Two Charts for Case Study 1: Building Community at Terra Nova Consulting
If you think that you can do #1-4, please bid on my task.
Note: Please do not simply cut and paste answers that have already been published. Explain
your answers instead. Thanks in advance!
1. Read Case Study #1: Building Community at Terra Nova Consulting. This case study
begins on page 397 of Organizational Change: An Action-Oriented Toolkit (3rd ed) by
Cawsey, Deszca, and Ingols (2016). (If you cannot locate this textbook, I have cut and
pasted this case study and placed it at the end of this document.)
2. Please note that the focus of the following charts must be on my proposal for Terra
Cota Consulting to define the roles of each position and to provide job descriptions
for each position.
3. Using information from this Case Study and from #2 above, complete the “AIDA
Continuum Chart” that is included in this document.
4. Next, using information from this Case Study and from #2 above, complete the
“Responsibility Chart” that is included in this document.
AIDA Continuum Chart
Key Player Name
R = Responsibility (not necessarily authority)
A = Approval (right to veto)
S = Support (put resources toward)
I = Inform (to be consulted before action)
Note: If there are a great number of A’s on your chart, implementation will be difficult. Care must be taken
to assign A’s only when appropriate. Likewise, if there are not enough R’s and S’s, you will need to think
about changes needed here and how to bring them about.
If you cannot locate the textbook, I have pasted the case study here:
Case Study 1 Building Community at Terra Nova Consulting
Three months after his appointment as president of Terra Nova Consulting, Terry
O’Reilly faced his partners at their biennial conference over a weekend in February 2008.
After the events of the past year, everyone at the partners’ conference had anxiously
awaited hearing his plans to turn Terra Nova Consulting around. With that in mind, he
had begun to describe his plan to the partners:
Over the past forty years, Terra Nova has grown into a global firm, an elite firm within
our industry, with offices on five continents. It’s a firm each of you has had a hand in
building, and it’s a firm we can all be proud of. We’ve been successful, and we’re
respected for our technical excellence and innovative approaches, but now it’s time for a
change to meet the challenges of the future.
It’s time to present a new image to our clients and employees. Something that
recognizes our past excellence, while positioning Terra Nova Consulting for the future.
It’s time for a new name that will be recognizable internationally. While we are proud of
our Canadian heritage and the Terra Nova name, I believe it is time to move forward
under a new name that can transcend borders.
From now on, Terra Nova Consulting will be known as TNC. And to go with that new
name, I propose a new slogan. One that reflects our experience and expertise in both
geotechnical engineering and the environmental sciences. One that assures our clients
that they have hired the very best. TNC will now be known for having “The greatest
minds on earth.”
And then Terry experienced the longest two seconds of his life. All he could feel from the
podium was stunned silence. Then the room erupted. “Change our name? What the hell
do you mean you want to change our name? We’ve put a lot of work into being
recognized as Terra Nova Consulting! We’re proud of our heritage!” And the slogan?
Even though Terra Nova had won numerous accolades for its prowess in geotechnical
(earth) engineering, the company portrayed a quiet confidence. “You can’t say that we
have the greatest minds on earth! How arrogant! We let our work speak for itself!” The
partners as a group had let him know in no uncertain terms that this was too bold, too
brash for their Terra Nova.
After that opening, his other ideas for change were summarily dismissed by the partners.
Terry had based his ideas for change around rebranding the firm through a new name,
logo, and slogan. He wanted Terra Nova to be regarded like McKinsey and Company, as
the very best in the consulting industry. He had also hoped that rebranding the firm by
shortening its name to an acronym (like IBM—International Business Machines) would
present a fresh face to its clients and instill a new attitude among employees. Finally, he
hoped that the rebranding initiative would help create a new sense of shared values and
identity at Terra Nova, one that would rebuild the former collegial atmosphere.
What Terry didn’t get a chance to tell the partners, but which the board of directors and
his executive team knew, was that Terra Nova still faced significant financial challenges.
Although interim president Matt Ferguson had been able to stabilize the slide in
profitability, several projects were still suffering cost overruns and write-offs. An even
greater risk involved the lack of investment in company shares. Too many of the junior
professionals did not see a long-term future with Terra Nova, and had avoided making
the financial commitment of buying shares. Other senior partners had sent a message to
the executive team about their dissatisfaction with the company’s direction by refusing to
increase their stakes. The lack of new equity and working capital had been offset through
more expensive bank financing, which had negatively affected profitability. But technical
excellence and working harder were no longer enough for success.
While several partners had privately acknowledged to him that change was needed, and
the board had chosen Terry as president because of his fresh perspective, his proposals
were too much, too fast for the partners. Terry had unknowingly stepped upon a few
organizational political land mines. Longtime partner and vice-president Doug Hunter
pulled him aside later in the hospitality suite to remind him that this was not how things
were done at Terra Nova.
You’ve got to start with the top senior people and work your way down through the
organization. Any major initiative needs consensus among the shareholders, and
particularly the senior shareholders. But consensus isn’t simply a majority, it has to be a
lot broader than that. You can probably get 50 percent of the people on board in relatively
short order, and then 25 percent more sometime after that, and then the next 15 percent to
get to around 90 percent, but it takes time, a long time. The process is time consuming.
But you can’t force change from the top down. The partners won’t stand for that.
Doug reminded Terry that consultation was key to decision making at Terra Nova. While
administrative matters were usually made in consultation with the senior executive and/or
office manager teams, larger strategic decisions needed buy-in and support from the
partners. Former interim president Matt Ferguson later echoed Doug’s advice:
Terry, you can’t change Terra Nova through an authoritarian top-down style. The
senior guys will just ignore your ideas if they don’t like them. You need to sell your ideas
gradually among the most powerful and influential partners. But you can’t force them.
It’s like herding cats. They will fight you every step of the way if they’re so inclined.
They need to be convinced to go along like it was their idea all along. Sometimes the best
you can hope for is that they won’t stand in the way.
While Terry’s ideas had not received a positive initial reaction, Matt had reminded him
that part of Terra Nova’s culture involved challenging new ideas to see if they could pass
You’ve got to remember, Terry, that a lot of them come from very critical backgrounds
in science and engineering. So the first thing whenever they see anything new, the first
they look for is holes, and try to drive tanks through them. Part of that may be human
nature, but I think it’s stronger in our organization because of the nature of the staff that
Terra Nova ensured success by challenging new ideas. This was part of their quality
assurance process. For Terry, surviving the initial challenge was only the first step. He
needed to rework his ideas, and map out a plan, then convince the senior partners of the
need for change.
Company History and Past Practices
Terra Nova, a premier engineering consulting firm, was founded in 1970 by a small
group of ten engineers. The first office was located in a second floor apartment on King
Street in Toronto, Canada. Terra Nova founder Adam Danyluk described the firm as
starting as a boutique operation that specialized in geotechnical (earth) engineering
consulting related to civil engineering projects. The firm had benefited from a series of
major highway projects that required specialized ground engineering technical studies on
soil conditions and rock formations. Terra Nova had subsequently expanded by providing
engineering design work for other public works projects including subways, bridges, and
In the 1980s, Terra Nova provided geotechnical services to the mining industry,
involving ground control issues. Expertise in groundwater and hydrogeology was added
to address contaminated soils and site remediation problems. Technical excellence and
innovative solutions on these projects led clients and industry partners to regard Terra
Nova as an elite firm within the industry. The firm continued to diversify its portfolio of
services, and ventured into the biosciences including wildlife habitat, air engineering and
modeling, and archaeology, to address the environmental impacts associated with
development projects. But Terra Nova’s engineering heritage remained its core.
Longtime partners tended to describe the firm as a place where one worked with friends
rather than coworkers. Although Terra Nova was regarded as an elite firm, its
compensation was only comparable to the industry average. As noted by former Terra
Nova junior professional engineer Mark Davis:
Terra Nova was a great place to work in almost every aspect except pay. I was getting
paid well below average for engineers in my graduating year initially. But although Terra
Nova paid below average, there are worse companies in this industry . . . While I have no
complaints about the management of the company or how I was treated there, I felt that I
had to leave Terra Nova. I could not support my family in the long term with my existing
and projected future salary. However, I wish to clarify that for its field (geotechnical and
environmental consulting) there is no better place to work. I don’t think there’s a better
company in this industry than Terra Nova.
What attracted staff to Terra Nova was the opportunity to be involved in challenging,
innovative projects, which generally were only awarded to technically superior firms.
Junior professional staff were given much greater opportunities and responsibilities as
members of Terra Nova than their former peers now employed by competitors were
given. In addition, they were able to work alongside some of the best engineers in the
industry. This allowed them to develop their technical skills and knowledge in ways not
Many mid-career staff were attracted by the opportunity to share in the firm’s success as
shareholders. Several had come from competitors, where only senior partners were
allowed to buy shares, and advancement to partner was tightly restricted. Terra Nova
afforded them with greater opportunity to not only become owners, but also to reach the
partner level. Finally, Terra Nova provided them with the opportunity to become experts
within their fields and applauded entrepreneurial initiative to develop new lines of
business. Partner and office manager Henry Cooper had briefed Terry about the firm’s
past as follows:
When this firm started, it was built around strong personalities that were basically sole
practitioners in a technical area in a particular geographic location. So what happened
was we moved into certain technical areas through the sheer power and motivation of
individuals saying, “we’re going to do that. I’m going to move into that area of business.
I’m going to become the key guy in that area.” So we got into rock mechanics through
Josh Halladay in Vancouver. We got into the nuclear waste business through Jeremy
Davis in Seattle. We got into the oil sands through Sid Anderson in Calgary. Just by the
sheer weight and power of these individuals’ personalities. It wasn’t a group of people
sitting around strategizing. There might have been an element of that, but it took one
individual to actually be the champion and drive it.
The firm’s growth strategy reflected its philosophy of seeking to meet clients’ needs.
Clients asked if Terra Nova could do related technical work (e.g., site remediation,
environmental impact assessments). Not wanting to turn down additional work, Terra
Nova project managers usually agreed, and then sought appropriate partner firms to
subcontract the work. As demand in these areas grew, Terra Nova formalized these
arrangements through mergers and acquisitions, bringing the relevant expertise in-house.
This led the firm into a variety of new industries as different opportunities became
available. As Terra Nova expanded and diversified its portfolio, it also employed an
increasingly diverse mix of professionals and technical disciplines. Many members held
graduate degrees within their respective disciplines (e.g., biology, geology, archeology,
engineering), and the firm continued to seek out the top graduates.
Terra Nova’s office locations varied considerably in size from under thirty to over 200
personnel, and were typically in suburban, corporate office buildings. Entrance area walls
were adorned with firm awards such as best employer, technical excellence, community
service, or pictures of the firm’s founders. Offices were professional looking, yet modest,
with a combination of formal offices and cubicles. Individual offices averaged about 120
square feet in size. There was limited variation in office size between professional staff
and partners, such that even retired founder Adam Danyluk did not have a window/corner
office, nor was there an executive office suite area at the firm’s head office.
Terra Nova generated revenue by charging the working time of its professional staff to
competitively acquired projects. Since office chargeability was highly correlated with
profitability, chargeability became the key organizational objective and measure of
performance. Chargeability targets ranged from 80 percent for partners, 85 percent for
project managers, to 90 percent for professional staff. For example, professional staff
whose days and weeks were 100 percent charged to revenue-generating projects were
deemed to contribute more to Terra Nova than those who were only 90 percent charged
out. At the partner level, contribution to the firm was also measured in terms of winning
new client projects and developing new lines of business.
Organizational Structure and Management Style
When Terry had joined Terra Nova through a merger five years ago, he had asked some
of the other partners for an organizational chart. He discovered that no formal
organizational chart existed because according to the other partners, “Terra Nova has a
flat organizational structure.” Partners, project managers, and professional staff were all
assigned to various project teams that sometimes spanned multiple offices.
Terry had found Terra Nova’s structure confusing at first. Partner designation was not
based upon tenure, but upon technical excellence and contribution to the firm. In
addition, owners of acquired firms who decided to stay were often made partners. Partner
turnover due to retirement was often uncertain, as many elected to stay on after reaching
the age of sixty-five. Accordingly, partners ranged in age from forty to seventy-two years
old. Historically, Terra Nova’s partnership numbers represented about 15 percent of total
staff, while consultants represented about 80 percent of staff.
Partners served as project managers or office managers. Many partners avoided the office
manager positions, preferring to be directly involved in project work. Thus, most but not
all office managers were partners. Project teams could involve a mix of junior (less than
five years experience) and senior professionals, in addition to partners, depending upon
the scale, scope, and technical requirements of the project. Finally, shareholders could be
found at any level, ranging from receptionist to board member, as ownership was not
restricted by position.
Informally, Terry saw five levels at Terra Nova, starting with the board and partners who
provided general oversight, then the president, executive team, and office managers,
followed by project managers, professional staff (junior and senior by tenure), and
administrative support staff. Ultimately, the partners were in charge, as they elected the
board of directors. The board in turn appointed the president, and approved the firm’s
overall strategic direction. The president was responsible for managing the firm’s
strategic direction with the support of his executive team, and the office managers were
responsible for day-to-day operations. Project managers and partners were responsible for
identifying, winning, and managing projects, and generating profits by staying within
budget and avoiding overruns. Partners tended to be the project managers for larger
projects. Professional staff were assigned to one or more projects, and were sometimes
responsible for smaller projects. Despite this hierarchy, all members from the newest
professional staff person to the most experienced partner participated equally in projects
based on their knowledge and skills.
Combined with this flat organizational structure was a small corporate head office. The
president’s executive team consisted of two vice-presidents, the controller (CFO), and
head of HR. Although head office designation was based upon the president’s location,
several executive team members were located in other offices as their appointments were
Several partners stated that they had avoided creating organizational charts due to their
implicit aversion to bureaucracy and formal management controls. However, many of the
junior professionals did not share this view. Geologist Chris Barker had described his
office’s (Vancouver) management style as follows:
In the past, we did it the way Bob [partner] said because Bob’s king. And it worked.
The firm hired excellent people whom people trusted, and they didn’t have a problem
following Bob. But now in an office [Vancouver] where there are ten Bobs [partners],
and no one is quite sure which one to listen to, you need some protocols in management .
Toronto though is a very managed group. They have a lot of training, a lot more
corporate structure, so a lot of the junior professionals get a good feeling when they go to
Toronto and work there. You know what it’s going to take to move up, whereas here in
Vancouver it’s a bit of sink or swim, struggle to the top.
In contrast to many of the partners, several junior professionals had suggested the need
for more structure, including the codification of policies and procedures regarding things
like professional development, equipment requests, and international assignments.
Typically, Terra Nova’s partners had earned their stripes first as professional staff, then
as project managers, and were then promoted through a peer-review process. Some
partners had gained advanced standing by virtue of their former positions as senior
managers at ...
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