Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 13th 2014 Contents JULY 13 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
CASE STUDY | SBG15
Things were going well for Jerry
Rattan. Since being hired as
CEO of snack food manufac-
turer Better Snacks Ltd in 2011,
sales had grown 14 per cent
on average each year and three
new products had been successfully launched.
The company was in the middle of a major
factory expansion to accommodate this growth
and had recently begun exporting to three
In fact, life for Jerry would be perfect except
for the complaints he had been getting about
the head of the R&D department Julie Taylor.
The problem was not that employees were
complaining that Julie was slacking off and
not pulling her weight.
On the contrary, they felt that while Julie
was brilliant at coming up with ideas for new
products, she was a workaholic who over-
extended herself and was putting unreasonable
strain on the rest of employees in the R&D
The situation had escalated to the point
that employees were now threatening to involve
the union and take protest action if manage-
ment did not address the problem. The dilem-
ma Jerry faced, however, was that he felt he
would be sending the wrong signal if he rep-
rimanded Julie and told her to stop working
At the same time, he needed to address the
concerns of the other workers before the sit-
uation deteriorated further.
The R&D department
The role of the R&D department was to
develop and test new snack ideas before making
a recommendation about which products
should be considered for launch.
As such, it was considered by many to be
the most important department in the com-
pany and had enjoyed significant success over
the years in developing a range of popular new
Many of the employees in the department
had been with the company for at least 18
years and the company had a tradition of pro-
moting one of the top performing workers to
act as head of department. A requirement for
working in the department was that the
employee have a background in chemistry or
biology and several of the technicians possessed
advanced university degrees in these areas.
Five years ago, however, the company had
faced a crisis with declining sales of its existing
products and no new products in the pipeline.
At that time, the company had accepted the
resignation of the existing R&D head and
moved quickly to replace him with someone
they viewed as a rising star in the organisation,
Although there had been some grumbling
when the appointment was announced, this
had all but died down after a visit from the
newly appointed CEO.
Julie had joined the company at a young
age and had demonstrated a flair for coming
up with innovative ideas after a stint in the
R&D department. She had worked there for
the last 23 years and was widely credited for
playing a key role in creating several of the
company's top selling products.
She had developed a reputation for being
one of the most competent and hardest work-
ing people in the company and was well
respected by the management. She had also
been very helpful in explaining a number of
technical issues to the new CEO when he had
joined the company and Jerry felt very fortunate
to have her as part of the team.
Under her leadership, the department had
been reinvigorated and started churning out
new product ideas at a rapid pace.
Several of these ideas had been converted
into commercial successes at launch which
accounted for a noticeable uptick in the com-
pany's sales and market share.
Julie seemed to revel in her reputation as
a workaholic and would frequently skip coffee
breaks and lunch to ensure that ongoing tests
of new product concepts were kept on sched-
ule. She would often come in an hour early
and stay at least an hour past normal working
hours without requesting overtime pay.
According to Julie, this system worked well
for her since it allowed her to beat the traffic
and get some serious work done without dis-
traction from the factory noise or other work-
ers. On one occasion she had spent the entire
weekend in the office without a break to ensure
that tests on a new chip flavour were done
The problem in the R&D department started
a year ago when two young technicians with
impeccable resumes were brought in to the
The CEO considered this a major coup since
these employees had been poached from a
rival where they had spearheaded the R&D
department with considerable success. He
believed that their recruitment would signif-
icantly strengthen the R&D department and
ensure the company stayed one step ahead of
This strategy seemed vindicated by the surge
in the number of new products being devel-
oped. The new technicians and Julie seemed
like a winning combination.
Recently, however, one of the technicians
had complained to the CEO that Julie had
developed a habit of tweaking ideas presented
to her by the R&D team and taking credit for
the ideas at subsequent meetings.
When workers protested, Julie had claimed
that she had significantly improved upon the
idea and therefore deserved credit for the inno-
vation. He also expressed displeasure at the
way Julie became deeply involved in his projects
and made recommendations about what he
should do even when he did not ask for any
Another employee had complained that Julie
often missed important team meetings because
she was busy ensuring that product tests in
the lab were being run properly. This made
it difficult to co-ordinate ideas among the
group and slowed down the product devel-
opment process for the rest of the employees.
She also did not appreciate how Julie overex-
erted herself every day and expressed concern
that management would lay off employees if
they felt that they were underperforming when
compared to the standard set by Julie.
The employees had consulted their union
representative to take up the matter with man-
agement since they felt that management was
ignoring their concerns. They also began to
criticise the CEO and accuse him of favouring
Julie over the other employees in the depart-
ment. The technicians that had been hired
away from the rival were also openly talking
about leaving and going back to his previous
Morale in the department had declined
sharply in recent months and Jerry knew he
had to take action before the situation escalated
1. What are the core issues
confronting the CEO in this case?
2. What, if anything does the CEO
need to do about Julie Taylor?
3. What can the CEO do to infuse a
team-based culture within the R&D
When your star is a problem
Links Archive July 12th 2014 July 14th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page