A week or two back Ethan wrote about a subject that has unfortunately become significant to me. The issue is ownership of our product.
A couple of days ago I screwed up at work. Big time.
Edgar did a report that I’ve come to call The Poison Pill. To say that it was riddled with errors would be a vast understatement. The copycheckers (proofreaders) apparently missed the errors. So did I. One rather egregious error was caught by Legal Standards and Compliance.
It was something that never should have gotten through. A casual look at the report would have revealed two mutually-exclusive variations of the same paragraph that were not in the template. It was so bad that a meeting was called and new policies implemented. If you’ve never known the feeling of twenty people called into a room to mitigate an error you made, I wouldn’t recommend it. They singled nobody out, but I knew why we were there.
The interesting thing to me, however, was how Edgar and I reacted differently. We are, I guess, equally culpable. Something with a mistake like that never should have left his next nor mine. Yet Edgar’s reaction was absolutely soaked with resentment. Mistakes happen. The copycheckers should have found it. Why was everyone singling him out? He’s not the only person to make a mistake. When he passed it through again, he included the notation: THE ONLY ERROR IN THE DOCUMENT HAS BEEN CORRECTED. The implied continuation (as I read it, anyway) was “Happy now?”
I, meanwhile, reacted with horror. Yes, yes, it should have been caught by the copycheckers and it should have been caught by Edgar, but if I had caught it, none of this would have been happening. There was really no excuse.
This was all compounded when it was passed through a second time and sent back by LSC with a plethora of other errors. The entire document was poisonous. When I went through it a third time, I found a handful of other mistakes. Edgar has never been the pinnacle of competence (ergo I should have looked it over a lot more closely than I did), but what took me back was how unapologetic he was about the whole thing.
What it comes down to, I think, is a different sort of division of responsibility. In his mind, it was 10% his fault, 10% mine, 10% the copycheckers, and 70% that-sort-of-thing-just-happens. My division was 100% my fault, 100% his, and 100% the copycheckers. Yeah, that’s 300%, but any one of us could have stopped the mistake from occuring.
Reminds me, a bit, of a sign I’ve seen every now and again:
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
I’ve simply got to start doing a better job.
The company, to its credit, is looking at this as a process problem. Previous companies I’ve worked for would be taking scalps at this point. I would already be looking for new work. The bad news is that our department is more-or-less on problation at the moment. It will be a while before all this is forgotten. The good news is that they’re looking for ways to improve the situation. And personally, I’ve lost whatever halo I had. The defects in the quantity of my work were pointed out a couple weeks ago. The defects in quality were pointed out this past week. I probably lost the raise I had been working to get. On the other hand, so far QA (ie me) seems to have gotten a pass. We might get a good talking to tomorrow when Simon gets to work.
Let me tell you, I am really enthusiastic about finding out…