Jess Westerly is the assistant product owner of CRM applications for computer and office supply wholesalers and retailers at Kauflauf. It is a fast-growing provider of subscription enterprise software headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany. Being new and outsider Westerly tries to implement a change in sales call patterns and failed. She introduced and explained the changes to the sales department through a memo that outlined her directive and explained the reasons behind it. Field consultants (FC) immediately offended and complained about the infringement on their decisions about how to spend their time and the insensitivity to the relationship-oriented nature of developing business. Three months later, however no discernible changes occurred in call patterns. Westerly felt that her efforts had amounted to failure and feeble attempt at change had cost her heavily in terms of credibility within the organization and with Regional sales directors (RSD) and filed consultants (FC) in particular. Then she revisited, analyzed and developed a robust proposal and presented it to key senior managers and is given three weeks to come up with a comprehensive plan. If the plan is acceptable, she will be asked to implement it (Gabarro & Kaftan, 2012).
Westerly failed at her 1st attempt to change sales call patterns, because of her lack of understanding of Kauflauf’s organizational culture and communication networks. All these can be rectified in future attempt by relationship building, communicating the vision, and using rich media to share message.
After considering information regarding Westerly’s training, problems, goals and concerns, I recognize that the problem is tightly connected with the concept of implementing a change. I think that Westerly’s assimilation process is not effective because she moved rapidly on implementing a change within 3 months’ period after the orientation program, before understanding the organization culture in which she has no experience before. “Jablin describes organizational assimilation as “the processes by which individuals join, become integrated into and exit organizations” and the terms assimilation, socialization and identification all relate to organizational culture and communication” (Zaremba, 2010, P.160). As Westerly recognized opportunities for the company during the orientation, she began to engage herself in working towards the change.
During her 2 months’ orientation program (which started in March), Westerly noticed that FCs were spending large portion of time on relatively small accounts. She started to work on a proposal during her orientation by gathering extensive data to support her findings and she concluded that the FCs should redirect at least 30% of the time they allocated to small customers (under $100,00) and redeploy it towards the large customers (above $500,000) and found that by switching it to large customers, the organization can increase its annual revenue by minimum of 30%.
After completing her analysis, Westerly shared her results to Roeder, her boss in early May.
Roeder was interested to ask her for further analysis using variety of additional assumptions. Each new stimulation reinforced the previous findings. She explained the implications to Roeder, he finally agreed and with his blessing she sent out her memo to the field sales force in mid-June through email. According to the case, she didn’t have adequate time to work with RSDs and FCs as she had only one opportunity to get along with RSDs and FCs during the orientation. And also she failed to communicate the vision before sending the memo (through email) in June. According to Kotter’s (1995) Why Transformation Fails “not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition and not communicating the vision are reasons for failure during transformation”. Not only did Westerly failed to create a coalition and convey vision before sending an email, but email she sent had few issues.
Westerly’s email shows the following issues: (i) She emailed the memo directly to FCs and copied Roeder and RSDs. Therefore, according to Kauflauf’s organization chart in the case she doesn’t have an authority over FCs and she neither discussed about the implementation with RSDs, (ii) No evidence in the case that all FCs and RSDs know Westerly, as she is new to the company. According to case, Westerly, failed to build rapport with FCs and RSDs before attempting the change, (iii) Email was drafted formally and it sounded orderly but company was following informal network. Her email was orderly because she sent out the new guidelines for allocating FCs time with clients without discussing with them. As we know from the case that FCs experienced the supportive climate around themselves (with RSD’s, Clients, product development, customer support). All the above issues show that Westerly did not display elements of supportive climate with the FCs during the implementation of change in sales call patterns. According to Zaremba (2010) “Supportive climate is likely to encourage interactions and the flow of information”. And also Redding described “the “ideal supportive climate” as Supportiveness, Credibility, Confidence, Trust, openness, Participatory decision making, Emphasis on high performance goals (SCOPE)” (Zaremba, 2010). Therefore, Westerly couldn’t earn the cooperation from FCs as she failed to exhibit supportive climate.
Although, Westerly didn’t get got an opportunity to build relationships with several RSDs and FCs during the orientation, it was insufficient to attain the cooperation from FCs and RSD’s to implement her change. As we know from Gabarro and Kaftan (2012): Robert Lin, RSD for Asia-Pacific, had reported almost immediately that his FCs were offended by the memo’s implied infringement on their decisions about how to spend their time and its apparent insensitivity to the relationship- oriented nature of developing business in Asia.
And it also mentioned in Gabarro and Kaftan (2012) that “the RSD for Europe/Middle East and Africa confided in Roeder that a number of his FCs had not even bothered to respond to Westerly’s email because they thought her recommendations were so uninformed as to be irrelevant”. (P.2) As a result, there are two significant issues: (i)Westerly’s failure to discuss the issue with RSD’s and FCs to get their support for implementation. (ii)horizontal networks at the middle level of the organization was not effective. According to Kotter’s (1995) Why Transformation Fails “getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals”. Because of ineffective communication network Westerly didn’t have knowledge of relationship between FCs and clients.
As Westerly insisted to redirect 30 % of the FCs time to large customers, FCs thought that she didn’t know how they work with customers because they had much easier access to decision makers with mid sized and small firms compared to large customers. And a FC who has 3 yrs of experience in the company located in France mentioned in reply to Westerly’s memo that “Who does this American take herself for, trying to change our way of doing business? She appears to have no idea of my client base” (Gabarro & Kaftan, 2012). Therefore, France based FC exhibited ethnocentrism in response to Westerly’s email. According to Zaremba (2010) “Ethnocentrism refers to the perspective that your worldview is superior to another’s worldview”. Not only did Westerly fail to appreciate the relationships that the FCs had with the current clients, but the speed at which she attempted to undertake the change negatively impacted her effectiveness and it made FC to consider her findings as inferior.
According to the case, Westerly acted rapidly and it resulted in failure and that cost her heavily in terms of credibility within the organization and with RSDs and FCs in particular. As mentioned by Gabarro & Kaftan (2012) “Tim Rodder, her boss, who was product owner for all CRM services, reported to Westerly, saying that their dismissing her email out of hand troubled him even more than the loud complaints that Lin had reported and the reactions Westerly herself had received. It was clear, Roeder added, that Westerly should have done much more “pre-work with the RSDs and FCs””. According to Kotter’s (1995) Why Transformation Fails “The employees with seniority will become defensive, that morale will drop, that events will spin out of control, that short-term business results will be jeopardized, that the stock will sink, and that they will be blamed for creating a crisis.” (P.97) Above quote shows us that supervisors become defensive when subordinate is not successful in their work.
Jess Westerly’s assimilation process is not effective because she moved rapidly in implementing a change within 3 months’ period after orientation program. According to Kotter’s (1995) Why Transformation Fails “skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result”. (P. 97) Further, she failed to: (i) understand the organization culture and communication style of kauflauf, (ii) build relationship with RSD’s and FCs, hence there is no effective horizontal network (iii) to display supportive climate between her sales staffs as a result, she couldn’t gain the cooperation from RSDs and FCs which resulted in failure of change implementation.
As Westerly has an opportunity to try again, she revisited, analyzed and developed a robust proposal. Then she presented it to Marketing and Sales Director with the support of Roeder and is given three weeks to come up with a comprehensive plan. If the plan is acceptable, she will be asked to implement it.
Westerly has to ensure the following communication related actions in her next attempt to change call patterns to succeed, for that she need to:
- Understand the Kauflauf’s organizational culture: As we know from the case that Westerly doesn’t have experience in nonhierarchical or in informal networks. It is very essential to understand the environment within which individuals in the organization interact as it is a first step to build relationship and trust. Redding described that organizational communication and culture are referred to as the organizational climate. “The ‘climate’ of the organization is more crucial than are communication skills or techniques in creating effective organization” (Zaremba, 2010, P.154). So she has to (i)read the kauflauf’s vision and values, (ii) learn by looking around, (iii) spend time with people to get better understanding and (iv) research about the company in social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
- Cultivate Supportive climate: As we know from the case that she didn’t get enough cooperation and support from the RSD’s and FCs to implement the changes in the call patterns. So she has to conduct formal and informal meetings with RSD’s and field consultants to understand their concern and wants to involve program developers in the meetings as sales forces needs their support. Setting up the supportive organizational climate is the key while attempting the transformation as it encourages interaction and flow of information and which aids What Redding referred as “SCOPE” (Zaremba, 2010).
- Use informal communication channel: Westerly should not restrict herself only with formal communication channels, as the culture of the organization is active on informal way of communication. So, she has to start using informal communication channel like face to face meeting, telephonic conversation, conversation during breaks, etc. to create a budding friendship and get along with people. It is mentioned in the Zaremba (2010) that “Informal networks will exist and do work. Complement the usage of the formal network with the informal network and it also mentioned that it creates the budding friendship”.
- Communicate the vision: As we know from the case that Westerly sent only an email to field consultants with the blessings of Roeder, her boss, but she didn’t discuss this with RSD’s and field consultants. Therefore, to succeed in her next attempt at change she need to focus on (i) educating the field consultants why the change is necessary and (ii) selecting more effective communication channels like face to face communication, telephonic conversation, etc. as these are more effective channel than email as per Huber and Daft Ranking on “Media Richness” (Zaremba, 2010). Kotter (1995) also mentioned that “In more successful transformation efforts, executives use all existing communication channels to broadcast the vision.”
- Develop interpersonal and intercultural communication skills: As we know from the case that Westerly is an American, it is important for her polish her skills to interact with Germans. So, she need to spend time in recognizing the cultural norms, understanding the verbal and non verbal communication and spend time in building rapport with colleagues.
As we discussed, Westerly’s assimilation process is not effective because she was too ambitious in implementing a change within 3 months’ period after orientation program. Therefore, to succeed in her next attempt to change sales call patterns, she has to ensure the following: understanding the culture and the communication style of the organization, creating the supportive climate to encourage the flow of information, selecting effective media to communicate, communicating the vision and developing interpersonal and intercultural skills.