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Corporate Charades

Charades are often defined as “an empty or deceptive act or pretense”. In the corporate world, this leads to empty promises, failed projects, and angry clients. All of this can typically be avoided with honesty, facts, genuine concern, and attention to detail.

I remember it like it was yesterday… I was working at an IT Provider over a decade ago as an Engineer keeping things up and running for our clients. I stepped into the hallway to find a congo line of the Sales and Executive teams celebrating a recent win. The contract? It was to take on the management of what would become our largest client at the time, over 150 people, dozens of servers, and a line of business we’d never tried to support before. It was an exciting time for paper-pushers and those who promised the world for that rush of dopamine while pursuing this lofty goal for our company. I wasn’t that excited… Mostly, I was asking myself, “Who the hell is going to make this happen? Who is going to do the work? That’s something nobody in the group could answer at the time, and I would come to find out I’d become more of a part of it than I had ever imagined.

So what was the main problem? Well, like many companies I’ve worked for, and with over the years, there was a competency issue on the delivery side. We were a ‘sales-driven’ company at-heart, meaning all of the focus, funding, and attention went largely into growing the company. It’s a familiar tune for many, where your company sort of functions like this:

  1. Most often people were on the ‘fake it till you make it‘ with clients. They were all the things you’d want them to be on calls, and in meetings: Confident, Quick to Answer, and they spoke highly of their own organization, though not based on its results but purely the impressions they had about how “we” functioned. By that, I mean the group of people who didn’t actually do anything but close the deals. This is something I call “mouth work” because it never translates into any real action on the promises. DocuSign, and move on to the next victim.
  2. We promised people things that we did not and could not actually do like ‘BIOS Monitoring’ something taken from a marketing piece by some of our insiders. My boss insisted we do it, to which I’d constantly be asking him, what’s the point? He had no idea it just sounded good at the time.
  3. Employees would join calls about client satisfaction issues harping on things that were actually the cause of the problem. i.e., Our product was the BEST in the world and ran with minimal system resources while on a call for performance issues with the product.
  4. Sales/SEs and other non-technical employees would reinforce our lack of preparedness by joining the calls in ‘hero’ mode ready to rescue clients with nothing but words. The problem? The couldn’t do anything but talk a good game. One SE joined my call only to announce “Tomorrow is my last day“, and “I don’t know what happened after we signed your contract a year ago”. He’s so used to the dopamine rush of being an “expert” he forgot to add value, or even think about eliminating his involvement in the discussion, for obvious reasons.

Examples:

  1. An employee from a top spam provider recently joined a call I had scheduled with them to discuss a handful of issues. The Support Engineer who joined repeatedly told me “I have never heard of any of these issues” to which I replied, “Just look at my tickets!” he never did pay any attention to those details, instead of riding out the call in disbelief that I could be unhappy. My problem? The product was detecting phishing emails but not quarantining them. There were also 1/2 a dozen other bugs like missing images, errors, inability to clear alerts, and even an outage that caused 100% of emails to be rejected for over an hour. He called my review of the product “intense“, despite it putting users at risk for being compromised. At the end of the call, he asked if I still “liked it” without commenting on the bugs, or offering to do anything about them. His perception of the company was more important than truly listening to the customer. Why? Because his experience was to join the call, rave about the product, sell it, and move on. He didn’t know what to do when there was conflict, even in the face of proven technical issues.

To be continued…. Written off the top pending editorial, etc. It’s saturday, and I need to clean my office. :/

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