Thursday, March 12, 2009

Underperforming Assets, Workouts, and Management

Via Newmark's Door, Secretgeek on "The Deadly Cycle of Meetingitis." Here’s an excerpt:


  1. Q:What do managers do when they're stressed?
    • A:They call a meeting.
  2. Q:What gets managers stressed out?
    • A:When projects are not making progress.
  3. Q:When do projects fail to make progress?
    • A:When people spend too much time in meetings.

Secretgeek is talking about programming code crises, but the cycle applies to any situation which creates manager stress. The important part of this cycle is the root cause – it’s not the status of the project, it’s the manager’s stress.

Underperforming assets and workouts are inherently stressful to management, and are particularly prone to meetingitis (and it’s nephew, reportitis). Some managers are not comfortable unless they know the status of every deal, all the time. Secretgeek’s solution:

Communicate more, in order to meet less. Be proactive in your communication. Don't wait for them to call a meeting. Tell them what's going on. Produce regular reports. Don't "promise" to produce regular reports -- just produce them. Let them listen in on some of your day to day chatter. If you have daily standups, bring the manager in. Stop baffling them with technical mumbo jumbo. Feed them edible slices of information. Walk them through it in bite-sized chunks. Give them documentation tasks to keep them feeling important. Give them communication tasks. Draw pictures for them to stick on the wall of their office.

This approach might work for coding, but I don’t think it works very well for special assets. In my experience managers only calm down when they develop confidence their workout people are on top of their deals and elevate issues when necessary. It takes time and positive experience for workout people to develop that kind of credibility with their management (more on that here). Unfortunately, that level of confidence may never develop if the manager believes progress is a result of their involvement and not their staff’s work.