“I’m sorry it’s taking so long Sir.  I had to learn a new programming language to accomplish what you wanted.  The way you asked me to do it was impossible.”

I was shocked.

I’m a programmer. 

I thought the task I had given him was pretty reasonable. 

It should have taken a couple weeks. 

But after about a week I stopped hearing from him. 

No daily reports.
No emails.

I was frustrated. 

After a few months of me being too busy to check on the project, I’d check in.

“Yes Sir, I’m working on it.  It’s just harder than we thought.”

He had done good work for me in the past, so I trusted him.

After 6 months he finally started communicating with me.

“Sir, the project is done.

The data wasn’t being delivered in HTML like you thought, it was being delivered via Javascript/Ajax.
The way you asked me to do it was impossible.  
I had to learn a new programming language to be able to interact with the data.

But I learned it and got it done.

Check it out!


He was right. 
The software worked.

He was also right. 
What I had asked him to do was impossible. 

Yet he wanted so badly to make me happy that he learned a new programming language so he could create the software. 

2 lessons:

1. Filipinos want to make you happy.  If they can’t, they often disappear.  If they disappear, ask them. 

2. It’s possible that what you’re asking them to do is impossible, even if you think it’s simple.  I’ve done it.  I’ve seen lots of others do it.
It’s also possible that your instructions aren’t as good as you think they are.  
I’ve done it.  I’ve seen lots of others do it.

This was 2007.  He still works for me today.


PS. My book The Outsourcing Lever covers so many more situations like this one.
Get it.
Don’t make the same mistakes I have.
(You’ll probably still make some of them, you’ll just recognize them faster than I did.)