Fragile Ego

I’ve spent most of the last few months working with a customer to define a project. They came to us knowing that the scope and requirements weren’t well defined, and asking for our expert opinion to help them simultaneously develop the experiment they wanted to carry out and the hardware to conduct it on. And, do all of this on a very short time-frame. We signed up to the challenge, believing they believed in us and that we would be successful in overcoming the current shortfalls.

As the last several months have dragged painfully on, we have made almost no progress; all while spending over 7 digits on engineering and other support. At every turn, the customer has asked us our engineering judgement and expert opinion, only to belittle our world-class experts and demand detailed analysis and exquisite proof to support our positions that are simply based on the expert judgement they requested. This, all while they were insisting that we needed to go fast… really fast.

In their hurry to go really fast, they have sabotaged any potential for progress by requiring that they be intimately involved in all processes. Their involvement has generally led to nothing but discontent and confusion. We have spent hours listening to lectures that did nothing to bring us closer to resolution. We’ve done this repeatedly, and at length. The end result is that we are months and months into the project with only marginal progress in defining what the project is.

Yesterday, the customer sent an angry email demanding to be included in all of the sub-group meetings we were having. We aren’t having sub-group meetings because we haven’t been able to get the customer to agree to what any given sub-group needs to be doing. All of those personnel are off supporting other projects with better defined objectives. The project lead responded by telling the customer that we couldn’t do sub-group meetings until we had agreed-to objectives for the sub-groups to meet, and that prior attempts to integrate their team hadn’t been helpful. In short, he told the unvarnished truth.

Today, our big-boss was contacted by their big-boss who demanded that the project lead be fired. The deputy to their big boss (and worst instigator of uncertainty and inefficiency) had been offended at the project lead’s email. Add this to the fact that we just lost our very capable lead Systems Engineer because he couldn’t take the BS any more, and we’re in a bad place. The two people with the most capability, who were most invested in the outcome, and who had the most potential for bringing it to a successful close are gone. When I’m the last one standing with any real idea for what the customer expects, we’re in deep shit. All because of a fragile ego who believes the only way to get performance is to micromanage high performers, and believes all contractors are worthless pieces of crap who don’t know enough to fight their way out of a paper bag.

I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before I end up without a job because one of my less filtered thoughts makes it out into the public. I doubt it’ll make it more than 2-digits worth of days.

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