Category Archives: Management

A Poor Way to Gain Experience

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony of a project that I managed.  I wasn’t officially the project manager, but that is essentially what I did.  I was handed this project my first day on the job and thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  Looking back on it I was not prepared for what I had to do to have a successful project.

The first problem was that I hadn’t managed or worked on a design project in over 4 years.  You think you know what you’re doing, but you forget the little things that need to be done to have a successful project.  There was a lot of coordination between engineering disciplines that I completely forgot about, or thought that team members were handling, forgetting that as the project manager it was my responsibility to take care of that.

Next problem, when you start at a new company or an ongoing project you don’t know the discussions that have taken place or agreements made prior to you joining the project.  This was a huge problem.  Little did I know that there were a lot of deals and early discussions on the project that I was unaware of.  I would start something and then ask a question and either my boss or the other office manager would say, “Oh yeah we are doing something based on a discussion we had when the project initially started.”  Or unlike my other company where there was a lot of specialize support groups, I was responsible for things I had never done before.

In another issue it was the corporate culture, the way the office worked, the players on the team.  I was learning this stuff on the fly and sometimes too late.  For example, a week after things were done, the project manager told me, you have to be careful with so and so because…  Too late the budget was blown and the product was crappy.  We were correcting the problems right to the end of the build.

Lastly, on a similar project I was on at another company, the client was easy to work with and the team was awesome.  This team wasn’t awesome, and the client was very particular about everything.  I was complacent going in, and didn’t pay attention to detail.

Put all this together and I had a project that was over budget and had a lot of issues because of the above and my lack of attention to detail.  If I would have been more attentive, the issues I listed above would not have been a problem.

In the end it was a successful project for the client and they were very happy with it.  But it was tough on our company and we took a hit on the fee.  I was taken off the project because the client was pissed at me and it was up to my boss to make the corrections necessary.  In talking to my boss/PM today at the ribbon cutting I said, “I learned a lot on this project.  It was painful to learn this way, but I learned.” It was learning the hard way as my father use to say.

My boss’s response was great, and he was laughing as he said it.  It is a quote I will pass on many times.  He said, “You use experience to make good decisions, and you gain experience from poor ones.”





Extraordinary Bosses

From Inc. magazine an article about bosses.  As you can imagine I have not seen many of these types of bosses.  Consulting engineering is a hard business and engineers are notoriously bad managers.  The good ones are few and far between.  The best managers are those that meet these 8 character traits.

Team Building

Everyone in business talks about team building.  Well maybe not everyone but at one time that was the big buzzword.  Having actually been in business, I haven’t see much of this.  My experience is in consulting and the only time there is any type of team building is when there is a lot of work and money is flush.  Ahh, but you can always have more money and more work.  So you keep pushing, keep selling.  Then there are the lean times.  The good firms keep their people as long as they can through these times.  The bad ones cut staff at the first sign of trouble.  Team building.  What is that the young engineers ask.

Here are some Japanese sayings relating to team building.


Makers and Takers

In this article in Forbes the author compares those who take, that is those with government jobs, to those who make, those who have been successful in the private sector.

This has become a disturbing theme among politicians.  Those whose whole life has been spent making money off of the government in one fashion or another disparage those who have earned money (in some cases lot’s of it) in the private sector.  There always seems to be something wrong with the way they have done it.  Primarily the criticism revolves around decisions that were made that have resulted in layoffs or plant closings.  If these government employees were ever involved in the private sector they might realize that these decisions are a necessary part managing to be successful.  But alas, this is the problem with career politicians or those politicians who have never served in an executive capacity, like Gingrich and Obama.

I like Gingrich because he isn’t afraid to call people out on their decisions, but on the other hand he has never had to make the tough choices an executive has to make.  That is why I would vote for either Romney or Perry.  Romney is more to my liking because he is more moderate than Perry.  I am concerned with both on their ability to debate with Obama.  That is a weakness for both.


The space between perfect and good enough and complex and simple

One of my favorite quotes is “Perfect is the enemy of good enough” or something to that affect.  As an engineer I run into this problem all the time.  Engineers tend to redesign things ad infinitum because they think they can always make it better.  I am sure they can but does it meet the schedule or budget?  Are the improvements within the scope of work or are you giving the client a Cadillac when all they asked for and paid for was a Chevy?

A similar problem is that of complexity or simplicity.  I have seen solutions to complex problems that were simple and straight forward.  However, my engineering colleagues didn’t want to use that solution becuase we: “have to show the client that we really thought through his problem” or we have to make it look complex because we spent so much money making it perfect.

This issue is summarized with a photo and some text in this post yesterday on Execupundit.