Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Bad News Doesn’t Get Better With Age

Last weekend, my husband and I went to an out-of-state wedding. We rented a car, hired a pet sitter, drove 450 miles (each way) and spent three nights in a hotel. We showed up at the appropriate location on Saturday morning, only to find that the wedding had just been called off by the apparently not-so-happy couple. Wow!

In sharing this story with people, I have heard many different comments, most commonly along the lines of “At that point, you owe people a wedding! They should have gone through with the ceremony and gotten it annulled a few days later.”

I don’t agree with that. I think that if you don’t want to get married, you shouldn’t. But I do have issue with the timing of it, which brings to mind the old saying about “the right decision at the wrong time is still the wrong decision."

In the case of the canceled wedding, it is possible, although extremely unlikely, that any new information became available the day of the wedding that caused the betrothed to question everything they knew about each other and the plans they had made for a life together. What is more likely is that the information required to make the difficult decision had been there all along; only when drama attendant to the wedding reached its fevered pitch did someone finally admit that the jig was up and make the tough call.

Making the right decision at the wrong time is legendary, and no one appreciates the decision maker for taking suitable and appropriate actions when the actions come too late. Take, for example, the ongoing crisis at Toyota. No matter what corrective actions the company undertakes, at this point, they will go down in history as the automaker that failed to respond to huge quality issues that that threatened the safety of their customers.

In the case of the failed wedding, if the decision to cancel the wedding had been made earlier, it could have been a much more private matter between the couple and their families. Oh, sure, there are guests who would have canceled their travel plans and probably been out some money. Others, like my husband and I, would probably have still taken the trip, just planned our time a little differently. There might have been some gossip and speculation about what happened. But most of the guests probably would have respected the couple for reaching this heartrending conclusion.

Unfortunately, because of how and when the decision was made, everyone who was even peripherally involved now has a story about it, from the guests, to the hotel employees, to the florist. I am actually blogging about it, because it’s part of my story now.

So, next time you are faced with a tough call for your business, think about how it will play out in the minds of your customers if you make the decision early or late. My guess is, like both Toyota and the hapless couple in my story, you will find that bad news doesn’t get better with age.

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