30 SepA Day Late & A Dollar Short and claiming a new roadblock

This is a sequel to earlier posts on “Unacceptable Excuses for Not Getting the Job Done”. It’s about big places and what a wise and great old friend, Chris Kundro, aptly titled Big Place BS.

The post is inspired by a frustrating experience and my own inability to usher an important process along as fast as I would like. In fact we have not even got out of the starting gates. Some work needs to be done on a project I am involved with; up until 10 days ago, we were pushing for something we were pretty sure we needed, but essentially building “on spec”. What we were dealing with was “partially” new business, so we had actually agreed with the Chairman of the committee that deals with these things that we did not need the entire formal new business process, with the exhaustive and extensive documentation and consultation process that it involved. This Chairman also happened to be the boss’ boss of the department that needed to do the work.

Quickly after instructing this team on what we needed, things changed and real client demand meant we really needed this work done and the priority order changed. So new priorities and new facts were communicated and this other team said we had to get a quote from an outside vendor, as our business had to pay for all marginal vendor work this year. Fine, I said but please get this to me by Monday. Do you have everything you need? I asked. Yes, I was told, but in terms of timing, the best I could get in terms of commitment was “we’ll ask, but we are reluctant to set the vendors deadlines.” Even that was amazing, but I bit my tongue and said I’d wait.

Tuesday came and in a meeting with my boss, the person who had made the commitment told me that he and his team had not yet sent the request for quote out to the vendor. We needed to prepare a brief. Hearing this for the first time was a shock and when I asked if that work was done, was told that it had not been started. Other priorities.

So having been told what the process was and that the person accepting the order had all they needed, I was now confronted by a unholy trinity; the work was late, it was not what was ordered and indeed now we suddenly found ourselves having more work to do. Then were lots of questions posed about areas of the topic that were outside the purview of this team; proverbially opining about other areas without having done their own part. I waited two days before checking in again and then found that this team was not going to start the work until they checked with their boss’ boss that what we had told them we had agreed with him was indeed true.

Anger, irritation, blown fuse. Apologies due to those on the receiving end. Maybe we’ll be in time for the client work, maybe we won’t.

Lessons Learned: In Goldman days, I had the privilege of working with the great Ed Watts. He had an important maxim about what I’ll call staff work; if you present late and fall short of the target, he used to tell me I was “A day late and a dollar short”. Ed was a tolerant boss, but he was not going to put up with me being both of these.

My latest experience suggests that one ought to a third element to that for these especially cretinous instances of big place BS: “and claiming a new roadblock”. Obstacles there may be, but waiting until you have missed the target and missed the deadline is the wrong time to bring up an important issue that has been overlooked.

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