Monica Ashley was a bright employee at Health Equipment and Laboratories, Inc. (HEAL-INC), an advanced diagnostic and treatment equipment manufacturer. She was appointed manager of “Project Hippocrates” by Gary Dorr, the President of HEAL-INC. The purpose of this project was to shift from analog to digital electronics by purchasing digital components from an outside vendor. Since this was the industry trend, it would only be logical for all the divisions within the company to readily accept the project. Unfortunately for Monica, this was not the case. Monica faced strong opposition by Ralph Parker, the VP for Signal Processing Design.
Parker had three important sources of power: legitimate, expert and coercive. As VP of Signal Processing, Parker’s power was legitimate: it came from his VP position. In addition, Dorr once told Monica that “there was no way the company could do without Parker because of his signal processor contributions” (Cohen & Bradford, p. 58), which leads us to conclude that Parker had expert power. However, Parker resorted to his coercive power most of the time, causing unpleasant experiences for Monica in every single meeting: “he was nasty to her and made numerous accusations (… )” (p.
56). On the other hand, Monica’s most important source of power was referent power, which stemmed from her relationship with Dorr: “He liked her spirit and the hard work that had enabled her to back up her views with data (…) Dorr had periodic long talks with Monica and once told her that he thought of her as his HEAL-INC daughter” (p. 56). To mitigate Parker’s attacks and to complete Project Hippocrates, Monica relied on coalition and rational persuasion tactics. Seeking coalition, she began by recruiting members from other parts of HEAL-INC at the beginning of the project.
In one of the meetings, she also pointed out that the people from Signal Processing Design had “agreed unanimously on the need for a switch to digital signal processing, and the requisite acquisition of an outside product” (p. 57). She also resorted to rational persuasion during the meetings, developing detailed and integrated plans and presenting them to senior management. In addition, she handled the attacks made by Parker and his team by “providing more accurate information” (p. 57). Although, in the end, the company signed a contract with an outside vendor, Monica’s influence tactics caused a lot of tension within the company.
Even though Project Hippocrates was implemented, Monica was forced to resign as its manager. The end was met, but the political cost was high for her and for company relations. Monica could have avoided all these tension by resorting to consultation with Parker from the very beginning. “So many people in her division had talked about Parker’s legendary resistance to new approaches and to customer input that Monica took their views as fact and didn’t bother to talk with Parker directly” (p. 56). This was Monica’s biggest mistake: relying on other people’s perceptions and not acknowledging Parker’s authority.
She thought her hard work and Dorr’s backing were enough to carry out Project Hippocrates. However, she overlooked the fact that Parker had a higher position in the company and that she would have to gain his support in order to move forward with the project. To rectify the situation, she could begin by acknowledging the politics that exist within the organization, whether she likes them or not. In addition, she must understand that facts are not always everything, and that she has to work on her soft skills to avoid a similar situation in the future.
From an OB perspective, the most important recommendation I would make for the company is to adjust its strategy by taking into account the industry trends; acknowledging that the skills that once made them grow (such as inventing everything within the company), are no longer aligned with customers’ demands. By so doing, they would set out a clear path for everybody in the company to follow, avoiding negative politics such as the ones that took place in Project Hippocrates.