Introduction The Taran Swan case study is principally concerned with looking at how to maintain effective communication and leadership when an unexpected circumstance impacts the management structure of an organization. Problem Statement Since the channel’s inception, Nickelodeon Latin America has been managed by Taran Swan, first as launch director and then as general manager. She has had a significant impact on all important decisions in the life of the enterprise.
Unfortunately due to an unforeseen medical condition Swan will be required to leave the Nickelodeon headquarters and return home for several months.
Her dilemma is how to ensure that during her convalescence the network continues to grow and thrive. Swan faces several specific decisions in the short term including what methods can she use to continue to lead her team from a remote location if she is going to stay involved? ;how will the network interact with its parent corporation without Swan to handle that relationship?
But the most important choice facing Swan is should she appoint a deputy to handle some of her functions in her absence? Supporting Facts Background Nickelodeon Latin America • Founded in 1996 as part of the MTV Networks division of Viacom • Service area from Mexico through most of Central and South America • First Nickelodeon property to service more than one country in more than one language • Based in Miami with satellite office in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.
Taran Swan • HBS (1991) Six year experience in management in entertainment/broadcast industry • Very personable leader who believed in delegating authority to her subordinates • Consistently stressed strategic thinking in entire staff. • Very analytical and numbers driven • Took over for a failing launch director for the Germany project and brought it to a successful conclusion • Had been a long time advocate for entering Latin America. Appointed launch director in May 1996 and general manager in September 2006
Other Management • Valerie McCarty – Vice President Marketing and Communications. Good business savvy and natural leadership skills. Native of Puerto Rico. • Steve Grieder – Vice President and Creative Director Programming. “Creative genius” who had some Latin American experience. Similar leadership style to Swan. • Donna Friedman – Vice President Marketing and Associate Creative Director. Passionate about the Nickelodeon brand. Excellent understanding of the company culture. Relevant business issue MTV networks has not fully committed to the Latin America project. It may be quick to “pull the plug” if things do not go well. • Nickelodeon Latin America is sharing resources with MTV and it is an uncomfortable situation due to difference in culture. This is especially apparent in the sales area. • Latin American market is very complex. In contains multiple countries, two languages, and the regional cable infrastructure is immature. • Swan had to build a team from scratch in a short period of time. Swan stressed communications between the staff and encouraged them to challenge each other. • Pan regional approach required innovative marketing approaches to attract viewers. • Major contract negation taking place to bring on the Cablevision/TCI the largest system in Argentina. • Swan, McCarty, and Friedman typically flew out every weekend to spend time with their families. • Plans are underway to provide a Brazil specific Portuguese language feed. Swan’s pregnancy is deemed to be high risk and she will be forced to leave the Miami office to spend the rest of her pregnancy in her New York home. Supporting facts from Alex. 1. CableVision/TCI deal 2. Dedicated feed for Brazil Internal analysis: Strengths: •Corporate culture – an independent self-managed top level contemporary organisation • Affiliate sales achieved 6. 3 mil homes •Buy-in into Nick brand • High price to pay for the Brand awareness and traidoffs between building the brand and bringing revenue (World Cup promo needed lots of money, for instance)) •Operational efficiency Availability of some of the executives to be in LA or Miami office… •Flexibility -McCarthy is more locally available , Friedman is less available. Overall executive team was working well together •Key staff – 30 people,lean,competitive organisation Weaknesses: •Potential for Viacom to call off Nick Latin America project •Minimal resource allocation – (the channel is given a chance but very limited resources) financial resources during the early season of launch, Marketing positioning with MTV, shared office space, etc… Disruption of team cohesiveness by Byrne (Byrne leaves; Antonio Canto arrives and Taran does know him yet) •Tight revenue targets versus demographically unclear market •With the aggressive growth in Latin American subsidiaries, many headquartered in Miami, it was very challenging to attract and retain top talent with experience in Latin America. According to immigration laws, non-U. S. citizens could not be hired unless a company could prove no U. S. candidate was available for the position. Met overall bottom-line budget but missed revenue budget by 11% •Revenue stream remained to be a problem – Advertising sales problem •Unclear that the sales staff from corporate understands the Nickelodeon business External pressures: Opportunities: •Nick En Vivo – 60000 kids – huge investment into success and publicity that will continue to pay off. •Ayudo a Tu Mundo will begin in two weeks – early July, 1998 •Dedicated feed for Brazil (opportunity to attract more local advertisers) – but weakness the lack of Portuguese programming and it is also a threat if not done in the coming months. Threats: Shared infrastructure with MTV becomes difficult as the channel progresses •Stringent rules on international subsidiaries laid by Viacom (need to add more here) •Potential effect of economic crisis in Asia on Latin America (but Taran had a contingency plan to cope with instability, so the assumption is that the channel is not affected) •Financial difficulties / Budget tensions (Ray del Valle has business skills Swan desired but no experience in entertainment) •Shared stuff increased costs (del Valle, Bearden, Neuhause, Herring) – Taran decided to cut/reallocate from programing and marketing budgets to cover for the costs •CableVision/TCI deal had not closed and may never close. Strengths •Corporate culture – an independent self-managed top level contemporary organisation •Significant penetration of new markets in a short time period •Nickelodeon is a recognizable world wide brand •Operational efficiency oSmall 30 person staff oFlexilbility of executive team to travel oEntire staff works in a very collaborative fashion •Demonstrated marketing expertise with LA youth oNick En Vivo (live marketing event) •Huge library of existing programming Weaknesses
Swan has limited operational experience Staff with LA experience is difficult to recruit •Minimal resource allocation oViacom not 100% committed to operation of channel oShared infrastructure and staff with MTV Latin America causes difficulty in promoting the Nickelodeon brand. •Sales staff from MTV does not understand the Nickelodeon business model • Disruption of team cohesiveness by Byrne (Byrne leaves; Antonio Canto arrives and Taran does know him yet) •Staff turnover oLA staff are heavily sought after by outside companies o •Nickelodeon Latin America is the first multi national presence for Nickelodeon •Financial performance shortfalls oMet overall bottom-line budget Missed revenue budget by 11% Threats Competion Fox kids Cartoon network Small local stations Outside Recriutiment Expericed staff actively pursued by completion Potential for Viacom to call off Nickelodeon Latin America project at any time Financial market instability Frequent currency fluxuations and devaluations impact financial performance Cable infrastructure in infancy in LA Channel clearance hard to obtain Unclear and inconsistent business practices from country to country Viacom showed little flexibility in modifying corporate practices for LA Several critical business deals are not yet closed CableVision/TCI Brasil Feed Opportunities •Expension opportunities Dedicated feed for Brazil (opportunity to attract more local advertisers) oMany opportunities in smaller LA countries (i. e. Honduras) oPotantial deal with Telemundo to reach US Hispanic children •LA children’s marked current underserved Conclusion and Alternative Solutions Alternative Solution 1 – Do not select and interim director The first option Taran Swan can select is to attempt to perform as much of the work as possible from her home in New York. By not appointing an interim replacement or replacements it will give her the opportunity to continue to lead Nickelodeon Latin America, as well as to stay involved with the day-to-day operation of the fledgling new team.
Given that the events of this case took place at a time when the use of Internet had spread sufficiently to support telecommuting, it should not prove to be too difficult to stay involved. If this is the option Taran selects, she can and should delegate as many of her mundane tasks as she can without giving up the reigns. She has already begun this process by appointing her administrative assistant as the “gatekeeper” for communication. Obviously the tasks she delegates should be ones which she feels do not require her direct involvement. Nonetheless, Taran should continue to receive daily status briefings from the people she chooses to act on her behalf in her absence, and to directly participate in Nickelodeon Latin America management meetings. This choice however has distinct risks.
It is entirely possible that Taran’s medical condition may at any time require her to discontinue her day to day involvement with Nickelodeon Latin America. In this case the resulting vacuum of power and the succeeding uncertainty might cause sufficient doubt in the minds of Nickelodeon executives to “pull the plug” on the young network. Even if Taran is capable of working from home without jeopardizing her health or the health of her unborn child, eventually someone else will have to step in as the birth approaches. It is specifically for this reason that it would be prudent for Taran to develop a contingency plan consisting of a person or people who can take over the various tasks from her once the time arrives.
The candidates to fill the role or roles of interim heads of Nickelodeon Latin America are described in the second and third options below. Alternative Solution 2 – Appoint a single interim director If Taran Swan decides to select a single person as an interim director she has three key issues to address; choosing the proper candidate; getting buy in from the MTV Networks corporate office; and to find the most appropriate way to communicate the decision to her team. Swan has a number of credible candidates to choose from, these include McCarty, Friedman, and Grieder. Each of these candidates has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. McCartyGreiderFriedman Pro Con McCarty Greider Friedman
Business savvy / natural leadership skills Familiar with LA culture The best NICK matching background (best as creative and marketing lead) Initiative to take charge / potential to seek additional responsibility Swan about him ““He was the best & that made the business best” Cross functional knowledge (MTV? ) Courage and power to take over (done the first step when announced the news) Locally available for business – this is key for the interim position Passion and drive for the brands success Very protective of his team (exhibits commitment to his team) Hands on experience w/ campaigns & events Overall the case suggests that he matches Tarran’s leadership style Knows the organization and culture better than others Worked with top management at NICK and MTV
Our team determined that if Taran Swan decided to appoint a single interim manager she would most likely pick Steven Grieder. The most important reason for selecting Grieder is the fact that he is locally available, and of all the legitimate candidates is the most familiar with the Latin American market. Grieder also has a leadership style similar to Swan’s. He also possesses a substantial amount of creative drive and is the only person noted in the case to be trusted by Swan. The case also provides an example where Swan recognizes his efficiency “He was the best and that made the business best. ” Grieder always had explanations for his actions and is very protective of his team.
Not only does Grieder have the most potential to be interim manager, but he also could be the future permanent leader of the Nickelodeon Latin America team should the need arise. This will help to ensure continuity of leadership and serves as an advantage for selecting him as an interim director. Alternative Solution 3 – Split the interim director responsibilities among multiple people Another option for Swan is to divide the responsibilities among more than one person. Given the current state of her staff our team believes that it is a plausible solution to select two people for this position. We feel that the strongest combination of two candidates would be Steven Grieder and Donna Friedman.
As we pointed above, Steven Grieder has the most potential to be an interim manager and ability to be the future permanent leader of the Nickelodeon Latin America team. Donna Friedman would compliment him quite well. Although she is not available locally, Friedman has the best understanding of the Nickelodeon culture as demonstrated by her work as creative and marketing lead. She frequently demonstrated “contagious enthusiasm for the brand and out-of-the box thinking” which is critically important in an entertainment enterprise. Friedman could also use her experience with campaigns and events to help creating a stronger alliance with the top management at MTV Networks.
The case stated that Donna Friedman had a good, productive relationship with McCarty. While we felt this combination might be viable, McCarty’s lack of operational experience indicated to us that the Grieder-Friedman combination would be better. This choice has some risks as well. As is typical when multiple managers are involved, communication may become a problem. The two chosen interim directors will need to be cautious about consistency of their message and to be careful about delineation of responsibilities between them. Recommendation As a group we came to the conclusion that out of the three options presented above, we are strongly leaning against not appointing an interim replacement all (Alternative Solution 1).
Although the case does not specify the severity of Taran Swan’s illness and whether or not she is capable to contribute to running her team, the case offers enough hints for the group to assert that this option is simply too risky and irresponsible to bank. Choosing amongst the remaining two options took some more careful consideration. It is obvious that neither selecting a single or multiple interim replacements will yield a seemliness transition. There’s simply no combination of person or people which will equate to match the skill-set, interpersonal relationships, respect and experience as Taran. Ultimately we selected alternative solution 2. The most pressing concern with appointing multiple interim leaders is that we fully expect that having more than one person at the top gives rise to the idea which kept coming up in our discussions.
This idea is that with such a ambitious and motivated team as Taran has assembled there will inevitably be questions of authority, infighting and possibly discriminating to the level of attempting to undermine each other’s reputation. Although these issues might be resolved after a period of time, being that Nickelodeon Latin America doesn’t seem to have the full buy in of its upper management, any sign of weakness might cause the higher-ups to simply pull the plug on the network. This is why choosing a single interim replacement leader is our final choice. Even if the candidate suggested does not posses the full breadth of skills as Taran, he will not hesitate to seek advice from those more experienced in areas he’s lacking expertise in or even from Taran, provided she’s available.
Cite this Taran Swan
Taran Swan. (2018, Jan 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/taran-swan-2/