Productivity For Managers: The Bullshit Barometer

by Randy Murray on September 3, 2013

Businesses are slow to learn that the best managers are rarely promoted from the ranks of the most talented workers. Managing is a skill and talent in an of itself. Don’t take your best welder, programmer, or luthier and promote this person so that they no longer weld, program, or make stringed instruments. Do this without any management training, support, or experience you’re likely to end up with less welding, fewer completed programs, and perhaps no usable violins.

Great managers have been trained to work with schedule and resources. They learn to create environments where people can do their best work. They need to know what it takes to get the job done, not necessarily to able to do the job themselves. When the customer or upper management requires a task or deliverable, a great manager will know how to meet that schedule or to negotiate for a more realistic one. That means both training and experience. And when an experienced manager is faced with a new, never before performed task, they need something specific to the management discipline. They need a tool to know when a staff member is either padding the time necessary for the task or significantly underestimating it.

I call it the “bullshit barometer.”

Yes, protect your tender ears if you must, but there are times when a manager has to call bullshit on a claim. Managers for specific areas may not have to actually do the job, the task, but they need a clear and detailed understanding of what it takes to get it done. It’s bad when someone pads their schedule, but it’s worse when they underestimate it and can’t meet the delivery schedule that they agreed to. Managers are judged good or bad on how regularly they meet the delivery schedule with high quality, on budget work. To do that means that managers need to know what it takes to get a job done and to create the environment where that work can be done.

How does one develop such a barometer? By starting small and being closely involved in projects. Big projects with long term deliverables are extremely difficult to pull off. I’ve had my share of successes and failures managing projects like this. And here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Any deliverable more than a month out is an unknown.
  • Workers who won’t report weekly progress and SHOW their progress need closer management.
  • Daily and weekly deliverables with real, measurable goals are what get projects completed on time.
  • Some of the most experienced workers are more likely to introduce bullshit into the project. They know where they can get away with padding or believe that they can make up lost time with a final, last minute push. Watch out for this.
  • Customers and upper management often ask for or demand things that are unrealistic because they don’t have enough information. It’s your job to provide them with clear information about what a project really takes. When they have this info and STILL ask for the unreasonable things, be prepared to protect your staff.

Calling bullshit doesn’t have to be confrontational—that’s counterproductive. A manager who is paying attention and knows what it takes to get projects done simply needs to know when to ask for more details and build a level of trust with those they manage by managing well and protecting their staff from the vagaries of customers and upper management.

Productivity For Managers: The Bullshit Barometer by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: