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Like herding cats

By gamboge ·
I've been assigned to manage a guy who's got a history of being disorganized and of taking longer than expected (read: billing lots of hours) to complete tasks. Let me emphasize that I do not think he's "padding" his hours, just has a hard time getting focused and tends to wander. This man is extremely bright and personable and technically excellent and I like working with him --but it's been made clear to me that I'm in charge of reining him in and making sure he sticks to allocated hours and just does what's asked for (he tends to go above and beyond, but there's no time/budget for extras on this project). It's only been a week and already he's done some work that's outside the scope. Advice on keeping him on track?

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I agree with what I have so far

by neil.larson In reply to This may be the toughest ...

I agree with DC_Guy and others.
1. Keep HR. out of it
2. Have him document his work
3. etc.

I've always had goo results by conversing with everyone on my team as to what they are working on, issues, goals for the day etc. This was down before work hour began and took about 15min to half an hour over a cup of coffee. Maybe this sort of thing would help -- Again as DC_Guy and others said
1. Find out what he's working on
2. Find out his issues
3. Set goals for him for the day
4. Remind of project goals and dead lines, milestones etc.
5. Let him know that he maybe going off on a tangent by doing things outside the project scope.
6. Let him know what deliverables he is responsible for and how they fit in with the team goals etc.

Just check on his progress in the morning before work hours or more if feel he's not understanding his role and responsibilities then check more often at your convenience. Try not to bird dog him. He may be just missing direction of the team etc. for him to stay focused on responsibilities etc.

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Pre-plan with him and set time-task goals

by maxwell edison In reply to Like herding cats

Do it once a day, once a week, or whatever it takes. But somehow, get him to focus on what he needs to do, and ask him to assign an estimate of hours needed to complete it. And I'm not talking about the project in its entirety, but rather the small steps required to get there.

Identify and outline those "small steps"; establish a goal to complete each small step; and emphasize that he needs to stay focused on only those things that you and he outlined. Review the task-goal outline sheet (yes, it should be written down) once a day, once a week, or whatever it takes. It won't be too long before a light will shine brightly on the real problem, and you can take whatever measures necessary. Or, you might get lucky, and by simply having a guide to work by, his time problems will correct themselves.

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And have him log time only to plan tasks

by raelayne In reply to Pre-plan with him and set ...

I've found that the wanderers won't stick to the plan unless you do the following:
- Create the plan, with detailed tasks (4 - 8 hours in duration works best in my experience)
- Define a specific deliverable for each task (so there can be no question about whether it has been done)
- Allow the employee to log time only against plan tasks (most people are reluctant to log only 20 hours a week, and they also don't want to spend more time than estimated, so they'll be forced to focus where they should)

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Like herding cats

by cindy.chua In reply to Like herding cats

To rein such staff, one of the method is to follow up and monitor closely. If he is disorganised, then you would have to provide him with the detailed tasks and activities to follow, with dates on each task. Every two days, you would have to follow up and discuss with him what he has done, and the scope as well.

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Make him a part of the solution

by andy In reply to Like herding cats

Everything that has been said is definitely right. It is important to have a clear list of tasks and review them regularly.

To solve any problem though, it must be understood. Does he know that there is a problem with the amount of time he takes?

If he thinks that what he does is what is required, and therefore doesn't recognise the problem, wielding the big stick and making sure he sticks to times scales will only solve the problem for this one project.

Talk to him one to one, and get him to understand the importance of sticking to the specification and time scales. If you succeed with this it will not only solve the problem for this project, it will also set him on the right track for future projects.

This could take some doing depending what sort of person he is, but the rewards can be immense.

I have had very similar problems, and this approach has worked for me.

Good luck

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You are so right....

by coldbrew In reply to Make him a part of the so ...

I totally agree with you on this one. Getting the employee involved with the solution mostly always worked. I had a guy working for me who could not focus. I would set deadlines and give him a detailed list of tasks. Ultimately his inability to focus resulted in him being let go but at least he and I felt like we gave him a fair chance.

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Effective communication works!

by acumberbatch In reply to Make him a part of the so ...

The other replies are nice but I must agree with this one. I myself have rec'd comments like this and all along I thought everyone was comfortable with my technical competency. Knowing clearly what is expected from you and having that communicated in a professional manner will help him to improve.
Also get feedback from him. He probably already recognizes that it?s a problem and may welcome suggestions to improve this area of his professional life.

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Look at it completely

by Delta123 In reply to Like herding cats

1) Firstly, he may be right...

You need to sit down with him and let him know that there is an issue and get his side of the story. Also, explain that the best thing to do is for you two to work on this issue together, because in the end the success of the project is all that counts.

2) To ensure that he has responsibility, let him plan his work. He makes a list of things he needs to get done and when they will get done.

3) Finally, ensure that you monitor his tasks. If he cannot get them done right away or has issues, it is partly your responsibility to find resources who can fix it or re-plan and get back on track.


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Do you want robots

by tgf.peter In reply to Like herding cats

The first thing to consider is what you want from your staff and what you want from life. Human beings just aren't efficient how ever many management courses you attend or so called scientific techniques you employ. This man could be the seed stock for your future. How many customers specify exactly waht they want do you give then a solution that fits their request or one that works. Which will enhance your company reputation. You will never change this chap you may force him to conform for a while but sooner or later he will break free. So decide to either use his particular skills in a creative way or suggest that yours is not the company for him.

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Turn it upside down and it's a strength

by ExecutiveGerbil In reply to Do you want robots

I have to say that it sounds like the problem here is that the "problem" employee doesn't have enough to do. If you try to squish him into a box he will eventualy rebel, and either cause trouble or leave. He's clearly smart, and that can be a huge issue. From what you've said, you might be better off giving him a bigger sandbox to play in instead. When you have talent, it feels horrible not to use it.

What about asking him to be part of the team that talks to the client? If he goes into those meetings and actually hears what they want, he may automatically adjust. Or asking him to write an in-house training program? If I'm right, anything that gives him a big new complex task will probably help.

Good luck and remember to stay flexible as possible.

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