Take a Seat in the Harvard MBA Case Classroom

today we put ourselves in the shoes of cynthia caro imagine you've become ceo of one of the world's largest mining companies anglo-american 25 billion dollars in sales 162 000 employees two-thirds of them in south africa and four months into your job you hear the news one of the miners in rustenburg has lost his life yet another fatality you have to decide are you going to shut down the mine or continue business as usual david if you can open for us today you're cynthia carroll the news comes to you do you shut down the mine in rustenburg yes or no what are you gonna do so i think she needs to initiate some very detailed investigations into what happened in these circumstances and then what has happened throughout the past are you going to shut down or not shut down so i'm going to do a detailed investigation and then when i do have a plan what are you learning what are you learning in this investigation practices that are not being followed correctly or out of line or could be safer where there's like people are dying it's not safe what evidence are you looking for when you get the opportunity to participate you need to be able to compact the information that you're going to present in a very concise and clear manner through participation in class every day this is something that i am trying to sharpen who wants to get in on this it's dynamic it's fast peace there's a ton of energy everyone's really excited to jump in and contribute i learn a lot from my peers as much as i learn from the faculty if not more the professor kind of facilitates like an orchestra they kind of direct the music but they're not necessarily playing it i think we need to shut it down minor deaths are accepted as just a part of the process of mining shutting down the operation will signal a very strong mentality shift that debts aren't going to be tolerated that's called a bold stroke by the way what grant is talking about what is talking about robert is talking about is a bold stroke which means from this day forward something has shifted but those of you who disagree say what those of you who disagree say what will i think we do much more if we improve the culture around safety in the entire organization there's some truth that we're trying to work toward the debates become more and more fun because that's when you get to uncover views that you hadn't thought of and when you get to push your own thinking and hopefully make your own thinking much much better if you allow your perspective to be constructively challenged by other people then it is just fascinating how you know your position and your perspective can shift those of you who want to shut down how do you respond to this layla we had we shut down the plant because we had safety issues and we made a stand and we started making a safety culture like we had a safety the fact that we can have difficult uncomfortable conversations we can talk about race we can talk about politics and still be friends at the end of the day and to have people who are not from a specific group but still have sympathy and empathy is pretty unique beyond cultural and beyond structural we also talk about just the people of the organization the overseers are generally white and the workers are generally black the language which they communicate is called finagle it's largely a command and control language so you're saying some structural you're saying some linguistic communication barriers you're saying some uh organization cultural issues around the entire organization i think casement that also gives you humility your perspective is not enough to figure out the answer to a question and actually gives you the ability to ask other people what their perspective is so there's 27 countries represented in our section of 94 people and because of the way that the case method is structured we can sort of get underneath what are those differences really tied to you know are there cultural things about where you come from that makes the business world operate slightly differently and are there things that we can learn from those differences i think consumers are critical here so not only do they care about having high quality inputs to their supply chains on time but they will also care about safety in the first month or couple weeks of class i was hesitant to participate but over time i've gotten rid of all of my barriers and don't really have any qualms about participating but a lot of that is because of the support of my classmates and not only do i see it changing in myself but i see my classmates making better points over time which then also again pushes me to be better stakeholder analysis is so so important when we think about change so important to do we think about who do we need to worry about and what do they care about what are their interests and so you start there but that's not enough you have to then say where do i need to invest the most time who is in this cell the board i'm really worried about the managers i think the government's also key in here being in the case setting you realize how valuable everyone else around you is and how valuable their opinions are and the importance of being a really good active listener so before we shift from this and think about some action planning i just want to show of hand because it's not clear to me in this room how many of you are shutting down really and how many of you are not shutting down so most of you are not shutting down wow so are we going to resolve this now or are there points that we need to make i don't know if i think this is a performance gap i don't know if this is about best practices to me this is about culture if all of these like if all these minors were like white and not black i think that death rates would look very very differently because i think people would consider the value of the lives of the people in the mind very differently the question we have to ask is is this company extracting more value from the community than it's providing it's scary to be vulnerable in a working world so you're oftentimes taught to put up a shield but here you're given an environment that supports you to take those risks and actually celebrates failures or celebrates diversity of thought when you don't agree with someone jumping into the arena using your brain to come to the best hypothesis and conclusion that you can given the data that you have is a task that leaders have to do every day how do you use limited information to make a decision and do that in a way that forces you to flex that muscle of dealing with ambiguity they don't get it jake yeah it dragged me back up from the front line to the ceo position one of the things that i was thinking about is not just all of these different elements that we should be considering in terms of safety but also the leadership capability of cynthia herself you reliably took positions at your previous company they were incredibly unpopular and encountered all sorts of resistance and i think this is a case where you've shown that you can do it and so i would shut down the situation is different don't you think is she suited for this job can she do this i think that's an incredibly challenging question that's what we do jake this is what we do this is what we do we push students to take a position or to take a stand because it forces students to think deeply to think about risks to think about the weaknesses in their ideas and to also be open to influence i want them to set high standards for themselves i want them to be challenged i want them to challenge others so what initially brought me here was that i wanted to complement these skills that i've developed in architecture and consulting with business skills but once i got here those priorities completely changed what inspires me now is really the having super engaged in discussions with my peers i don't think that i've ever been that intellectually stimulated on a day-to-day basis i am here and i think for me that's inspiring and it just wakes me up every day with excitement i think i recognized that i wasn't pushing myself to think differently or to lead differently i wasn't going to do anything extraordinary and i thought maybe if i came here i would be pushed in a way that would lead me to develop into someone who could change something at hbs there's just no one here who wants to come out the same way they came in and that's really exciting 30 years ago cynthia carroll 30 years ago was actually in your seats in these exact same seats and because of her thousands and thousands of miners in the world are paid better much safer and are leading better lives with much more dignity one day not only that could be you i know that one day it will be you

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