The first hole at the Alameda Hills Golf Club was a par 5 dogleg to the left with traps surrounding the fairway and an elevated green 435 yards out. For the last five years, Bob Shaw, VP of Customer Service and George Corbett, the company CEO, slipped away for their Thursday 3:30 tee time.
They met eight years ago in Stanford’s executive MBA program and stayed in touch. When a slot opened for VP of Customer Service, George recruited Bob for the job. They played every Thursday they could, sometimes with others, or like today, in a twosome.
The morning fog had burned off and left the freshly cut grass green and aromatic. The clear sky, low wind, and 78 degree temperature made this a perfect day for the game that kept them in turn elated, frustrated, and mystified, but never indifferent.
George teed up and addressed the sparkling white ball. At 58, he no longer swung for distance. Starting from a methodical back swing, he hit the ball simply, made good contact, and sent it out 175 yards into the fairway. “I’ll take that,” he said, picking up his tee and moving to the side to observe Bob’s drive.
Bob’s tee shot sailed 260 yards. The men watched the ball in flight and on its descent, when its mid fairway position was guaranteed, Bob said, “And I’ll take that.”
On the way to their second shot, George asked, “How do you think the information integration project is coming?”
“Time will tell,” said Bob.
“You sound hesitant.”
“So far, I’m not encouraged. That doesn’t mean Dan can’t pull it out of the fire in the last stages. But his team hasn’t been especially responsive to my team’s needs. What’s more, the early tests have been disappointing.”
“This isn’t trivial,” said George. “We’ve made promises to the street about how the new system will give us a competitive advantage. I don’t want to have to face them and say, ‘It didn’t work.’”
“I know. If this fails, I’m looking at a melt-down in customer service. Frankly, I’m worried,” said Bob. “Still, maybe Dan can really deliver the goods. He’s famous for the flying catch.”
“Maybe, but we’d better have a back-up plan. I’m an insurance guy and don’t like overexposure to risk.”
“I’ve had some thoughts about that,” said Bob, “but it might be too early in the game to be thinking this way…”
“What do you have in mind?” said George. “We don’t have to act on it, but I need to know there’s a Plan B.”
“Plan B is hire someone with more experience than Dan has with large integration projects.”
“You mean push Dan out?” said George.
“No, his knowledge is useful. We need him for now. We could hire someone above him.”
“Do you think Dan would go for that?”
“We can start the new guy in a consulting role, position him to learn about the project from Dan. Once he’s up to speed, hire him over Dan. Then if Dan leaves, it won’t hurt us.”
“Do you have anyone in mind?” said George.
“I know two excellent people, but it’s premature to talk to them.”
“Bob,” said George, “without making an offer, I want you to explore this further with them, and let’s see what happens.”
“You don’t think it’s too early?”
“I hope it’s not too late.”
“OK, George. I’ll make the calls.”
Click here for Rick Brandon’s interview on Office Politics and read his take on who’s playing whom among George, Bob and Dan.
Dragons at Work
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