Stacked Deck (or why democracy is not a good way to make executive decisions)

The company had one of those ideas that could turn an industry on its ear. They approved the funding to rush the product to market by the end of the year. Then an offer came in no one expected. A large prospect was willing to commit to be the initial buyer of the product… if it could be delivered in October.

The executive leadership team was quickly assembled. The CEO explained the opportunity, and added that a client with this high profile would jumpstart this new product. “So do we take this deal?”, he asked.

The first to speak was the VP of Sales for the North territory where the prospect resided. He though it was a great idea and challenged the team to step up and dream big.

The VP of Sales Support was a bit more cautious, but agreed it would make a huge splash.

The CFO wanted to know about cost changes for the accelerated delivery date, but commented they could use the deal this year.

The CEO looked at the VP of Product and asked if he thought his team could make the early delivery date. After some deliberation, he indicated he was confident they could deliver it one week prior to the date the client needed to receive it – if the fulfillment team could use the prototype for the months of work in planning and training.

The VP of Fulfillment pointed out the risks. “There are risks in product delivery. Risks in whether it would work as intended. Risks in the unknown client impact as no one had ever used a product like this before…”

The VP of Sales – South interrupted, “We should do it! If we are not ready to take a risk now and for these reasons, then when?”

The executives debated the merits for another hour, Then the CEO called for a vote.

“Yes,” said the VP of Sales – North.

“Yes,” said the VP of Sales – South.

“Yes,” said the VP of Sales – West.

“Yes,” said the VP of Sales – East.

“Yes,” said the VP of Sales Support.

“Yes,” said the VP of Product.

“Yes,” said the CFO.

“No,” said the VP of Fulfillment.

“And I vote yes,” said the CEO. “8 to 1. Vote carries. Close the deal.”

The initial product delivery was a month late with only half of the intended functionality. The client staff was ill prepared in its use and the impact crippled their operations. The vendor threw much money and many people at the problem to reduce the pain until a second version of the product could be prepared. Let’s just say that one didn’t work either.

The client CEO called for a face to face meeting. The VP of Fulfillment was now the face of the project so  he was summoned to the client site.

The CEO and his executive went clause by clause through the contract, highlighting non and insufficient deliveries. Then the executive in charge of the department trying to use the product had staff members detail things that weren’t working and the cost, operational, and morale impacts it was having on their and the other departments. It was a long meeting.

As the VP of Fulfillment walked out of the conference room, the client’s project sponsor walked over and patted him on the back. “You took your beating like a man,” she said.

Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Leave a Comment