Project Mismanagement: What To Do With The Brute Force Auto Executives

Regular readers – maybe those who have clicked the “Follow” button (hint, hint) — know the basic structure of my articles: a leading statement, followed by supporting data and links, which is frequently summed-up by an “Author’s Note” at the bottom. This latter part might contain some editorial content punctuated with a playful quip, but most of the article(s) are facts. OK, maybe a little opinion sprinkled between the black text, but sparingly.

Today, though, I’m outright venting.

As someone who previously oversaw Profit and Loss (P&L) for a business, I am appalled by the nearly ubiquitous ignorance within the automotive industry for measuring and supervising “What will it take to accomplish this, and are we on track to deliver?” In theory, that’s an executive’s job: manage to commitment. Yet, when surveying directors about how they know to adjust either the delivery date, the intended activities or the team size accordingly, I feel like quoting Star-Lord by saying, “C’mon, [the customer] is going to be here in two seconds, and he expects to hear this big plan of ours. I need your help.”

In fact, most of the management I see are themselves quasi-Han Solos or Star-Lords, less the “hero” part. The Solos are, by far, the most common executive: “Make it happen without more people or time” is the corporate mentally, which wreaks of Solo shutting up C3PO before steering into an asteroid field; ignore the data and proceed forward with brute force. Not far away is the less common executive: the quasi-Star-Lord who has 12% of a plan. That usually plays out with the battle cry “This is a huge contract and I understand we don’t have enough people. Just get started and we’ll figure it out later.” And then nothing gets figured out. Never enough people. Never a clear understanding. No, most of our anti-heroes are failing reality due to no overarching, transparent strategy with adjustments made upon what the team can actually accomplish (a.k.a. “velocity”). It’s just a “get ’er done” aggressiveness.

Alright, alright … fine. Enough opining. Then let’s check the facts from the 2023 Key Project Management Statistics to prove my point:

· “The percentage of companies that make project management a priority is only 46%.

· 67% of projects fail due to the undervaluation of project management (NOTE: a 2020 PMI study found “only 58% of organizations fully understand the value of project management”)

· 52% of survey respondents claimed to be somewhat or very dissatisfied with [the] existing level of PM maturity in their companies.

· Only 23% of companies utilize software programs specifically designed for project management.

· About 44% of all managers do not believe in the importance of PM software.”

As a specific example, a 2023 automotive researcher (who asked to remain anonymous) recently investigated the roles and outputs of an approximately 400-person, software-development organization and found only 24% of the staff was able to code, 68% identified themselves as project managers and no work products suggested a management understanding of status versus the commitment dates.

No shock: that project is way behind schedule, which requires many PM’s to babysit the developers. The circle of life.

In the end, the financial impacts of such mismanagement on the P&L are palpable. According to BusinessWire, all of the failures above translate to $1M USD wasted every second by organizations around the world with nearly half (48%) of all projects not completed on-time. In fact, the same study suggests these highly-paid Star-Lords and Solos waste 9.9% of all project funds with incompetence. Unmeasurable opportunity costs piled atop significant fixed costs.

Not included in those financial statistics, though, are the revenue effects from morale, turnover, etc. from arduous projects and brute force management. A 2019 study by DDI showed 57% of employees quit because of their boss and one of the top two sources of stress was “… not enough time to do everything ….” In response to a recent spoof on social media (see above), multiple commenters lamented such frustration. “I don’t appreciate the hurtful insinuation that we could be doing our jobs better when we could all collectively care less,” stated dangitjustlemme5. Another Instagram viewer commented that it sometimes feels like you’re getting your kidneys removed, while someone else tweeted “We product people don’t need Netflix or Prime, we’re living the drama …”

So here’s my radical solution: repurpose all of those Project Managers as developers and have the management track the statistics. Force them to understand more than Siri tells them about Agile or, if stubbornness persists, force THEM to suffer the consequences of the painful, last-second scurrying beset on all sides by firefighting and babysitting.

I know. This sounds harsh. But without taking the time to learn how to effectively monitor and adjust they are either costing other jobs (due to lost revenue) or evacuating talent (due to nearly half the staff leaving).

Until then, Han Solo will continue say, “Uh, everything’s under control. Situation normal … we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh … everything’s perfectly alright now. We’re fine.” (And then Han shoots the machine in desperation.)

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

Steve Tengler

Post A Comment

Subscribe for Post Updates