Your team messed up. Now what?

Sometimes, exuberance overtakes ability.

The tyranny of the deadline creates myopia.

Competing priorities and new "surprise" projects throw off the timeline.

Things are forgotten, or rushed.

In order to meet the delivery date, less important things like orientation and training sessions, user documentation, and communication to the stakeholders were pushed aside, with every good intention to "get to them when you have time."

The big parts of the system were delivered.  Your team is tired, but at least you got the 'most important things' out.

In the eyes of the end user, none of this matters.

They didn't get what you told them you were delivering. Don't underestimate the undercurrent of mistrust created by the situation. Just because people are not coming directly to you, it doesn't mean the lack of trust not there.

They have been let down. Their trust in you has been compromised.  In their eyes, your team has failed.

What do you do?

If you are the IT leader. This is YOUR problem to deal with.  Let's get that straight.  And it's your problem to deal with immediately.

This is a critical decision point for you.

Do you deal with it by coming up with a litany of excuses and blame? Or do you take responsibility for your actions and work to regain the trust you've just lost?

My experience is that the latter is what successful leaders do.

When a situation like this happens, and believe me it will, here is a brief list of actions you can take:

  • Gather the facts. Get as much information as quick as possible.  This is not about blame, but getting a quick understanding of what caused the issue.
  • Detail the impact of the event as you understand it.  Do it through the eyes of your customers.
  • Accept responsibility.  This is for you as leader to deal with.  You need to be the front and centre person in the response, not the members of your team.
  • Don't let too much time pass before you get out there. 
  • Don't offer excuses, offer an apology.
  • Deal with the issue, and describe the changes you've made to prevent the problem from happening again.
  • Provide a timeline for resolution.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Follow up.

Trust is the single most important connection between you and the people in the organization you support. It take time to gain it, a moment to lose it.

When you are new in an organization, you are on "borrowed trust". People give you the benefit of the doubt.

After you have been in your position for a while, every bit of trust is earned.

If you find your team in this situation, it is recoverable.  Look at what Johnson & Johnson did with the Tylenol crisis, or how CEO Michael McCain responded during the crisis at Maple Leaf Foods.

There are a lot of good lessons to be learned from them.

But sometimes, a whole bunch of learning can be encapsulated in a bit of folk wisdom.

In this case, everything I said in this post is contained in the phrase:

Crow pie is best eaten warm.


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