Example seminar paper: Fish! (see Management in Focus 1.3, p 11)
This can be used either as an introduction to the context and foundations of management; or, for post experience and in-post managers - as a whole course in itself! At whatever the level - everything is here – decision making, leadership, legal issues (the company had to return to the UK supplier and make its peace with them), outsourcing, internationalisation, cultural divides and language barriers.
Most seriously, it is factionalised from a real example. The decision was taken on the basis of one normal, predictable and everyday problem – a cost had gone up. The decision taken was not to manage the problem, but to restructure the whole business.
It also introduces the human aspects of management, organisational practice and organisational behaviour. For somehow decisions taken in this way and for these ‘purposes’ nearly always finish up going to exciting, sunny and desirable places – especially when someone else (‘the organisation’) is paying. This can then be used with post experience students again to debate the whole environment of outsourcing and current management fashions and fads, as well as the pros and cons of development and expansion; and this in itself can be very challenging and contentious.
Helmont Ltd is a fish processing and cannery company based at Walsall in the West Midlands. Until recently, the company took its supplies of fresh and frozen fish from Ocean Going Trawlers Ltd of Liverpool, about 120 miles away. Helmont was a very successful and profitable company, and supplied to all of the top brand food companies, including Bird's Eye, Findus, Ross and John West. Helmont also supplied fresh, frozen and canned fish products to the supermarket chains under their 'own brand' names.
Folowing new quota arrangements introduced by the EU, the prices of landed fish catches went up in the UK by 10%. Accordingly, Helmont decided to look around for alternative sources of supply. After extensive research, Helmont found that the port and fishing fleet of Cadiz, Spain, were prepared to supply them with the volumes of fish and the regularity of deliveries required.
Helmont unilaterally cancelled the contracts with Ocean Going Trawlers and took up with Cadiz. The catch prices at Cadiz were 53% lower than those at Liverpool; and the full cost, including transport, worked out at 38% cheaper than the Liverpool suppliers.
What can possibly go wrong? What are the initial and continuing lessons for all students of management and practising managers?
(Source: adapted from: P Griseri (2004) Foundations of Management UCL)