The Mistake

at-c-level

BY MARC A. BRINGMAN

When a failed recovery effort lands a young team leader outside the general manager’s office all he can do is sweat bullets and contemplate a jobless future. The dreaded talk with his superior however will reveal an important lesson, one that extends out of the workplace and into real life. Not every disaster is what it seems.

Harry sat quietly outside the general manager’s office. Although he had met the GM, he had never been invited to his office. Even though he was wearing his best suit, Harry knew he looked terrible. Failure and a lack of sleep tend to foster an especially haggard appearance. He hadn’t slept the previous night at all, and for the last several weeks, he had been lucky to get two hours a night. Harry was about to pay for a mistake.

Several weeks earlier, one of his team leads discovered a devastating problem with their billing system that serviced millions of credit card accounts. Harry remembered the meeting well. The news had been so disturbing that he grew increasingly ill as the technician explained the problem. The technician summarized with these words, “Harry, this has been happening for the last six months and it continues to happen with lightening speed even as we speak.” The system had been under billing accounts for at least six months. Harry remembered thinking that his first thought was an odd one: He just had to say, “at lightening speed,” didn’t he?

Harry led the recovery team and members expressed many concerns at the first team meeting. The fix would be easy, but recovering the unbilled revenue looked to be very complex. The difficult task required examining every account to determine if the account had been affected and, if so, calculating an adjustment amount for each of the previous six months. Furthermore, every customer would need to be notified, and that effort would create a customer relation’s nightmare. 


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