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Kay Sunderland Making the Grade at Attain Learning Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
812 948 Words (4 Pages) Linda A. Hill, Heather Beckham Harvard Business School : 4289
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Kay Sunderland, one of the Account Directors at Attain Learning, currently finds herself in a dilemma as her relationship with one of the most important clients for the company is in a critical stage. The problem lies in the handling of the client by Mike Morgan, the Content Development Director. Both Sunderland and Morgan are important contributors to the success of Attain Learning. However, they both have their own individual personalities and flaws which at times hamper the relationship with important clients.

Currently, the problems at hand are mainly due to the conduct of Mike Morgan which can also be traced back to his differences with Sunderland. Morgan believes he understands the complexities of the customers’ business and their technical details. Due to this approach, he is many times adamant in his views without listening to the client. This is why an important client, Gramen Equipment Company, and its representative Juan Nunez are upset. As the Account Director, Kay Sunderland, has important decisions to make in this scenario as the relationship with Gramen Equipment is important for the company. To make amends, the issues with Mike Morgan need to be handled before further damage is done to the company and its clients.   

Following questions are answered in this case study solution:

  1. Introduction & Problem Identification

  2. Strategic Alternative 1

  3. Strategic Alternative 2 

  4. Recommended Action Plan

Kay Sunderland Making the Grade at Attain Learning Case Analysis

Strategic Alternative 1

The first major alternative for Kay Sunderland is to handle the situation herself; that is, speak to Mike Morgan and sort out his issues directly. It is important for Sunderland to understand the educational and professional background of Morgan to be able to resolve conflicts to him. There are both pros and cons to this approach. Firstly, Morgan would be somewhat considerate when Sunderland speaks to him directly. This is because he would feel that Sunderland takes a genuine interest in resolving the problems in the best interests of the organization.   

Although Sunderland and Morgan have had their issues in the past, they have been working together since several years and have taken different job roles with Attain Learning. They have both worked together as professionals and come over their differences in the best interests of the organization. Hence, a direct interaction with Morgan would help to open him up. Moreover, the technical background and experience of Morgan can be utilized in taking care of clients whom themselves understand the dynamics of equipment manufacturing and are willing to listen to the expertise of Morgan. Dealing directly with Morgan would also help Sunderland come over their personal differences and devise ways to serve the client in a better way.       

Strategic Alternative 2

The second strategic alternative for Sunderland is to involve her boss, John Chama, into the problem. She should report to John Chama about the problems that the company and her important client are going through due to the conduct of Morgan. This measure should be adopted if Sunderland feels that she cannot handle Morgan and that involving the Chief Operating Officer (COO) would be able to counter the problem more aggressively and urgently so that the client is served in a proper manner. The involvement of Chama is important because retaining the client Gramen Equipment Company is a strategic decision for the company while handling an old employee is also an important decision for the company’s long run.  

Since Sunderland has developed a good repute with her boss John Chama over the years, it is likely that Sunderland’s concerns will be addressed properly. However, there are also disadvantages to such a move. This move can lead to more discomfort and disagreement in the company, creating a hostile environment where colleagues will start complaining about each other. It must be noted that both Sunderland and Morgan are directors representing different functions. Hence, any developing rift which becomes known is likely to affect their subordinates as well.

Recommended Action Plan

After evaluating both strategic alternatives above, it is recommended that Sunderland should choose the first alternative and speak to Mike Morgan herself. This will be a less tough decision for Sunderland as opposed to approaching the company’s Chief Operating Officer. The exact action plan is that a meeting time should be booked on Morgan’s calendar rather than discussing the problems over the phone. Since Morgan is aggressive with customers, his portfolio may be switched to more aggressive and dynamic customers who challenge themselves and also like to challenge their service providers.

A one-to-one session should be held between Mike Morgan and Sunderland where Sunderland could clearly set out the meeting agenda and point out to Morgan that his concerns will also be listened to. Hence, Morgan should not get the impression that this will primarily be a session to bash and ridicule him. Rather, a problem has been identified which needs to be resolved in the best interests of the organization. To commence such one-to-one internal sessions, it is always healthy to start on a positive note and then point out where the flaws lie. For example, Sunderland should start by acknowledging the contribution that Mike Morgan has made in bringing creativity and innovation to the company’s business of corporate training and how his contribution has earned more reputed customers for the company.

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