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Leadership Case Study on Acme Manufacturing Company In New Jersey

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Steve Arnold is a production manager at Acme Manufacturing Company in New Jersey. When Steve drove into the parking lot at the plant on Tuesday morning at 8:35, he was already 35 minutes late for work. Steve had overslept that morning because the night before he had stayed up late to finish the monthly production report for his department. He parked his car and entered the rear of the plant building. Passing through the shipping area, Steve spotted his friend George Summers and stopped to ask how work was progressing on the new addition to George’s house. Entering the office at 8:55, Steve greeted his secretary, Ruth Sweeney, and asked whether anything urgent needed his immediate attention. Ruth reminded him of the staff meeting at 9:30 with Steve’s boss—Frank Jones, the vice president for Production— and the other production managers. Steve thanked Ruth for reminding him (he had forgotten about the meeting) and continued on to his adjoining inner office. He went to his desk and began looking through the piles of papers to find the memo announcing the meeting. He vaguely remembered getting the memo last week, but had not had time to read it or look at the attached materials.
His phone rang, and it was Sue Bradley, the Sales vice president, who was inquiring about the status of a rush order for one of the company’s important clients. Steve promised to look into the matter and get back to her later in the day with an answer. Steve had delegated the rush order last week to Lucy Adams, one of his production supervisors, and he had not thought about it since then. Stepping back into the outer office, Steve asked Ruth if she had seen Lucy today. Ruth reminded him that Lucy was at a training workshop in California. She would be difficult to reach until the session ended late in the afternoon, because the workshop facilitators regard cell phone calls and text messages as an unnecessary distraction. Steve asked Ruth to leave a message for Lucy to call him during a break in the training.
Going back into his office, Steve resumed his search for the memo about the meeting with his boss and the other production managers. After 10 minutes of frantic searching, he finally found it. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a proposed change in quality control procedures. By now it was 9:25, and there was no time to read the proposal. He hurried out to get to the meeting on time. During the meeting, the other production managers participated in the discussion and made helpful comments or suggestions. Steve was not prepared for the meeting and did not contribute much except to say that he did not anticipate any problems with the proposed changes.

The meeting ended at 10:30, and Steve returned to his office, where he found Paul Chen, one of his production supervisors, waiting for him. Paul wanted to discuss a problem caused in the production schedules by a major equipment breakdown. Steve called Glenda Brown, his assistant manager, and asked her to join them to help rearrange the production schedules for the next few days. Glenda came in shortly and the three of them worked on the production schedules. At 11:25, Ruth came in to announce that a Mr. Ferris was waiting and he claimed to have an appointment with Steve at 11:30. Steve looked at his calendar but could not find any entry for the appointment. Steve asked Ruth to tell Mr. Ferris that he would be ready shortly.
The schedules were completed around 11:40. Since it was nearly noon, Steve invited Mr. Ferris to join him for lunch at a nearby restaurant. During lunch Steve learned that Mr. Ferris was from one of the firms that provided materials used in the production process at Acme, and the purpose of the meeting was to inquire about some changes in material specifications the company had requested. As Mr. Ferris talked, Steve realized that he would not be able to answer some of the technical questions.
When they returned to the plant at 1:15, Steve introduced Mr. Ferris to an engineer who could answer his questions. Steve walked back to his office, where his secretary informed him that Lucy had returned his call while he was out to lunch. Just then, Steve’s boss (Frank Jones) stopped in to ask about the quality figures he had asked Steve to assemble for him last week. Steve explained that he had given top priority to finishing the monthly production report the last few days and would do the quality information next. Frank was irritated, because he needed the quality data to finalize his proposal for new procedures, and he had made it clear to Steve that this task was more urgent then the production report. He told Steve to get the quality data to him as soon as possible and left. Steve immediately called Glenda Brown and asked her to bring the quality data to his office. The task of reviewing the data and preparing a short summary was not difficult, but it took longer than he anticipated. It was 2:40 by the time Steve completed the report and attached it to an e-mail to his boss.
Looking at his calendar, Steve noticed that he was already late for a 2:30 meeting of the plant safety committee. The committee meets weekly to review safety problems, and each department sends a representative. Steve rushed out to the meeting which was held in another part of the plant. The meeting was dull this week, without any important issues or problems to discuss.
The meeting ended at 3:30, and as Steve walked back through his section of the plant, he stopped to talk to his assistant manager. Glenda wanted some advice on how to resolve a problem in the production assignments for the next day. They discussed the problem for about a half-hour. When Steve returned to his office at 4:05, his secretary was just leaving. She reported that Lucy had called again at 4:00 before leaving to fly home from the conference.

Steve was feeling tired and decided it was time for him to go home also. As he drove out of the parking lot, Steve reflected that he was getting further behind in his work. He wondered what he could do to get better control over his job.


1. What specific things did Steve do wrong, and what should have been done in each instance?

2. What should Steve do to become more effective as a manager?

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