Apologizing the wrong way: case study (revised)

Very innovate Israel based companies deploy projects and products in a very aggressive time frame, often months before competing development centres manage to do so.

The speed of development and deployment  is enabled by “speed as strategy”,  a developed work ethic (there is no work life balance in Israel in the high tech sector),  flexibility, high tolerance for risk,  and less importance attached to the formalism of planning and documentation

Wouldn’t you know it, but often these newly released products and releases are often buggy and need to be cleansed and purified on the customer site once deployed.

So, while the customer gets the competitive value he asked for quickly, the customer is furious what is perceived as the “sloppiness” and “poor finish”, the very attributes which enabled the Israeli vendor to deploy so quickly.

With well known thick skin stemming from the entrepreneurial  spirit, augmented by Israeli chutzpah (gall/cheek), the Israeli developers can take the heat well and fix the bugs quickly. However, a problem can arise when the Israeli supplier is asked to apologize, especially in SEA and Japan.

There is an expectation in many parts of SEA and Japan that an apology will express humility and remorse. The client wants to see that the vendor is truly sorry and ashamed.

The Israel vendor will apologize in a matter of fact statement and then, the Israeli will get to the perceived important part: explain the root causes and what will be done. Example: “I am sorry about bug 240. However, it is not revenue impacting. The bug stems the difference between the R&D development environment and the environment in tyour  site, and engineer Itai (m) will do 9000 hours of testing and stay here for a month; it should be fine; don’t worry.”

This explanation is seen as remorse-free ; it often aggravates the client even more than the bug itself.

The Israeli wants to apologize for the deficiency  itself and explain the cause, and the client wants to see the pain of remorse and regret!

I have spent hundreds of hours explaining this to Israeli vendors. It is an uphill run, because the essence of the innovative personality is generally numb about such matters.

One client of mine was forced by his distributor to hire someone (me) to “improve apology skills”.

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