returns for venture capital firms?

SOURCE: P. Tam, “Venture-Capital Firms Caught in a Shakeout,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Ethics.

Co-founder Sergey Brin has been very outspoken about Google’s involvement in China and the company’s agreement to filter some search results there. The Russian-born Brin is familiar with state censorship and is a driving force behind Google’s “do no evil” mantra. The present article reviews some of the ethical issues associated with Google in China. [Note: this post is a companion piece to one posted in January relating Google’s China position to global management issues.]


  1. While we typically think of values as individual, companies are made up of individuals and have values too. Often the values of founders are reflected by the companies they create. How does Sergey Brin’s experiences influence Google’s values? Is “Do no evil” a terminal or instrumental value? How does it influence Google’s actions? Which ethical view does it reflect?
  2. Google initially agreed to filter search results in China, but announced in January 2010 that it would stop doing so. Where would this latest decision fall on the scale of relativism vs. universalism?
  3. Brin’s position on China contradicts that of Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Where would you place Brin in terms of moral development? Why? Discuss how a company might behave if its founders/CEOs were at other levels of moral development.

SOURCE: B. Worthen, “Soviet-born Brin Has Shaped Google’s Stand on China,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Strategy.

Coca-Cola recently announced that it would acquire the bulk of its domestic bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and eventually acquire selected European bottlers. The move reverses an earlier decision to continue working with independent bottlers. Coke cites changes in American consumers’ tastes and the need to have a more flexible distribution system to respond to those needs. The primary advantage seen from the deal is that it would allow Coke direct distribution to supermarkets and other large retailers and allow the company to compete more effectively with smaller bottled water companies.


  1. Examine Figure 8.4. Create a SWOT analysis that would lead Coca-Cola to conclude that purchasing its bottler is a good strategic move. How will the purchase strengthen Coke?
  2. What growth/diversification strategy approach does the purchase of the bottler represent? Why, after nearly 25 years of working with independent bottlers, would Coca-Cola do this?
  3. Coke CEO Muhtar Kent previously told investors the company intended to continue using independent bottlers. More recently, he said the reversal of strategy had nothing to do with a similar move by competitor PepsiCo. How might strategic incrementalism explain the reversal?

SOURCE: B. McKay, “Coca-Cola Deal Marks Major Shift in U.S. Strategy,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Related video clip:

Posted by & filed under Communication, Conflict.

A unique piece on graffiti art provides an excellent opportunity to address two main topics combined in Chapter 15. In 1985, graffiti artist Robbo established his legend with a classic rendition in London’s Camden District. More recently, upstart and commercial graffiti artist Banksy painted over the piece. Although retired (from graffiti) for more than a decade, the slight was enough to bring Robbo back to life. The father of two and legitimate shoe repairman sprang into action and began altering a number of Banksy pieces in retaliation. Robbo vows to continue the public fight between his old-school style and Banksy’s street style of graffiti.


  1. Think about graffiti as a form of communication. Where does it stand in terms of channel richness? Aside from the attention this feud receives, how effective is graffiti as a form of communication?
  2. Characterize the type of conflict represented by the feud between Robbo and Banksy. What are its causes?
  3. What conflict management style is Robbo utilizing? Discuss some of the reasons that might lead to this choice. Is this likely to be an effective strategy?

SOURCE: G. Steinhauser, “A Game of Tag Breaks Out Between London’s Graffiti Elite,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Teams.

Without doubt, a lot of behind-the-scenes work is necessary to pull off an event as big as the Olympics. Nowhere is the competition for a volunteer spot more fierce than with flower sweepers, children skaters that clear the ice of “gifts” tossed by adoring fans following figure skating performances. Only 30 skaters were chosen from among 135 that applied. Those selected had to show skill, grace, and the ability to work as a team.


  1. As manager of figure skating operations, which role(s) will Bev Viger serve to facilitate teamwork and accomplishment of the important task of ice sweeping?
  2. Consider the nature of the task represented by sweeping and communication to get it accomplished. What type of group is likely to be most effective? What type of communication network should be utilized?
  3. What decision-making method is used to deploy the sweepers? Is this typically a method associated with effective teams? Discuss the circumstances under which this method might or might not be effective.

SOURCE: G. A. Fowler, “Eleven-Year-Old Makes Clean Sweep in Olympic Figure Skating,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

See also J. Branch, “Volunteers at Whistler Do the Grunt Work, and Love It,” New York Times (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Strategy.

“People are just dying to get in here,” the old joke about cemeteries goes. While death is inevitable, the options for dealing with post-death are not. Sales in the casket industry have been declining for nearly a decade. Industry leaders Hillenbrand, Inc. and Matthews International Corp. are faced with the grim reality that their business is not likely to grow even when the economy rebounds. Both companies are revamping their business strategies in order to remain viable.


  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis for Hillenbrand, Inc.
  2. What master strategy is Hillenbrand, Inc. employing in response to declining sales in the casket making industry? How is this master strategy being implemented (i.e., what form does it take)?
  3. In what ways is Matthews International’s strategy similar to and different from Hillenbrand’s strategy?

SOURCE: D. Mattioli, “Casket Makers Dig in as Sales Take Hit,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Communication.

In a much celebrated public case of multiple indiscretions, superstar Tiger Woods has fallen out of favor with many. He temporarily suspended his golf career – although that appears likely to resume soon – lost several lucrative marketing contracts and briefly entered a rehabilitation facility. Now Woods is trying to salvage his public image, if not the relationship with his wife. The golfer put together a very tightly controlled “public” press conference to apologize to supporters and fans and offer some perspective on his life in recent days. The case highlights the importance of social capital and offers several opportunities to discuss communication following negative publicity.


  1. Think about the nature of the press conference (i.e., who set it up, how it operated). Evaluate the meeting in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
  2. View the related video. Is the press conference a form of persuasive communication? Did it enhance Tiger Woods’ credibility?
  3. In terms of the message, was this an appropriate channel? Talk about the importance of channel richness here and alternate ways Woods could have conveyed the same message.

SOURCE: D. Everson & S. Vranica, “Woods Offers Tightly Scripted Apology,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Related video clip:

Posted by & filed under Organizational Structure & Design.

Toyota continues to address numerous quality control problems in the wake of a massive recall of several million vehicles and halting sales of eight popular models in the United States. Initially, Toyota was quick to blame everyone and everything but the company. It was also slow to move on problems, recalling the Prius only after the Japanese government put pressure on them to do so. In a frank admission, Akio Toyoda, grandson of Toyota’s founder, says the company has not lived up to its standards. Shinichi Sasaki outlined a number of systemic failures, including failure to properly analyze and respond to customer complaints. Toyota’s own success may have been the biggest contributor, as the company was unable to grow effectively and maintain the “Toyota Way” of manufacturing.


  1. As the article noted, Toyota’s problems stem from rapid growth of the company. Toyota’s structure did not allow it to respond effectively to engineering and quality problems. For example, sticking gas pedals were discovered and replaced in Europe, yet no one in the United States was alerted. What type of divisional structure does Toyota likely utilize? How might that contribute to their problems (like the one identified here)?
  2. Examine Figure 9.8 in your text. What organizational form does Toyota use? What organizational features (identified in the article) guide your choice?
  3. Imagine that Toyota wants your advice on how to fix the issues that led to this massive recall. What trends in organizational design would you recommend? Why?

SOURCE: B. Harden, “’Toyota Way’ Was Lost on Road to Phenomenal Worldwide Growth,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at