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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-319-0185-1
Bianca Schmitz, Olaf Plötner, Johannes Habel (2020)
Subject(s)
Strategy and general management
Keyword(s)
Corporate strategy, crisis management (internally), market analysis, performance evaluation of business units, strategic change management, hidden champions

Basler is one of those lesser-known midsize companies (the so-called hidden champions), which, despite their moderate scale of operation, enjoy worldwide leadership in several niche markets. Basler primarily comprises two business segments: one, quality control systems for industrial goods production; and, two, cameras for diverse industries. The 2008/2009 global financial crisis, however, spelled trouble for Basler. With the company’s very survival at stake, Basler’s CEO had to make a strategic decision, namely, cut back on critical resources (human, financial, and material); this would include slashing as many as 50 jobs, which represented a fifth of its workforce. While so doing, some key questions remained unanswered in his mind:


  • In which of the company's two business segments should he reduce resources and cut those 50 jobs?

  • At the same time, regardless of the financial crisis, in which area, if any, should he consider investing resources in order to drive the company’s growth in the next 5- 10 years?

The case study provides the student with the crucial inputs required to answer the above questions convincingly. To arrive at an optimal solution, the student would need to think through the various options before the CEO during one of the worst financial crises in global history and weigh up their pros and cons.

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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-719-0184-1
Urs Müller (2019)
Subject(s)
Ethics and social responsibility
Keyword(s)
Organizational behavior, business ethics, leadership, power and influence, values-based leadership, authority, managing uncertainty, contracts
In April 1520, Gaspar de Quesada and other Spanish Captains mutinied against their Portuguese admiral Ferdinand Magellan. After being retired by the Portuguese King, Magellan approached the Spanish King, Charles I, claiming to know a passage through the newly found continent to South-East-Asia. The king promised Magellan significant personal gain and full authority over an armada of five ships. When leaving Spain in 1519, Magellan did not reveal the details of his plans to the mostly Spanish captains of the other ships, but rather ordered them to just follow his boat. A minor signal of disobedience by Magellan’s deputy was met with immediate force and the expedition continued until Magellan ordered to stay in a natural harbor during Winter season and drastically rationed supplies. The case study describes a meeting between the Spanish Captains under the command of Gaspar de Quesada during which they debate their options, namely a mutiny to get control of the largest ship, San Antonio. Using a historical case and setting, the case allows to discuss multiple issues of contemporary interest in the domains of leadership and (business) ethics, namely loyalty, authority, power, (dis-)obedience, psychological contracts (and their violations), organizational success, and triple bottom line thinking.
    The overall learning objectives include discussing and understanding:
  • the role of power and authority for leadership behaviors—including their respective benefits and potential drawbacks,
  • the particular leadership challenges and behaviors when acting in VUCA settings, and
  • the importance and limitations of loyalty, obedience and followership—including the potential need to demonstrate (or react to) different forms of disobedience (incl. mutiny).
    In particular, the immediate issues that can be addressed by using the case are:
  • Mutiny at the workplace:
    • As a subordinate: When, why and how to do it?
    • As a superior: How to react to it?
  • (Dis-)obedience and authority (in professional settings)
    The subsequent case discussion will then also allow addressing the following underlying issues:
  • Authority and power
  • Achieving follower buy-in
  • Leadership in a VUCA world
  • Loyalty (esp. from a middle-management perspective)
  • Giving voice to values
  • Psychological contract violations
    Dependent upon the educational objectives of the instructor, the case can also be used to address the following additional/alternative underlying issues:
  • Triple bottom line
  • Stakeholder management
  • Cross-cultural differences
  • Law versus ethics
  • Normative ethical theories
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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-319-0183-1
Konstantin Korotov, Norbert Sack (2019)
Subject(s)
Human resources management/organizational behavior; Strategy and general management
Keyword(s)
Digital transformation, leadership, change
This field research case presents an account of leading digital transformation in a traditional organization. The case briefly traces more one hundred years of history of Klöckner & Co, an independent global steel and metal distributor, and presents challenges faced by the steel distribution branch. It then describes the thinking process of Gisbert Rühl, the company’s CEO concerned about taking the company into the future in the face of global changes faced by the industry. The case presents Rühl’s view of digital opportunities for the organization and his attempts to prepare the company for the digital age. The case pays particular attention to personal transformation of the leader in the in the process of transforming his company. It is intended for use in the MBA programs and executive education.
Key teaching/learning objectives:
  1. To demystify digital transformation in a traditional organization
  2. To explore the role of leaders in digital transformation
  3. To discuss the personal changes required of leaders working on digital transformation in their companies
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Pages
18
ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-419-0181-1
Subject(s)
Human resources management/organizational behavior
Keyword(s)
Leadership styles, leadership, leadership development
This is a set of six vignettes (presented in a paper version and in a video version) designed to help undergraduate and graduate students, as well as participants in executive education programs recognize the differences between six leadership styles identified by the work of Litwin & Stringer (1971) and further popularized by Goleman (2000), Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee (2013), and Korn & Ferry (2017). The vignettes present employee descriptions of their superior’s behaviors that are indicative of one of the six leadership styles: directive, visionary, affiliative, participative, pacesetting, and coaching. The vignettes, each describing a typical application of a particular style, can be used in class for the purpose of developing students’ leadership style diagnostic skills, as a group discussion material, or as test material for post-class examination.
This case study contains a video that is available with English, Chinese and Russian subtitles.
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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-418-0182-1
Nina Ann Walters, Konstantin Korotov (2018)
Subject(s)
Human resources management/organizational behavior
Keyword(s)
Personality, person-organization fit, cross-cultural adjustment, MBTI, expatriate assignment, emotions, work-life balance
The case tells a story of young European female manager joining a start-up operating in South-East Asia and facing challenges in adjusting to the work and life in a new environment. The protagonist finds it difficult to cope with a work situation where self-imposed expectations of excellence are difficult to achieve and with a life situation where social support is missing. The case culminates in the protagonist’s breakdown in an office meeting due to perceived failure to deliver on work tasks and to meet the expectations of the boss she respects and admires.
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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-318-0178-1
Subject(s)
Human resources management/organizational behavior
Keyword(s)
Leadership, crisis management, decision making, team interaction
When managers are confronted with a corporate crisis, such as the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil exploration platform, they have to operate under conditions that differ fundamentally from those experienced during normal management processes. Among other things, they may have to work with specialized teams and understand their priorities and decision-making processes, without giving up their own responsibilities. The following case simulation confronts participants with an escalating crisis situation in an unfamiliar environment and requires a series of team decisions to be taken under time pressure. The case is based on real experiences of the German Air Force during its ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission in Afghanistan. The participants are divided into groups of four, each group being responsible for a large military transport aircraft and its mission. Within the groups, each participant assumes the role of a specified flight crew member. Each participant receives individual instructions on their roles and duties as well as background information on the other crew members. Based on this information, the teams must prepare and execute their flight missions. The main objective of the simulation is to highlight the challenges of sharing information within a team and of decision-making under time pressure in an unfamiliar environment.
The case simulation may be used in a leadership course in MBA programs. It may also be used in executive-education programs to support sessions on both group decision-making and crisis management. On the whole, the case may be used to learn: 1. how to cooperate in teams 2. how team decisions may effectively be made 3. how to prioritize tasks under time pressure in a crisis situation 4. how to examine the impact of framing in decision-making processes
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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-318-0179-1
Johannes Habel, Zheng Han (2018)
Subject(s)
Strategy and general management
Keyword(s)
General management, decision making, international business, international marketing, organizational behavior, business strategies, external environment analysis, sales
On the surface, this case study deals with a straightforward sales management issue: The protagonist, Andreas Keller, needs to increase the company’s revenue to get the Chinese business unit out of the red. However, as students dig deeper into the case study, they detect the following underlying, intriguing issues:
  • Setting priorities and making decisions in sales management, especially in times of distress.
  • Understanding intercultural and leadership challenges for a foreign “airborne manager” (空降) in a foreign subsidiary.
  • Comprehending the suitability of premium, service-based business models in China.
  • Understanding the limitations of applying business models from mature markets in Western countries to China.
  • Preparing for expatriate positions in China and elsewhere.
The case study can be taught in both executive education and degree courses. More specifically, the case study is ideally suited for international MBA students with some working experience and international career ambitions. It can be used in both the general management courses and specialized courses on sales, business development, or marketing.
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ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-918-0180-1
Subject(s)
Information technology and systems
Keyword(s)
Machine-based learning, decision making, complex systems
In March 2016, Google machine AlphaGo won against Lee Sedol, arguably the best human Go player of the last decades. This was the first time a Go grandmaster succumbed to a machine. Go was arguably the most complex board game ever invented, and to play the game, Go grandmasters exploited exceptional levels of intuition built through years of practice. Yet, AlphaGo’s victory over human intuition was total.
NOTE: This case does not have a teaching note and is not available via our distributors. If you are interested in this case, please contact either the author or publications@esmt.org.
ESMT Case Study
ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-317-0177-1
Subject(s)
Strategy and general management
Keyword(s)
Decision making, judgement, crisis management, global health, organizational behavior, disaster relief, international humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO), intergovernmental organization
The case depicts the first few weeks of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and describes how two organizations, the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, assessed the seriousness of the outbreak. Both organizations have expertise and experience in containing epidemics, and past Ebola outbreaks in particular. These organizations nonetheless reached radically opposite conclusions. The case explores the possible reasons for these differences in predicting the outbreak’s evolution.
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Case
Los Andes University Case Collection No. AN0046
Eric Quintane, Gianluca Carnabuci, Maria Helena Jaen (2017)
Subject(s)
Human resources management/organizational behavior
Keyword(s)
Collaboration, leadership development, networking, organizational culture, organizational structure, organizational change
James Reid, the newly appointed GM of Troubled Spain, has been given a mandate by the CEO of Troubled Inc. to turn the subsidiary around within six months. Troubled Spain has experienced several years of poor performance that cannot be explained by either sluggish demand or lagging technology. The case provides information about interviews that James had with several employees, describing the role of the employee and giving insights into the issues that they see the company facing. These interviews are complemented by three charts prepared by consultants that James hired to conduct an internal audit of collaboration, communication and informal leadership in the organization. James needs to transform the organization within six months; however, this implies changing relationships that have been developed over decades and clarifying roles and boundaries that have been blurred over many years. The case challenges students to take James' position and identify the issues of Troubled Spain to develop an action plan in order to address the challenges facing the company. James needs to address: 1) issues concerning Troubled Spain's formal structure, 2) issues regarding its informal structure, including leadership issues, and 3) issues stemming from the combination of both formal and informal features. Case B provides information about what happened next and may be distributed at the end of the session.
Los Andes University Case Collection