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Sara MacIntosh recently joined MicroPhone a large telecommunications company to take over the implementation of a massive customer service training project.

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Should i Fudge the Numbers?89 Sara MacIntosh recently joined MicroPhone, a large telecommunications company, to take over the implementation of a massive customer service training project. The program was created by Kristin Cole, head of human resources and Sara’s new boss. According to the grapevine, Kristin was hoping this project alone would give her the “star quality” she needed to earn a coveted promotion. Industry competition was heating up, and MicroPhone’s strategy called for being the best at customer service, which meant having the most highly trained peopl...

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Question Preview:

Should i Fudge the Numbers?89 Sara MacIntosh recently joined MicroPhone, a large telecommunications company, to take over the implementation of a massive customer service training project. The program was created by Kristin Cole, head of human resources and Sara’s new boss. According to the grapevine, Kristin was hoping this project alone would give her the “star quality” she needed to earn a coveted promotion. Industry competition was heating up, and MicroPhone’s strategy called for being the best at customer service, which meant having the most highly trained people in the industry, especially those who worked directly with customers. Kristin’s new training program called for an average of one full week of intense customer service training for each of 3,000 people and had a price tag of about $40 million. Kristin put together a team of overworked staffers to develop the training program, but now she needed someone well qualified and dedicated to manage and implement the project. Sara, with eight years of experience, a long list of accomplishments, and advanced degrees in finance and organizational behavior, seemed perfect for the job. However, during a thorough review of the proposal, Sara discovered some assumptions built into the formulas that raised red flags. She approached Dan Sotal, the team’s coordinator, about her concerns, but the more Dan tried to explain how the financial projections were derived, the more Sara realized that Kristin’s proposal was seriously flawed. No matter how she tried to work them out, the most that could be squeezed out of the $40 million budget was 20 hours of training per person, not the 40 hours everyone expected for such a high price tag. Sara knew that, although the proposal had been largely developed before she came on board, it would bear her signature. As she carefully described the problems with the proposal to Kristin and outlined the potentially devastating consequences, Kristin impatiently tapped her pencil. Finally, she stood up, leaned forward, and interrupted Sara, quietly saying, “Sara, make the numbers work so that it adds up to 40 hours and stays within the $40 million budget.” Sara glanced up and replied, “I don’t think it can be done unless we either change the number of employees who are to be trained or the cost figure. . . .” Kristin’s smile froze on her face as she again interrupted. “I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. We have too much at stake here. Make the previous numbers work.” Stunned, Sara belatedly began to realize that Kristin was ordering her to fudge the numbers. She felt an anxiety attack coming on as she wondered what she should do. What Would You Do? 1. Make the previous numbers work. Kristin and the entire team have put massive amounts of time into the project, and they all expect you to be a team player. You don’t want to let them down. Besides, this project is a great opportunity for you in a highly visible position. 2. Stick to your principles and refuse to fudge the numbers. Tell Kristin you will work overtime to help develop an alternate proposal that stays within the budget by providing more training to employees who work directly with customers and fewer training hours for those who don’t have direct customer contact. 3. Go to the team and tell them what you’ve been asked to do. If they refuse to support you, threaten to reveal the true numbers to the CEO and board members.

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S has a dilemma: The budget for a high-profile program she is expected to manage is flawed, and her new boss has told her to “make it work”.

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