Posts Tagged ‘perception’

Pete and Repeat (Progress Misperceived)

June 20, 2010

A Joke:

Pete and Repeat were on a boat. Pete jumped out. Who was left on the boat?

Every child loves this joke…¬†Engineers love this joke, but managers hate this joke… Just ask a manager, and they will bristle and tire of the joke before the end of its first cycle.

The Management Process (from the highest level):

1) Delegate Objectives; 2) Orchestrate Execution; 3) Measure Results

The Engineering Process (from the highest level):

1) State Requirements; 2) Design Solution; 3) Test Solution; 4)¬†Refine Solution (repeat…)

Repeat… Get the tie-in to the joke?

I work with engineers and technical managers, and each has a distinct “viewpoint”. From the manager’s perspective, the requirements process and the refinement process often seem to be unproductive time. One element of engineering that I coach on is “perceptions”. The manager must perceive real and actual progress even when none is immediately visible. From the manager’s point of view, perception can be everything.

This lesson was learned the hard way about 20 years ago when my manager burst into my office one day panicked and anxious and said in his most painfully exasperated tone of voice, “Don’t just sit there – do something – DO ANYTHING!” Well, I had everything under control, but he couldn’t “see” it. I was late with a design after a customer changed requirements, and progress in the refinement process was invisible to him. I was waiting for automatic systems to report final changes and impact, and in the mean time, I was working on another project. Had my manager arrived just a few minutes later, I would have had proof of progress in my hands, but as it was, he perceived I was doing nothing at all…

“Repeat” is the most painful process for a manager because the perception is usually negative as nothing seems to be happening when in fact the process is advancing “invisibly” – the process is apparently not complete and everything appears to be inexplicably delayed. Sometime, perception is everything, and a good engineer must deliberately paint an accurate perception of progress for their manager.

Lesson learned – and I pass it on every chance I get.

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