Leaders speech: After failure of product launch

Jim Kramer tentatively stepped out of his vehicle.  It feels strange being alone in an empty parking lot, no honking horns, and no scurrying mass of humanity rushing to beat the clock. The sun has just barely made his royal presence known, quietly but confidently rising over the horizon, conquering the vastness that is rightfully his, lording over the entire creation. Jim takes a deep breath of the crisp air and instantly felt cool, invigorated and more confident.

The past few weeks have been extraordinarily toxic.  The numbers from the launch are in.  They have been analyzed and overanalyzed, and the bottom line remained the same.  Jim’s company has lost quite a lot of money and reputation over their first major launch which was clearly a failure.  So much meticulous planning had gone into the development of that program.  The man hours and sleepless nights spent for research, implementation, process creation and the cost for advertising and marketing was way too much.

If it was solely up to him, scrapping the entire project to cut the losses would have been the easy way out.  But his team of 100 people and their families are looking up to him for answers, solutions and next steps.  He will have to talk to the team and be able to convince them to give the project a second chance.  A general meeting has to be called to update, inspire and rally his team.

Today is the day of reckoning and he wanted to come earlier than everybody to show his employees that this is an important meeting and that he had come prepared for this big day.  The room that had wall to wall wood flooring with beautiful French glass doors that open to the swanky reception. You can sense the aroma of fresh baked cookies that were kept on the side with fresh coffee.  After an hour or so, the employee quadrangle began to fill up.  Hushed and anxious whispers are beginning to fill the hall.  Some of the employees are hopeful, many wary and anxious, but all eager to hear what Jim had to say.

As Jim walks towards the microphone to speak, you could hear a needle drop and sense the palpable tension in the room.  Jim wanted to lighten everybody’s mood by asking and thus set the stage for the rest of his speech.  “I am aware that you came here with some kind of trepidation, almost sure that you will be out of job by tomorrow.  Do you know why we are all here? He paused and looked around the room. The answer was quite obvious…may be not.  Then he smiled and said “we all are here because we are members of a great team and a great team is hard to beat!  Let us give ourselves a big round of applause!“

As the applause started to die down, Jim proceeded to say: “some ideas fail for a reason.  For us to achieve our objectives, we have to master the art of simplicity.   Keeping it simple does not mean we have to dumb down our objectives.  It means zeroing in on the heart of the idea to understand its basic meaning. We need to get rid of the unwanted so we can focus on matters of consequence.  We can argue that all ideas are important, but then we have to decide on what is THE MOST important. You will be seeing some changes in our strategies to focus on the “THE MOST” important.

Jim continued…One example that comes to mind is of Southwest Airline whose objective is to be known as the low-fare airline.  Thus, all decisions that will be done to run this airline should be geared towards achieving this objective.  There was a suggestion to add salad on one of its flights.  The question that was to be answered was what impact could the serving of a nice salad have on maintaining low fares?  There is none, and so that idea does not merit in their plans.  Having too many choices can overwhelm people’s minds making it even harder for them to come to a good decision.  When we started working on this idea we were excited and saw all the good that can be achieved from this project and never considered possible roadblocks along the way.  The numbers resulting from that launch are dismal which only proves we have failed in our initial launch.  Despite the unexpected results of the launch, we continue to be committed to this idea and this time, we, with your help, will address all the kinks that we found and make them right.  In the next few days, we will be discussing with your group specific tasks and what steps to take to correct our mistakes.”

“The advertising and sales department can look at how Subway re-conquered the market with its advertising campaign using Jared Fogle’s real-life story and his all-Subway diet.  Jared was a college student who was grossly overweight at 425 pounds.   Jared had no choice but to slim down or not reach the age of 35.   He formulated a Subway diet all his own consisting of an all vegetable 12-inch Subway for lunch and a 6-inch turkey Subway for dinner. The result was an amazing weight loss of 330 pounds in three months and he continued to loose of one pound a day. As soon as Subway decided to use Jared’s story in the ads, Subway gained 16% growth in 2001 from a dismal zero growth in 1999.  Credible stories always sell as people hope to duplicate the protagonist’s winning experience.   We need to find a common ground to communicate with our clients and prospective clients, always bearing in mind that they may not be as interested to listen to whatever good things or unique qualities of your product as to what they can gain from it.  Sometimes, people do not realize yet what your product could mean to them or what it could do for them.  So it is our mission to make them recognize how it would matter and be of real benefit to them.”

 “This time we should make sure that as we start our re-work activities, our intentions must appeal not only to our client’s very basic needs, such as self-esteem, security, physical needs, knowledge and belongingness but to their sense of nobility and principles as well…. that if they dare to wish to step up and be the person they would like to be, we can be their partner to make that wish come true.”   We should tap on people’s ultimate reason to take action which is protecting or satisfying their self-interest.  People move when they are inspired so if you want our ideas to be their source of inspiration, we should say something that will matter to them, something that they can care about and relate to.

Jim continues, “As we all had a hand in the conception of this project before, we will, as before be all responsible for its correction because I believe that ideas, even the best of ideas, will remain figments of our minds and will not be worth much unless people like you and me…..US really commit to get these ideas become reality.”

 “I know that it took us sometime to finally tell you how we intend to go forward after this learning experience, albeit a little hurtful on our pockets and our egos.  Forgive me for causing you some sleepless nights and perhaps even heated discussion with your spouse or partner. Experiencing failure is oftentimes devastating and disorienting and it takes a while to gather your wits and set about planning on what to do next.

“The good news is that we are a resilient team so I expect you to be all here, continuing to do what you do best and seeing that this project comes to a successful turn.  Thank you all for coming and I wish you a great and highly productive day!”

All the employees responded with enthusiasm and Jim was escorted with a thunderous applause and a standing ovation as he leaves the stage.

****  Did it happen for real? Leaders do exist.  *****

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