Why I Took The Wrong Toll Exit This Afternoon

Note: The story happened more than 6 months ago. By then I was still working for L’Oreal Group Indonesia. I was managing a finance project which consolidated 9 countries throughout Asia, and then my boss decided to go ahead with office renovation project, which was my responsibility too. I thought it should be easy, but boy how wrong I was! I think now it’s safe to publish the story based on several reasons: 1) the project was finished including the maintenance period, 2) I’m no longer working for L’Oreal, 3) the person I mentioned a lot here has moved to another company 4) both my boss in L’Oreal and the person’s boss have moved to different companies respectively too.

Here is my story….

Saturday, 27 January, 2007

I just changed my job, and like any other story, I was asked to join my client’s company, L’Oreal Group Indonesia, the very great opportunity that I wouldn’t want to miss.

This means that now I’m being Procon Indah’s client.

We have one office fit-out/renovation project which has started a couple of months after I’ve moved, and automatically my boss assigned me to handle this project on top of my main project. The disaster started when Procon Indah appointed a new girl to manage the project. She’s never handled a project bigger than a Starbuck’s counter. So she looks, sounds, and behaves like she has no clue what she’s doing, and before long I had to take the lead, and bam! suddenly I’ve became a project manager again, full time.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I only handled this tiny, 600 sqm project. But I am actually leading another project, which consolidates 9 Asian countries and involves almost a hundred of people in the team. With different accents, currencies, and time, this project’s already confusing, not to mention that I have to handle 10 categories altogether, which means I am scheduled to meet around 200 vendors from all over Indonesia to find the best one for L’Oreal.

With a little time left, I’ve tried to help this new project manager to understand the step-by-step, how-to, and everything about our office renovation project. But of course, after a while, I was drowning. Handling office fit-out project means we have to manage several contractors, suppliers, and vendors, not to mention from the client side (my side), I must handle IT department and the end user. It’s an exhausting task, especially because I wasn’t suppose to handle all in the first place. I should have been relaxing in my office, checking, approving, mediating, etc. Not jump into the field physically and have workers & labors came to ask me endless questions.

With only 24 hours a day, I already spend 12 hours in the office every day. So instead of getting updates everyday, I randomly check on her job, finger crossed, hoping she’s doing ok.

This is what has happened.

Me: “have you ordered the new chair?”
Project Manager (PM): “Umm… no.”
Me: (started to look and sound annoyed): “WHY?”
PM:”I, um… forgot.”
Me: “??????”

Chairs must be ordered the first time we got the approval because it takes at least 4 weeks of manufacturing. We have 2 weeks left, which means this task becomes urgent and there’s a possibility the staffs will have their new offices, but without chair.

After directing her what to do, precisely each one, I ASSUMED she went back back to her office and finished her duty. But later in the afternoon I got a phone call from the chair vendor, whom I worked with in several projects before, and knows me quite well (which means she knows that I’m fussy, perfectionist, and want everything to be done fast).

Chair vendor: “I am waiting for the LOI (Letter of Intent) from the project manager so I could start manufacturing the chairs.”
Me: “What do you mean you’re awaiting it? I already told her to go ahead like a year ago.”
Chair vendor: “Well, she told me verbally to go ahead, but she can’t send me the LOI. Yet.”
Me: (annoyed again):”WHY?”
Chair vendor (flatly): “Because she doesn’t know how to do it and she must wait the secretary to come back and make the letter.”
Me: “??????”

Then there’s another unimportant item: A MAILBOX, which became a big issue because it’s on hold for about a month as well. We were supposed to have a mailbox that must accommodate 250 staffs. We were having a conference call, me, the PM, and the designer.

Designer: “We got a new information that this vendor does not sell mailbox.”
Me: “PM said they sell it, but I never got updates on this matter.”
PM: “Yes, but they don’t have the exact model we want so we gave them drawing and see how much it costs if it’s custom made.”
Me: (started to get annoyed again): “Designer, you said they don’t sell it?”
Designer: “I,… yes, I spoke with them and they said they never sell mailbox.”
PM: “Um… actually it’s technically not mailbox.”
Me: “What do you mean not mailbox? What quotation did you get then?”
PM: They gave me the quotation for… this… you know, square boxes…”
Me: “What?? What square boxes??”
Designer: (genuinely surprised too): “Oh, you mean… LOCKER?”
PM: “Yes.”

Yesterday, while checking the project progress on site, I called her and showed her the General Manager’s office. We would install a TV and a DVD player, and I saw some flaws in the room.

Me: “You install TV and the DVD player quite far from each other. Have you checked on the connector cable? Is it long enough?”
PM: “Yes, I just saw it, it’s 5 meter long, more than enough.”
Me (very unsure): “The cable that connects the DVD player to the TV?”
PM: “Yes.
Me: “Ok then, good.”

But surprise, surprised! 1 hour later I was having a conference call with her and the designer.

PM: “We have a small problem.”
Me: “Yyyyyeeesssshhh?”
PM: “The DVD player-TV connector is not long enough, it’s only 1.2 meter.”
Me: “You said it’s long enough. You said it’s 5 meter.”
PM: “Well it’s not.”
Me: “You said you saw and touched the cable and it’s 5 meter!”
PM: “Well, yes, but it’s not 5 meter.”
Me: “So what 5 meter cable did you see?’
PM: “I saw the 5 meter cable for TV.”
Me: “So you saw a POWER CABLE? The cable that connects the TV to power outlet?”
PM: “Yes”.

Anyone in the world who has DVD player and TV would know the difference!!!!!
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And I’ve got no choice, I have to trust this project on the hand of a project manager who can’t tell the difference between a mailbox and a locker, a DVD connector cable to a TV power cable, who doesn’t know how to produce a LOI.

This afternoon after grabbing my laptop from the office, I was thinking about all of those things that have happened which gradually appear in my nightmares, wondering if I could cope this, while driving back home. It’s Saturday afternoon, and I was very worried because we had 1 week left to finish the project. Suddenly I realized I missed the exit and I was heading toward….. the airport!

What a wonderful way to spend a weekend…..

Note: the project finally finished. The project manager hated me, obviously. The people in Procon Indah felt sorry for her (because apparently she showed tears and projected me as a bully) and thought I was changed just because I had walls and staffs (didn’t they know me any better?). Chairs were delivered on time with a little bit confusion. A mailbox was finally installed after several weeks of unnecessary pending. The TV and DVD player were positioned and working perfectly. Me? I was bleeding inside out, but that’s ok. My shoulders are big enough. It’s just another day in the office…

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