Judging Potential in a Candidate

“So, I was considered to have potential, because I got to know the inspectors at the building department?” Monica chuckled.

“That was only the tip of the iceberg,” I said. “Do you remember, as a supervisor, you were playing around with the construction schedules. One group said they would get their work done in so many days, and the next group needed that many days. And most of our projects were always coming in late.”

“Yes,” Monica nodded. “It was an interesting experiment. Everyone thought I was nuts until I brought my project in ahead of schedule. That never happens in construction.”

“And you did it without raising your voice,” I observed.

“It was funny,” she explained. “The framers said they needed three weeks, the electrical guys said they needed one week and the plumbers said they needed two weeks, and that was just for the rough-in. Then the sheetrock crew wanted a week, the trim guys wanted a week for the finish work. Then the electrical guys wanted another week for their punch list and the plumbers another week to set all the fixtures. That’s ten weeks. And I only had seven weeks for that phase of the project.”

“And do you remember what you did to accelerate the project?”

“It was easy really. I knew everyone was padding their time budgets. I call it a buffer. I asked each crew to divide their time budget into the working part and the buffer part. I mean, there are legitimate things that happen to delay projects, that’s why they build in buffers. So, every team gave me their work time budget and their buffer time budget. Each group had almost 40 percent of their time in buffers and none wanted to budge. Total work time was six weeks, total buffer time was four weeks. I told each crew that we were preserving their buffer time, but moving all buffers to the end of the project, scheduling only for work time. One thing I know, if you give a crew ten days, six days work and four days buffer, it will take them ten days to finish. Work expands to the time allotted. But if you give that same crew six days to work, they will finish in six days. So, if there was a legitimate delay, I gave them back one of their buffer days from the end of the project. Indeed, there were some delays and over the course of this phase of the project, we used an entire week of buffer. But, at the end of seven weeks, we came in on time with three weeks of buffer left over.”

“So, when we considered that you had potential to be a manager,” I explained, “we based our judgment on evidence, not hope.”

2 thoughts on “Judging Potential in a Candidate

  1. Brian

    This is an excellent synopsis of Eli Goldratt’s “Critical Chain” approach to project management. I wonder what clues language and thinking process can yield to potential capability.

  2. Tom Foster

    Brian, good eye. When I look at both S-III and S-IV managerial systems, my reference always goes to Eli Goldratt, TOC and Peter Senge, 5th Discipline.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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