Chapter 20: Standing on Ceremony
Mr. T piled with his new consultant into the back of the Institute’s ancient Buick and told the driver to head toward the old town of Varsjop, where there were some nice little coffee shops. He looked across the car at Mr. T but I have a hunch you’re going to tell me you don’t really have any problems. Oh, just some little minor annoyances maybe, but nothing significant.
Mr.Tompkins introduced Dr.Winnipeg to Melissa Alber, who led him away to take part in the weekly PMi11-A staff meeting. It was not until just before noon that his new consultant showed up again. Dr. Winnipeg looked at him sharply. It was as if he were puzzled that Mr. Tompkins hadn’t seen anything obvious. “Why don’t you bag the project Webster? PMill-B and -C seem to be in pretty good shape. The A project has just been through too much. Progress has come to a grinding halt; nobody has any idea of what to do next the design is a botch the implementation effort is, as you’d expect, totally misdirected.
As soon as the staff meeting was adjourned, Dr. Winnipeg and Osmun had repaired to his office. After a very shoa conversation, they came out, both looking pleased. They explained to the staff that Osmun was being transferred to a new responsibility. Then, Osmun went back into his office to pack. Dr. Winnipeg spent the rest of the morning wandering around the Aidrivoli complex.
One thing that he found was on the Air Traffic Control project. He happened upon a working meeting mid morning and sat in for an hour and a half, not saying much of anything. The meeting was in the largest conference room in Aidrivoli-3. The tables had been arranged in a huge oval with Gulliver Menendez, the project leader, sitting at the head. Mr. Tompkins caught his eye and nodded to him before sitting with Dr.Winnipeg quietly in the back. The first thing he did was to count the people present. There were thirty-one, not including themselves.
Dr. Winnipeg raised Gulliver Menendez to his feet and positioned him at the front of the room. And start saying “The ceremony has five parts. One, you declare, Gulliver, the value of releasing even one person from the meeting and your intention to do so. Two, the group gives you its consent. Three, you select and release at least one person based on the critical nature of work that he or she could do if released. Four, that person makes a parting statement to the group about what he or she would like to see happen at the meeting. Five, the group signals approval as the person leaves.
Keep meetings small by making it safe for unessential people not to attend. A published agenda, rigorously followed, is the easiest way to make nonattendance safe. Take steps to protect people from abusive anger. Remember: Anger = Fear. Managers who inflict abusive, angry behavior on their subordinates are almost always doing it because they’re afraid.
Chapter 21: Endgame Begins
The six A-Team projects are all zombies, Mr. T told them. They are long dead, only propped up to look alive for political reasons. With the unfortunate departure of their beloved Minister Belok. They need to present it so no face is lost. The A-Team projects are zombies, but the people on them aren’t. They have feelings.
They all know, they’ve known from the beginning, that only one product will go out the door. Two of the teams will not produce the winning version. PMill-A, for example, has known for a while now that they were not going to be the winner. Mr. T has a hunch the other A-Teams are similarly aware. They need to present this as a rescue of valuable resources. they are moving them out of a dead-end effort and back onto the critical path.
Gabriel say that moving the A-Team people directly onto the B- and C-Teams. If they do that, half of them will be set up for a second defeat. He proposes instead is that they set up staff groups under each product manager, and use the A-Team personnel to populate these groups.
With Belok out of the picture, no one could fault Mr. T for returning to the original schedule. He had done that promptly. There was a huge sense of relief around the complex. The new date was one that gave a good chance to all the B and C projects, even the largest of them The smaller ones, the Quickerstill projects, for example, were likely to finish well ahead of the new target.
Once the groups had been successfully restructured, there was precious little for Mr. T to do. He wandered about most days, chatting with people, picking up scuttlebutt, expressing admiration for all the good work, and, most of all looking for opportunities to lend a hand. The projects were proceeding smoothly, and he was beginning to feel extraneous. This is the way the ends of projects are supposed to be, but almost never are. Sometimes, your only option is to bide your time, waiting for the problem to resolve itself, or for a good opportunity for you to move on.