Waite Pharmaceuticals Amelia Lassiter is chief information officer at Waite Pharmaceuticals, a large Californiabased company. In an industry where it generally takes $500 million and 10 to 12 years to bring a new drug to market, companies such as Waite are always looking for ways to increase productivity and speed things up. After about eight months on the job, Lassiter suggested to company president James Hsu that Waite implement a new global knowledgesharing application that promises to cut development time and costs in half. She has done extensive research on knowledge-sharing systems and has talked closely with an IT director at global powerhouse Novartis, a company on the cutting edge in pharmaceuticals and animal health care, as well as other diverse products. The Novartis director believes the knowledge-sharing system plays an important role in that company’s competitiveness. Hsu presented the idea to the board of directors, and everyone agreed to pursue the project. He has asked Lassiter to investigate firms that could assist Waite’s IT department in developing and implementing a global knowledge-sharing application that would be compatible with Waite’s existing systems. Hsu explained that he wants to present the information to the board of directors for a decision next month. Lassiter identified three major firms that she believed could handle the work and took a summary of her findings to Hsu’s office, where she was greeted by Lucy Lee, a young, petite, attractive woman who served as a sort of executive assistant to Hsu. Word was that the relationship between Lee and Hsu was totally proper, but besides the value of her good looks, no one in the company could understand why she was working there. Her lack of talent and experience made her a liability more than a help. She was very deferential to Hsu but condescending to everyone else. Lee was a constant source of irritation and ill will among managers throughout the company, but there was no doubt that the only way to get to Hsu was through Lucy Lee. Lee took the information from Lassiter and promised the president would review it within two days. The next afternoon, Hsu called Lassiter to his office and asked why Standard Systems, a small local consulting firm, was not being considered as a potential provider. Lassiter was surprised—Standard was known primarily for helping small companies computerize their accounting systems. She was not aware that they had done any work related to knowledgesharing applications, particularly on a global basis. Upon further investigation into the company, she learned that Standard was owned by an uncle of Lucy Lee’s, and things began to fall into place. Fortunately, she also learned that the firm did have some limited experience in more complex applications. She tried to talk privately with Hsu about his reasons for wanting to consider Standard, but Hsu insisted that Lee participate in all his internal meetings. At their most recent meeting, Hsu insisted that Standard be included for possible consideration by the board. During the next two weeks, representatives from each company met with Hsu, his two top executives, and the IT staff to explain their services and give demonstrations. Lassiter had suggested that the board of directors attend these presentations, but Hsu said they wouldn’t have the time and he would need to evaluate everything and make a recommendation to the board. At the end of these meetings, Lassiter prepared a final report evaluating the pros and cons of going with each firm and making her first- and second-choice recommendations. Standard was dead last on her list. Although the firm had some excellent people and a good reputation, it was simply not capable of handling such a large and complex project. Lassiter offered to present her findings to the board, but again, Hsu declined her offer in the interest of time. “It’s best if I present them with a final recommendation; that way, we can move on to other matters without getting bogged down with a lot of questions and discussion. These are busy people.” The board meeting was held the following week. Lassiter was shocked when the president returned from the meeting and informed her that the board had decided to go with Standard Systems as the consulting firm for the knowledgesharing application
1. How would you explain the board’s selection of Standard Systems?
2. Discuss the types, sources, and relative amount of power for the three main characters in this story.
3. How might Lassiter have increased her power and influence over this decision? If you were in her position, what would you do now?