Thursday, December 4, 2008

how not to plan stuff

Most of the managers I've worked for had their shit more or less together. Yeah, you'd have "fire drills" occasionally and sometimes things would get screwed up, but I could usually trust that I wasn't going to have a fieldwork fiasco.

Some managers were not so good at organizing stuff. If I asked about field prep and a manager said "it's all taken care of", I knew that with some people, everything was fine. With other people, I'd have to go over everything myself to make sure. A couple things I always wanted to make sure we had:

1. Documentation (work, safety plans)
2. Site access; do we need to coordinate with someone?
3. We have a live "ok to drill" number, right? What is that number?
4. Water (critical for drilling)
5. Bathroom privileges somewhere vs. porta-potty
6. Vehicle/equipment arrangements
7. Drilling/sampling/whatever locations and a plan for what we're actually doing

This is all well and good, but I've run into managers/management teams that are incapable of making a decision. I can pretty much handle 1-6 on my own, but usually somebody needs to sign off on/agree to number 7 so that we're not just floundering around out there. We're doing this work for a reason, right? So what's the reason, and how can we make sure that we're doing what we need to do?

I was working on one project that was managed by folks several hundred miles away. We got embroiled in long, painful discussions about what, exactly, we were supposed to do because every time someone on my end would ask a simple "what locations where" question, they couldn't answer and would put that off for the next conference call. By the last call, when we were to go into the field the next week, it had devolved into awkward silence and paper-shuffley noises on their end and eye rolling/kill me now pantomime on our end.

But we did end up with a work plan. It got sent over via 1-day delivery and arrived late Friday afternoon for fieldwork starting on Monday. I read through it, made some quick notes, made sure we had all the stuff we needed, and went home late on Friday.

Monday afternoon, I got a call.

clueless manager: Did you get the revised work plan?
me: Uh, revised work plan?
clueless manager: I e-mailed it to you this morning...
me: I'm staying in a motel in the middle of nowhere with no internet and no way to print stuff. Now I'm working outside, not near any sort of internet facilities. We've been drilling and collecting samples for the last couple hours based on what you said was the official work plan. If you have a list of the changes, I'll write them down and make a note in the work plan for the future, but we're continuing with the orginal plan for the first couple locations -
*call dropped*
me: Ok, then, original work plan it is.

Needless to say, that project didn't end well.

1 comment:

Dominion said...

lol, i worked in construction management for a while and can totally relive some funny conversations such as "What do you mean you already took step X!" Good post.