Sales Engineering Division When DGL International, a manufacturer of refinery equipment, brought in John Terrill to manage its Sales Engineering division, company executives informed him of the urgent situation. Sales Engineering, with 20 engineers, was the highest-paid, best-educated, and least-productive division in the company. The instructions to Terrill: Turn it around. Terrill called a meeting of the engineers. He showed great concern for their personal welfare and asked point blank: “What’s the problem? Why can’t we produce? Why does this division have such turnover?” Without hesitation, employees launched a hail of complaints. “I was hired as an engineer, not a pencil pusher.” “We spend over half of our time writing asinine reports in triplicate for top management, and no one reads the reports.” “We have to account for every penny, which doesn’t give us time to work with customers or new developments.” After a two-hour discussion, Terrill began to envision a future in which engineers were free to work with customers and join self-directed teams for product improvement. Terrill concluded he had to get top management off the engineers’ backs. He promised the engineers, “My job is to stay out of your way so you can do your work, and I’ll try to keep top management off your backs, too.” He called for the day’s reports and issued an order effective immediately that the originals be turned in daily to his office rather than mailed to headquarters. For three weeks, technical reports piled up on his desk. By month’s end, the stack was nearly three feet high. During that time no one called for the reports. When other managers entered his office and saw the stack, they usually asked, “What’s all this?” Terrill answered, “Technical reports.” No one asked to read them. Finally, at month’s end, a secretary from finance called and asked for the monthly travel and expense report. Terrill responded, “Meet me in the president’s office tomorrow morning.” The next morning the engineers cheered as Terrill walked through the department pushing a cart loaded with the enormous stack of reports. They knew the showdown had come. Terrill entered the president’s office and placed the stack of reports on his desk. The president and the other senior executives looked bewildered. “This,” Terrill announced, “is the reason for the lack of productivity in the Sales Engineering division. These are the reports your people require every month. The fact that they sat on my desk all month shows that no one reads this material. I suggest that the engineers’ time could be used in a more productive manner, and that one brief monthly report from my office will satisfy the needs of the other departments.”
1. Does John Terrill’s leadership style fit the definition of leadership in Exhibit 1.1? Is it part of a leader’s job to manage upward? Explain.
2. With respect to Exhibit 1.4, in what leadership era is Terrill? In what era is headquarters? Explain. 3. What approach would you have taken in this situation? What do you think the response of the senior executives will be to Terrill’s action?