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The Case Rip Cord Puts Together the Final Pieces

Willow Creek Community Church: This Professional Services case is about the second largest church in the United States and its innovative methods of soft selling “unchurched” people to attend services targeted especially for them. For example, they buck the trend of traditional church services, “We want people to feel that if they missed a service, that they really missed something special. We never want them to be able to predict what is going to happen.” As such, viewings of The Who’s rock opera Tommy will be shown sporadically on some Saturdays at 9 PM. Please remember, “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball!”

Tradeoffs: Juggling Careers in Professional Services Firms with Private Life After being accepted to HBS, one of the caselet protagonists says, “‘I was so excited about the fresh start. When I got my new computer and was prompted for a password, I chose “freedom.”‘” OK, but MBA IT Support would like to remind you that passwords should contain special characters in addition to alphanumeric characters, and that they should not be words commonly found in the dictionary.

Meadowlands: This Real Estate case is about new urbanism, and visionary Andres Duany is building planned communities in the Maryland countryside where people can walk to shopping centers and their offices. Duany says, “The elderly in our society are no longer viable citizens when they lose their drivers licenses.” He proposes changing this problem by constructing four houses per normally-sized lot, moving the houses closer to the street, giving them front porches, and making the streets narrower. He says these design changes will force the residents to talk to each other more than they would in normal suburban subdivision. Really it just allows him an excuse to get more money for the same property and save on infrastructure costs. Has he ever lived in a city? Since when does cramming people closer together make them friendlier?

Duany also hired a project manager, Michael Watkins, namesake of the HBS Corporate Diplomacy and Negotiations professor. Knowing Professor Watkins and his analysis of the building blocks of a negotiation makes this line much funnier: “Watkins sat and thought of growing up as a child and making whole towns of Lego blocks covering his family’s basement. Now he was doing the same thing-but for real.”

Building the Gulf War Coalition: Speaking of Professor Watkins and his analysis of coalitions, in this case he describes the diplomatic efforts leading up to the Gulf War in late 1990. “The Soviets and the French, in particular, had compelling reasons to embrace negotiation. Both had long-term ties to Iraq as investors, advisers, and arms suppliers. In addition, both had a stake in being seen as significant and thoughtful players in the conflict.” Good to see not much has changed in twelve years.

Sunk Costs: The Plan to Dump the Brent Spar: Also from Professor Watkins, this cleverly named case deals with Shell UK’s plans to dump an obsolete offshore oil rig into the North Atlantic. Greenpeace is determined to stop them. “Alasdair McIntyre, an expert at the University of Aberdeen, contended that the level of radioactivity ‘would have been equivalent to what a person is exposed to in a city with granite buildings.'” But Greenpeace forges ahead anyway, occupying the rig and deploying all kinds of propaganda along with their fancy equipment. It really makes the Rip Cord wonder, where does Greenpeace get fuel for its ships and helicopters? And what’s next on their agenda for protecting the oceans from dumping, making sure that fish find an alternative location to expend their bodily waste?

Jill Greenthal at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette: Throughout an MBA student’s time at HBS, it seems the emphasis on the protagonist’s time at HBS also dwindles. Remember how much play the HBS experience got with Jim Burke and Erik Petersen? Which is why the sudden emphasis in Professional Services class on case protagonist Jill Greenthal’s (HBS ’83E) private life and her relationships with her sectionmates seem suddenly out of place. Not only does one sectionmate recruit her to DLJ, but we also get to hear that she married another, current Entrepreneurial Manager Professor Tom Eisenmann. Actually, Professor Eisenmann’s bio gives out this info too. What happened to Section Love being treated like forbidden fruit? Doesn’t this flaunting of section love make you feel so…dirty?

The case also has this nice line about an overly bureaucratic large telecom company: “They have too many layers of detritus weighing down their cost structure. You know, whale shit.”

One final note: For all the first years that thought all those jokes about Argentina were awfully funny in the HBS Show, we’ll see how hard you’re laughing when the troubled nation shows up as the subject of your BGIE final. Current odds are 1:2, although Venezuela is closing quickly.

May 6, 2002
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