|| Print ||
|Friday, October 12, 2012|
BY TOM COX
Dave was in a bind. His top architects were all idle because his drafters were behind on their work. Clients were going to get their plans late.
Dave explained that his drafting department was a little short handed, and he needed to do some hiring. We both knew hiring new people and bringing them up to speed to be productive, would take at least 90 days.
So, what does the company do in the mean time? Just sigh and accept lateness? I asked Dave what was causing this backup, exactly.
“Circumstances,” he said, “Too much client work, and a shortage of people in the drafting department.” Simple, right?
There are excellent companies that handle spikes and swings in client work, and turn out high quality work quickly and reliably. Whenever someone attributes any sort of result (especially a bad result) to “circumstances” you can be sure they’re in denial.
Those excellent companies face “circumstances,” too — they just handle them differently.
Here is how you can rise above circumstances and achieve reliable and excellent results.
I asked Dave if this circumstance had happened before. What caused this sort of back-up in drafting? Could it be predicted?
Well, yes, it had happened before.
So, what sorts of things cause these backups?
We found three basic causes.
1. Some of the architects were afraid to say “no” to client requests for last-minute changes.
2. Others wouldn’t push clients hard enough to get key decisions made on time, which caused delays — then they wouldn’t tell the client “your slow decision making is delaying the project.” So the clients were expecting their plans to arrive on the original timeline despite not hitting milestones.
3. In other cases, other architects would get their own work done, but not give it to the drafters until the last minute.
Dave and I spoke to Ken, the head of drafting. What could he do, if he knew in advance that there was going to be a large amount of work coming that would all need fast turnaround?
Ideally, Ken said, with 1-2 weeks’ notice he could line up some temporary help. The key thing, said Ken, is to keep the same drafter on each project — trying to get 4-5 drafters to work simultaneously on a late project, or adding even a second drafter to help a first when a project is already late, just makes it later — you create coordination problems.
Ken’s experience is almost universal. Among members of the Project Management Institute there’s a saying, “adding people to a late project, makes it later.”
But Ken didn’t think he could ask for things to be different. He thought he was supposed to muddle through, push people at crunch time, and have high turnover.
I pushed back on Dave. ”How do you want Ken to handle this in future?”
Dave wanted Ken to hold the architects accountable, and to take initiative to hire temporary help when he needed to, while sticking to a budget. Ken wasn’t doing any of those things.
I then asked Dave the tough question: “How are you contributing to Ken’s behavior?”
On reflection, Dave realized he had always done one of these things — defended the architects (so Ken was unsupported when trying to hold them accountable), or taken the problem away from Ken (teaching him to be passive), or told Ken to “suck it up” — Dave had never actually authorized Ken to hire temporary help and had never given him a budget.
Our fix involved these elements:
Track projects more closely earlier, to predict drafting demand
Hold architects accountable to say “no,” to push clients to make decisions on time — or tell them their project was delayed, and to turn in their work as soon as it was done.
We accomplished this by training them to say “no” and to push clients, and we made each architect accountable for the profitability of his projects — so delays that cost the firm money or drove up drafting costs, would show up in their personal performance.
Anybody who feels like they are a “victim of circumstances” would benefit from the same analysis Dave did — look at the patterns that predict the circumstances, and look honestly for how your own behavior has contributed to those circumstances.
As the authors of the book “How Did That Happen?” put it, the real question every leader should ask themselves is, “How did I let that happen?”
|100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon|
|The Green Paradox|
|Up in the Air|
|Queen of Resilience|
|Report says Intel, Altera deal near|
|DEQ fines Tillamook creamery|
|Pranksters discover iPhone text glitch that shuts down your phone|
|Google: We created $939M in Oregon economic activity last year|
|Information of more than 100K taxpayers breached|
|Media CEOs majority of top-10 highest paid|
|Two protesters chain themselves to Shell ship outside of Bellingham|
Tonkon Torp helps seed sustainability at Gunderson.
Oregon-based Environments helps companies create inspired workspaces. “Simply put, we help companies future-proof their workspaces,” says Chris Corrado, president. Since 1988,Environments has witnessed firsthand the changing landscape of business. Native Portlander and Environments founder Corrado says, “We help our clients navigate the complex realities of the workplace today and plan for their future in a very mindful, strategic way. We think of ourselves as their partners in the process.”
One hundred years ago, the Willamette River might easily have been mistaken for a sewer. Unchecked industrial activity and decades of pollution made it unrecognizable compared to the clean river that now flows north for 187 miles from Eugene through the center of Portland.
Sussman Shank LLP served as lead counsel for both the sale of 9 assisted living, memory care, and independent living campuses in Washington, Oregon, and California to a publicly-traded REIT, and the acquisition of 11 single-tenant net lease properties. This transaction was unique because it included both the sale of licensed senior housing facilities and a complicated 1031 tax deferred exchange transaction.
The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) will be presenting its third annual Entrepreneurial Summit on Friday, June 5 at Castaway in Portland, Oregon.
On June 13th Mayor Charlie Hales will attend nonprofit organization Dream Change’s inaugural Love Summit and will introduce one of its keynote speakers, Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency.