Recovering from a Failure to Deliver

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    Falling down is inevitable, it’s how you stand back up that matters in the long run

    Sometimes you run into unexpected delays or out-of-the-blue issues that make keeping specific promises you’ve made to stakeholders impossible. While it’s inevitable that people will be upset (and rightfully so), there is one thing you absolutely must do if you want the people who believed in you to keep the faith: COMMUNICATE!

    The folks who make WiFi hotspot Karma presold a new version of their product last September with promises it would be ready by Christmas, but as of today the kinks are still being ironed out. Customers have been told repeatedly it was about ready, only for the manufacturer to fall silent once again.

    Finally, facing major backlash and the likelihood of cancellation en masse, Karma let it all hang out in a blog post detailing exactly what had been happening and how things looked for the near future. Here’s a selection from the post:

    We’ve been heads down, and we fixed it

    Karma Go progress report

    First off, I want to apologize for not communicating to you sooner. We wanted to give you something concrete, and now we have something concrete to share. And to everyone who has pre-ordered a Karma Go: Thank you for sticking with us this long.

    We planned to ship Karma Go this month, but we can’t ship Karma Go until it’s perfect. We hit a snag about a month ago that threw our timeline up in the air, and now that snag is finally resolved.

    What was the problem?

    For a while now we’ve been testing Go with about 20 people at our office. One thing that really puzzled us is that it would somehow lose its connection a few times a day. You’d go into an office, or walk out on the street, and the internet would drop.

    We traced this to a problem with the handoff between 4G (high speed LTE) and 3G (medium speed CDMA) networks. Karma Go would connect fine to 4G, and then when it tried to transition from 4G to 3G in a lower coverage area it would say it was connected, but it wasn’t. Then, even if it found 4G again, it couldn’t jump back online.

    We knew what was wrong, but we couldn’t figure out the why, and so for the past month we’ve been heads down, trying to figure out the cause.

    And now here’s the good news: it’s fixed!

    While the tone of the message is great, and the content should buy them a little more time from stakeholders, the lack of compassion – demonstrating the Karma team understands and commiserates with the frustration created by their actions – leaves this post feeling less effective than it could have been.

    If they’re able to live up to their most recent timeline, and if they keep up the promise to communicate more frequently and openly, Karma can recover from its failure to deliver. If not, well, let’s just say their company name may gain an unpleasant double meaning.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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