At age 32, Ashley believed that she had landed an
opportunity to accelerate her career as a leader and
manager. Ashley had worked four years as a
manufacturing manager in the industrial pump division
of a conglomerate. Based on her outstanding
performance, she was offered the opportunity to be
the division head of a small and troubled unit of the
company, Ultra Covers. The division in question
manufactures after-market stylish covers for cell
phones, smartphones, laptops, and tablet computers.
Although the products are of high quality, Ultra Covers
has been losing money for several years. Competition
in the field of stylish covers for electronic
devices is intense, and profit margins are thin.
Despite these challenges, Ashley took just one hour
to accept the offer. She told the top-management
committee, “I know I can convert Ultra Covers into
a proud and profitable business unit.”
Thirty days later, Ashley began her new position
as division president. The former president was
reassigned to a plant manager position in another
unit of the conglomerate. Ashley’s first move was to
conduct a listening tour of the company, interacting
with workers and managers at all levels of the
division. She also spoke with the major customers
and several kiosk operators who sold Ultra Covers
at shopping malls.
After listening to so many people, making observations
of her own, and analyzing financial and
production data from the Ultra Cover division,
Ashley swung into action. Her first step was to
inform the manufacturing group that if they could
not reduce manufacturing costs by 10 percent
within six months, she might shut down domestic
manufacturing and outsource all manufacturing to
China. Ultra Covers would then become a sales and
distribution unit, with almost no manufacturing.
Ashley’s next major initiative came in a meeting
with the sales manager, Ken. She told him that his
goal for the upcoming fiscal year is to increase sales
by 15 percent, and that no excuses would be acceptable.
Ken explained that his sales force is highly motivated,
and that they are doing everything they can to
boost sales, including intense Internet marketing. He
said, “The channels are already saturated with decorative
covers for portable electronic devices. A
15 percent jump in sales is unrealistic.” Ashley told
Ken it was his job to find a way to increase sales—
particularly if he wanted to keep his job.
Another initiative Ashley took was to order managers
and supervisors to find ways to reduce division
costs by 10 percent in the upcoming fiscal year. “Do
whatever it takes,” said Ashley. “Our costs are too
high for our sales volume. Adjust the thermostats,
do not replace some of the workers who quit or
retire, cut back on scrap. And when you make photocopies,
remember to print on both sides of the sheet
Ashley began to sense from comments she heard
from her staff that perhaps her turnaround efforts
appeared to be a little harsh. Based on this feedback,
she decided to prepare a video that would be distributed
on the Ultra Cover intranet. A central part of her
message was that about four billion people in the
world use some type of portable phone or computer,
and that only 3 percent of them are purchasing a
cover for these devices. She concluded, “We have a
potential market of about 3:9 billion people throughout
the world who could use at least one Ultra Cover.
We have just begun our journey to greatness.”
1. How successful do you think Ashley will be as a
transformational leader at Ultra Cover?
2. What might Ashley be doing right as a transformational
3. What suggestions might you offer Ashley to be
more successful as a transformational leader?