In July of 2000, General Mills acquired Pillsbury from London based Diageo for $10. 5 billion in stock and assumed debt. (All Business, A D&B Company) After the merger, managers from General Mills were now faced with integrating the two Minnesota based companies. A special concern that had been brought up was marketing issues. With such household names such as Pillsbury, Betty Croker, Green Giant, Wheaties, and Cheerios, the managers at General Mills had a large task at hand on how to continue to market the many brands under their umbrella.
As said by Kevin Wilde, the company’s chief learning officer, they had wanted to “get the best out of both of our marketing organizations”. The problem wasn’t just how to identify, share, and integrate the best practices from both companies, according to Wilde, but how to “move our expertise ahead” by searching out great brand-building ideas from other companies as well (Gordon). This is the goal that lead to the four and a half day training program called “Brand Champions”.
This intensive training program, launched in 2003, not only involves marketing specialists, but also employees from other departments including human resources, research and development, and even outside advertising agencies involved with certain projects. The Brand Champions program has become so successful that employees in General Mills’ production plants have asked for a miniature version of the program. Ami Anderson, manager of marketing development and direct overseer of the Brand Champions program, says of these workers, “They want to understand the language marketers speak and why things are done as they are. (Gordon) The cross-functional team system that General Mills is using has brought many benefits to their company. Bringing together employees from different departments does several things. When you take people with different educational backgrounds and experience and put them together they can come up with a lot more than just one individual department by themselves. The use of these types of teams creates the potential for an organization to generate greater outputs with no increase in, or even fewer, outputs (Stephen P.
Robbins 249). According to Beth Gunderson, the director of organization effectiveness at General Mills, “you can leverage beyond people’s functional expertise. “A person from human resources, for instance, would ask a provocative question [precisely because] she wasn’t a marketer. And you’d see the look on the marketers’ faces: ‘Whoa, I never thought of that. ‘ ” (Gordon). Aside from the many benefits gained by these cross functional teams, managers face some major problems.
The same qualities that make these teams work, that they are large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly-educated specialists, also work against it. Members of these complex, cross-functional teams are, as long as there are not any outside influences, less likely “to share knowledge freely, to learn from one another, to shift workloads flexibly to breakup unexpected bottlenecks, to help one another complete jobs and meet deadlines, and to share resources – in other words, to collaborate. ” (Erickson).
Some the ways that managers may deal with these issues is to look into the issues discussed in the next section. There are a number of items that affect how a team works. These items include roles, norms, status, group size, and group cohesiveness. Roles are behavior patterns expected of a person who occupies a given position in a social unit. Individuals play many roles, adjusting to the group to which they belong at the time (Stephen P. Robbins 244). There have been nine potential team roles have been identified.
In high-performing work-teams, people have to fill all of these roles and have selected people, based on their skills and preferences, to fulfill these roles (Stephen P. Robbins 253). Norms are standards or expectations that are accepted and shared by a group’s members. These group norms will dictate everything from output levels to absenteeism rates to promptness or tardiness. Most likely the most widespread norms are related to the levels of effort and performance. Work groups usually provide their members with “explicit cues on how to work ard, what level of output to have, when to look busy, when it’s acceptable to goof-off, and the like. ” Individuals are susceptible to conformity pressures because they desire acceptance from the group to which they belong (Stephen P. Robbins 245). Status is a prestige grading, position, or a rank within a group. Status may informally be characterized by education, age, skill, or experience. Members of groups do not have problems placing others into status categories, and they will usually agree upon who is high, low, and in the middle.
It is important for the employees of a company to believe that the organization’s formal status system is “congruent”. “There should be equity between the perceived ranking of an individual and the status symbols he or she is given by the organization” (Stephen P. Robbins 246-247). The size of a group has a major impact on the group’s behaviors. Studies have shown that as the size of a group increases beyond twenty members, the tendency to naturally collaborate decreases (Erickson).
The best explanation for this reduction in effort is a behavior called social loafing. Social loafing is defined as “the tendency for individuals to expand less effort when working collectively than when working individually. ” (Stephen P. Robbins 247) Group cohesiveness is “the degree to which members are attracted to one another and share the group’s goals. ” The more that the group’s members are attracted to each other and the more that a groups goals align with each individual’s goals, the higher a group’s cohesiveness.
Previous research had shown that highly cohesive groups are more effective than those that are less cohesive, yet in reality it is actually more complex. The more cohesive a group is the more its members will follow its goals. If the group’s goals are favorable, a cohesive group is more effective than a less cohesive group. The same is true for the opposite situation. If a highly-cohesive group has unfavorable goals, they will be less effective than the less cohesive group (Stephen P. Robbins 248).