18 July, 2013

Sticking around through the end: A surprising management trend and the danger of Faith-based Engineering

During my career and across a number of engineering/management consulting engagements, I have become aware of a phenomenon that many of the more cynical among us have either seen firsthand or suspected - managers and leaders being promoted, reassigned, switching jobs, or otherwise moving on from roles or positions before their poor decision "chickens" come home to roost.

This takes the form of a manager setting unrealistic expectations, encouraging the team to embrace wildly optimistic performance goals, making Faustian budget bargains, setting crazy schedules, and other forms of "faith-based engineering". Before the consequences of these misjudgments become obvious or acute, the manager has left the project, program, or company and the problems fall into the laps of (at least relative) innocents.

Recently this pattern has been disrupted. Because of the economy, the opportunities for escape from an effort you've screwed up have been reduced. There are less new projects, programs, and job vacancies. Managers find they are more likely to have to stick around long enough for their errors and misdeeds to catch up with them.

Bottom line is: pay attention to the decisions you're making; that future you're mortgaging just might turn out to be your own.

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