An uneasy post engagement review . . .

I’m a new subscriber to Christopher Hawkins blog – “Effective Software Management”. I am always in awe of those people that start their own business and take on the responsibility of employing others and effectively ensuring their welfare (so I tend to subscribe to a lot of blogs written by that kind of person).

As I was reading one of his most recent posts I spied a like to a post entitled “11 Clients You Need To Fire Right Now”. It is a kind of refreshing point of view and it is a reminder that the “customer is NOT always right”. I’m not suggesting that people start treating their customers like dirt – but just have enough self confidence to know when you think you are right.

I’ve had a pretty rough week and a half working with a particular client and yesterday it was time to sit down and have a bit of a chat to see how we thought it was going. I wasn’t too happy with the way the engagement was going and I had actually tried to call it off at the end of last week because I was having trouble delivering value. The client insisted that I turn up on Monday and the engagement limped along for another four days.

During the review I had to embrace some criticism, but I also had an opportunity to give some honest feedback of my own. I’ve come away from this week with a distinctly sour taste in my mouth (poor reviews sting) and I’m going to need to spend some time pondering where I went wrong and what I could have done better. I’ve already discovered that :-

  • I engage better with development teams than I do with operations teams.
  • when engaging I need to be introduced to stake holders, I can’t be effective in stealth mode.
  • chances of success are inversely proportional to the number of decision makers.
  • I need to avoid flipping the bozo bit early in an engagement.

Some of you might be wondering why I am throwing this dirty laundry out here on my blog (I’ve avoided naming names). Well the fact is I know some of our customers read my blog and I think honesty counts – maybe the next time I engage with them they can be part of my early warning system if any of the above conditions exist.


2 thoughts on “An uneasy post engagement review . . .

  1. lb

    wow Mitch. i am shocked and gladened by your honesty. Top post!

    regarding “flipping the bozo bit”, i had to look it up to make sure it meant what i think it means:

    ‘When you flip the Bozo Bit on someone, it means that you put them in the Bozo (the clown) category so you never take anything from them seriously again.’


    This is something we developers have a tendency to do and wow, does it kill a project. The client knows when you don’t respect them — and it’s very difficult to give them unconditional respect, particularly once they’ve done something that damages your opinion of them. I think this is a point that you (and any of us developers) will get a lot of benefit from addressing.

    thanks Mitch,

  2. Mitch Denny Post author

    Hi Leon,

    Yep – thats the BozoBit that I am talking about. I’ve been trying to look at the situation from different angles and see how I may not have been thwarted in my attempts to progress things if I had approached the situation in another way.

    See you at TechEd!

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