Instead of dooming him, his handling of the problem influenced the company culture, helping to birth a system called "Copy Exactly" that's become part of its identity. Krzanich went on to make a name for himself as the executive responsible for all of Intel's factories, a job that prepared him to be CEO.
It happened in the 1990s; Krzanich was in his early 30s. At the time, Intel was just beginning to hit its stride with a strategy that would make it the world's top supplier of chips for personal computers. His job was to transfer the chip manufacturing process from one facility in New Mexico to the one next door.
It didn't work. Production ground to a halt. And for an agonizingly long time, he had no idea why.
"It went all the way up to the CEO. And my boss at one point walked into my office and said, 'You have about two more weeks to figure out this issue, and if you don't, I've got to let you go,'" Krzanich recalled. "And luckily, a friend of mine and I, we said we're just not going to sleep until we solve this. And then, sure enough, we found the problem about a week into that two week time period."
What sets Krzanich apart as a leader isn't just the way he rallied in a situation like this, though his conversation with Fortt Knox did unearth some gems that should help anyone navigate a career crisis. What sets him apart is the no-frills approach he brings to his work, and the adaptability that has allowed him to push his career – and now, Intel itself – in unexpected directions.
Here are just a few of the concepts explored in a fascinating episode of Fortt Knox: