Teaching Cases

Resilience in the face of adversity. Strength in the wake of disaster. These teaching cases exhibit how Positive Organizational Scholarship can help pull organizations through difficult times, and how their leaders adopted its philosophies to endure and progress. Designed for students, these cases will promote discussion and assess how they would exhibit Positive Organizational Scholarship when handling the challenges faced by some of the top organizations in the world.

Anne Ladky: An Energy Approach to Leadership

Leaders of political advocacy organizations are faced with the challenge of motivating their employees past frequent obstacles, shortcomings, and failures. Anne Ladky, the Executive Director of a non-profit political advocacy organization called Women Employed, developed a leadership style to help her employees tackle this demanding line of work. Her leadership approach attends to the vital role human energy plays in her organization and emphasizes the importance of focusing on opportunities. This case describes how Anne’s leadership cultivated an opportunity-driven organizational culture that ultimately helped Women Employed overcome bureaucratic resistance against their initiatives to improve education and job training for low-income women.

Anne Ladky (video)

We created a video of an interview with Anne Ladky to supplement the central learning objectives of the case. The video is approximately 18 minutes long and includes Anne’s responses to the following questions: – How did you come up with your energy approach to leadership? – Why is energy important to Women Employed? – How do you ensure that energy levels are high? – What strategies do you use to energize yourself? – Why do you think it is valuable to have an opportunity-driven mindset? – How do you think cultivating an opportunity-driven culture affects your organization? – How do you keep the organization focused while being opportunity-driven at the same time? – In what ways does your leadership style align with your personality and strengths? View Video.

B&O Railroad Museum (A) : Getting Back on Track

This case presents students with a crisis at the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum. The museum, which was established alongside the first railroad in the United States, had a long and varied history of prominence and recent irrelevancy. A new director, Courtney Wilson, took over management of the museum in 2000, and planned to revive the museum through a prominent fair which he and his staff were planning for the summer of 2003. However, in February of 2003, a terrible snowstorm hit Baltimore, and the resulting snow destroyed the museum’s roof and most of its collection. In Case A, the students are asked how they would respond to the immediate crisis, and in Case B the story of what Wilson and his staff did to remedy the situation is given to the students as an example of organizational resilience.

B&O Railroad Museum (B): Getting Back on Track

This case presents students with a crisis at the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum. The museum, which was established alongside the first railroad in the United States, had a long and varied history of prominence and recent irrelevancy. A new director, Courtney Wilson, took over management of the museum in 2000, and planned to revive the museum through a prominent fair which he and his staff were planning for the summer of 2003. However, in February of 2003, a terrible snowstorm hit Baltimore, and the resulting snow destroyed the museum’s roof and most of its collection. In Case A, the students are asked how they would respond to the immediate crisis, and in Case B the story of what Wilson and his staff did to remedy the situation is given to the students as an example of organizational resilience.

B&O Railroad Museum (VIDEO): Getting Back on Track

This two-part video shows Courtney Wilson, Executive Director of the B&O Railroad Museum, describing his immediate reaction to the museum’s 2003 roof collapse and his ongoing efforts to get the museum back on track. The first part of the video, Wilson’s Course of Action, runs 7:00 minutes, and the second part, Resilience Under Pressure, runs 6:30 minutes. View Video.

B. Joseph White: Resilience in Action (Part A)

This is the first of a three-part case that describes the reaction and attitudes demonstrated by B. Joseph White upon hearing that he was not chosen to be president of the University of Michigan in May of 2002. Joe White responded to this news resiliently by helping the University make a smooth transition to a new president. The case elaborates on Joe White’s beliefs about resilience and why he believes resilience is a desirable quality among individuals. Part A sets the stage with the case background. Teaching objectives of the case include enabling an understanding of resilience; exploration of the benefits of being resilient in the face of adversity and disappointment; and elaboration on the conditions and beliefs that foster resilience in individuals.

B. Joseph White: Resilience in Action (Part B)

This is the second of a three-part case that describes the reaction and attitudes demonstrated by B. Joseph White upon hearing that he was not chosen to be president of the University of Michigan in May of 2002. Joe White responded to this news resiliently by helping the University make a smooth transition to a new president. The case elaborates on Joe White’s beliefs about resilience and why he believes resilience is a desirable quality among individuals. Part B presents the speech on disappointment that White gave at the Regents dinner. Teaching objectives of the case include enabling an understanding of resilience; exploration of the benefits of being resilient in the face of adversity and disappointment; and elaboration on the conditions and beliefs that foster resilience in individuals.

B. Joseph White: Resilience in Action (Part C)

This is the final addition to a three-part case that describes the reaction and attitudes demonstrated by B. Joseph White upon hearing that he was not chosen to be president of the University of Michigan in May of 2002. Joe White responded to this news resiliently by helping the University make a smooth transition to a new president. The case elaborates on Joe White’s beliefs about resilience and why he believes resilience is a desirable quality among individuals. Part 3 gives students an overview of White’s experience after the decision was made. Teaching objectives of the case include enabling an understanding of resilience; exploration of the benefits of being resilient in the face of adversity and disappointment; and elaboration on the conditions and beliefs that foster resilience in individuals.

B. Joseph White (video)

The video contributes to a three-part case which describes the reaction and attitudes demonstrated by B. Joseph White upon hearing that he was not chosen to be president of the University of Michigan in May of 2002. Joe White responded to this news resiliently by helping the University make a smooth transition to a new president. The case elaborates on Joe White’s beliefs about resilience and why he believes resilience is a desirable quality among individuals. Teaching objectives include enabling an understanding of resilience, exploration of the benefits of being resilient in the face of adversity and disappointment, and elaboration on the conditions and beliefs that foster resilience in individuals. View Video.

Bronson: A Journey to Excellence

This short case is one of the eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. Bronson Healthcare, a community-owned, non-profit health care system located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has a unique culture which recognizes and rewards its employees. Bronson champions diversity and continuous improvement, and this case study examines the processes and mechanisms by which the organization achieves success.

Cascade Engineering: Finding the Sweet Spot

This short case is one of the eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. Cascade Engineering is a Michigan-based firm that develops and manufactures injection molded products for the automotive, solid waste and industrial markets. Its main product is trash containers. The company’s leaders, however, proclaim that their priorities are #1 people, #2 planet, #3 profits. This case profiles Cascade’s success as a steward of the environment, a generous employer, and a financially-sustainable organization that provides jobs across Michigan.

Crafting a Fulfilling Job: Bringing Passion Into Work

Jobs are typically designed by managers for employees. The concept of “job crafting” captures the ways in which employees change these job designs to align with their motives, strengths, and passions. Many employees leave their passions at home. This case describes how four teachers, who all have a passion for an occupation besides teaching, crafted their jobs to incorporate their passions into their lives at work. This case is designed to shed light on how and why job crafting can benefit individuals and organizations. Specifically, this case address the following: 1) How, why, and when passion can be a valuable motivator and guide for engaging in job crafting. 2) Some of the ways in which employees can craft their jobs to create opportunities for fulfilling their passions.

Dow Corning: The Path to Reinvention

This short case is one of the eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. Dow Corning emerged from nine years of Chapter 11 bankruptcy to become one of the strongest companies in Michigan. Recovering from the scandal with silicon breast implants, the company re-imagined itself as a leader in technologies for healthcare and renewable energy. This case profiles Dow Corning’s journey to re-invention and its enduring culture of innovation and leadership.

Having a Calling and Crafting a Job: The Case of Candice Billups (video)

The video case of Candice Billups, hospital custodian, is designed to enrich conversation and analysis of core topics in organizational behavior or management courses. The video is intended to be used in conjunction with the teaching note that accompanies it. Some possible uses of the video case include: 1. An analysis of job design and its link to employee motivation 2. An analysis of job crafting, focusing on how employees craft their work and what difference it makes for them and their organizations 3. An analysis and discussion of work orientation and what it means for employees to see their work as a calling 4. A discussion and analysis of the meaning of work and why it matters 5. An analysis of job attitudes and why they matter 6. An analysis of emotions at work, focusing on employee emotions on the job and how employees can attempt to positively influence the emotions of others. View Video. 

The Heart of Reuters (Part A)

The Heart of Reuters (Parts A and B) describes the responses of Reuters America to the incidents of 9/11/2001. The Heart of Reuters Part A describes the range of adaptive responses to the events of 9/11, and invites the question, “What is it about the culture, structure, and strategy of Reuters that explains the organization’s response pattern?”The Heart of Reuters is ideal for a discussion of leadership and change, crisis management, resilience, and compassion. The video, also available, adds to the discussion.

The Heart of Reuters (Part B)

The Heart of Reuters (Parts A and B) describes the responses of Reuters America to the incidents of 9/11/2001. The Heart of Reuters-Part B describes the range of the impact of Reuters’ responses to 9/11 on employees. The Heart of Reuters is ideal for a discussion of leadership and change, crisis management, resilience, and compassion. The video, also available, adds to the discussion.

The Heart of Reuters (video)

This video set accompanies the The Heart of Reuters case studies (Parts A and B). The case studies explore the responses of Reuters America to the incidents of 9/11/2001. Part A describes the range of adaptive responses to 9/11, and invites the question, “What is it about the culture, structure, and strategy of Reuters that explains the organization’s response pattern?” Part B describes the range of the impact of Reuters’ responses to 9/11 on employees. The video is divided into 3 sections: 1. Background – Reuters Before the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks (4:51) View Video 1. 2. Response – Reuters on the 9-11-2001 attacks (27:56) View Video 2. 3. Moving Forward – Reuters After 9-11 (20:20) View Video 3. The Heart of Reuters is ideal for a discussion of leadership and change, crisis management, resilience, and compassion.

Implementing Positive Organizational Scholarship at Prudential

Positive environment in the workplace is usually assumed to be beneficial to employee morale, but not always a necessity for achieving the firm’s strategic goals. Positive Organizational Scholarship is a field of study that focuses on how leaders and organizations can achieve extraordinary results while focusing on positive deviance. In April 2004, Prudential Financial acquired CIGNA’s full-service retirement business and various challenges in integrating the two firms became present. The challenges included aligning the cultural aspects of the organizations. This case describes how senior management led the merger of Prudential and CIGNA while implementing various Positive Organizational Scholarchip practices throughout the organization in hopes of creating a successful culture for the staff, compelling results for the clients, and a strong value for the shareholders.

Job Crafting at Burt’s Bees

Job designs are typically created by managers for employees. But employees are often motivated to make changes to their formal job designs to customize a more desirable experience for themselves at work. The concept of “job crafting” captures these changes. This case describes how four employees at Burt’s Bees Inc. crafted their formal job designs to better align their jobs with their individual motives and strengths. The stories illustrate several ways in which employees may go about crafting their jobs and how individuals and organizations may benefit from job crafting.

Open Book Finance

This case outlines the origins of Open Book Finance, its core elements, and its implementation at Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Open Book Finance is a philosophy of management developed by Jack Stack, CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation in Springfield, Missouri. Open Book Finance is based on the premise that business is essentially a game—one that almost anyone can learn to play. As with most games, people must understand the rules; they must receive enough information to follow the action and keep score; and they must have the opportunity to win or lose (have a stake in the outcome). Stack’s philosophy was described in his book, The Great Game of Business. This philosophy spawned a movement of like-minded companies (many of whom have regularly attended a “Gathering of Games” conference in St. Louis, Missouri, each spring since 1993) who are dedicated to implementing an Open Book Finance model in their organizations.

Plante & Moran: All You Really Need to Know

This short case is one of eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. Plante & Moran, headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, is the nation’s eleventh largest certified public accounting and business advisory firm. The company has achieved success through a caring and collaborative culture and has been recognized for nine consecutive years on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. The case describes Plante & Moran’s unique culture and success factors.

Quicken Loans: Enduring an Entrepreneurial Spirit

This short case is one of eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. Rock Financial (now part of Quicken Loans) was founded by Dan Gilbert when he was only twenty-three years old. Although the firm has grown to over 4,000 employees and has become part of a world-class lending organization, it has still managed to maintain an entrepreneurial culture that encourages employees to be innovative in their work. It also boldly recognizes and celebrates employee achievements and has been named one of the top twenty of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America for four consecutive years. This case profiles Quicken Loans and its road to creating a thriving workplace in Michigan and across the U.S.

Serious Play at the Make-A-Wish-Foundation

This case explores the benefits and challenges of creating and sustaining an organizational culture that emphasizes fun and playfulness by telling the story of an inspiring organization that has cultivated such a culture: the Michigan chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW). The case provides background information on the organization and describes the initiatives and activities that create a playful culture at MAW. It also highlights the benefits and challenges of playfulness for employees, external partners, donors, and wish families, as well as describes how leaders and employees create a culture of “serious play” that maintains the benefits while minimizing the costs of playfulness.

The MSU Federal Credit Union: People Helping People

This short case is one of eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. The Michigan State University Credit Union has been a part of the community since 1937. It has provided vital services to students and citizens throughout Michigan and has had a particular focus on community education. This case profiles the non-profit credit union’s establishment and growth as one of the “Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America.”

The Y in Google: Attracting and Retaining the Millennials

This short case is one of eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. The case profiles Google, in particular Google’s Ann Arbor, Michigan office, and its ability to attract and retain Generation Y workers. The Ann Arbor office was founded in 2006 to support Google’s revenue-generating AdWords business. The office started with eight employees and was slated to grow to one thousand over the next five years. The case discusses Google’s success factors in attracting young talent, and gives insight into how the company’s unique culture has helped it land the coveted #1 spot on Fortune magazine’s “Best Places to Work” list.

Valassis: Nurturing a Team-oriented Environment

This short case is one of eight in a series of cases written for the Next Great Companies in Michigan project, which profiles great places to work in Michigan. Michigan-based Valassis has been in the promotions and marketing services industry for thirty-seven years. The company employs approximately seven thousand associates across the U.S. and has created a unique culture of shared success and open communication. In 2005, Valassis was inducted into Fortune magazine’s “Hall of Fame” for being named one of the “100 Best Places to Work For” each year since the list’s inception in 1998. This case explores the keys to Valassis’ success at attracting and retaining talent.

Zingerman’s (A): A Recipe for Building a Positive Business

Over the years, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) has regularly won accolades and awards – including being named “the coolest small company in America” by Inc. in 2003 – for its food, service, mail order catalog, training, and overall success. This case shows how Zingerman’s went from a single delicatessen in 1982 to nine unique but complementary companies with combined revenues of $45 million in 2012. It details the novel methods ZCoB employs to create “a great place to eat and work” and touches on the challenges it faces moving forward.

Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (video)

The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses video is not to me missed. It complements the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses case and features Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig discussing four key components of Zingerman’s success. Over the years, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) has regularly won accolades and awards – including being named “the coolest small company in America” by Inc. in 2003 – for its food, service, mail order catalog, training, and overall success. There are four (4) separate videos in this collection:

  1. Favorite part of job, Length: 3:08; View Video A.
  2. Open Book Financing, Length: 8:01; View Video B.
  3. Organizational culture, Length: 1:17; View Video C.
  4. Vision Statement, Length: 14:35; View Video D.