The Endgame at AFC: Execution Failures on BPON

I am going to have to say that this is a hard one for me to write. I look at this as one my own personal failures as I was unable to resolve the conflicts that I am about to outline for you.

But let me start with, after the RFP submission that we were working with SBC folks. We were notified by them that we had won. Verizon was much more of a challenge as the technical team wanted Quantum Bridge/Motorola. The Purchasing and Operations folks wanted us and our relationship with the former GTE folks finally swung things in our favor. Between this and Marconi (upcoming), it was rumored that Alcatel threatened SBC and SBC backed down and gave their FTTP business to Alcatel. As it turned out, there wasn't any business there so it worked out.

All of this was a HUGE coup. We had defeated the enemy (Alcatel) in hand to hand combat in their home turf. We also beat Motorola, but were less worried about them as they were new to the game.

In response to this, we made NO changes. None! No new people were working on BPON. No change to roadmaps. No new hiring. We were stuck in two arguments: Corey Geiger (VP of Product Management) and Jorge Valdes (VP of Engineering) wanted to hire a new team to do BPON. John Schofield (CEO) and Keith Pratt (CFO) wanted to move people off our ongoing product releases. Neither happened. All that did is I was given charge over the former AccessLAN team to offload Jorge. The second argument was around ONTs. We did not want to be in the business if we didn't have to be. I saw no way (at the time I was unaware of Vinci) to get other companies to build compatible ONTs in time.

Simply, we left just the 8 people working on BPON from the time that we got the RFP in July 03 until February of 04. That's it. We changed nothing.

We failed as a Leadership Team to resolve these issues. I took stabs at trying to highlight the problems, but was not sufficiently persuasive. Several of also got distracted by the Marconi activity, but this lies right at our doorstep and mine in particular. Why do I say that last? I was the potential tiebreaker and negotiator. Jeff Rosen and Jack Ermey were outside the meat of these discussions. They were commentators but not in a position to force a resolution.

We had a broken leadership team. This cost all involved $100s of Millions. You would have thought that we should have reached an answer and either answer was better than doing nothing. If you are an Executive in a similar situation, you need to get everyone on the same page. In our case doing so would have meant firing folks or folks quitting. But that is better for the employees, customers and shareholders than what we did. The real crime of it is that we had worked so hard to get to this point just to let our squabbling to get in the way of our success.

Have a great weekend and think about alignment in your organization. Are you at odds with others in some long term conflict? What is the damage that has come out of that? What can you do to fix it? If you need help with it, just let me know! I can talk about this from a very personal angle.

 

Jim Sackman 

FocalPoint Business Coaching
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