Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Friday, July 11

I didn't strangle the Design Manager

But I don't know how.

Last year I wrote a report, which was checked and reviewed by my boss. He is a notoriously vigorous checker/reviewer. His catchphrase is "Let's check that again". So by the time it had got through him, it was a pretty good report.

This was then passed to the project's Design Manager, who broadly accepted it. It was then passed on to the Senior Design Manager - a man from a different engineering discipline with a slightly different outlook. He reviewed the report again, and this time it required a lot of changes and it went backwards and forwards between all those involved many times before it was good enough to satisfy him.

The report had in effect been reviewed to death.

Time passed. Things happened on the project site; some of the recommendations of our report were implemented. But the Senior Design Manager and the Design Manager moved on to new roles. A new Design Manager and a new Senior Design Manager move in. The project has languished for a year, waiting for someone to drive it and for other things to happen on site. So the Design Manager asked me to update the report and provide a baseline for the current position. Which I did, making quite a good job of it if you don't mind me saying. Of course my normal checker/reviewer is now busy on other jobs. The next person in line for the role is off on long-term sick. So they bring in a stand-in: one of the top engineers in the field from a major consultancy: a national expert. (When I say 'bring in' I don't mean literally. He spent three days here, but since then he has been in an office 200 miles away which does not help communications). So I get my updated report reviewed by the national expert. And like I say, it’s now a good report so it only has to go through two iterations before he's happy.

The report is now even-more "reviewed to death"

I submit it to the Design Manager.

He replies; "It's very hard to understand .....", and provides a list of queries.


I called my boss over for a chat and basically said: "Look, this report has been reviewed to death multiple times by some of the best people in thecountry. It is now a gold-standard report. If this chap can't understand it, is that because none of us are capable of writing a report, or is the problem that the Design Manager is not competent to do his job?" we are, after all, a professional engineering organisation, and if we write a professional engineering report to professional engineering colleagues, surely we don't have to dumb it down to primary school English? Surely it is possible to assume that the recipient does have some experience of the standard processes in use in his field?

My boss did not provide consent for me to strangle the Design Manager. In fact, being a better Christian than me, he was able to calm things down and arrange a meeting. By the end of the meeting, the design manager understood much of what he had failed to get the first time round, and on those issues was happy to accept the text as it was. There were also a few additions which I do agree were beneficial. And then we made some changes to the report which really shouldn't be necessary.

I have now sent it back to my far-away reviewer for him to approve the changes. I hope he does not still feel a need to justify his salary with a red pen!

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