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ELEMENT 1: Opportunity Consultants, Inc., 2007

1a. 5 Whys Fishbone Diagram Opportunity Consultants, Inc.

5 Whys Diagram Opportunity Consultants, Inc.

1b. It is imperative that an organization is able to successfully determine the root cause of any issue. This can be difficult due to many factors that can potentially hide the true problem. By clearly identifying the root, an organization can solve the problem in a permanent way.

Opportunity Consultants, Inc. (OCI) was struggling with its reputation due to the quality of work that was being produced.

While this was a student group who did pro bono work for businesses in the community, the client expectation was high. Many clients were becoming disgruntled and providing negative comments to others (Landel & Reynolds, 2007).

It was necessary for the school who sponsors the program to understand the root of the issue. To do this they put together a group to question the members and clients as to what particular issues they might be facing. In this way underlining issues could be discovered and meaningful solutions could be found.

OCI’s viability was threatened by the overall performance of the group, customer dissatisfaction, and an overall varying skill set and motivational levels of its members. Poor customer outcomes contributed to a decrease in quality projects, enhancing the negative results and the lackluster interest from the participants.

The 5 whys diagrams depict potential hypotheses or causes for the root problem. It is a visual way to dissect broad categories into smaller and smaller detail. In this way, the school is able to drill down and develop meaningful actions plans.

OCI was experiencing several issues that played off each other and typically caused a circular repeat effect. One set of problems pertained to client dissatisfaction. The group was finding it difficult to drive client acquisition. They were receiving a large number of project applications but not quality ones. There was a definite disconnect between the actual resources available and the client expectation of service. These factors led to a lack of program buy-in for the clients as well as the members. Eventually this developed into fewer members and a program that was without a consistent structure.

Another set of issues related to poor work product. Project selection and project staffing were not on the same page and not meeting the demands of the clients or the members. As stated earlier, there were many applications, but few projects that were interesting to the member group. Recruitment of members was inconsistent and skill set varied tremendously. Staffing was also an obstacle as the teams consisted of 1st and 2nd year students. The mix of students and the large teams were challenging in that scheduling was complicated and motivation levels were divergent. These challenges resulted in a lack of quality work and customer dissatisfaction.

The organization must develop a solid action plan to change the overall perception of the program. This plan must address the root cause of the issue. The leadership must help to facilitate an increase the quality of work produced, an enhanced member perception of the program and a structured approach to application acceptance and team selection/size.

One way to begin restructuring the program would be to redefine leadership and offer training for those who want to be team leaders. The school could motivate existing students and raise the caliber of potential applicants by offering course credit for additional leadership credits.

Another way to bolster the reputation of the group is to be very selective in the projects that are chosen. Additionally, projects should be assigned strategically to match with the student’s interest or field of study.

The group must also realign customer expectations with the true capability of the students. A thorough explanation of what can and cannot be accomplished must be provided. The group should make certain not to overpromise on deliverables.

Landel R., Reynolds W., (2007), “Opportunity Consultants Inc., 2007”, (Case Study). HBS Case UB0833. Charlottesville VA. Darden Business Publishing. Retrieved July 11, 2017 from: 2: Baria Planning Solutions, Inc.


2b. Baria Planning Solutions, Inc. is a consulting firm that is in an urgent situation regarding decreased performance and productivity. The new Director of North American Sales was given the task to quickly get to the root of the problem and develop solutions.

It is imperative that an organization use systems thinking in conjunction with root cause analysis. Systems thinking is a way to understand and examine how all the parts of a particular system work with and/or against each other. Senge (2006) explains how this perspective allows for a true understanding of how components link together and interact. Systems thinking goes beyond looking at the various pieces of the puzzle but how these pieces effect each other. Bradbury (2003) explains that the whole system should be the focus as opposed to the various parts of the system. Management must be able to understand how each piece interacts with the others in order to successfully implement change that lasts.

The Director took note of several issues that could be contributing to the bleak sales outlook for the company. She was able to incorporate the 5 whys process with systems thinking and develop a causal loop pattern.

She discovered a disconnect in the way the workload was distributed due to the culture of the company. All departments lived in a silo and there was no cross training between them. This silo effect led to many instances of miscommunication regarding deadlines and deliverables causing missed deadlines. Missed deadlines led to customer mistrust and a decreased renewal rate. Without an increase in renewals and revenue, staffing increases could not be justified and the cycle continued.

One recommendation is to intertwine the departments. Cross training could effectively enhance communication and offer an increased workforce when needed. This would decrease miscommunication regarding deadlines and increase the number of deadlines that could be met. Enhanced and timely work product would then result in a higher number of renewals and profit, allowing more staff to be hired.

Another important aspect to consider is that of employee buy in for the restructuring of the workload. Educating the staff regarding the issues is paramount. Open discussions about potential solutions would help the employees feel connected to the system as a whole. Implementing appropriate staff-driven initiatives would add a layer of engagement and enhance the possibilities of success as well.


3b. Bayonne is an organization in need of an analysis to determine the root causes of decreasing profits, quality and customer loyalty. This company is having difficulties with deliverables as well as customer satisfaction. Upon investigating, Milken, VP Operations, found issues in several areas such as sales, production, profit margins and processes (Shapiro & Morrison, 2012).

Leadership of Bayonne must be careful not to employ the classic “shifting the burden” archetype in this scenario. Milken, VP Operations, must take the time to complete a thorough root cause analysis and not fall into the trap of determining a “quick fix” to solve issues. Instead, he should use systems thinking and understand that this company has dynamic complexity. He should stress the importance of clarifying and clearly addressing the true cause instead of simply symptomatic relief (Senge, 2006). The leadership team must look for underlying and subtle system causes, not just for the obvious (Atun, 2012).

ELEMENT 4: Overall Observations and Portfolio Analysis

Atun, R. (2012, September 25). Health systems, systems thinking and innovation | Health Policy and Planning | Oxford Academic. Retrieved July 25, 2017, from H. (2003). Sustaining inner and outer worlds: A whole-systems approach to developing sustainable business practices in management. Journal of Management Education, 27(2), 172-187. Retrieved July 7, 2017 from:

Landel R., Reynolds W. (2007). “Opportunity Consultants Inc., 2007”, (Case Study). HBS Case UB0833. Charlottesville VA. Darden Business Publishing. Retrieved July 11, 2017 from: P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Shapiro, R., & Morrison, P. (2012). Bayonne Packaging, Inc. [Case study]. HBS Case 4420. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Wheelwright, S.C., & Schmidt, W. (2011). Baria Planning Solutions, Inc.: Fixing the Sales Process [Case Study]. HBS Case 4658. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

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