The Struggle for Power at Ramsey Electronics
A vice president’s position is about to open up at Ramsey Electronics, maker of components for
audio and visual equipment and computers. Whoever fills the position will be one of the four
most powerful people in the company and may one day become its CEO. So the whole company
has been watching the political skirmishes among the three leading candidates: Arnie Sander,
Laura Prove, and Billy Evans.
Arnie Sander, currently head of the research and development division, worked his way up
through the engineering ranks. Of the three candidates, he alone has a Ph.D. (in electrical
engineering from MIT), and he is the acknowledged genius behind the company’s most
innovative products. One of the current vice presidents—Harley Learner,himself an engineer—
has been pushing hard for Sander’s case.
Laura Prove spent five years on the road, earning a reputation as an outstanding salesperson of
Ramsey products before coming to company headquarters and working her way up through the
sales division. She knows only enough about what she calls the "guts" of Ramsey’s electronic
parts to get by, but she is very good at selling them and at motivating the people who work for
her. Frank Barnwood, another current vice president, has been filling the Chief’s ear with praise
Of the three candidates, Billy Evans is the youngest and has the least experience at Ramsey. Like
the Chief, he has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a very sharp mind for finances.
The Chief has credited him with turning the company’s financial situation around, although
others in the company believe Sander’s products or Prove’s selling ability really deserves the
credit. Evans has no particular champion among Ramsey’s top executives, but he is the only other
handball player the Chief has located in the company, and the two play every Tuesday and
Thursday after work. Learner and Barnwood have noticed that the company’s financial decisions
often get made during the cooling-off period following a handball game.
In the month preceding the Chief’s decision, the two vice presidents have been busy. Learner,
head of a national engineering association, worked to have Sander win an achievement award
from the association, and two weeks before the naming of the new vice president, he threw the
most lavish banquet in the company’s history to announce the award. When introducing Sander,
Learner made a long, impassioned speech detailing Sander’s accomplishments and heralding him
as "the future of Ramsey Electronics."
Frank Barnwood has moved more slowly and subtly. The Chief had asked Barnwood years before
to keep him updated on "all these gripes by women and minorities and such," and Barnwood did
so by giving the Chief articles of particular interest. Recently he gave the Chief one from a
psychology magazine about the cloning effect—the tendency of powerful executives to choose
successors who are most like themselves. He also passed on to the Chief a Fortune article arguing