Monday, August 6, 2012

She's So Logical!

“So tell me about your experience with Tech Team,” said Tyler Gitou. “What do they do well and what can they improve?”

Tyler picked up the coffee cup that Frances Forte had placed in front of him on the conference table.

Tyler had asked Frances, the Chief Operating Officer of a large manufacturing company, to meet with him to discuss issues around the installation of a new finance and accounting system.

Tech Team, the service provider, had made some errors early in the project and Peter Pompel, the project executive for Tech Team, claimed Frances was difficult to work with because she was always “so emotional.” Peter called Tyler Gitou, the Deal Whisperer, to see if he could bring some “calm” to the relationship.

Tyler told Peter that he might be the victim of “persistent perception”; wrongly believing women in business are more emotional than men.

Frances sat down in a chair next to Tyler and sighed.

“Honestly, Mr. Gitou? Tech Team has provided an excellent group to work on this. But they frustrate the heck out of me,” she said.

“Really? How so?”

“Well, Tech Team came on site five months ago to replace our in-house finance and accounting software with a commercial product,” said Frances. “We don’t usually work with companies as small as these guys, but I got good references on them so I threw my weight behind them winning the bid.”

“So to some extent your reputation is tied to the success of that decision?” Tyler asked.

“No,” Frances laughed. “Not ‘to some extent.’ It is completely tied into that decision! If this is not successful, I am out of a job. Once the original Tech Team staff showed they couldn't get the job done, a more senior group, with Peter Pompel, was sent in.”

“Are you concerned that Peter and this new senior group from Tech Team may not be successful?” Tyler asked.

“I’m not sure,” Frances said. “And that’s what frustrates me. When I talk to Peter and ask how are things going, he says ‘All is well.’ But I know that’s not true because my team tells me things that are going wrong.”

“Do you think Peter is lying to you?” Tyler asked.

“I just don’t think he’s giving me the full story. Whenever he says to me ‘all is well’ I get annoyed because it feels like he is trying to keep something from me. So I start asking questions and digging deeper into the progress of the schedule. Then he tells me more and I get irritated that I have to work so hard to get the information I need.”

“So these are problems that are lingering and not getting solved?”

Frances sipped from her coffee. “That’s what makes this such a challenge. They are solving the problems, but they are not telling me that. So basically I have a situation where Peter and his team want me to think everything is going perfectly. And I understand why they would want to do that after the first team messed up. But I know a project like this has mistakes and issues. I’d rather hear about the issues and how our teams are working through them together rather than have to interrogate Peter to get the real story on the project’s progress.”

“Especially because the success of the project has such important personal implications for you,” Tyler said.

“Exactly,” Frances said. “If this is all going to be a big failure I’d rather be a part of it, not a bystander. Peter seems to think keeping me out of the loop will bring me peace of mind. He knows how important this is to me and that I am behind him. But he needs to be more transparent. Frankly, he needs to trust me more.”

“That is a very valuable message for him. Your point of view on this is completely logical and your frustration regarding his lack of communication is perfectly understandable. I would also be frustrated if someone was handling something for me of such great importance and not providing me data on how it was going.”

“What would you recommend I do?” Frances asked.

“I would suggest a set communication plan where Peter provides an issue list and the action plan to resolve those issues. What would your schedule allow for?”

“I could do something every Tuesday and Thursday morning early. Let’s say 30 minutes.

“That’s a good idea,” Tyler said. “If he knows that you expect issues to arise and are prepared to discuss the remediation plan twice a week, he will likely be more forthcoming on the data.”

“That would be great,” Frances said. “I am sorry, I have to prepare for a meeting with the board of directors now. It was a pleasure to meet with you.”

“Thank you, Ms. Forte. I will share with Peter your well-reasoned approach.”

Next: See "He's So Wrong!"