Very early in my career, when I was a fairly green project manager, I experienced an eye-opening defeat. I was leading my first major project for Georgia-Pacific in Atlanta. Georgia-Pacific primarily made building and paper products, but it shipped so much product that people often thought it was a trucking company. Shipping was our second-largest cost after wood fiber. My job was to streamline a freight-rating system that would process thousands of transactions a day across six building product businesses with over 100 manufacturing sites. I spent months analyzing the situation and gathering high-level requirements.
The day came for me to present my recommendation to the most powerful men in the company. I was more than nervous; I was uneasy. My presentation would define me for these men, to whom I was still an unknown. At the same time, I was confident in my recommendation. My team and I had figured out a way to standardize all the businesses onto one of the existing systems. This approach would save the company from an investment of millions of dollars and several years of development, and it required fewer people to support it.
I didn't have to wait long to wonder what they thought of my brilliant plan. Not five minutes into my presentation, I was interrupted by the most senior guy in the room. We'll call him David.
“This is the worst idea I've ever heard in my life,” David spat out. My boss and my boss's boss were completely silent. ...