Chapter Five – The Chief Designer

5.1    Phillip Preener

The Project Manager’s plan was to contract out the design of the garden shed to a neighbor of his who he knew could do the job in a day and do it right the first time.  The Chief Designer got wind of this and went directly to the General Manager to whine.  Phillip Preener is the Chief Designer at Our Company.  Don’t call him Phil, by the way, it’s Phillip.  The role of the Chief Designer is to translate the customer’s requirements into engineering drawings for hand-off to the factory.  The Chief Designer has a PhD in Low Temperature Physics.  Phillip has no lips and looks like he has a pinecone stuck up his butt.  Phillip is very fond of his own work, but disapproves of everything produced by anyone else.  The Chief Designer has no practical skills whatsoever but, because of his aforementioned PhD in Low Temperature Physics, he has a big edge in credibility over a mere Project Manager. 

   5.2 Pick Your Battles

The General Manager hated listening to the Chief Designer whine and ordered the VP of Operations to order to the Project Manager to use the Chief Designer on this job.  The Project Manager loathed the Chief Designer and knew he couldn’t design anything more complicated than a one-piece jigsaw puzzle but he reluctantly gave him Sue’s sketch of the garden shed and asked him to come up with a set of engineering drawings for the fabrication team. 

For the Project Manager had long since learned how to pick his battles.  Jimmy McCrusty would only enter into an internal fight if he expected to win without fear of reprisal or if he expected to lose but would be owed a big favor next time.  He knew he couldn’t take on the Chief Designer and win – the General Manager thought that the sun shone out of Phillip Preener’s you-know-what.  He also knew that he would lose face with both the General Manager and the Chief Designer if he entered into this particular battle and, inevitably, lost.  There would be no follow-on favors that would make this fight worth the risk.

Editor’s Note:

This is not to say that Jimmy McCrusty would actually stab any of his co-workers in the back – that’s just a figure of speech, by the way.  Jimmy is actually a pretty nice guy.  You might be interested to learn that the fact that Jimmy is such a nice guy is thought by many of the analysts who have studied this case extensively to be one of the primary reasons that Jimmy was such a crappy project manager.

5.3    Proceeding on schedule

 “Proceeding on schedule,” said the Project Manager is his first status report.  “No red cards.”  Red Cards were the General Manager’s idea.  Yellow cards meant there was cause for concern and red cards meant you were out of the game.  Just like European football.  Project managers working for Our Company were expected to update their Gantt charts appropriately, and honestly, every week.  The software that was used to draw the Gantt chart took care of coloring in the status section automatically.  And that’s just what the Project Manager did.  The Project Manager completed his status report first thing in the morning every Friday based on the input provided by the Project Administrator, who we shall meet shortly. 

The Chief Designer hadn’t delivered the plans for the garden shed yet, but he had until the end of the day to do so.   Other than that familiar feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach, the Project Manager had no reason to believe the Chief Designer wouldn’t come through.  The Project Manager’s first status report indicated that everything was under control (see Figure 5‑3).  And for all Jimmy McCrusty knew, it could have been true.