The application essay question / topic:
Question: Please provide an example of a team failure of which you've
been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do
In 2007, after challenging negotiations and months of preparations, we
obtained a license to operate Ghana’s first Sports Betting operation. Although a
new industry to us, management and the board of directors were excited.
Professionally researched surveys promised profits. Moreover, we would give the
government 25% of revenue to invest in local education and sports
infrastructures. As a company board member and manager I felt particularly proud
of this aspect.
My involvement in the project was minor at first. I
attended management meetings, approved project reports and collaborated on
critical marketing and strategy decisions. All seemed to be following our
business model. Then after 9 months, numbers started diverging. The earlier
expected breakeven point seemed years away and our project investment
accumulated to $1.5M.
I was surprised and became more involved to help
our Sports Betting Department turn things around. Together with the department
team and manager we reexamined the business plan and constructed an elaborate
new plan we believed would help bring profit.
When the department manager
and I presented this plan to the board and CEO, they expressed concern about
prolonging the project. The CEO said he no longer thought it could succeed in
Ghana, since the local population seemed not interested in Sports
However, since our earlier polls indicated otherwise, I was
confused and pressed the CEO for a more established reason for his pessimism.
But all he said was “after working 15 years in this region, I’ve learned to
trust my intuition.” Despite these doubts, I still persuaded management to grant
funds to implement our rescue plan and we began changes
Surprisingly (or not), our new plan was not successful.
Although we saw some improvement over months, the loss increased to $2M. Sadly,
we had to admit the project failed and consequently it was
Today, it’s easy to pinpoint our failure. It was not because
we entered a new arena of sports betting, since some of our most successful
projects were in initially unfamiliar industries. We failed by ignoring advice
of those most experienced in this locale. I always had great respect for the
CEO, but with so much confidence in our new business plan, neither I nor the
department manager gave enough attention to the CEO’s reservations. In fact the
entire department team, who were just as overzealous with this project as I was,
supported me in my blind enthusiasm. I feel we allowed our excessive faith in
the business plan to distort our judgment, and if given a second chance I would
have insisted we balance each other’s optimism with more reevaluation and
Luckily for me, I was given other chances to prove that I’ve
learned how to more responsibly lead project teams. Leading later projects, I
consulted more than ever with our CEO and other managers with vast experience
both in the region and relevant industries. I’ve always appreciated their wisdom
and experience as key team contributions but after the Sports Betting incident,
I know how to better incorporate these elements with pure numerical factors such
as business plans or market surveys. I also have felt myself become less swept
up by blind enthusiasm (my own and others’) and feel more grounded with leading
our team into well thought out promising endeavors.