Major Case Study

Major Case Study

Read the Patagonia case study below and answer all the following questions:

1. What is the ?corporate culture? at Patagonia? Consider the company? worldview, values, vision and norms.

2. How well does the organisational structure of Patagonia ?fit? with its corporate culture?
Use theories of organisational structure and culture to support your argument.

3. Drawing on your knowledge of leadership theories, what is Chouinard?s leadership style?
Also provide examples from the case to support your argument.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of leading this way? Use the literature to support your arguments.
References: Provide a minimum of ten (10) recent references (no older than 2004). Seven (7) of these must be refereed academic journal articles.
Referencing style: Use the Harvard UniSA referencing style in all your assessments. A guide to the Harvard style is found at
Word limit:
3,000 words. 10% plus or minus the word limit is acceptable. If you exceed the plus 10% maximum limit, your grader will draw a line and will stop reading at that point.
Assignment template: As an aid, there a template to help you format your answer (found at the end of this document).
Marking criteria: The assignment marking criteria sheet is provided at the end of this document. Be guided by the criteria and mark weightings given to each aspect of this assignment.
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The Reluctant Executive: Sustainability, Surfing, and Leadership Style at Patagonia

Yvon Chouinard was an accomplished mountain climber in the 1960?s, successfully ascending
peaks throughout the world. To support his climbing activities, he began selling mountaineering equipment out of the back of his car. This endeavour evolved into Chouinard Equipment, a full service climbing gear manufacturing and sales operation located in Ventura, California.
Chouinard increased sales volume by importing rugby shirts, gloves, hats, and other clothing
from Europe and New Zealand. Soon, the focus turned to manufacturing clothing, and in 1973 the Patagonia clothing company was born. The business struggled at first, but by the mid?1980s sales began to increase, growing from $20 million to over $100 million by 1990. Today, sales volume at Patagonia is around $540 million per year, and the company makes a wide range of products from outdoor clothing and travel gear to fishing equipment.

Chouinard never aspired to be an executive, but he soon found himself facing business
challenges as the founder and owner of an expanding company. Despite the growth, he held
fast to the values of teamwork and camaraderie he had enjoyed as a mountaineer. Employees at Patagonia dress as they please (often in t?shirts and shorts, sitting barefoot at their desks); surf when the conditions at nearby beaches are good (the daily surf report is prominently displayed in the lobby of the corporate headquarters, and employees can take advantage of the liberal flextime policies); and enjoy company?sponsored ski and climbing trips; a cafeteria serving high quality, healthy food (including a wide range of vegetarian options); a subsidized on?site day care center; and the option to take leave of absence from work for up to two months at a non?profit of their choice, while still receiving their full pay from Patagonia.

These benefits make the company a highly desirable place of employment?on average some 900 people apply for every open position. The company is highly committed to environmental causes and a corporate philosophy to ?do no harm.? Chouinard and each of Patagonia?s 1,200 employees try to make decisions based on the impact that will be felt 100 years from now. That approach requires asking tough questions about manufacturing processes and making the right choices, even if production costs increase. In the early 1990s, for example, an environmental audit revealed that the chemicals commonly used for growing and harvesting cotton made it one of the most damaging fibers used by Patagonia. Cotton farming, Chouinard discovered, consumes 25 percent of the world?s pesticides on just 3 percent of the world?s farmland. As a result, the company switched its entire product line to organic cotton, a decision that ultimately improved profitability.

More recently Patagonia decided to shift from the traditional kind of polyester used to make its fleece jackets to a new type of polyester made from recycled soda pop bottles. It takes 25 soda bottles from landfills to make a jacket; between 1993 and 2003 Patagonia diverted 86 million soda bottles from landfills. ?The company has integrated core beliefs and values into every product it produces and is known for its innovative designs, exceptional quality, and environmental ingenuity. Its high integrity and commitment to the environment has placed Patagonia on the Ethisphere Institute?s ?World?s Most Ethical Companies? list for six consecutive years since the list was first developed in 2007? (Suazo, Baca and Sawayda, 2012).

How does Chouinard lead the company and drive this environmental mission? Through a
hands?on directive approach? No, he uses what he calls his MBA theory?management by
absence. Chouinard travels the globe developing and testing Patagonia products and serving as a crusader for environmental issues. To run his business, he hires employees who will question authority?challenging bad decisions and working with others to seek out the best solution. As he explains, ?the best democracy exists when decisions are made through consensus?decisions based on compromise often leave the problem not completely solved with both sides feeling cheated or unimportant.? And the most effective leaders, Chouinard argues, are those who can communicate their ideas to others, not via email, but by talking face?to?face to work out collaborative agreements.

To support this democratic approach, there are no private offices at Patagonia?everyone works in open rooms with no doors or separations. When Chouinard is at the Patagonia headquarters, he does not have a reserved parking spot (such spots are reserved for those who drive fuel?efficient cars) or special perks or office space; he considers himself no more important than others in the organization. Such treatment would only damage the democratic spirit of the company. Chouinard believes, ?find the right balance between the management problems that come with growth and maintaining our philosophy of hiring independent?minded people and trusting them with responsibility is the key to Patagonia?s success.?

Christopher, W 2007, Sustainability case study: Patagonia, in Shockley-Zalabak, P, Morreale, S & Hackman, M 2010, Building the high-trust organization: strategies for supporting five key dimensions of trust, Jossey-Bass , San Francisco, pp.35-36.
Assessment Task 3 Template
(Use this as a guide to format your assignment.
Please delete all sections in red from the template before submission)

BUSS 5114 People, Organisations and Leadership
Study Period 1 2014
Assessment 3: Major Case Study
3000 words

Student Name
Student ID Number
Note ? all answers should include reference to the case study
– all answers must be supported by literature evidence. (Please delete this section and all sections in red from the template before submission)

Key aspects of the Corporate Culture of Patagonia
This is the section where you use theory and examples from the case to answer question 1 (about 900 words; 4-5 paragraphs)

Fit between Patagonia?s Organisational Structure and Corporate Culture
This is the section where you use theory and examples from the case to answer question 2 (about 900 words; 4-5 paragraphs)

Chouinard?s leadership style
This is the section where you use theory and examples from the case to answer question 3 (about 900 words; 4-5 paragraphs)

This is where you summarise what you have found through applying your research and theory to analyse the case (about 150-200 words; 1 paragraph).

Provide a minimum of ten (10) recent references (no older than 2004). Seven (7) of these must be refereed academic journal articles.
All in-text referencing needs to comply with the Harvard Referencing System. If you are unsure how to use this system you can download the Harvard Referencing guide from


Assessment feedback

People, Organisations and Leadership (BUSS 5114)
Assessment 3: Major Case Study
(3000 words) ? 40% of final grade
The course objectives assessed by this assignment are objectives 1, 2 and 4.
Graduate qualities associated with these learning objectives are identified in the course outline.
Key components of this assignment Weight Performance on this component Comment by marker
HD D C P1 P2 F1 F2
Task Achievement
? All parts of the task addressed
? Instructions followed 10%
? Appropriate application of selected theories
? Clearly expressed ideas and well developed argument
? Argument supported with referenced research evidence
? Argument supported by examples from the case 45%
? The response has been researched widely from a range of sources including text(s), set readings and peer-reviewed academic articles/journals
? A minimum of 10 post 2004 references, 7 of which must be from journals 35%
? Correct English expression, grammar, spelling & punctuation 5%
? Use of Harvard UniSA style
? Correct in-text citations
? Complete and accurate reference list 5%
Summary comment