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This is for all the managers and supervisors out there:

Two weeks ago I was given the assignment to design a (whatever) system. I have little knowledge of a (whatever) system, what it should do, what it should contain, how it should behave etc. But OK. I was told it's very important for the business that "we" have a (whatever) system. It's a critical project, highly visible etc etc. And as always, inventing the wheel needs to be done *quickly*. Fine.

But, this is going to take some major time and effort to do (even if I did know about (whatever) systems). Yet, I still have 3 or 4 other additional assignments as well and keeping getting more and have to support previous work.

Yea, I know "You have to make the time." Well, IMHO that's a load of Barbara Streisand! (BS). If designing a (whatever) system was such a critical project I should be placed on it exclusively (others have for other projects).

Not the first time in my career I've encountered this.

So my question is: When a manager gives such a crucial/important/essential project with a short time frame and still gives additional work (doesn't relieve you from other efforts to concentrate on this one), do they really expect it done? Done well? Done in the time they want??? Or is he/she just saying what they think a good manager should say to the troops?

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[So my question is: When a manager gives such a crucial/important/essential project with a short time frame and still gives additional work (doesn't relieve you from other efforts to concentrate on this one), do they really expect it done? Done well? Done in the time they want??? Or is he/she just saying what they think a good manager should say to the troops?]

Sounds to me like you don't have a "good" manager. Have you discussed this with them? Here is an article on software development that may help. It's called, "How to Defend an Unpopular Schedule", and is at: http://www.construx.com/stevemcc/ieeesoftware/bp03.htm

- Jim
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"...I was given the assignment to design a (whatever) system. I have little knowledge of a (whatever) system, what it should do, what it should contain, how it should behave etc. But OK. I was told it's very important for the business that "we" have a (whatever) system."

"So my question is: When a manager gives such a crucial/important/essential project with a short time frame and still gives additional work (doesn't relieve you from other efforts to concentrate on this one), do they really expect it done? Done well? Done in the time they want???"



This sounds like a variation on the project gone bad that resulted in the layoff of a third of my department and many others from other organizations last year. I've seen this over and over again and the problem is management ignorance. You say you don't have much knowledge of the system you've been assigned to create. I'm betting that your management knows even less. If they had any grip on the scope of your assignment, they would be able to recognize a reasonable time frame in which to expect results. They probably do expect it to be done and done well and on time, never mind the unrealistic nature of the situation. Guess who will be required to explain the failure if it doesn't happen to their satisfaction? Not them. And in my experience, they are uninterested in any education from people like yourself when you approach them with reality and try to explain to them the nature of their assignment.

This is another of those things I'll never understand about the psyche of management. How is it that people who have no grip on the magnitude of assignments get put in places to give those assignments out and attach time frames of completion to them? How? I think we talked at length about the process over the last couple of months.

In my opinion, a good manager knows enough about the topic to make effective allocation of the resources at his/her disposal in order to achieve good results from the effort. But all too often, this would necessitate the manager educating himself/herself first and they hardly ever do that. They just say "yes" to someone above them, who is probably even more removed from reality than themselves, and pass the orders on down for someone lower than themselves to bear the responsibility.
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>>So my question is: When a manager gives such a crucial/important/essential project with a short time frame and still gives additional work (doesn't relieve you from other efforts to concentrate on this one), do they really expect it done? Done well? Done in the time they want??? Or is he/she just saying what they think a good manager should say to the troops?<<

IMO, there's a certain amount of codependency in these situations. Most employees will say "yes, boss, I can do that," no matter how unreasonable the request is. If the boss is not an expert themselves (quite often the case), and if the experts tell them it can be done, what are they supposed to think?

In other words, you need to learn how to say no to your boss. And yes, it's entirely possible to do it without getting fired. Try something like this:

Boss, I've got a scheduling problem I'm hoping you can help me with. I have <list of projects> to do, with <list of deadlines.> I've worked out how much time I need to do all of that <hand over written list> and, as you can see, there just aren't enough hours to take care of it all. How should I set my priorities? Can we <delegate/outsource/ignore> <low priority projects> while I concentrate on <high priority projects>?

The keys to making this approach work are:
--do your homework. Don't just gripe about being overworked, be prepared to explain how you're spending your time and what your commitments are.
--be on solid ground already. If you're taking long lunches and skating away at 4:30 on sunny afternoons, don't expect much sympathy. OTOH, resist any suggestion that working 12 hour days would fix the problem. It wouldn't because your productivity would collapse.
--be proactive. Address the problem up front, before there's a scheduling crisis and you're worn down by trying to do the impossible. Come prepared with suggestions, but accept it if the boss tells you that the boring grunge project that you hate is a higher priority than the sexy innovative project that you'd rather work on.

Katherine
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Boss, I've got a scheduling problem I'm hoping you can help me with. I have <list of projects> to do, with <list of deadlines.> I've worked out how much time I need to do all of that <hand over written list> and, as you can see, there just aren't enough hours to take care of it all. How should I set my priorities? Can we <delegate/outsource/ignore> <low priority projects> while I concentrate on <high priority projects>?

I agree with this suggestion. You need to give your manager the opportunity to resolve the conflict, and they're only going to be able to do so with good information provided by you. In addition, you can refer to one of the basic fundamentals of project management which is that only one of the following drivers can be the "controlling" driver:

* Scope of Work
* Time
* Cost

For instance: if the scope of work for the (whatever) project cannot be changed, then neither time nor cost can be guaranteed. Note: you can of course add contract workers or other resources if time is the secondary priority.

If instead, timeframe is the primary driver than you will be forced to increase costs (resources) and/or reduce the scope of work to make the deadline.

Lastly, if cost is the primary driver, scope reductions and timeline extensions may be necessary.

I would suggest providing a high level overview/analysis of scenarios based on your time availability in respect to other projects and your understanding of the drivers of these projects. Be prepared to make tough recommendations that focus on how you can succeed as well as under what circumstances you cannot succeed.

Denise

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MasterPo,

It may sound corny and overly simple, but my advice about this is here: http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/crocs5firstthetruth.htm

This problem arises from both sides -- managers who are either ignorant or blissfully ignorant and employees who won't stand up and say their piece. Granted, corporate America doesn't exactly encourage "speaking out", but it needs to.

Best,
Nick Corcodilos
Ask The Headhunter
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It sounds to me like you need to talk to you manager. The subordinate/manager communication path works both ways. Being a good employee means knowing how to manage your manager.

Tell them your issues! Don't expect them to know them, I expect my staff to ask me questions when they have them, I want them to think on their own, not follow a specific path laid out by me. If, after they have done their own thinking, they still have questions, that's what I'm there for.

Just my opinion.

Chris
"Who is managed by both his staff and his supervisor"

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This is another of those things I'll never understand about the psyche of management. How is it that people who have no grip on the magnitude of assignments get put in places to give those assignments out and attach time frames of completion to them?

One of my recent managers, a very good one IMO, described it as "rising to the level of your incompetence". Basically, you start life as a "entry level" whatever, and do well. You are promoted up one or more rungs and continue to do well. Maybe you're promoted to manage a small group, or lead a team, and you still do well. Sooner or later you're promoted to a position at which you don't do well. Of course, since you're not now the stellar performer that you were in positions more suited to your ability, you don't get further promotions. You've "risen to the level of your incompetence", or more precisely risen beyond your abilities. And, paradoxically, there you stay unless you have the presence of mind to realize you'd be better off doing something else.
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"One of my recent managers, a very good one IMO, described it as "rising to the level of your incompetence"."


Your manager has read the book "The Peter Principle". I've forgotten who wrote it but it came out about thirty years ago and espoused the very thing you quote--that managers rise to their own level of incompetence. I tend to believe it. Except that instead of them realizing this and, as you say, "...having the presence of mind to realize you'd (they'd) be be better off doing something else", what I think is more common is that they stay just where they are. After all, someone above them installed them in their positions and for that person to de-install them would mean admitting a mistake, or offending someone who is most likely now their friend (they wouldn't have gotten the promotions in the first place if they weren't friends with managers above them). I once witnessed a slight variation in this principle when I saw someone promoted yet again to get them out of an office in which they were so incompetent in terms of ignoring/forgetting about strict quality standards and procedures as to be approving of plainly dangerous finished products. Outrageous but true.
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The "Peter Principle" was written by Dr. Laurence J. Peter.

Ira
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And the action of promoting someone to a position where he does less damage (described by paynes03) was called "percussive sublimation" by Dr. Peter, a wonderful euphemism for "getting kicked upstairs."

Bob
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