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Management Side
Week of 28 January 2019: Capital Project Managers--the good, the bad and the ugly

Email Jim at jthompson@taii.com

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The Good

The Good have enough confidence in themselves to negotiate in several different realms without getting upset or upsetting others. They handle senior management with confidence in such a manner that senior management leaves them alone. They create realistic schedules (after receiving plenty of solid input which they carefully vet) and realistic budgets (same thing--they explore all inputs carefully).

Good managers take time interviewing all suppliers. They also spend a lot of time early on talking to the operations people (if these have already been hired or are already on board). In the case of a major rebuild, where down time will need to be taken, they will also talk to sales to understand the impact of the downtime on existing customers.

Some of the good call me up and ask for advice (because they are not afraid to do so)! For of the active people in the industry, I have probably seen more capital projects from more angles (engineering, supplier, engineering consultant, mill manager, expert witness) than anyone else out there at this time. It's not bragging if you have done it!

The Bad

Bad capital project managers come into the job with chips on their shoulders and distinct opinions on how a project should be run. They will not seek help from anyone. They will expect scientific absolutes to bow to their wishes (in chemistry, physics, mechanics and sometimes even gravity).

They will expect anyone working for them, either directly or through a supplier, to ignore their personal lives for the duration (not just at critical shutdown times), risk life and limb if necessary, and take their abuse when things go wrong (as they surely will).

They will hide information from various groups (make everyone operate in silos) and will hide information from upper management. Of course, given time and science, they will be found out.

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The Ugly

If the Bad were not bad enough, the Ugly are even worse. One of the favorite "tricks" of the Ugly is to conveniently leave things out of contracts with suppliers, engineers and others, then browbeat them into providing the deficiencies for free. Their favorite phrase for this is "Well, if you want to be a favored supplier in this mill in the future, you need to take care of me now." Suppliers, I think you need to think long and hard about that statement--become known for caving in and you will cave in forever (or until you go bankrupt). You just may not wish to be a supplier to that mill.

The Ugly are also the ones who shake down suppliers for goodies--from dinner to bass boats. I've seen it happen.

From the Ugly is where I can count on a nice income from Expert Witness assignments (when suppliers sue and need my services).

Sadly, the Good are few and far between. When the others get kicked out of the window, often they have innocent and good operators, suppliers and others they take out with them. So, who is at fault for things going wrong here? Upper management, who either picked the wrong manager to start with or didn't listen to the Good managers when they gave them their assessment.

Teddy Roosevelt had these problems staffing the Panama Canal Project. His first manager was a poor selection. His second one was great but burnt out in a couple of years. Teddy solved that problem with his third one--he put an army officer in charge who couldn't quit--and who, luckily, turned out to be a pretty good manager, too.

From onlypulpandpaperjobs.com: The Job of the Week...Clearwater Paper is looking for a Converting Business Unit Leader in Shelby, North Carolina.

For safety this week, a bad project has safety problems. Another reason to pick a good manager.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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Employers are on board with Onlypulpandpaperjobs.com. There are twenty plus employers located in ten different US states and two other countries. [02.01.19]

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Are you struggling to fill Maintenance Technician roles? (9-18-18)

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