Outsourcing Responsibility

We got a call on Monday evening that changed our schedule. The event manager for one of Six Sigma Ranch’s best customers announced that the wine for an event hadn’t arrived as promised. The event was to begin in Las Vegas at 8:30am the next morning, and our customer meant to use the wine as welcome gifts for his own top customers. He was, justifiably, disappointed.

The glitch was caused by another company, one that Six Sigma Ranch relies on for part of the shipping process. Our own team had executed perfectly, and so it wasn’t our fault.


That’s the trouble with outsourcing. We can’t tell our customer “so sorry, someone else messed it up.” Why? Because OUR customer trusted US to get him the wine. And so WE are responsible when it doesn’t arrive.

In fact, the title of this blog post is an oxymoron:

You can’t outsource responsibility!

Thus, our only options on Monday evening were to apologize and take responsibility for the error, or fix it. Fortunately Rachel has a real sense of adventure, so we put the sleeping kids in the car along with the wine, and drove all night to Las Vegas. We got there at 8:15am, 15 minutes before the beginning of the event.

As an unexpected bonus, the event organizer mentioned this gesture to our customer, who mentioned it to everyone else. Conveniently for us, we got to turn a bad deal into a real crowd pleaser.

But, the trip delayed our weekly blog post, a situation for which I apologize and take full responsibility =)



Survey Says…


I’m not sure which made me the most anxious, the 500 spectators, or the morning’s flawless presentation by keynote speaker and U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tony Kern on the elimination of human error in the workplace. (Tony published his first book while I was a freshman in high school.)

Either way, it was with a healthy dose of focus and humility that I took the stage at the American Society for Quality (ASQ) conference in Phoenix last February.

The invitation to speak at the conference came with a request that I share about Six Sigma principles in an “unusual environment.” Six Sigma principles, of course, are the business -improvement practices made famous by giants like Motorola and General Electric.

Thus my home base at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery made me well qualified for the topic, and even more qualified as an “unusual environment.” (According to the organizer, there would be no guests from the business of agriculture. Excellent!)

I share all that only to share what happened after the presentation.

The organizers handed a survey to each spectator on the way in, and each survey was collected on the way out. (Bouncer-looking characters were placed at the exits to insure thorough collection of data.)

The results from hundreds of surveys were sent to the speakers, which gave me a review of everything from my presentation format and content to the quality of slides and my personal posture. (According to several folks I apparently gave more attention to one side of the room than the other. Who knew? Otherwise, the marks were positive.)

I learned from all of this (in addition to several unsolicited but valuable comments on my presentation skills), that surveys are an incredibly powerful tool. With them, the conference organizers now know exactly who the crowd wants back, whom they don’t want back, and why. And the presenters (whether they are invited back or not) have great feedback to improve future presentations.

I was so amused that I created a simple survey for our wine distributors at Six Sigma Ranch. The result? Most were happy, but most asked for more printed marketing materials. That’s an easy fix, and we were happy to provide it. But if we hadn’t asked, we wouldn’t have known.