Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I am planning a very big important project at work.  That software that the entire office needs in order to function: we're changing it.  Everyone will be affected.  There will need to be changes to workflow (because we are digitizing a whole lot of processes that were previously done on paper), hardware installations, and lots of training.  It's going to be a huge change, and, even if it comes off without any technical hitches, people are going to whine, bitch, and complain for weeks, because that's what happens anytime there's a change of this magnitude.

The software was sold to me by a salesperson whom I trust. I worked with him for over a year, on and off, on this deal, and experience has taught me that he's intelligent, trustworthy, and thorough.

Finally our contract was signed. I was handed off to the implementation department.  I got my first call from the head office in British Columbia, three time zones away.  The department head spent half an hour on the phone with me sketching out a basic plan for data conversion and a staff training schedule.  It seemed like a good start.

Five minutes after I finished speaking to the department head, I got a call from the Local Implementation Lady.  (I shall refer to her as LIL.)  I thought that she was calling to follow up on her boss's call.  She was not.  She was not aware that he had just called me.  She started asking me all the same questions that I had just gone over with him.  I felt annoyed because she was wasting my time, but she was so cheerful and friendly that after her call I felt a little guilty for being so irritated.  I once worked for a company that had its head office in another province, and head office never kept me in the loop on anything.  I thought "I should give her a chance."

So.  Yesterday we had our first major (telephone) meeting regarding this project.  The attendees were to be Lil, myself, and my two helpers on this project, let's call them Lee-anne and Joan.  There had been a clear e-mail exchange in which Lil specified that she would phone me to begin the meeting.  I called Lee-anne and Joan into my office at the appointed time, and we chatted while we were waiting for the phone to ring.

15 minutes later my phone rang.  It was Lil.  She said, in a gently scolding tone, "Running a bit late, aren't we?"  I tried to determine what she was getting at.  "Didn't you get my e-mails?" she asked.  No, we were all sitting here waiting for you to call, as we had arranged. 

I opened my e-mail and sure enough she had sent me an invitation to join a conference call.  I told her that we would all just sit around my desk with the phone on speaker and that would do just fine.  I was willing to let this hiccup slide.

However, over the course of the phone meeting, Lil completely undermined any confidence that I might have had in her.  She was unprepared for the meeting.  She couldn't remember what documents she had sent me, and hadn't carefully gone over the forms that I'd filled in and sent back to her.  She kept asking me for information that was available in the completed forms.

By halfway through the call she'd forgotten our names.  She started calling me Glittering Pink.  Better yet, she merged Lee-anne and Joan into Jo-anne.  I wasn't sure if she even remembered that they were two separate people.

Lil had no idea who our sales rep had been and didn't know that my technical experts had already had long conversations with the tech support department at her company.

She didn't seem to be listening very well when I explained our business to her.  With a rapidly increasing sense that this woman was completely clueless, I tried to think of something that might help her to grasp the facts of our situation.  I offered to have her over to our office for a walk-through, to meet "Jo-anne" in person (both halves of her) and get an idea of our environment.  She said she didn't see why that was necessary "because it says here that your sales rep already did a walk-through".  Sure he did, but she didn't even know his name 5 minutes ago, what good does that do her or us?

By the end of the phone call I deeply despaired of Lil's ability to pilot us through these uncharted waters.  Joan and Lee-anne were having a hard time not laughing out loud as I mimed various gestures of frustration over Lil's cheerful, empty chatter.  Lil seems to believe that her job is to soothe our "irrational fears" of change.  Frankly I feel my fears are very well-founded.

Rest assured that no one is converting anything until I'm satisfied that our preparations are solid.

I got flowers to cheer myself up.  Aren't they pretty?


LL Cool Joe said...

So did the flowers cancel out the irritation of LIL?? I'm glad you didn't call her LL, as I might of thought you were indirectly saying you were pissed off with me. ;)

Lynn said...

I think it sounds like a wise move to hold off on going ahead with that - the woman sounds clueless and she should not have chided you. You are the customer. That alone would have put me off.

DarcKnyt said...

Of course you handled this like a genuine professional. I would have suggested LIL contact the big-wig in BC who spent half an hour of his valuable time and mine getting things right, remembering our names and what we do, and generally being a pro.

I might then have asked LIL if the person she reported to might be available for a discussion later that day, because this is unacceptable, and we need to have things in line for this EXTREMELY important and costly maneuver.

Oh, I might've said and done some very unpleasant things as a dissatisfied customer. But I'm here, not handling anything of that magnitude, and you're there, being the ROCK STAR you are, and doing everything just right.

I'm really looking forward to reading about this project as it unfolds, because I always learn something tremendous from your managerial experience.

And I know you're going to do this well.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

You're a better person than I. I can't stand incompetence and rudeness added in would have set me off. I would call the sales rep that invested a year of his life setting this up with you and explain your fears about the people involved in the project.

Granny Annie said...

Good thing that conference call wasn't on a video-phone. Or maybe it should have been and Lil might have gotten a clue.

Sparkling Red said...

I spoke to my trusted sales rep and he has promised to help me deal with the cheerfully oblivious Lil. I didn't get aggro with her because I can't afford to alienate anyone on this important project. However, my sales rep will be having a quiet word with her boss. If she can't be replaced by a competent substitute (without messing up our deadlines) and she continues to screw up, the sales rep said he'd manage the implementation himself. I am feeling a lot better now.

DarcsFalcon said...

This is why you're the boss, Spark, you done good! You handled that very professionally. :) Your flowers are lovely!

Glittering Pink? Goodness! That's just ... just ... how rude!

Glad to see the update, and that things look like they will flow much smoother in the next phases of the project. Whew! I bet that was a huge relief!

Good job hon. :)

Tracy Makara said...

The flowers are lovely! So cheerful and springlike. After LIL you sure deserve them. She sounds like a real twit. I sure hope that you can get the support that you need for the new software. Yet another reminder of what I do not miss about the office environment. *HUGS*

Tracy Makara said...

Uh oh. Should have read the comments before I made mine! Glad to hear that she rep is going to help you out. That had to be a relief.

Jenski said...

Pretty flowers. Was there something else you posted about? I got distracted....

(Glad there has been more communication to ensure the transition goes smoothly!)