In project management, we frequently live by the schedule. The schedule is a great tool but the resources needed to complete the work need to be in your control. Otherwise, negotiation is required to resolve almost everything.
I remember when I started in project management. My mentor told me that project management was about three things: continuous change management, continuous negotiation and situation management. I remember telling Jack that if those were the three things I was sure it would be a damned boring job. He pointed out that project management wasn’t for the faint of heart. ” If you want to do this, you need to develop a calm manner and a Teflon hide”. That was a typical response from Jack.
Yesterday was one of those days when a project manager just plain ponders a future as a team member instead of project manager. It started when the vendor missed their 09:00 hours appointment. A call to their scheduling office netted about 30 minutes of wait time and 20 minutes of frustration. First, they couldn’t find the appointment. Then, they were sure it was for noon. The only problem was the noon appointment was for March 25th and the technicians showed up on time. So after, what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, they agreed they didn’t actually know when the technicians were going to make an appearance.
At the same time, Joe, one of the best contractors you could meet, was trying to get the carpet installer back to finish the job. He was in and out about 4 times working on small things, not showstoppers, that needed to be completed just to say we were finished. He blew in about 14:30 and I was still sitting on the floor waiting for the technicians with my laptop blaring (if laptop speakers can get that much volume) Bruce Springsteen. He grinned and said “I thought you were working.”
I laughed. I was sitting on the floor (we don’t have any furniture yet), working on my laptop, listening to an eclectic mix of Bruce Springsteen, Harry Chapin, Brad Paisley and Shelby Lynne, and wishing the vendor would just show up. We talked about the problem when sub-contractors don’t show up. The carpet man who has only about 20 square feet left to finish, hadn’t shown up either. We were both waiting for vendors. One of us was on their own time. The time that I spent sitting on the floor waiting for the ISP was out of pocket. Not a big thing, if you can take time off from an employer but very different if you are the employer.
About 14:00 (2pm), I called the customer care center. After 30 minutes on hold, an accidental disconnect (yah! right!), another call, 20 minutes on hold, I found a real life person. After a long discussion, they said “We found it! We weren’t supposed to be there until noon.”. My reply was “that was on March 25th. You were to be here between noon and 16:00 (4:00 pm). You managed that quite well. How is it that you can’t manage between 9:00 and 11:00? ” There was stunned silence on the other end of the phone. Then, the sound of furious keystrokes as the person tried to find out what happened. The next sound was “Can I call you back?” My response was “You can but I’ll be timing the call. I keep a journal so I know where I spend my time.” With that, I hung up the phone.
As I sat on the floor (furniture comes later in the schedule), I wondered what I would have done without a journal and a laptop. I wrote a synopsis of the call in my journal and settle back to wait for the promised return call. I am usually a very calm person but the military taught me that there is a place for carefully orchestrated force.
At 16:00 (4pm), two very cheerful technicians showed up. They were trying to figure out how to complete a 420 minute job in just under 20 minutes. I was surprised because the last time I divided 420 by 60 that equaled 7 hours. The likelihood that we would get a quality installation in 30 minutes when they need to completely removed all traces of a previous installation were some, none and not any.
The end result is that I have internet service in the office. But, if I look out the window, all I see is a free-floating cable that in a good gale is going to be like a whip in the wind. Quality obviously was sacrificed to meet the schedule. The interesting thing is I was never asked to sign a release. But, it is documented in my journal.
The golden nugget is “as a project manager, you never have 100% control. But, if you have documentation of actual events, you are in the driver’s seat. 90% of the time, what no one documents details.” I will use my journal to get 6 months free internet service and if I am feeling cranky, free telephone for a few months as well.
BTW, I never received the call back. Go figure.