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Case Studies by Noah Askin

5 case studies

published: 30 Jul 2018

  • Topic: Leadership & Organisations
  • Industry: Digital design consulting
  • Region: Asia

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Abstract:
How can an organization help its employees’ creativity thrive? When Rokey Zhang and Ricky Xu founded Eico in 2004, no one could predict the scale of China’s mobile and e-commerce revolution. Fourteen years later, they have ridden that wave of change to play a key role in designing some of the most influential and popular digital services in China. But it has not been easy. Charting the cultural, organizational, and business-related issues they encountered as the firm grew, the case explores the changes made to its structure , how systems and processes are designed to overcome national and cultural impediments to the creative process, and why Eico is able to work in an environment which other design agencies have found particularly challenging.

Pedagogical Objectives:
- Explore the ways processes can be used to foster and sell creativity and innovation. - Analyze the role of culture in establishing an organization’s competitive advantage. - Consider the similarities and differences between driving innovation in China compared to the West. - Understand the experience of the entrepreneurial process.

Keywords:
China, Creativity, Organizational Design, Organizational Culture, Digital Design, Entrepreneurial Leadership, Design Thinking, Organizational Routines, Management, Innovation

published: 18 Feb 2019

  • Topic: Leadership & Organisations
  • Region: Europe

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Abstract:
The case explores leadership and professionalization issues at Fibbie Cornuda, an Italian manufacturer of ski boot buckles and automotive parts that utilize metal cold-forming technology. The founder’s daughter has worked in the finance department, but left to do an MBA. Although potentially his successor, she urges Pino to hire professional management for the successful but somewhat disorganized firm, which has been run “from the top down”. Approaching retirement, Pino has unrivalled know-how, charisma, and pride in having built an industry leader in his own image. But with competition rising, the business needs a more formal structure if it is to stay ahead after the succession. Given Pino’s commercial knowledge, strong personality and opinions, there is a risk he’ll interfere in management once he retires. Georgia has her father’s ear, but what exactly should she recommend?

Pedagogical Objectives:
How to build organizational routines and structure in a company where things work well but not well enough to survive a power transition and ensure future growth. How to effectively routinize highly technical knowledge that is possessed by a single (senior) person. How to handle delicate family business successions and transition to a professional CEO. How to manage an organization marked by the founder’s values and traditions to the point where employees may not thrive if the founder is replaced by an outsider. A complementary case entitled “Fibbie Cornuda: Operations and Supply Chain Management” has been written by the authors with entirely different pedagogical objectives. (Note: names have been changed at the request of the family).

Keywords:
Formalizing Organizations, Organizational Structure, Family Business, Leadership, Founder Transition, Organizational Behaviour, Organizational Culture, Organizational Change, Professionalization, Cold-Forming, Metallurgy, Ski-Boot Buckles, Automotive Parts, Italy

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published: 18 Feb 2019

  • Topic: Operations
  • Region: Europe

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Abstract:
Fibbie Cornuda is an Italian company that uses metal cold-forming technology to manufacture ski boot buckles and components for carmakers. Managing production of automotive components at Fibbie Cornuda is easy: demand is predictable and there are few SKU varieties. Conversely, for ski boot buckles it manages a catalogue of thousands of SKUs that changes every year, with widely varying demand. To match supply and demand, the founder of the company has set up a plant in Romania and implemented operations strategies such as mass customization and delayed differentiation. But there is a downside: leadership has to manage two plants instead of one, and plant managers are constantly fire-fighting. The case provides a backdrop for the analysis of several operations strategies, such as reactive production capacity, delayed differentiation, outsourcing, and mass customization.

Pedagogical Objectives:
To examine the benefits and drawbacks of production outsourcing. To analyze the value of postponement and delayed differentiation in manufacturing. To appraise the implementation of a mass-customization initiative. (Note 1: The names of the company and people have been disguised at the request of the family owners, but nothing else has been changed. Note 2: This case complements an organizational behavior case study of the same company, by the same authors, entitled “Fibbie Cornuda: Manufacturing to Stay Fit”, with different pedagogical objectives).

Keywords:
Operations Management, Supply Chain Management, Ski-Boot Buckles, Automotive Components, Skus, Cold-Forming, Make to Order, Lead Time, Family Business, Components, Forecasting, Sourcing, Strategy, Erp

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published: 26 Aug 2016

  • Industry: Retail, Technology, eCommerce
  • Region: Global

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Abstract:
After 18 months of attempting to transition the company to holacracy, Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ celebrity CEO, decided it was time to make the change happen. In March 2015, he sent an email to all Zappos employees offering them 3 months’ severance pay if they felt that self-management was not for them. One month later, 14% of the workforce had quit, including 20% of the tech department, potentially putting at risk a complex transition to a new online platform mandated by parent company Amazon. The case recounts how Tony Hsieh financed, championed, and ultimately became CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos. A passionate entrepreneur who made millions at a young age, Hsieh was known for his penthouse parties, for what he referred to as his “tribe”. He brought the same sense of community to Zappos, which he moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas where employees could “be like family”. Despite the company’s unabashedly weird culture, it had the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry. Widely admired for its outstanding customer service, Zappos was repeatedly listed among Fortune’s “Best Places To Work.” When in 2009 Amazon acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion, it promised to preserve its management and culture. But Hsieh’s decision to implement holacracy – a form of organizational self-management that replaces job titles and hierarchy with “circles” that employees step in and out of according to their preferences and skills – was less popular than hoped. Hence his “rip the Band-Aid” approach, to ensure that only employees committed to the change remained at the company.

Pedagogical Objectives:
- Analyzing the role of culture in developing an organization’s competitive advantage - Discussing the purpose and impact of structure on those within an organization - Understanding the emotional experience of organizational change - Evaluating leadership in the context of radical change

Keywords:
Organizational Culture, Structure, Organizational Change, Leadership, Leading Change, Management, Holacracy

Prizes won:
- 2018 Case Centre Best-selling Case in Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour
- 2018 Case Awards Winner, Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour Category, Case Centre
- 2017 Case Centre Best-selling Case in Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour

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published: 22 Aug 2018

  • Topic: Leadership & Organisations
  • Industry: Retail, Technology, eCommerce
  • Region: Global

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Abstract:
After 18 months of attempting to transition the company to holacracy, Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ celebrity CEO, decided it was time to make the change happen. In March 2015, he sent an email to all Zappos employees offering them 3 months’ severance pay if they felt that self-management was not for them. One month later, 14% of the workforce had quit, including 20% of the tech department, potentially putting at risk a complex transition to a new online platform mandated by parent company Amazon. The case recounts how Tony Hsieh financed, championed, and ultimately became CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos. A passionate entrepreneur who made millions at a young age, Hsieh was known for his penthouse parties, for what he referred to as his “tribe”. He brought the same sense of community to Zappos, which he moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas where employees could “be like family”. Despite the company’s unabashedly weird culture, it had the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry. Widely admired for its outstanding customer service, Zappos was repeatedly listed among Fortune’s “Best Places To Work.” When in 2009 Amazon acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion, it promised to preserve its management and culture. But Hsieh’s decision to implement holacracy – a form of organizational self-management that replaces job titles and hierarchy with “circles” that employees step in and out of according to their preferences and skills – was less popular than hoped. Hence his “rip the Band-Aid” approach, to ensure that only employees committed to the change remained at the company.

Pedagogical Objectives:
Analyzing the role of culture in developing an organization’s competitive advantage - Discussing the purpose and impact of structure on those within an organization - Understanding the emotional experience of organizational change - Evaluating leadership in the context of radical change

Keywords:
Organizational Culture, Structure, Organizational Change, Leadership, Leading Change, Management, Holacracy

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