Delegation; Employee Problems and Problem Employees; General Management Practice; Leadership; Methods Improvement

tHe tUrNaroUNd CHalleNGe

Primary Topic—Change Management

Additional Topics—Delegation; Employee Problems and Problem Employees; General Management Practice; Leadership; Methods Improvement

In February, Fred Jarvis took over as manager of laundry operations. He came from outside the hospital, but he brought with him several years of experience in insti- tutional laundry operations. He was told bluntly that he was following a weak (or perhaps unmotivated) manager who had allowed the department to become quite lax over a period of several years. Fred quickly recognized that his employees’ apparent practice of doing just enough to get by fell far short of his own standards of accept- able performance.

Fred inherited an assistant supervisor who was, in that employee’s own words, “Just a gopher with a title—the old boss never really gave me any responsibility.”

For his first few weeks on the job, most of Fred’s crew struck him as being friendly, reasonable people. However, in March, when Fred announced some new and carefully determined productivity targets, many of the smiles turned to scowls, and the crew’s friendly chatter dropped off markedly. He was seeking improvement in output per personnel hour of 18 percent over a year, to be achieved at a rate of 3 percent for each 2-month period.

In spite of the turn in attitude, Fred’s crew easily boosted productivity by 3 per- cent during March and April. However, during the May–June period output rose by only 2 percent, and over July and August productivity dropped by 1 percent.

Fred did his best to maintain a friendly but businesslike attitude. However, by the end of August none of his employees would initiate conversation with him, except for his assistant supervisor, who by then seemed to be getting the same treatment Fred was receiving.

Most of the laundry employees would respond when spoken to, accept Fred’s instructions without question, and then go about their business at a pace that Fred could only describe as foot-dragging. Although few were openly resistant, Fred felt that most of his employees were passively but stubbornly fighting all of his efforts to improve output.

At the end of August, Fred was told by his manager, the vice president for gen- eral services: “I don’t see much happening in the laundry. You know that you were

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put there to correct the problems that your predecessor allowed to develop, especially the intolerably poor level of output. For a while you seemed to be making progress, but now things seem to be sagging again. Tell me—just how long is it going to take you to turn the department around?”


1. How long should it take Fred to turn the department around? Should the 7 months he has already been there have been enough?

2. Describe a tentative approach and timetable for Fred to consider in correcting the productivity problem, and explain how Fred should go about selling this approach to the assistant administrator.

3. Consider the kind of department—a laundry—and identify one or more seemingly drastic options that would probably take care of the productivity problem.

4. Would it assist your analysis to know about the age and condition of the equipment in the laundry? How?

50 Case 11: The Turnaround Challenge

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