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"(Office Story): "The Project Manager"..." Topic

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Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Aug 2015 8:39 a.m. PST

Disclaimer: Nothing was used in an obscene manner, (or so you might believe otherwise). The usual disclaimers also apply.


It's been a while since I have made a post here due to numerous issues
For those that may not be up on it. I am the Regional (Midwest), IT Service Support Manager for a large national company that is expanding like a lazy kid eating Oreos, and is going international in about a year…..
I am in charge of making sure that IT Service and Support for three plants in three separate states (Each plant having 2-5 production lines, warehouse facilities, admin areas, testing, and shipping areas), are approx 400,000 sq ft. Total cost of plants that I provide operation support for approx approx. 250 million dollars….

This past April, we opened the third regional facility for the Midwest US.
One of the biggest issues was dealing with some of the more "younger" members of the facility project team. One of them was the Project Manager, (We'll call him, "PM" for short.)

PM spends a lot of time on his laptop doing emails, etc…
His job was to essentially to "manage the project", (ie: Coordinate between the contractors, vendors, etc..and the company and get construction issues fixed). He's a young guy, probably 24-26 years old, pretty much fresh out of college and his work experience in leading projects is lacking.

One of the main examples….

Each site has finger biometric time clocks, (KRONOS), to be able to clock in and out, and in and out for lunch, etc..) Occasionally these time clocks will go goofy, and will be required to be reset by the IT team. This simply requires the IT tech to remove the three hex nuts with the special wrench, pull the cover, and unplug the network, power, and POE cables, and wait 30 seconds and replug. All in all takes more time to unscrew the hex nuts than anything else.
When the two clocks were installed by Local Contractor Electrical Union 101 (Union Motto is "That ain't my job!"), who completely ignored the original instructions on where and how they were to be mounted and literally installed them side by side about three inches apart. Not only did this NOT allow for servicing of the clocks, (We couldn't get the wrench in there), but they were so close together that two people standing side by side, couldn't use the clocks, so it was useless.

I noticed this and brought it up to PM.
"We gotta get these clocks fixed." I told him.
He looked at me and blinked.
He asked me what's wrong with them.
I told him.
He nodded slowly.
I could see the glazed "I dunno." look in his eyes.
"Come with me." I said.
He follows.
I show him the clocks.
He looks at them and says "Okayyyyyyyyyyyy…."
I then explain to him the situation, and even show the wrench and how it can't be used. Then we play the game of "We're both employees trying to use the clocks at the same time and Notice how we can't do so because they are too close together?"
Slowly I see the realization in his eyes.
"Instructions were for these to be installed 3 feet apart for privacy, service access and employee use." I tell him. "We need to get this fixed."
"Yeaaaaaaaaaaah…" he says.
"Can you get this done?" I ask him.
"Yeaaaaaaaaaah…" He says again.
"Can you send me an email once you have this coordinated?" I ask him.
"Yeaaaaaaaaaaah…." He says the third time.

So we go back to what we are doing, but deep down I am thinking "This isn't going to happen."

For the next four days as I am on the plant I keep checking on the clocks. Sure enough, they are still there and haven't been touched.

I send him two emails about it. No response.

Finally I catch him in the break room getting something to drink.

"What's the status on the clocks?" I ask him.

"Oh yeahhhhh…" He says. He looks over at them. "Well I dunno…"

"What do you mean you don't know? We discussed this FOUR DAYS ago, and I thought you were handling it." I said to him.

PM looks around. "Well…yeah it's messed up, but I'm not sure what I can do. I think we're gonna have to have a meeting about it."

I looked at him. "A meeting?"

He nodded and blinked his eyes.

I looked at him. "We don't need to have a meeting. We know the problem. We know what needs to be done. We need to find the contract super, show him what is wrong and where it needs to be and have him assign someone to fix it. We don't need to have a sit down feel good discussion on this."

He just looked at me.

I turned around and walked off as I was irritated. 10 minutes later I had found the Site Contractor Super, and showed him the issue. He looked at the plans, confirmed that Local Union 101 ("It ain't our job!"), had ignored the instructions and put in the wrong place.

"Can you remove it and reinstall it by tomorrow?" I asked him.

He nods and says "That's one of the easier things to do. Sure."

Twenty minutes later there's a contractor removing the clock. By the end of the day, the clock had been removed, reinstalled, reconfigured, and the hole in the wall sealed up. All was good.

The next morning, I am working on the wireless network, when PM comes up and tells me. "Hey I got the coordination done for the time clocks."
I look at him blankly and nod over towards them with my head.
He turns to see them fixed.
"Oh." He says as his face fell flat.

In my nice "fatherly NCO tone of voice" I said: "PM…you are the Project Manager for this site; Manager The Project, DO NOT let the Project manage you…which is what you are currently doing."

He nodded and walked off….

It's the current "folly of youth", I think. We've had young college graduate intern electrical engineers, that couldn't even read blueprints, or even know what basic electrical symbols were on diagrams.

Maybe I'm just shaking my rake and screaming "Get off my lawn!", but damn….four days???…

So I thought that was it with him….

But I was wrong…

Two weeks later we were having a meeting session with him because he had given the okay to have the air conditioners, installed in the wrong location….


Submitted respectfully….


Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member09 Aug 2015 9:36 a.m. PST

I have a plan to fix these little personnel problems. Universal conscription. Each of our 'little darlings' serves four years military service, unless they wish to spend the rest of their life's work as burger flippers, dishwashers or some such. Oh, and opting for such means sterilization. Then we bring back a flash from the past. NCOs are required to 'get Pvt. Goofball's mind focused' in the old fashioned way. Dope slapping and, where it's needed, four wall counseling.
Won't be perfect. Nothing is. But we have far too many kids growing to be 'adults' having never once had to face real, though gentle, consequences for their inactions.
Mind you, some will find this just too much. But I raised two sons. I raised them by hand. It worked well…

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2015 10:05 a.m. PST

Saw a lot of that in my 36 years at IBM. A few, who
listened, survived. The deaf did not…

JSchutt09 Aug 2015 10:38 a.m. PST

A PM afraid to hold vendors and contractors accountable needs to find a new avocation. Hoping nobody including the boss will notice, hoping end users won't complain and hoping "it's too late to fix something" are all tactics of a bad PM.

skippy0001 Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2015 1:16 p.m. PST

You are a shining light in a sea of darkness-revel in that.

I used to dispatch tow trucks for AAA-Nice system just not utilised as it should be. 25 years.
I worked 8-6 4 days a week(10 hr nightshift). At one point Management didn't like the quality of decision making and insisted everything had to be ok'd by a supervisor. They used me as a example because I dealt with a call that the Fire Department called in about a deaf-mute that needed a jump start but didn't have a AAA card. So I sent a truck and had it done under my card, the FD needed it done fast, no reason to leave the person stranded and the truck was nearby.
I was told to never do that again.
I stated that it was done ONCE in my 20+ year history and it was between 3&4am. I then said "Do you WANT me to call you at your home everytime there's a problem at that time??"…..I was never bothered about my decision making again.

Another time they wanted to know why I authorised a tow. The date of the call was three months prior. I reminded them that we get four thousand calls a month and they expected me to remember a specific call that happened approximately twelve thousand calls ago(which I probably handled 1/3rd of them)…..
I liked the system, I was able to help a lot of people, it was just.."Captains Without Eyes".
It's just not you…

jdpintex09 Aug 2015 5:07 p.m. PST

What idiot hired a 24-26 year old to be a PM in the first place? What experience did this kid have to manage anyone, much less a union job?

Sheesh. Glad you got it handled the old fashioned way. "do it yourself if you want it done right".

pmwalt Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2015 6:49 p.m. PST

I'm really surprised they have such a young PM with that little savy for getting things done.

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Aug 2015 4:38 a.m. PST

jdpintex, Our "Corporate HQ" out in beautiful socialist Southern California, loves to hire "young cutting edge folks just out of college and ready to make a change"….

And yes that was sarcasm in my tone that you were hearing….

Streitax Inactive Member10 Aug 2015 4:49 a.m. PST

Ah,kids. Can't work with 'em, can't shoot 'em.

Personal logo Ditto Tango 2 3 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member10 Aug 2015 5:04 a.m. PST

Murphy, young kids like that, presumably someone only a few years out of an engineering undergrad degree, don't always have the confidence to confront their contractors. It's a bit like a 2Lt or Lt who is afraid of his senior NCO and always assumes what the NCOs do are correct. Which is often the case but when company orders preclude the usual actions, sometimes these sorts of guys can be afraid to say say so. In the same environment in the mid 80d, while I could bring myself to tell them the usual was not enough, it always was a daunting task to me. I had tremendous respect for these guys.

In Civilian land, especially in a few (certainly NOT all) unhealthy Union environments, the "NCOs" are often not right at all.

Good story and worthy of a case study in a leadership type of course.

MarescialloDiCampo Inactive Member10 Aug 2015 6:34 a.m. PST

Unluckily that seems to be the wave of the future for the government. They prefer to hire the very young just out of school for intelligence analysts.
The question is: How much real experience do they have?
Yes the crusty old guy who has been around a while can still be wrong, but he will give a reasonable assessment and it will be finished on time.
Our young guys render themselves inconsequential, but they look good, are slick, and they promote themselves very well. They make very poor managers and leaders.

GarrisonMiniatures Inactive Member10 Aug 2015 8:14 a.m. PST

Junior officer with senior NCO often works well. It gives the junior officer a chance to bed in and gain experience without a high risk of making a major mistake. At some stage he needs to make more of his own decisions or he stays a junior officer.

However, this PM -not sure of your organisational system, equal, junior or senior to IT SSM? – doesn't seem to be listening, perhaps not cut out for it?

GarrisonMiniatures Inactive Member10 Aug 2015 8:18 a.m. PST

Actually many years ago when I used to be a manager I found it very difficult to get help/advice from below until I pummelled into them 'I'm the boss, I'm in charge, it's my responsibility, you're not, so it's my decision, but how would you suggest I do it.' As soon as it was clear that I was the one carrying the can people were always happy to give advice. I just had to decide which of that advice to take!

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP10 Aug 2015 12:52 p.m. PST

Managing confrontation at all levels is an essential part of a PMs job. Don't blame him for getting hired. Blame your idiot HR department who couldn't figure out he didn't have the right skills when they passed him on. Then again, when they "recruited" him by typing in a few key words on a resume search and his name popped up, this didn't show through.

Militia Pete Supporting Member of TMP15 Aug 2015 7:15 a.m. PST

Maybe Goth Girl should be located and installed as PM?

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