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Management by the numbers - a small part of my journey


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Reading the published papers and books, looking at the available tools and aids, it would be easy to gain the impression that the management function was well understood, cut and dried, and largely mechanistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even in the far slower era of the 1960s and 70s it was a complex and unpredictable art, fraught with surprises, unseen difficulties and entirely unscheduled events.

In this far faster era (circa 2017) we suffer the compound effects of shorter project times, distributed teams, shorter people dwell times, and the shifting sands of accelerating technology. Managers we expected to marshal the resources, orchestrate what is available, hit the delivery targets on time and on budget. It is quite an act, and sees the most successful managers also adopting the role of ‘leader’ to steer through the labyrinth of technical, design, production, delivery and support problems whilst placating the demand of politics finance, marketing and sales.

I have been doing this since the 1970s on a wide range of projects spanning £100,000 to £5, 000,000,000 with staffing number between 3 and >3000. And in every case the problems surrounding technology, fabrication, delivery and support to a given specification are insignificant to those related to people! Here we address many real-life experience, the ‘gotchas’ and the ‘get outs’, highlighting good and bad practices along with the qualities than make a good manager and leader.

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Management by the numbers - a small part of my journey

  1. 1. m a n a g e m e n t By the numbers, experience, intuition, thinking P e t e r C o c h r a n e uk The realities of managing in a complex and fast changing world….
  2. 2. B o o k s & Pa p e r s Appear to be mostly idealistic • Company sales, marketing, delivery, support, legal on side • Main board and other departments/units in agreement • Well behaved customer, people and marketplace • Company product offerings and policies aligned • Necessary technologies mature & available • Full completion possible in the time frame • Clearly defined/documented objectives • All potential solutions - tried & tested • Deliveablels defined/understood • Supporting groups on board • The right people in place • All resources available • A full budget agreed In my entire career this has never been 100% true In the worst cases most or none of this has been in place !
  3. 3. B o o k s & Pa p e r s Exhibit incomplete understanding
  4. 4. B o o k s & Pa p e r s Exhibit incomplete understanding R&D Unit Emmergency Design Phase Production Delivery Too simplistic and probably concocted by someone with little or no real management experience
  5. 5. s i m p l i s t i c t h i n k i n g If only everything could be put into boxes None of these things exist in isolation…they are all related and connected People make mistakes, tell lies, falsify data, conceal errors and mistakes….
  6. 6. s i m p l i s t i c t h i n k i n g There is an infinity of wisdoms and diagrams “If you are good to your people when the are times are good they will rally when the times are hard” “Build a diverse and capable team of people smarter than you” I have never seen an all embracing set of statements or diagrams Mostly common sense and obvious… who would recruit a team of idiots ??
  7. 7. e a s y t o s ay h a r d t o d o A lot of this is written in the old religious texts Where in this spectrum of approach will you sit and how effective will you be - sadist or saviour ?
  8. 8. n e v e r m i s s a n o p p o r t u n i t y To learn from the bad, mediocre, good and the brilliant • If you witness or experience something bad - don’t emulate it, try to correct it ! • If you witness or experience something good - emulate and propagate it ! • If you do something that works repeat it - encourage others to follow on ! • If you something bad or make an error - don’t repeat, and say sorry ! • Protect your team/company from threats - internal and external ! • Communicate clearly and early - up, down and sideways ! • To get your team to fail fast - close down and restart !
  9. 9. s o m e p e r s o n a l c h o i c e s When the game is over you have to live in your own skin • You may employ ’N’ people but you impact ’N’ families - spouse and children • Afford all your people the same care consideration - training and education • Be fair, reasonable, considered and supportive - look for the best in people • Promote (in the widest sense) your team members - at every opportunity • Your team is in your gift - look upon them as you would your children • Involve your team in your thinking and decisions - highs and lows • Defend your team against any form of aggression - and threat • Be ethical, honest, truthful, open, candid - never hide anything
  10. 10. p e r s o n a l E x p e r i e n c e s Unlikely to be in any book - they are real life choices “You rarely have all the information you need and it is always better to make a decision than to ‘suck your thumb’….a wrong decision can be corrected, but no decision just magnifies the impending damage”
  11. 11. p e r s o n a l E x p e r i e n c e s Unlikely to be in any book - they are real life choices “Sometimes you have to do the right thing and put your job on the line - you have to make the right decision for your people, the company, the shareholders and the country - as apposed to electing to choose a path that enhances your career and gaining greater rewards”
  12. 12. p e r s o n a l E x p e r i e n c e s Unlikely to be in any book - they are real life choices “You are not running a popularity contest you are trying to achieve a company and team success - you are trying to get ordinary people to do the extraordinary, and you are trying to get the exceptional people to work miracles - you are the manager, the leader, the coach and the driving force”
  13. 13. p e r s o n a l E x p e r i e n c e s Unlikely to be in any book - they are real life choices “I have never had a management role where I haven’t had to assume the role as leader, champion and arbiter”
  14. 14. M a n a g e m e n t r e a l i t y You are travelling at speed with incomplete vision • Spec changes • Mission creep • Team changes • Supplier failures • Fickle customer • Budget squeezes • Market pressures • Deadline changes • Competing needs • Transient support • Technology change • Order scale change • Management changes • Shareholder demands • Strategic internal/customer changes • Political and government changes • Legal and environmental rulings • Competing product offerings • New price point negotiated • Internal conflict of interest • Unforeseen M&A activity • New features demanded • Budget/people squeezes • Operating arena change • Deliverables delayed • Hidden agendas • ++++
  15. 15. s i t u a t i o n a w a r e n e s s Remain flexible, adaptable and ready to change
  16. 16. C o m m u n i c a t i o n i s k e y Might seem obvious/trivial but turns out to be difficult • Never assume that people are telling you the full detail/facts/truth • Never assume that people understand what you said and meant • Targets are generally achieved/met by people bending the truth • In general 3 - 5 KPIs extol the truth but >10 illicit falsehoods • KPIs are very often achieved by people fiddling the numbers • If 10 people are in a meeting then it is 10 different meetings • Finance/sales/marketing, seldom have the correct numbers • Personell are there to observe you and not help and assist
  17. 17. W o r t h w h i l e k n i f e f i g h t On the biggest of projects you need finance & personnel onside • Finance and personnel are support functions they earn nothing • In big companies finance and personnel try to run the show • You may have to remind them that you pay their salaries • The only reason they were born is to help you succeed • You need finance/personnel on your team - not distant!
  18. 18. f o r m a l m e t h o d o l o g i e s PRINCE - Projects IN Controlled Environments Most of thi s i s the f o r m a l i s a t i o n o f g o o d p r a c t i c e a n d e x p e r i e n c e stemming from the i n d u s t r i a l r e v o l u t i o n u p t o m o r e r e c e n t i n d u s t r y developments…. … i t i s a f o r m a l p r o c e s s t h a t h e l p s m i n i m i s e e r ro r s a n d k e e p t h i n g s o n t r a c k - i t d o e s n o t g u a r a n t e e s u c c e s s !
  19. 19. T H E C O M P L E X R E A L I T Y Formalisation methods cannot overcome scale S o m e p r o j e c t s a r e n o w s o l a r g e a n d c o m p l e x t h e y cannot be organised and orchestrated by hum an mi nds…. …i t is t he machines t h a t d o a l l t h i s , a n d i n t h e e x t r e m e , a m a c h i n e m a y b e t h e ul tim ate manager
  20. 20. T O O L S A n d P R O C E S S PERT - Process Evaluation & Review Technique
  21. 21. GANTT (Henry 1910) - Scheduling & Progress SEE Karol Adamiecki in 1896 T O O L S A n d P R O C E S S
  22. 22. There is a near endless ‘galaxy of tools’ available T O O L S A n d P R O C E S S
  23. 23. A p p r o p r i a t e n e s s Don’t use a sledge hammer to crack a walnut Yo u m i g h t u s e P R I N C E o r s o m e o t h e r f o r m a l m e t h o d t o b u i l d a n a i rc r a f t b u t n o t t o b u y a p e n c i l ! !
  24. 24. R E A L M a n a g e m e n t E x p e r i e n c e Recollections and reality spanning 1980 to Today TAT 81980 project start 1986 cable into service - Retired 2002 Connecting UK - France - USA by the first transatlantic cable Artificial Ocean Quarry & Trawls A fleet of 6 ships Anchors & Chains L a y i n g E q u i p m e n t Monitoring Systems Recovery Equipment Shipboard Equipment Accelerated Life Test Submarine Cable Test Measurement Systems Laboratories Clean Rooms C h i p D e s i g n Circuit Design System Design Chip Fabrication Optical Fibre Test Power Feed Design Surge/Failure Testing Soft Failure Monitoring Undersea Repair Strategy Cost ~ £350M People ~ 3000 Countries = 4 Companies = 7 Sea depth < 4.5 km Cable Span ~ 67000 km Capacity = 2 x 280Mbit/s Repeater span 41 - 65 km Optical = 1.3 𝜇m 0.25dB/km
  25. 25. D ay 1 s i t u a t i o n C o n n e c t U K - F ra n c e - U SA TAT 81980 no technology available, only a statement of intent and a budget !!!
  26. 26. D ay 1 s i t u a t i o n C o n n e c t U K - F ra n c e - U SA TAT 81980 all we had was an analogue legacy of discrete technologies +++
  27. 27. T H E B i g g e s t c h a l l e n g e s D e l e g a t i o n - p ro b l e m s o l v i n g - o r c h e s t ra t i o n TAT 8Pe r f e c t i o n - t h e e n e m y o f p r o g r e s s People - the biggest asset/nightmare
  28. 28. W h a t i t b e c a m e A w h o l l y c o n n e c t e d p l a n e t Internet Science Network Financial Network Telephone Network Engineering Network Primary Wealth Manager Logistics Control Network +++++ Nervous System of The Planet
  29. 29. W h a t i t b e c a m e A n e w g l o b a l m e g a - i n d u s t r y
  30. 30. R E A L M a n a g e m e n t E x p e r i e n c e Recollections and reality spanning 1990 to Today 1998 Project start 1999 Started trading - Sold 2002 The first on-line travel agent in the EU - £0 - £1Bn in 4 years Originated from my ABTA lecture in Marbella September 2008 First planning meeting October 2008 Funding of £55M raised in November 2008 First prototype system built December 2008 Open for business and trading in January 2009 Immediate growth @ 35$/ month continuing to 2002 Achieved £1Bn turnover (not valuation) by end of year 2003
  31. 31. R E A L M a n a g e m e n t E x p e r i e n c e Recollections and reality spanning 1990 to Today 1995 Project start 1996 Started trading - Closed 2003 An ‘idea - to market incubator’ in Silicon Valley People came to us with good ideas and gtechnology but without the experience of how to create a product and get it to market. We provided a 'soup to nuts' support infrastructure spanning idea cultivation through to a full IPO. ConceptLabs was a one stop shop for tech and business creatives.We took the pain away by providing money, advice, skills, and management capability to help you build your company Started by me and Rao Machiraju and 12 people out of Apple ATG who were ‘put out to grass’ by Steve Jobs Simple Business Model: ConceptsLabs worked for a share of the companies created – we invested our own money along side theVCs that supported us in this new and, at the time, highly innovative venture.
  32. 32. B o n V o y a g e ! I need to There has never been a more exciting time to be entering the world of work…and during your lifetime everything will accelerate to become more powerful I need to join the dots Add