6 Comments
Feb 13, 2022Liked by Steven Sinofsky

I'm struggling with what you reportedly did wrong in this. Looking back, how would you have handled this differently? I don't see how the schedule for a complex software product can be pulled in at that late date, even if everyone had wanted to. Also, the rationale for the ask reads as trivial: just because the Germany field team wanted a particular venue on a particular date, the product team was expected to jump to make it happen ... how?

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author

In many ways that's the reality. I don't think I did anything wrong but that was through my culture of product development where as you say, this seems pretty impossible even if everyone wanted to. At the same time the request wasn't trivial for the field. When they looked at all they needed to do, they decided this was super important and who was I to judge from Redmond how something works or not in Germany?

And then it was left to this point of "escalation" and the real lesson was that they should not have ambushed me and having heard their ask I could have spent a couple of weeks before making the case to not change or dealing with the change. By escalating they surprised me which was not going to go well and they ate up weeks of calendar time for the benefit of the ambush, which was neither their culture nor the culture of MYR.

Sometimes the wrong thing doesn't appear that wrong even years later. As a practical matter the event would not have made a difference any more or less than shipping exactly on 3/2/1. That's the reality of many internal "battles" inside big companies.

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Feb 14, 2022Liked by Steven Sinofsky

Interesting. I was indexing on "Then I committed a fatal error" but I guess you meant error in the context of the audience, not in absolute terms. Do you think a stall like "I'll need to circle back with the product team before I can be definitive" would have gone over ok? Or was this a Kobiyashu Maru scenario?

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author

Ha! Yes in the context of that kind of meeting, capitulation is the order of the day.

There's no stalling in this particular instance. That's how they set up the ambush. They needed to put a deposit down on the event venue. It was a squeeze. They probably knew we would not have committed so they gave it a shot.

It wasn't a no win as much as a "HQ lost and needed to suck it up". A big part of this story is also my new boss was the former field leader and in some ways I believe, in hindsight, he was using this moment to tell his old team (the field) that the Redmond teams would be better at listening to field needs now that he's in charge. He was "testing" me as much as sending a message to the field.

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Gosh. Thanks again for the discussion!

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founding
Apr 6, 2023·edited Apr 6, 2023

It does seem to me that the ambush on the part of the Germans, whether deliberate or simply disorganised, is the real lesson here. Not preparing on a difficult point like this, and worse, putting the person you need the important thing from on the spot in front of their boss, and their boss' boss, all the way up to the CEO, is to me the cardinal sin. At best it's not very obviously not prepared, at worst it's a deliberate attack. Of course, for many people this is very much a deliberate choice - don't ask someone for something hard when they can say no, only ask them when it's almost impossible for them to say no without causing themselves damage. It's certainly extremely damaging to any future relationship, but maybe that was the culture.

Culture wars indeed!

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