Exceptions AS the RULE

Recently I was visiting a client, in order to find the reason why they were having some difficulty implementing and keeping a few simple systems up and running. Soon after arriving I ran head on into the problem. The problem, it turned out, was a WHO—and Mr. Who was a manager of managers—yikes!

To describe our reception, when my associate and I arrived on site, I’ll just say at times you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. To be fair, the new GM was more than eager for us to be there, and was excited about bringing his company to order using the power of systems; however, Mr. Who was not quite so excited.

As we sat down to get started, I asked Mr. Who what he did exactly at his company, and he responded that he was Projects Manager over two other department managers. I asked him to describe some of the specific things he did as Projects Manager, and he seemed somewhat perplexed at my question. To my surprise, he had a hard time coming up with ANY particular activity that would describe what he did. At that point I became somewhat uncomfortable and looked at the new GM, hoping he could tell me what Mr. Who did, but he also seemed a little uncomfortable. I soon realized, he really didn’t know.

I pursued my line of questioning, trying to get to the root of what Mr. Who—a manager of managers—actually MANAGED. He seemed to evade my every question, going down bunny trails that had nothing to do with my inquiry. I finally had to let the question go. I was getting exhausted!

My next question for Mr. Who was, “How do you like the quality control checklists system your company is implementing?” He responded by saying it was “too detailed” and that it “took too long to do”—he said it “slowed down the crews’ processing of jobs.” The GM immediately shot back, that he disagreed. He believed it actually SAVED time in the long run, and it made money by prompting crew leaders to install certain special equipment for which his company could charge.

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