“And the winner is …”
- Distraction: Brian Cullinan was likely distracted by tweeting a picture of Emma Stone as he handed out the next envelope.
- Question: Warren Beatty opened the envelope and thought something was wrong … he hesitated. There was an opportunity for correction.
- Hand-off: Faye Dunaway took the envelope without concern of a possible error and made the announcement.
- Backup: One role of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) auditors is to respond if there is an error in the announcement. They did so quickly. The right award was given at the end.
- Apology: PwC quickly determined they were the source of the error and took full accountability.
What does this say about decision making and crisis control?
There are many articles about this being the biggest mistake since PwC started auditing in 1935. However, how does this inform our everyday decision making?
For most of us, day-to-day decisions and mistakes impact us much more than a mistake made at the Academy Awards.
Distraction: Automobile insurance rates in the USA, as well as auto-related deaths, are going up due to distracted driving. Distracted workers are doing even more damage to our businesses and families. How important is a tweet compared to Brian Cullinan doing his simple and highly visible role of handing out the right envelope? The answer is obvious, and the distraction could do tremendous harm to PwC worldwide. In an age where even our President is distracted by Twitter, counterproductive to doing his job, it’s easy to think these distractions are acceptable.
Whether listening to a co-worker, making an important decision, or driving … we have a choice to not be distracted. See my blog Your Phone is Like a Slot Machine about the addictive qualities. Universally, people underestimate the downside of distraction.
Question: Warren Beatty thought there was a problem and hesitated … as he should. He could have stopped the process and checked if there was a protocol for the announcers to do that. Do you have a way for people in your company to question something that does not look right? Can they stop the show and ask a clarifying question? There should be that opportunity.
Hand-off: The card was passed to Dunaway without the concerning thought. Like so many issues in business — the hand-off to the next person or department does not include the concerns and issues. Had Beatty shared the issue, they might have caught the issue in time. As is was, Dunaway read the card without question.
Backup: The auditors were ready to catch any mistaken announcement by memorizing all the winners. They acted quickly and corrected the announcement. The correct winner was acknowledged, though with less attention than they should have received. The monitoring role and correction process worked. As with most checks and balances and backup systems, it was not without cost. It was, however, not the disaster it could have been if not caught and corrected quickly.
When checks on a system find an issue, that is not an indication that the system is broken. It more likely indicates that the system is working. Too often companies react to individual mistakes that are caught by the checks, and blame it on the system or on a person/group with good intentions, who were distracted. Mistakes should cause a review to reduce future issues. In this case, do not allow auditors to be distracted by social media or email. It’s also good advice for the rest of us.