A colleague of mine recently had to make that most unpleasant phone call. He had to call a client just before a board meeting and tell them there was an error in a calculation, that the information provided was wrong, and it would take some time to correct. Needless to say, the client was not happy. He delayed the presentation to the board until next month.
At the time, my colleague did not know whether the error would make a material difference in the result of the report, he only knew that it was wrong (the source data used was out of date). He had to make a call. He could have chosen to say nothing, hoping the impact would be minimal, and then explain it away as a “minor adjustment.” If the impact was major, however, it would have been tougher to explain – perhaps trying the excuse of the “source web site was incorrect” – you know, blame someone else. He could have also said he did not discover the error in time to notify the client (a boldface lie, but who would know – except him). He could have chosen a number of ways to hide the mistake and attempt to explain it away later, but he didn’t. He chose to have a little integrity, fess up to the issue, make the change and move on.
When he explained the situation to me and what he did, my response was simple, “what in our system failed that allowed us to make this mistake?” After some discussion, we are putting together a simple checklist to help prevent this in the future.
Whether we are still retained by this client remains to be seen, but my colleague can sleep at night knowing he did the right thing.
Let me know your thoughts!