Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Changing the Game at Cherokee Nation Entertainment

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Changing the Game at Cherokee Nation Entertainment

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns building, communicating, and implementing a vision that will drive change in an organization. Secondary issues examined include overcoming resistance to change, building support in multiple stakeholder groups and powerful sponsors, the role of team leaders in the implementation process, acting with a sense of urgency and risk taking in implementing change. The case has a difficulty level appropriate for undergraduate seniors and graduate students, and is designed for courses addressing organizational change, leading change, and leading teams. The case may also be used to demonstrate strategic management concepts, including developing a vision and strategy implementation. It can be covered in a one hour class. Preparation for the case is expected to require 3-4 hours.


The case opens with Cherokee Nation Entertainment ("CNE") engaged in the process of evolving from a collection of low impact retail and bingo operations to a dynamic, growth oriented business employing current marketing and management concepts. Dave Stewart, CEO, is building a vision for CNE that embraces innovation and change in driving a transformation of the business' strategy and culture. The change in Oklahoma gaming laws provides the external opportunity. Stewart's vision encompasses a dramatic change in the basic philosophy of the business in attempting to integrate the edgy Hard Rock "culture" with the very traditional culture of the Cherokee Nation. The case follows Stewart and a Team of 8 key managers who navigate through multiple challenges and obstacles often encountered in transformational change in organizations. The vision and strategy provide the direction for change; however, the extent of the change provide significant challenges for Stewart and the Team of 8 in overcoming resistance to change, and building a sense of urgency so important to implementation. The case demonstrates one approach to building and implementing a vision and new strategy, and provides opportunities for students to analyze the key stages of organizational/strategic change. The case ends with the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa; however, the change process is not complete. There are still important issues for students to ponder about the future of the Hard Rock brand and CNE.

The Case Synopsis and the Case Description should be removed before this case is assigned to a student or student group. This information could prejudice the minds of students.


In 2006, Dave Stewart, CEO of CNE, was concerned about sustaining the strong growth and profitability that the company had experienced over the past several years. CNE's growth had made important contributions to the financial condition of the Cherokee Nation and had provided jobs for its people. The company had beaten the competition to the punch in opening Las Vegas style gaming in its casinos by anticipating and driving the change in Oklahoma laws. Advance knowledge of this critical external factor allowed CNE leaders to act aggressively, but they could not stand pat. Competition was increasing from other tribes, including the expansion of a rival gaming facility located only 20 miles from the flagship Cherokee Casino Resort in Catoosa, just outside of Tulsa.

Dave understood the necessity for change. There was little that differentiated CNE from the potential competition. In order to continue its growth, CNE sought a differentiation strategy that would separate it from other Native American gaming operations in the region, and help sustain the advantage realized by acting as first movers in the gaming expansion. His vision for continued growth by diversifying into new entertainment concepts and venues would evolve and develop.

A discussion with CNE's Vice President of Marketing, Molly Jarvis, about the Hard Rock organization in Las Vegas triggered a series of events that would drive change in CNE, its management team, and in its relationship with the Cherokee Nation--and provide definition to that evolving vision. …

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