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ODC cases - Case 1 United Products Inc Teaching Notes...

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Case 1 United Products, Inc. Teaching Notes Copyright © Gareth R. Jones, 1994 Synopsis United Products, Inc., is a small office products and supply company, headed by the son of the founder, George Brown, President. Brown is a laissez-faire president/owner who is about to leave on a three-week European vacation. He doesn’t want much growth because he is unprepared to put forth extra effort. Growth is limited by his motivation to work harder. Students will tend to be critical of Brown, his management style, and organizational strategy and structure. Brown has a good track record as president: His company has grown at an enviable 20 percent a year, and the functional organizational structure works well. Brown knows how to delegate and decentralize control. He allows employees to demonstrate their abilities and rewards them for performance, and he creates an enjoyable organizational culture. His time on vacation or playing golf is a tribute to his management skills and ability to design a structure that allows for delegation. The case considers basic management issues such as what organizations do. Teaching Objectives 1. To familiarize students with small company operations and present the meaning of competition, strategy, and structure. 2. To critique the management style of a president who appears lazy, but is actually entrepreneurial. 3. To expose a functional organizational structure and a simple hierarchy and show role relationships in an organic structure. This case can be used after Chapter 1 or 2 as the first case of the semester. It is easy to analyze and understand, and is a good preview for many organizational theory topics in the text. Encourage a negative perspective of Brown and then show the opposite side of the picture. This strategy promotes debate, and also allows the students to begin to think creatively about management. Pop Quiz Questions 1. What kind of structure does United Products use? Answer: A functional structure 2. True or false: George Brown delegates too much authority to lower-level employees. Answer: False Issues and Discussion Questions 1. Critically evaluate George Brown’s management style. What does he do well or poorly? Discuss his personal attitudes and behaviors that appear to be somewhat negative: 1. By his own admission, he doesn’t work long hours. 2. Coming from a wealthy background, he lacks ambition and drive. 3. He is not willing to exert effort and energy to help the company grow faster than 20 percent per year. 184
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4. His family comes first. 5. He took a 10-month vacation from his company a few years ago. Consider his managerial policies: 1. There are no formal job descriptions. 2. He has very conservative financial policies and avoids all debt. 3. There are no specific performance standards for employees; salespeople have no specific sales quotas, but are paid a percentage of sales.
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