Order Now

Critical Analysis of Southern Discomfort Case


It is known that any business enterprise needs change and innovation in order to be able to meet competition in the market where a great variety of companies produce similar products. Changes and innovation should be taken into consideration not only due to intense competition in all industries, but also due to fast changing markets and new technologies. (Dolan, 2000, p.2) However, sometimes the owners of the company fail to implement changes and innovation. In this case, the company may become unprofitable. There are many management cases which represent those companies and enterprises that failed to implement innovation and changes and were declared bankrupt as well as those companies that successfully implemented changes and won. Sothern Discomfort Case gives an opportunity to realize the importance of change and innovation in today’s competitive market. Moreover, this case study proves that the key role in this process should be given to employees with broad-based experiences and skills. My goal in this paper is to critically analyze Southern Discomfort Case.


Jim Malesckowski is asked by his boss Jack Ripon to go to Mexico and to determine some important figures, or operational costs, for their manufacturing company. Their plant is situated in the town of Oconomo, Wisconsin, where more than 500 employees work. Oconomo is known as a small town of about 10,000 people and the number of jobs is limited in this town. So, the company helps the town to keep its economy in good state and to prevent its complete decline. Jim’s boss, Jack Ripon has an idea to move the plant into Mexico where he will be able to cut costs dramatically and to save his company millions of dollars each year. It is known that the workers of the company are the members of the labor union that is responsible for negotiations on the wages and duties of workers with the company. The union does not want the company to pay workers lower wages or become cross-trained to perform many different jobs. Jim finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place in this situation because his boss Jack Ripon wants him to report the findings to him as soon as possible, but Jim knows that it can lead to the move in Mexico. If the plant moves to Mexico, about 500 people of Oconomo will be jobless.


In this case, there are both internal and external forces that can encourage change at the Oconomo plant. According to the force-field theory of change developed by Kurt Lewin, the famous American social psychologist, any issue should be held in balance by means of interaction of two opposing forces. In our case, the first force is employees who oppose to implement changes and prefer the existing system. It is mentioned in the case, that the labor union refused to lower wages and allow workers to perform several different jobs. The second force is organization itself which wants to become more efficient in the competitive market. That is why it is necessary for the managers of this company to find the right method in order to increase the forces for change as well as to reduce the resistance to change. (Consador, 2011, para.3)


The primary type of change needed at the Oconomo plant is “changing the people and the culture”, but not “changing things” because the employees who work for this or that organization represent the major tool of dynamic business environment. Moreover, changing culture in the organization is “one of the hardest tasks” for managers. It is known that “human nature instinctively rejects change of any sort, even if the change will be beneficial in the long run”. (Fusion, 2011, para.1)That is why it is necessary to start with “changing the people and the culture” and the next step should be “changing things” which includes technological advances, improved techniques, and so on. Of course, the Wisconsin plant cannot be saved by “changing things alone” or by “changing the people and the culture” alone. People should understand the need to change and their roles in this process. Different training programs should be implemented to develop new skills of employees. Besides, vision and philosophy of the organization should be clearly formulated in order “to provide inspiration.” (Stone, 2010, para.2)


The major underlying cause of the Union leaders’ resistance to change is protecting the rights of employees. It is known that the labor union members try to resist horrible working condition including long working hours, the absence of benefits, low wages and so on. Labor union tries to solve the employees’ problems in the organization and dictates the rights related to labor. (Hamel, 2011, para.1) In our case, the labor union of the Oconomo plan is unwilling to cooperate with Jim and plant manager because it protects the rights of the employees. It is known that Jim and the plant manager offered “a cell manufacturing approach which would cross-train employees to perform up to three different jobs”, but the union members refused to implement it.

If I were Jim Maleskowski, I would use the following implementation tactics to convince Union members to change in order to save the Wisconsin plant. First of all, I would explain them the significance of change at the plant. Secondly, I would persuade the labor union leaders of the fact that “a cell manufacturing approach” could help to save the plant and I would promise them that this approach would be used only several months. It would give an opportunity to save money in order to buy new equipment. The purchase of new equipment specially designed for this business would help to facilitate the work of each employee. Moreover, new technologies would increase the employees’ motivation and job satisfaction, increase in wages and benefits. These measures would positively influence the organization’s productivity and the plant would be saved. Moreover, the Oconomo plant would hold the leading position in the competitive market due to the use of new technologies.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that Southern Discomfort case gives an opportunity to evaluate the full significance of changes in the organization which is considered to be a bankrupt as its costs are too high.



Consador, K. (2011) Process of Change in an Organization. Ehow.com. October 3, 2011. Retrieved from:<http://www.ehow.com/about_5462307_process-change-organization.html>

Dolan, R.J. (2000) Note on Marketing Strategy. Harvard Business School Publishing. November 12, 2000.
Fusion, J. (2011) How to Change the Culture of the Workplace? Chron.com. October 2, 2011. Retrieved from:<http://smallbusiness.chron.com/change-culture-workplace-720.html>

Hamel, G. (2011) The Role of Labor Unions. Ehow.com. January 23, 2011. Retrieved from:<http://www.ehow.com/facts_5484483_role-labor-unions.html>

Stone, D. (2010) How Organizations Change. A Model for Organizational Transformation. Making Change Real. June 23, 2010. Retrieved from:<http://www.danielstone.com/resources/how-organizations-fundamentally-change/>