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Brief – Leo Burnett Company Ltd: Virtual Team Management

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This briefing note accompanies the case IVEY 9B03M052 – The Leo Burnett Company Ltd.: Virtual Team Management. The case tracks 2.5 years in the development of a virtual team. The team’s members include employees of a global manufacturer of health and beauty products (OBC) and employees of an advertising agency (Leo Burnett) in three countries (England, Taiwan and Canada).

Case Overview
The decision-maker in this case is Janet Carmichael, global account director at The Leo Burnett Company (LB) in London, England. LB is a global advertising agency based in New York, and the London office is the regional hub for all of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Carmichael oversees the brands of one of the agency’s top three clients. OBC – a leading global manufacturer of health and beauty care products (the client’s company and product names have been disguised).

This client has just launched a new line of skin care products (under the brand name “Forever Young”) into the Canadian test market, in preparation for a global rollout. A global virtual team has worked on this brand under Carmichael’s leadership. Both the client and the agency have teams in London (the Global Brand Centre) and in each of the test markets, Canada and Taiwan. The teams have relied heavily on a variety of technologies for communication over the course of the year and a half that they spent in preparation for the brand launch.

Normally, once a brand has launched, it is customary for the Global Brand Centre to turn over the responsibility for the brand and future campaigns to the local market offices. In this case, however, the Canadian brand launch
was not successful, and Carmichael must decide whether or not she should proceed with the expected decision to modify the virtual team structure to give the Canadian team more autonomy or whether she should maintain greater centralised control over the team.

Learning Objectives

1. To assess LB’s virtual team management model (its efficiency and sustainability) given the international business environment within which the firm operates.
2. To explore other team models or recommendations based on readings that would facilitate team management
3. To determine the liabilities the business faces in its ability to launch international products across different markets and cultures
4. To develop an action plan recommending what team structure and communications systems should be employed and what Carmichael’s next steps should be.


You are required to critically discuss the challenges facing this limited company in its business of being an international advertising agency going about its day-to-day business. You may use the following questions to help structure your submission.

Assignment Question(S)

1. Assume the role of an LB employee

2. a) What is your everyday work environment like (assume this would normally involve face-to-face teams)? Specifically, consider how you would fill your day, what the office environment would be, what would determine your work priorities, and the nature of your relationship with your colleagues and your client(s). And what is the overall business sector environment like that your business operates in? b) How is this different from your role as part of the Forever Young virtual team?

3. What are some of the difficulties that the Forever Young global advertising and communications team faced throughout the launch process? To what do you attribute these difficulties?

4. As Janet Carmichael, do you now decentralise the team? Why or why not?

5. What challenges, do you think, face the international advertising industry given the current economic environment?

6. You are invited to be interviewed for a senior post. You are asked to critique your experience as a member of this team – what are your final recommendations for change for future clients/projects.

Suggestions for additional readings

For strategies used to manage virtual teams:

Kirkman, B.L., Rosen, B., Gibson, C., Tesluk, P.E., & McPherson, S.O. (2002). “Five challenges to virtual team success: Lessons from Sabre, Inc.” Academy of Management Executive, 16 (3), pp. 67-79.

For an overview of what companies can do to create a global mindset among employees:

Gupta, A. K., & Govindarajan, V. (2002). “Cultivating a global mindset,” Academy of Management Executive 16 (1), pp. 116-126.

For an overview of technologies used in virtual teams, as well as related workplace and world force changes:

Townsend, A. M., DeMarie, S. M., & Hendrickson, A. R. (1998). “Virtual teams: Technology and workplace of the future,” Academy of Management Executive, 12 (3), pp. 17-19.

For readings about specific companies’ effective use of virtual teams and their recommendations for creating successful virtual teams:

Pape, W.R. (1997) “Group Insurance: Virtual teams can quickly gather the knowledge of even far-flung staff,” Inc. Tech No 2 pp 29-31.

Solomon, C (2001). “Managing Virtual Teams,” Workforce Management/workforce.com, June 2001.pp.60-64.

Plus there are many other journal articles that you should research to investigate this topic.

Instructions to students

This brief accompanies the case on Leo Burnett Company Ltd: Virtual Team Management. The learning from this case can be enriching if it is attempted after having a prerequisite understanding of key concepts as outlined in the topics covered such as Cross Cultural Management; Team Building; Brand Management and the Global Manager, as well as the context for business of being an international advertising agency.

Start working on this assignment after carefully reading the case. It is also designed so that you follow this up with your own reading and research to demonstrate that you can integrate theoretical frameworks into your application to demonstrate critical analysis, and to come to a conclusion which is based on your critical judgement and opinion. This is an ‘open book’ assignment.

Write your answers in as much detail as possible. Do not write cryptic or too brief an answer/outline in telegraphic language. And take care not to repeat what is already said in the case study – you are being descriptive rather than applying critical judgement. Attempt to answer all questions, and you are entitled to give an alternative perspective/individual line of questioning as long as you demonstrate relevance and insight. For a few questions, there may neither be ‘one’ answer nor a ‘correct’ answer. Therefore give your analysis and logic wherever required. Develop your answers in an integrated manner drawing from your complete knowledge and understanding of the case and the concepts that underline it.

The length of your submission should be that as prescribed at postgraduate level. That is, for PG students no more than 2500 words (+/-10%) Note that you MUST evidence scholarship. That is, you must demonstrate an engagement with the literature on topic and draw on it to critique and explain events and issues. In other words, you are expected to UNDERPIN your case points with knowledge and scholarship. Note all the details as per the Teaching and Learning schedule for this course, and the rules and regulations for Postgraduate students as detailed in your handbook. In particular, take note that your work must be ‘referenced in the academic register (see PG handbook for details on the Harvard referencing system) and your work must not be plagiarised-copied from existing text. Your submission deadline is Week 7 Friday 1st November, 2013. You should upload a copy of your submission to Turnitin, and detail the Similarity Index on the top sheet and place on top of your submission and submit to Undergraduate office in MB 1.23 by MIDDAY.

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