One of my objectives for the coming months is to hand off executive authority for running the in-market businesses to folks who have the experience and connections to do it well. I have never run a sales force or a marketing campaign, and, while I’’;m sure that i could learn, the inevitable mistakes would cost time and confidence. It’s better to focus on what I do best, bridging innovative product to clinical customers.
I’ve been fortunate to bring good operations people on-board, and I’m trying to support their working style. We need to become a more professional company, and successful funding rounds finally give us the resources. So, we’re implementing core offices, IT services with electronic calendars and shared addresses, improved purchasing systems, inbound marketing in web site upgrades, and employee contracts with pensions and share schemes.
It’s more to coordinate, so communication tools beyond emails and skype are being considered. I traditionally work from paper notes, consolidated into to-do lists, and cocktail-napkin sketches of project plans. They are idiosyncratic notes to myself, and there are calls to be more standard and transparent in making time and budget commitments, and more accountable for slippages .
I bristle a bit at the implied judgement of ‘overrun’ or ‘slippage’: we work hard and take good decisions. The wise choice can be to invest in people, time, or tooling that ensures better outcomes. I’m not going to pad schedules and budgets to give myself cover, But am learning how to talk positively about deviations while biting my lip over the language used.
One executive requests plans in the form of to-do lists, with dates and names next to each item. I think it’s an awful way to communicate process and progress. At a daily level, items are too numerous and dynamic to spend time updating, reporting, and defending. At a monthly level, they amount to a disconnected wish list of idealized targets. There are milestones, but they are few and fit within project narratives.
I prefer simple Gantt charts, laying a half-dozen streams of activity in parallel with dependencies defining the milestones. If work stops when raw material runs out, then getting replenishment budgeted and shipped is a key event to monitor. If submission of a regulatory file starts a clock to market introduction, it focuses people on bringing together the component tasks and parts.
Moving all of this from Excel into a formal tool like Project has been difficult. The structure falls apart as we move bits, and the output doesn’t fit neatly onto A4 paper. Another executive has advocated a ‘Slippage chart’ showing deviations instead of plans: it proved counter-intuitive and folks have requested a simple project chart.
It’s all growing pains as we adopt professional standards and tools. We’ll settle into methods that work for us. A simple Gantt chart, clearly communicated in meetings and updates, with dependencies driving milestones and to-do lists, seems to work best at present.