Ever been in a situation where you absolutely need a project to be resourced, but there are no resources? I remember one particularly extreme case that I had to deal with. I was a product manager, and my product was dependent on a particular instrument sold by another company. Just a few months after my product launched, the other company discontinued their product. We were screwed.
As a first mitigation, we bought the entire supply of the existing product, which would allow us to sell to an additional ten customers. After that, the only option was a poor substitute that we did not currently support.
The good news: a few years earlier my company had developed an in house version that was never commercialized. I did some checking, and it could be launched with a minimum of effort in about six months. The bad news: the instrument division was consumed with a high profile, expensive project. The company was moderately political and laden with silos. And my division rarely partnered with the instrument division.
The first reaction from “Bill” the resource doorkeeper was politely negative. Although he didn’t exactly say you’ll get those resources over my dead body, the message I got was that the resources would only be available over his dead body.
I am not big on losing, and I found a way to get it done. Success came from a combination of two strategies.
- I was lucky because one of my colleagues was well connected in the instrument division. He knew the right people to get a realistic resource estimate, and they all liked him.
- We got the key decision makers from both divisions in the room together. I put up side-by-side revenue forecasts, with a loss of $27 million dollars over three years if we did not launch the new product. There was a difficult conversation, but the resources were assigned.
I was quite pleased with myself because I won. We got the supporting product we needed, and the revenue plan was intact. I didn’t care (or even realize) that I made a powerful enemy. Maybe it was inevitable that Bill was going to get pissed off. But I don’t think I did everything I could to get him on board before the meeting. Instead, I took the “screw you, I’m going to win approach.”
To my credit I was unfailingly polite, and presented a revenue forecast that left few options.
But it came back to haunt me. While at the time I thought it was done over “Bill’s” dead body, in many ways it was over mine.