Management Case Studies: The Super Mart

The Super Mart

Super Manufacturing Inc, abbreviated as SM, is a very huge organization by any standards. In its one and only factory, it employs more than 25000 employees under one roof. The company is a seat of tradition and culture since it has already existed for more than 80 years. Not only it embraces all kinds of manufacturing activities, it also envelops within it various other colorful human transactions. The large employee strength of 25000 people produces a very conducive environment for these colorful human exchanges. And for that reason, the insiders- its employees call it as SM- full form being Super Mart.

An early morning exchange of dialogues between the husband and wife at many homes of the employees of SM is typical representation of one of the several human transactions that take place within the premises of SM- the Super Mart. Here is an example:

Wife says to husband (employee of SM), “I am making pan cakes for the breakfast today. Today’s item in the menu of the breakfast of your factory cafeteria is all rubbish, you were telling. And they make it no good.”

Husband replies, “Do not take the trouble. Today my friend who runs his own regular and private breakfast counter for the first fifteen minutes at the start of the shift is introducing a new item- the north Indian samosa. It is a spicy delicacy. He promised all of his regulars that samosas made by his wife are brilliant. I overheard it and I am going to patronize him today. So, skip the pan cake, I will relish the yummy samosas and I promise to get couple of them packed for you too.”

Wife comments, “Hey, you are a darling. And I must say that you do have talents in your factory. Great. Do give them enough business so that they keep making and selling such wonderful eats in the factory.”

Now, let us turn to one of the scenarios within the factory:

A senior manager has to surprise his better half on her birthday which he had forgotten about totally till this afternoon. For past few years, after being together in the wedlock for more than 25 years, this senior manager often forgets his wife’s birthday. But since one of his younger assistants wants to go home early today to celebrate his second marriage anniversary, this senior manager remembers about his own wife’s birthday. So, he wants to surprise his wife by presenting her a gift.

He dials a number on his office intercom and speaks to Peter. Peter is the master craftsman on one of the shop floors of the factory who sells various dress materials to the employees of the factory including the managers. Subbaramani is Peter’s regular customer and calls him directly only when he is need of the wares sold by Peter. He asks, “Peter, is that you?”

Peter asks, “Is that Subbaramani sir? Good afternoon sir. Sir, why did you take the troubles to ring me? I myself was about to telephone you to give you the good news that the new stock of dress materials has arrived. Will you come to my department please to have a look at them? I have all of them in my cupboard. Sir, please hurry up before the fresh stock gets sold out- there is a big demand in the factory.”

And then, without any further delay, Subbaramani walks to Peter’s department and buys an expensive piece of dress material as a gift to his wife to surprise her.

Here is one more scene from the premises of the factory:

The general manager of production department is one of the busiest senior executives. He spends some 15 to 16 hours of his day in the factory on the production shop floors. Some employees gossip, “His wife is not all that attractive, that’s why.” So this general manager does not find time even to file his income tax returns.

But he is not much worried. Exactly before 15 days of the last date for filing the income tax returns, one of his able assistants who carries out a side business of filing income tax returns of all the senior managers of the factory comes to his office and does that job for him. The general manager willingly pays him the professional fee as demanded by him.”

This able assistant of the general manager does not encroach the territory of other two employees of the factory working in some other technical departments. As far as their private business in the factory is concerned, they also act as income tax return specialists but who specialize in filling the income tax return forms for junior managers and workers respectively. The three have a good understanding among themselves and have demarcated their areas of operation quite well.

While some of these employees of SM turned part time businessmen within SM charge for providing their expert services at the door step, the chief of quality assurance department, quite senior in age, does it free of charge as a fatherly gesture and as a philanthropist. He is an avid student of astrology, horoscopes and palmistry. Every day, at the beginning of the day, he calls his test pilot over the phone and warns him about the inauspicious time slot of the day during which the pilot should not undertake the test flight of the small and light passenger aircraft the factory produces (aircraft is one of the several products the factory produces). The test pilot abides it truthfully.

Some of these intrapreneurs (internal entrepreneurs) have seasonal business loads. For example, Raj- the personal secretary of head of human resources department- takes the bookings for renting out the seven taxi cars of different descriptions he owns. He uses the factory’s intercom system without any hesitation to take these bookings from the other employees of the factory. His own boss also hires his cars when needed. Raj is extremely busy scheduling his seven cars on various holiday tours particularly during the summer months.

He receives a call from one of the employees of the factory, “Raj, is your air-conditioned luxury car available for a week from 15th April? I am going on a holiday with my wife and kids and this time I want to give them a real luxurious treat. So I want only that car.”

Raj replies, “Just give me a sec. Let me check the allotment of cars on the spread sheet.” (Raj uses factory’s computer for this purpose). After checking, he resumes, “I must say, you are lucky. That car will be back from another trip on 14th April late evening. No problems. So, I am taking your confirmed booking. Enjoy the holidays, buddy.”

Then there are employees who are life, vehicle, property and health insurance agents. They have a ready captive customer base of 25000+ people right inside the factory premises. Barring a few, all the employees have bought one or the other insurance policy from them. Good show.

Recently a management consultant was contracted by the management of the company to study the human resources practices being followed in the company and to suggest further improvement measures.

The consultant studied the things pretty thoroughly observing various aspects of human resources in the factory. Apart from using his usual management models and techniques, he also used his innate wisdom of a detective for carrying out in-depth and confidential investigations in certain areas which he perceived as extraordinary areas after completing his study. These areas particularly belonged to the areas of operation described earlier. And he said to himself, “Aha, eureka!! Now I do have some stuff to impress my client.”

Then he was ready to make his interim presentation of findings and recommendations to the executive director in charge of the entire factory operations. The executive director was a veteran of the organization.

He met the executive director and told him, “I have some very startling and disturbing facts to share with you in the matters of certain extraordinary activities being carried out by many of your employees which are of extraneous nature in relation to their specified duties and responsibilities within the organization.”

The executive director retorted, “What do you mean by that? Can you put it to me in simpler and direct terms?”

The consultant answered, “What I mean to say is that many of your employees secretly run their private businesses within the factory premises. Not only the workers but even the managers are patronizing these activities. The organization is losing a large number of man hours because of this apart from the indiscipline it has brought inside the factory. You may like to take a serious view of it. I have some very specific recommendations for tackling this problem. I will like to present them to you now.”

The executive director himself had been the beneficiary of these extraneous activities of his various employees. And every time he used those services, he had felt relieved, relaxed and comfortable. And he thought quickly to himself, “Come to think of it, has all of this behavior of my employees adversely affected the bottom line of my company? Certainly not.” So, he had a hearty laugh within his own mind. That could not have been seen by the consultant.

Apparently, the executive director was composed and in a pensive mood said, “Skip that for now. Do you have any other things to share with me? Then please go on with the rest of your presentation. I will be more interested in them.”

The consultant remained puzzled and stunned over the super cool behavior and reactions of the executive director on the revelations which he had just made and which he thought were like bomb shells.

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About Shyam Bhatawdekar

35 years’ industrial/business experience as a top executive & 35 years’ parallel academic/consultancy experience in general management, behavioral sciences & technology. Areas: general management, production, human resources, industrial engineering, systems, MIS, computers, corporate planning, audit, sales/marketing. Penchant for information technology & behavioral sciences; integrated with conventional technology makes him unique thought leader. Conversant with academic theories & realities of business, fuses the two into practical approaches. Was associated with Tata Motors, Hindustan Motors, Hindustan Aeronautics & ThyssenKrupp; held top positions as highflier executive. Presently Chairman & Managing Director, Prodcons Group associating with 250 organizations; providing management & I T consultations & conducting seminars/workshops. Been a faculty for IIM’s, TMTC, Railway & HAL Staff Colleges, Symbiosis. Speaker with 35000 hours’ experience benefitting more than 100,000 people. Published 35 articles in Economic Times, Indian Management & Computers Today. Authored 27 books. Invited as key speaker in seminars by AIMA, HRD Network, NIPM, QCFI, CSI, NPC. Widely traveled. Education: Engineering & Management.
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