UNDER WATER CAMERA SYSTEM: CONFLICT AND COMMUNICATION ONPROJECT “BIG FISH”
Katya Hart squinted at the digital display screen on the Under Water Camera System prototype in her hand. She zoomed in until the display showed a clearer picture of the lake 200 feet below her boat. Most weekends, Hart made the hike to the lake to clear her mind and, on occasion, to test new Under Water Camera Prototypes from her employer, Under Water Cameras, Inc. (UWCI). Unfortunately, with the “Project Big Fish” launch meeting scheduled for the next day, it was difficult to enjoy this particular boat ride and hike. Katya wondered how to get all parties to reach an agreement on the price point for Big Fish. UWCI had started losing share to a competitor, Square Camera, and it was imperative to get the new product to market.
Arriving at the lake, Hart gave in to the urge to check her phone and grimaced as she noticed two new voicemails. The first message was from Jake Smith, the director of design & development.
“Katya, it’s Jake. Listen, Bill and I have been over these cost numbers on Big Fish. We cut all that we could and we ended up with only a 7% or 8% reduction to cost.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this will get us to the price point that Sales is looking for. But I don’t need to remind you that we gave Sales the features and functionality they wanted in Big Fish, so I’m not going back now to ask my team to do the impossible. We’ll hash it out tomorrow, but I figured it best you hear it from me.”
The second message was from her boss, Sam Hook, the company president:
“Katya, I wanted to check on Big Fish. I heard grumbling from Zac and the sales team on Friday. They seemed frustrated with Bill Morrison’s production team. Make sure Production has its act together. Bill should know he’s on thin ice after the recent production fiasco on that Electric Fishing Pole project—he’s got to succeed on Big Fish. We need to have Big Fish on shelves at the start of the 4th quarter. Some board members are worried, so Big Fish will be near the top of the agenda at the board meeting next month.”
Neither message was encouraging. The Big Fish meeting the next day, involving the sales, design & development, and production departments, was now guaranteed to be contentious.
It was June 2014 —only two months since Hart had been promoted to executive vice president. Hook had tasked her with moving UWCI toward greater operational alignment and increasing cross-departmental cooperation. Hart had already been tested by both inventory problems and quality issues, which had led to significant tension between the U.S. headquarters in Terre Haute and the production team in Brazil. Now, disagreement over the proposed price point for Big Fish threatened to derail the launch of the prototype in her hand.
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