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Please answer these two questions based on the TEK article provided:

1)Assuming Tarik Kahn takes the offered position, he faces many Human Resources and related issues that he will need to address and resolve if he is to be successful. Please identify and BRIEFLY explain these issues (BUT NOT HOW TO RESOLVE THEM; THIS IS QUESTION #2 BELOW.)

2)What actions should Kahn take to help resolve each of the issues identified in (1) above? Please be specific.

TSEDALNEELEY
(Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek
Tariq Khan arrived home after a 16-hour meeting. He was grappling with whether to accept the global
sales and marketing team manager position. Khan spent the entire day with the senior leadership of the
team trying to understand the group’s challenges. However, the meeting had raised more questions than
answers.
Already a rising star within his company, Khan was only 33 when he was offered this high-profile
position to lead a diverse 68-person team whose members hailed from 27 countries and spoke 18 different
languages. The team’s recent performance had seen a precipitous decline, resulting in the previously wellregarded manager departing the company in a state of disrepute. Employee satisfaction also plunged by
more than half its peak nearly two years prior. Should Khan accept the position, he would be expected to
reverse the performance lag in less than two years, achieving substantial sales growth and increasing market
share. However, should he fail to resurrect the team in the allotted timeframe, his status as a high-potential
would be jeopardized. Khan hoped that meetings with both the senior executives and the outgoing manager
would help him decide whether or not to take the position.
The meetings thus far had been exhausting, but revealing. Khan had a greater understanding of the
group, but still had one more week to make up his mind. The following day, he would begin his tour of the
Middle East and Central and South Asia to meet the rest of the team. He wondered if a week was enough
time to assess the situation, but he pushed this question to the back of his mind and started packing.
Tariq Khan
Khan began his career as an electrical engineer with SPK in Pakistan, where he worked on industrial
projects in sales, business development, and project management. Eventually, he became the project
manager for a $20-million contract. Four years later, he moved to Tek and joined an exclusive list of “high
potentials” whose progress was reevaluated every two years. He had the potential to be promoted every 18
to 24 months and learn a variety of roles within the company. This visibility within the firm would provide
him with a fast-track route to an executive role. Even though he was constantly being evaluated by senior
executives, being on the list meant plenty of opportunities.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Professor Tsedal Neeley prepared this case with the support of Research Associates Colin Donovan and Nathan Overmeyer. It was reviewed and approved
before publication by the case protagonist. Funding for the development of this case was provided by Harvard Business School, and not by the company. The
company and characters have been disguised. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements,
sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.
Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800- 545-7685,
write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to www.hbsp.harvard.edu/educators. This publication may not be digitized,
photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.
414-059 (Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek
The first four years of Khan’s Tek career in Pakistan included assignments in procurement, planning,
and frontline sales, plus time as a sales team leader. He was also promoted to country manager for Pakistan
and served on a Global Competence Development Committee in addition to his regular responsibilities. This
role allowed him to visit sales teams around the world and observe their methods, motivations and
challenges. When he moved to Dubai for a new assignment in business development, Khan kept his existing
position on the Global Competence Development Committee. Again, he cycled through various roles,
rotating between staff and line functions. In his business development role, he led Tek’s penetrations into
Iraq and Bangladesh, where he worked with a linguistically and culturally diverse team for the first time.
A Tip and Advice from Singapore
After almost four years in various business development roles in Dubai, Khan knew that his window of
opportunity for a promotion was about to open again. A friend in Singapore, who was senior within Tek,
notified Khan that the position of General Manager for Sales and Marketing would soon be available. The
team, Khan was told, had been failing. The previous manager, known for his wealth of experience and also
a “high potential” at Tek, was leaving the company.
Khan was encouraged by his friend to apply for this new and challenging role. After he was selected, he
began to consider his options. He had a proven track record of success, but he wondered if taking this role
was too much of a risk; could he chance losing his position on the list of high potentials? Perhaps even more
nerve-wracking, the executives who selected him for the role wanted quick results. Khan wondered how he
could turn things around in less than two years, growing sales substantially and increasing Tek’s market
share. Khan questioned how the group’s problems had flummoxed even an experienced manager.
“Everyone thought the previous manager was a great leader,” Khan told his friend in Singapore.
“He tried team-building activities and cultural awareness exercises, as well as a lot of new ideas, and he
still failed. I’m a lot younger than he is. How can I expect to do any better?” His friend played up the
opportunities that this job might afford Khan: “True, you are younger, and you will need to delicately
manage older workers from the Middle East and Asia. But this group needs fresh ideas, and you have the
potential to be successful.” As Khan started to mull his options, his friend added, “This can be a very
important global role for someone on track to become an executive here.”
With this encouragement, Khan thought about his previous roles. He had worked well with a culturally
diverse team on the penetrations into Iraq and Bangladesh. He recalled how he became closer with the Indian
nationals on his team than with his fellow Pakistanis by making a concerted effort to reach out to them. It
required him to reject long-standing stereotypes that many Pakistanis and Indians held toward one another
as a result of longstanding border disputes and religious tension. Yet Khan was able to find common ground
by sharing that his father was born in India. As part of the Global Competence Development cohort, Khan
visited sales teams often, getting out and mixing around. In country after country, he had gained insight into
the region-specific challenges faced by his colleagues in different markets. As he thought about his
experiences, Khan became more confident in his abilities. Still, the job remained a huge risk. If he took the
job, it would be do or die: succeed, and his star would continue to rise even faster, but fail, and years of hard
work and careful planning would be negated.
A Caveat from the Departing Manager
The day that Khan received the job offer, he decided to solicit the advice of his potential
predecessor, Ali Amlak, who agreed to meet with him. After quick introductions, Khan shared his
concerns with him:
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(Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek 414-059
“While I am thrilled to have this opportunity, I am worried about where things stand,” Khan
said.
With an air of exasperation, Amlak responded:
“Listen, I am going to be completely honest with you—the situation is simply out of
control. I was spread too thin, putting out fires left and right. On top of running this
business, all sorts of issues consumed my time. A manager was accused of sexual
harassment, which embroiled us in a difficult legal situation. Ultimately, it was a cross
cultural misunderstanding. Then there were customer issues—missed and unfulfilled
deliveries. The list just goes on and on.”
Amlak paused momentarily and looked away in reflection, before continuing:
“It was always a struggle to get buy-in for new initiatives, and I frequently met fierce
resistance if I tried to make changes. An annual retreat was one step in the right direction.
We brought the entire team together in one location for the first time, and this seemed to
help. A session during the retreat was geared toward cultural sensitivity. Clearly, this
wasn’t enough—the same issues and old ways of working resurfaced shortly after. Listen,
Tariq, I think this job has ruined my reputation here, and I have no choice but to leave. If
I were you, I would think twice before taking this on.”
Amlak’s advice left Khan feeling anxious and even more uncertain. The new insights weighed
heavily on Khan’s mind, but for now, he decided it was best to sleep on what he had just heard.
Working across Boundaries
Language
The entire team was about to meet in Dubai. It was the perfect chance for Khan to sit in on the session,
and then meet with human resources and the team’s senior leadership the following day. When he arrived,
he was shocked by how many languages were being spoken before the meeting started. As he walked around
the room, he heard English in one corner, Russian in another, and Arabic in yet another. It quickly became
apparent to Khan that the team, given free rein to sit wherever they wanted, had divided itself based on
their native language, even though everyone in the group spoke English. As the day’s sessions progressed,
Khan noticed that the language-based cliques also had religions and cultural traditions in common. As they
bonded, these clusters drifted further apart from the larger group.
Khan began to see why people segregated into language groups. He noticed that team members did not
all have the same level of fluency or comfort in English, which further exacerbated the language barriers
among them. Native and highly-fluent English speakers spoke too quickly which caused less fluent
colleagues to hesitate with their questions. During one break, Khan overheard one of the quieter team
members ask his colleagues, “What did he contribute today? What does he bring to the table?” Khan began
to ask himself whether the shyer members of the team were legitimately concerned with their more fluent
teammates. Perhaps, they were simply disguising their weaker skills by questioning the usefulness of
speakers they didn’t understand.
Khan learned that team members working in Central Asia had it especially tough. They were already
operating in two languages, since Russian was widely used by business contacts, but Kazakh or Uzbek was
used when communicating with government officials and customers. Oftentimes,
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414-059 (Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek
employees working in the formerly-Soviet states were not actually from the countries in which they were
based. This meant they had to operate in at least three non-native languages.
Khan thought back to his work in business development, where he first led a linguistically and culturally
diverse team. In order to increase levels of communication across his business teams, Khan felt that they
should operate in a common language. He implemented the use of English as a lingua franca to bring team
members onto an even footing. Though it showed early successes, not everyone embraced the idea. He
wondered if he would fare any better with an even larger and more diverse team.
Time Zones
The group was also diverse in terms of time zones, work week, and holidays. Workers in the United
States, Singapore and Kazakhstan had their weekends on Saturday and Sunday, while Saudi Arabia and
much of the Arab world did not work on Thursday or Friday. This meant that the group’s common
workweek consisted only of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On top of this, the group’s core operations
spanned four different time zones. Plus, different countries had different holidays, and didn’t always
communicate these holidays to the others. When one team member in Dubai tried to contact another
employee in the Philippines, he became frustrated when no one answered his calls, not realizing the office
was closed for a national observance.
National Culture and Age
In addition to the confusion surrounding holidays and schedules, team members also did not fully
understand how diverse they were. When asked how many nationalities were represented in their group,
team members regularly guessed between 10 and 15. Some people did not even know from which country
their teammates came, incorporating them into broad categories like “European.” A Saudi Arabian team
member was assumed to be German, since he had been there for many years, but he still traveled on his
Saudi passport.
Later that day, the human resources officer responsible for the region gave Khan profiles of the team.
His 68 team members represented 27 different countries and ranged in age from 22 to 61 years. Among them,
they spoke 18 different languages and many other dialects (see Exhibit 1).
Shocked by the makeup of his unit, Khan again wondered if he was in over his head. He thought it would
be intriguing to be a part of such a diverse team with so many talents and interesting stories. But he
wondered if the group was just too diverse to function. Its recent failures were still foremost in his mind.
Conflicting Accounts
Over the past two years, operating margin and net profit margin for the global sales and marketing team
had declined precipitously along with market share (see Exhibits 2 and 3). During the same period, group
morale also dropped, with employee satisfaction declining by nearly half (see Exhibit 4). In order to better
understand the group’s weaknesses and the challenges they faced, Khan’s next step was to meet with the
three senior executives. He was by far the youngest person at the meeting and had no experience on the
team.
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(Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek 414-059
Market, Compensation, or Brand Changes
He tried to determine whether the group’s problems were internal or external. He asked the three leaders,
“Can the team do better? What’s stopping them from doing better?” Sunil, an Indian national working in
Lebanon, began by blaming the group’s recent failures on the market. “The recent increase in the price of
base oil has been pressuring our margins.1 When we raised our prices to compensate, our volumes
decreased,” he argued.
Lars, an expat from Sweden, vehemently disagreed, “It has nothing to do with our prices or the price of
oil. It’s our brand! The recent changes to our brand have done nothing but confuse customers. That’s why
we have seen a decline in revenue.” Lars continued with an accusatory tone, “And once this past year,
planned volumes from Nepal and Bangladesh failed to come in, causing performance to suffer again, not to
mention the relationships with our partners in Iran and Yemen.”
Sunil shook his head and ignored Lars. Changing the subject, he said, “We also have the issue of
compensation—the structure recently changed. Eighty percent of our salaries are fixed and the remaining
twenty percent is variable.” Sunil explained that the variable portion was based on volume and revenue and
was not linked to earnings or margins. Thus, when prices went up, salespeople were able to make their
revenue targets selling less volume. Yet the cost of goods sold was increasing, which further squeezed the
margins. Everyone shifted in their seats. Clearly, changing compensation yet again was not a conversation
they wanted to broach.
Target Setting
Ramazan, a Kazakh member of the leadership, interjected, “Let’s not bring up compensation again. We
all know that target-setting is at the root of all this. Setting regional targets from the top-down hasn’t worked
for years.” He explained that global directors broke worldwide sales targets down into regions, then regional
managers further divided the regional target among constituent countries. Ramazan recalled a target setting
meeting in which the business manager for Saudi Arabia refused the responsibility that came with managing
the largest country in the region. He told the group the general market was doing poorly and that his country
team had recently lost two major accounts, so he could not take the largest portion of the regional sales
target, as was expected. Other country managers also frequently made conservative estimates when setting
their own goals, downplaying their true ability. As a result, unclaimed parts of the regional goal got passed
on to new markets that were not yet online or to countries that were not represented at the meeting. “It
seems like no one is willing to take responsibility for their targets. Everyone is playing it safe, because they
don’t want to miss their targets. How can we accurately set goals if we don’t truly know what each country
is capable of?” Ramazan asked the others.
Khan worried about their staunch disagreements and lack of optimism. In Pakistan, however, Khan had
been on teams that thrived despite the changing market, the new variable pay scale, and the challenges of
the target-setting process. He had transformed his team from a collection of individuals into a cohesive and
successful group, and he was tempted to prove to the Tek executives that he could do it again with a bigger
and more diverse team. Khan believed in the Tek brand and had confidence in its ability to sell. But Amlak’s
advice still made Khan question his ability to succeed in the role. How could he make sure that he would
not end up in Amlak’s shoes?
1 Base oil refers to lubrication-grade oils produced from refining crude oil or through chemical synthesis. Base oils are used to
manufacture lubricants (e.g., motor oils) for consumer and commercial uses.
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414-059 (Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek
Digging for Answers
As the meeting dragged into its sixth hour, Khan kept pondering the explanations for the group’s poor
performance. He continued to push his advisers to go beyond the external factors influencing the group and
give him an honest assessment of the team’s inner dynamics. He looked at the clock—it was 5:00 p.m., and
they had been in this meeting since 9:00 that morning. It seemed everyone was repeating the same points
they had made earlier. But for two more hours, he continued to steer the conversation toward a deeper
understanding of why the team had been missing its targets.
“I have seen all of these things work well in Pakistan and know we can be successful.
What’s holding you back here? How come the entire team can’t be successful? What is
your instinct? What do you think is happening” he asked.
Finally, after 10 hours in the meeting and with patience running out, Ramazan
snapped and yelled, “Okay, fine, let me tell you why I wasn’t able to make the target last
year,” he began. “It’s because of him!” he said, pointing at Lars.
Lars stood up to defend himself. “I could have done that order. Remember those 100
kiloliters we missed because you were not able to deliver it? We were not able to deliver
it because your guys didn’t send it on time.”
Ramazan pressed on, insisting Lars was to blame: “Yes, my guys didn’t send it on time
because by the time they were online in Nepal, you said to just cancel it because it was too
late.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me this?” Lars interjected before Ramazan could answer.
“We could have fixed this!”
It was now approaching 11:00 p.m. Everyone was exhausted. Khan was glad to finally hear a deeper level
of communication. Sunil, Lars, and Ramazan did not all agree on what their focus should be as a leadership
team. But they knew that they had to start by understanding their team better. Sunil suggested reaching out
to every team member for thoughts on why the group was failing: “Look, guys. Let’s not decide for everyone
else. Let’s give them a fair chance, as well. Let’s hear them out.” Khan and the rest of the team concurred
and decided the next step was to meet with all 68 team members as soon as possible.
In the Field
Over the next week, Khan, Sunil, Lars, and Ramazan embarked on a whirlwind tour of the group’s other
offices to better assess the situation on the ground. These site visits introduced Khan to the markets and
some of the key customers, but the primary focus was on the other 65 team members spread over the region.
As they met the team members in small groups, Khan and the leadership team asked everyone for their
opinions on the group’s performance. Their meeting with Farah, a Lebanese customer service associate, was
emblematic of the visits they had elsewhere.
“Why do you think market share has declined by 5% over the past two years?” Khan
asked.
The look on Farah’s face told Khan all he needed to know—that this was news to him.
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(Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek 414-059
“I had no idea the group was doing poorly. I thought we were fine,” Farah responded.
“But didn’t you know Lebanon wasn’t meeting its targets?” Khan pressed.
“I suppose, but I thought we were doing better than that. Plus, targets only come up
for us a few times a year. I think they’re more on the minds of salespeople. They’re more
focused on making the sale. But what does more sales mean for me in customer service?”
Farah reasoned.
Khan recalled a training that taught him how to discern the most important values for
individuals and how to leverage those personal motivators to drive team performance.
He started with a new line of questions. “What motivates you, then, Farah? Why do you
come to work each day? What inspires you?”
After a pause, Farah responded, “I want my work to be valued and important.”
Khan nudged Farah for more, “Okay, but what really makes you get out of bed every
morning?”
After another pause, Farah finally responded. “I suppose money motivates me. I need
to be able to provide for my family. I like advancing within the company since it also
shows I am doing a good job and management trusts me. ”
Still not satisfied, but sensing he was getting closer, Khan tried one more time. “Is there
anything that pushes you to do well here? What would make you try above and beyond
what is simply required?”
“Maybe I feel like I need to believe in something. I think I perform best when I am
passionate about even just one aspect of the job.”
Khan was starting to get a better sense of where the team members stood and he began to think that he
could actually turn this team around, something he desperately wanted to do. He was eager to see what
other insights the group might have to offer. Maybe he would soon have enough information to know
whether or not to head up this team.
Cultural Insensitivity at the Top
As Khan traveled with Lars and the rest of the senior leadership, he saw problems that stretched all the
way to the highest levels. While in Uzbekistan, Lars, Khan, and two salespeople went out to dinner with
some clients to finish plans for a new deal. After working out the details, the Kazakh clients wanted to
celebrate with vodka. It was a strong local tradition, essentially necessary to closing the deal. When
Mohamed, a Saudi member of the team, politely declined to drink for religious reasons, Lars told him to just
do it and then loudly said that he “didn’t know when the Saudis would enter the 21 st century.”
Khan had previously heard rumors about Lars being insensitive towards his immediate team’s social
and cultural practices. He heard that Lars sometimes mocked local practices publicly while on business
travel and derided colleagues’ poor English skills. Displays like the one in Kazakhstan corroborated these
reports. Khan knew if he accepted the position, dealing with Lars would be one of the first major challenges.
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414-059 (Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek
Yet Lars was among the highest performers in the 68-person group. He had been with the company for
many years and was undoubtedly the best in product knowledge and financial delivery. Firing or
transferring him might cause the business to take a hit. Khan was not sure he could afford such a setback.
A Closing Window
A few days after his meeting in Lebanon, Khan had finally made it home, drained, his head spinning
with questions. Surely, the team members were as talented as he had expected. And yet, their interpersonal
dynamics loomed large. He had managed to create a cohesive, high-performing team before, but could he
do it again with an even more diverse group in only two years?
Khan had to decide by tomorrow whether or not to take the job. He had the training and experience
necessary to motivate people, and he relished challenges, but perhaps he was in over his head. Amlak’s
unflinching advice to turn down the offer, especially in light of the roadblocks he would face in trying to
turn around the team’s performance, weighed heavily on Khan’s mind. The diversity of the team was, on
the one hand, exhilarating in its potential, but also the biggest obstacle to their success. Khan still couldn’t
be certain how great a role the market played in the group’s poor performance, even though to some team
members, the market was paramount. As Khan drifted off to sleep, he wondered whether this job was a
great opportunity or too much of a risk. His position on the “high potentials” list would be in jeopardy if he
could not turn the team around, thereby sacrificing years of hard work and his trajectory within the firm.
8
(Re)Building a Global Team: Tariq Khan at Tek 414-059
Exhibit 1 National and Linguistic Diversity of Global Sales and Marketing Team
Home Countries of Team Members Native Languages of Team Members Australia Lebanon South Africa
Arabic Russian Bangladesh Netherlands Sri Lanka Bengali Sinhala Canada New Zealand Sudan Dutch Spanish
Egypt Oman Sweden English Swedish
India
United Arab
French
Urdu
Source: Casewriter.
Emirates United
Iran
Hindi
Uzbek Zulu
Pakistan
Kingdom United
Iraq
Kazakh Mandarin
Palestine
States
Persian
Jordan
Philippines Saudi
Uzbekistan
Tagalog Tamil
Kazakhstan
Arabia Singapore
Yemen
Exhibit 2 Operating Margin % and Net Profit Exhibit 3 Market Share
2003
65
Operating Margin %
30%
2004
2005
Net Profit (Millions of USD)
25%
55
20%
45
15%
35
25
10%
2003 2004 2005
Source: Company documents. Source: Company documents.
Exhibit 4 Employee Satisfaction
80%
70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
2003 2004 2005
Source: Company documents.
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