While reading an article on risk management in the December 2006 edition
of IEEE's Spectrum magazine, I was reminded of a similar incident that happened to me
about three years ago. In the article, author Carl Selinger wrote about making a decision
to copy the company directors on an internal memo even though he knew it was not supposed
to be done, and ended up being rewarded for it. He invoked the old maxim, "It's easier
to ask forgiveness than to ask permission."
In my scenario, I had just finished
a big presentation on our company’s successful ESD ruggedness improvement program. For
those of you not familiar with ESD protection on ICs, there has been a lot of work done
for silicon and a lot of published material is available for it, but 3-4 years ago there
was almost nothing public on ESD protection for GaAs devices. Most GaAs products had
no ESD protection at all, and failures at 50 V HBM (Human Body Model) were common across
the industry. Now, we routinely do at least 1 kV HBM and 150 V MM (Machine Model), and
most products achieve 2 kV HBM and 200 V MM. But I digress.
So, after the meeting,
I was instructed by my manager to distribute my PowerPoint presentation (over 100 slides)
to a list of names she provided along with an instruction to “copy the directors.” I
dutifully wrote up an e-mail, attached the presentation, and specified the listed To...
names. For the Cc... recipients, I went to Outlook’s “All Groups” list and selected
“Directors.” A deft click of the Send button sent the note on its way into cyberspace.
Within minutes, my manager came over to my cube and told me that the "directors” she
intended were department directors, i.e., Director of Quality, Director of Production,
Engineering Services, Design Engineering, etc. The Directors that I sent the e-mail
to were members of our Board of Directors. Of course the BoD is made up mostly of investors
and other non-company employees (highly successful, big $$$ folks). I promptly sent
out a note of apology for disturbing them.
To my great relief, I received many
responses from Board members thanking me for sending the information along with comments
regarding how glad they were to receive news of how successful we had been on the project.
Almost all encouraged me to keep them in the loop by sending them updates. I could start
breathing again. I never have sent out another e-mail to the Board of Directors since
then, but it demonstrated once again that unintended consequences can have good as well
as bad results, and that even people that make more in one hour than I make in a year
are “real” too.
p.s. Let me state for the record that I think some of the concepts
outlined in the Spectrum article are a little too touchy-feely for me, but maybe fooling
yourself into doing something you might not otherwise do (for your own good) is what
some people need to succeed. I put that stuff in the same category as people who need
to set the alarm clock ahead in order to get up on time.
- Kirt Blattenberger
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster