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Do We Live in the Marvel Universe?

Depending on a superhero is never a good strategy, in the Marvel Universe or in engineering services. Leadership should make sure to provide staff with the right tools and processes to succeed.

As I watched a marathon of Marvel movies this weekend to prepare for the impending release of Captain Marvel, I could not help but draw parallels between that exciting world of superheroes and my fun domain, engineering services.

The villains
Like any story to tell, villains play a major role as the prime antagonists, weaving fear and terror. In my world, that would be the super villains, Cost and Schedule, led by that deviously elusive and ever-changing mastermind, Quality. As we execute multiple projects in various domains, cost overruns and schedule slippages are prevalent and our brave project managers walk the thin lines of customer satisfaction and employee performance to navigate our committed timelines. Then they encounter the mega villain Quality, who at best is vaguely defined at the beginning, and continues to change as space and time progresses.

The crisis
When all three villains raise their collective heads, a major crisis arises and multiple worlds in our universe collide. The dreaded management escalations, daily meetings, reports for reports, overtime, weekend calls all come together into a whirlwind of activity and the poor project managers have no choice but to call out “Help! I need a hero!”

Enter the superhero
When all hope seems lost and we face a future without a key customer, we reach out to all avenues to try to find one last ray of hope to pull us out of our troubles. From deep within our extended organization comes this great superhero, with tools and tricks to not only get the work done but also to manage customer expectations. He flies in (business class), soothes leadership with his suave presentations of problem statement, does a deep dive with the technical team to identify key issues, meets with the customer to provide a day-by-day status of issue resolution and in short order, sets us back onto the right track. Customer is appeased, regular work hours resume, leadership goes back to golfing and our brave project manager starts marching again towards a new timeline.

Collateral damage
In this entire story of good triumphing over evil, what we fail to notice, like NYC in the Marvel Universe, the massive amount of collateral damage that has occurred to defeat the master villains. Our customers and our team now have altered expectations of capability and think all projects will have a superhero, showing them the right way. The superhero will return to his day job, or worse, get promoted to leadership and take up golf. The team that did the work before the superhero arrived and who also were instrumental in the recovery will feel slighted with lack of recognition and may decide to seek greener pastures. The brave project manager is now left to pick of the pieces of unrealistic customer expectations, potential cost over-runs, disillusioned team members and no long-term solution to handling the villains should they get out of jail in the near future.

The moral
Dependence on a superhero is never a good strategy, in the Marvel Universe or in engineering services. Providing our engineers and project managers with the right tools and processes to manage the villainy of Cost, Schedule and Quality should be the responsibility of everyone in leadership. A focus on quality with first-time-right metrics, reviews and frequent audits will allow for minor course corrections and may prevent small issues from developing into full-blown catastrophic crises, which will keep the likes of myself on the golf course admiring our simply amazing tee-shots.

Want to know more about how EASi can keep your projects on track without the services of a superhero? Contact us now.