Google’s Early Earnings Release – “Human Error” or Process Problem?


Here's an interesting story from this week: “Google early earnings release stuns traders.” Reportedly, the Google financial report for Wall Street was mistakenly released EARLY. Instead of releasing after the close of trading, it was sent out by R.R. Donnelly, the company that manages that for Google, just after noon with placeholder text that included “Pending Larry Quote.”

This surprised Wall Street, the stock price dropped by almost 10% and trading was halted.

What was blamed? “Human Error.” But what's behind that phrase?

From the story:

In a statement Thursday, Google blamed its financial printer R.R. Donnelley for hitting the button too early. Google said the printer, which is a leader in the field, acknowledged that it had filed the draft of the 8-K earnings statement without “authorization.”

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts Google CEO Page Larry Page apologized for the uncertainty and inconvenience caused by the early release of their earnings numbers.

“I am sorry for the scramble earlier today,” Page said. “(RR Donnelly) hit send on the release just a bit early.”

There will be an investigation. I wonder if the investigation will focus on WHO did this or HOW it occurred?

In situations like this, checklists and other simple procedure controls can be incredibly helpful. What is process for authorizations and approvals to occur? How does the person hitting “send” know with 100% certainty that it's ready to be sent? Are there error proofing mechanisms in place to prevent the early send?

Looking at and understanding “how could this have occurred?” will be far more likely to prevent future occurrences. R.R. Donnelly can learn from this so that an early release doesn't happen for any of their customers in the future, not just for Google.

I also wrote a longer version of this piece, for a broader audience, on LinkedIn.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleKaiNexus Update – User Badges & Sharing Improvements Widely
Next articleJust Call it “5S Six Sigma” Instead of “Lean Sigma,” Please
Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. If you actually care about improvement you should ask why was this error possible? Any time I hear a person being blamed my first thought is why could they make the error. Sometimes the system has to allow them flexibility, which includes the opportunity to make an error, but often you can change the process to remove the possibility of error.

    I don’t know how this process is actually done, but if it is just pushing the send button too soon, why can’t you have the system have a “don’t send before x time” function? and/or don’t send while in draft status” If the damage of sending too soon is almost non-existent then this may well be non-value added waste. But if this is for something extremely important and you know it is in draft form waiting for final edits and approval why allow it to move forward in the process (even if someone hits the wrong button)?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.