A story about an email, trust and a $150k error

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, called Project Land (I know, not very creative), there were five people on a project team (four Project Coordinators and a Project Manager). The team was twelve-months-old and their job was to look at speeding up learning within a division of a large (multi-country) business.

Trust was an issue in Project Land, with much finger pointing at a dark, dark enemy…Professor Blame Culture. The Project Manager, the biggest of the Project Coordinators, understood. So, she worked with the team to agree a set of behaviours and processes within the team structure to ensure transparency and involvement of all team members.

All was good in Project Land, everyone laughed and frolicked by the water cooler. But one stormy Monday the Big Bad Boss started putting pressure on the PM – the Big Bad Boss wanted bigger bang for his buck! The PM became grumpy, snapping at the Project Coordinators and calling daily meetings to make sure the Project Coordinators worked as hard as they could to make as big a bang as they could for the Big Bad Boss’s buck.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 13.35.19Then, one day, the PM had an idea. She decided to CC in the Big Bad Boss, as a way to motivate the project Coordinators. This didn’t make the Project Coordinators happy. They felt the Project Manager was using the Big Bad Boss as a stick to beat them with and to make them look bad. All the frolicking around the water cooler had long since stopped, but now they met again, this time, to talk in whispers and plot.

They hatched a dastardly plan. Everything they did, every step they took, went into an email to the Project Manager. And every email was CCd to the Big Bad Boss. Soon the Big Bad Boss, sent out an angry email, saying, “Stop copying me into all this rubbish!” The Project Manager called a meeting and told the Project Coordinators to stop the nonsense and stop sending so many emails. So they did. In fact, they stopped sending any information they weren’t directly asked for. They smiled at each other as they passed the water cooler. The plan was working.

Two months later…

The Project Manager made a major Quality Improvement decision, based on what she believed to be the best available data. She laid it all out in a 99 point PowerPoint presentation to the Big Bad Boss. The Big Bad Boss liked the new bang for his buck and smiled. Can you guess what happened next?

It all went Pete Tong (wrong)…

The pesky Project Coordinators had not filed data reports that would have showed that there was no bang for the Bog Boss’s buck to be had, because they had not been asked to do so. The Project Manager made a decision that could not be implemented and cost the company in excess of $150,000.

The Big Bad Boss was not happy. The Project Manager moved to a desk job on a lower floor. One of the Project Coordinators became the new Project Manager. And the first thing she did was agree a set of behaviours and processes within the team structure to ensure transparency and involvement of all team members – including a promise never, ever to CC the Big Bad Boss without first talking to the team.

This is a true story. I know, because I was there 😉





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