Nicholas Gray: The More Things Change ... (A)

15 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Gerry Yemen

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Erika Hayes James

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


Can you really change your behavior at work? What if you believe your approach has served you well in the past and helped you succeed to where you are today? This series of cases features Nicholas Gray, a Norfolk Southern Railroad (NS) executive and his experiences in implementing change from a middle manager position. The A case (UVA-OB-0773) begins with Gray identifying a change effort to build a better relationship with colleagues in other departments at NS. As the story unfolds, Gray's management style and some challenges he faces take shape. In the B case, Gray works through his action plan and the implementation of his change initiative. These cases provide an insight into the challenges of being a change agent at both personal and organizational levels.



Nicholas Gray: The More things Change … (A)

As Terminal Manager Nicholas Gray surveyed the sprawling Detroit rail yard of the Norfolk Southern Railway company (NS) on a crisp spring day in 2002, he wrestled with several problems. He was frustrated that the marketing department was making commitments that affected him and his ability to serve his customers. His communication style had alienated the marketing department manager. Gray's subordinate managers were not taking responsibility as capably as he thought they should. He was disturbed that his counterparts in the mechanical department weren't as committed to on-time train departure as he was. The marketing department was cosponsoring a cookout to celebrate the mechanical department's efforts, and he had decided he would boycott the event to show his displeasure. And CEO David Goode had recently told analysts about a bold new goal he called β€œ7 and 7”—an intensive objective to reach $ 7 billion of revenue with an operating ratio beginning with the number seven. Gray felt pressure to work hard to contribute to those goals.

At the same time, he had just returned from an executive education seminar convinced that he needed to adjust his style if he were to continue moving up in the company. Gray had just seen a job posting that would mean a promotion. Yet given the reputation he had developed among his peers, he wondered if he had a chance at the new position. Gray's thoughts swirled as he mused on these issues and what he might do about them.

Norfolk Southern

In 2002, Gray was terminal superintendent of transportation at Norfolk Southern's Detroit, Michigan division. Norfolk Southern Railway was part of a larger corporate entity, Norfolk Southern, a Virginia-based holding company with headquarters in Norfolk. The railway operated approximately 21,500 route-miles in 22 eastern states, the District of Columbia, and the province of Ontario; served 20 seaports and lake ports; and connected with western and Canadian partners (see Exhibit 1). NS offered the East's most extensive intermodal network and provided comprehensive transportation logistics services, which were supported by innovative data systems and technology (see Exhibit 2 for financial data).

. . .

Keywords: UVA-OB-0773 change implementation organizational management development skills culture

Suggested Citation

Yemen, Gerry and James, Erika Hayes, Nicholas Gray: The More Things Change ... (A). Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0773. Available at SSRN:

Gerry Yemen (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Erika Hayes James

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4796 (Phone)
434-924-0714 (Fax)


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