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March 6, 2009

And Now, the Staff/Scion-in-Law Happenstance Encounter Subcommittee


The client had to cancel his meeting with me. He was dealing with an internal issue. A really serious internal issue. I don’t know how his company will survive.


Here is what happened. The sister-in-law of the CEO – a fashion designer of some repute, or at least she thinks so – was traveling by plane, and as it happened, was sitting right next to a mid-level employee of The Company.


Well. They got to talking. The mid-level employee had an idea that the esteemed sister-in-law (who is not actually employed by the company, but tends to be seen around the office a lot looking important) thought had some merit. So they agreed that when their travels were over and they’ve both returned to the home city of themselves and of The Company, they will sit down and discuss it further.


And they do.


Now, at this point, you’re wondering, when does the thing happen that sparks the issue? It already has. Mid-level employee and sister-in-law meet. Don’t you get it?


“Oh man,” the CEO told me, “the department head freaked out when he heard about it. He was in here with his hair on fire, D.F.!”


“How did his hair get on fire?” I asked.


“It’s an expression, you idiot,” he said. “He was mad. Fit to be tied. Had his knickers in a twist. Had his panties in a bunch.”


“He wears panties?” I asked.


“D.F., pay attention!” he said. “Once it was learned that this meeting had occurred, they called an emergency session of the executive committee to review protocols.”


Yes. And you think your company wastes time.


See, here was the problem. The mid-level employee met with the sister-in-law without informing his direct superior, who would have in turn been expected to inform his direct supervisor, who would have in turn been expected to send out an e-mail to a 40-person distribution list seeking input on the agenda and suggesting possible other attendees.


None of this was done.


“Oh boy, D.F., what a mess,” the CEO said.


But of course, much good came of it. The executive committee recognized the necessity of being proactive and ensuring that they are prepared for such incidents in the future. That’s why they formed the Staff/Scion-in-Law Happenstance Encounter Subcommittee to form recommendations to senior management.


The next time this happens, they will be prepared!


I think there is an important lesson in this for all of us. Sisters-in-law who talk to strangers on planes can start dominoes tumbling with broad implications they can’t even remotely imagine. If you’re operating a company without a written policy to cover situations like this, you are at risk.


I also think there is a business opportunity. By some time late this afternoon, I will have launched D.F. Krause Written Policy Consulting For Obscure Situations You Would Never Think Of. What if a turkey crashes into your building in mid-flight? What if your plants start speaking Portuguese and offend your Mandarin-speaking clients? What if Jerry Lewis movies start playing on your wall and you have no idea where they’re coming from?


Do you have written policies to cover situations like these? You don’t? You unprepared hack! You think you can stay in business just winging it like that?


And by the way, if my sister-in-law H.F. Krause shows up for a meeting with one of my employees, she can just run the show for the rest of that day. I need time to dream up scenarios that will frighten you.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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