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15 April 2011

Giving Them All The Information They Need

A few months ago, one of my stakeholders told me what has come to be one of the most amusing stories I've heard in my career. I think about it often as I think it perfectly illustrates why those of us who work on projects do what we do. Let me share this one with you as I think you'll come to appreciate it as much as I do.

My stakeholder, who I'll call Trevor, owns his own small business. He has a series of locations spread out over a fairly large, fairly rural area. Much of his time is spent driving between his different locations to ensure that each business is being run exactly how he feels is best.

One Thursday, around 2pm, he happened to be at a location that has a few troublesome employees. The time and day of week is significant as his rule is that paychecks are distributed at 3pm on Thursdays. Its one hour before payday.

Trevor is sitting in the small office, reviewing the store's reports, when he sees one of the troublesome employees, who is not scheduled to work that day, walk in the store. The employee, who we'll call Steve, spends a few minutes talking with various people before he gets close to the office. Trevor asks Steve to come in to the office and sit down and chat for a few minutes.

As they talk, Trevor leans over to computer and pulls up Steve's timeclock report for the last week. What do you think Trevor sees? Seems that Steve has been late to work, sometimes by only a minute or two and sometimes by half and hour or more, every single day that week. The conversation went like this:

T: "Steve, what time is it?"

S: "2pm"

T: "You know, looking at your timesheet for the last week, you've been late every single day, yet today, when its pay day, you're here an hour early."

S: "Well..."

T: "No, its obvious you can tell time because you can get here early on pay day, so how is it that when you're scheduled to work, you can never get here on time?"

S: "Look..."

T: "Its this simple, you're scheduled to work, you show up on time. We've proven today you can do it and from now on, I expect you to be here and ready to work when your shift starts, not sometime after it."

From there, Steve beat a hasty retreat from the office, but Trevor's point was clear; if you're going to work for me, you have to meet my expectations. Steve, despite having worked for Trevor for some time, thought it didn't matter, but to Steve, it very much did.

But what if Trevor hadn't been able to look at Steve's time clock punches in a timely manner? What if he had needed to go rummaging through a file cabinet that was locked in the tiny office? What if the time clock had not been part of the computer system but had been a physical clock on the wall? Trevor would not have been able to have that teaching moment without the project that implemented that virtual timeclock.

Its nice to hear from stakeholders who see the benefit in what each of us do day in and day out. It is even better to know that you've provided your stakeholders with the tools they need to be successful at what they do best. It is days like the one where Trevor told me this story that make me glad I get up and come in to work each weekday.