Developing a Leadership Strategy: The Case of the Toy Research Society The Toy Research Society (TRY), a nonprofit organization, has been in existence for more than 70 years. The organization’s mission has remained the same during this time, but the membership, the use of the Society by nonmembers and the competitive landscape have changed substantially. Driven primarily by a board of directors and regional volunteer leaders, the Society has never had a formal leadership development philosophy.
Now, the long-time president has retired, and TRY leaders are reflecting on how to prepare for the true, especially with increased calls for leadership role clarity and more delegation of work to members. As a member, you have the opportunity to develop the needed leadership strategy. As a member of the TRY committee charged with designing a leadership architecture, your assignment is to: 1. Identify the Society strategic direction (using the Organizational Diagnostic Worksheet). A. Understand the Society future goals and priorities. B. B. Understand the Society competition. 2.
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Design an appropriate leadership development philosophy and reflect that philosophy in the leadership architecture (using the Organizational Diagnostic Worksheet and the Leadership Development Philosophy Preliminary Architecture Tools Guide Worksheet). A. Diagnose the Society leadership development needs. I. Coordinate organizational members’ efforts. It. Facilitate and encourage organizational goal attainment. B. Use appropriate tools to design the architecture. 3. Map your leadership architecture recommendations (using the Leadership Architecture Map Worksheet). A. Create a leadership architecture map. B.
Essay/Assessment 4. Surmise in an essay/summation that highlights how your plan addresses the aforementioned three topics and goals. Case overview Since 1939, the Toy Research Society (TRY), a nonprofit organization mainly supported by member dues and donations, has striver to fulfill its mission to provide toy aficionados with resources and information that enhance the enjoyment and understanding of toys. The organization provides resources and information related to topics such as toy history, toy business news, safety, manufacturing, media, and the effects of toys on development in children and adults.
TRY has grown through the many eras and changes of the toy industry. Over he years, publications such as From the Toy Box Quarterly and Toy Time have excited members and made headway with nonmembers through references in the popular press. Books written by TRY members have garnered general interest in the marketplace. In the past, TRY events were well attended and produced new members. TRY membership grew from 84 in 1939 to an all-time high of 7,400 in 1991. Increased membership meant that more members were likely to conduct independent research or get involved in regional committee research related to the past, present or future of toys.
Members who conduct research are Try’s lifeline, because the organization is almost exclusively member-run; TRY supports a full-time staff of only two individuals. Through regional chapters with volunteer leaders, TRY creates the content that members and nonmembers desire. There are seven members elected to the board of directors; there are currently 82 regional leaders (several chapters have co-leaders). Membership stagnated in recent years and then decreased to 5,800. Fewer members are actively involved in research.
Having fewer members and a smaller proportion of those involved in research has laced pressure on regional leaders to produce work on their own or through small cadres of member researchers, weakening Try’s competitive advantage?competent member researchers. With regional leaders intent on producing research and less focused on engaging members and recruiting new ones, TRY has earned a reputation of being interesting and quirky but also outdated and slow. Mini-niche groups?some even spinning off from TRY entirely?have emerged on the Internet as alternative sources for the types of information previously provided by TRY.
These spiffs have contributed to the decline in TRY membership because TRY members are joining the mint-niche groups and allowing their TRY memberships to expire. In addition, these mint-niche groups often are being called on by media outlets, further diluting Try’s recognition factor by nonmembers and stealing away potential future members. Unfortunately, the mint-niche groups are sometimes less likely to provide a high-quality answer to a popular press interested in speedy responses. The end result is that TRY is being perceived as packaged with the other mint-niche groups and of only decent quality when it comes to toy search.
For many years, there were no other options for people who wished to engage in a community of those passionate about toys and research related to toy history. Now, there are clearly defined alternatives for those who wish to be a part of a toy-related community. As TRY grew, there were naturally occurring opportunities to be more creative. Regional leaders would capitalize on opportunities to collaborate and developed some outstanding co-regional research. However, the opportunities began coming in at a much faster pace and with shorter deadlines.
As a result, collaboration among chapters has dissipated, and with shrinking membership, it has not re-emerged. This lack of collaboration represents another weakened competitive advantage for TRY. Related to this lack of collaboration is a conflict issue. In some cases, regional chapters have produced similar work at nearly the same time but with conflicting results. While much of the discrepancies can be explained and balanced post- publication, the confusion is a disservice to TRY and its reputation. A New Toy Leader The president of TRY has stepped down after 15 years in the position.
The board of directors, after some in-fighting, has decided that the time is ripe to change the organizational culture. TRY leaders want to be more agile, place more focus on deep research skills and increase overall membership as well as membership with deep research expertise. In additional, TRY board members want regional leaders to promote this new culture, finding new ways to collaborate while increasing efficiency and accuracy. A committee was formed to build a leadership development architecture for TRY, something completely new to the organization.
As a TRY member and someone with HER knowledge, you were selected to serve on the committee. Future opportunities and competition Direction The core consumer group for the toy research industry tends to have a high disposable income. However, many potential members have gravitated toward other related industries (e. G. , high-end toys). Toy research has not appealed to the masses. Because it is not at the core of the toy industry and requires a financial investment that could otherwise be spent on toys, many potential members have elected to participate in other toy-related purchasing decisions.
The failure of the toy research industry to build large-scale appeal has led to the creation of niche organizations. Niche organizations can succeed in an industry, provided it has a specialized product or service unavailable elsewhere. Another option for a niche organization in the toy research industry is to focus on a particular geographical area or on a specific type of media outlet. One emerging issue for the industry is the development of mint-niche organizations (for example, organizations that focus on video games or educational toys).
These organizations operate on the same principles as niche organizations but have an even more specialized product or service. Thus, these organizations have less to manage, and they can cherry-pick the strongest products or services from niche organizations and deliver them at a greater efficiency, often using virtual technologies. The mini- niche market has put greater pressure on niche organizations to find new ways to create unique products and services and to move faster in decision-making and response to change.
Larger organizations in the industry, such as toy store chain stores, with divisions focused on o research take advantage of the ability to offer a full suite of products and are more efficient in their dealings, which often cover larger geographic ranges. Diversifying their product base allows larger organizations to better handle the changing demographics in the industry. Larger organizations also have more visibility through sponsorships and alliances. The complexity and speed of change in the toy research industry has increased over the years.
Try’s competitive advantage is diminishing, and leaders who can outperform the competition will be a key differentiator for TRY going forward. The recent success of movies and television shows based on toys and a growing international interest in new types of toys has led to an expectation that the industry will have a boom in the next few years, resulting in an entire new set of toy research consumers. Organizations are planning for these new toy research consumers by being ready to deliver the right new products and services that align with customer interests.
TRY must be ready to adapt to environmental changes and must develop sensitivity, flexibility and responsiveness. It is essential that TRY leaders support these elements through problem solving and innovation. TRY leaders need to guide members toward an environment that encourages prompt action and creativity. TRY Organizational Structure TRY currently has a board-driven structure. There is a seven-person elected board that has some formal governance responsibilities and much informal governance responsibilities. It is a static board; all members have served at least four years.
Boards should spend most of their time determining strategic direction and approving organizational action. The TRY board, though, has spent little time scanning the external environment and identifying innovative practices, potential threats or risks to the Society. This lack of attention to the external environment has prevented TRY from building its image and brand. Effective boards identify organizational priorities and align them with needed knowledge. TRY board members realize they have some knowledge “blind spots” and have tried to alleviate them by relying on committees culled from Society membership.
That is how you were identified (with your leadership expertise) to be a part of the leadership development architecture committee. In addition to the board of directors, there is a Society president, who is responsible for membership goals and fundraising. This position is currently open and may be open for some time. The board cannot agree on how to approach hiring the next president. The former president had been in the position for 15 years, and the board of directors had become quite comfortable with his work.
His fundraising from within the Society membership ranks was outstanding year after year, partly because of an aging membership with higher-than-average incomes. The declining membership numbers were less concerning to the board because of the resident’s successful fundraising. The leaders who drive the Society and who are considered the primary focus for leadership development are the regional leaders. Regional leaders represent TRY chapters based on geographical area. Regional leader responsibilities include: Setting the tone for the work of region’s chapters, including research that chapters may undertake.
Engaging regional members in research. Ensuring that region members have access to the information they need to conduct research or enjoy the fruits of research. Coordinating with other regions as needed. Coordinating region chapter events. Coordinating regional membership recruitment. Providing research-related toy resources to media, schools, charities, etc. In the past, regional leaders could meet all their responsibilities, but today there are fewer members and researchers to take on research opportunities.
This has caused regional leaders to be actively involved in more research, even when it falls outside their fields of expertise. In some cases, there is a small cadre to share in the research opportunities, but it is not nearly as prolific a cadre as in the past. Regional leaders are volunteers who are frequently selected informally. The outgoing regional leader often picks a successor, usually someone who has been active in the regional chapter and who shares many of the same values as the outgoing leader. The benefit to this approach is that it fosters an ongoing trail of passionate researchers as the heads of the regions.
The process is not democratic, however, and may fail to take into account the skills and abilities needed to lead during changing times. There are some touch points among regional leaders and the overall Society leadership. Regional leaders deliver an annual report to the board of directors, and funds for regional activities can be requested through the Society president. Regional chapters often contribute to publications, and all members receive copies of those publications. At the annual conference, regional leaders present their region’s work from the previous year.
Quarterly conference calls between regional leaders and the Society president have taken place fairly often over the last decade. There are also subdivisions of leadership known as special topics leaders. For example, congenial chapters could have special topics leaders head-up units based on shared content, such as educational toys, or based on delivery medium, such as Internet toys. Special topics leader responsibilities include: Providing guidance on an area of shared content to regional researchers. Implementing and maintaining a regional research program on an area of shared content.
Developing approaches to researching areas of shared content. A regional leader will occasionally receive the extra benefit from the presence of a special topics leader if the special topic happens to align with a current research opportunity. From a leadership development perspective, these leadership subdivisions may affect the choices made during the design of a leadership development architecture. Mission statement Try’s mission statement has remained the same since the Society formation: “The Toy Research Society is the place to play for anyone interested in toy research. Toy-related research conferences and academic lists have emerged over the years, but TRY believes its organizational purpose is to be a centralized provider of accurate, in-depth research related to toys. New cultural beliefs In a final act with the outgoing president, the board of directors developed a formal set of cultural beliefs for the Society moving forward. The new cultural beliefs are as follows: Always at play: Strive to think about toys in all of your daily activities. Be an expert: Provide research and data that others cannot.
Share your toys: Find ways to inform others about toy research. Implementing the new cultural beliefs will be important to the future success of the organization, and the regional leaders and special topics leaders will be critical players in making the cultural beliefs a reality. Current challenges With internal changes at TRY and external ones in the toy research industry, there are several challenges that must be confronted by TRY. These challenges include: Rebuilding a declining membership. Re-establishing a more prominent media presence. Controlling role balance for regional leaders.
Staving off competition from sub-niche organizations. Current Human Resource Initiatives The development of leaders for today and tomorrow is a human resource priority for the TRY board of directors. Your work on designing a leadership architecture is absolutely critical to helping TRY gain a competitive advantage. Your work should also reduce leader role confusions and help the Society optimize its resources. Other HER or HER-related initiatives identified as important to the Society’s future include increasing leader and member diversity and improving automation of many membership processes.
The latter initiative fits as part of a larger technical initiative to improve the Society’s online capabilities. These HER initiatives are informal because there is no formal HER presence in the Society organizational structure. HER administrative work is outsourced. Strategic HER work (e. G. , the leadership architecture) has been completed by the board of directors. Your challenge strategic direction (using the Organizational Diagnostic Worksheet). A. Understand the Society future goals and priorities. B. Understand the Society’s competition.
Organizational Diagnostic Worksheet and the Leadership Development Philosophy Preliminary Architecture Tools Guide Worksheet). a. Diagnose the Society’s leadership development needs. It. Facilitate and encourage organizational goal attainment. Iii. Use appropriate tools to design the architecture. Your work to create a leadership development architecture and introduce leadership development will hopefully achieve Try’s organizational strategies and outperform expectations, especially when compared with organizations lacking a leadership development.
The leadership development strategies you recommend also should help reduce several organizational risks. Some of these risks include wasted time and money, underdeveloped leadership and disengaged leaders and members. Organizational Diagnostic For steps I & II of Assignment Answer each of the diagnostic areas. The diagnostic areas specific to leadership development should help you formulate your leadership development philosophy for TRY. Diagnostic Area Answer Summarize the Society background. Identify the Society challenges.
Identify three potential risks to the Society. Rate the severity of the risk as high, medium or low. Note the potential negative result of each risk. Identify objectives that might be achieved for the Society through leadership development. Identify the different leader roles/Jobs that exist in the Society. Identify leader skills that might be needed in the future. Describe the procrastination of leadership development for different leader roles. What leadership development activities are most likely to be successful for the Society?
What message or vision best summarizes the need for leadership development at the Society? (This becomes your leadership development philosophy. The philosophy should emerge from the answers provided to the above questions. It may make more sense to have the leadership development philosophy listed as two or three key bullet points or through a visual presentation. ) How can leadership development be aligned with talent management at the Society? What behaviors will be exhibited by leaders if leadership development is successful at the Society?
Leadership development philosophy preliminary architecture Tools guide for step II of assignment Place a check mark next to each of the practices you would like to include in the leadership development system at TRY. Under “other,” feel free to add any additional practices you believe will help TRY develop leaders in a way that will align with the leadership development philosophy you established through the diagnostic. Add your notes as to the reasoning why this would be valuable. Leadership development category Include? Notes Training Personality inventories 360-degree feedback Assessment centers Coaching Mentoring Job assignments
Action learning Other Sample Leadership architecture map for step Ill of assignment (Generic organization in simple-form, single-phased approach) The sample below will not fit for TRY. The map you create should be based on the decisions you made for Steps I and II of the assignment. Goal: Leadership development will help the organization become a more agile organization that is constantly changing to appeal to newly forming markets. Education assessment coaching and mentoring experience Manager of business Public relations training n/a Executive coach Design a new product Manager of managers Change management Creative use of talent