Proman looked over the agenda for the first meeting of the management team. It was phenomenal how the champion for resolving these issues got this cross organization group to convene. Toni personally went to each of the key stakeholders and discussed the problems, pointed out the consequences, identified the benefits to each person’s organization, and asked for their support. Fortunately, she had much credibility in their eyes, for she had been around the organization awhile and completed her projects successfully. But that was not enough. The energy and passion that she put into the discussions, combined with the urgency of the problem and clarity of the message, made it abundantly clear that something had to be done now.
Lunch was laid out on the counter as people started coming through the door. Proman knew that doing the meeting over lunch helped cut through the problem of getting an available time on everyone’s busy schedules. In turn, it was necessary to provide food. Even putting out a nice spread of food would turn out to be an extremely worthwhile investment.
The R&D managers for each of the divisions were now present and about finished eating lunch. The noise level was high because these people often had to work together and fight the battles for product authorizations and resources. They were an aggressive sort and not likely to listen to a long drawn out presentation.
“Let’s get started,” Toni yelled out over the clamor. “I asked our group general manager to say a few words about the situation we find ourselves in.” This had the effect of getting everyone’s attention, hearing directly from their common boss about what needed to be done. Proman furiously made notes about key messages that will be repeated often throughout the next few months. One note said, “We need to have a common methodology and a consistent architecture that allow all parts developed separately and virtually to work together; we have to focus of what’s most important for this organization to establish a foundation for the next ten to fifteen years of product development.” Proman reflected on how beneficial it was that he and Toni had spent time briefing this manager in advance of the meeting.
Next the group heard a summary from the chief technical leader about the issues involved.Toni then proposed a process to achieve resolutions. She and Proman had spent considerable time brainstorming how to go about getting engineers into study groups and getting technical experts across the organization to vote on proposals.
The plan included a breakdown of assignments and a preliminary schedule. Nothing of this magnitude and technical complexity had been attempted before. It would take all hands on board for a limited time period just to begin the effort. Proman prepared a flow chart that was simple yet complete. Together, they shared the process with the managers and answered their questions. They also described how they would personally oversee the process, capture real time status, and report back to the managers. In turn, the managers had to agree on priorities and constraints, ante up engineers to work full time on the issues for the next several months, meet weekly to review progress, and make decisions on questions that arise.
Almost amazingly, the group of upper managers gave the go-ahead, not reluctantly but with enthusiasm. The plan was solid, and the people were credible.
After everyone had left the room, Toni and Proman looked at each other, seeing relief yet worry in each other’s eyes. “Great start,” said Toni, “but will we be able to deliver what we said?”
“I sure hope so,” said Proman. Inside, his mind raced ahead. He needed to write the summary of the meeting, schedule the teams to get started, and work through the details of the plan. He was excited but then realized, “This would not be easy: .”
Randy Englund, UCSCx instructor