A Cat Baby Grand Piano Scenario

Something that we’ve always valued is feedback – and sometimes we need to go to great lengths to get the "good stuff" out of our clients and suppliers. We’ve been using a dual system of soliciting feedback for the last year that’s really hit paydirt: a combination of a web-based survey, and a conversation (either in person or over the phone). The web-based survey can be completely anonomous, and gathers all the information we use for statistical analysis, while the in-person accountability review allows us to better identify successes and opportunities for improvement with each project.

Over the last year, we’ve noticed that the most volatile area of feedback has to do with project management. We have?a lot of projects that love our systems, but at the same time we’ve had several clients who had some strong vocal suggestions for improvement. As such we’ve recently be going through a series of changes to try and reduce the variation in results.

Part of this process is identifying the way we estimate task difficulty, and it came up that an error many project managers make is?believing they can "make" their workforce accomplish a task.?It’s impossible for someone to just will something to happen, nor can they make it happen by simply getting angry at or punishing their staff. Eric neatly underlined the point by whipping out one of his many stories: A Cat Baby Grand Piano Scenario.

I have a friend who lives in the city, in one of those really narrow buildings, where there’s a narrow staircase going up along the edge of the building to the different appartments. You know the old plaster-front buildings that have the flaking facade? Well he’s on the 4th floor with a really nice loft, and right in the middle by the front window he’s got?this gorgeous baby grand piano. It’s beautifully polished with those thick solid legs and polished brass pedals. A regular work of art. Anyway, the last time I was there, after walking up the wooden steps (I could see the warping in the thin wood steps where people would place their feet) I was in his place having a cup of coffe and it struck me!

"How the heck did you get this piano up here?!" I asked him.

"I used the cat," he said.

"The cat?" I was eyeing up his tabby. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of pounds.

"Yeah. I had the guys bring it to the front lobby, then I strapped it to the back of the cat and he dragged it up the stairs."

"How the heck did that little thing get this huge piano up the stairs?!"

"Oh no problem, I used a whip."

Although not necessarily the most PC of anecdotes, it does an excellent job of underlying the absurdity of management-by-force, doesn’t it? 😉


VP HCM Products at NetSuite and Founder of TribeHR and Lewis Media. Waterloo Region Enthusiast and active volunteer.

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