After it introduced the extremely successful Droid smartphone into the market in 2009, Motorola quickly moved to develop the next-generation Droid 2 before the next wave of smartphones (including the rumored iPhone 4) flooded the market. The development process was moving smoothly for the company when Verizon, its biggest partner, dropped a bombshell. It wasn't happy with the mechanical camera button on the Droid 2 (citing customer feedback) and wanted it to be changed to a software button like the iPhone's. This request immediately placed Motorola in the proverbial horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, it couldn't brush away the request of its biggest and most important partner. On the other hand, changing the camera button now would mean delaying the Droid 2's entry into the market. Should the Droid 2 team remove the camera's hardware button in favor of a software button per Verizon's request, or not?
John Smith, the product manager, leads the cross-functional Droid 2 team. The case setting is an emergency “war room” meeting to address this critical issue, just weeks prior to launch. John's objective is to obtain the salient facts and opinions of team members quickly so he can make an informed recommendation to his boss by the end of the day. He is concerned that this last-minute request for a design change will not only threaten to delay the launch, which would have significant financial implications, but could potentially create deep fissures in a hitherto effective team that had been running like a well-oiled machine.
The case puts students in a situation that simulates a real-world discussion and allows them to experience what it is like, as a product manager, to orchestrate a meeting with cross-functional teams that have conflicting priorities and agendas. It illustrates the challenges a product manager faces while striving to make important decisions with little or no direct authority over the various teams.