The New Products Team

Karen Smith looked at her calendar for the day. It was Thursday, and the report she had been working on was due tomorrow. That meant the group would have to meet today to hammer out its recommendations and presentations. She was not looking forward to an afternoon spent devoted to this task.

The team had been formed to design the market introduction of the company’s newest product. Since the company had never before marketed a retail product, no one was quite sure what to expect. Karen and her group charged with producing recommendations for advertising and promotion, product distribution and rollout, and for anything else they thought important. After the plan was approved, implementation would probably fall to Karen, although it could be given to another member of the Marketing Department. It was a large under taking, and Karen and four other people had given it most of their time for the last few months.

Right from the start, the team had not worked well together. This had not surprised Karen: The personalities were strong all around, and she knew at the outset that there would be some personality conflicts. All four groups members were on the same level in the company, and no one had been designated the leader. Therefore, the early meetings were mostly a struggle for leadership.

Karen realized very early that Ben had a deep-seated belief that women had no place in business and certainly were not capable of leading men. Ben clearly thought he was the only one capable of leading the group: After all, had he not just finished four years in the Navy? James was only slightly more open minded than Ben. The two of them often formed a team, and once they had come to a joint decision, it was impossible to get them to consider anyone else’s recommendations. Charles was more willing to listen to others, but, he had a tendency to show up armed with so much data that the group often spent all of its time trying to understand how the data had been derived rather than making decisions. All in all, Karen was quite frustrated at both the group’s slow progress and the tense atmosphere that pervaded their meetings.

They were nowhere near finished with their plan, but they would have to present their recommendations tomorrow morning. She knew that senior management was expecting a full report, and she was not very confident that she could deliver one. How would the group members manage to work together well enough at today’s meeting to agree on a set of recommendations? The atmosphere at past meetings had been so poor that Karen shuddered to think what would happen when the stress of a deadline was added. She wondered if she could control the show of tempers that usually marked their gatherings, the last of which has dissolved into a shouting match between herself and Ben when she had tried, as fully as possible, to suggest that one of his ideas for a promotional campaign was impractical. He had quickly dropped the discussion and moved to a more personal level: accusing her of undermining his authority by trying to imply that she, a mere woman, knew more than he did. He had even said she could not be a true Christian, since any Christian woman would be at home raising children. Her faith was important to her, but she never considered it related to her job performance. It certainly wasn’t something she was willing to discuss in the group.

Karen at this point politely tell Ben that they are not here to discuss religion and faiths but to complete the task on hand and his suggestions are welcome. The entire group can list out their proposals and in some sort of a brain storming session eliminate the least acceptable ones. If this is not working out Karen or any other member can go to higher management about the problems and inability and seek their advice.