Friday, May 30, 2008

101 Details

I love projects. Projects with deadlines and some pressure to accomplish out-of-the-ordinary things are perhaps my favorite. What is fun about projects in small companies is that you are in charge of all the details, make all the arrangements, you are the main contact person for every issue and so you have a good idea of how everything is falling into place and know who to call when something happens. That is the fun part. You are the captain of the ship.

The problem is that it is a very small ship and you often have little or no resources or amenities while accomplishing your task.

When you have a project in a very large company, you are not the captain. You have to coordinate with multiple departments, many of whom make decisions without your input, or your knowledge. You probably don't know all the players or even what all the departments do, which may mean that you don't know who to talk to if, say, your phones get shut off 10 days prior to the office move. You may not have any idea who Matt is when someone mentions his name in passing, or even be aware that he has the ultimate say over the scheduling of things.
On the other hand, working for a large corporation means you have a lot of resources and amenities at your disposal. It means that you won't be up at 3 in the morning fixing the network, because you have an IT department who has people who take care of that. It means that you don't have to negotiate with the mover, the electrician, the phone company, the old landlord, the new landlord, etc.

I liken it to the difference between riding a skidoo and being captain of a cruise ship. If you see something in the water on your skidoo, you zip around it or stop on a dime. If you see something in the water from the cruise ship, you better see it from a long way off if you need to stop or go around it. It takes a ship 3/4 to 1 1/2 miles to stop. Changing course in a large company can work the same way. This is proper, because the separation of duties provides protection for the company as a whole and it's stockholders against theft, misappropriation of funds, information theft, etc., but it often means you can't change course quickly, and misinformation once spread can be very difficult to fix.

So part of managing a large corporate project is the ability to learn and keep track of who does what. And now I'm off to attend to detail #102.