John Smithers Harvard Case Solution & Analysis


SIGTEK was founded 35 years ago by Western Electric veterans, it was based on manufacturing the single handling equipment and these equipments were sold to their primarily buyer AT&T and other long-distance carriers. A large technology company bought Sigtek 18 years ago and induced a hands-off management style and left Sigtek to its own devices. Sigtek grew steadily and had inclined in its growth in 1985, after breakup of AT&T. In 1997, Sigtek grew with blistering pace as the internet created demand in telecommunication products, which were led by the companies such as Cisco and Lucent. Sigtek’s sales increased to more than $600 million, the work force increased to 1,000 and it was predicted within the company that it would be a $1 billion company by the year 2000.

Unluckily, the sales of Sigtek in 1999 were declined due to stockpiling. Furthermore, the number of competitors increased for Sigtek as their products became more of a commodity, whereas the customers were making buying decisions on behalf of the price and delivery time rather than focusing on the technology and the quality of the product. Moreover, the software suite that Sigtek planned to offer to its customers was far behind the schedule. Therefore, in 2001, Sigtek suffered decline in sale to about $400 million and a reduction in workforce up to 800.

In the first quarter of 2001, Telwork, a $5 billion European Telecommunications company bought Sigtek. Telwork planned to implement Six Sigma Quality program, based on the models of companies like GE and Motorola and intended to apply it in all its subsidiaries. The aim of Telwork was to bring all the companies to be acquired on one platform via this program and got ready to begin the program in April 2001.


The major problem seen in this case study is bringing changes in company via the implementation of Six Sigma program. Major issues arose were that the organization was not united to achieve its goals and bringing changes for increasing sales and growth. The senior management never cared for bringing changes in the organization and had no interest in the program. Moreover, the morale of the employees in the organization was very low.


Issues like collaborating with the bosses was the weak point of the organization. Workers hesitated communicating with the senior management of the company. Therefore, there was a lack of planning, experience and execution while the implementation of the program.

Smithers provided different solutions for the programs and did his best to bring positive changes, but all these efforts turned out to be wasted as when the work line tried to bring changes in their work, as instructed in meetings, they were not entertained by the company and hence, it resulted in loss of credibility of Smithers.

Another problem that Smithers faced was his low morale regarding the program, as his expectations were quite high and when things didn’t turn out as they were supposed to, then Smithers lost his confidence and interest in implementation of the program. There was a lack of communication and collaboration between Engineering and Operations department, which caused the downfall of the organization. The task assigned by Telwork was proved to be too much in the end.


Management Background

The Sigtek was under new ownership that plans for the changes in the operations of the company. It was owned by “Telwork”. Telwork wanted to introduce a Six Sigma program which was to ensure that new changes must be brought in the operations of Sigtek as well as increasing the awareness of employees regarding the Six Sigma Goals which were the following:

  1. To provide better products and services than competitors;
  2. To be the lowest-cost, quality producer;
  3. To relentlessly pursue quality improvement until Six Sigma levels was achieved.
  4. To manage through leadership;
  5. To personally involve all employees through participative activity;
  6. To be comprised of employees who approach the job fearlessly.

The management style of Sigtek was that the employee’s needs and their problems were ignored. They did not respond to the worker unease. There was also a huge gap between engineering and manufacturing operations in the organization. Moreover, there was also no coordination between the engineering and operations heads. Cross normally was involved in giving a chance to fresh employees and listening to their ideas, whereas, Patricof, vice president of operation usually involved in management styles and not towards taking action towards bringing changes.

Smithers Decision and Concerns

Smithers and Cross, vice president of Sigtek’s engineering, both indulged in the practice of problem solving and considering the concerns of the workers in order to increase the.........................

This is just a sample partial case solution. Please place the order on the website to order your own originally done case solution.

Describes the ill-fated effort to bring the overall quality of the program. Using the point of view of one of the leaders chosen as the quality of the instructor, it traces the rise and fall of quality efforts during his short life for six months. Allows students to identify many of the things that can undermine the implementation of changes:. Lack of corporate commitment, overly formalized program, inflated expectations, the lack of initial success, etc. rewritten version of the previous case "Hide
by Todd D. Jick Source: HBS Premier Case Collection 9 pages. Publication Date: December 17, 2001. Prod. #: 402041-PDF-ENG

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