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Fierce Creatures movie

This case study is an analysis of a scene from the Fierce Creatures movie. Rollo, the new zoo manager, is played by John Cleese. Rollo has been assigned to manage a London zoo recently acquired by the leadership of an international company. In the scene Rollo is attempting to explain the expectations of his company’s leadership to the zoo employees. There is apparent conflict developing in this meeting as the various stakeholders’ agendas become apparent from the dialogue.

In the analysis of the dialogue we are to identify the main stakeholders, their values, the apparent dilemmas of the main stakeholders, as well as discussing how and why these dilemmas need to be understood and reconciled if leadership transitions are to be effectively implemented in a corporate acquisition. In this case study we are also to provide alternatives to the manner of managing potential conflicts that result from new leadership expectations as well as how we would conduct a more productive meeting than was conducted by Rollo in the movie?

From the video we see that there are three main stakeholders; the first is Rollo Lee who is newly hired as director of the zoo and represents the second stakeholder, Octopus Inc. , owned by Rod McCain and finally, the third stakeholder are the front line employees. In the course of their dialogue we see that each stakeholder has firm ideas about the zoo. Mr. Lee, formerly of the Hong Kong Police Department understands that unless he performs according to his superior’s demands he will be replaced and he makes it clear that his priorities are in order.

He himself says that he is all about conservation, he seeks to conserve the zoo, their jobs and [something else]. The front line employees, mostly consisting mostly of animal keepers seem unable to comprehend that the new owner of the zoo is only interested in profits. They seem to think that their values of animal conservation and their animals are still going to be upheld in spite of the change in ownership. As far as I can see, there is only one reason to keep a white elephant like the zoo and that has to do with tax cuts. While the owner does not appear to the other stakeholders until the end of the movie, the values of Octopus Inc.

is made quite clear by the instructions that Mr. Lee received from headquarters, make 20% return on capital or else the zoo closes. This point is emphasized when Mr. McCain decides to keep the zoo open after hearing that it made him more money, almost 25% according to Mr. Lee. In the short dialogue we see that the stakeholders are at an impasse. Mr. McCain requires 20% ROI or else the zoo closes, Mr. Lee needs to meet this or else he loses his job, and the animal keepers have to lose their non-fierce animals or face closure. On the subject of transitions Mr. William Bridges (1991) wrote the following:

It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Tranistion is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal. (p. 3) It is in this manner that the frontline employees need to be coaxed into letting go of their old protocols, policies, and ideas. The first step in transitioning is internal. They seem to be unable accept that the new zoo owner is only interested in profits.

In dealing with dilemmas like this Fisher and Ury(1991) suggest avoiding hard or soft negotiation and go for the alternative, principled negotiation. Instead of haggling over the situation they are in, both parties would be better served by finding common ground, like the fact that they will both be out of jobs unless Octopus Inc gets their 20% profit. Then they could avoid the useless, albeit comedic efforts against each other and instead work together to produce a workable solution. In order to make the most of a first meeting of change management the common goals must be the focus of that meeting.

Instead of wasting time negotiating and perhaps losing concessions I would instead try principled negotiation, listen to the experienced zookeepers who might have other ideas that might be more cost effective. Instead of pushing his idea of making the zoo experience more dynamic for their customers by only showing fierce creatures only, I would lay out the necessary goal, that is the required profit and then coax the frontline employees out of their old thinking and help them transition into accepting the new policies of the new owner.

The zoo only needs to comply with the profit demanded by their new owner, but the values of the frontline employees need to be adjusted to cater to their new owner or else their beloved zoo becomes a golf course. I’m sure that if this possibility was explained to them, they would wholeheartedly accept management’s help in the goal. In order to get everyone on board I need to explain the changes that have taken place, the goals and the manner in which I plan to achieve those goals.

If the frontline employees have better ideas I would provide a protocol to allow them a manner in which they can express those ideas and that way feel better ownership of the situation. On the subject of transitions Mr. William Bridges (1991) wrote the following: It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Tranistion is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal. (p. 3)

It is in this manner that the frontline employees need to be coaxed into letting go of their old protocols, policies, and ideas. The first step in transitioning is internal. They seem to be unable accept that the new zoo owner is only interested in profits. In dealing with dilemmas like this Fisher and Ury(1991) suggest avoiding hard or soft negotiation and go for the alternative, principled negotiation. Instead of haggling over the situation they are in, both parties would be better served by finding common ground, like the fact that they will both be out of jobs unless Octopus Inc gets their 20% profit.

Then they could avoid the useless, albeit comedic efforts against each other and instead work together to produce a workable solution. In managing change O’toole(1995) wrote: When threatened by a proposed change-particularly when unable to refute the proposal logically and panic starts to set in- we unconsciously revert to the lowest level of defense: challenging the validity of the general position. (p. 20) Instead of the idea, the arguments that often spring up are bogged down in conflict over the details instead of the overall idea.

Instead of fighting over positions, other writers, Fisher & Ury (1992) suggest avoiding the standard negotiation tools and go for principled negotiation. They suggest that instead of negotiation over specific positions, we can avoid the hassle and simultaneously save time by stakeholders discussing the merits of ideas as well as focusing on their common goals which in this case is the survival of the zoo and its inhabitants. Mr. Lee fears for the survival of the zoo, his job and the loss of employment at his age.

He has no problem seeing the urgency of the situation but what he fails to do in the meeting is to convey that sense of urgency to the frontline employees. Conflicts regarding leadership expectations can often be attributed to a feeling of impotence, a feeling that the frontline employees have over their situation with the new director who did not get their input in what they see as their territory. Mr. Lee should have managed expectations by first getting across the desire to keep the zoo open despite the challenges of their new owner. In this manner, future conflicts could be managed with the understanding of each other’s goals.

Successful Change To develop successful change one must follow a set of protocols to ensure that while the changes are many and often the natural instinct to resist such change is strong, success can be achieved. In the case we’ve analyzed, that of the change in ownership of a zoo by the global conglomerate, Octopus owned by billionaire Rod McCain in the movie Fierce Creatures, the change and transition necessary for success were present but by accident in a comedy of errors that incidentally ended well for all of the major stakeholders except Rod McCain who dies at the end of the movie.

In order to get the desired effect, according to Kotter and Rathbeger(2005) you need to first set the stage. First by creating a ‘Sense of Urgency’, you must help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately. If Mr. Lee had done this, create a sense that unless they do something immediately, they will all lose their jobs and the zoo will close they would likely be more cooperative. The second part of setting the stage is to pull together the guiding team. Since Mr. Lee is new to the zoo and the zoo business, he needs to make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change.

This group needs to be leadership material, meaning that the members should be respected members of the group by and large as being able to solve problems and is trusted by the group. In the meeting, Mr. Lee immediately alienated the frontline employees by excluding them from the decision making process. This is also the probable source for their display of rebellion and their antics, much of the comedy in the movie. What should have been done is to include experienced animal handlers in the transition process.

In that way, deciding what to do, he can develop the change vision and strategy thereby clarifying for the people on the ground how the future zoo will be different from the past and how they will make that future a reality. In this manner, the keepers and Mr. Lee can discover which strategies and programs they can conduct to increase profits. By excluding the people on the ground, management has made both parties adversaries instead of change partners. In Mr. Lee’s presentation, there was no mention of how the changes he wanted to take place were to be done.

While he had a vision, that of making the zoo experience exciting for visitors, he had no specific plans in the manner it was to take place. He did not even have a clear definition of his requirements. He simply failed to communicate what he wanted to happen. In order to make the plan a reality, it is critical that understanding and “buy-in” take place. The vision and strategy towards that goal needs to be understood and accepted by as many people as possible to enable each to work in harmony, saving time and energy in the execution of the plan. What Mr. Lee did well was that he empowered others to act.

He did not specify how the strategy of removing non-violent animals was to take place but at least he allowed the keepers to display the dangers of each species in order to incorporate suitable animals into his vision. In making this project work, he also has to create short term goals that are achievable so that there is a milestone that gives everyone involved the good feeling of success, no matter how small. This will start the desire for success and cooperation. It is after this success that you can begin to push harder and faster, instituting change after change until the vision is reality.

Finally, we need to make the change permanent. The new ways of behaving and make sure they succeed until they become a part of the very culture of the group. We want the transition to continue into a relationship of trust and by good fortune that is what ends in the movie. In conclusion, the three parts of change management must be present for a successful transition. First is the Setup, second the Plan, third the Execution and finally Maintenance Phase which is simply to keep it going. References (Bridges, W. (1991). Managing transitions. Making the most of change.

New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers. (Fisher, R. & Ury, W. (1992). Getting to yes. Negotiating agreement without giving in. New York, NY: Penguin Group. Hagberg, J. (1994). Real power: Stages of personal power in organizations. Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company. Kotter, J. & Rathgeber, H. (2005) Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding in any condition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press O’Toole, J. (1995). Leading change. Overcoming the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

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