Wednesday, December 12, 2012

drive-by management

One of my first field projects involved a big drilling program that was spread all over town. I was watching one of several drill rigs, so even though I was a newbie and could have used some (a lot?) more supervision, the field manager was always off doing a million other things.

So I was not on top of all the things I should have been on top of, and the driller knew it. So I wasn't getting the highest-quality samples. And every time the field manager did one of his sporadic pass-throughs, I would dread it because he would always catch something else that I was doing wrong. He'd stop by, scold me, and then his phone would ring and he'd zoom off somewhere else.

Years later, I was in charge of a big, complicated project with a lot of oversight by parties that weren't necessarily happy that we were there. So it was my job to make sure everything went completely by the books. I did a lot of driving around, checking to make sure everything was going ok. I'd stop to chat with the person assigned to oversee us, make sure they were ok with everything, and then sidle over to my field personnel and discreetly mention stuff that needed to be addressed, stat. And then a crisis would happen somewhere else or my boss (the project manager) would call looking for some critical information that was on file in the trailer, and I'd head off.

It was only when a coworker complained to me about my drive-by criticism that I realized I had turned into my old field manager. So I tried to be more encouraging abut the stuff that was going well, and to stay long enough that I could actually help out rather than just being critical. Of course, if I didn't have to continually nag about health and safety/housekeeping/basic rig oversight stuff to field folks who did know better, then that would have been the best option, but someone had to be the heavy...

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