This weekend’s graduation ceremonies reminded me of  a story from recent history – an example of the university doing not just good, but great business.
Three light blue gowned graduates from the class of 1997 sat through the long ceremony in Kenan Stadium, leafing through the program to occupy time.  One by one, each discovered that her name was not listed.   Family members seated in the stands made the same discovery on their own. 
Can you imagine how much fun Paranoid Polly was having – teasing each person’s imagination with possible reasons for not being included in the program?
Matters got worse when these supposed graduates went to pick up their diplomas after the ceremony. There were no diplomas for these three. Told the error was caused by a computer crash, each was assured she would receive her diploma by mail within a few months.
One of the young women sent a letter of complaint to university officials responded by setting up another ceremony just for them right out in front of The Old Well.  
The procession from South Building to the Old Well included:  two graduates (one couldn’t attend) in their caps and gowns;  plus UNC President C.D. Spangler and UNC-CH Chancellor Michael Hooker in their academic regalia.  Both Hooker and Spangler made short speeches. 
Here is an excerpt from President Spangler’s speech: 
My responsibility and the chancellor’s responsibility is to make sure things go right, and in this case they didn’t go exactly as we wanted them to go.  I apologize for the error of the universityWe hope that by our actions today, we will show you that we care.”
At the end of the brief ceremony, the graduates flipped their tassles and Chancellor Hooker said,
“The band would normally play now, but the band has gone home for summer vacation.”
The graduates hugged their families and then checked the spelling on their diplomas.  Everything was correct.  And everyone was happy.
Good businesses work like crazy to do things right.   When things go wrong despite these efforts, great businesses admit it, apologize and work very hard to make things right –  modeled with precision by Spangler and Hooker in this story.

Do you know of any great mistake management stories?  If so – please share them here or send them to
Note:  The quotes and details above come from an article written by Jane Stancill in 1997.  We tried unsuccessfully to find a link so we could share it with you.   If you have any tips on this, please let us know

copyright 2012 – Jan Bolick & Business Class Inc