By Mariann B. Snyder, CCEP
A pair of infamous bandits resurfaced in February and stole a huge moment at the Oscars in front of 33 million people. As Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty reunited 50 years after their award-winning turns in Bonnie and Clyde, they thought they had an easy job:
- Glide to center stage looking fabulous
- Wait a moment while the crowd adores us
- Read the teleprompter and pause for laughs
- Open the envelope
- Read the name of the winner
- Warmly congratulate the Oscar recipient
Simple. What could possibly go wrong?
After 88 years of producing Academy Awards shows, you can bet the 89th Academy show had plenty of processes, controls, and safety nets to make sure everything would go smoothly, among them, the auditors who check, double-check, and probably triple-check the voting results before generating and, I suspect, thrice-checking the envelopes from which the winners are so auspiciously announced.
What they didn’t account for was human distraction, along with lack of precedent and experience. And they created new award categories they hope never to repeat.
- Best Failure: To the accountant who had one job: Hand the presenters The Envelope containing the name of the winner of cinema’s biggest award.
- Best Tag, You’re It: To Beatty for dumping the confusing card on Dunaway.
- Best Respect for Authority: To Dunaway for just reading the most relevant data she could find on the card.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Poor Warren and Faye were just there to read the winner’s name!” As soon as he looked at the card – if only because he has presented twice before – he knew something was wrong. Perhaps Dunaway mistook his confusion for chivalry: “Here, you should have the honor of announcing the winner.”
They both missed the opportunity to say, “Now this is funny – we have a person’s name instead of a movie. Can we get some help here?” or to flip the envelope and discover “BEST ACTRESS” emblazoned on it. After a few awkward moments, the right envelope would be delivered, the real winner announced, and the post-Oscar watercooler discussion about the actual winner instead of the flub.
If we discover a failure in our compliance controls, it’s important to get to the root cause – whether it was the accountant’s starstruck tweeting, a premature sigh of relief because his job was almost over, a red envelope shortage – without forgetting to peek at the layers between here and there. Make sure everyone understands their opportunity – and duty – to speak up. If it doesn’t look right, or smell right, or taste right, speak up.
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