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Topics: Resource Management, Risk Management, Schedule Management, Scheduling
Working with handoffs from other departments...
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In my current position, I coordinate installation projects. We receive the project from sales, then it becomes our job to manage that project all the way through final installation. One of the issues I am running into is the salesman promising impossible deadlines. This causes a great deal of risk to that project as well as many others. When your expected to "make things happen" how do you effectively manage when resources are limited?
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Kimberly

Sometimes you can, other times you can’t manage within the given resources so you have two options:

1- Meet with the sales personnel and discuss what the average time is from the moment the order is received till it is installed given the current resources available and reach to a consensus on what are reasonable delivery timeframes should sales people promise to customers.

2- If option 1 did not work and you can’t manage within the given resources, I suggest you reach higher management to provide more resources.

In your case since your projects are installation projects for different clients I assume, it is sometimes tough to Fast Track or Crash the schedule to achieve the target dates.

Hope this helps.

RK
...
1 reply by Kimberly Chavez
Aug 30, 2019 11:12 AM
Kimberly Chavez
...
Agreed. We have attended PKO meetings recently to discuss some of the internal limitations but Sales has their own agenda. I think taking it to the next level of leadership is going to have to be the course. I just wanted to balance that with maintaining a good working relationship with them. Thank you for your input.
Network:1667



Kimberly -

This is the unfortunate "don't confuse sales with delivery" chasm.

It is a leadership issue to ensure that sales teams are setting realistic expectations so that delivery teams don't start out behind the eight ball having to reset those expectations.

One way this can be done is ensuring that sales teams are not compensated purely on the preliminary sale but also on the satisfaction with the implementation itself.

Kiron
...
1 reply by Kimberly Chavez
Aug 30, 2019 11:14 AM
Kimberly Chavez
...
That is an issue in the organization. Its a very large word present organization with a set culture. The sales team earn really good bonuses based on the sale so they will promise almost anything to get the sale. This is definitely something to be taken up the chain. Thank you for your response.
Network:170



Aug 30, 2019 11:03 AM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
Kimberly

Sometimes you can, other times you can’t manage within the given resources so you have two options:

1- Meet with the sales personnel and discuss what the average time is from the moment the order is received till it is installed given the current resources available and reach to a consensus on what are reasonable delivery timeframes should sales people promise to customers.

2- If option 1 did not work and you can’t manage within the given resources, I suggest you reach higher management to provide more resources.

In your case since your projects are installation projects for different clients I assume, it is sometimes tough to Fast Track or Crash the schedule to achieve the target dates.

Hope this helps.

RK
Agreed. We have attended PKO meetings recently to discuss some of the internal limitations but Sales has their own agenda. I think taking it to the next level of leadership is going to have to be the course. I just wanted to balance that with maintaining a good working relationship with them. Thank you for your input.
...
1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Aug 30, 2019 11:13 AM
Rami Kaibni
...
You’re Welcome Kimberly. You can still maintain good relationship and there is nothing wrong with approaching leadership fro the right reason. Escalation is sometimes the way to go after you spared all other efforts. Good Luck.
Network:128144



Aug 30, 2019 11:12 AM
Replying to Kimberly Chavez
...
Agreed. We have attended PKO meetings recently to discuss some of the internal limitations but Sales has their own agenda. I think taking it to the next level of leadership is going to have to be the course. I just wanted to balance that with maintaining a good working relationship with them. Thank you for your input.
You’re Welcome Kimberly. You can still maintain good relationship and there is nothing wrong with approaching leadership fro the right reason. Escalation is sometimes the way to go after you spared all other efforts. Good Luck.
Network:170



Aug 30, 2019 11:05 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Kimberly -

This is the unfortunate "don't confuse sales with delivery" chasm.

It is a leadership issue to ensure that sales teams are setting realistic expectations so that delivery teams don't start out behind the eight ball having to reset those expectations.

One way this can be done is ensuring that sales teams are not compensated purely on the preliminary sale but also on the satisfaction with the implementation itself.

Kiron
That is an issue in the organization. Its a very large word present organization with a set culture. The sales team earn really good bonuses based on the sale so they will promise almost anything to get the sale. This is definitely something to be taken up the chain. Thank you for your response.
Network:635



Unfortunately this is common when dealing with Sales teams. You're in a dangerous, no-win situation because people are making all sorts of promises without first consulting you, but will likely blame you if you fail to deliver. As Rami suggests, you should begin by talking with Sales and your Management about the situation and attempt to work out a solution. If they aren't willing to listen, you should start looking for a better position.
...
1 reply by Kimberly Chavez
Aug 30, 2019 11:20 AM
Kimberly Chavez
...
Agreed. Thank you for responding. It's a challenging position to be in but I hope to be part of making changes and making a positive difference here.
Network:170



Aug 30, 2019 11:17 AM
Replying to Eric Simms
...
Unfortunately this is common when dealing with Sales teams. You're in a dangerous, no-win situation because people are making all sorts of promises without first consulting you, but will likely blame you if you fail to deliver. As Rami suggests, you should begin by talking with Sales and your Management about the situation and attempt to work out a solution. If they aren't willing to listen, you should start looking for a better position.
Agreed. Thank you for responding. It's a challenging position to be in but I hope to be part of making changes and making a positive difference here.
Network:353



Kimberly-
As irritating as these situations can be, they can also be a great opportunity to demonstrate your skills as a PM both in your technical abilities, and your people-skills.

The basic principal behind my strategy is to be as professional and transparent as possible in sending a clear message that you are willing to develop and commit to a very aggressive plan, but you cannot commit to an impossible plan. Here is how I do exactly that (other than coming out and saying it).

1) Build a rough schedule for feasibility that demonstrates the gap between expectations and reality. The fact that you are basing your plan on facts and data and not panic goes a long way to establishing credibility.

2) Talk to your manager and let them know the situation, and that you need to dedicate your time, and probably need support from other teams to develop a better plan. That shows you are part of the solution, not the problem, where the problem comes from, and it starts getting communicated throughout the organization to get you the help. Let the sales person know about the gap and that you are working it aggressively.

3) Build the detailed schedule which illustrates the challenges, and clearly shows the gap. This is where you can demonstrate your technical skill. If you need resources, overtime, or a difficult conversation with the customer. This plan shows management the heroics required to address the unrealistic commitment. That can cause a lot of disruption so again, you are part of the solution.

4) If approved by your management, communicate the aggressive plan back to sales with the gap clearly shown. They need to have an uncomfortable discussion with the customer. If you need to explain it to the customer yourself, all the better. Now they know you are part of the solution too.

The sales person will probably try to argue that you have to make it work. It is critical that you remain calm, measured, and firm about the limits of the possible. Perhaps you can work the plan more, but the commitment requires many more people than just you. I always say that we can commit to the plan and trying to beat it, but if problems come up, that is the risk in highly aggressive plans.

5) Work aggressively to the plan, improving where you can, and being open about progress. Keep trying to find improvements, but keep laser focused on the critical path, and ask for help when needed. It is expected at that point that you will need help.

That approach demonstrates you are doing everything you can, it elevates the problem not by pointing fingers but by asking for support, and it allows the annoyed stakeholders in your department who are being disrupted by this situation to understand the root cause of the issue. Sometimes leadership needs to have another conversation about not doing this to you and your team again.
...
1 reply by Kimberly Chavez
Aug 30, 2019 1:11 PM
Kimberly Chavez
...
Keith, thank you for your comprehensive and well thought out reply. The secondary challenge is that we have a service department that schedules resources and they will not share their service schedule with us so we have a lot of hoops to jump through to determine availability. I have asked the service department to provide a clip of the next two months lined up that I can present to sales leadership under the auspice that it will improve both of our departments to present to sales leadership the difficulties of deciding which project to sacrifice in order to make the current job possible. The hope is that it will gently nudge them into the realization they need to take corrective action. This may help preserve the synergy between departments on other issues but call that one out. Thank you so much for your response. It is very helpful.
Network:96



This reminds me of a place where I worked as a student in the summer. It was a aluminum awning and sunroom manufacturing company. The sales staff were paid based on commission and would promise the buyers anything to make the sale. As this was mostly a seasonal business due to the weather here in Canada, there was a small window to install the items which had been sold. Standard sales pitch was it will be ready in three weeks regardless of the production schedule, WIP, etc. So usually what happened, and it was quite funny to witness were angry customers calling and yelling because their sunroom hadn't yet been delivered and installed. So, it literally became crisis management in the shop, and essentially our schedule was based on whoever was screaming the loudest for their sunroom. Needless to say, the company never really prospered beyond a mom & pop shop.
...
1 reply by Kimberly Chavez
Aug 30, 2019 1:16 PM
Kimberly Chavez
...
That is a definite barrier for a small company to grow or even remain stable. I work in managing projects for a huge food processing equipment manufacturing business. Our customers are commercial and when their lines go down for a problem or an install at an inopportune time, they lose millions of dollars and jeopardize huge franchise contracts. Bottom line is that time is everything in this business and risk management is tricky at best.
Network:170



Aug 30, 2019 11:41 AM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
Kimberly-
As irritating as these situations can be, they can also be a great opportunity to demonstrate your skills as a PM both in your technical abilities, and your people-skills.

The basic principal behind my strategy is to be as professional and transparent as possible in sending a clear message that you are willing to develop and commit to a very aggressive plan, but you cannot commit to an impossible plan. Here is how I do exactly that (other than coming out and saying it).

1) Build a rough schedule for feasibility that demonstrates the gap between expectations and reality. The fact that you are basing your plan on facts and data and not panic goes a long way to establishing credibility.

2) Talk to your manager and let them know the situation, and that you need to dedicate your time, and probably need support from other teams to develop a better plan. That shows you are part of the solution, not the problem, where the problem comes from, and it starts getting communicated throughout the organization to get you the help. Let the sales person know about the gap and that you are working it aggressively.

3) Build the detailed schedule which illustrates the challenges, and clearly shows the gap. This is where you can demonstrate your technical skill. If you need resources, overtime, or a difficult conversation with the customer. This plan shows management the heroics required to address the unrealistic commitment. That can cause a lot of disruption so again, you are part of the solution.

4) If approved by your management, communicate the aggressive plan back to sales with the gap clearly shown. They need to have an uncomfortable discussion with the customer. If you need to explain it to the customer yourself, all the better. Now they know you are part of the solution too.

The sales person will probably try to argue that you have to make it work. It is critical that you remain calm, measured, and firm about the limits of the possible. Perhaps you can work the plan more, but the commitment requires many more people than just you. I always say that we can commit to the plan and trying to beat it, but if problems come up, that is the risk in highly aggressive plans.

5) Work aggressively to the plan, improving where you can, and being open about progress. Keep trying to find improvements, but keep laser focused on the critical path, and ask for help when needed. It is expected at that point that you will need help.

That approach demonstrates you are doing everything you can, it elevates the problem not by pointing fingers but by asking for support, and it allows the annoyed stakeholders in your department who are being disrupted by this situation to understand the root cause of the issue. Sometimes leadership needs to have another conversation about not doing this to you and your team again.
Keith, thank you for your comprehensive and well thought out reply. The secondary challenge is that we have a service department that schedules resources and they will not share their service schedule with us so we have a lot of hoops to jump through to determine availability. I have asked the service department to provide a clip of the next two months lined up that I can present to sales leadership under the auspice that it will improve both of our departments to present to sales leadership the difficulties of deciding which project to sacrifice in order to make the current job possible. The hope is that it will gently nudge them into the realization they need to take corrective action. This may help preserve the synergy between departments on other issues but call that one out. Thank you so much for your response. It is very helpful.
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