Friday, October 13, 2006

The importance of buy-in

One of my recent projects involved multiple disciplines: Operations, civil engineering, mechanical design, and R&D. My role was to turn to the desire of R&D for test equipment into reality. I did not do any classical "engineering" on this project. Rather I negotiated competing requirements into specifications for equipment that could be designed and installed.

On this project I truly learned the importance of developing "buy-in" by the relevant parties. I developed some initial specifications for the material handling portion of the test equipment. I discussed these initial specifications with the operations manager. Being an operations manager he was always harried whenever I saw him.

He approved my initial equipment specification. In our discussions I pointed out the necessity for scraping some tables that were already in place so as to make room for the new equipment.

After gaining his approval I sent the specifications for the handling equipment to an outside vendor to design. They worked on the design about a month. And then the entire project team met.

I presented the design for the material handling equipment to the team and the project manager under whom I worked for this project. At this point the operations manager stood up and announced that the equipment design was totally unacceptable. This wasafter his initial approval a month previously.

His reasons were not without cause. The tables were contaminated and would require significant expense to decontaminate and dispose of. We had, however, previously discussed the neccessity of their removal.

What happened? Being a harried operations manager he had not fully considered the cost of what I was proposing in our initial discussions. The cost did not emerge to him until he saw the equipment laid out on paper.

What could I have done differently? I should have brought him initial design sketches and concepts so he could review them while the design was proceeding. This way a change in the design approach could have been made before the review meeting.

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