SAS Case Study

October 6, 2009

SAS seems like a really interesting company. I like that it focuses on trusting—and expecting—its employees to do a good job and its orientation towards creating a place that people enjoy coming to work. SAS’s benefits sound outstanding—with on-site medical care, childcare, massages, gyms, etc., who would not want to work for SAS? I also like that they have created a strong work culture. They are looking for self starters with the right personality and, based on the examples given in the case study, it seems like if you do not fit in with that culture you will not last very long.

What I find really interesting, however, is the organizational structure. The chart of Dr. Goodnight’s direct reports is astounding—it is just a mountain of individuals, all of whom report to Dr. Goodnight. There does not seem to be a lot of inter-reporting or top down structure, which seems somewhat unique. It is also unusual that employees move around as much as they apparently do it SAS, with employees moving into and out of management roles. I can see how this would be good in some ways, since you get a lot of people exposed to different types of roles, but it also seems like there would be a lack of continuity. I suppose, however, that since most folks do not leave the company and instead move into another position within it, that is less of a problem then it might be at another organization.

I do wonder how many of SAS’s management practices work primarily because most of the company’s employees work out of the home office in North Carolina. For example, many of the benefits SAS offers its employees—such as the on-site medical care and massages and the plots of land available for purchase at a reduced rate—are geared towards those at the home office. Similarly, it is easier for Dr. Goodnight to have so many managers reporting directly to him when most of these people are under the same roof and he can drop in and chat with them or observe them whenever he likes. As the company continues to expand, it seems likely that at least some of this expansion will occur in other offices, making it more difficult for SAS to continue to rely on these current practices for success.  SAS will thus need to adapt its strategies to accommodate a growing workforce that may be spread across a larger number of locations.

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