Scenes from George

One George scenario involves the Bronson and Bronson Department Stores. In this scenario, the student is given a potential client who is willing and able to buy consulting services, but who does not really know what services he needs. In addition to the student, the cast of characters defined for this scenario includes the following:

Dan Babbitt: The student's boss. A partner at a consulting firm.

Bill Bell: The CEO of the prospective client, Bronson and Bronson.

Helga Larsen: Bill Bell's personal assistant.

Wendy Erickson: The newly-hired Vice-President of Marketing for B&B.

Theodore Dahm: B&B's Vice-President of Operations.

Marianne Wilson: Ted Dahm's personal assistant.

The underlying problem at Bronson and Bronson (which the student does not know at the outset, and may never completely uncover) is this:

Ted Dahm, Vice-President of Operations, is over-protective of his turf within the company. He was expecting to get the CEO job when founder Elijah Bronson died several years back, but the board hired Mr. Bell, an outsider, instead. Overtly, he wants to show that he can run a large operation as well as anybody. Covertly, he thinks that if he can frustrate Bill enough the CEO may leave or get fired. He has been resisting some of the changes Bill has proposed, particularly a centralization of marketing within the company. Currently, each store does its own marketing, which puts all of the marketing within Ted's control.

A year before the scenario begins, Bill created a marketing division and hired an experienced executive, Wendy Erikson, away from one of his competitors to run that division. Lines of communication were supposedly set up between Marketing and Operations to make this new arrangement work, but so far it has not succeeded well. Meanwhile, the company has been growing and acquiring new stores. Six months before the scenario begins, Bronson and Bronson acquired another chain of five department stores in a nearby state. This acquisition has brought the marketing problem to a head. The new stores are losing market share because their customers are not getting a consistent picture of the chain as a whole and because chain-wide promotions are not always honored by local stores.

Bill is a frequent golf partner of Dan Babbitt, a partner at a major consulting firm. Dan has tried to convince Bill of the value his firm could provide, but Bill has had a disappointing experience with a different consulting firm and is reluctant. Finally, with pressure from the board of directors, Bill asks Dan to come in for some preliminary discussions. Dan, however, is involved in negotiations on a larger job, and sends in one of his experienced managers (the student) to do the initial contact.

This scenario sets the stage. Let's follow a path that a typical consultant, who we will call Joan Smith, might carve out as she works through the case. A student has the freedom to follow many different paths through a GuSS scenario. Thus, it is not possible to know exactly what situations any given student will encounter in any given scenario. There is more than one way to be successful and there are many possible ways to fail.

Each scenario starts off with a triggering event that begins the sales process. In this case, it is a memo from Dan Babbitt, the student's managing partner. In it, Dan briefly describes the sales lead at Bronson and Bronson and asks the student to handle it.

A seasoned seller would probably try to call Dan at this point to find out what the circumstances of the contact were and what other information he has. If the student were to talk to Dan, she would find out what he knows about the marketing problem and the personality of Bill Bell, important pieces of information for this initial contact. We will assume that Joan is an eager beginner and that she jumps the gun and immediately calls for an appointment with Mr. Bell. When Bill Bell's personal assistant (PA) answers, Joan asks for and receives an appointment:

PA: Hello, Bronson and Bronson.

Student: I'm Joan Smith from [a consulting firm].

PA: Yes, Ms. Smith. What can I do for you?

Student: I'd like an appointment to speak with Mr. Bell about some possible consulting work.

PA: OK. He's free this morning at 9:30.

At this point, Joan should ask for a later appointment, so that she has a chance to speak with her boss and otherwise prepare herself for the sales call. Instead, she agrees to the appointment:

Student: That sounds fine with me.

PA: OK. He'll see you then. Good bye.

Now, the student must rush over to Bronson and Bronson's headquarters. Upon entering, she finds Bill Bell's personal assistant in the reception area:

PA: Hello, you must be Joan Smith. Mr. Bell is expecting you. Please go right in.

The student goes into Bill's inner office and Bill greets her:

Bill: Hello.

Student: Hello, Mr. Bell.

Bill: You must be Joan Smith. Dan said he'd send someone over. I'm interested in hearing your ideas about our problems.

(The student doesn't have any ideas about Bronson and Bronson's problems; she doesn't even know what those problems are at this point. So she tries to turn the question around and get Bill to tell her something.)

Student: What can we do for you?

Bill: Frankly, I'm not all that convinced you consultants are going to be much help at all, but I told Dan I'd at least talk to you.

This response indicates Bill's hostility and gives Joan some hint of the existing relationship with Dan. At this point, Joan probably suspects she has not done her homework. She is ready to learn. The Storyteller module, which has been monitoring, the simulation, is also ready to teach since this path will cause it to get reminded of a story of a similar situation. An indicator on the interface to the system lights up, telling the student that the Storyteller has something pertinent to say. In keeping with the idea of letting the student control her own learning, Joan can ignore the Storyteller (or any of the other teaching modules as well) and keep working through the simulation. In this case, however, she decides to take a look at the story.

The story (Figure 5.4) describes a situation in which a consultant encounters a client who had been fired from his last job as a result of a recommendation made by a previous consultant. The new consultant uncovers this information by noticing that the client is hostile to consultants, and by asking questions to determine the source of the client's hostility. Using this strategy, the new consultant is eventually able to win over the formerly-soured client. Because the student has read this story, she continues her conversation with Bill as follows:

Student: Is this your first experience bringing in outside consultants?

(It turns out that Bill has had experience with consultants and tells the student about it.)

Bill: Well, I was at Competitive Footwear a few years back when some consulting firm put in a distribution system. It sure seemed good on paper but none of my people could make heads or tails of it.

(The student recognizes Bill's complaint as a common complaint and responds.)

Student: Any new system requires a lot of adjustment and that means training.

Bill: I hire consultants to make my life easier, not to load my employees down with extra work.

Bill becomes irritated that the student seems to be taking the side of the previous consulting firm that he disliked. The student's response is seen by the program as attempting to change Bill's mind about the value of training and indirectly his evaluation of the previous consultant's work. The Storyteller recognizes this situation as similar to another of its stories and provides the student with the opportunity to view the story "Clients have fixed impressions," a story about a client who had made up his mind and couldn't be convinced to change it (Figure 5.5). The student takes the advice of this story, attempting to offer a more congenial statement to Bill:

Student: At our firm, we ensure that every client gets substantial business benefit from every project.

Bill takes the bait and calms down. By turning the conversation from the costs of implementing business solutions to the benefits, the student has deflected Bill's objection to the extra effort involved in installing new systems. The Evaluator recognizes this as a successful answering of this objection and tells the student that she has shown some competence in this skill.

The student can carry on a conversation with Bill for some time. By asking some good questions, she can find out about Mr. Bell's concerns with respect to marketing and his disappointment with Ms. Erickson. When these revelations are made, the Analyzer responds with information about the problems encountered when establishing new positions, notably, problems with the boundaries of work groups. (Figure 5.6) shows the initial Analyzer screen. Since the student hasn't prepared adequately for this interview, however, there is a limit to what she can accomplish during it.

After talking with Mr. Bell, the student returns to her office and goes in to talk to Dan:

Student: Hello.
Dan: Hi, Joan. Did you get my message?
Student: Yes. I got it.
Dan: Good. I wanted to talk to you a little about Bill and his organization.
Student: I just got back from talking to him.
Dan: What !?!

As (Figure 5.7) shows, Dan is very angry to find that the student has gone unprepared to talk to Bill. So now Joan needs to deal with calming her manager as well as making the sale. In order to make the sale, she needs to meet with the other important characters in the company at least once. In the process, she must develop some rapport with them and find out something about the sources of the company's problems. Joan would probably meet with Dan several more times for advice and, with his help, develop a proposal and a presentation for a final meeting with the CEO to try to close the sale.

There are many different ways for a student to approach the Bronson and Bronson scenario, but whatever course the student takes, she will have to gather information about the company's business situation and the individuals within it and use the knowledge gained to plan a strategy for making the sale. Throughout this process, she would receive relevant stories and analyses, tailored to the situations she encounters. The real key to GuSS's presentation of principles and lessons is that the teaching modules instruct the student in small doses with each dose coming at just the right time.

Next Story Simulators as Complete Teaching Systems

Outline Where am I in the content of the book?

Give Me Alternatives

What Led To This?

What Should Be Avoided?

What Can Be Done?

Give Me Background

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