Risk and Crisis Management
icture the following scenario: Your company, which we will call
Everest Mountain Equipment (EME),
designs and manufac-
tures sporting equipment for numerous sports, including seasonal
gear for winter such as skis, ski boots, and snowboards. Your brand
has a loyal following, and counts Olympians and X-Game athletes
among its ambassadors.
Every few years, one of the companies in ski and snowboard
equipment develops a new concept that allows it to capture signi-
cant interest for a season, and in some cases, redene designs for
that product going forward. In 1993, for example, Elan launched the
rst “shaped,” or parabolic, skis, with fatter fronts and backs and a
narrower middle, allowing skiers to have far more control in turns
than with traditional straight skis. Within 3 or 4 years, every other
ski manufacturer was developing similar shaped skis with their own
proles and designs. Burton developed the rst snowboard in the
mid-1970s, and was followed a few years later by Head. Most big ski
companies have now been making snowboards for years. Launched
well, these innovations give the developer an advantage in the mar-
ket for several years; launched poorly, and the company may miss
out on the trend or have the innovation rened by a competitor and
have the market evolve in a dierent direction.
Everest Mountain Equipment is ctitious, as is this scenario. Any resemblance to real orga-
nizations, people, or events is purely coincidental.
100 • Project Leadership: Creating Value with an Adaptive Project Organization
Your company is launching a new binding for skis that is excep-
tionally lightweight, yet has very good stability in tests, locking the
ski boot in position as eectively as bindings twice its weight. e
binding is also very durable, outlasting the ski itself in all tests con-
ducted in your labs.
Approved for launch the previous year by the executive team,
development and manufacturing readiness is supposed to be com-
plete by mid- summer this year, in time for the company to produce
sucient quantities to supply retailers in Europe and North America
prior to the ski season. is means EME is to be shipping product
by September. Your marketing group has demonstration products
to display and pitch at trade shows scheduled for this year and has
already developed copy and advertising to kick o a signicant mar-
ket push by the company for the new ski binding. is is the most
signicant launch in the company’s pipeline in the last 10 years.
As part of the project process, your company outsourced the bind-
ing’s spring system to a supplier in the Czech Republic, a rm you
have used before on some products and has generally been quite reli-
able. Today, however, you receive a call from a friend in the industry
who knows you have something big in the works with that supplier,
and she tells you that there are some signicant issues with the plant
in Czech, and they are telling some customers their product could
be 3 to 6 months late.
You call your contact at the company, and he says yes, there have
been some problems, but those problems won’t aect your launch.
Everything is good. Tomorrow is Friday and you have a gate review
meeting scheduled with your leadership. What do you do?
ose of you with signicant project experience will recognize
this scenario. Unfortunately, it is all too common. Suppliers, even
those with the best intentions, strong leadership teams, and a history
of performance, are still one of the greatest sources of risk on a stra-
tegic project. ey could be in another city, state, or country (in this
case, the Czech supplier is a 9-hour connecting ight from your
head oce). ere could be language issues, cultural dierences, and
always cases of conicting priorities. Still, relying on suppliers gives
us access to expertise we may lack, new technologies, or materials,