Who’s On First?

When in doubt lead with the stock photo business handshake image.

As Dickey Fox said in the film Jerry Maguire, the key to business is personal relationships.

It’s been like a year since I last inflicted that Dickey Fox quote on readers. I deserve a cookie.

I agree wholeheartedly. Knowing who you have to deal with, and how best to work with them is of paramount importance.

But it’s not always as easy as buying people coffee, or taking them out for lunch to get to know them better.

I have one customer whose organizational structure is positively byzantine.

I know that I throw the word “team” around a lot when talking about business and organizational structures, but my contacts in their procurement office are quite literally a team: there are enough of them to fill a baseball dugout.

Emails from their office have a dozen or more people cc’ed, and correspondence quickly deteriorates into the dreaded Reply-All spiral: someone asks a question, it gets answered, and later someone who hasn’t read the whole

Reply-All thread asks the same question again.

There are so many of them, and they all seem interchangeable, so that it’s like receiving purchase orders from the Borg.

*see attached purchase order Borg-82342H43 and advise of any logistics needed*

There are two consequences to this. The first is that, because there is so much duplication of effort from them, I have to scrutinize every one of their Purchase Orders before forwarding them to the order desk.

I have to do that because occasionally they send duplicates: the same PO# comes to me from multiple people.

The other is that I genuinely have no idea who’s in charge over there. Some days I half-suspect they have a spinning wheel of fortune in the office, and use it to decide who the team lead is that week.

Lee Distad

About Lee Distad

Lee Distad is a rAVe columnist and freelance writer covering topics from CE to global business and finance in both print and online. Reach him at lee@ravepubs.com