Posted by & filed under Control.

Skilcraft pens are a government icon. The pens trace their origin to the Wagner Act, which established that the government would buy a certain amount of goods produced by blind workers. The specifications for the manufacture of these pens are exacting, but their performance has been unsurpassed for decades.


  1. It is just a pen! Discuss why controlling is important for the government ballpoint pen.
  2. What type of control is used to ensure consistency in the production of these pens? What is the control mechanism?
  3. What type of standard did the government establish for its pens? Identify the specific standards mentioned in the article.

SOURCE: Y. Q. Mui, “Low-tech Skilcraft Pens Endure in a High-Tech World,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

Recent research into men’s friendships reveals that men rarely discuss personal and family issues with their male counterparts. Instead, men are more activity-oriented and prefer to reminisce about the past. In contrast, women prefer to pour out their hearts to one another. Men just want to keep their social relationships simple. First and foremost, the article raises the question about whether there is a connection between social styles and leadership styles.


  1. The present study calls into question Gender Similarities Hypothesis. Think about this. Do differences in the way men and women approach social relationships translate into differences in terms of how they lead? If so, what might the differences be?
  2. The article is directly relevant to emotional intelligence. If we accept that men and women deal with emotions differently in social relationships, will they do the same when leading others? What does this suggest about the management of self as a leader?

SOURCE: J. Zaslow, “Friendship for Guys (No Tears!),” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Planning.

Wal-Mart is known nationally as a discount retailer, yet the company is stepping up efforts to market itself as a low-price leader. Current advertising focuses on internal operating efficiencies that are helping keep prices down. This strategy was implemented because the discount giant believes that consumers are still concerned about the economy. At the same time, the company announced plans to offer 3-D television later in the year, a move clearly tied to an economic rebound. Some analysts are questioning the feasibility of such a move.


  1. Use the planning process to imagine the steps Wal-Mart took to develop its price-cutting strategy.
  2. In terms of planning, is low price leadership a strategic or tactical move? Can you make an argument for both?
  3. Watch the related video clip. The analyst suggests that there is a lot of uncertainty about Wal-Mart’s ability to offer 3-D television this year. In terms of planning timeframe, is Wal-Mart’s decision a short- or long-range plan? Why would Wal-Mart adopt this perspective? What planning tool(s) is Wal-Mart utilizing to make this decision?
  4. Now consider the implications of Wal-Mart’s two-pronged strategy. How should cutting costs and introducing cutting-edge high tech products affect the planning of Wal-Mart’s suppliers and competitors?

SOURCE: M. Bustillo & T. W. Martin, “Wal-Mart Bets on Reduction in Prices,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at

Related video clip:

Posted by & filed under Operations Management.

The one bright spot in the economic downturn may be prolonging it. Since the current recession began, worker productivity has been increasing. The upswing is not due to investment in technologies. It is simply the result of swelling worker output.


  1. Before reading the article, look at the brief section on productivity in Chapter 18. What are potential ways that American workers could increase their productivity?
  2. Revisit the section on organizational performance in Chapter 1. Which measure do you believe is contributing to the productivity gains described in the article?
  3. What changes in work processes are also contributing to this productivity increase?

SOURCE: N. Irwin, “Holding Back Job Growth? Workers’ Awesome Output,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

As March Madness comes to a close, there are lots of interesting stories involving leadership – of both coaches and players. The one constant, in terms of success, for more than a decade has been Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo. Coach Izzo’s teams reached the Final Four in six of the last twelve years. This season’s team is perhaps the clearest indication of what Izzo’s leadership means in terms of success. With key players out, Izzo patched together a lineup and inspired his team to Indianapolis. NOTE: the second article referenced can be used to spark discussion on top executive compensation and just how critical the leader at the top is to the overall success of an organization.


  1. Is Coach Tom Izzo a visionary leader? If yes, then why? If not, what other leadership style might be used to describe him?
  2. It is clear from the article that Coach Izzo’s players admire him. What are some of the characteristics indicated that generate this admiration? What do you believe is the source of these characteristics (i.e., are they things Izzo carried with him most of his life or did he develop them throughout his coaching experience)?
  3. In what ways does Izzo embody Peter Drucker’s “old-fashioned” leadership?

SOURCE: M. Lopresti, “Izzo’s Methodical Madness Gives Michigan State a Tourney Advantage,” USA Today (Retrievable online at

See also J. Upton, J. Gillum, & S. Berkowitz, “Rising Salaries of Coaches Force Colleges to Seek Budget Patch,” USA Today (Retrievable online at

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: