I have often said that I speak at conferences as a way to have therapy without paying anyone.  Turns out this blog might accomplish that goal as well.

Don’t you hate it when you can reflect back on a situation and think “why the heck didn’t I see that at the time”?  I do but I still need to own it and apologize to my team for it.

I was a manager for a large team that was responsible for creating an enormous amount of requirement and design documents (yes, this was a multi-year waterfall project but not part of this apology).  Each of these documents ranged in size but SMALL was not one of the sizes.   Unfortunately, the feedback received after delivery of our very first document deliverable was not at the quality level that should be expected.  After personally looking at the document deliverable, the client was right.    There was missing requirements, wrong requirements referenced, etc.  Not surprisingly given time constraints, most of the errors were from a lack of attention to detail.

This was unacceptable.  My solution was to leverage my red pen.  Before any deliverable went to the client, I would take it home (typically extending my 10 hour day to 12-16 hours) and meticulously review the document.  To make sure they didn’t miss the mark, I used a red pen so it stood out on the page.   Rarely did more than two pages go by without a red pen mark.   Then I would hand the document back and have the changes made.   Depending on time available, I would check it again before delivery.

Why did I choose this solution?  I believed a high quality deliverable to the client trumped everything.

Now the fun part…dissecting all of the issues with this (in no particular order):

  1. The amount of time I took away from my family, exercise, etc.
  2. I have yet to meet anyone that does quality work when working 12+ hour days.  Yet, I thought I could.
  3. The amount of trees I killed.
  4. The message this sent to the client was that my team wasn’t very good.  That I would be the one to take care of them.
  5. The message this sent to my team was that I didn’t trust their work.  Now one could argue, I shouldn’t have trusted them given the number of issues I found. Well, that leads to the next one…
  6. I became owner of these documents.  If I’m rushed for time and I know that someone is checking this work, then I’m not as concerned about making a mistake.  That person will find it.  They gave me ownership because I took ownership by being the only person to review and making it mandatory before every delivery.
  7. I never gave feedback in terms of learning.  I never helped them learn how I was catching these errors, etc.  I just told them what to change and how.

None of these issues were my intent.  I just wanted high quality. I was only acting as the white horse to help because most of the time I didn’t fault my team due to time constraints and project complexity.  This was the way I could bring value to my team or so I thought at the time.

I don’t know how they felt about the red pen, I never asked (another issue that should have been noted above).  But I do know how I feel about it now…and I’m sorry.

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.


  • BettyM says:

    I appreciate your honesty. I may know of such a project with large documents and huge deliverables. The use of the red pen did make a statement. For some of us, the use of the red pen was initially received as ‘being graded’ by the teacher. However, for some of us, the full implementation of various components was a learning experience as many of us had never participated in a full implementation. I say that with pride because this particular implementation gave us every reason to finish the job started, sometimes screaming and kicking all the way to the end. The use of the ‘red pen’ even though exhausting for you, did show many of us the error of our thinking, or lack thereof. No more beating yourself up! It was a learning experience for all of us…each taking different experiences away in the end. People are different. A good coach or teacher can only hope that each pupil takes lessons learned and applies the good and moves on. For me, I appreciate all the lessons learned and use those that apply to me in my work today. Thanks for that experience, the friendship and for making all of our teams better. Without that and your drive and determination, ‘we” had a successful project. I wish you all the best in your new endeavors and can only hope that as pupils sometimes and mentors in other times, you move forward applying your lessons learned in each role, creating success for yourself and those you touch. As always, keep family at the top of the list and you will have no regrets! I will keep reading your blogs and perhaps can continue to apply those thoughts that you continue to impart! I can only hope the red pen stays in the drawer as you read this, no critique necessary!

    • Tricia Broderick says:

      Thank you for Betty! First, for giving the first comment on this blog. I feel like I should send you a little gift or something. Second, for your kind words and acceptance. I feel like I should send you a bigger gift or something 🙂

      I hope all remains well and hope our paths cross again some day!

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