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    How do you deal with dysfunctional engineering (e.g. completion dates with sign-offs that are consistently missed)?

  1. You first have to decide if engineering is dysfunctional or the challenge is too great. If it is engineering you have to get engineering management, or general management, to make some changes—become a champion for the change. The other way is to look at the nature of the task. If you have good engineers and they are doing about as well as can be expected, it is your job to manage expectations. I don't think I have ever been to a SEMICON West where the product that was supposed to be announced there was ready. We usually ended up with a mock-up because that is all that existed. Make sure you have targets that are realistic—manage the expectations.
  2. Is engineering truly dysfunctional or are you, in marketing, giving them the kind of leadership they need to be successful? You need to have a good relationship with them and that doesn't mean there isn't conflict—there always has to be conflict. However, ask yourself, is engineering failing to get good direction and market inputs? Are they getting them too fast? Are they changed on a regular basis? Look in the mirror before you decide they are dysfunctional.
  3. There are probably two questions here: how do you deal with it and how do you fix it. The answer to the latter is you probably don't fix it, somebody else does. Fixing it often means firing the VP of Engineering, if that doesn't work you fire the COO, if that doesn't work you fire the CEO. But that is not your job. The question is how do you deal with it. Many times I have seen engineering consistently miss dates and marketing covers for them. This is wrong. You write a memo and say we missed the June 4 date and lost a $2-million order and send it to the right people in the company. That goes a long way to dealing with issue. That is one way and should be considered if the problem is continuing. Another way is to use the "fudge factor." If you have added on to your house by hiring a contractor and he says he'll be complete June 4, when do you expect he'll be complete—August. That may need to be the course of your salvation. Anticipate it will be late and make your plans accordingly.
  4. I think also the MRS is very important. The biggest difficulty I have had with this problem is when engineering has had a lot of shifting priorities. This drives engineering mad and screws up everybody's schedule. The best success I have had is when engineering and marketing agreed upon an MRS to perform to and there was minimal intervention and changing of priorities. You need to make sure that everyone is singing from the same sheet of music and you are not perturbating the system with new customer demands as engineering is trying to complete what you asked them to do in the first place.