Background – I’m in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry and manage a group of teams providing professional services to a major S&P 500 client. Last month I submitted a process improvement recommendation to the client (the process is performed jointly by one of my teams with review and oversight by the client) which would help reduce resource time, on both sides, while maintaining or improving quality on certain portions of the process. A meeting was held with the client to review the details and the outcome was a big surprise to me and the other attendees.
The Resulting Issue – The meeting attendees included the process owner, his manager and other client team members close to the process. The process owner was very upset and ‘offended’ at our recommendations and clearly took it personally and accused us of ‘questioning his management ability’ and claimed that this was the ‘best execution of the process compared to the other units in the company.’ Subsequent feedback in private from some of the other client attendees indicated that he was out of line and overly emotional. I feel that I’ve done the ‘right thing’ addressing both the needs of the client and us as well in a professional, objective manner. However, it can now end up very ‘wrong’ if it jeopardizes achieving the objective. We’re having a follow up meeting with a much smaller group (myself, the process owner and his manager) to address his concerns. I’m unsure of the best approach to take and have considered several options including offering a formal apology (yes, I’ve listened to the apology podcasts and I truly feel like the issue is his), standing firm and trying to resell our suggestions, retracting the suggestions that seemed to have offended him, etc. Any feedback is appreciated.
On a side note, over the holiday I started reading The Heart of Change (based on the MT recommended reading list) and find this behavior to be very consistent with behaviors described by the authors that impede the implementation of needed change. Unfortunately, I’m still relatively early in the book but am finding it to be very useful so far.