This is a two-part case. Case A introduces Kim Underhill as the new Regional Head at Appliances International, a leading global appliances manufacturer that has sold more than 30 million household and professional products in over 70 markets. Underhill was headhunted in December 2016 to help revive the firm’s declining performance in the key Asia-Pacific markets of India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Of the four markets, India, had proved to be particularly challenging with AI having a marginal presence, stagnant sales, recurring losses, and poor brand image in the country.
Upon taking charge, Underhill sensed some wariness on the part of the India team in dealing with a woman leader. She held meetings with the employees to understand the issues better, and thereafter decided to implement a series of measures to help turn the situation around. Over the next few months, she laid off a number of senior managers whom she believed were incompetent and lacked motivation. She implemented new performance incentives for the sales staff. She also met the key customers, and worked towards addressing their concerns and misgivings with AI. However, by the end of the year, there was no significant improvement in AI India’s sales performance or relationships with its channel partners. With 14 months gone by, Underhill was worried. Had she overcommitted by promising to turnaround the company in two years? What should she do now?
Case B sees Underhill implementing other initiatives to turn the company around, such as joint activities with channel partners, investment in brand activities, running of product and service training, and holding regional meetings to encourage open conversations among colleagues across different offices. She also drew upon AI’s matrix structure to have experienced managers located in other countries assist in coaching employees at the India office. Consequently, AI’s sales in India began to grow, recording 20% increase in the following year.
This case is designed to help students think critically about implementing change at the work place, and the barriers a woman leader may particularly face.
Specific objectives include:
1. Appreciate the challenges of leading change in a foreign culture.
2. Understand the challenges of changing the culture of a business unit.
3. Understand the challenges women face as a leader, and ways to address them.
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· The Case Part A (SMU-18-0012)
· The Case Part B (SMU-18-0012)
· Teaching Note (SMU-18-0012TN)