The principle error Maureen made was underestimating how significant company culture could impact decision-making at every responsibility level. Even though Quaker had strict functional reporting lines, the organization supported an informal culture based on friendliness and openness. Most importantly, Quaker’s ethos required a high degree of influence by persuasion and charisma—not formal authority.
Secondly, the communication vehicle that Maureen chose to carry and deliver her proposed plan was ill suited for interconnecting the plan and expectations. Instead of going with the organization’s pattern of utilizing personal relationships, teamwork, and the openness to express opinions and feedback, Maureen sent a memo directly to the titanium extrusion sales representatives. In the memo, she simply gave a rationale for making the change. In response, a District Sales Manager (DSM) called Maureen to ask for a more detailed explanation for the change due to its arbitrary nature. Therefore, Maureen presented her findings to the DSMs in a yearly sales meeting in the presence of the VP of Marketing.
•Lack of empowerment from authority: Although Maureen’s plan obtained approval from her boss, Hugh Salk, there was never a statement from the VP of Sales to his subordinates (district sales managers and sales representatives) supporting the proposal. As seen in Exhibit 2, Lawrence Israel, the VP of Sales has direct power over DSMs.
•Company’s hiring practices: Maureen was hired at a managerial position because she had a very attractive professional background that made her a highly desirable candidate for her role. However, this was not in line with the company culture that encouraged internal promotions rather than external hiring at a managerial level (‘Typically, managers who joined Quaker from other steel or metal producers found the company a confusing and frustrating place in which to work. For this and this other reasons, most of Quaker’s managerial positions were filled from within’, p2).
•“Responsibility lines” structure: Due to the company’s growth, many managers and at times whole divisions were responsible to other departments even though there was not a preset hierarchy that linked them. This situation complicated to a certain extent the relationship between the product management groups and the sales force as can be inferred from the fact that the titanium DSM in Chicago had to report to two bosses (p5).
•Sales force’s lack of adaptation: Sales representatives were assigned to accounts based on experience and usually had tough time cracking big accounts. This was in part due to lack of backing from the technical support services and sometimes from the R&D labs as the larger accounts were more technically complex. It was also because there were no additional economical benefits to work on bigger accounts, thus harder work was not compensated in any manner (‘The Chicago DSM explained that a modest cash bonus existed, but that he did not use it, believing it had little effect’, p6). Hence, the only motivation for the sales people was closing a successful deal and working directly with customers which was frequent with small accounts.
•Lack of relationship and communication: Maureen spent so much time analyzing the sales time simulations; therefore, she did not spend enough time getting to know other team members on the field. These circumstances did not favor building “trust” with the sales personnel and this lack of participation within the decision-making process hindered effective results (‘In response to the memo, one of the titanium DSMs called her to say that he had received several complaints from his salespeople about its arbitrary nature’, p8).