Service Getting (Giving)
“How did you explain it to the team?” Catherine asked.
“As I approached each department manager, I told them I was working on a project, Project X, where I needed specialized resources from other departments. I explained what I needed, how much I needed and asked for their recommendation.
“For the project accounting, I asked our CFO for a controller level person with ten hours a week to track the direct and indirect costs for the project. The CFO suggested this would be a subsidiary ledger inside our accounting system anyway, and she assigned someone to the project.
“That’s the way it went with the other five departments working on the project.” Javier stopped because he knew that Catherine would have a question.
From the Ask Tom mailbag –
What happens if someone isn’t focused on a timeline? We have a number of people who need to be strategic and who need to maintain a number of balls (projects) in the air, but those projects tend to focus on a “perfect outcome” without a time-frame.
One of the biggest mistakes managers make, is assigning tasks without a deadline. Lots of chocolate messes start out this way. All projects have a deadline, whether stated or not.
- The manager thinks “by Friday,” the team member thinks by “next month.”
- The manager thinks this task has priority over all other tasks. The team member thinks this task has second priority over all other tasks.
- The manager expects to see a draft plan by Friday. The team member hasn’t heard from the manager by Thursday, so stops working on the task, thinking it is no longer important.
A task (goal, objective, project) is not a “WHAT.” It’s a “WHAT, BY WHEN.”
“Okay, we got together and hammered out what we think we are facing, as an organization, moving forward,” Vicki explained. “We wrote it all down on eight flip chart pages. We used your chart on Growing Pains. We think we have moved through the first two stages. We have a sustainable sales volume and we have documented our methods and processes, our best practices. But you were right, our problem is our profitability.”
“How so?” I asked.
“We get most of the way through a project, everything is right on track, then, it all goes out the window. Things happen. We get to the end of the project, and boom, our labor budget lands 40 percent over. Lucky, our buyout was 10 percent under, but we still lose 30 points on the job.”
“How often does this happen?”
Vicki squinted, looking for the answer. “Seven out of eight projects in the past three months,” she grimaced. “And the one project on target was a fluke, dumb luck. There was a problem on the job covered by a bond from another contractor. We got through by the skin of our teeth.”
“You realize, you have used the word ‘luck’ twice in the past 15 seconds?”
“The subject for this meeting is our progress on the Phoenix Project. Looking at our project time lines, we are behind schedule and the client’s QC person is complaining that some of our work is sub-standard,” I explained.
“Yes, I know. I looked at the reports before I gave them to you. I have to tell you, I think I know where the problem is,” Roger backpedaled.
“We have a morale problem with one of our production teams. Some don’t show up on time. The pace of the work is taking longer than it should. I had hoped the problem was only temporary, isolated. We may have to do some housecleaning.”
“So, should I start with you?” I asked.
“What? Me?” Roger turned white, then red in the face. “But, I have been busting my backside on this project. You see me here, early, every day. My car is the last to leave after 5:00. I’ve been giving 100 percent? It’s not my fault. You want some names, I will give you names. I know who has been coming in late. I can point out the slow walkers. And besides that, the customer has made four significant design changes since we started. How could you possibly hold me accountable for things out of my control?”
“It’s like they fight all the time,” Sheldon explained. “Each manager thinks they know how to run the whole company, if I would just step out of the way.”
“What’s happening, explain the friction?” I asked.
“Once again, the project was late and when it was delivered to the client, it didn’t work. Pretty simple explanation. It’s the fix that’s complicated. When we only did one project at a time, everything seemed to work well. On time, on budget, never missed a beat. Then we got two projects, three. We now have seven projects in-house and they all have problems, missed deadlines, cost overruns and quality issues.”
“The project manager is ripping his hair out. The response he is getting from all the other managers is a mix of blame and excuses,” Sheldon shrugged.
“What do they say?” I prompted.
“Want a list?” Sheldon chuckled.
- The Sales Manager says he asked Engineering for timetable before he promised a delivery date.
- The Engineering Manager says there were too many changes in the scope of work.
- The Ops Manager says the timetable from Engineering was unrealistic.
- The Accounting Manager says the budget didn’t allow for any profit.
- The Marketing Manager says that if he had known the priority of the client, he would have put more people into the product rollout.
“So, who is right?” I smiled.
“That’s the problem. They are all right. Every word is true.”