Problem Solution: Harrison-Keyes Inc. Essay

Problem Solution: Harrison-Keyes Inc.

A global publisher of print products, Harrison-Keyes specializes in scientific, technical and business books and journals, professional and consumer books, textbooks and other educational materials for all levels of study. The company holds about 22,700 active titles and publishes about 2000 new titles each year. Over a century old, Harrison-Keyes was founded in 1899 and  made its early money publishing the works of literary giants. Throughout the years, thecompany‘s focus shifted to meet demand and by the mid-1950s, it was regarded as a leading publisher of business, scientific and technical information. In recent years, Harrison-Keyes has suffered the woes plaguing the entire industry. As competition from low-cost retailers eats into profits, publishing companies are finding success — or even survival — a challenge. In an effort to revitalize the company, the Harrison-Keyes Board of Directors recently hired a new CEO.

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Describe the Situation

Issue and Opportunity Identification

The company will encounter multiple issues or opportunities during the implementation of the strategic plan. First, the company is to involve the authors’ support in the project. The authors have concerns for the protection of their intellectual property. The support of the authors is a chance to improve future contracts and to boost sales. “Project managers also need to be able to explain to team members and other stakeholders why certain project objectives and priorities are critical. This is essential for getting buy-in on contentious trade-off decisions” (Gray, 2005, p .22). Second, the company is to identify the proper requirements for the e-book program. The identification is a chance to create a model e-book system. “Requirements and features must be in enough detail that contractors have a clear description of the final deliverable that will meet the customer’s needs. IT project might specify requirements for hardware, software, and training in great detail” (Gray, 2005, p. 52). Third, the company has communication trouble to convert existing print titles into e-book format. The company has a chance to empower managers to make better decisions within their departments through proper communication channels. “The WBS defines communication channels and assists in understanding and coordinating many parts of the project. Problems can be quickly addressed and coordinated because the structure integrates work and responsibility” (Gray, 2005, p. 107). Fourth, the senior management is not unified in support of e-book system. The newly hired CEO is in favor of e-book system whereas the management team is not sold on the idea. The company has a chance to form better relationships with all the stakeholders. “Periodic priority review and changes need to keep current with the changing environment and keep a unified vision of organization focus” (Gray, 2005, p. 42).

Stakeholder Perspectives/Ethical Dilemmas

The plan development for Harrison-Keyes requires a support from stakeholders, such as the board, the senior team, the investors, the management, the employees, and the customers.

Harrison-Keyes CEO is to look for a way to strengthen the company and turn profits around as quickly as possible so as not to lose more shareholders. CEO has a belief in e-book approach to sell the products. Ethically, CEO owes the shareholders a good return on their investment. CEO is to find a way to improve the current sales slump. The next stakeholder for this company is employees. Senior management cannot agree on the course of action. The new e-book approach is likely to affect the morale and the role of the employees. The next stakeholder for this company is authors. Some authors, such as Will Harper, are not in favor of e-books. Some authors fear that they will lose influence and respect amongst readers when authors refuse to have their works published electronically. The next stakeholder for this company is customers. Customers are likely to purchase top quality product at competitive price from a sound company. The customers of this company want e-books. The company is to ensure that the authors and the customers are satisfied and not worried about the internal issues. Ethically, the company is to consider the implementation changes and decide the best solutions to satisfy all stakeholders.

Therefore, Harrison-Keyes is to gather support of the stakeholders in order to maintain its future stability. For this to occur, the company has to come to a realization for development of a problem statement that will yield multiple solutions.

Frame the “Right” Problem

The second step of problem-based learning is to define the right problem. The requirement of this step is the application of three principles: multiple solutions, motivational statement, and simple and clear statement. The problem statement of this scenario is:  Harrison-Keyes is to become a successful publisher in competitive platforms by leveraging their strengths and compensating their weaknesses. The problem statement takes into consideration of all stakeholders and focuses on the future of the organization. The problem statement is clear and allows for multiple solutions. This statement is an opportunity statement in which Harrison-Keyes can add value to the industry and the stakeholders. Thus, the creation of appropriate end state goals is viable through this problem statement.

Describe the “End-State” Vision

The third step of problem-based learning is to define the end state goals. This step requires the concept of the goals that have been set in the future state where the issues have been resolved.

Harrison-Keyes has become a well-known content provider to targeted interest communities across multiple platforms. The company has competitive policies and practices with authors, employees, distributors, vendors, and customers. The company has competitive capabilities and skill sets to provide content in the media of choice for users. The specific end state goals for Harrison-Keyes are as follows.

Ac       The first is to acquire and become proficient in new processes, technologies, and skills. The second is to reverse the market-share decline. The third is to reverse the declining profitability. The fourth is to bring stakeholders together in support of providing content across multiple platforms. Thus, the end state goals will be understandable and acceptable by the stakeholders of the company.

Identify the Alternatives and Benchmarking Validation

The fourth step of problem-based learning is to identify the alternatives and benchmarking validation. This step requires the summary of benchmarking findings and explanation of relevance to Harrison-Keyes. There are four primary alternatives for Harrison-Keyes. The first alternative is to acquire an existing e-book publisher with established authors, production, and distribution channels. The second alternative is to outsource the entire project through an alliance, partnership, or joint venture with an established e-book publisher. The third alternative is to salvage the existing project with gap analysis to gain understanding of project issues. The fourth alternative is to begin the process again with the approach of best practices.

McGraw-Hill entered the e-publishing business in the 1990s. Thirty-five percent of McGraw-Hill was electronic by the end of 1995. The company estimated that over half would be electronic in ten years. The real threat, according to the company, was not to follow the needs of the customers. The company experienced boost in sales of print product when the print product was converted to e-book product.  This experience attributed to two factors. The first factor was two sources of revenue from two products. This factor gave the company to invest more money in the print product. The second factor was the feedback from the electronic product that gave the opportunity to improve the print product (Campbell, 1995). The problems with acquisition of successful e-publisher are money, time, and merging of different organizations and cultures. Harrison-Keyes is to consider all stakeholders perspectives and ethical dilemmas to ensure that objectives meet with long-term goals. Thus, Harrison-Keyes can acquire an existing e-book publisher with established authors, production, and distribution channels.

Shell Oil Company, including its subsidiaries explore, develop, produce, purchase, transport and market crude oil and natural gas. They also purchase, manufacture, transport and market chemical products and provide technical and business services. From the best practice of Shell Oil, Harrison-Keyes can alliance and partnership with other subsidiary firm to implement e-publishing project. The company can diversify the current resources to other projects, such as printing of dailies, business insights, and increase print to third world countries. (Shell News and Media Release, 2006). McGraw-Hill used partnerships and alliances to accomplish e-publishing. McGraw-Hill had used an agreement with WizeUp to produce twenty McGraw-Hill’s higher education textbooks in WizeUp digital format. WizeUp is a firm specializing in production of electronic education materials. WizeUp offers “effective copyright protection for the publisher” (E-Textbooks, 2001). Thus, Harrison-Keyes can outsource the entire project through an alliance, partnership, or joint venture with an established e-book publisher.

Harrison-Keyes can attempt to salvage the existing project through gap analysis. The approach of gap analysis is to gain better understanding of where the project had failed in areas such as customer expectations, author support, management support, resource allocation, and strategic important throughout the organization (Winch et all, 1998). This approach can help eliminate problems such as meeting deadlines by outsourced company. This approach can have more control over the content presentation in e-books in order to be more in line with customers’ expectations. This approach can mitigate risks involved for not getting e-books produced according to schedule and inferior products due to lack of communication with e-books producer. Harrison-Keyes can demonstrate author satisfaction and comfort by invitation to join the team in the digital rights management phase. Thus, Harrison-Keyes can salvage the existing project with gap analysis to gain better understanding of project issues.

With the consensus and agreement from all the stakeholders and unified support from management, the project can be properly structured, organized, prioritized, and supported with the right resources at the right time. They must elaborate on criteria selection in prioritization process, emphasis on evaluation of all available resources. Harrison-Keyes can ensure that the project is in line with strategic objectives by defining the practical R&D project prioritization. “At the strategic level, managers must determine the resource availability levels to use. Once set, it is likely that these resource levels are maintained, because it is not likely that these types of resources will be hired and fired because of short-term fluctuations in workload. At a tactical level, managers will generally prioritize the competing activities for resource allocation to meet some established due date.” (Dumond, 1993) “Prioritizing can be an uncomfortable exercise for managers” (Gray, 2005, p. 40). Thus, Harrison-Keyes can begin the process again with the approach of best practices.

Evaluate the Alternatives

The fifth step of problem-based learning is to evaluate the alternatives. This step requires the selection of alternatives with high scores through a simple scoring system. The primary alternatives are to evaluate the relationship of each alternative to the end-state goals. “Weighted scoring models result in bringing projects to closer alignment with strategic goals” (Gray, 2005, p. 37).

The goal of reversing the declining profitability is most important to the survival of the company. This goal has a weight of five on a scale of one to five. The goal of reversing the declining market share is almost important to the company. This goal has weight of four. The goal of developing new skills and capabilities has a weight of three. The goal of bringing stakeholders together has a weight of three.

The alternative to outsource the entire project has a weight of three against the goals of developing new skills and reversing the market share loss. There will be no improvement within the organization when the company will purchase the skills and technology. The alternative to outsource has a weight of two against the goal of reversing the declining profitability due to cost and lack of ownership with outsourcing. The alternative to outsource has a weight of two against the goal of bringing stakeholders together due to no relation to underlying issues at the company. The combined weighted score for outsourcing is 2.47.

The alternative to acquire existing e-publishing company has a weight of three against the goals of developing new technology and reversing market share loss. The alternative to acquire has a weight of one against the goal of reversing declining profitability due to expense and time with acquisitions. The alternative to acquire has a weight of two against the goal of bringing stakeholders together due to no relation to underlying issues at the company. The combined weighted score for acquisitions is 2.13.

The alternative to salvage the existing project has a weight of four against the goal of developing new skills and capabilities. The alternative to salvage has a weight of two against the goals of reversing the market share loss and revenue. The alternative to salvage has a weight of three against the goal of bringing stakeholders together. The combined weighted score for salvaging the project is 2.60.

 The alternative to start over with best practices approach has a weight of five against the goal of developing new skills and capabilities. The alternative to start over has a weight of three against the goals of market share and profitability due to use of best practices. The alternative to start over has a weight of four against the goal of bringing stakeholders together due to clear definition of strategic vision and objectives. The combined weighted score is 3.6.

Narrowed List of Alternatives

Based on the evaluation of the alternatives, the best alternative for Harrison-Keyes is to start the project from the beginning using the best practice approach.

Identify and Assess Risks

The sixth step of problem-based learning is risk assessment and mitigation. This step requires the identification of potential risks, the advantages and disadvantages of the risks, the consequences of each risks, and ways to avoid the negative risks. After the assessment of the risks, the next step is the elimination of alternatives with high negative risks. The most probable risks associated with the solution, start over, are delay of final result and potential contractual agreement with Asia Digital. The consequences of delay are that CEO Meg will not meet her targeted time frame. These can be mitigated by using best practices and work breakdown structure to determine the critical path for project and using that to define the target date for completion. Work breakdown structure “is an outline of the project with different levels of detail” (Gray, 2005, p. 105). The consequences of contractual agreement with Asia Digital could be infraction of contractual term or wasted efforts by Asia Digital. These can be mitigated by using best practices and involving Asia Digital in planning process to ensure a more realistic and accountable time frame.

Make the Decision

The seventh step of problem-based learning is optimal solution. This step requires the decision on the most reasonable alternative in order to achieve the end-state goals. The optimal solution is to initiate best practices approach to the entire process from the beginning. This approach should start with the research on e publishing for which markets to use and why. A benchmarking project of successful publishing companies is ample research option for the company. The first advantage of the solution is the stakeholder buy-in and support. The second advantage is the appropriate time frame according to the critical path. The third advantage is development of new skills and capabilities. This solution also helps to achieve the weighted goals better than the other proposed solutions. The disadvantages of the solution are the e-publishing is not yet proven and e-publishing has not reached the level of market maturity. Harrison-Keyes is to find a way to remain flexible in their ability to provide information across multiple platforms. However, the best solution at the time for Harrison-Keyes is ensure their ability to exist another century.

Develop and Implement the Solution

The eighth step of problem-based learning is implementation plan. The requirement of this step is to address the phases of the action plan to meet the end-state goals. “Successful implementation requires both technical and social skills” (Gray, 2005, p. 15). With the approval of the solution to restart the entire project from beginning, CEO Meg should respond to Mr. Harper by agreeing with him that Harrison-Keyes should include him in the strategic decisions where he is a significant stakeholder. This should be accomplished the day after the solution is approved. Important stakeholders should be brought together to understand the situation and how that impacts them. When the stakeholders agree to have strategic plan to reverse declining revenues and shrinking market, they can then have their interests represented in the strategic vision for the company. With the clear definition of strategic vision, the management team should develop the strategic objectives. The management should develop the tactical objectives to achieve the strategic vision. This vision should address the concerns of stakeholders and have unified backing by senior management. “First, senior management must provide guidance in establishing selection criteria that strongly align with the current organization strategies. Second, senior management must annually decide how they wish to balance the available organizational resources (people and capital) among the different types of projects” (Gray, 2005, p. 41). The entire senior management team should participate to build ownership of the project.

By week three, Jan Peters can develop a work breakdown structure and critical path to help determine the resource requirements and timeline. Jan Peters and Dharma Joyce should determine which organization structure would accomplish the project effectively without sacrificing the ongoing operations. Jan, Dharma, Mack, Pete, and Robert should identify the resources, “typically represent funds, people, management talents, technological skills, and equipment” (Gray, 2005, p. 28), required to do the project. They should also participate in the identification of major milestones and the creation of appropriate rewards. This should be completed by week four. By week five, Jan should initiate the project by sharing the plan with the teams that will perform the work. “As WBS is developed, organizational units and individuals are assigned responsibility for accomplishment of work packages” (Gray, 2005, p. 107). A consistent message should be communicated about the importance and priority of this project. This message should be reiterated often during the course of the project.

By week three

Evaluate the Results

ResultsThe ninth step of problem-based learning is GAP analysis and estimated implementation costs-evaluation of results. “Estimating is the process of forecasting or approximating the time and cost of completing project deliverables” (Gray, 2005, p. 125). The measurement for the goal of developing new skills and improving capabilities should be the ability to sell e-books on the company web site and to format e-books seamlessly. The target should be that the company cannot only sell e-books through the website but also have materials formatted or print e-book. The measurement for the goal of reversing market-share loss should be the growth of e-book sales compared to the net decline of print sales. The target should be that within five years the volume of e-book has made up for the net volume decreases in print sales. The measurement for the goal of reversing revenue loss should be the growth of e-book revenue compared to the net decline of print revenue. The target should be that within five years the revenue of e-books has made up for the net revenue decreases in print sales. The measurement for the goal of bringing stakeholders together in a common goal should stakeholder conflict and confrontation. The target should be that the stakeholders are unified about the importance and success of e-media.

Conclusion

In conclusion, several possible solutions and choosing optimal solution for Harrison-Keyes has been identified in this paper. Harrison-Keyes is on the road to recovery. Harrison-Keyes will develop a plan that has a quality of management input on the front end and continuous management support down the road. Harrison-Keyes must be careful of defining what they do too narrowly. At one time, they may have been known as a printer, then as a publisher, and now as an information provider. They should be devoted to the concept and not the process of what they do. A project of this nature is more than just a technological project, or even a legal issue project but one that will require a culture change for Harrison-Keyes. The use of a best practices approach requires critical thinking on all levels of management to know which areas need improvement. Periodically, every organization should determine if others have developed a better way to do the processes they are responsible to accomplish. By making the suggested changes, Harrison-Keyes will remain a successful publisher in competitive platforms by leveraging their strengths and compensating their weaknesses.

References

Campbell, Kim,(1995) Textbook case: McGraw-Hill maps an electronic future. Christian Science Monitor; 12/8/95, Vol. 88 Issue 10, p8, 1c. Retrieved January 7, 2007 from ProQuest database.

Dumond, E., & Dumond, J. (1993). An Examination of Resourcing Policies for the Multi-resource Problem. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 13(5), 54-76. Retrieved Sunday, January 7, 2007 from the Business Source Complete database.

E-Textbooks from McGraw-Hill, WizeUp. Publishers Weekly; 02/05/2001, Vol. 248 Issue 6, p34, 1/4p, 1c. Retrieved January 7, 2007 from ProQuest database.

Gray, C & Larson, E. (2005). Project Management: The Managerial Process. New York : The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Shell News and Media release (2006). Shell planning to open up some 20–billion-boe resources by the end of the decade. 4 May, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2006 from http://www.shell.com.

Winch, G., Usmani, A., & Edkins, A. (1998). Towards total project quality: a gap analysis approach. Construction Management & Economics, 16(2), 193-207. Retrieved Sunday, January 7, 2007 from the Business Source Complete database.

Table 1

Issues and Opportunities Identification

Issues

Opportunities

Reference to Specific

Course Concept

Harrison-Keyes does not have a company wide implementation strategy for its new initiative.

The implementation plan will need to permeate all parts of the organization.  This creates an opportunity for setting short term wins, developing a rewards system and gaining company wide consensus on the strategy.

1.     The relationship between strategic management and project management: there is a lack of understanding and consensus on strategy among top management and middle-level (functional) managers who independently implement the strategy, They refer to this as the “implementation gap”.

 (Gray & Larson, 2006, p. X)

Table 2

Stakeholder Perspectives and Ethical Dilemmas

Stakeholder Perspectives and Ethical Dilemmas

Stakeholder Groups with Competing Values

List: Group X

versus Group Y

The Interests, Rights, and

Values of Each Group

The Ethical Dilemma Based on the Competing Values

Table 3

Table 3

Analysis of Alternative Solutions

[Click Twice on Table to Change, see instructions on next page]

Table 4

Risk Assessment and Mitigation

Risk Assessment and Mitigation
Alternative
Risks and Probability
Consequence and Severity
Mitigation Techniques and Strategies

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

Table 5

Pros and Cons of Alternative Solutions

Alternative
Pros
Cons

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

·

Table 6

Optimal Solution Implementation Plan

Action Item Deliverable
Timeline
Who is Responsible

Table 7

Evaluation of Results

End-State Goals
Metrics
Target

 

x

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