Harold, in charge of shipping product, was known throughout the company as always complaining about how salespeople screwed up their orders. According to him, as a result, clients got shipments later than expected. This had been going on for close to a year.
The salespeople complained to the sales manager who complained to Harold’s boss. Rumor had it that Harold’s boss agreed with Harold, so what started as a complaint ended up as a compliment. So much for effective company communications.
But this still didn’t solve the problem. If anything, the lateness of the shipments was becoming the rule rather than the exception. When Melinda found out her last order to Memorial General had been four days late, she was ready to hire a man with no neck to rearrange the shipping department. Instead she got into her car and drove over to the shipping building. Not sure what she was going to do, she headed in to look for Harold, whom she had never met.
Harold had a small office with literally hundreds of handwritten orders everywhere, scotch-taped to the walls, the windows, the door. There, buried underneath the pile of orders on his desk was a computer.
At that moment, with Melinda’s mouth hanging open in sheer shock at the chaos, in walked Harold.
“Ah,” he said, “you must be Melinda. Won’t tell you who, but someone called from the office and warned me to be on the look-out.”
Melinda looked at him and then back to the small section of the computer sticking out from underneath the blizzard of paper. “Do you know how to use this?” she asked, pointing to the keyboard.
“Nope,” he responded, “Every time I ask someone from the data processing department to show me the ropes, I’m told they haven’t got time to explain it to me. So I’ve given up asking.”
One hopes that Melinda and Harold find a way to get the computer working in shipping. Perhaps now that the sales department adds its voice to shipping’s, data processing will find time to train him.
In this particular case, “not having the time to explain it” was affecting the company in a negative way. The morale of the salespeople was being affected; the morale in the shipping department was non-existent; and customers were becoming unhappy with service.
And the data processing department certainly had its own problems. Unfortunately, what it saw as its own problems did not include the shipping of product. That was Harold’s problem, not theirs.
Consider for a moment how things would have progressed if Melinda had not driven over to shipping. The sales department would have grown angrier at what it saw as a bunch of idiots in shipping. Customers, if annoyed enough at late shipments, would go elsewhere for product, further enraging the salespeople.
Of course, Harold could become more insistent with data processing, but that would take him away from getting the product out the door. If it was late being shipped now, his absence would only make it worse.
All because someone didn’t have enough time to explain the data processing system.
While in the story the fault lies with data processing, in every company the phrase, “Haven’t got time to explain it,” is uttered at least once a day.
If there is one phrase that should be banned, this is it.
Rather one should hear, “I haven’t got time right this minute to explain how. When, in the next 24 hours, can we spend the time for me to explain?”
If you are on the receiving end of the phrase, your response should be, “Appreciate that you don’t have time right this minute. I’m ready to clear time in the next 24 hours so that you can explain it. What do you want to do now?”
You will find the response you get to be interesting. Don’t let the person leave you with anything but a firm commitment to a time for an explanation.
Always make time to explain. You never know just how important that one explanation might turn out to be.