Prepare a 3+ page response to the following questions related to the “Walt Disney’s Dennis Hightower” case:
a) What challenges does Dennis Hightower face in his new position?
b) Prepare a detailed plan of action for Hightower to pursue over the next three months.
Among various change agents, Dennis Hightower was a unique personality. Having spent years working with multiple organizations as a business marketer and strategic planning professional, he had the experience and expertise to drive change at Disney. He joined the firm as the vice president of Consumer Products and was responsible for implementing a new marketable approach. As a change agent, he also faced significant challenges, including being new to the firm and lacking a shared connection with his colleagues. However, with strong people skills, he appealed to most of the host country representatives of the eight European markets. Applying critical thinking and creative approaches in the case may imply assessing and evaluating market needs for new products and aligning them with the company objectives. This paper presents a review of the experiences and challenges of Dennis Hightower as an agent of change in Walt Disney.
Walt Disney Dennis Hightower Case Study
Change management is an aspect of organizational leadership that defines most leading firms. The current market dynamics necessitate the need for organization to adapt to new trends as well as the need for innovation, which is becoming an important factor in the sustainability of businesses. Change agents are mainly instrumental in steering innovation and change in such organizations. The vice president of Consumer Products, Dennis Hightower, was responsible for developing a new marketable business strategy within only a few months’ timelines (Carpenter, 2009). The company was facing barriers to entering new markets, mainly in Europe. Hightower was part of the delegation to meet host country managers in Europe. The main aim of the meetings was to ascertain the best way forward and understand the business issues affecting each market. The objective was that the firm would eventually be able to implement necessary changes and improve their sales outcomes. The country managers found Hightower to be quite relatable as somebody who won their trust and with whom they would cooperate.
The apparent marketing problem was a significant challenge for any individual in Hightower’s position, but his past experiences and problems made him a suitable person for the job. First, Hightower had experience working in business marketing and strategic planning departments in other firms in the past. In 1978 after graduating, he left McKinsey for General Electric to work in the firm’s vital planning section and then Mattel in corporate planning (Carpenter, 2009). Therefore, one would expect that he was capable of implementing strategic plans for Disney products. Despite helping in restructuring the company, the firm had to downsize in 1981, and thus, Hightower lost his position. Three years down the line after searching for new opportunities, Hightower went to work with Disney in the Los Angeles office.
The first challenge for Hightower was to understand his role in the new organization. Typical to change agents, the approach to new organizational problems involves putting every factor into context. As such, change agents tend to embrace the existing resistance to understand the significant challenges of the organization (Battilana & Casciaro, 2013). At Disney, the firm was doing quite well in the United States and was a thriving business. Similarly, the business routines in Europe were standard, and the country managers were relatively successful, at least from Hightower’s perspective. The managers had been running the European enterprise for years, and although there was room for improvement, there was a persistent complacency (Carpenter, 2009). Despite the thriving European markets as well as the bureaucratic politics, Hightower started developing solutions to the existing problems. However, the majority of the employees could not identify them as problems.
Another challenge arose in implementing his solution for handling European markets’ sales challenges. First, Hightower was still a new introduction to his office and did not know whether he could trust his fellow workers and whether they subscribed to his ideas (Carpenter, 2009). Aside from not understanding the company’s routine, he was an outsider in every sense. His action plan was simple. The vice president of the Consumer Products was to transform the operation of the European offices to unify them and grow the business beyond one specific area (Carpenter, 2009). Within the first three months, the action plan entailed rebuilding the Disney products’ competitive niche towards one that was globally appealing, especially for the European market.
The first approach would be to redefine the marketing and business leadership approaches to one that would appeal to the target markets in Europe. The company had the challenge of understanding the market trends and changes that affected the growth of the European markets (Carpenter, 2009). Essentially, it meant that the firm had to gain access to consumer preferences and perspectives about how they wanted to experience entertainment and the related products that Disney offered to its market. The first cause of action would be to assess and evaluate the market for any new clues or new interests that were emerging. Major European markets such as Italy and France were among the targets for changes in entertainment, film, fashion, and music. The next phase of the plan would involve co-creating the vision (Battilana & Casciaro, 2013). As an agent of change, he would inspire other executive section professionals to collaborate in assessing and evaluating market needs over the next few months.
Dennis Hightower faced challenges typical to all other change agents, although his role at Disney was instrumental. In the next three months, Hightower was faced with the challenge of convincing the officials in Europe of his concerns about market improvements and the expansion of the market offers for the European markets. Critical thinking and creative approaches were vital, as well as the need to gain his colleagues’ support. Therefore, the challenges encountered involved in defining a market strategy to enhance sales and find effective implementation approaches. Through his innovation, he was also able to identify the European market as an opportunity to expand the company profits and enhance the brand’s growth.
Battilana, J., & Casciaro, T. (2013). The network secrets of great change agents. Harvard Business Review, 91(7/8), 62-68.
Battilana, J., & Casciaro, T. (2012). Change agents, networks, and institutions: A contingency theory of organizational change. Academy of Management Journal, 55(2), 381-398.
Carpenter, M. (2009). An executive’s primer on the strategy of social networks. Business Expert Press.