Change Management-Walker and Walker

By Barger, Bonita | Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, January-February 2004 | Go to article overview

Change Management-Walker and Walker


Barger, Bonita, Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies


CASE DESCRIPTION

Change Management-Walker and Walker (W & W) is designed to be used in a Human Resource Management and/or Organizational Behavior class at the senior undergraduate level or entry MBA level, and has a difficulty level of 4/5. The purpose of the case is three-fold:

* to increase student awareness of the issues involved in managing organizational change;

* to raise issues relating to organizational design, culture, and interpersonal alliances in managing human capital;

* to provide comprehensive teaching notes and citations for educators to enhance discussion.

CASE SYNOPSIS

This case provides a realistic scenario encountered by senior management in managing organizational change from the old to the new economy. Walker and Walker is a Southern family owned manufacturing firm struggling to expand into a global marketplace. The tensions involved in organizational change are played out in multiple arenas. The student is challenged to analyze these arenas. The instructor is provided with extensive supporting literature to facilitate this analysis.

CASE STUDY-WALKER AND WALKER

GROUNDING

Walker and Walker (W & W) is a North American leader in the manufacturing of rail ballbearings. W&W, founded in 1950, has grown from a small, family owned business in Macon, Georgia, to a billion dollar operation servicing external customers world-wide. They have grown and thrived on a central tent: Service to customers by building the best technically advanced product in the marketplace. This tradition has deep roots.

BACKGROUND

W & W believed in people. It was started by the "Walker Brothers," John and James Walker. It was built on the labor of family and community members from Macon, Georgia. Everyone knew each other, pitched in, and helped when needed. There was no need for a union, as the Walkers "took care of their own." There were commonalities that bound the employees together. They were related by blood, religion, and generations of growing up in the same neighborhoods. They shared similar values, beliefs, and ways of working. They were "family," with strong father figures providing direction, security, and a good place to work.

With a strong market demand for their products, a focused and dedicated labor force ready to follow the orders of their founders, John and James, grew W & W from 100 to 1,000 employees working in two manufacturing units located in southern Georgia. W & W had changed remarkably over what appeared to be a long history but was, in fact, quite a short period of time. W & W increased its workforce, doubled its manufacturing facilities, tripled its customer base and profits. Sales were $900,000 by 1980. W & W appeared to be well positioned to enter the year 2005.

The early 1980s were difficult for W & W. With the untimely death of James Walker, the recession, and new competitors entering the marketplace, John and the Board were faced with the possibility of laying off part of its workforce. In this small town where loyalty to employee and employer were the givens of life, this had never occurred. A difficult decision had to be made. John made it. W & W decided not to lay off employees, rather start a large-scale cost reduction effort and decrease corporate and executive salaries. This strategy worked. The recession ended, demand for products and services started to "turn around." Now John Walker and the Board realized that it could not be "business as usual."

The external environment had changed, while the internal work environment of W & W appeared to stay the same. Externally, new customers were demanding products quicker, global competitors were entering the marketplace, technology advances in the manufacturingof ballbearings were rapidly changing, and government guidelines on affirmative action and other policies were requiring new approaches to old practices. …

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