I got a call the other day from a friend looking to vent.
Apparently, he’d been working on a project for a hot minute, which had gone through an extensive planning and discovery cycle, multiple design iterations and painful concessions on both sides.
Although there was a consensus on the approach and planned deliverable, it was not his recommendation, as the proposed final solution fell short of the work he knew his company was capable of, and well below the client’s original expectation for the project.
During discovery, he painstakingly outlined all the options with his client, detailing the pros and cons of each approach, including costs, timing, and end-user experience.
He believed that his company was setting itself up to develop a substandard product, which the client would not be happy with and his company would end up having to re-do at the 11th hour to satisfy them.
Despite his best efforts, no one would listen.
Heading into development, he repeatedly expressed his mis-givings about the selected approach, warning all who would listen that it fell short of the standards typically applied to projects of this type and other products in the market.
Again, no one would listen.
Today, the client saw the project – and hated it.
Calls were made and he was back at square one – and bitching vociferously – to me.
What, pray tell, did I tell my friend when he was done ranting?
I told him to shut the f*ck up.
Compassion is not my strong suit.
But bear with me.
You see, I’ve been here before.
No. Not ranting to a colleague about my job.
I am the consummate professional and handle all my shit with aplomb.
But I’ve seen many a colleague get off a call or emerge from a meeting flustered and frustrated.
Fussin’ and cussin and clearly out of sorts.
The source of their frustration was often valid: they had suggested a course of action – that was shot down – only to later find themselves in the unenviable position of cleaning up a mess that the failure to adhere to their recommended course of action has caused.
How often does it happen?
Enough to be a post on my lil’ blog, that’s how often!
But I digress.
As a consultant, project manager, aide or assistant, you’re often in a position where you possess superior information to the people you’re called upon to support.
While you may be the ‘low man on the totem pole’ you usually have access to information that makes your’s an informed perspective.
Worthy of a fair degree of weight, deference or consideration.
But because you’re not the HNIC, your opinion holds little weight when it comes down to decision-making time.
And despite the fact that you know what the fuck you’re talking about, you lack sufficient authority to force the right course of action on the parties or powers that be.
And therein lies the problem.
Time and time again, you find yourself on the wrong end of a fiasco – not of your doing – but which you have to resolve post haste.
So what to do?
Here are four fool-proof ways to help you manage problems (before they start) and be more effective at getting shit done.
1. Keep calm.
One surefire way of making a bad situation worse, is panicking.
So, as a matter of course, I never do.
When I was pledging my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., we had to memorize the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.
When shit got rough, we’d recite the poem and it brought the most tremendous sense of calm.
There was one line that resonated deeply with me, and is apropos for our little lesson today:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing their’s and blaming it on you.”
There is no greater skill, when facing adversity, than the ability to remain calm.
This is especially true if you’re
the fall guy in a position of authority, with other people looking to you for answers.
2. STFU and stop complaining.
Sure, you’re frustrated – if only they had listened to you, the shit storm you’re facing could have been avoided.
But they didn’t.
So fucking what?
Hindsight is 20/20.
Complaining is for babies and bitches and never helped anything.
And once you’re ‘that dude’ – mumbling to yourself about how shit’s always going wrong – you’ll find that your life becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure.
You’re in a jam, and you’ve got to get out of it.
So stop bitchin’ and man up.
And that does not mean bend over and take it with no vaseline, sweet-nothings or money on the dresser when it’s all said and done.
Not at all.
It means that you’ve got to figure out how to be more effective at managing your shit so that you find yourself less frequently on the wrong end of problems.
3. Document everything.
If your shit is starting to feel like Groundhog Day, and you’re reliving an endless loop of Hades, perhaps it makes sense to document what you’re doing so that you can figure your way out.
Rather than rely upon your recollection, maintain documents, email threads, meeting notes – anything that you can refer to in the future and use to show others (read clients, managers, developers) the error of their ways.
When a similar issue rears it’s ugly head in the future, you’ll be prepared with your case studies, post mortems and RCAs to provide empirical support to the positions you take.
More importantly, if anyone ever says “why didn’t you tell us that sooner?” or “why didn’t you give us any alternatives?” you can refer to the email, memo or note, which shows that you did.
4. Always have a Plan B.
If you’re so sure that a particular course of action is going to result in failure, you should have a contingency plan in place.
Preparing for the unexpected is a sign of an insightful individual.
But preparing for the known is just common sense.
If you find yourself confronted with a situation you foresaw, and you’re bitching and moaning – as opposed to implementing your Plan B – you’re a fool who deserves what you’re getting.
To summarize, when a project you’re working on starts to go south:
(i) keep calm – cooler heads always prevail;
(ii) shut the fuck up – no one wants to hear your bitchin’;
(iii) document everything – CYA is the order of the day; and
(iv) always have a Plan B – for “Bitch please!”