Weekly Thoughts


Mistakes and the Value Chain

Writing and sending out Weekly Thoughts is one of many things on our to-do list. Given that constraint, we have always had the philosophy that we will not let perfect get in the way of good.

For content ideas, we read for 10-30 minutes before we go to bed, whenever we are on planes, and listen to podcasts in the car.

We set aside time to write on Wednesday afternoons. We proofread on Friday mornings, and we distribute on Friday evenings after we’ve put the kids down.

If life happens or we have no content ideas, we do a re-post.

If we have a busy Friday, we sometimes inadvertently miss things proofreading.

If the kids are unruly, or we get distracted by other work, we send it out on Saturday morning.

Last week however, we made a cringeworthy mistake.

We went into the week thinking we had it “easy” (no writing!) since the first post of the year is always our Three Things repost. We could just copy last year’s post and send it out. How hard could that be?

On Friday morning, we remembered that a couple months ago, we changed the underlying template in MailChimp, so we needed to put our old content into a new template. Easy enough.

We asked a colleague to update the template. The colleague did just that and confirmed that we were all set. Since it was just a repost, we didn’t send a test email. Why would we?

On Friday night, we had a child bedtime battle and were out of routine. We were about to sit down and read through our post, but were interrupted by a work issue followed by a late-night airport pick-up. After getting home, we went to bed, having forgotten to send out Weekly Thoughts.

The next morning, one of the kids woke up sick. In between unloading the dishwasher, making breakfast and trying to find cough medicine, we realized we needed to send out Weekly Thoughts. We popped into the MailChimp mobile app and sent it out. Done deal.

Not so fast. Almost immediately, we got emails, texts, and slack messages that we had inadvertently duplicated text in the last section of the post. We grabbed our laptop, ignored our kids, quickly updated the text and sent out a corrected version. Ugh.

Our team recently put together some internal behavioral standards that correspond with our core values. One of these behaviors is that we demand excellence and expect the same in return. Whoops. We certainly didn’t live up to that standard last week.

Thankfully, another behavior is that we relentlessly learn and own our mistakes. This post is a wonderful opportunity to dig into our mistake. Where did we go wrong?

First, we assumed a repost didn’t require much work. Incorrect and lazy. We should have held ourselves to a standard of excellence and followed our usual process of putting together a draft Wednesday, sending out a test email, and proofreading twice on Friday.

Second, we had massive breakdowns in the value chain (a concept we learned from a Tony Robbins seminar we took years ago). The idea of the value chain is that to provide a seamless experience, all participants must understand their role in the bigger picture. Each person must not only understand their responsibilities, but must also “clarify and verify” with the next link in the chain to ensure there is no breakdown in process. Last week, we had multiple breakdowns in the Weekly Thoughts value chain.

When your author asked her colleague to update the template, she didn’t specify to update the content (i.e., she was not clear in her communication).

Her colleague updated the template but didn’t ask her to clarify whether the content should be updated.

When her colleague said they were all set, your author assumed that meant the content was updated – but neglected to ask (or check the post herself) just to be sure.

The author then didn’t send a test email to her partners, who likely would have caught the mistake. The partners assumed it was handled and didn’t ask why there was no test email to proofread that week.

Rather than pointing fingers or pretending it didn’t happen, by digging into last week’s foibles we can understand where things went wrong, learn from our mistakes, and avoid making them again. We are also reminded of the great Andy Grove quote “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” Looks like we need to be a bit more paranoid.

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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