Discussion Case: The Warhead Cable Test Dilemma

It was Monday morning at Bryson Corporation’s cable division assembly plant. Stanton Wong, the quality supervisor, had been worrying all weekend about a directive he had received from his boss before leaving work on Friday. Harry Jackson, the plant manager and a vice president of operations, had told Stanton unambiguously to disregard defects in a batch of laminated cable they had produced for a major customer, a military contractor. Now, Stanton was wondering what if anything he should say or do.

Bryson Corporation was large conglomerate headed by an aggressive CEO who had established a track record of buying and turning around low-performing manufacturing firms. Harry Jackson had been sent to the cable plant shortly after it had been acquired, and he was making headway rescuing what had been a marginal operation. The
word in the plant was that corporate was pleased with his progress.

Harry ran the plant like a dictator, with nearly absolute control, and made sure everyone inside and outside the organization knew it. Harry would intimidate his direct reports, yelling at them and insulting them at the least provocation. He harassed many of the young women in the office and was   having an affair with one of the sales
account managers.

Stanton’s two-year anniversary on the job had just passed. He was happy with his progress. He felt respected by the factory workers, by management colleagues, and often even by Harry. His pay was good enough that he and his wife felt confident to buy a house and start a family. He wanted to get a reputation as a loyal employee. He had decided early on that he was not about to challenge Harry. At least, that was Stanton’s approach until the warhead cable came along.

The warhead cable was part of a fuse system used in missiles. In the production process, a round cable was formed into a flat, ribbon-like shape by feeding it through a lamination machine and applying specific...