Value the achievement of solutions that work within realistic constraints.

ISPI University Case Study Competition 2010: Team Memory Sticks
Project Files: Proposal for Magic Sticks Gelato Rollout & Memory Sticks Narrated Presentation
: ED 795B

During my final semester, I was teamed up with two other EDTEC students, Nathan Blesse and Holly Peters, to compete in the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) 2010 University Case Study Competition. We represented San Diego State University and competed against four other universities. When competition kicked off in January 2010, we were given a problem to solve for a fictitious company (Magic Sticks - a midsize company known for its homemade breadsticks). Through key documents and conversations with our client (Executive Director of Human Resources, Michael Hamm), we learned that Magic Sticks was going to rollout a new line of gelato products in six months. Mr. Hamm tasked us with ensuring strong store performance during the rollout. We collected key documents from Magic Sticks, interviewed five executives and a store manager, and surveyed store customers. After analyzing the data, we came up with a three-part solution system: The Magic Gelato Integration (MGI) Model. The MGI model was designed to help Magic Sticks increase employee motivation, provide employees with skills and knowledge about gelato, and streamline store managers' tasks to increase their time spent in the front of the store. Our final deliverable was a 35-page (plus appendices) proposal that we submitted to Mr. Hamm. We were selected as one of the top three teams and presented our proposal to a panel of judges at the 2010 ISPI Conference.

After we found out that Magic Sticks (a breadstick company) would be rolling out a new gelato product, we thought, "is this really a good idea?" We questioned Mr. Hamm and other executives about how they came up with this idea and what data they had used to decide that rolling out gelato would increase profits for the company. Unfortunately, we received very general answers without any support. When we pushed the issue, we were told that the company had made the final decision and our job was to support that decision, and not to tell them to reconsider. With this constraint in mind, we knew that we had our work cut out for us.

Additionally, we had a very limited time frame to collect data and write the final proposal. Our client took a while to respond to our emails and finally set up interviews three weeks before the proposal was due. By the time we had collected all of our data, we had a little less than two weeks to design a solution system and write the final proposal.

Given these realistic constraints of a client who wanted a certain product and provided us with a limited timeframe to develop and implement a solution, we were able to come up with the MGI model. This model went above and beyond what the client was looking for and we were really pleased with our solution system.

Problems and Opportunities:
One of the greatest opportunities of this competition was the experience of presenting our proposal to a panel of expert judges at the ISPI Conference. However, this also turned into our biggest problem. We developed a presentation that was engaging, innovative, and fun. We included a magic trick, had audience interaction, and truly marketed our proposal to the judges. While we received high praise from audience members and a few of the judges, we were humbled during the feedback session with the judges. The judges put down our presentation, calling it too risky and that we used too many "bells and whistles." The judges provided entirely negative feedback, the majority of which wasn't feasible for the project. Even though the score we received for our proposal put us 100 points ahead of the next team, the judges did not like our presentation and gave us 2nd place overall in the competition.

Personal Development:
Overall, I would not trade the entire experience for anything. I had two fantastic teammates and the three of us really worked well together. We developed a very professional proposal and presentation that I am very proud of. I learned a lot about improving human performance in the workplace, conducting analyses, and developing solution-systems in a limited time frame. Jim Marshall, Ph.D., our faculty advisor, provided us with expert advise throughout the project that taught us a lot and truly helped us create a masterpiece.