A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing!
4 Signs that Your Project Will Never Launch
“I know, let’s ask Mikey,” suggested Philip, the Director of Marketing of InTheOven, a growing Countertop Smart Oven manufacturer that was struggling with getting orders out to customers on-time and fighting the costs of shipping. A new project was being discussed to improve the shipping process.
The market for countertop smart ovens - those that can be programmed to do the cooking cycle from heat-up to clean-up - had grown over 40%. For InTheOven, the demand was high, but to keep customers happy, the shipping process had to be better coordinated with orders, production planning, inventory, warehouse management, and returns.
The CFO nodded in agreement with Philip's suggestion.
The COO rolled her eyes.
“Mikey knows a lot about apps and has a brother who works for a software company. He’s been working in shipping and he’s so smart. Most of all, he's really nice. I think he can drive this project,” continued Philip.
“And he just took a class in Project Management,” chimed in Betina, the Head of Customer Satisfaction.
“Sounds like a good idea, said the CFO, thinking that this would involve a lot less money than hiring outside consultants.
The COO started to object but saw she was outnumbered. They liked Mikey, and they didn’t have the same level of urgency in getting the shipping and logistics systems working since sales were high and so were spirits. It seemed that only the COO understood what the future would look like if they didn’t get this shipping project happening soon.
Is your mission critical project being run by the nicest person in the company?
Mikey was elated to have the project opportunity and got started right away. He called his brother and asked for advice. Then he talked to the company that his brother recommended. Four weeks later, Mikey recommended that one company and submitted a PO for the software.
Mikey was advancing because he had a little knowledge about shipping but, as we all know, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Often the appearance of being ready to take on the rigors of selecting the right system is only an illusion. The difficulty involved in getting it to actually work well is usually under-estimated.
Upon receiving the software recommendation, the COO asked Mikey if it would interface with the current Warehouse Management System.
Mikey said “I don’t know.”
The COO asked if it would allow for smart routing based on the ship-to address.
Mikey said “I don’t know.”
The COO asked if it would calculate CIF, LTL, and GVW, standard terms in shipping. (CIF for Cost, Insurance, and Freight, LTL for Less than Truck Load, GVW for Gross Vehicle Weight.)
Mikey said “I think so, but I don’t know.”
The COO was getting more agitated with every question. She knew of three other systems and didn’t understand why Mikey had not compared all three. Mikey was feeling uncomfortable and didn’t want to be challenged.
Giving responsibility for important projects to staff requires thinking ahead. InTheOven was about to experience a meltdown by both the COO and by Mikey.
Fortunately, the CFO saw this was not good for Mikey, not good for the COO, and certainly not good for the company. He turned to the COO and said, "Let’s open this evaluation process and bring in those outside consultants."
Here are four signs to evaluate when advancing a staff member to take on the responsibility of leading a systems selection and implementation project:
Awareness – Is the selected project-manager-to-be aware of all the points of integration? Has he an understanding of how to track an item through the system currently? Does he know all the touch points, from production through inventory to order entry to shipping to receiving to payment to return to refund to inventory to demand planning and so on?
Knowledge – Does the selected project-manager-to-be keep up with the technology advancements in the area to be addressed (shipping) as well as the systems that feed into the area being addressed? Can he speak about the good qualities present in the system as well as the lack of functions? This will help immensely in his ability to evaluate and recommend the best solution for the company. Saying “no, but I can learn” is a nice response, but not the best response.
Experience – Has the selected project-manager-to-be led projects of similar scope and pressure previously? This shows an ability to work with the many personalities who will be involved. Has he shown an ability to deal with those who know the current systems and the challenges they face? Will he be able to help those who are more territorial and don’t want a change? Projects are a process of finding the points of agreement that will ease the implementation of the solution. Experience counts.
Relationships – Can the selected project-manager-to-be leverage relationships within and without the company to bring the best solutions forward? It is key that he have the confidence of the department that will be most affected by the new solution. With this sort of alignment, the COO of InTheOven would have been championing, not challenging, Mikey's recommendation.
Although Mikey liked it, the COO did not. This project will not launch.
It’s important to be likeable when running a project, but having a little knowledge about the topic is not sufficient to take the reins of project manager. Being likeable without Awareness, Knowledge, and Experience is just being likeable.
If you look for these four signs, you will select the best Project Manager for the job and your project will launch.
The COO took the project under her budget, asked Mikey to