Mary Griffin at Derby Foods

This week’s case is Mary Griffin at Derby Foods. You will write a case write up as if you are a consultant for Mary Griffin. You have seen the situation with Simon York as shown in the case. Analyse the situation. What are the root problems in the case? What would you advise Mary Griffin to do? Give specific action steps backed by outside source evidence. Make sure to follow the Case Write Up Rubric.
The following steps should help you write an effective case write up:
Read the Mary Griffin at Derby Foods case study and then view the Feedback & Coaching Workshop. Take notes as you read to increase your learning and retention ability, as well as to prepare for the write-up. Also record any questions or thoughts you would like to share with your group during the Case Study Activity later this week.
After reading the case study, prepare a well-thought and professional write-up based on this rubric. This is a significant assignment, please approach it as such. If you need a reminder of what is expected in a case study write-up, refer to the General Case Write Up Instructions. You may also email your case to your teacher or TA at anytime before the due date and they can give you feedback. You will not be able to get help on your write up from other students.
Proofread and edit your paper. Cite your sources. Save your work.
Don’t forget to format properly as well including an Introduction, Problem Identification, Recommendations, and Conclusion. Identify 3-5 problems and make recommendations on 3 of those problems.
R E V : N O V E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 2
Senior Lecturer Anthony J. Mayo and Professor Joshua D. Margolis prepared this case. The company mentioned in the case is fictional. 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 © 2011, 2012 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 This publication may not be
digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.
A N T H O N Y J . M A Y O
J O S H U A D . M A R G O L I S
Mary Griffin at Derby Foods
Mary Griffin, vice president of consumer products, sighed and slightly cringed as she saw John
Shelburne, director of production, walking briskly toward her. That walk and sense of purpose on his
face could mean only one thing: There was a problem. “Hey, Mary, do you have a minute?”
Shelburne asked. Not waiting for Griffin’s response, Shelburne continued, “I need to touch base with
you about Simon. I know that he was recently promoted, and may not appreciate how things work
around here, but you need to set him straight. I don’t care if he is a hotshot; he can’t just come down
to the production floor and order people around. Who does he think he is?”
“Hold on, calm down!” Griffin said. “What happened?”
Shelburne went on to explain that Simon York, brand manager, had noticed a slight imperfection
on the label of one of Derby Foods products, a chocolate crème-filled snowball-shaped cupcake. The
company was recently named one of the official snack providers of the Winter X Games, and York
had worked with the in-house design team and the production staff to create a seasonal package for
its cupcakes that referenced this partnership. The new product label included a reference to the
“official cupcake of the Winter X Games.” Shelburne said that when York saw the new labels, he was
enraged. He thought that the “X” on the label was not prominent enough. York charged down to the
production floor and yelled at the staff for producing an inferior product. He said that the production
staff was ruining a potential long-term partnership.
Griffin thanked Shelburne for his feedback, and assured him that she would address it. Griffin
was perplexed. In many ways, York was a terrific employee. As an assistant brand manager for
Derby Foods’ baked goods products, York had designed and developed some ingenious co-branding
opportunities and had been successful in re-energizing the 150-year old brand. His successful
application of social media marketing and innovative advertising efforts had made the brand
relevant once again with a whole new generation of consumers. It was because of these efforts that
York had been promoted to brand manager, replacing someone who had retired after serving in that
capacity for 27 years. Griffin remembered how York had successfully convinced the former brand
manager to experiment with new ideas and approaches. York seemed to manage this relationship
very well, respecting the former brand manager’s experience but playfully challenging him to try
new techniques.
412-040 Mary Griffin at Derby Foods
Shelburne’s comments, however, seemed all too reminiscent of what Griffin had observed at the
last brand review meeting. York was one of six brand managers at Derby Foods. Each month, all
brand managers presented a review of their respective brands to each other and to the full sales and
marketing team. The review had started well, with York and his team presenting their ideas for
leveraging the co-branding opportunities with the Winter X Games. As York was presenting the
financial analysis for some of the new ideas, however, he noticed a computational error on one of the
Visibly embarrassed by the error, York apologized to the meeting attendants, saying, “There is no
excuse for this error. It should not have happened.” Turning red, Tim Durham, the assistant brand
manager who had prepared the analysis, took responsibility for the error and apologized, saying that
he would correct it. York somewhat jokingly replied, “Thank God this is just an internal meeting. My
team dropped the ball, and forgot that details matter.” Then, looking directly at Durham, York
continued: “If the representatives from the X Games were here, this would definitely be a careerlimiting
move.” York regrouped, and presented some innovative branding and marketing ideas that
were acknowledged by some of the more experienced brand managers. Many of the veteran brand
managers were excited about the ideas and sense of energy that York brought to his role.
Griffin noticed that York’s team did not share the same level of enthusiasm. Throughout the
remainder of the meeting, many of the team members looked down and shuffled uncomfortably. It
was clear that they wanted the meeting to end.
Griffin had hoped that York’s tirade with his team in the brand review meeting was an isolated
incident. She assumed that he was just trying to assert himself in his new role, but Shelburne’s
comments pointed to a potentially more significant issue. While she admired York’s passion and
creativity and did not want to curtail these qualities, she knew that those attributes alone would not
ensure long-term success in the company. She needed to give him some pointed feedback, and
scheduled a meeting with him for the next day.
Simon York
When Griffin’s assistant called to schedule a meeting between York and Griffin for the following
day, the assistant was a bit evasive about the purpose of the meeting. She simply said that Mary
wanted to touch base with York on the co-branding and promotional activities with the Winter X
Games. York reflected on how to make the best use of the meeting. This co-branding opportunity was
very important to the firm, and York was pleased with his stewardship of the relationship. He set
high standards for his team, and even used the last brand review meeting to demonstrate, in no
uncertain terms, his commitment to quality. He set the bar high for himself and expected others to
follow suit. His peers seemed to be excited about his approach and the ideas that he had presented.
He was also glad he was able to catch the production labeling glitch this morning before it escalated
into a major issue. As he thought about it, Griffin’s meeting request was timely; he could use the
meeting to discuss how to ensure that the production team delivered on its promises of quality and

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