Toy Zone Australia: Playing for Time Case Analysis

Friday, August 7, 2009


Based on my diagnostics, I have extrapolated three primary issues that must be addressed when considering how to achieve Toy Zone’s short and long term objectives: Communication and resistance to change, implementation of technology and unreliability (measuring change), and beyond implementation. 

Pickering is trying to make a quick switch from the old to the new system (organization-wide and rapid change). The introduction of so many plans for change in such a small time frame has become too complex and, as a result, employee structure, morale, and operational effectiveness has been significantly reduced. The timeline for change must be increased beyond 18 months and the budget must be more than $15 million. More money and time will be required to alter the environment and perspectives of the company, as well as effectively implement change.

Even though a time-effective change is cost effective, I recommend we begin running parallel systems. The benefits of this will outweigh the increased costs. Employees can be assured the new system functions correctly, while the old system serves as a back-up in case the new implementation fails. There could be potential collaboration between systems and significantly help with continued operations of the firm. Also, management will be less resistant to change, as the “old school” and clan-cultured employees will be allowed to slowly convert to the new system. They will feel less pressured, increasing morale and encouraging confidence in the potential new, rigid and accountable culture. Lastly, a decrease in employee turnover should result.

Because of ineffective implementation techniques, we are now stuck with multiple plans (i.e. change culture, new management, close manufacturing units, outsource production, etc.). Pickering has been faced with poor sponsorship, high resistance from employees, conflict with employees (disciplining a sales manager), and a lack of change management expertise. We must avoid trying to make a few quick changes in a vain attempt to save the project. We must measure quality improvement and cost reduction as our goals while measuring progress. We will use incremental success and slowly complete smaller projects with higher rates of success. The labour-intensive use of consultants must be converted to leveraged use, as the project has become too complex and expensive. We can then begin to train employees more effectively, working with the people who will be using the new system, rather than doing all of the work and not planning for the integration in the business.

Employees, such as the insufficiently trained sales team, must be trained and educated three different times during the implementation process. They must be made aware that they were to begin to focus on changing customer perceptions and service excellence. This is good because customer and user perceptions are sometimes overlooked by management. Inform employees of the implementation of electronic devices to improve communication between the sales force and support office. Educate them about communication skills and how the improvement in communication between departments will lead to increased success of the business. Next, focus on specific training of the new technology to be introduced that will improve the company’s infrastructure (e.g. a new ERP system). Finally, conduct advanced training to make employees aware of how to take positive advantage of the new technology.

Using organizational control theory, I have concluded that Toy Zone’s current state is consistent with Cell 4 (Figure 8.1 Carlopio, 143). Unreliable information via an ineffective ERP system is significantly inhibiting management’s ability to properly measure time, costs, quality, and scope of the implementation. There is also a lack of a clear definition of the behaviours required by employees to complete the new project. We must focus on managing the inputs of our implementation; most importantly training and education. When we increase the quality of inputs, we increase the quality of our results.

Pickering has relied on the recruitment of highly qualified and experienced individuals who are technically sound due to concerns about the work ethic, training, and focus of employees. This is good in the sense that there is currently no way to rationally measure the work of the company, so these types of people can assure us of having an able and committed set of people. However, we must, again, begin to “rely on training, socialization and a ‘clan-like’ culture to help ensure those involved develop and display the attitudes, values, and beliefs (Carlopio, 146)” that will lead to the success of the business. We should allow the new managers to work with old managers, fostering a common ground where both types of people can collaborate and achieve goals linked throughout the business. Moving back to a ‘clan-like’ environment will allow current staff to commit to the change process and interact in a way that will increase value of the organization. So, I recommend we cease action to change the culture of Toy Zone into a rigid and formal culture, as it has resulted in extremely high employee turnover (which is very costly when referencing Exhibit 8.2 Carlopio, 149), conflict, varying goals and low morale.

Because current goals and strategies are extremely varied throughout the firm, we can use the balanced scorecard to properly measure the smaller-scale operational activities alignment with larger-scale goals. Manager’s attention will become more focused on the issues and management will be involved with implementing the new strategy. We must inform and reinforce to employees that we want to close certain manufacturing units, outsource aspects of production and revitalize the sales force. We then must communicate and sync these goals with department and individual objectives. 

Pickering made a mistake by pushing staff beyond their abilities and adjusting sales target numbers; which led to a loss of highly valuable and experienced employees. We can’t only offer financial incentives tied to our short-term financial goals. Restructuring and diversifying the incentive system and commission structures for the sales team, as well as implementing a balanced scorecard management system will allow for long-term strategy understanding by managers at all levels, simultaneously aligning departmental and individual goals.

As stated above, most of what we can currently control about the implementation of Toy Zone’s strategy involves the inputs of the process. Therefore, feedback is an extremely important component that will allow us to consider the results of the implementation that affects the inputs. Feedback from managers will allow us to learn the positives and negatives of our system, concurrently giving managers some control over the process. This would allow for control and evolution of the system, learning from mistakes made during implementation, and most importantly encourage change as a team effort. Management, as a whole, must be pushed to continually measure all aspects of the business (individually, organization-wide, financially, customer-related, etc.), compare these results to our desired goals as a company, and adjust.

Measuring the management of the business will increase the likelihood of success. We must ensure that our strategy is communicated throughout the firm. Pickering has correctly indentified communication as a vital tool to the success of the new strategy. We should continue to hold meetings with management in order to effectively communicate our goals, keep them aligned throughout the company, and generate useful feedback. Also, we should continue to encourage teamwork and cooperation between new and old management that can be measured. If we can translate our vision and goals into terms management can understand and measure, we can then enforce the specifics that Pickering desires.

The enforcement of the idea that communication is key to successful change has been, and will continue to be, a useful theme throughout the implementation process. Weekly meetings with management, the ‘information blitz’, newsletter of achievements, new and future plans, an induction course, and quarterly prizes for excelling employees are all actions I recommend we continue. Without effective communication we can’t grow as a company. 

More trust equals greater commitment and innovativeness of our departments. Increasing trust will lead to greater employee confidence, commitment, creativity, and innovativeness. Both internal and external stakeholders will extremely benefit from trust within our organization. Though Pickering is extremely detail oriented and prefers to keep tight control over communication with employees, we should do less monitoring and more encouraging of employee enthusiasm to influence innovation.

Seeking out an external agent “to obtain independent evidence of problems with the existing course of action and to clarify its magnitude” (Carlopio, 160) was a beneficial move made by Pickering for the firm. We can’t cancel some of the existing projects to alter the company’s infrastructure without an alternative (alternative discussed above). We must avoid complete termination of the project via convenience to avoid conflict within management (e.g. blame for failure). The truth about the current state of the business must be relayed throughout the firm.

Now that we have identified problems and solutions with the implementation process, we can discuss plans for evolution of our new processes. We can launch small experiments throughout the organization that allow us to manage these multiple strategies and measure them over time. Pickering’s desire to revert to a mechanistic, traditional, top-down strategy inhibits the ability of our company to innovate and learn. So, we must begin to experiment and use rapid learning to stimulate improvement, innovation, and learning of our implementation.

A strategic community would best fit our company. It will allow for better management of our infrastructure while providing “high-quality, validated solutions to issues; handle unstructured problems; and deal with the never-ending new developments in hardware and software” (Carlopio, 167). This community will also allow for more effective communication and shared knowledge between our departments. Our long-term performance will be positively affected by this type of community because of the increased learning and development. Also, we are currently leaning towards the development of a non-rational system that is chaotic and irrational, whereas we want a non-linear system which involves feedback from our outputs that affect our inputs and processes.

“Now that business is so complex we must simplify” (Carlopio, 176). Thus, we must move away from the complex implications of implementing a change process and new technology and simplify by using simple rules and processes that will spread throughout the firm. Management will be able to more effectively make decisions that are consistent with personal and overall goals if we can communicate a simplified corporate strategy. I believe the implementation of how-to-rules (key points on how to execute our goals), timing rules (sync timeframes throughout the company), and exit rules (if one department fails, we all fail) are strategic rules we should implement to drive our company’s strategy. Using the two-stage process for developing these strategic rules (Carlopio, 181), we can develop principles and generate rules that will aid employees in achieving our strategic goals.

I believe if we follow these recommendations and change plan, the short-term and long-term goals of individual employees and the organisation will be achieved.



Carlopio, James. Changing Gears: The Strategic Implementation of Technology. Great Britain: Creative Print & Design (Wales), 2003. Print.

Friday, August 7, 2009
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