Assignment:  In Cases 1 -5 how is each manager establishing his power and influence?  In Case 6, why did the second young manager feel that power was more central to managerial work?  Draw on the concepts from the text material on power and influence. 

 

Case 1

 

“Most of the people here would walk over hot coals in their bare feet if my boss asked them to. He has an incredible capacity to do little things that mean a lot to people. Today, for example, in his junk mail, he came across an advertisement for something that one of my subordinates had in passing once mentioned that he was shopping for. So my boss routed it to him. That probably took 15 seconds of his time, and yet my subordinate really appreciated it. To give you another example, two week ago he somehow learned that the purchasing manager's mother had died. On his way home that night, he stopped off at the funeral parlor. Our purchasing manager was, of course, there at the time. I bet he'll remember that brief visit for quite a while.”

 

 

Case 2

 

Herb Randley and Bert Kline were both 35-year-old vice presidents in a large research and development organization. According to their closest associates, they were equally bright and competent in their technical fields and as managers. Yet Randley had a much stronger professional reputation in most parts of the company, and his ideas generally carried much more weight. Close friends and associates claim the reason that Randley is so much more powerful is related to a number of tactics that he has used more than Kline has.

 

Randley has published more scientific papers and managerial articles than Kline. Randley has been more selective in the assignments he has worked on, choosing those that are visible and that require his strong suits. He has given more speeches and presentations on projects that are his own achievements. And in meetings in general, he is allegedly forceful in areas where he has expertise and silent in those where he does not.

 

 

Case 3

 

One vice president of sales in a moderate-size manufacturing company was reputed to be so much in control of his sales force that he could get them to respond to new and different marketing programs in a third of the time taken by the company's best competitors. His power over his employees was based primarily on their strong identification with him and what he stood for. Immigrating to the United States at age 17, this person worked his way up “from nothing.” When made a sales manager in 1965, he began recruiting other young immigrants and sons of immigrants from his former country. When made vice president of sales in 1970, he continued to do so. In 1975, 85% of his sales force was made up of people whom he hired directly or who were hired by others he brought in.

 

 

Case 4

 

When young Tim Babcock was put in charge of a division of a large manufacturing company and told to “turn it around,” he spent the first few weeks studying it from afar. He decided that the division was in disastrous shape and that he would need to take many 1arge steps quickly to save it. To be able to do that, he realized he needed to develop considerable power fast over most of the division's management and staff. He did the following:

 

·          He gave the division’s management two hours’ notice of his arrival.

·          He arrived in a limousine with six assistants.

·          He immediately called a meeting of the 40 top managers.

·          He outlined briefly his assessment of the situation, his commitment to turn things around, and the basic direction he wanted things to move in.

·          He then fired the four top managers in the room and told them that they had to be out of the building in two hours.

·          He then said he would personally dedicate himself to sabotaging the career of anyone who tried to block his efforts to save the division.

·          He ended the 60-minure meeting by announcing that his assistants would set up appointments for him with each of them starting at 7:00 A.M. the next morning.

 

Throughout the critical six-month period that followed, those who remained at the division generally cooperated energetically with Mr. Babcock.

 

Case 5

 

Product manager Stein needed plant manager Billings to “sign off” on a new product idea (Product X) which Billings thought was terrible. Stein decided that there was no way he could logically persuade Billings because Billings just would not listen to him. With time, Stein felt, he could have broken through that barrier. But he did not have that time. Stein also realized that Billings would never, just because of some deal or favor, sign off on a product he did not believe in. Stein also felt it not worth the risk of trying to force Billings to sign off, so here is what he did:

 

·          On Monday, Stein got Reynolds, a person Billings respected, to send Billings two market research studies that were very favorable to Product X, with a note attached saying, “Have you seen this? I found them rather surprising. I am not sure if I entirely believe them, but still…”

·          On Tuesday, Stein got a representative of one of the company’s biggest customers to mention casually to Billings on the phone that he had heard a rumor about Product X being introduced soon and was “glad to see you guys are on your toes as usual.”

·          On Wednesday, Stein had two industrial engineers stand about three feet away from Billings as they were waiting for a meeting to begin and talk about the favorable test results on Product X.

·          On Thursday, Stein set up a meeting to talk about Product X with Billings and invited only people whom Billings liked or respected and who also felt favorably about Product X.

·          On Friday, Stein went to see Billings and asked him if he was willing to sign off on Product X. He was.

 

 

Case 6

 

Two participants, both managers in their thirties, got into a heated disagreement regarding the acquisition and use of power by managers. One took the position that power was absolutely central to managerial work, while the other argued that it was virtually irrelevant. In support of their positions, each described a very "successful" manager with whom he worked.

 

The young manager who felt power was unimportant described a staff vice president in a small company who was dependent only on his immediate subordinates, his peers, and his boss. This person, Joe Phillips, had to depend on his subordinates to do their jobs appropriately, but, if necessary, he could fill in for any of them or secure replacement for them rather easily. He also had considerable formal authority over them; that is, he could give them raises and new assignments, recommend promotions, and fire them. He was moderately dependent on the four vice presidents in the company for information and cooperation. They were likewise dependent on him. The president had considerable formal authority over Phillips but was also moderately dependent on him for help, expert advice, the service his staff performed, other information, and general cooperation.

 

The second young manager - the one who felt power was very important – described a service department manager, Sam Weller, in a large, complex, and growing company who was in quite a different position. Weller was dependent not only on his boss for rewards and information, but also on 30 other individuals who made up the divisional and corporate top management. And while his boss, like Phillips’s was moderately dependent on him too, most of the top managers were not. Because Weller’s subordinates, unlike Phillips’s, had people reporting to them, Weller was dependent not only on his subordinates but also on his subordinate's subordinates. Because he could not himself easily replace or do most of their technical jobs, unlike Phillips, he was very dependant on all these people.

 

In addition, for critical supplies, Weller was dependent on two other department managers in the division. Without their timely help, it was impossible for his department to do its job. There departments, however, did not have similar needs for Weller's help and cooperation. Weller was also dependent on local labor union officials and on a federal agency that regulated the division's industry. Both could shut his division down if they wanted.

 

Finally, Weller was dependent on two outside suppliers of key materials. Because of the volume of his department's purchase relative to the size of these two companies, he had little power over them.

 

Excerpted from:  Kotter, J. P., “Power, Dependence, and Effective Management”, Harvard Business Review, July – August, 1977.