posted by Joe Anaya on March 4th, 2013

Through years of working with contractors either at work or on my house, I’ve had good ones and bad ones. There was the contractor who went above and beyond and surprised me with a custom built stereo cabinet. And there was the electrician who showed up with a friend and told him what to do then left. While the friend was hemming and hawing on where to drill a hole, he confessed that he was a painter by trade and didn’t really know what he was doing here.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “A contractor can be good, fast and cheap. Pick two.” Meaning you can get good and cheap, but it’ll be slow or fast and good but it’ll cost you. It’s a pretty good way of looking at the options of how to get a job done. It also appeals to my mathematical side and looking at the multiple possibilities.

While this works in helping evaluating contractor’s and their value to your project, I’d like to suggest a new triangle, for dealing with upper management. If you want a project to succeed, you have to account for peoples’ greed, laziness, and stupidity. And unfortunately, unlike the contractor triangle, with management you can have all three.

Greed: Not necessarily pure unadulterated malevolence but more just recognizing every business person is in it for the money. Some are smart and understand the long-term value of doing a good job or giving a fair price, but some only see the money being held in front of them at the moment. So, when dealing with upper management, generally all they care about is, “How much cheaper can I get it done?” You’ll have to explain to them how “cheaper” now will end up costing more later; the moderately priced option is really the best choice.

Laziness: Management loves to get things done when they aren’t involved. You could generously say it’s because they embrace delegating or they’re so busy, or you could just recognize it as laziness. So, emphasize how this path will save them time and involvement. And when they do have to be involved, make sure it’s as easy as possible: bullet important items that need answers, word the questions to answered with a  “yes” or “no.” They probably won’t put in the time or energy to read beyond the subject line of the email and they certainly won’t use any energy understanding the subtleties of the question if they do happen to read half of the email.

Stupidity: Well what can I say about this one. We’ve all had bosses that weren’t very smart. I’ve worked with producers who seem like they’ve never made a movie before, even though I know they have because I’ve worked with them on previous movies. I take every opportunity to review my correspondence and spreadsheets thinking, “How can someone misinterpret this information that will derail the project?” Even after this careful review, I’m still amazed by the new levels of “misunderstandings.”

I know it sounds cynical and more like something Matt W. would come up with, but it really does help. If you can account for each point of the management triangle: greed, laziness & stupidity, your project will have a high degree of success.

File Under Working Stiff