Outcome, not output, is what matters

Project management authority THERE ARE THREE types of people in this world: those who have a basic grasp of math and those who don't. Forty percent of the people in this world understand fractions and the other 75% have no clue. And there are two prototypical types of project managers: those who seek control by stopping chaos and those who seek control by creating chaos. Oh, don't sit there and give

Project management authority

THERE ARE THREE types of people in this world: those who have a basic grasp of math and those who don't. Forty percent of the people in this world understand fractions and the other 75% have no clue.

And there are two prototypical types of project managers: those who seek control by stopping chaos and those who seek control by creating chaos.

Oh, don't sit there and give me that funny look you give your wife after she tells you that your plan to go off " fishing" with the boys would be more believable if you actually owned a rod and reel.

You know, you know that you seek control when you're on the job. You have to since if you didn't, you'd be run over by the other subs and the GC and you wouldn't be doing your job. Of course you seek control and you actually do so 24/7. You wouldn't be human if you thought or acted otherwise. Seeking control is part of human nature.

So, do you use your influence to create the presence or absence of chaos?

It's important to think about this if you haven't, since it can affect your jobs' bottom-line profitability. One way is not more right or less wrong than the other. What's important is that you recognize your personal style of chaos management and balance it out a bit from time to time for your own mental health and to keep your "opponents" on the job a little off-balance.

Seeking control is part of human nature.

Since we somewhat geeky alpha male types are typically attracted to project management as a career because it offers the illusion of temporary power and control over a tiny microeconomic fiefdom, i.e., the job, it's no wonder that our profession attracts those who like to go in and kick butt, raise a ruckus, scare little children and frighten the horses because they think in doing so that they're actually doing "real" work.

I've got some news for you, if you're one of them and your bosses are too: Creation of chaos for its own sake doesn't put one more dime in the company's bottom-line profits. Neither does giving away the farm in job meetings just to be seen as a "good guy" and to prevent chaos on the job.

Just as stopping chaos does not indicate weakness on someone's part, neither does creating chaos indicate strength.

Stopping chaos for its own sake can cost the company money by being seen as a weakness that others can exploit. Conversely, being known as a jerk because all you do is cause trouble for everyone else on the job can lead to a lack of cooperation from your fellow project managers, which will lead ultimately to your job's bottom line being creamed.

Creating chaos does not indicate that you're working. Avoiding chaos does not indicate that you're lazy.

You, as an owner or senior manager, need to look past the style that a particular project manager uses to get the job done. Even though it might be painful if you've never done it before, examine the real, not just perceived, but the actual amount of net profit for each job as a percentage he's bringing in, both what you're paying him and as a portion of the company's overall return on investment.

The best project managers aren't johnny-one-notes who manage strictly by using one style over the other. They tend to be those who adapt to the set of players and circumstances for each job while being true to themselves and their basic personalities and make adjustments on the fly for that day on that job to get the job done.

So many owners and senior managers like myself come from "old school" backgrounds where the ability to out-drink another PM at the day's end in the job trailer or the ability to out-punch another one if that was what was called for was important.

The kind of project manager who could out-drink/out-fight/out-cuss his colleagues has been a dinosaur for a long, long time. We, as an industry, need to get past the illusion of project manager as romantic redneck warrior. He doesn't exist now except among the handful of true old-timers who are getting ready to retire soon anyway.

It doesn't matter if someone can manage three dozen jobs by trying to keep everyone on those jobs off-balance with his now-childish antics and threats, vs. someone else who can only manage a dozen or so jobs in his quiet, peaceful way because he's paying close attention to every penny spent and earned.

What matters is outcome not output. What matters is how much someone earns for you and how much they cost you to do so. What matters is how much money they put in the company's coffers, not how they do it as long as they do so ethically.

What ultimately matters at the end of the day is that in 100 years from now the money made will be gone and forgotten but the echo of how that money was made will still be out there in the ether, influencing future generations to come.

H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He can be reached by calling 919/291-0878, or via e-mail at [email protected]. His Website is hkentcraig.com.