Here is a sad but true story. The names have been changed to “protect the innocent”.The story illustrates the victory of form and wow over content.
Paul Wight is the Head of R&D, is based in Denver. Paul oversees several development sites in Brunswick, NJ, Vancouver BC, Quebec City and Manchester UK.
Sales are slow, profitability is down and the management has to cut costs. Paul has been asked to close down one development site as well as downsize his whole organization by 30%. Paul will convened all his site managers in Denver to execute this plan.
The biggest issue facing Paul is which site to close. He plans to discuss this issue at the Denver meeting. Paul has asked his HR manager to prepare a short team building activity to facilitate trust to kick off the meeting.
The head of the Manchester UK site is Chester who really mistrusts Paul to make the right decision; Chester believes Paul does not like the time zone difference, the late night and early morning con-calls as well as the management overhead of flying to Manchester once a quarter in coach class.
Denise Thibadeau leads the Québec site. She believes Paul will close the Quebec site due to a hidden agenda stemming from communication difficulties. Paul always shows lack of patience on calls when he cannot understand what people say “the first time around”.
Denise and Chester have been speaking informally as of late on how to “throw a block” at Paul’s attributed attempt to close one “of the remote sites”.
Denise and Chester have agreed to form a coalition. Despite the technological animosity between Denise and Chester, they will agree to cooperate and assume joint responsibility for continuous engineering of a profitable legacy product, and jointly commit to develop a new platform in record time and very low costs. They have agreed to lie about how long the new platform development will take and “clean up the mess” later on.
The team building activity prepared by HR VP Gloria Ramsbottom was a cooking class, followed by a short webinar of a horse running faster and faster, albeit eating less and an interview with the horse’s trainer. After an hour, she told Paul the team has “loosened up” and serious discussion can begin.Gloria described the team building activity as wow.
The Denver meeting was superficial, rambling and indecisive. Two weeks after the meeting, Paul closed the Vancouver site. Denise and Chester grew their respective sites by 20%.