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Leadership Development: Cases For Analysis - Implementing Change at Bernini Foods

Challenges in Implementing Change at Bernini Foods

"From This Point On ..."

Bernini Foods is one of several companies offering healthy, frozen-packaged meals in the once-laughable and nutritionally challenged frozen dinner industry. Meeting the changing needs of modern, on-the-go, budget-conscious consumers, the new meals offered by Bemini face unprecedented competition from long-time industry leaders including Bertolli, Marie Callendar, Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, and others.

Cutthroat competition within the industry means every corporation must hustle for quality ingredients, improved packaging, efficiency in delivery systems, and decreased conk-ing times. Like its competitors, Bernini looks to increased market share through a combina-tion of price cuts and the introduction of new products.

To meet these challenges, CEO Roberto Bernini created a new management position to monitor pricing and purchasing. VP for Finance Ted McCann hired Lucian Wilkes, a retired army colonel, for the new position, giving him wide latitude for setting up new rules and procedures. With an announcement from CEO Bernini, Wilkes was introduced to the com-pany. Following an intense period of in-house research and information gathering, Wilkes zeroed in on what he saw as the major problems—the fragmentation of pricing and purchas-ing decisions, with managers in various regions devising their own standards and making their own contracts.

The process sent up red flags for Wilkes. He made an across-the-board e-mail announce-ment for new sustainability procedures, basically informing each regional office that "from this point on ..." regional managers must inform his office of any price change above 3 percent. In addition, all local purchase contracts above $10, 000 must also be approved by Wilkes's office prior to implementation.

Directives for these new standardization procedures were issued to regional managers for their policy manuals. These managers, according to their immediate feedback, were all in agreement with the changes. But as one month followed another, Wilkes's concern and level of frustration grew and a culture of business as usual appeared to continue. Managers did not resist. Frequent correspondence across the various regions including e-mails, faxes, and conference calls brought repeated assurances that change was coming.

"We just need time to make the changes," one manager said. But weeks dragged on and the situation remained unaltered. Complicating the situation, Wilkes appeared to have no vocal support from company executives, who were busy with their own concerns. While both Bernini and McCann offered lukewarm comments about the need for new initiatives to spur efficiency, neither demonstrated wholehearted support for the changes. The new plan was going nowhere, and Wilkes was aware that the failure of the company to increase profits could result in the loss of his own position. "

If nothing changes," Wilkes complained to his wife, "the regional managers will remain on the job. My job will be cut.

" Wilkes wondered what his next move should he. In how many ways could he inform the managers to implement the new procedures? What pressures could he apply? How could he impress upon Bemini and McCann the importance of their support for the changes? He felt at a loss for what he should do. Did Bemini Foods want these new standards implemen-ted or not?

1. Why do you think the regions are not responding to Wilkes's initiative for change? What did Wilkes do wrong with respect to implementing the change?

2. Should Wilkes solicit more active support from Bernini and McCann for the change he is attempting to implement? How might he do that?

3. Develop a plan that Wilkes can use to successfully restart the implementation of this change. 

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