Sunday, February 11, 2007

The vacuum of power

As opposed to a powerful vacuum. Actually, they both have something in common: they both suck hard.

Faded has asked the question more than once: where's the project manager on Pomme de Terre to notice all the personnel tomfoolery? I've said before that Howie is so wrapped up in general management issues on Pomme de Terre that he's not able to dedicate proper time to monitoring the production of drawings on it. Strangely, I've forgotten one huge factor in the Pomme de Terre situation which, or rather who, is conspicuous by her absence: Jacqueline.

Jacqueline has been a licensed architect for about five or six years and has been at DA for almost as long. After proving her professional skill and merit on a large hospital and clinic project a few years ago, Jacqueline earned a place on Howie's team to help master plan Pomme de Terre. Fast forward a few years, and Jacqueline is designated the lead on the design team for the new Pomme de Terre hospital with emphasis on design and drawing production. Right after Thanksgiving, Jacqueline (call her by her full name, none of this "Jackie" stuff) asked me if I'd have some time to do the space planning for just one department on Pomme de Terre. Now, two months later, I can't get away from it. It's like the Mafia: you try to get out, but it keeps pulling you back in.

Jacqueline has been called a bitch many times. These names have always been tossed around behind her back, but she's completely aware of her reputation...and she gives less than one tenth of one rat poop about it. And dammit, I can respect her for that. Jacqueline's attitude is that given her responsibilities and work load, she occasionally is just gonna have to step on some toes and pull rank. Not to open a can of worms in the gender wars here, but I sense that if a man acted the way she did, no one would bat an eye.

So, to my point. Jacqueline spent most of 2006 expecting a baby and finally delivered it on New Year's Eve. She plans to take the full twelve weeks for her maternity leave, so we don't expect her back until the end of March. However, Howie never specifically (as far as I can tell) told anyone, "You're in charge of interior design, you're in charge of files, and you're in charge of consultant coordination." Liz had the job of exterior building design before Jacqueline left for maternity leave, but that's it. Leslie, who like me is working on this project part time until her real project starts, seems to have inherited the interior space planning authority of Jacqueline's. Somehow--and I'm still not sure if Howie did this or what--Wanda got placed in charge of the file and sheet structure, even though she has the least experience of our team with our software system.

If Jacqueline was still in the office, she would be in contact with those of us doing the drawings more than Howie, of course, and she might even sit in on some of our CAD and project meetings. Ultimately, she would notice the personnel issues we're having right now, put her foot down, and state here's how it's going to be, people. But she's not here, and her absence leaves her team with a vacuum of power that Howie really hasn't filled and doesn't have the time to engage and fully understand what's up with the people drawing this building. A good manager, my buddy Vito says, is nosy but not a micromanager. He or she annoys you with inquiries: how's it going? Any problems? Do you have what you need? Are you gonna be able to make the deadline? How's it going? How are the consultants? How does it look?

Sadly, Howie is more likely to be an occasional micromanager than a nosy manager. Because he used to be so good and so fast at CAD, he has very strict rules as to how he wants his drawings not just to be drawn, but how the files go together. With the advances in CAD since he stopped drawing and started managing five years ago, many of his rules make things harder or they're just obsolete. He insisted that we do the files a certain way on Wheatlands and just wouldn't listen to my explanations of why what he was asking was going to make things harder. When the meeting ended, the intern sitting with Howie and me and watching our heated debate like a tennis match asked me, "So, um, what are we gonna do?" I looked at him, cocked an eyebrow, and said, "He's never gonna open these drawings and work in them. We're gonna do it our way, the way that actually works and makes things easy." My intern grinned. We did it our way, and it all worked out, and Howie was none the wiser.

But I digress. The point is, the woman who usually would be stepping in on the PdT madness is enjoying her new bundle of joy at home, and the guy who should be stepping in is so used to his smaller projects running on autopilot that he's not putting his attention in the right places on this huge project.


faded said...

Has he started to lose money on the project yet? All those frustrating meeting hours have to get charged to the project. When he looks at the time sheets maybe he will have a "learning experience."

Where would you like to send the case of beer?

Mile High Pixie said...

Evidently this project is so well funded that it's not a problem...yet. But depending on what part of the project you're working on, you might be out of money. The budget and billing on this project alone are worth their own post.

Mile High Pixie said...

And send the beer to Guy. Myself, I'm a dry chardonnay fan. :-P