|| 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?”
|OHSU researchers work on AIDS vaccine|
|Lean in? Not Sabrina Parsons.|
|Oregon agriculture - not just a commodity|
|The cable guy|
|Outside the box|
|20,000 apply for 400 jobs at Ikea in Spain|
|Twitter names first female board member|
|U.S. fast food workers strike|
|WalMart pays legal fees for bribery probe|
|Google ramps up plan to make robots|
|Sales on Cyber Monday reach new heights|
|CNN plans major changes|
Produced by the Oregon Business marketing department
When the Portland-based manufacturing company Glass Alchemy, Ltd. was first nominated for an Oregon State University Austin Family Business Excellence in Family Business award in 2004, husband-and-wife team Henry Grimmett and Susan Webb-Grimmett, were honored and optimistic about their chances of winning.
Some employers have embraced the use of employment arbitration agreements as a way to manage and mitigate the rising costs, risks and liabilities associated with employment-related claims. Historically, employment arbitration agreements require employees to present employment-related claims, such as employment discrimination, wrongful discharge, harassment, or claims for wages or compensation to an arbitrator, in lieu of proceeding to court.
Produced by the Oregon Business marketing department
Boly:Welch was founded in 1986 based on a close connection between Diane Boly and Pat Welch. The two had worked together at another recruitment firm and shared certain core values: passion for their work, a sense of humor, a commitment to their community and a desire to create a healthy, nurturing work environment.
Dunn Carney will host its annual Ag Summit on Jan. 10, 2014 at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville, OR. We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Sherri Noxel, Director of the Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University College of Business as our Keynote speaker.
The Naa Amerley Palm Education ("NAPE") Foundation recently awarded two more Lane Powell/Lee Nusich Scholarships to deserving students attending institutions of higher learning in Ghana. Including the most recent recipients, a total of 48 scholarships have been awarded to Ghanaian university students since the scholarship foundation started in January 2009.
Unitus Community Credit Union, a Portland-based credit union with more than 80,000 members, has announced the addition of Brian Alfano as Vice President of Member Services. Alfano will provide strategic leadership over Unitus’ member experience to ensure consistency across delivery channels, including branch operations, member support, and products and services.