The Pentagon Wars, made as an HBO movie in 1998, is based on a book of the same name by Col. James Burton (retd). The film depicts the development of the Bradley fighting vehicle. Col Burton was appointed by Congress as an outsider to oversee the testing of new weapons in development, including the Bradley. In order to get up to speed with the development history of the Bradley, Burton dives into the mountain of paperwork documenting it’s development. This is where we pick up the movie below for a 11-min scene that takes us through the “product development process” in flashbacks.
The Bradley started with a simple goal – to be a troop carrier, transporting troops into combat. As you can see, by the end of the clip, the Bradley turned into something that was far from it’s original goal.
● As a result, Col Smith is not going to enjoy his colleague’s support. He even vents his frustration about the project having dragged on for 11 years with nothing to show and him not getting a promotion.
What should Col Smith have done here?
● Every product manager would do well to remember that architects/designers/engineers are really smart people who often present useful insights. They are not just geeks. A good product manager must always respect that and forge a partnership.
● Perhaps this is military protocol, but in the corporate world, a Product Manager would do well to have his or her architect/designer/engineer partner also be in the meeting to support each other and present as a team.
● In the meetings with the Generals, it is likely that Smith is representing the designer’s views of pros and cons, well mostly cons, but Smith goes into this all by himself, making it look like 1 against 3, an argument he has no chance of winning.
Ultimately, as the Congressional Armed Services Committee questions Major General Partridge (Kelsey Grammer), we learn that the Army has spent 17 years and $14 billion dollars of taxpayer money to build an armored vehicle, as compared to Smith’s projection of $1.5 million dollars.
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