b-school, Business, Henley, Management, MBA, Project Management, Thoughts

Being too busy (when some things are not working as they should)

I know it sounds like an excuse, but I’ve been too busy lately. Work has drained my energy to exhaustion, even disturbing my usual studying pace. But, what’s funny, it’s not work in itself but dysfunctions at work.

I think I already told you we had a new group of engineers assisting us. They are 20 people (and they will be 25 so if you want to send your curricula you still have time).

But then the problem with management arose. They are not aligned with our objectives. Mainly because their managers simply spend too few of their time and energy here, and there are a series of symptoms of that dysfunction. Let’s see some of them.

Continuous shifts of priorities. They are moved as a whole towards any priority that simply arises. That is not practical at all because they simply loose focus.

A possible solution: plan, plan and plan. Don’t lose the big picture. Don’t swerve. Keep an straight direction and people will be able to follow.

Diluted responsibility. Mid-level managers are not enforced but overrun by the team’s director. That way they simply abhor of their due responsibility and blame it all on the manager, at least subconsciously. In the end they prefer not to decide anything and simply demoralise.

A possible solution: enforce them. If someone holds responsibility for something, it’s for real. His boss shouldn’t come and change it all but listen to him, and maybe learn from him. He should, if he can, defend his position in the organisation.

Visible internal cracks. I have been in several meetings where documents have been presented that didn’t satisfy some of them. There was discussion amongst them about things that should have been already deemed.

A necessary solutions: grow consensus before presenting anything to the customer (that’s us). Their differences need to be cleared beforehand. It’s very important to show unity to the customer, not indecision or doubt. And that only means giving it some extra thought.

Lack of dedication. This symptom relates to the previous ones. To offer a good product, specially in consulting, you need to spend a lot of hours thinking and rethinking documents and ideas. That’s what is expected from you. It’s not acceptable to be in front of the customer and reopen subjects that have already been closed or read your notes on a paper towel from a restaurant.

A possible solution: effectively dedicate the people to the project, not try to have them in several projects at the same time with the result that they cannot focus on any of them. People need to focus to be effective.

Lack of knowledge of the customer. Not knowing how we are, what we want and how we work. That means that sometimes we don’t understand each other or they simply propose alternatives that have already been discarded. In a project that is quickly reaching its critical phase that may lead to confusion and trouble.

A necessary solution: you must know who are you working for, how they work, how they share responsibilities and not focus uniquely on the front man or the director who awarded the contract. The director always has people that he trusts to do things and with responsibilities (us) and that’s the ones you’re really working for (the ones that need the resources and the ones that will report about completion and effectiveness of tasks).

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The final result is that, when we don’t understand each other, the problems escalate and derive into confrontations that, in time, become harsher and harder. Anger appears and people start not to listen to each other. And the rest of the team simply don’t know what to do. They feel confused, and lost.

I could go on adding more basic ideas, and make this entry long and boring. But my final message is that you’d be surprised on how many companies simply forget these basic rules.

Rules that should be understood by any manager providing consulting services to a client.

The final consequence of not following them is that people suffer. The team is not enabled but alienated. People don’t identify with and push for for the project but instead lose initiative and retrace to defensive and reactive positions. You end up burning up your team. People are so valuable yet so sensible to uncertainty. Even consultants.

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3 thoughts on “Being too busy (when some things are not working as they should)

  1. Glad to hear from you again. You’ve introduced a very interesting topic: real-world consultancy. What you’ve described is what unfortunately happens everyday in a lot of areas. A lot of people, even inside the field, thinks that consultancy means terrific business cards, € 100 lunches at the trendiest restaurants in town and just submitting a few reports to the customer to justify the five-figure fees. They are wrong: if anyone agrees to pay you a lot, they expect a lot from you, not just everything an assistant could do in a morning. And this includes the leaders of the team: how many team managers haven’t read any single line of the report they submit to the customers? How many of them spend some time checking if the figures provided are accurated? Unfortunately not many.

  2. In these situations, perhaps I want an personal – external consultancy, I guess. A person outside our work. And yet involved in our welfare. He could be a parent Coach… He could be friend – Coach… Someone who really wants the best for us. Friend: that once others are no longer, he will have found a way to remain with us. For the Angels, when they do not have wings, we call them friends.
    I wish you the best

  3. You are right. The worst thing is that they envision themselves as consultants or engineers while they end up doing menial tasks by their own choice. A total loss.

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