Posted by on April 23, 2014

Bits & Beers decided to run with the theme failures:

Have you failed?
Let’s live and learn, from each other.
If you have a failure to tell about – or better yet! – to show!
Please email us!


Here’s my contribution:

When success suddenly turns into failure – a personal change story


Morten Elvang presenting at Bits & Beers

I once made the perfect plan for how to remove the quality department – it was a great success, the department was closed. It was at the time, when I was gradually moving from software development into process improvement. The company that I was with at the time had just gotten a new R&D manager, and I was lucky to get some influence. Some time earlier, a single person had been promoted to quality manager and been chartered to prepare for an ISO9001 certificate. Largely by documenting all the necessary processes one by one. Given the size and complexity of the company and the time it would take a single person to learn all the processes the whole thing just did not make any sense practically. And principally for a million other reasons – but let’s not go there.

Long story short I argued my case in a long well-prosed essay ment for my manager only. My manager without hesitation forwarded my proposal to the board of directors and without much ado the proposal was accepted. It really was a great success!

But, in my eagerness I had forgotten to involve the head of the quality department, and this actually spoiled our personal and professional relationship completely.

The person moved on to another job and successfully build a testing department. But our relationship never became the same. Something had changed for ever and our earlier good cooperation in process improvement came to a complete hold.

It never healed and eventually I left the company.

In many ways this was not a big deal. But, actually it was a big deal to me. I still feel – and  know – that rationally what I proposed and what was done is the right thing. But, I learned a very powerful lesson about not putting yourself into a situation where you can judge and rule over your colleagues without their involvement or consent.

As a manager you can get away with this. But in the culture I was in, not as a colleague.

I often think back to this situation and wonder what I could have done differently – what do you think?

(My answer: It might not have been right, but was it important? In reality the company had far bigger fish to fry, so in many ways this was a false action – it had probably no practical implication – except spoiling my good relationship with a good colleague. My colleague didn’t make this personal – I made it personal by taking a biased focus on what was important. )

All in all, this turned out as a a powerful and expensive lesson learned – respect and involve your colleagues – only do and get done what is important and really make an impact to the big picture. Especially don’t mess with your colleagues – they might never forgive you!

And, if there is a point or morale to this, it must be – remember that:

It is not what you can do that is important to the company.
It is what is important to the company that you must do.

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