Chapter 10

HBR Case Study: A Rush to Failure?

by Tom Cross

Editor’s note: HBR’s case studies present fictionalized accounts of actual dilemmas faced by leaders, and offer solutions from experts.

“There is absolutely no reason why the contractors shouldn’t be able to give us rapid product development and flawless products—speed and quality both,” David MacDonagle said as he tried to light a cigarette. The warm wind, portending rain, kept blowing out his matches. Finally he gave up and slipped the cigarette back in his pocket.

MacDonagle, the head of the Canadian Aeronautics Administration, was nervous. Everyone at CAA headquarters was nervous. Very shortly, the project that many of them had devoted the past four years to would have its first ...

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