RAPID INSURANCE COMPANY
April Kozinski is 32 years of age and has a Bachelors degree in Finance from Wharton. Her parents are former US diplomats and as a result, she and her brother have travelled extensively and lived in a total of eight countries since she was four. Even though she is American, April likes to describe herself as a ‘global nomad’ and is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian.
Till the end of last year, April held a seniour position with Axa Global France. Her father used his connections to get her a job in the US, so that she could be closer to her parents in their old age. April is now the director of the disaster insurance section at RAPID, a well known global insurance company. She is in charge of a large department of her own at the company headquarters situated in Chicago. At the same time she is also the seniour team leader of ten insurance units in different countries around the world. Each unit is responsible for encouraging the sales representatives in their country to sell disaster insurance to cover such risks as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks.
April says that she wears ‘two hats’. One hat as the leader of her own group of professionals in the disaster insurance field in the US. The other hat is that of a team leader and product manager who is trying to get members of overseas units to facilitate the sale of disaster insurance. What makes the second hat so difficult is that the members of the overseas units do not really report to her. To complicate matters further, the sales reps who actually sell the insurance do not actually report to members of her team.” Another problem she is facing is the varying cultural perspectives of the people she is working with.
When asked how the disaster insurance units were performing, April replied “ Not as well as I would like. I have to keep chasing after the team members to remind them of their roles in helping the company cover disaster risks. Jocelyn, my team leader in the UK told me that I need to trigger an earthquake in Europe to get clients interested in more disaster insurance. She joked that I could try starting a major flood as a second possibility”
“Another problem I am facing” said April, “ is that I don’t see much integrated effort among the team members. I do see a few emails sent to the group discussing common concerns, but I don’t see much coordinated effort. We held a videoconference early this year, attempting to get everybody on board pulling together. One problem was that we couldn’t get full participation because of the difficulty in finding a time to meet because of so many different time zones. We had a few laughs, with Mike from New Zealand saying that his wife thought he was up to something bad, because he was waking up in the middle of the night to sit in front of his laptop.
Another hurdle I need to conquer is that, there seems to be some cross cultural differences in the importance business people attach to disaster insurance. Carla our member in Argentina, told me that executives in South American countries worry less about potential disasters than do Americans. As a result it is difficult for her to be heavily committed to selling disaster insurance as some of the other global team members. Likewise Omar who is on our Dubai team sometimes jokes and says ‘Concentrate on selling disaster insurance to the Americans, they need it- we don’t. We have Allah and what is written will happen.’
April believes that one of her biggest agenda items for 2020, is to get her global team at RAPID to coordinate their efforts in a much more efficient manner.
a. Identify the main teamwork problems you think April might be facing.
b. What steps do you recommend April take in order to enhance teamwork at RAPID
c. What might April do to provide stronger leadership to her global team at RAPID?
To make matters worse, April has been summoned to an emergency meeting with the seniour management team. The main agenda item, is the heavy fall in revenues from insurance sales outside of the US in the last six months. The atmosphere in the meeting is strained and April feels that the all-male, senior management team is not pleased to be working with a ‘young woman’ who was ‘imposed on them’ by certain members of the board. The seniour mangement team believe that in order to increase the sale of insurance policies abroad they should send out US employees to lead each work unit and do things the American way. April on the other hand, believes that employee diversity is worth focusing on, in order to improve sales and that the American way does not always work in foreign markets. She insistently tries to explain the importance of understanding cultural nuances when doing business. The men are not happy to hear what they call her ‘fancy business school theories’. April has 24 hours to deliver a concrete action plan aimed at increasing insurance policy sales abroad or risk losing her position. April leaves the meeting feeling that there is an element of racism and discrimination in this particular workplace and that she is up against a brick wall.
e. What are some of the postive and negative factors associated with multicultural teams?
f. Why won’t the American way work in some foreign markets? Is the best policy “When in Rome do as the Romans do?” Explain.
g. What can April do to combat the blatant racism and discrimination in this workplace, without jeopardizing her job?
g. Considering all the problems stated in the case study, design a 10 item action plan for April?