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Case Study: S. K. Ko, Managing Director of Motorola

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Case Study
S. K. Ko was appointed Managing Director of Motorola's Penang, Malaysia, facility in 1990. S. K. was the first native Malaysian to occupy the Managing Director position in Penang. Up until her appointment, Motorola Penang had four Managing Directors all of whom were Americans on expatriate assignment. Prior to joining Motorola, S. K. had been the first female engineer at Intel's Penang facility and later held a position as a systems engineer at IBM. Ko joined Motorola in 1982 as an MIS group leader and later she was appointed the materials manager. During the 1980s, Motorola Penang saw many of its processes automated and found itself producing more and more complex products. During the time period before she became Managing Director, "sales" for Motorola Penang went from $112 million to $155 million over a five-year period. While this was quite a significant increase, Ko still felt that both the physical and intellectual capabilities at the Penang operation were being underutilized.

S. K. Ko had a very aggressive and challenging vision for the future of the Motorola Penang facility, and she struggled with the most effective way of making that vision a reality. Ko once stated: "Ideally a vision is something that will both inspire and direct people. However, there is always the tension for a leader when it comes to giving and receiving a vision. As a leader you are expected to give the vision. But as the leader you know people will embrace visions best that they see with their own eyes—visions that they feel are their own—and not just imposed on them" (Black, 2005, p. 1). For Ko, how to approach the vision process was a dilemma. She engaged many of her top team in discussions about the challenges of the future of the facility, but they still looked to her as the leader and wanted to hear her vision of the future. Ko had many specific and concrete ideas but did not want to seem to be imposing them on the group—and, she was not totally convinced that her ideas were the appropriate and best ones. She very much wanted to get the most involvement possible from her team to ensure all relevant information was consid- ered and to ensure buy-in and commitment from the team that would be tasked with making the vision a reality. But, she was also anxious to move forward; at the same time she was getting ever more pressure from her team to "take the lead" and share her vision.
S. K. Ko prepared a statement summarizing her management philosophy.

My Thoughts on Management by S. K. Ko
Treat your people with respect, as you would treat your own family. No yelling, no shouting, no finger point- ing. Give visible rewards for achievers. Create enthusiasm. Share every success story. Minimize use of money as rewards and recognition. Preach the importance of knowledge, and advances in technology. Learning is a must. Encourage people to work in teams, to teach each other, to think about how to do better. Get to know your people. Constantly share your vision and thoughts with them. Encourage people to recommend new ideas. Give your managers challenges and let them rise to these challenges. Always be fair—irrespective of race and sex. Remember, it is the people who make the difference, no matter how automated you are. Be a visible, responsible corporate citizen in the community. Have good press relations. Concentrate on good image, high profile. Make this place the company of choice for new university graduates. Learn to always look for the positive qualities of a person.

Clearly, Ko's philosophy very much reflects a positive, familial, celebrate-every-accomplishment kind of work environment. At the same time, she took a very hard-nosed approach to Motorola Penang's viability and business model. She saw technology as a two-sided coin that would eliminate low-skill jobs at the same time that it brought new opportunities. She knew that other countries had lower labor costs. She was committed to rapidly moving Motorola Penang to produce more complex systems products, creating an increased demand for technicians and engineers and potentially less demand for unskilled operators. She had never had to do a lay-off, and she was worried about lower- skilled operators' ability to adjust to the new reality—she feared that in many cases they only knew how to do one thing and that they might not survive unless they learn to do other things.

In December 1993, as part of a management retreat for the top 40 Motorola Penang managers, Ko addressed the future vision for the facility. She tried to engage and get the input of the 40 by asking them to envision the factory in the year 2000 and then identify what needed to be done then, in 1994 to move closer to that vision. Her senior HR leader pressed her to share her vision. She pressed back once again and said she wanted to hear from them first. She finally relented.

Today we have nearly 3,000 employees but in six years, I believe that we will need only 1,500 people to produce over three times the sales turnover. Now we have islands of automation, but in six years I envision a factory that is integrated and automated from front to back—a lights out factory. Rather than simply producing components for products designed in the States for sale in Asia, I envision an Asian Design Center. Whereas now we produce many components for products, I envision us producing entire products And whole systems—maybe 50% of the total (adapted from S. K. Ko vision statement as reported in
Black, 2005).

Ko chose to focus on five major activities to help build capability of Motorola Penang and its employees to achieve this very ambitious vision. First, external relationships—Motorola Penang had built up a very good reputation for all that it had accomplished thus far. Ko knew she had to maintain and expand those relationships—including bringing in "corporate" to the visioning process she had commenced at the management off-site. Second, management development—Ko knew she had to groom managers for the new roles that the future facility would require. Exam- ples of how she did this include the establishment of a Master of Industrial Management pro- gram with the University of East Asia. Third, maintaining state of the art manufacturing and administrative technologies—Ko knew she had to nudge the evolution from low technology infrastructure, to robotics, to islands of automation, and finally to a fully automated factory to keep Motorola Penang competitive against the lowest cost producers in the world. Fourth, partic- ipative management processes—consistent with her own personal leadership values, Ko did everything possible to make Motorola Penang a high-involvement work place. Fifth and last, technical skills development—Ko was successful in establishing a Masters of Mechanical Engi- neering degree program with the University of Malaysia with classes held right on the Motorola Penang grounds.

Discussion Questions:

1. How effective was Ko in defining and framing a vision for Motorola Penang? In what ways were her efforts similar to and different from the example of Charles Schwab cited
- How did Ko resolve the dilemma of where visions come from? Where did she find her vision?
- We cited doorman and jigsaw puzzle metaphors when describing how different leaders see themselves. Do either of these metaphors seem relevant to Ko?

2. Evaluate the content dimensions of Ko's vision work at Motorola Penang. How did she do with:
- Making the Case for Change
- Identifying an Ideal Goal
- Addressing the People dimension

3. With respect to the Articulating and Communicating the Vision, how effectively did Ko address the three different levels of:
- Strategic—"HEAD"
- Tactical—"HANDS"
- Personal—"HEART"

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Discussion Questions

>> NOTE: Solutions to the following questions are followed by " >> " arrows. Be sure to review the case study along with your class text or notes to provide a more in-depth answer if required by your professor.

1. How effective was Ko in defining and framing a vision for Motorola Penang? In what ways were her efforts similar to and different from the example of Charles Schwab cited.

>> According to the story, Ko seemed to be highly effective in "defining and framing" a vision for Motorola Penang, as her statement appeared to be in direct relation to the corporate mission of the company. Note that Motorola's official company statements are:

- Mission Statement:
"We are a global communications leader powered by a passion to invent and an unceasing commitment to advance the way the world connects. Our communication solutions allow people, businesses and governments to be more connected and more mobile."
- Vision Statement:
"Our history is rich. Our future is dynamic. We are Motorola and the spirit of invention is what drives us."

= http://www.motorolasolutions.com/US-EN/About/Company+Overview
= http://www.makingafortune.biz/list-of-companies-m/motorola.htm

>> There was no example of Charles Schwab cited in this posting; perhaps it's from a class lecture, notes, or your textbook(?). Therefore, you'll want to review the course material and discuss what ways Ko's efforts are similar to and different from Charles Schwab with any examples provided by your instructor.

- How did Ko resolve the dilemma of where visions come from? Where did she find her vision?

>> Ko appeared to resolve the dilemma of where visions come from by reflecting how visions come from "within" people, rather than by leaders imposing their own visions. The story says, "Ideally a vision is something that will both inspire and direct people. However, there is always the tension for a leader when it ...

Solution Summary

Solution refers to a case study story and discusses responses to three extended questions, and includes references for further research with detailed notation for review.