What Would You Do? Management Scenario #1

I’m in the early stages of a book on managing and I’m starting to look for situations that might trigger ideas on areas I want to cover, and for situations that serve as good what would you do (WWYD) scenarios for potential managers. Scenarios give you a chance to practice without pain, and a chance to start to see the world through the eyes of manager. I’d also say that a scenario is a story with the answer withheld!

The Intro

Joe SQL has been in the hospital for some performance tuning. A couple days into his stay he is moved to a different room on a different floor. Upon arrival at the new room he notes that the door has a sticker across it (ala a crime scene) indicating the room has been cleaned for the next patient – kinda cool! Upon entering the room is  noticeably warm and the air conditioner doesn’t seem to be working, so his significant other (Mrs. SQL) asks the assigned nurse to see if can be fixed, as Joe is used to server room temperatures.. Mrs. SQL leaves to backup the databases.

Phase Two

Several hours later Mrs. SQL returns and the room is still warm, no news from the nurse. Calls and asks again for someone to fix it, or to see if another room is available. Hard to tell if the nurse is interested.

Almost There

An hour passes and no action and no update, so on the way out the Mrs SQL visits the executive office of the hospital and is told that the problem will be corrected quickly. Within 10 minutes:

  • Very senior nurse visits Joe to let him know that they are working on another room ready and on getting the AC in his current room fixed. Seems motivated to get it fixed, mildly irritated about the call from the big office downstairs
  • Building maintenance dude arrives, spends 5 minutes investigating and announces it is fixed, turns out the cold water supply to it had been turned off
  • Senior nurse returns to say an alternate room is available. Joe can move now, or wait half an hour to see if the current room cools down enough. Joes figures one cube is as good as the next, elects to delay the move and hope the AC works.

The Conclusion

Senior nurse returns in about 45 minutes and the room is cool enough, seems mildly happy to have it resolved and to get back to business.

Most us look at this and call it bad customer service. Sure! But that’s the view from the customer. What do we see as a manager? If we looked at it from the perspective of each of the people on the hospital staff, who did well and who did not? As managers we often look at these in terms of blame – whose fault was it? I’m not advocating that approach, but it’s important to identify the failure point and reason to see if it’s possible to prevent a repeat of the problem, or of bad handling of a problem.

I know you don’t have all the details, it’s often that way in real life. But there’s enough there to see what you think about the role of a manager and how you think it should be executed. Tell me who did well and who didn’t, and why. Who’s the villain here?

2 thoughts on “What Would You Do? Management Scenario #1

  1. As a manager my first reaction is root cause analysis. I don’t look at blame I look at what caused the failure. Why was the cold water off? Was there no easy way for the duty nurse to log the problem? Was she extremely overloaded and this was just one of many “minor” requests that were ether delayed or forgotten? Was maintenance overloaded? If it is anything but a personal failure what as a manager can I put into place to keep something like this from happening in the future? If I can rule out every other thing then I focus on the particular person that didn’t act in a timely manor.

    Who did well:
    Sr nurse checking and re-checking once the problem was known.
    Blg maint acting quickly once they were alerted to the issue.

    Who didn’t do well:
    The duty nurse if she didn’t report the issue in a timely manor.
    Sr nurse for not checking on someone for several hours after check in.
    Who ever was in charge of making sure the room was ready for a new patent.

    Management, ultimately management is responsible for making sure employees have everything they need to get the job done. They are also responsible for employees who fail to meet the needs of the business and the customers.


  2. I think you’re in the minority if you start with trying to understand the cause rather than the symptom. What if anything would you infer about the state of managing/leading from this one incident?


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