Unit III Case Study
BSL 4080 Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
Columbia Southern University
As the district manager of a luxury watch producing company, I have met with administrative staff recently in regard to sales. We have noticed that sales over the last few quarters have been steadily decreasing and have set out to find out why this is happening. We have held both formal and informal meetings with sales staff and the production teams in attempt to find out why this is happening and to identify the reason(s) for this prolonged drop in sales. At these meetings, we were advised by sales & production team members the following explanations: the overall economy has slowed; the quality of our watches has declined to a point where no one wants to buy them; the sales force does not have the proper resources to properly market our watches; wholesale customers are cancelling orders because of slow delivery times. In addition, we have been told that personal conflicts between the finance manager and the marketing manager are causing distrust between the two offices.
In short, our goal is to examine these claims for legitimacy or fallacy and to create a strategy, via creative thinking and problem solving, to overcome problems while addressing any issues.
LEGITIMACY OR FALLACY
Pointing fingers at other departments without taking accountability for their part in declining sales was noted following our meetings. In the luxury watch business, our target customer generally has discretionary spending available because our product is not targeted at the, ‘I just need a watch to tell me the time’ demographic. Our customer base has the ability and will pay a premium for well-manufactured, unique, and luxurious watches. These are not the same customers who run up to the local drug store to buy the cheapest watch because theirs broke and they have to be at work in the morning. Therefore, when the argument of the overall economy being slow is why we are not selling our watches is a fallacy. In fact, this informal fallacy is the result of mistaken reasoning that is emotionally persuasive, but logically incorrect (Boss, 2017). This is because our core customer of luxury watches retains his/her high-end purchase ability even in a downturn of the national economy. It is worth noting by claiming that sales are down because the entire economy is slow, without backing that claim with facts that our customers are slowing their luxury purchases is fundamentally flawed. Dealing with this fallacy and others is not an easy task. This is because a fallacy, like the one present in our situation, is not usually recognized as such (Rudolph & Kleiner, 1992). Instead, they come up in a discussion or meeting like this; often as defense mechanisms.
Our sales staff claims that their numbers are down because they are not provided with adequate resources to properly market our watches. I found this false dilemma fallacy was due to unwarranted assumption (Boss, 2017). While resources are important to properly market our watches to the appropriate demographic and get the watches to places where they will sell, this inappropriate response was not supported with claims of what resources are lacking. When they were selling watches in higher numbers, the resources they had were seemingly not an issue. In other words, the resources provided were adequate before and no justification was made to adjust them until questions of sales slumping were raised.
A particularly troubling allegation was the personal attacks, masked as reasons for lower sales, between our marketing management and finance department. The claim by marketing that finance does not like them and therefore finance would somehow manipulate the numbers down is disturbing. Naturally, there is no evidence behind this allegation. In addition, the idea brought up in response that marketing should fire sales staff who do not meet sales targets is, in-turn, unwarranted. This hasty generalization is not supported by facts and does nothing but interfere with communication (Boss, 2017). Further, it pollutes the establishment of new relationships within the company. Personal attacks disguised as meaningful solutions do nothing but dissuade response and hinder solutions (Chaffee, 2012). When sales staff members do not reach projections as a group, the likely culprit is not simply an individual problem manifested across the entire team. Many would say, when the entire sales bureau cannot reach sales targets, there is either an issue with the target itself, or a problem with deeper roots causing an inability to sell.
One common theme that was developed through our meetings seems to be something that can and must be addressed. A problem was identified with the supply chain being unable to keep up with orders resulting in slow or missed deliveries. When our sales staff makes a sale, the customer expects the product to be delivered in a reasonable amount of time. That delivery entices the customer to return and buy again from us in hopes the process will again be repeated. When that cycle is broken, the sale itself is discounted and future sales hindered because the customer has moved on to another company who will fulfill their order(s). The business of today is dominated by commoditization and complexity (Brown, 2011). Because critical thinking has identified our problem is with the supply chain, we must utilize creative thinking and creativity to drive changes & adjustments to the supply chain so our customers can get their watches on-time.
STRATEGIES FOR OVERCOMING FALLACIES
There is no debate that each department within the organization wants the company to succeed by increasing sales and driving up profits. When guiding future discussions we must be mindful that fallacies are arguments which are not relevant to the issues being discussed (Rudolph & Kleiner, 1992). As such, managers need to establish rapport with staff that is not hinged on finding who is to blame, but rather what we can do as a team to combat slumping sales. Digging deeper into the supply chain problem should be first at hand. Dealing with the supply chain problem will result in team members being more at ease and should result in fruitful conversation. Creative, out of the box, ideas should be encouraged and problems identified. Courageous leaders are supportive of subordinate ideas and we will do the same. Through encouragement and acceptance, our managers will empower others to come up with the solutions we need to increase sales and correct this supply chain problem.
After meeting with the company’s administrative staff, I commissioned several formal and informal meetings with all levels of employees in hopes of finding out why sales have been declining for several quarters in a row. What was provided by staff resulted in finger-pointing, personal attacks, and other popular fallacies that hindered any chances of identifying the cause(s) of our downturn in sales. After identifying these fallacies, we were able to figure out that an underlying supply chain problem was most-likely the culprit that has caused sales to slide. This supply problem went undetected for months resulting in higher stress levels for all involved and attempts to place blame elsewhere. Going forward, managers have been empowered to increase rapport with members and embrace creative ideas to solve issues in the workplace. It is our intention to dive deeper into the supply chain to find where the breakdown has occurred and fasten an adjustment for this problem within the next quarter.
Boss, J. A. (2017). THiNK: Critical thinking and logic skills for everyday life (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Brown, R. (2010). Anticipate: The Architecture of Small Team Innovation and Product Success. Brown LLC. Retrieved from: https://mashable.com/2011/09/30/creative-problem-solving/
Chaffee, J. (2012). Thinking Critically. United States: Wadsworth/Clengage Learning. Retrieved from: https://www.wrike.com/creative-problem-solving/
Rudolph, P. A., & Kleiner, B. H. (1992). Understanding and overcoming fallacies of thinking. International Journal of Bank Marketing, n1. Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/eds/detail/http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/eds/detail/
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