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Howard Roark and the ghost of Admiral Rickover

Mitchell Langbert (Brooklyn College, New York, New York, USA)
Michael Stanchina (New York University, New York, New York, USA)
Donal Grunewald (Iona College, New York, New York, USA)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




This case study aims to illustrate the interaction of organizational culture, human resource (HR) policy and firm performance. It contrasts the cultures of two science‐driven organizations – the Navy's nuclear submarine force and Merck, the large pharmaceutical firm – and traces the reaction of one individual to two organizations – the United States nuclear navy and Merck & Co., a large pharmaceutical firm.


This paper is a case study based on field interviews and secondary sources.


The task‐oriented culture of the submarine fleet is compared to Merck's relations and team‐oriented corporate environment. Management skills such as flexibility, power and influence, interpersonal communication, self‐awareness and goal setting can influence career outcomes. Managerial skills are important in all settings, but a given style's efficacy is contingent upon organizational context. Adaptability is important, as is personal mission. Thus, the case examines how organizational culture, HR policies and leadership interact with an individual's career outcomes and organizational performance as well.

Research limitations/implications

Because this is a case study it is not generalizable. However, the issues depicted in the case have been recognized in the managerial skills literature. The case study serves to illustrate and deepen managerial skills concepts.

Practical implications

This case study has illustrative value as well as hypothesis and theory‐building value, but is not generalizable.


There is relatively little research on the specifics of how to apply managerial skills in a corporate setting. Hence, the case covers important, sensitive material of practical and theoretical value.



Langbert, M., Stanchina, M. and Grunewald, D. (2008), "Howard Roark and the ghost of Admiral Rickover", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 194-216.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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