It’s Wednesday and I think about the old adage of Wednesday being hump day and I’m pleased to be on the downhill slope to the weekend. Not that this has been a particularly bad week and certainly no worse than normal. It started Monday with reviewing the weekly reports. Performance was flat. Faults remained at about historical levels and SLAs while OK are not where I am committed they would be. The good thing is that there were no P1s last week. This means that when I have my one on one with the CEO later this week I stand a good chance of being able to talk about strategy rather than operations. It’s always the same if the systems “aren’t working” the focus of the conversation with the CEO is about operational competence rather than strategy. Never the most comfortable of conversations.
On Monday afternoon I have a steering committee for a major project initiative sponsored by the COO. The purpose of the project is to significantly reduce the lead times in our supply chain. The project is on a knife edge. We are struggling to get the resources we need from the COO’s organisation and the SMEs we do have don’t support the standard process design of the package we bought, even though we all agreed there would be no customisation. The project manager did the right thing and raised issues on the project but didn’t consult anyone before bringing these issues to the steering committee. The COO felt blindsided and in the post meeting I agree to talk to the project manager about improving his communication. At the same meeting the COO agreed to look into and resolve the resourcing issues. A step forward.
Tuesday morning was spent at home. Some respite from the grind of constant meetings that dominate my day. This particular Tuesday morning my focus was getting the strategy written in draft for my meeting with the CEO later in the week. It might be strategy but the first order of business was cost reduction. The economy is still struggling from the GFC and competition is hot for what money there is. The board’s priority is maintaining profitability and that means cost reduction. I begin to consider where I can reduce costs. First glance tells a familiar story. Nearly 2/3rds of your costs are contracted and most of the remaining costs relate to staff. I squirm in my seat as I face the uncomfortable reality.
And that brings Wednesday. So far today I have had a one on one with a direct report. They are not meeting some of their key KPIs. This is not new and you once more work with them to determine what needs to be done but you have a sinking feeling that this conversation is moving from coaching to performance management as they seem reluctant or incapable of following through on a plan. Next I met briefly with the project manager from the Monday meeting and debrief the steering committee meeting. The project manager thinks the COO is being unfair but agrees to change how items are brought to the steering committee. Then a quick break and my mind wanders back to the strategy pack and the uncomfortable decisions required. My thoughts are interrupted as my phone beeps with a new text message. A new P1! Almost instantaneously one of my managers rush into your office to explain. At this point my PA appears and reminds me of a meeting with the sales team from XYZ Corporation. They are here and waiting.
Damn, forgot they were coming and this has turned out to be a really bad time but I have committed to the meeting so off I go. The normal pleasantries are exchanged and we settle into the meeting. The meeting was at their request so they lead. A familiar format unfolds. This is who we are and here is our proud corporate history. We have lots of clients aren’t they impressive. Here are our products and services, they are the best products and services on the market and our research says you should want them. I laugh silently to myself as their products sound exactly like the team who came in last week. As the meeting proceeds my mind drifts off. What’s happening with that P1? How will this latest P1 impact my meeting with the CEO tomorrow? Will the project manager follow through? Will the COO find the resources we need? When will this meeting be over so I can get back to doing my job!? Then it happened.
Out of the blue one of the members of the XYZ corporation team said “we’ve done some research on your company and the role of IT within the company and what we have found is …..” She proceeded to outline with unerring accuracy the issues we were facing. Our IT systems were reasonably reliable but it was a struggle to keep them that way, projects struggled to deliver as they couldn’t get the resources and the team were more focused on completion than benefits, all the while you are being asked to deliver more cost savings projects to the business while reviewing IT’s costs as the economy was flat and surely IT couldn’t cost this much.
All the sudden I was engaged because these were issues I faced daily. How did she know? I found myself asking “so how can you help?” They outlined how what they did could help with some of these issues. I began to see that they did understand and that they might be able to help solve some issues rather than just sell some product. I became quite excited and I asked them to meet with a member of my team and investigate this further. I thanked them for their insight and left feeling a little better because someone seems to understand what I was going through and maybe just maybe was prepared to help me move forward.
A sales team that understood my issues! Who would have thought it!!! An unexpected gift on hump day that shone a little light of possibility. Right, back to my day ….