General Manager Taran Swan was experiencing some problems with her pregnancy and saw the need to depart from the Miami headquarters eighteen months after the launch of Nickelodeon Latin America. She cannot travel for six months and must come up with a plan in order to run the channel from her New York home. She is looking into who among her team may be appointed as an acting head for the meantime.
Linda A. Hill; Kristin C. Doughty
Harvard Business Review (400036-PDF-ENG)
August 15, 1999
Case questions answered:
Case study questions answered in the first solution:
- Make a list/table to analyze the team composition (including the key personnel’s strengths and weaknesses) and discuss how the composition of the team impacted the decisions, functioning, and performance of Taran Swan’s team.
- What has hindered the work of the team and its management? Identify two major problems and actions Swan took to address this problem AND explain why the actions have proved to be successful. How did Swan’s personal characteristics and experience shape her actions?
- One paradox inherent in teams is to balance managerial authority and team member discretion and autonomy. How did Swan manage to address this paradox in her team (i.e., executing empowering leadership)? What other types of leadership did Swan demonstrate, and what were the influences of her leadership?
- Analyze the leadership exhibited by Taran Swan in the case. Identify 2-3 salient aspects of her leadership style and elaborate on how these aspects shape her and her team’s actions and outcomes.
- What challenges did Swan face at the end of the case? Do you think assigning an interim director will help with these challenges or make them even worse? Explain your logic. If you were on Nickelodeon’s board of advisors, what would you suggest Taran to do in the long term?
Case study questions answered in the second solution:
- What is the dilemma that Taran Swan faces at the end of the case? What action should she take? Why?
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Taran Swan at Nickelodeon Latin America (A) Case Answers
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Introduction – Nickelodeon Latin America
Nickelodeon Latin America, a cable channel for kids in Latin America, launched on December 20, 1996. International expansion in the early 1990s, but struggled with profitability.
It was the first pan-regional channel in a new, unfamiliar market: “small pie” was cut into smaller pieces, difficulty in advertising sales and affiliate sales.
Taran Swan, the General Manager of Nickelodeon Latin America, has written the business plan, pulled together a team to launch the channel, and led the start-up through its first 18 months on air.
Timeline of Events:
October 1995 – Swan began writing the Nickelodeon Latin America business plan.
May 1996 – Nickelodeon officially announced that it would expand into Latin America.
September 1996 – Cable trade show party; Swan’s team secured minimum distribution and obtained corporate approval.
December 1996 – Nickelodeon Latin America launched on air.
January- March 1997 – Rebecca Bearden, Harry Neuhaus, and Rey del Valle arrived.
June 1998 – Swan left for New York.
1. Make a list/table to analyze the team composition (including the key personnel’s strengths and weaknesses) and discuss how the composition of the team impacted the decisions, functioning, and performance of Taran Swan’s team.
How the composition of the team impacted the decision-making of Swan’s team: Based on the leader’s way of thinking, i.e., Taran Swan’s analytical thinking based on accurate data, contributes to more predictable outcomes.
How the composition of the team impacted the function of Swan’s team: Team spirit (McCarty and Friedman vs Janet Bryne); Swan’s empathy to assess which profiles will work together.
How the composition of the team impacted the performance of Taran Swan’s team: Employment of the best people in their field.
2. What has hindered the work of the team and its management? Identify two major problems and actions Swan took to address this problem AND explain why the actions have proved to be successful. How did Swan’s personal characteristics and experience shape her actions?
Problem 1: MTV x Nickelodeon Clash
- Handling internal pressure with a limited budget and strict requirements
- Attract attention and Differentiating the brand
- Different target audiences for both channels
- Clash of corporate culture with start-up
- No aligned mission
- Extra unpaid work for MTW employees
- Concentrate their money and effort on throwing a huge, brand-experience party at the largest cable trade show in Latin America.
Why the action(s) have proved to be successful:
- It attracted over 15000 attendees and successfully differentiated itself by showing that it knows kids well.
- MTV liked the multidimensional approach, and people felt empowered to collaborate.
Swan’s characteristics and personal experience…
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