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Brady Training Case Study

Discussion on case: Brady Training

I need help trying to address the following:

How do you account for Bill's behavior during and after participation in the training?

Should Bill stay with Brady or take a job with one of the other companies he has interviewed with?

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The Brady Training Program

INTRODUCTION

"Well, I'm very happy you've accepted, Bill", said Dick Hubbard. "You are the type of person we believe will succeed here. You scored very well on the computer-aptitude test and seem to be very personable. Our next training class starts a week from Monday. I trust you can relocate by then; I've bumped another candidate in order to accept you."

Dick Hubbard shook hands with his new employee and directed him toward Brady Company's nursing office. Accepting the training position with the Information Systems Department was a big change for Bill Flynn, and he hoped he could meet the challenge. Flynn's only prior experience had been in computer sales. Because of this, Bill lacked technical expertise and felt as though he were flying by the seat of his pants.

However, he seriously wanted to succeed in the computer field, so he decided to leave his sales position after only one year. Although he considered the technical aspects of computers to be quite uninteresting and difficult to learn, Bill was determined that they were a hurdle he would overcome. Flynn turned down two sales positions for the opportunity to gain some hands-on programming analysis and hardware experience. His goal was to build a solid technical foundation from which to launch his career by investing at least two years in the technical side of the computer field.

INITIAL ORIENTATION

Things seemed to be happening very quickly. While speaking with the company nurse, Bill learned he could rent a room from her until he was able to find an apartment. In a matter of three hours, he had changed jobs and arranged to relocate. He drove home that day somewhat pleased with himself while wondering what the near future held in store.

The first day on the job soon arrived. The new training group consisted of 11 people, 3 women and 8 men. Most of the members agreed that it would be a tough year, but well worth it by year's end. Each trainee had received a letter stating that he or she was to receive a salary of $51,000 for the first year. After 12 months and completion of all the required courses, the trainee was to receive a promotion and raise to $57,000 per year. Bill's letter named February 14, 2000, as the promotion date.

The orientation was administered by Al Gavin. He was one of three bosses the trainees were to report to and be reviewed by. Al was in charge of computer room operations, where the trainees were to work. The other two bosses were Dick Hubbard, the program coordinator, and Mark Toner, the department manager.

Al explained that the trainees would work eight-hour days and be rotated among the three shifts, spending approximately four months on each shift. The majority of the trainees were quite surprised, for until then, they had not heard any mention of night shift work. Al stated:

"Each trainee must complete all four training courses offered by the department. Each course will last for three months and be taught by department personnel. Two-and-a-half hour classes will be held Monday through Friday. Trainees are not to help one another. We are looking for people who can solve problems on their own. Besides, you are competing for the same positions; helping others could hurt your chances. All assistance is to be asked of the course instructor. All course assignments are to be handed in on time. A late or poorly completed assignment could mean termination. Each trainee will be reviewed after every project and judged eligible or ineligible to continue."

There were many surprised faces among the group. The trainees had not been aware of the competition for department positions. They were still not sure of the degree of competition when they left the orientation.

After the orientation, the trainees seemed somewhat wary of one another, and for the most part they kept to themselves. All were attending the first course and engaged in very little discussion about the material. While working in computer operations, they constantly competed with one another.

THE FIRST MONTH

Bill was able to make two friends that first month. The first was Harry Andrews, a family man with three young children. Harry was 30 years old and one of four former schoolteachers in the midst of a career change. Bill and Harry shared a similar sense of humor and enjoyed one another's company. It always broke the tension.

The second friend was Bob Hackey. Bob was a member of the last training class and had just been promoted. He was 25, which was only two years older than Bill. Bill and Bob were very interested in sports and planned to go skiing together.

Bill was really struggling to complete the last assignment for the first course. It seemed to be about three weeks' worth of work but had to be completed in 10 days. Harry noticed the problem Bill was having and offered to help. They secretly met outside of work at Bill's new apartment. Harry's assistance got Bill on the right track, and he was able to complete the project on time. He vowed to help Harry in any way he could. The day after the assignment was due, there were two less members in the training class. Barbara Green, who always looked as though she were in a cold sweat from the daily pressure of the training program, had decided to quit. Another member, Glenn Reed, had submitted his assignment a day late. The following day he was asked to leave class by Mark Toner and was terminated from the training program.

A STUDY GROUP FORMS

Upon finding out about Glenn, Harry and Bill decided to meet at Bill's apartment on a biweekly basis to discuss problems and share ideas and discoveries. The very next week, Bob stopped over to see Bill while he and Harry were working on an assignment. They decided to break for a beer, and work crept into the conversation. Bob offered the following:

"You two had better stick together, but be very careful - don't let anyone know that you help each other. Share your ideas, but do separate work. The course instructors will look for too many similarities among trainee's projects. You can't trust any of these people. They want to see how much you can take. There are nine left in your class and only three or four positions for you to fill. You are all very well qualified for the open positions. Each of you was selected from over 120 applicants. But being qualified is not enough. They will be very tough on you and apply extreme pressure to expose any possible weakness. They don't want to keep all of you, just the toughest three or four. Management maintains an extremely competitive environment among the department's systems analysts. They feel it improves quantity and quality of output. The competition can get very tiresome and rough, so they want to identify the tougher competitors as soon as possible."

"Yours is only the third training group. This is an experiment to see if they can produce almost perfectly homogeneous systems people who are superior to those they are able to hire from outside. It may cost their staff members valuable time, but they make it up by having trainees operate their computer on all shifts at a very low rate of pay. That's another reason for having a few extra trainees around."

"Former trainees can be your worst enemies. They feel part of a select group that has made it through the program. The more that enter their ranks, the smaller a fish each one becomes. They will keep an eye on you and report any flaws that they think they notice. I don't mean to sound like such a malcontent. Fact is, I've located a very good position, and I plan to leave. My new employer was very excited to hire someone who had completed the Brady training program. The program has an extremely good reputation and deservedly so. Nowhere else can you learn so much, so fast. Many area businesses have heard of Brady's well-developed systems department. The computer vendor uses Brady as a model site. Some of the companies have even hired people that have either quit or washed out of the training program. They have had extremely good luck with them and find that they have had to spend very little time and expense on further training. These companies jump at the opportunity to hire someone who has completed the Brady training program. You'll see; soon you will be receiving daily calls from area placement firms."

THE STUDY GROUP EXPANDS

During the second course, Bill held a party for all the trainees at his apartment. He invited his two roommates and many of their friends. Bill was afraid that a party consisting of the training group alone might not be much fun. Cathy Moore, one of the two remaining women trainees, struck up a friendship with Bill's roommate, Rick, and they began to spend quite a lot of time with one another. As a result Bill and Harry were having trouble concealing their meetings. Since Cathy was one of the sharpest trainees and she and Bill also were becoming quite good friends, Bill thought she should be part of the help sessions. Harry agreed, and they made the offer to Cathy, who was happy to join.

As the second course was drawing to a close, the pressure was mounting. Bill, Harry, and Cathy were all struggling. They were saddled with another large project to be completed in a very short amount of time.

Bill was working the third shift and arrived four hours early to spend some time on his project. His arrival surprised two of the other trainees; Chris Peck and Harold Breen were in the process of printing multiple computer files. Bill noticed that they were nervous and trying to hide something, so he checked the printouts. They were listings of the current project assignment as completed by several members of the previous class. Chris and Harold were upset and pleaded with Bill not to report them. Bill assured them that he had no intention of reporting anyone. He told them: "Listen, you guys, I'm relieved to find that I'm not the only one who is struggling here. We're all in trouble but refuse to admit it to one another. I don't have to tell you what a great help these printouts can be. Could you give me a copy of each of them?" Chris and Harold got the copies for Bill.

The next day he presented them to the study group, explaining that he could not divulge his source until the end of the training program. The members decided to split the completed projects among themselves and to study them for useful ideas, style, and problem-solving methods. They met two days later to share their discoveries. The three had found many good ideas along with quite a few poor ones. They were surprised to find that some of the former trainees who were very condescending to them were not as sharp as they were led to believe. Each member agreed to use the ideas only as reference, to keep the information in the strictest of confidence, and to complete their own individual work. They had learned more in those two days than in the previous three weeks.

The study group members submitted their projects on time but felt as though they were just keeping their heads above water. Two more people were let go the day after the project was due, but all the study group members had survived. Cathy was now the only woman remaining.

AN OPPORTUNITY

During the seventh month of the program, Bill and Harry were in their second month on the third shift. They would work from midnight to 8 AM and then have to attend a two-and-a-half-hour class during the day. They had three morning classes and two afternoon classes per week. Each trainee worked every other weekend. Almost all the trainees were present in the computer room every weekend, working on completing their project assignments.

On one particular third shift, about 3 AM, Bill was delivering some computer printouts when he noticed that Mark Toner's office door was left ajar. The only people in the building were another trainee and a night watchman occasionally passing through. On impulse, Bill let himself into the office and closed the door. Mark's desk was not locked, and Bill decided to have a look through it. Quickly, he found the training program files. He couldn't believe the risk he was taking, but rationalized that not knowing what his reviewers thought of him could be a larger risk. He nervously opened the files. There was a long review form for each trainee, and Bill read all of them. Each form had four duplications of the same review criteria. As trainees progressed through the program, the form would follow them. They were judged on their ability to grasp and apply concepts, quality of work, attitude, compatibility, promptness, appearance, and competitive ranking among the other trainees. While reviewing an individual's performance, an instructor could read what the previous instructor had written about the trainee. Bill noticed that many of the first reviewer's comments had been duplicated by the second reviewer.

Bill's review was much better than he had anticipated. It did mention some doubt about his willingness to become part of the departmental organization. He wondered why this supposed weakness had not been pointed out to him. He felt uneasy and vulnerable.

The next day Bill told Harry and Cathy about his discovery. They couldn't believe he had done it. When asked why, Bill had trouble explaining; he had never done anything like that before. Bill also told them about Victor Lawton's review. Victor was very well liked by all three of the study group members. He'd been married just over a year, and his wife was about to have their first child. It was written on Victor's review that he was a candidate for firing, so they decided to ask him to join them. Victor gladly accepted. The study group now consisted of four of the seven remaining trainees.

BUILDING GOODWILL

Bill had joined the company softball team, of which Al Gavin was the manager. They got to know one another outside of work and became fairly good friends. Bill really liked Al. He decided to build a better rapport with the other two bosses, although he was not very fond of either of them.

Mark Toner was an avid outdoorsman and had many fishing pictures on his office walls. Bill was originally from Vermont and still owned a cabin up in the mountains. He loved to fish and considered himself as somewhat of an expert. He slowly broke into conversations with Mark about fishing. Soon they were trading stories, and Bill showed Mark some pictures of one of his very successful fishing trips to the cabin. They made tentative plans for a trip to Bill's cabin for the following year. However, Bill had no intention of ever fishing with Mark.

Dick Hubbard's position called for occasional trips to Brady Company's Latin American operations. He was attempting to learn Spanish. Bill had spent a year in Colombia, South America, while in college. He spoke fluent Spanish and decided to use it to his advantage. He often conversed with Dick and acted more than happy to help Dick with the language. Dick was very interested in Bill's experiences in Colombia and, again, Bill acted more than happy to discuss them.

Some of the trainees expressed their displeasure with Bill's constant contact with the three bosses, but Bill only cared about the opinions of the study group members. He asked them what they thought. None of them seemed to mind; and Harry said, "Each one of us must do whatever we think it takes to complete the program." Bill gave them the following explanation:

"I have mixed emotions about my actions. At times I feel pretty underhanded, but I know the actions are justified. My back is against the wall; I can't afford not to complete this training program. I just quit my last job after only one year. I don't want to appear as though I can't stick with anything. Besides, I' m really interested and want to learn as much as I possibly can. By Brady's standards, I may be cheating a little bit, but I'm learning while I do it. I fully intend to finish in spite of these people. If anyone is going to win this game, I'm going to make sure it's me!"

MAKING IT

The group agreed that each individual was playing a game of self-preservation. They felt that their chances of survival were greatly increased by the help they gave one another.

The final project for the third course was an extremely large assignment to be completed in 10 days. Everyone was working at a nerve-wracking pace. By now Bill was feeling more comfortable with his ability to complete the projects on time. He submitted the project a day early. Victor was the only one to be late handing in the project, because he had been very sick with the flu and had fallen behind. He submitted his project two days after it was due. The next day's class was interrupted by the department secretary, who notified Victor Lawton and Harold Breen that Mark Toner wanted to speak with them during the next break. They did not return after the break, and the instructor announced that they had been let go.

The remaining five employees were all of similar caliber. They wondered if more firing would take place and, if so. Who would be next? No one dared to ask management. They knew that they were marketable by this point, but all were determined to prove they could finish the training program.

On February 14, 2000, shortly after the fourth and final course ended, five of the original trainees were still present. They were Bill, Harry, Cathy, Chris Peck, and Mike Sears. What seemed to be a very long year for Bill had ended in success. He had attained the tools he had set out to acquire.

After one week, the trainees began to wonder when they were going to receive their promotion and salary increase. Bill asked Mark Toner about the reviews. Mark replied, "Don't worry; we'll get to them, and they'll be retroactive."

WHAT NEXT?

Bill had been interviewing for about a month. He had made some very interesting contacts but had held off until the program was over. After hearing Mark's comment, he decided to pursue them more seriously. He had only taken two days of vacation time in the last year. He asked his bosses if he could take a week of vacation time he had saved. "I've pushed myself very hard all year and could use a rest before digging into a new assignment", he explained.

He spent the entire week interviewing in Boston. Two positions were particularly interesting, and he met with each prospective employer twice. They expressed considerable interest in him and had much to offer. Both firms were large computer manufacturers, with a position open in their in-house Systems Departments. They both offered more than ample facilities and made Bill feel as though they really wanted him to be a part of their teams.

Bill liked the idea of working for a computer manufacturer. He felt that almost all aspects of the industry would be available to him in one location. If he got his foot in the door and worked very hard, he should be able to select from many possible career paths.

Upon his return, Bill was notified that his review would take place on Thursday of the following week. By then, he had received written offers of employment from both of the companies that he was interested in. The salaries were higher than he expected to receive from Brady. That day Bill had lunch with all three bosses. As they finished their meal, Dick Hubbard said, "We're very impressed with your performance in the training program. By the manner in which you have progressed and improved throughout the year, we know that you can handle this business. We want you to be a part of our team. Welcome to the department!"

Bill turned to Dick and told him of the offers he had received and how interested he was. Dick exclaimed, "We'll better those offers; stay with us! How much are they for?" Bill gave them the figures, and they immediately made a counteroffer. To that, Bill replied, "I would like to go home and give it some serious thought. I'll let you know tomorrow."

Solution Preview

Bill engaged in unethical behavior during and after the training program. He was not to collaborate with fellow trainees yet he did. He broke into an office and read training program files. He utilized stolen information. Then, after receiving training, he prepared to leave the company without utilizing the training the company had provided. The Brady ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses a case called Brady Training. It answers how to account for Bill's behavior during and after participation in the training and if Bill should stay with Brady or take a job with one of the other companies he has interviewed with.

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