I had another one of those "telephone game" situations the other day. You know how it goes: Susan calls her application support person because she needs some particular thing. The app support person tells her that for that thing to happen, some other thing that he can't control must happen first. Susan relays this information to her boss, Mary. Mary calls the system support people and explains what is needed. They in turn realize that it's not something they do, so they call me. What I hear is what Mike at System Support thought Mary told him. What Mike heard is what Mary thought Susan told her. What Susan heard was what her application person told her..
Is it any wonder I get the wrong story?
The funny part about this one is that when I arrived on site I was handed a bunch of email printouts and hand written notes. When I read them, I actually thought that I understood what I needed to do.
It could have been worse. As it turned out, I spent an hour doing the thing that didn't need to be done. I then reported back to Mike, who got word back through Mary and Susan to the app support guy who then informed Susan that this wasn't what was needed at all. Fortunately someone suggested he send an email to Mike explaining what he really needed and Mike in turn forwarded that to me. I was already back in my office by then, but what he needed was so simple that I was able to ssh in and give him that instantly.
Yes, this all could have been avoided if a conference call had put all of us together before I was dispatched on site. Apparently that's impossible to arrange - well, not impossible, but difficult. I can understand that - people can be hard to reach. When I first called Mike about this he didn't answer and his voice mail box was full. He's a busy guy, apparently. I'm sometimes temporarily unreachable myself and I'm sure that Mary and Susan and the app support guy have their moments. It can be hard to put people together at the right time.
But couldn't we have done this by email? I know why we didn't - it sounded simple. It actually WAS simple; it just got complicated as it made its way through the chain of people. If it had been put in writing and just forwarded along, the original intent and need would have gotten directly to me.
Communication is important. Don 't assume it's "simple" if it's going to pass through multiple people.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-08-04 Anthony Lawrence