“Going Global” Virtually: Smithfield’s (Digital) Expansion and Survival


This case presents a fictional organization, called Smithfield, which simulates an established bookshop located in London, UK. By exploring the efforts of this local bookshop to “go global” for a variety of both planned and unexpected reasons, the case introduces students to the world of global virtual teams and the challenges associated with managing an organization’s (digital) expansion virtually. Uniquely, the case sees technology both as an output (i.e., enabling an organization to “go global” for either expansion or survival purposes, or both) and as a working environment (i.e., in global virtual teams). The case adopts a longitudinal approach to simulate a real-life scenario whereby an established organization has to transform its operations online quicker than initially planned, due to a lockdown in response to the (hypothetical) Zeeta Flu. Therefore, instead of “going global” for expansion purposes, the organization expedites its digital transformation for survival purposes. Students will need to complete (in a variety of formats; online and in class) three distinct activities, and then use the discussion questions to reflect on (a) how an organization can transform its operations online while working in a global virtual team environment, and (b) what skills are needed in order for such transitions to take place smoothly and successfully. Finally, students are faced with a dilemma: do they temporarily postpone the implementation of the opening of the physical bookshops or do they decide to operate exclusively online?

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