Volkswagen Case study

Description of Assignment: In this 1200 – 1300 word written individual assignment, you have been hired by Volkswagen to (1) help it understand how it arrived at a terrible scandal in which the company was found to have cheated emissions tests for its ‘clean diesel’ cars in the US and (2) propose a plan to keep such a thing from ever happening at the company again.

To inform your report to the company, you will read the INSEAD case entitled “Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal: How Could it Happen?”, which is available in Module 9 of myCourses. A series of prompts to help you think about the case follows.

Guiding prompts

-Why was the company promoting “clean diesel” in the USA?
-Why did the company’s engineers program vehicle software to cheat emissions tests?
-Do you think top management knew about the cheating? Why/why not?
-What was the management style at VW? How did it likely contribute to the scandal?
-In what ways, if any, can Kerr’s seminal entitled “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B” (readily available online) inform this case?
-What are the long-term implications of these issues for VW’s future and for the automotive industry more generally? What can be learned?
-Is this a case of some ‘bad apples’ doing the wrong thing at VW? Is VW, instead, a ‘bad barrel’? Is the auto industry (or perhaps capitalism more broadly) a ‘bad orchard’? Is some combination of these things to blame? Why so?
-What should VW do now? Why? What will be the effect?

You do not have to address every prompt with equal vigor… some are more important than others and should be treated as such. Part of your job is to figure out which matter most! And, there are important considerations that are not necessarily included in those prompts, so you’ll need to do some thinking on your own, as well! Your response must be in essay form, rather than presenting as a list of questions and answers. An effective paper provides a thoughtful analysis of the case and applies course concepts and materials appropriately.

In preparing your response, it is acceptable for you to discuss the case with your classmates. However, once you begin putting your thoughts in writing, you must not communicate with your classmates. Moreover, it is an honor code violation to view anyone else’s response to this case, be that a classmate’s or someone else’s! It is fine—and appropriate—to conduct research on theories, practices, etc., that might inform your responses, but be certain that you are not viewing anyone else’s analysis of this case. Also, be sure that you appropriately cite any works that you reference in preparing your response.

Your writeup must be between 1200 and 1300 words, double spaced (plus references, appendices, etc., which do not count in the word count). Use APA6 formatting for in-text citations and references section.

Suggestions for case analysis

Many people find case analysis to be very difficult and uncomfortable, especially if you are new to case discussion. This may be due to inexperience dealing with the relative lack of structure that is characteristic of complex managerial ethics issues. No correctly answered list of questions or mechanical process will automatically lead to the “right” answer. In fact, there is no “right” solution to most managerial problems, rather there are apt to be many “right” answers, and unfortunately, even more “wrong” answers. Do NOT reference what Volkswagen did after the case ended. For the purposes of this exercise, assume that the last page of the case happened just today, and you must help the company figure out what to do going forward.

Part of analysis is to define the issue(s). Another part is to explain the mechanisms that are causing the problem(s) or to explain why things are working well. Finally, recommendations must be developed that are appropriate for the situation. Until you develop a process for case analysis that is most comfortable for you, it may be useful for you to follow a process that has been successful with other students in the past.

Suggested case analysis steps

1. Read the assigned readings. The material in the readings should play an important role in your analysis of the case. Remember that case analysis in this course is cumulative. Thus, material from earlier readings may be relevant and must be applied even if it means using concepts that were not discussed for several weeks.

2. Read the case and the assigned case analysis prompts. Take notes on important issues in the case as well as concepts in the reading material that seem applicable. The assigned questions should be considered a guide to issues that you must consider; they are intended to help you orient your analysis. Nonetheless, other issues not raised in the questions may also be relevant, thus be sure to give yourself sufficient time to read and think about the issues in the case.

3. Analyze the case. You should be able to identify the outcomes in the case and/or issues that the organization faces. These outcomes may be detrimental, or they may be beneficial. There may be numerous problems and issues. The challenge of case analysis is to explain the underlying mechanism that is producing actions and behaviors observed in the situation. Ultimately, you should aim to make the distinction between symptoms and casual mechanisms.

Cases are situations, not necessarily examples of bad or even good management. Take the situation for what it is rather than approaching it with a point of view. Be alert for the danger that some information in some cases is coming from biased participants and therefore must be taken with a grain of salt. Also note that a characteristic of all cases is

that you will never have all the information that you want. There is often considerable information that is irrelevant, trivial or even obfuscating.

4. After you complete the analysis, develop a solution and an explanation of how you would implement the solution. Solutions often have positive and negative consequences. You should develop the solution that has maximum positive impact and minimum negative consequences. If you considered multiple possible solutions, you may want to explain why you chose a certain solution over other options. Solutions should logically follow the analysis and should be feasible. For example, firing the boss and replacing him/her with a better manager may be a good “theoretic” solution but it may not be feasible in a given set of circumstances. Solutions must be effective and efficient. Killing a fly with a machine gun is effective but not efficient.

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