Thursday 19 January 2006

Professional reputations in a rotten job

False facts force fiddles
Angst is never an emotion or state of mind one finds oneself grappling with. In professional life, it rarely ever features, since I project myself as an expert and authority in the field where the knowledge goods find a market.
This really became a dilemma when I took on a short term contract to help sort out some problems which were affecting the technical relationship between my employer and their client.
It so transpires that over the last year, they had been discussing the execution of this project such that many questions were asked, some answers were given and we can agree that some of those answers would make a jury take a negative view of evidence before them.
Business lies
Basically, there were misrepresentations which lead to certain conclusions that formed the basis of executing the project.
Businesses embark on projects hopefully as a business improvement or enhancement exercise knowing that every eventual benefit might incur an initial cost in resources, time and money.
In this case, the client already had a ceiling of costs for a project which under nominal circumstances would have had an implementation floor well above the projected and agreed costs.
GF≠C is ideal
For some, that would be a bargain, but we all know that even if your service terms were Good, Fast and Cheap, juxtaposing them would provide different results.
+        Fast and Cheap is usually not Good (Bad)
+        Good and Fast is usually not Cheap (Ideal)
+        Good and Cheap is usually not Fast (Acceptable)
In this case, the project manager having presented the ideal plan had the Sales People pare it down to the acceptable and they all ended up with a bad agreement, I now have to square that up to the ideal.
With the wealth of knowledge and expertise I bring in as well as being a resource to execute the project, a lot can be done, but none of which does well to approach the fundamental implementation floor worthy of any recognition.
My role however was one of either trying to resolve the prevailing problems or a complete re-design of the project, the former had mileage, and the latter was long dead in water.
In resolving the problems, some radical action had to be taken which for posterity would have my name attached till when some sensible assessment of what went wrong initially and that is corrected.
Speak for me - forever
I could speak for myself whilst on the project and in the company, but once I leave, having done what the customer required though that requirement falls way below my professional judgment, it makes one wonder who would speak up for me when another expert reviews the project further down the line.
My concerns for that lead me to consider walking away from the project.
I sought succour from mentors and friends which simply confirmed the notion that it would always be my call.
Weighing the consequences of protecting my professional integrity or probably pride by walking away, or trying to make the best of a bad situation by making myself available as a resource to implement what the customer wants with the best expertise I could offer.
Just not on
In choosing the latter, I had already remonstrated about the issues that were raised in negotiating the terms of the project
+        from the false assertion that they had experts of my calibre who had executed the project not only badly but wrongly;
+        the apparent lack of candour where claim and counter-claim pervaded the atmosphere till the real truth emerged in a forum of all parties;
+        the quest to cover-up the mess by subterfuge rather than owning up to the mistakes made
Those amongst many other little but significant issues have been addressed and would need to be reviewed again as this project hopefully comes to a close.
Egg-spurt needs egg on face
The only annoying bit remains that the in-house expert who has expertly made a hash of this project has not accepted the folly of his actions enough to leave this to the hired expert to first resolve and then handover with the opportunity to learn.
For me, it is a humbling experience which in other circumstances would have seen my walk out, the risk of humiliation looms but is distant from the fact that they all well know that I kicked up a right old fuss.
Once again, I thank my mentors and friends for their advice, soothing words and useful guidance, they are friends, indeed.
This time has been instructive, the people quite challenging and the project, well definitely interesting. Go figure!

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