More companies say don't panic : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

PC Week Online,4153,394317,00.html

Companies are trying to calm Y2K panic by mounting open, honest communication programs

-- Norm fan (Normhelper@nwo.nwo), March 25, 1999


In other words, don't be completely inept like management and ignore a problem which is staring you in the face. Unless you enjoy the hand- wringing and gnashing of teeth which management is experiencing right now, learn from their mistakes and prepare for any foreseeable consequences of their failure. Brinksmanship is a tense high-stakes game.

-- Puddintame (, March 25, 1999.

"Open Honest Communications"

Wouldn't we ALL like to know that was the case. Now let's get back to REALITY. Lawyers run the the show with regard to liability. Can you picture a lawyer or CEO coming out and saying "No Way Are We Going To Make It" please destroy our stock value now.


-- Ray (, March 25, 1999.

It doesn't look like you even read the article based on your comments.

-- ... (.@...), March 25, 1999.

But, Norm fan, look at the accompanying sidebar article. Don't you get worried, seeing a title like that: "Crafting a CREDIBLE communication plan"? Not an honest one, a CREDIBLE one, a plan that the public will believe. There are ten tips included. No. 7 really bothers me.

"7. Survey your partners and customers to gauge their level of concern. Use that information to figure out what they need to know to quell any fears."

This translates to "tell them what they want to hear." Oh yes, it does, I've worked in the business.

Didn't we have a lengthy discussion some weeks ago about other articles advising on putting a good spin on Y2K progress? Wasn't some of it to do with government spin?

I want you to consider that these spin people went to the same schools as those who told us the savings and loan problem wouldn't cost us that much, that defense cuts wouldn't take too many jobs, that NAFTA wouldn't result in any more jobs going out of the country, that breast implants are perfectly safe, that there was nothing wrong with Love Canal, that we'd be out of Viet Nam by Christmas, that Pintos were safe cars--shall I go on? Do you wonder why we don't blindly trust what these people tell us?

-- Skeptical Old Git (, March 25, 1999.

-- ... (.@...), March 25, 1999 commented.

It doesn't look like you even read the article based on your comments.

We'll "a" the title posted is quite misleading. This is the problem we face by ALL spinmeisters who are attempting to mislead the public.

Are you one of them?


-- Ray (, March 25, 1999.

Good morning Normhelper. The Boston Edison story does look pretty good, since they are using facts to back-up their claims and so on. They don't seem to mind going out on a legal limb. Why aren't we seeing more of these stories? There are millions of companies and systems out there, and we keep seeing one here, one there, etc. We're at 9 months and counting. We should be seeing these by the hundreds every day, and we aren't.


"The reality is that air traffic control computers don't even use the year date code because they look only about six hours ahead and need to know the day of the week, but not the year, he said.

Still, the FAA is replacing its aging system based on the IBM 3083 mainframe. Plus, it is remediating the old system to use as a backup."

Now is it just me, or do these two statements, one after the other mind you, sound just a little conflicting? If they don't use dates, what are they remediating? <:)=

-- Sysman (, March 25, 1999.

Good question, Sysman. Why aren't we seeing more of these stories? You're about to get deluged by them, as this PC Week story suggests.

-- norm fan (helper@norm.nwo), March 25, 1999.

norm fan commented:

"Good question, Sysman. Why aren't we seeing more of these stories? You're about to get deluged by them, as this PC Week story suggests."

I repeat, does anyone believe that a company in y2k trouble will honestly divulge this info to the public. I look forward to "Honest and Open Communications" from ALL entities. For now I will wait and see.


-- Ray (, March 25, 1999.

All of these "don't panic" messages sound like Alan Sherman's song, Camp Granada.

"Now I don't want this to scare ya, But my bunkmate has malaria."

No need to hoard, but there "may" be supply-line problems down the road. Hmmmmm . . . .

-- Margaret (, March 25, 1999.

In sales, theres an old truism, designed to keep salespeople motivated. More or less, expect to collect nine Nos to get one Yes.

I do expect well collect an 80-20% ratio in press release good news.

... savvy companies such as Boston Edison, Visa International Inc. and State Street Bank are beginning to mount aggressive programs to get the word out about the status of their remediation efforts.Overcoming the instinct to keep quiet and avoid possible post- Y2K lawsuits, such companies are reassuring and informing shareholders, customers and partners by issuing detailed Y2K project status reports, calling key customers with Y2K project news, staffing Y2K customer call centers, and even mounting full-blown advertising campaigns and enlisting help from local public officials.  ...

80%, claiming were ready, willing, and Y2K able (think competitive advantage). But still, self-reported compliance, and omitting any news about suppliers and/or customer readiness.

... Educating Edison's 670,000 customers is important, Monahan said, but you've got to do it right, and with some credibility, or the message is useless. "I think all of us, not just the electric utility industry, have a responsibility to communicate effectively and present balanced [information]," he said. "But to participate in a doomsday scenario is irresponsible." ...

So instead of that, theyll funnel Y2K-OK information through PUBLIC SAFETY officials ...

... "Members of the public will trust a local public safety official more than a utility company, which they view with a degree of suspicion," said Jim Sinclair, manager of governmental relations and public information at ISO New England, in Holyoke, Mass. ...

However theres a 20% that could be the kicker.

Quietly stating, in written documentation, we WILL be Y2K ready with contingency plans (because their lawyers told them they need to show good faith in informing the public on glitches in order to protect the organization from lawsuits.)

... Besides sending out assurances that they'll be ready for Y2K, companies such as Boston Edison are beginning to open up about their contingency plans in the event all does not go as planned. For instance, despite Monahan's confidence that Y2K will hardly blow a fuse at Edison, the company is telling city and state officials that on New Year's Eve it will outfit each substation with people who can manually flip the power back on should something go wrong.  ...

So, despite their high confidence level, something could go wrong. OK.

... While Monahan and Sinclair will make such information available to anyone who asks, there is one thing they won't do: offer a guarantee. That's because any company offering a guarantee may be setting itself up for liability in the long run. ...

Thanks, or not, for helping us prepare to do nothing for unknown should something go wrong scenarios. Is that setting up the public for a liability?

... So instead, Monahan carefully measures the words he uses every time he addresses Edison's Y2K project--which should be completed by June 30. "I'm willing to state our confidence in being ready by June ... and the continued reliability of the system," he said. ...

*Big Sigh*

... Since Edison is part of a high-profile industry, however, Monahan realizes that the company must be more active in getting the word out. So it is planning to create a public service campaign this summer. ...

Which word? That Y2K is no problem? Or, we cant offer guarantees?

... In order for the Y2K message to work, information must originate from IT, but communication must be a collaborative effort, encompassing every business division, including marketing, public relations, financial and legal, experts said. ...

Uh, I thought the objective was to get the computers and embedded chips to work. Its simple. Either they do, or they dont. Here, they want the Y2K message to work.

*Another Sigh*

... "Beginning late last year, we expanded the overall office on communication, and IT is delivering the content that goes into the messages so they're effective." ...

More effective messages.

... Every three months, State Street's communications team produces and distributes glossy write-ups that describe the Resolution 2000 program--State Street's Y2K effort--and its current status. ... The program's structure, State Street officials said, protects any one group--particularly IT--from taking the hit for any deadline slips or project snafus. "IT plays an integral role in helping put the [proper] information out there," explained Scott Wellington, vice president and program director of Resolution 2000. "Then they need to let the legal and communications team figure out what to disclose from there." ...

Right. Legal and communications are figuring out what to disclose so the [proper] information is put out there. Gee, we knew that!

But wait, it gets better ...

... Taking the team approach, however, can complicate open Y2K communication. Often, for example, a company's lawyers push for only limited Y2K status disclosure. ... "Legal departments are advising [companies] to reveal little," said Andy Bochman, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, in Boston. "They feel like they should be conservative to make sure the company doesn't open itself up to litigation post- Y2K." ...

Does this sound like a concerned corporate citizen to you? Sheesh!

... Unfortunately, such gag orders can put a damper on a company's ability to communicate with its partners and customers. That can put a company at risk of losing customer loyalty, which could end up being worse than losing a lawsuit. ...

O-o-o-o, customer loyalty backlash. Interesting concept!!!

Maybe open and really honest communications could be a competitive advantage strategy? Naw, legal would never approve.

... Fortunately for IT and communication departments pushing for more-open Y2K disclosure, Congress is considering a bill that would limit Y2K liability.  ...

In other words, cover our ASCII and maybe well be more open. Or not.

... Some companies are leaning heavily on the latest SEC legislation to keep them out of hot water while still getting their Y2K message out. For instance, at California Casualty Management Co., in San Mateo, Y2K Project Manager Gerry Ciesla makes sure that every Y2K- related document that leaves his office has a "Y2K readiness disclosure tag" on it, which indicates in bold, capital letters that the information is a disclosure of Y2K status. ... "The federal government put out a statement ... [as part of the SEC's Y2K Information and Readiness Disclosure Act] that said if a document is labeled in such a manner, these statements can't be used against you," ...

So, instead of clipping coupons, well be reading labels. That sure makes everything Y2K-OK.

*Sad Sigh*

... cautious managers like Ciesla are willing to go beyond strict legal language to make sure their Y2K message is getting out to their most important customers and partners. In fact, experts said, companies should identify their key business partners and customers and tailor communication efforts toward them. ...

Tailored key communications. Wow. Now Im confident.

... Ciesla said he uses his discretion regarding key business partners. For these people, he gets on the phone personally to go over Y2K compliance efforts. For other, general inquiries, the company has a general statement that it sends out. It is this kind of discretion, Ciesla said, that helps him zero in on important partners and not waste time on people coming out of the woodwork worried about Y2K. ...

So, whats important? Key customers. Not the general public.

And this is supposed to create TRUST???

*Amazed Sigh*

Its not the overt compliance Im concerned about. Its the well- hidden stuff.


-- Diane J. Squire (, March 25, 1999.

Then to add sidebar spice.

Crafting a credible Y2K communication plan
By PC Week Staff
March 22, 1999 1:15 PM ET 0,4270,2226903,00.html

Here's 10 tips for creating a Y2K awareness program that works:

1. Form a Y2K communication team that includes individuals from IT, marketing, public relations, finance and legal departments.

2. The team should meet monthly to make sure the message is consistent. Incorporate any changes in Y2K status. Make sure everyone knows what to say and, more importantly, when to say it.

3. Speak frankly, but choose words carefully. For instance, a guarantee that everything will be business as usual after Jan. 1, 2000, may not be the right approach. However, declining to offer any assurance could make business partners and customers uneasy.

4. Don't wait for customers, partners and employees to ask about your Y2K readiness. Reach out by mailing or e-mailing updates from both the CEO and the Y2K project manager.

5. Identify your biggest, most important partners and customers, and get in touch with them in person with information on your Y2K progress. For more general contacts, consider sending out a standard form to update them.

6. Design a company Y2K Web site that answers frequently asked questions and evolves to reflect problem resolution.

7. Survey your partners and customers to gauge their level of concern. Use that information to figure out what they need to know to quell any fears.

8. Set up a call center staffed with knowledgeable customer service representatives who can offer in-depth answers to Y2K questions.

9. If you're a large employer, hold meetings with community leaders and safety officials to update them on your status, and update yourself on the progress of the utility and telecommunications companies.

10. If you work at a public service organization, consider an advertising campaign that addresses the issues and soothes unfounded alarm surrounding Y2K.

Did Koskinen create this? Crafty, huh?

Gosh, Im soothed now.


-- Diane J. Squire (, March 25, 1999.

<<10. If you work at a public service organization, consider an advertising campaign that addresses the issues and soothes unfounded alarm surrounding Y2K. >>

Diane - you forgot the 11th Commandment.

11. Remember - you are a monopoly regulated by the state and federal governments, and you are never going to held accountable by your regulators for failing to resolve Y2K issues, but will be punished by Washington if you stray from their agenda of lies, coverups and propaganda; therefore, never clarify in writing or publically the difference between "unfounded alarm" and "reasonable preparations."

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 26, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ