Accounts Department

Case Study 3:  Molding Manufacturing and finding a solid foundation.   Twenty-five-year-old Anderson Hempsted, works for Molding Manufacturers in St. Louis, MO.  It is a family owned business with 250 employees.  Currently, the company has suffered some drastic impacts to its bottom-line.  The downward spiral of the company has proved too stressful for its founder and CEO, Jackson Hempsted, 77, forcing him to retire after 45 years with the company, leaving Anderson, his grandson in charge.  Two years ago, after his graduation from Missouri State, Anderson had joined Molding Manufacturing after the sudden death of his father.  His grandfather had given him the task to solve the ongoing problems.   The younger Hempsted had started as a manager in the Accounts Department but had to take on greater roles as his grandfather’s health declined.  He was moved into a top management position six months ago with little training or experience.  His grandfather had confided in him his fears of losing the business, all during coffee and breakfast one Saturday morning.  Molding Manufacturing had been a part of the St. Louis business scene since 1952 and was a stable employer up until seven years ago.  Anderson had to buckle down and find the root cause for the decline in their business.  His investigation would encompass ten years’ worth of data.   Over the last five years, Anderson noticed several problems within the company.  Business had stagnated.  Turnover was 2% greater for their company than similar businesses in the city.  Half a dozen long-term key employees, with an average length of service of ten years, up and quit without two-week notice.  Recently, four other line employees have been reprimanded for late work violations or absence without following proper notification procedures.  There seemed to be a pattern of people leaving without any apparent explanation.  Average length of stay with the company had fallen to just seven years whereas before most of their employees could be classified as lifers.  Exit interviews had not been conducted consistently, to ascertain the reasoning for employee departures.   Another problem faced by the company was a 15% reduction in sales and revenues over the last two years. Anderson’s close examination of the financial statement confirmed this fact.  Projects had decreased and five long-term clients cancelled recent projects or transferred work to other companies.     Anderson needed to find out the root causes of the problems to correct the human resources and financial losses to the company.  He knew from years of working that these losses were all interrelated but uncovering the key reason was challenging.  If losses continued to spiral out of control, layoffs would be needed in order to stem the financial bleeding. He would need to start with those closest to retirement.  How could he, a twenty-five-year-old, approach those older employees to discuss this potentiality or even suggest early retirement?  How many of them were prepared for early retirement?  Could they even offer up healthy severance pay and benefit packages to those employees if they were in such dire straits?  To complicate the matter, gossip had reached his ears that his remaining employees held deep seated anxiety over the leadership changes.      How and where to begin was the question that constantly ran through his mind.  Intuitively, he knew he needed to start with the employees and customers to gain further insight.   Questions, Part 1:   1.     What can you infer about the current state of Molding Manufacturing with the information presented? 2.     What steps are needed to investigate the challenges faced by the company? a.     Identify and summarize 2 investigative measures that Anderson could utilize to gain information about the resulting impacts of the losses identified?   b.     Construct a list of ten open-ended questions to aid you in conversations, to understand what is happening at Molding Manufacturing. c.     What, if any, are the recurring themes present in the details?     Anderson spent a month collecting data and talking to current and past employees, and customers.  At one point he reached a saturation point of information from the employees, there was one thread of commonality present in the conversations.  Forty-two-year-old machine operator Justin Lars put it bluntly to him one day as they talked on the shop floor, “Why come to work anymore?  I really don’t feel valued as an employee.  This company doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.  I’m just here for the paycheck because your grandfather and father always paid more, but even that doesn’t feel like much.  I really feel like a hostage.”   Customers described a lack of enthusiasm on part of the salesforce.  They felt Molding Manufacturing had lost its edge.  Salespeople were not returning phone calls, quality of work had dropped off, phone calls, Skype meetings and face-to-face meetings were turning defensive and hostile.  Inexperienced managers were conducting meetings with key clients and failing to deliver.  There didn’t seem to be any solid leadership or training.  Quality had suffered in more ways than one. Molding Manufacturing had a strong legacy in their community.  At one time, employees took pride in their work, and in their company.  Anderson couldn’t see how the company could function from within if employees felt like Lars.  There wasn’t an employer within St. Louis that could offer the same pay or benefit structure.  But how could a company function if no one wanted to work there.  He knew intuitively that people needed purpose, that they needed to believe that their work made a difference for others, for themselves.  Their quality production needed a solid foundation to obtain quality products or they were letting people down, including their employees.     His grandfather constantly told him growing up, “Quality stems from dedication and purpose.”     Another comment that his father had told him long ago while sitting at a St. Louis Cardinals game, “Son, it isn’t always about hitting home runs or grand slams.  It’s about trying to hit singles.”   Questions, Part 2:   3.     Based on what you know thus far, how would you explain the problems at Molding Manufacturing?  4.     What changes do you think would you recommend?  Explain.   Late one afternoon Anderson leaned against a desk in one of the conference rooms, staring at a white board. Printouts of information stood in stacks to either side of him.  Financials were displayed on another screen.  He held a sheet of key points from the employee and customer interviews.  Yet, he was stumped on what to do to turn the company around.  The task ahead seemed daunting.  The elder Hempsted would be retiring at the end of the quarter, giving him 82 days to figure things out.  More than once as he stood there, Merrill Platford, his personal assistant had walked past the door and inquired if he needed anything.  When he shook his head, declining, her audible annoyance and furrowed brow startled him.  Anderson’s stomach grumbled as his eyes drifted to the floor length windows that looked out on the parking lot.  -Two of their key engineers- James Davidson and Henry Strong- were on a smoke break.   Anderson stared at them, watched them converse for several minutes.  When was the last time any of them had socialized or done anything as a group?  In his childhood, Anderson recalled the company BBQs, the trips out to see the Clydesdales or Cardinals ballgame.  Why was there this distance?     Anderson swore, “Why am I here alone doing this?”  His eyes drifted back to the whiteboard, and his mouth dropped open.  Why was he trying to solve this problem on his own?  He laughed, and rushed out the room, pushed open the door to the parking lot and called the engineers back into the conference room.  “I need your help.  Shut down production and have all the employees meet me in the cafeteria in fifteen minutes.”   Fifteen minutes later, Anderson stood before them and explained what was going on.  He had an honest conversation about the condition of the company and the work, his grandfather’s retirement.  “And this is where I need your help.  Before you leave tonight, I want two representatives from each area of the company to be identified to work in a group with me in addressing these challenges.  If we are going to change this company around, we are going to do it together.  So, starting tomorrow, at 9am, those identified individuals will meet me in the conference room to map out a plan of attack.  But each of you will have your say in this, so don’t worry.  So, go back to your areas and take fifteen minutes, no,” he looked at his watch.  Two hours till the end of the day.  “Take the rest of the time for the day, paid, and identify two leaders to join me and hash out five different areas of need to be addressed.  I have some, but I want to hear what you think are the problems. If you want to stay later, and if you have time, I will be in the main conference room, ordering pizza, soda, coffee, to flesh out some ideas of my own.  Anyone that wants to stay can.”   That night twenty-three people joined him in the conference room for a power session.  Those that would be leaders and other interested parties.  Anderson sighed, reaching for his cold, sweet tea, “I don’t know about you all, but I’m a bit tired and excited.  Let’s just talk, go around the room and have an honest conversation.”  Merrill Platford had joined him and sat to his left, taking notes.  Others had notepads in front of them filled with scribbles.  Over the next three days, Anderson continued to hold these meetings.  Employees could come and go as they pleased.  Finally, they all agreed on the root cause of their problems.  There wasn’t a strong foundation of core values.  They had never been articulated cleanly.  The company had a mission and vision but was it ‘right’ for this generation and how the industry had changed since Molding Manufacturing had opened its doors? There was a lot more sophistication today.  It was time to re-evaluate their core values and solidly design them.  James Davidson offered up his viewpoint, “We were once regarded as key players in our industry.  Back when your grandfather started this company, values really didn’t need to be voice.  We glossed over the mission and vision.  But that can’t stand anymore.  Core values are key.  I think they are key to everything, especially about our organizational climate and culture.  I have heard about a people focused theory…I wonder…”   Question, Part 3:   5.      You are part of Anderson’s team at Molding Manufacturing.  Utilizing PPC theory and tenets, design a word cloud of core values for the company to improve their state of business.  Go further than these PPC tenets and try to affix action verbs and adjectives.   a.     Justify each core value and their meaning, how it relates back to their problems.   6.     How can this word cloud and subsequent definitions aid you in the recruitment and retention of employees?  How could it aid you in finding the ‘right fit’ for your own career?  You may want to illustrate your answer with your own past work or life experience.

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