In the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year, "ABC Tech" had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising for a new interactive mobile scanning device.
The majority of funds were spent on sponsoring elite functions in Miami and New York City, and paying sports stars' endorsement fees.
An analysis for return on marketing investment (ROMI) yielded extremely negative results; the campaign was hemorrhaging money from the firm at an alarming rate, and something needed to be done in order to turn the product around and begin making a profit.
To address the problem, the CEO of ABC Tech formed a special group, called the Ideation Team, which included the Social Media Manager, Director of Marketing, a Marketing Intern, the VP of Global Strategy, a Marketing Consultant, and a Media Consultant.
The Ideation Team was tasked with creating a comprehensive research-based strategy, deemed the Media Awareness Program, to be rolled out as a multi-phase intervention intended to create a reasonable ROMI for the ailing product.
Application of Intervention
A typical intervention is born from a comprehensive and objective collection of data, analysis of that data, and a diagnosis based on those findings (Fombrun & Nevins, 2004).
Interventions aim to create some type of positive change effort through the use of action steps that improve performance based on the perspectives and insights of those embedded in the situation, and those who will lead the change initiative.
The intervention initiated by ABC Tech’s CEO involved a three phase Media Awareness Program intended to increase product revenue through market saturation involving Phase I, local outreach; Phase II, national outreach; and Phase III, global outreach.
The intervention spurred a comprehensive communications and educational campaign fueled through research conducted by the Ideation Team.
Initial research results indicated local outreach for Phase I rollout would best be executed through adverting and sponsorships targeting a local film festival, a runner’s club, a butterfly garden sanctuary, and a safari-amusement park.
Phase I of the Media Awareness Program included a six-month interventional timeline complete with tasks, roles and responsibilities, and a budget. Implementation of the strategy and associated tasks, however, were followed for only three of the six months.
First, the CEO began to require the VP of Global Strategy to work on a host of other projects, causing delays in the approval process, since the VP oversaw all Ideation Team deliverables.
As more meetings were cancelled, other team members also began to be pulled away with additional projects.
The Marketing Director was heading a separate product expansion in the Brazilian market, and the Social Media Manager was rolling out several new product media campaigns online, leaving the two internal consultants and one intern to pick up the slack.
Additionally, the product sorely needing an intervention to stop it from bleeding the company of funds was undergoing a huge simultaneous upgrade.
Engineers who were making the changes had no interactions with the Ideation Team, and the Sales Department was creating a business/sales plan and rollout separate from the Media Awareness Program.
The project quickly fell apart based on the competing interests, goals, and timelines of engineering, sales, and marketing, as well as a deficiency in resources and a lack of leadership availability.
After the three-month period, Phase I of local outreach was abandoned, and the entire intervention was shelved.
The Ideation Team was reorganized, this time to include a Project Manager with direct access to the C-Suite, and the team’s goal was changed to assist with product rollout in the Brazilian market with the Director of Marketing heading the group.
Intervention Benefits and Deliverables
Although the operation, as a whole, was not a success, the process itself shed light on the cultural and behavioral aspects of leadership, organization structural politics, and the firm's priorities.
One beneficial observation included the firm exhibiting symptoms of excessive change efforts, where change is made solely for the sake of change, and a lack of considering the complete system led to change in one or two elements, with no change in the others, eventually leading to a return in the status quo (Stensaker et al., 2002; Fombrun & Nevins, 2004).
Deliverables for the intervention that were completed included a presentation of research conducted by the Ideation Team for local outreach during Phase I implementation, a fact-sheet showing the amount of spending for marketing the product to-date along with the negative ROMI it procured, a marketing/business plan, and projections for creating a product turnaround using a three-phase educational and procedural intervention process to increase revenue and profits.
The deliverables for Phase I were the only items fully completed, and the additional phases, along with their associated deliverables, were abandoned indefinitely after the three-month mark.
In making design choices for any intervention, crucial decisions must be made, such as what to focus on, who should be involved, how this will ensure performance improvement across the entire organization, with a shared understanding of what success looks like (Fombrun & Nevins, 2004).
None of these were properly done in the case of ABC Tech, especially in regard to understanding the interdependencies and potential conflicts of interest that would arise and affect the implementation of this Media Awareness Program.
The intervention itself could have sparked a much more crucial understanding, or “diagnosis as an intervention” (Fombrun & Nevins, 2004, p. 206) in an effort to change the dynamics of the situation and enhance its probable success.
For example, the Ideation Team could not function properly without the input and commitment of leadership, and additional representation from both the sales and engineering departments.
Also, the changes being recommended by the Ideation Team proposed to utilize firm resources, which inevitably created a chain reaction affecting multiple parts of the organization, something that was never formally addressed by the team or in the intervention.
The lack of initial comprehensive data collection, evaluation, and buy-in from leadership contributed to an unsuccessful interventional transition, and helped to perpetuate a climate of inconsistency and excessive change programs dismissed as yet another organizational fad.
The paralysis of successful change initiatives at ABC Tech shed light on the shaky structural foundations and lack of consistency embedded within the firm. Future engagements involving similar organizational issues should take heed from this example in an effort to avoid implementation failure.
Some of the lessons learned can include:
(1) ensuring that resources will be made available for timely completion of tasks and services,
(2) devising an approachable chain of command, and having secondary organizational leadership lined up in case a need arises for replacement,
(3) refusing to take on an engagement or intervention that seems doomed from the start (i.e., no project manager or key employees on board), and
(4) using comprehensive consulting models to assess the interrelatedness of the organizational system, and how changes will affect the entire firm, its people, and its culture in an effort to devise the most appropriate interventional design choices (Fombrun & Nevins, 2004).
This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list of items to address the present case study; however, it can be argued that by addressing these facets, ABC Tech might have been able to ensure a much more successful, and superior, Media Awareness Program that safeguarded an organizational change affecting its actual practice and performance, not just a change taking place on a few sheets of paper (Stensaker et al., 2002).
Fombrun, C. J. & Nevins, M. D. (2004). The Advice Business: Essential Tools and Models for Management Consulting. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Stensaker, I., Meyer, C. B., Falkenberg, J., Haueng, A. C. (2002). Excessive change: Coping mechanisms and consequences. Organizational Dynamics, 31(3), 296-312.