Friction Articles & Teaching Cases
Huggy Rao and I write articles and case studies (often with colleagues) to learn about friction, develop our point of view, and share our emerging ideas so that others can think about, use, and critique them.
We have completed and are working on case studies that provide insights into what friction looks like and feels like, when it is good and bad, and the mans that leaders and their teams use to remove and inject friction into organizations. Most of these cases are produced with support from skilled case writers at the Stanford Business School including at Julie Makinen, Davina Drabkin, and David Hoyt. Four cases are especially pertinent.
In 2010, Huggy and I worked with Professor Charles O’Reilly and case writer David Hoyt on the case JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning, which describes how the fast-growing airline failed to develop adequate systems and practices for dealing with storms and other system disruptions. These technical, organizational, and cultural flaws ultimately led a fiasco on February 14th, 2007 at Kennedy Airport in New York where thousands of passengers were stranded on planes that were “glued” to the tarmac by the ice and to over 1000 flight cancelations. in a six -day period. The case describes how, after other efforts to repair the airline’s systems failed, executive and pilot Bonnie Simi led a change effort that recruited over 200 employees to identify and fix hundreds of flawed practices, communications problems, and bottlenecks.
In 2016, Huggy, Professor Sarah Soule, and I worked with Davina Drabkin to write a case on the 100,000 Homes Campaign. A national effort between 2010 and 2014 that found homes for over 100,000 homeless Americans. This Linkedin article provides key lessons that we learned and a link to the complete case. For example, one friction-fighting move that campaign manager Becky Margiotta used was to avoid wasting time with communities where the leaders were “Hollow Eastern Bunnies.” These enthusiastic people loved having long conversations and coaching sessions with Margiotta’s team—but who never actually did anything to find homes for homeless people.
In 2017, Julie Makinen and Huggy Rao documented how AstraZeneca scaled simplification. This case traces how the small team that ran the Simplification Center of Excellence worked with scientists, manufacturing managers, and sales rep to reduce friction in the company.
Huggy and I are currently working with Julie Makinen a case on the short-term advantages and long-term problems created by decentralization and silos in a fast-growing large technology company–and the solutions that executives and managers are using to reduce the friction, overload, frustration, and fatigue that emerged as the company became larger and more complex.