I should by now have finished a job that required a client manager to work with me to install a cost-to-serve process that produces true customer and channel account profitability every month.
We spent many hours before the job started agreeing how much of the relevant manager's time would be made available to fulfil his obligations to the process. However, he was not released from his other duties to work on the project. As a result the project is weeks late and there is still no end in sight to the resource blockage. The client is apologetic. His business is wasting money as a result of not understanding where real profits are made. Other projects are also falling behind for the same resource-related reason. This client is not the only one to suffer from what we might call the 'optimistic day job syndrome'.
The problem results from the way directors think through project work occupying operational managers' time. There is an implicit belief that every manager can take on project work in addition to his 'day job'. When that day job includes dealing with customer complaints and resolving operational matters, the day job always takes priority.
Since this problem occurred at my client I have, with the client's consent, delayed two other projects where I feel this issue has not been fully covered. I remember when a new chief executive came into a large brewing business a few years ago, he found tens of projects, all delayed and underperforming. He cut the projects down to a manageable number and they were all re-resourced. They all then delivered!
Part of the problem is that a manager offered a chance to work on a project finds it hard to say no. It is the directors' responsibility to ensure that core projects are correctly resourced. Project delays are bad for morale and profits.
If you have several projects running concurrently, you must have someone managing the programme of change as well as the individual projects.
Tim Knowles is partner at supply chain consultancy TKA.