One thing I have noticed about engineers and scientists is that they can’t wrap their head around why business deals take so much time to close. I guess the believe is that if both parties want to do the deal, then it just gets done. That rarely happens. Doing any kind of deal is a delicate dance between the mutual needs of those involved. It takes time to sort out the real motivations and what each parties really wants. Sometimes, even the parties involved don’t know what they really want until detailed discussions start.
Different Relative Time Scales
Business time and engineering time are different. Business time depends on the moods, behavior and personalities of people while engineering time deals with the physics of the world. The two time bases rarely overlap because the two types of people rarely overlap. This is a major source of frustration between both camps since each one really does not understand the others world. This creates the tension between assignment driven engineers and option driven business people.
Assignments vs Options
The engineering world is full of assignments. Go design this. Go simulate that. Go test this. Assignments, to a first order, have clearly defined start and end dates. The duration may take longer due to unforeseen issues (remember this, it comes up again) or reassignment.
The business world is full of options. We can do this deal. We can buy is company. We can create this product. The business persons main job is to get the best deal they can. Most are always looking for the bigger better deal. Think of it as the grass is always greener somewhere else. They don’t want to be left out of the next big deal, so they consider the options. Just like an engineering assignment, unforeseen issues like competitors moving in on existing business or an HR crisis gets in the way. This delays the deal and may kill it because once they get back to it, another better deal might have taken its place.
The assignment based engineer, naturally, can’t wrap their head around why if someone says “we are interested” that does not mean “here is a bucket of money.” The nuance revolves around interest as opposed to doing the deal. It’s kind of like dating. Yeah, “I love you” but I am not “in love with you.” Get the idea.
Estimating when an options based decision will be completed is like pushing a rope. Both sides of the deal have options. Both are looking at various ways to get the best deal they can. Both are trying to sort out what the other really wants. It’s downright time consuming since you are dealing with people and they can sometimes be irrational or unreasonable. The number of times engineers come up to me and ask “Is the deal done yet?” is staggering, even after they just asked me the previous day. Unfortunately, it’s done when it’s done and like innovation, sometimes it just takes longer.
It Still Frustrates Me
Yeah, I figured. Until you have dealt with each world, you will never understand the dynamic. All the explaining in the world will not put your mind at ease. The only thing that helps is if you trust your peers. Knowing that you have competent engineers and business people goes a long way in reducing frustrations. Another option is to learn a little about what you don’t understand. This can be complicated in your work life but certainly there are opportunities in your home life. Trying some sort of engineering (e.g. assembly of a bike, building a deck, landscaping a garden) or business (e.g. getting a good deal on a car or asking for donations) can give you a sense of what it’s like. That understanding and the trust you build with your peers will make the frustration of business deals a little more bearable.