The CEO of a Division in a very large and famous multinational in consumer products was perplexed. The sales of a product his R&D and marketing teams had taken years to develop did not take off. Nothing could be more unexpected, as everything seemed right until the product effectively hit the retailers’ shelves.
What had gone wrong? As it seemed that the only solution now was to kill the product, the real issue was: how to avoid the repetition of such a failure for products currently in the pipeline?
We went to the division with candid eyes. We listened to people in all departments involved. And we found suprising facts that had eluded the CEO.
With hindsight, a number of seemingly unconsequential decisions could be analyzed as management errors as theorized by Goodman*, Reason* and Hofmann. Those decisions were a product of certain leadership practices and company procedures. The failure could have been avoided.
We recommended a series of small changes. The Division implemented them swiflty. Of several projects in the pipeline, some were rescheduled. The launch of others was accelerated. And they achieved quick and spectacular take-off.
Reason, 1990: Human error
Hofmann & Frese, 2011: Organizational errors
Goodman, et al., 2010: Organizational Errors: Directions for research