“When you talk to James about his new way of checking project status the day before his crew is supposed to work, what does he say?” I asked.
Marie had to think back to her last conversation. “James is right. There is no sense showing up if the project isn’t ready, even if our contract says we are supposed to show up according to the project schedule. He still documents the delay, but says he looks for a more productive use for his crew, rather than having them stand idle waiting for the project to catch up to us. He used to look only at the project schedule, but now, he says, he looks for buffers in the schedule where another team might take longer than expected. He used to be a stickler with the schedule, now he says, why get so upset, go with the flow, plan for the schedule, but execute for reality.”
“I guess I do the same thing,” Marie said. “It’s just such a change for James.”
“Are our projects different, now? Are the other project teams different? Are we using different materials? Are we using different equipment? Are our project schedules any different? What has changed?”
“You’re right,” Marie concluded. “The thing that is different is James.”
“My guess, as James’ manager, you didn’t have to coach James very much because he was always predictable, by the book. But, James woke up one morning and saw, sometimes, the book was wrong. The schedule was not right. He began to see the schedule, not as black and white, but something variable, you used the word buffers. And, you admit, you do the same thing in your role.”
Marie nodded, so I continued. “James is maturing. It’s not just that he is gaining more experience, he is maturing in the way that he sees the world. He used to see the world as a set of unbending rules. He now sees the rules as a set of intentions embedded in reality. You observed this new way has created some problems with his crew, not knowing, for sure, what they are supposed to do. Your job, as James’ coach is also shifting.”