Monday, July 02, 2012

Mea Culpa*

I was introduced to a research group who had previously been unknown to me.  As is my typical procedure, I set up a phone call, indicated that, no, I don't have a travel budget that would tolerate a visit in person.  

So we had a call.  And I got overwhelmed by the quantity of research interests.  And one of the fastest ways to land in the 'deal with it later' pile of a busy Industry professional is to lack focus.  The best procedure?

  1. What do you want from Industry?
  2. Why do you want it?
  3. Why would Industry want to give it to you?
In the absence of what information, I can't form an action plan and we just have endless discussions about how great you are and how much we like you but nothing really gets done.  

Still, as an Industry representative who cares about your needs and time, I should always (always, always) follow up with some offer of another discussion.  But let's pretend I deal with dogs, specifically.  This group liked dogs.  But they also liked cats and snakes and birds (of all colors).  Had more than a passing interest in zebras, giraffes and primates.  And those folks over there were fond of cows, chickens and goats.  And that guy in the corner who I couldn't really hear over the speaker phone kept mentioning seals, penguins and blue whales.  

In short, I got overwhelmed, knew I couldn't even begin to tackle this group to begin to make connections and prioritize and passed it off to another individual.  This person shall know be known as Useless.  

I sent detailed notes to the team - people who'd introduced me to this group, Useless, Useless's Boss, my boss and other who might be interested.  I told Adam I didn't have the network of cross-functional managers to adequately follow up and he agreed to the Useless plan.

I had a call to get Useless organized.

I wrote email to remind Useless that I was out of the office for family issues and asked that he keep me updated as meetings moved forward.  

I did everything right!  Hence the * in the title! (Except one notable thing.  Do you know the notable thing?)

Recently, there was a Severe Escalation (read: Everyone Panic!!) because nobody had contacted the site.  And now they were understandably frustrated and Important People wanted to know who messed up and why.  

So there was this flurry of emails and phone calls.  My contribution was to send my original notes, find the emails that indicated I handed off this responsibility and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) not to get upset.  

Useless was trying to follow up.  I got four Useless calls in the matter of an hour asking random questions until I finally advised that we all calm down and relax a little bit.  Then I took my own advice, picked Friend up from the airport and had a really lovely weekend with one of my favorite people on the planet.  

This morning, I drafted an email to the leader of the varied-interest group.  I begged her pardon and noted that we did need someone at a higher level to participate and had meetings to that effect, but something got lost in translation.  I explained that I'd been out for personal reasons and sincerely regretted that I'd not introduced her directly to Useless so that he could follow up.  I expressed our interest in learning more and advised some initial focus to get started.  Then I apologized again, textually hanging my head because I'd been bad.  

And this is OK because I did screw up - I should have included this leader in my follow up plan, ensuring everyone was completely clear on what I expected to happen next.  As I didn't do that, her perspective was that I still owned the next step and that was a fair (and frustrating) assessment.  Which I did sincerely regret.  

But!  Now this email - my thoughtfully-written, head-hanging email - is being circulated throughout the sales team as evidence that Headquarters Has Apologized and We Can Now Move Forward.  And I keep writing responses that indicate it wasn't really my fault!  If Useless were Reliable, we'd be finished by now!  I had email that vindicated me!  I was trying to be the bigger person here and maintain the relationship by taking a hit to my ego.  

But I can't.  Because that does nobody any good.

But at least now you know - * I do not think this was my fault.  And apart from sighing too loudly when Useless calls me (and ignoring said calls sometimes), it seems this was my only option for venting.  


post-doc said...

Had some problems with formatting - apologies* for the multiple posts.

*Clearly, I blame Blogger.

Comrade Physioprof said...

It is absolutely essential that everyone know exactly whose fault this was.

Anthea said...

Aargh...what a situation! but I agree with Comrade Physioprof.

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