Good friend and longtime crewmember John Pfluke is in the Bay Area on another project and had time to drop by Atlas Geotechnical World Headquarters last night. While the visit was too short, it was an excellent opportunity for us to debrief from a field program that did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. None of Atlas’ projects are simple (if they were, someone else would probably be doing them), but it wasn’t technical or logistical difficulty that caused us problems.
It didn’t take long for the two of us to agree that it was our client’s project manager, and specifically his enthusiasm for “zero-sum” contract management, that lay at the root cause of our frustration. The fault was mine, fundamentally, because last August when I negotiated Atlas’ scope of work I naively agreed to reduce our level of effort and rely entirely on our customer to make preparations, clear utilities, coordinate access, and organize the overall program. As I should have expected, our customer chose to keep the preparations budget as a windfall rather than do the work upon which we were relying. We didn’t even make it to the kickoff meeting before I knew I had made a mistake. I should have forced a change right then rather than sending John to execute a plan that was simply not set up for success.
The chance to talk this issue through face-to-face was valuable, and affirmed that relationships really are Atlas Geotechnical’s core strength. We agreed that neither of us could have done anything differently once the program started, and I committed myself to avoiding customers who are unable to collaborate, meet their commitments, and achieve shared success.
And with that behind us, we had the rest of an excellent afternoon and evening to catch up on other topics and remember projects that went really well. I attached a picture of John after work in Majuro from our work at the ARFF last December. That was a complicated project in a challenging location, and it went off without a hitch. Atlas has a couple of similar projects on our books, some significantly more technical, and debriefing with John the cause of our difficulties last week was useful to me as I build relationships and negotiate contracts for these future projects.