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Saying “OK” When You Want To Say So Much More

March 4, 2019

It’s not my fault.

Those are four words that should never be spoken in a work environment. You probably shouldn’t say those words in any situation, but certainly not at work.

This is not a “customer’s always right” post. Well, maybe it is, but it’s really about controlling what you say.

Several years ago I was working with a client on a big project. The project team was pretty big. I was the program manager on our side. The client team had a new project manager. We were at the beginning of the project.

We didn’t have a project schedule yet. We were barely into the planning phase, although we were doing some early prototype testing. The client dev team was building the custom app that we were running, and they were way behind schedule. The software was coming on a CD. We were a little sensitive about security. We were a lot sensitive about security.

I was attending a weeklong conference. The conference wrapped up on Thursday. Friday was a travel day. But, the conference was in Seattle. And I was living in Seattle, so Friday was a work from home day.

I got an email Friday afternoon,

TO: Rodney Bliss
RE: You have a package at the front desk

I didn’t think much of it. Monday, I went into the office and was caught up in the usual “been gone a week need to catch up” work. I got in early so I could head out early. I grabbed the package on my way out the door.

Late Monday afternoon I got an email from the project leader,

TO: Rodney Bliss
RE: Rodney, we want to start the pilot tomorrow morning. We’ll need the users at both your sites ready at 9:00AM with the updated app installed.

Tuesday I had a lunch meeting in Maple Valley. I was going to be home on Monday, and I didn’t have a way to get the CD to my tech team. It’s about an hour from my house to the office. There was no way it was going to work to try and get to the office.

TO: Project Manager
RE: Testing Tomorrow
We aren’t going to be able to do the testing tomorrow. We’ll try to get things setup for Thursday.

Wednesday was a bit of whirlwind. I was in the office early. I got the CD to the tech guys first thing. They got started installing the software and sharing it for our Denver site to also download. I also identified the 10 workstations we were going to use. The test stations could only be used for testing. We had to take them out of production.

By Wednesday EOD we had everything in place to test on Thursday. I wasn’t particularly happy. In my week back after being gone for a day, I’d just sucked up two days on testing that I had no clue was even planned. I figured a 48 hour delay on less than 24 hours notice was pretty good.

Well, no good deed goes unpunished. Thursday morning I got on our conference call with the client.

Rodney, will Cleveland be joining us?

What do you mean?

We need testers from the Cleveland office as well. It’s the only office that has design staff.

Ah. . .they will not be joining us on this call.

So, another round of calls to get the software to the Cleveland team and get more workstations moved out production. Friday morning we did another call and another set of tests. Fortunately, the new app ran flawlessly. My annoyance at having to run a fire drill was offset by the fact that my team had done a fantastic job of pulling stuff together on short notice.

Remember me saying no good deed goes unpunished?

Monday I got an email from my Executive Vice President. He was about three levels above me. It basically was a long email chain starting from the project manager up through her management chain to senior managers and then across to my senior management chain. It gave great detail about how I had screwed up the project.

I don’t get angry at work. It’s never worth it. But, here I had the Senior VP telling me to stop screwing up the project. The sad thing was, it really wasn’t my fault and I honestly couldn’t tell anyone. I certainly couldn’t tell the VP.

You might be thinking,

But, Rodney, it really WASN’T your fault. Just explain that to the VP.

The thing is, the VP doesn’t care. People at his level get paid to not care. Well, he cares about the project. But, he doesn’t care who screwed it up. He just wants it fixed.

I emailed the VP,

TO: Senior VP
RE: Do you want me to respond to the issue, or just make sure it’s fixed?

TO: Rodney Bliss
RE: I already apologized to them and gave them a commitment. Just make it work.

So, you know what I did?

I responded with a simple: “Understood.”

And that was it. Sure, it wasn’t my fault, but no one cared. And I needed to not care either.

Customer always right? No. But, if they are wrong, you can’t tell anyone.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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