Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, adventures, and insights on the world of business!
— By Blake Glenn
Upon my arrival in LA, as always the tall palm trees, bright sunshine, and pollutant-infused smog embraced me with open arms. But, unfortunately, for the next week I wouldn’t see much of them. My immediate destiny was to be holed up deep within the bowels of the GAO office, leading efforts to turn around our fast disintegrating hopes for the $5,000,000 tech project.
When I got to the office I hit the ground running. I immediately set up a meeting with the client staff to hear their grievances. We held the meeting in the large conference room. It was windowless, barren, cold, grey, lacking in anything approaching personality, completely soulless. It was an appropriate scene for the hellish torture I was set to endure.
All of the client stakeholders were present. Having all of them present was critical. Some of these people may have had their careers tied to this project. And even the least powerful among them still had influence and could make our team’s life miserable with their discontent and dozens of small complaints, a death by a thousand tiny cuts.
I should have put on my toxic substance defense suit because the shit began flying immediately. While I wasn’t the reason for their travails, I was now the onsite representative of the enemy. And as such, I was now the one bright red target upon which to vent their unending anger.
The grievances were many. That the new network installation wasn’t going well was an epic understatement. There were lots of bugs. That happens all the time of course. Things never go the way you expect. And like roaches in real life, you could quash a few here and there, but you could also rest assured that they would pop up somewhere else. Again. And again.
The situation was exacerbated by the engineers and technicians whose poor attitudes angered the GAO staff . The techies didn’t communicate well about problem resolutions. They didn’t respond quickly to information requests. And most damaging of all, they were simply rude to the customers, treating them like uninformed idiots that didn’t deserve the tech’s time.
My employer had made a big mistake too. They had left a hard core network engineer named Terry in charge of the onsite team. They could not have chosen a worse candidate. He was a very good network engineer, maybe even superb. But his people and management skills were non-existent. He was rude, short-tempered, and thin-skinned.
He was the Donald Trump of the geek world. But this was my employer’s fault more than Terry’s. They knew about his “personality flaws”. He should have never been the onsite team lead in the first place. But, in a moment of weakness, they acquiesced to his desire to be the man.
The other techs followed behind him because, well, he was in charge. But they weren’t happy. The customers were haranguing them relentlessly, not due to their own ineptitude but due to his. And the team recognized Terry’s inadequacies. They were ready for a change. When I arrived, the GAO villagers were so incensed with Terry that they were gathering torches and pitch-forks and descending upon the tech castle to drive him out of the building. And I think each and every one of our team members was ready to join them!
I acted quickly to take control and try to put things on the right track. Here’s what I did:
- Immediately met with client staff as a means for them to vent their anger, frustration, and grievances. I mostly listened, and listened, and listened
- Inserted myself between all tech personnel and client staff. There needed to be a buffer or cushion between these two groups and I had to be it
- Immediately removed Terry from his position and made sure the other team members knew who was in charge … Me. The boss had already made everyone aware that I was now in charge. But that was a mandate from almost 3,000 miles away. I reinforced that mandate upon my arrival and included the boss in our meetings via conference call
- Set up war room complete with crisis board to manage each problem
- Enacted an emergency project management plan
- Set up hierarchy to prioritize each problem
- As a public relations move, had tech’s quickly fix a handful of small but lingering problems to show progress and ease tensions, i.e., killed several roaches quickly
- Set up morning, mid-afternoon, and end-of-day progress briefings with client staff as a means to keep the client close to the activity. Only included techies that were necessary for updates and answering technical questions. Kept their client interaction time to a minimum.
- Held tech staff briefings three times daily … about 30 minutes to 1 hour before client briefings
- Threatened to drive Terry to the high open desert and remove his man-parts, Game-of-Thrones style, and feed them to the rattlesnakes if he came close enough to even breath the same air as any member of the client staff
Of course none of these items were rocket science. They weren’t that innovative. They weren’t going to change the world. They were all mostly just practical common sense actions needed to turn around this failing project, especially the Game-of-Thrones technique.
The primary requirements to do my job were pretty simple:
- Organization and project management;
- Thick skin to take all of the heat from the client … and my team members;
- Great communications skills;
- Ability to seamlessly transform at a moment’s notice between being a soothing “crisis whisperer” to a tough but fair ass-kicking leader;
- Sense of humor – seriously, some things you just gotta laugh at;
- Ability to combine individual profane words and phrases into new semi-lucid profanity strings targeted at non-compliant members of my team. This was a last resort of course, but proved unusually effective when used sparingly and with precision. As effective in many cases also was the strategic use of profane hand and finger movements and gestures.
And, while not flawless, the tactics worked. Within a week we had saved the LA project, which helped to renew confidence in my employer, which helped save the other regional GAO installations, which means we rescued about $5,000,000 in revenue for my employer. I was proud of the team coming together under my leadership to make this happen. But it was a team effort. They just needed the right leader. I didn’t have to Game-of-Thrones Terry’s man parts … unfortunately. And my boss was able to maintain his golf privileges.
The trip wasn’t all work though. One upside of that adventure was that my girlfriend-of-the-time lived in the Los Angeles area. Though we amicably went our separate ways soon after this trip, it was certainly good to see her.
Frankly though, I couldn’t understand why she brought her good male friend with her each time we met. It was good to see that she had a friend out there. Who says men and women can’t just be friends. I guess he needed her support. Going through a difficult time according to her. And he was strong. Lots of muscles. I knew she was safe. She later got married and had kids. I never met her husband. But the kids kind of looked like that guy. What a coincidence. I wonder if they’re still friends.
Want to catch up on Part I? Just click here!
Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?
If you dare, I can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com
P.S. I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my business game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the player pool!