Project manager-trouble shooter

I am fascinated by trouble shooters. They descend. Find the root of the problem. And fix it. With one shot. The story of a Nike factory trouble with shoes taken out of its premises by employees and little effects of security to prevent them is an often quoted example of efficient troubleshooting advice. The troubleshooter suggested to produce the right shoes and left shoes in different countries. As a result, stealing one shoe of the pair made little sense to employees and it stopped.

Sometimes project managers are trouble shooters. You have to. Projects have a tendency to befriend troubles. It’s part of their nature. If they are untroubled, there is probably something wrong.

So, here is a story:

One lovely sunny morning I get a phone call from a company hired to drive a group of trainers around the country to do trainings in the regional offices of the beneficiary. “My driver says he quits”, I hear instead of “Good morning”. “What happened?” I ask. “One of your trainers, Claude, wanted to jump out of the moving car”. Goodbuy, lovely morning!

I pick up the phone and call the team leader, Seth. “You are the most seniour of them and this is happening on your watch?”. I gave him no chance.

“We are calling it off”, his response is equally tough. “The whole taining programme”.

My mind was quick: the cost of this training is 40% of the training budget, contract penalties with the transport company, a disatisfied client, reputational costs and a number of other consequences. I lay them out loudly. And give them 5 minutes to respond. The cars were parked, so there was no risk of anyone jumping out of a moving car.

In seven minutes, “ok, we continue. We are all fine” I get Seth’s assurance. “Indeed. Thank you, Seth. I want to hear it also from all other members of the team.” They were all fine.

We completed the trainings, on time, within the budget. No causalties. No penalties. Trouble – shot.

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