Company context

Company A, which I work for, has decided to outsource some of its operations to companies B, C, and D. These are currently run by mixed teams of ~ 50% employees of A and 50% onsite contractors from companies D and E.

Companies C and D have lots of employees seasoned with these operations. Company B, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of A, has no experience regarding these, and no office at that location. Information regarding the outsourcing is well known within C or D, but has not been officially disclosed inside A yet.

Company A is also in the process of reducing its workforce by about 15% over a couple years. Local labor laws does not allow dismissing employees at will, so HR are getting creative : early retirements, reassign/relocate people so they will quit. I reckon that moving people to subsidiaries might be another of their options.

Recent events

I was contacted by internal HR and offered a position in company B, where I would be in charge of gathering a team and running those operations.

While this new position could be a great challenge and a step up for my career, it could also be a desastrous move. I smell something fishy with the way the project is setup, yet cannot pinpoint it exactly. The devil might be in the details.

Question :

I am trying to gather solid clues before making any decision regarding this opportunity. What should I specifically be looking for (i.e. red flags) to anticipate whether the project is actually a planned failure or not ?

Edit :

The sinking ship question has similarities, but a different timing. Here the ship is still at a safe harbor, and I can have a glance at is design an make before deciding to embark. And as I have limited knowledge on how boats are built, I am asking you expert shipbuilders how to recognize beforehand that it has a chance to stay afloat.


Your question is very hard to follow. What I would tell you, from roughly 20 years in a highly political field in corporate and public organizations is listen to your gut. That sounds cliched but it is also good advice. Most likely you are sensing things correctly but because the situation is specifically set up to cover the true motive and appear innocuous your 'logical side' is unable to get to a clear conclusion.

That said, this may still be an opportunity. Unless you are being personally targeted and set up to fail as a way to cut you loose you could gain valuable experience. If it is the company, 'B', that is being set to fail you might have room to maneuver within that company so that when it all comes to an end you have picked up new skills or a new title that can then be spun into success somewhere else at a later date. Sometimes a 'failure' of this nature can be a hidden opportunity. The key is to open other options internally or external to company B while you are in the new position.

  • Thanks - after digging a bit things are getting clearer. Lack of organization seems to be the main cause, the project scope, dates and other intrinsics are still well shifting, yet it must be staffed yesterday. Mixed messages are probably what I interpreted as red flags. – Siorki Feb 16 '16 at 22:09
  • Shifting project intrinsics should definitely be interpreted as red flags, just of a different nature. Good luck. – Martin Fawls Feb 18 '16 at 3:12

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