Projects fail for all kinds of reasons – here’s a few things that are different after Covid…..
You’re Trying to Manage a Team on Chat
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-IM. Chat, and its appropriately named cousin, Slack, are fine for a QQ to an individual or small group. What it doesn’t take the place of is a well-run meeting, goals, action items, workflow tools, documented requirements, baseline reporting, status, deliverables – ya know – the “work.”
It’s amazing how many people think nothing of constantly interrupting their highly-paid resources to insist they participate in circuitous Chat threads. Pre-Covid, no one would have ever said to their boss or co-workers, “Follow me around today and listen to all my conversations. That way, you’ll know what I’m doing.” How is constantly being interrupted by chat any different?
Talk is cheap, and the cheapest of all talk is chat.
I recently attended a meeting with a client’s finance team. They were proposing changes to their enterprise Rev Req process. Flow chart? Business Rules? Requirements? SOW? Nope, the guy pulls up a chat from three days ago, and proceeds to add people to the thread – really?
Talk is cheap, and the cheapest of all talk is chat. If you want to be 100% sure that your project will run over budget, over schedule, and your team will be lost in the chum and churn of incomplete direction, “manage” your projects via Chat.
Maybe you heard: The United States has a drug problem, and that drug problem definitely has gotten worse since Covid. I’ve spent more than a decade working as a Fixer, and I can tell you that the root cause of more than one project / business failure is a key individual (or several individuals) with a drinking or drug problem.
It’s important to keep in mind that just because someone isn’t shit faced drunk at work doesn’t mean they don’t have a drinking problem. “Functional” drunks will insist that they’re not drinking during work hours; ergo, they don’t have a drinking “problem.” However, the effects of their drinking are evident. They’re chronic no-shows. They’re constantly sick, late, a million doctor, dentist, and food poisoning excuses for not showing up. Forget about a morning meeting. They can’t get out of bed. They’re unreliable. They can’t complete anything. When confronted, they will push their work (and blame) on to others. They vacillate between belligerent, and a professional victim, which makes you want to avoid them and assign their tasks to others, which is exactly what they want. #enabler
Another Post-Covid change is the ubiquity of Adderall and its many cousins. Unlike the drunk – who can’t accomplish anything – the Adderall Overachiever thinks they’re super-super productive! They have no problem calling you at 10 PM (spinning like a dreidel) because they really, really need your help with the font for tomorrow’s PowerPoint presentation. (Hint: NOT Comic Sans)
About 10 years ago, I had the great misfortune to work with a man who had a serious Meth problem. I was green in my career, and a deer in the headlights; I didn’t know what I was dealing with then. Now, I know the signs. And, when I see people sniffing, unfocused, babbling, spinning, and looking exhausted, I don’t think they’re “high energy” or insomnia, or allergies – I know they have an amphetamine problem.
I work in a business that is complicated, difficult, and dense, and the last thing I need is someone so jacked-up they cannot follow even the most basic conversation.
Since Covid, I’ve seen a rise in upper use in two groups: Women (trying to do it all) and new grads, many of whom are just not used to working 8-10 hours a day, day-after-day, week-after-week. Both of these groups are trying to “cram” their lives, loves, and responsibilities into too-few hours. And, much like Lucy in the Chocolate Factory, they are failing.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have a client or (god forbid) a boss with a drug problem, start looking for a job immediately. Forget about HR, or confronting anyone. This situation is NOT win-able. There’s nothing you are going to do, nothing you are going to say that will make that person change. Nothing. Not anger. Not sympathy. Nothing.
Life isn’t an “Afterschool Special.” It’s more like “Intervention.” It will take you about 2-3 months to figure out what going on. Once you do, create space between you and Adderall Annie, or Day-Drinkin’-Dan, and funnel ALL your energy into your exit plan. If you don’t, this person will eventually “Nurse Jackie” you. You’ll be fired, blamed for everything, and they will continue on as they have before.
You’re Still in Crisis Mode
It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since the advent of Covid. When it hit, all business rules were thrown aside, and “Crisis Mode,” took the place of planning. Business pivoted their e-com sites to accommodate a flood of delivery methods, “Essential” workers were defined, money was quickly appropriated (no business case needed), to mission-critical efforts – every fiber of our corporate being was in crisis management mode.
Here’s the problem: Humans are creatures of habit, and crisis mode has become our new habit.
During Covid, workers capitulated to excessive demands for overtime. Now? Quite quitting and labor strikes are in the news. And, it’s not just workers who are setting boundaries. Check signers are waking up as well. During the past two years no one paid any attention to ROI, cost-benefit, roadmapping, priorities – who had time for that mammsy-pammsy stuff? We’re in a crisis!
Covid was like a big fire; no one questioned thousands of people carrying buckets of water. Now, the smoke has cleared, and we realize that if we had better equipment, we wouldn’t need as many people with buckets.
You’ve surely heard corporate leaders feigning apologies as they layoff “over-hired” water bearers. All companies are evaluating their staffing, their roadmaps, and even their missions. But, what corporate leadership is not saying is that in just two years, they’ve actually become a bit rusty (and a little too comfortable with Slacking-in direction). Many have fallen out of the practice of truly managing a business. Now, we’re starting to hear again questions like: What, exactly, are your metrics? Where’s the market research? Where’s the business case for the $1.3 system upgrade? What’s the ROI? Where’s the depreciation schedule? Projects that cannot answer these questions are being axed, and the bucket brigade is being axed with ’em…
Complacency is frequent companion of hubris, and even though making it through the past few years is an accomplishment, don’t think that it’s a vaccination against failure. The world has changed, but the purpose of business has not. The goal of running a business is to make a profit, not just have a high stock price.
The next couple years are going to be rough. Regardless of your press, your followers, or your brand: If you’re not running your business well, running your projects well, and making a profit, you won’t be here much longer.
Copyright 2023 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.
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