Case #2087.0

Martha Johnson and the General Services Administration (B)

Publication Date: March 28, 2017
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In June 2009, Martha Johnson was selected to lead the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), a federal agency headquartered in Washington, D.C. that largely oversaw government procurement. After Johnson, a GSA veteran, was sworn into office in February 2010, she told reporters she was committed to holding the GSA to the highest ethical standards. In October 2010, ten months after she took office, four of GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS) regions held their biennial Western Regions Conference (WRC) with the object of providing job skills training and encouraging the exchange of ideas among senior managers in the four regions.  The conference, held at the upscale M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas,  was dubbed “A Showcase of World-Class Talent” by GSA officials with the intention of matching the conference’s theme to the Las Vegas location. In December 2010, just a few weeks after the conference ended, an investigation into the event was requested citing excessive expenses as well as possible employee misconduct. This case traces the investigation as well as the steps the GSA took during the following nine months to strengthen its leadership, improve organizational controls and address conference management.

Learning Objective:
To present alternative approaches for a senior executive to develop and implement a strategy. The case contrasts a “strategic planning” approach that involves systematically considering goals and alternatives with an iterative approach that starts quickly with incomplete information and changes mid-course based on earlier learning.

Other Details

Case Author:
Laura Winig
Faculty Lead:
Steven Kelman
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States