Frye made several mistakes with respect to her initial attempt to implement change, however there are wider company issues beyond Frye’s immediate control that also contributed to the failure of her initiative.
Having seen her original memo attract criticism for its arbitrary nature, Frye failed to fully comprehend the reasons for the initial rejection of her proposal, when she proceeded with her January 1995 meeting with the DSMs. This is due to the fact that Frye did not properly understand the way in which the sales department worked. On page 7 it is mentioned that “Frye had not been able to spend as much time in the field as she had hoped”, while on page 9 Frye says “we gave them a rough outline of what we wanted done, and we expected the DSMs to follow through as they saw fit”. As a result of this, we speculate that she was unaware of the large degree of autonomy afforded to individual salespeople by the regional DSMs. In a scenario where there is ordinarily a large degree of autonomy, a “rough outline” presented to people who then have to pass on the concept to their respective subordinates is totally inadequate.
Frye showed a complete lack of empathy with the changes involved for the sales force. She has not solicited widespread feedback on her proposals and from her position behind a computer analyzing cold hard numbers, she has entirely underestimated the change involved to the nature of the sales force’s work. Additionally she has made no effort to understand their motivations and frustrations.
Frye does not appear to have engaged the General Sales Managers at all. By sidelining them in this way she removes their motivation to ensure correct implementation. She thus effectively discards what could be very effective resources that exert direct line responsibility over the employees who will ultimately need to implement Frye’s proposed changes.
Finally, Frye was not properly empowered by her superiors and seems to have made no effort to address this. As evidenced on Page 2 the complicated “responsibility lines” that cut across departments meant that typically managers who joined Quaker from other companies found Quaker a “confusing place to work”. These complicated responsibility lines (Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 3) meant that Frye was not given explicit control over the people who would ultimately implement her proposals. “In the workplace, credibility grows out of two sources: expertise and relationships” Coupled with the fact that Frye did not have established working relationships, this confusing structure meant that in the absence of explicit empowerment, Frye lacked the credibility to effect change.
The two overriding themes that we have identified are that:
• Frye has demonstrated a clear lack of people skills. She has shown no understanding of the key motivators of the sales force and communication around implementation of her idea has been poor both in terms of content and its direction.
• Frye has been unable to exhibit leadership due to both a complicated organizational structure and her personal lack of established credibility due to lack of relationships.
What would you do if you were Maureen Frye, at the end of the case?
One standalone alternative that Frye could pursue is for Israel to send a direct order to his entire department asking that they comply with Frye’s proposals. This proposal benefits from the fact that Israel has direct line authority over the salespeople and is in a better position to monitor the implementation plan.
This alternative however entirely fails to address concerns around soliciting feedback and ignores the “…generally accepted norm of influencing through persuasion and analyses rather than through formal authority…”. Additionally this entirely underestimates the change for the salespeople, which Frye was initially guilty of. What is more, this does not address what appears to be one of the fundamental frustrations that salespeople have when dealing with large accounts, namely that the quality of service from the Technical Service department varies greatly depending on the salesperson involved. Thus, whilst Frye might see a change in behavior she may not necessarily see the desired result of higher sales due to lack of buy-in from the Technical Services Department.
Another alternative is to try and implement her proposal while at the same time introducing a change to the compensation policy whereby salespeople would be remunerated based on a fixed salary plus a large variable component determined as a commission on sales revenue. This alternative however requires a radical shift in the corporate culture and its likely outcome of success is severely reduced by the fact that when talking about motivation of salespeople in the Chicago and New York offices, “All rated monetary rewards and incentives lowest on the scale”. This solution also fails to address the problem of making sure that both the Sales and Technical Services departments are pulling in the same direction.
Our favored alternative composes several elements:
• Frye needs to get the VP for Technical Services on board. This is probably most easily achieved by a meeting involving Salk, Bethancourt and Israel where all spell out their clear support for the project.
• Frye needs to obtain comprehensive feedback on her proposals from the sales force. She should do this by immediately visiting all regional offices and conducting interviews with the General Sales managers, all the DSMs and as many salespeople as possible.
o The meetings between Frye and the salespeople should not be of a formal kind, but rather informal and friendly in order to properly develop a collaborative relationship.
o If we assume that meeting each and every salesperson is impossible, then she needs to select the people she meets with on a strategic basis by choosing those who exert most influence on their colleagues.
o She should clearly explain the rationale for her proposals in person and take account of any feedback provided and include in the implementation where possible. Feedback should not merely be point in time but should be ongoing.
o According to the case, there is already one senior salesperson that is convinced about the project and has implemented the project to some extent and believes in its future outcomes. Frye needs to make good use of this senior salesperson because as we know, “credibility, along other lines can be built or bought.” He can serve as a good liaison between her and the other salespeople, showing evidence that the project works and emphasizing to his colleagues the benefits based on his first-hand experience.
o Given that monetary rewards are not a high priority Frye must emphasize that whilst they may have an initially fallow period in sales, the subsequent benefits from their time and effort will result in increased sales of a higher magnitude. Additionally she should emphasize that the interim period will also yield scope for significant satisfaction as they collaborate with clients in order to resolve their problems.
• In addition to seeking input from the sales force, Frye needs to further establish credibility with the sales force before asking them to implement her proposal. As a result of our first point, we believe she can do this by ensuring better cooperation from the Technical Services Department for all salespeople. In this way she “helps them see how they can get from here to there, by establishing some credibility and by giving them some reason and help to get there.”
• There should be memo sent by the VPs for Technical Support Service, and Sales to their subordinates which:
o Details Frye’s proposals and explicitly mentioning that she should be afforded all possible help in implementing her proposals.
o Emphasizes that the company practices “a strong philosophy of providing customers with the best technical service and assistance available”
o Insists on each DSM providing a weekly progress report in order to ensure greater accountability.
o Gives thanks to staff for their excellent performance thus far.
By going through the points above we believe that Frye addresses the issues that we identified when answering the first question, namely: a lack of empowerment, a lack of understanding of the sales department, a lack of empathy and a failure to engage the General Sales Managers.
The process however does not stop there. Close monitoring of the implementation is fundamental so that any deviation is identified and corrected appropriately in a timely fashion. Frye should ensure that she uses the need for monitoring as a way to gather continued feedback and comments and thus evaluate the change in sales behavior and its effect not only on sales but also on employee satisfaction. She needs to establish an ongoing and collaborative relationship and make sure that the sales force see her as an approachable colleague working towards the same company goals rather than as a demanding taskmaster.
Frye needs to ensure that she has a contingency plan in place. We suggest that should there be complaints from the Sales Department in relation to Technical Services Department cooperation, Frye should escalate immediately to the VP in charge as well as Israel and Bethancourt. Assuming she continues to encounter resistance on the Sales side, this should be escalated to Israel for immediate action.
Should the trial of Frye’s proposals be successful i.e. increase overall sales through a greater focus on large accounts, we believe that when rolled out to other products that a more formal relationship should be established between the Technical Services Department and the Sales Department. As part of this process we advocate a process of 360degree evaluation feedback where employees are ranked versus their peers.
For Frye’s personal learning she must realize that “…feedback is not an interpersonal process where others tell one how they react to his/her behavior. It is rather a self initiated process where one examines the effects of one’s behavior on others” therefore once the implementation plan has been drawn up and executed, it would be valuable for Frye to request 360 degree feedback from all stakeholders engaged in the reallocation process and initiate a thorough self-assessment to address her areas of weakness.