ERP Project Manager Diary: Questions of Competence

Day 20

Well we had the executive committee review today, and Marla said it went pretty well, in her opinion. Of course, she has a pretty low bar; she considers any executive review in which the project is not summarily terminated to be successful. I have pretty mixed feelings about how it went.

For instance, I thought I did a pretty credible job in setting up the “Base unit of measure” issues for discussion. With relatively few bullet points, I was able to quickly convey both the complexity and importance of the decision. That part went well. When I finished, however, there was a pregnant pause in the room, and when it became apparent that I was waiting on a response, the CFO finally said, “So what do you want us to do?” I replied that since this was a pretty critical decision, I was hoping the executive committee would discuss it and make the decision. To which the CFO said, “What is your recommendation?”, and I responded honestly that I’d listened to almost three hours of debate over the previous two weeks, and it was not clear to me that one side was more compelling than the other. Sensing blood in the water, the VP of operations jumped in. “It seems like if you’re going to ask us to make all the decisions, then we don’t really need you, do we?”

Well, Diary, this was a different place than I thought I would be in at this point; I had imagined myself facilitating a fascinating discussion among our company’s best business thinkers, not defending my competence. I had not expected to have to do that until I told them about the Certificate of Analysis gap we had.

The VP of purchasing inadvertently came to my rescue by pulling Marla into the conversation. “Marla,” he said, “as a consultant, you’ve worked with lots of different companies. What does everybody else do?” This helped me regain my composure, since Marla had adamantly refused to take sides in this debate, and she could help convince the executive committee that this was a big enough decision that it really was worthy of their attention. “Oh, almost every progressive company chooses metric”, she said offhandedly. The CFO looked at me, mildly incredulous, with his palms up. “Tell me again why we are talking about this?” At that point, it was clearly time to bail. I replied that even though there was no need for the executive committee to be dealing with this issue, just being able to articulate it to them had so clarified the critical factors in my mind that I was now prepared to make the decision and move on. The director of IT asked what that decision was, and I could only nod my head confidently in his direction and say, “The obvious one,” as if he and I had always been on the same wavelength.

No, I’m not sure this meeting went well.

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