Featured case: Jan Van Hasenbroek (A) and (B)

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The case

Jan Van HasenbroekWho – the protagonist

Jan Van Hasenbroek, co-founder and managing partner of IG&H, one of the fastest-growing mid-sized consulting companies in the Netherlands.

What?

Jan is in trouble. He is known at IG&H as the ‘red pencil’ manager for his micromanagement of consultants’ works, often with a red pencil correcting or modifying their presentations. That leadership was once tolerated but it has become increasingly dysfunctional leading to the departure of valued consultants and partners and a drop in the company's growth. Meanwhile, Jan's marriage has fallen apart due to his total devotion to his work at the expense of his family.

Why?

excellence compass  Jan’s ambition for IG&H translated into setting and demanding high standards from his employees. He had a clear vision for IG&H and where he wanted to take the firm. But a considerable number of his colleagues described him as a micromanager and a perfectionist.

Where?

Founded in 1988, IG&H is based in Utrecht in the Netherlands. The company operates globally and more than 50% of its turnover was from overseas assignments.

When?

Nearly 25 years after founding the company, Jan was at a crossroads where he needed to deal with tough issues that had been brewing for some time.

red pencil

Key quote

“It’s his red pencil - you can’t do anything right; you always have to improve. He never changes your presentations; he keeps on giving advice with his pencil, which makes you feel that you have to make the changes he suggests anyway.” – A veteran ex-director who worked closely with Jan for many years.

What next?

Should Jan step back and let someone else to lead IG&H, a company he has devoted his entire career to; or should he stay on but with a different leadership behaviour? Is he willing and able to make the change?

 
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Jan Van Hasenbroek (A): A 'Red-Pencil' Leader at a Crossroads
Ref IMD-7-2059

Jan Van Hasenbroek (B): Going Back to School
Ref IMD-7-2060

Jan Van Hasenbroek (Interview Video: Reflections on Leadership, Part I and Part II)
Ref IMD-7-2059-V

Teaching note
Ref IMD-7-2059-T

The authors

author

Susan Goldsworthy, Kamran Kashani and Lisa Duke

The authors share their experiences with their case subject, Jan Van Hasenbroek, and how they developed this relationship into a case series with a lasting impact for their students.

Building a strong relationship with the protagonist

Susan recounts: “We were lucky to find in Jan Van Hasenbroek, the founder and Managing Partner of IG&H consulting company, our ideal protagonist for such a case. Jan is honest and reflective, and he shared with us very openly his tough and long journey to change himself from being known to his firm as a ‘red pencil leader’, a micro-manager. We have had the pleasure of working with Jan and IG&H for the past eight years. His compelling story is one that executives, managers and MBA students should discuss and learn from.” 

She continues: “We were fortunate that Jan gave us full access to people both inside and outside the organisation including clients. We felt that the use of quotes gives a certain richness and real-world complexity to the cases. It allowed us to include the voices of the people we interviewed and not our interpretations of what they told us.’

Case series

On why to write a case series, the authors note: “Jan’s leadership evolved (and continues to evolve) over time and so it felt more authentic and true to life to run it as a series that takes place over a time span. With the A case the students have to make choices among the options open to Jan. With the B case they learn what Jan finally decided to do, raising additional questions for discussion.”

Additional videosAdditional videos

They explain: ‘The videos that accompany the cases take students into the mind of a leader struggling to change his counter-productive behaviour.

“As case teachers know well, there is no substitute for real managers talking about their challenges as described in a case - what they did about the issues and what learnings they can share with others from their experience. This is exactly what we had in mind when we decided to develop the two-part videos in which Jan adds a uniquely and deeply personal touch to the case and provides further insights into a leader’s character, his growth and transformation.”

Student reactions

Susan concludes: “The multiple voices in the case provide rich raw material for students to take different positions, precisely what a case teacher wants! They go through a variety of emotions. Some identify with him and recognize they also have ‘red-pencil’ inclinations and behaviours. Others are tough on Jan and the way he has led his people. Some would argue that he should leave the firm and pass the leadership to someone else. But opinions often change after they have seen the videos; they get a sense of the person behind the story. We believe a combination of the case series and the surprisingly open protagonist in the interviews leave a lasting impact on the class, and for many lasting learnings.”

Hear from the authors

About the authors

Susan Goldsworthy OLY is Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at the Institute for Management Development (IMD).
e susan.goldsworthy@imd.org
tw @goldswolf

Kamran Kashani is Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Global Strategy at the Institute for Management Development (IMD).
e kamran.kashani@imd.org

Lisa Duke is a writer, researcher, programme designer and director.
e lisa@lsduke.com
tw @LSDuke

 

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