Chapter 9 Case Study: What Do We Mean By Learning Agility?

Use this case study as a discussion prompter with your teams or students.


Jack Danielson, the company sales manager, liked to get together with his sales team after work for drinks, as he believed that after hours, they would be more open and honest with him. His team members were friends and all veterans of the company with at least seven years of experience, and job satisfaction was high. However, Jack was very driven, and wanted more than the status quo. He had a goal of growing 17% per year based upon the outstanding past performance of the company, but with seven months left in the year, projections did not look to track nearly this well.


He had been going through a crisis of sorts thinking that his team members were too comfortable and complacent, were not doing any self-examination of their work, and were not asking for, or seeking how to achieve better results and increase sales volume in their work. They all held established accounts, and were earning higher salaries, bonuses, and commissions than their counterparts in the food industry business.


At the bar, Jack approached his senior team member who he believed was something of a confidant and asked, “What can we do to increase our learning in order to identify ways for increasing sales.” He was super disappointed to hear the response, “I don’t work to learn. That can create more confusion and chaos. I just need to focus on the closing the deal, finalizing the sale, then taking care of the next account, one by one, until I get through the week.”


The next few weeks, Jack observed that the team as a whole did nothing out of the ordinary. They made no attempts at increasing their business accounts, never stopping in at potential accounts, and just carrying on with business as if it would always be the same. Each day was scheduled and set. He knew several of the team members in the past had complained about change, but he hesitated to confront them, as everyone was happy and consistently productive.


He decided to have a serious meeting with all the team members present. He knew this would be difficult as none of them had experienced any disruption, and they all seemed so carefree. He was about to drop the hammer and tell them it was time for a major change. He was about to find out who was resilient and understanding, and who might be upset and opposed.


Questions to Consider

  1. What can Jack do to create an atmosphere engendering a creative mindset and ethos to encourage his team members to step outside of their day-to-day routine?

  2. How can Jack create an environment of learning that observes other approaches, adapts to a changing world, and facilitates an ability to be flexible?

  3. What do you attempt to teach employees like this, in order to convey the importance of learning? How do you break through their complacency?

  4. Do you emphasize strategy, product development, offer additional training, or encourage learning about their specific industry? What do you believe will actually work?