Showing posts with label Team Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Team Management. Show all posts

Monday, August 17, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

How to manage teams remotely

12:45:00 AM


With the whole world coming to a standstill due to corona, many responsible organisations have declared work from home for their employees. Unlike the challenge of managing projects across geography, this situation is unique, where each team member is working remotely from their homes and each of them would have their own challenges and distractions. If you are a project manager or a program manager, here are some tips on how you can manage your project’s remotely



1. Setup a recurring online standup meeting. This could be the same as what you used to do in office, except that people are joining remotely and your standup time may go a little longer than earlier. Initially you could have one in the morning and another at the end of day, to assess the progress. You may need the two standup, at least initially, unless your team members are used to regular WFH. Google hangout is a useful tool to collaborate

2. Have clear communications, by that I mean, have clearly defined tasks, owners with planned completion time. If a task needs more than one person to collaborate, identify an owner, who will tie-up the loose ends. You will not be able to individually track everything. List the tasks in a google sheets or any tool where people can collaborate

3. Create a virtual room like a hangout meeting, the same link that you used for standup, and let that be active throughout the day. So the hangout link becomes like the virtual room where all of you are present and any random communication is shared osmotically to everyone else. If multiple people needs to discuss on diverse topics simultaneously, they could create another link, finish the discussion and come back to this link. Just like how you physically go to a meeting room, finish the discussion and come back to your place

4. Use communication tools such as Slack, Hangout group, WhatsApp group for cross team communication. You may have two types of communication, one as information for others, the other as specific communication or action item. For the latter, ensure you tag those who need to take action

5. Share everyone’s contact numbers in a common location. Not having this will be a productivity killer. With people working from home, they are open to many distractions and when one team member pings for an info and doesn’t get a response, they should be oriented to call up and check, rather than wait indefinitely losing precious time

6. Ensure business continuity i.e. if you are in that part of the world, where you have power shut downs, invest in a UPS which can take the light load of the router, so that you are continuously connected to your VPN

7. Have a specific place at home where you would work everyday. This will help you mentally to switch on and off, just like office space and home space

8. Take planned breaks and encourage your team members to also take planned breaks. Have specific lunch break timings and end of work timing. The major problem with WFH is indiscipline, we get so much flexibility that we may take fewer breaks or more breaks and have calls planned even during late in the night. Initially it may look productive however eventually you and your team members will burn out and you would start losing productivity


These are just a few points that would help you and your teams to work more productivity considering the prolonged WFH. If you have any more suggestions, do add them in the comments for the benefit of others

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Demonetisation: The case of the lone cashier

10:29:00 PM

"It was a famous boat race between two arch rivals - Team A & Team B. Both teams had 6 people and had similar configuration boats

The whole town had gathered to see the ultimate race. Much to everyone's surprise, Team A won by a huge margin of more than 2 kms

Team B hired an expensive consulting firm and after an extensive study, they submitted their report;  Team A had 5 rowers & 1 leader, while Team B had 1 rower and 5 leaders, therefore Team B needed restructuring

Team B brainstormed & re-structred - now there was 1 rower, 2 people to encourage the rower, 2 people to monitor the 'motivators' and 1 leader

It is a no brainer on who won the next race... "

I had recently been to one of the private sector banks and what I saw amused as well as enlightened me, on one of the reasons for long queues outside banks

It took totally around 2 hours for me to get to the cashier and for reasons best known to them, they hadn't replenished their ATM although it was in the same premises - probably because they did not want other bank customers to withdraw cash from their ATM! 

Anyways after about an hour of standing outside, I entered the Bank. I saw 3 to 4 bank employees scuttling around, talking in corners and doing nothing! Apparently on enquiry, I was told they were marketing executives and weren't core bankers

As I neared the cash counter, I saw the cashier and two more employees standing around the cashier. On approaching the cashier, I understood, one was the Manager who was 'overlooking' & doing nothing and the other employee merely collected my cheque and filed it. The only person who was 'actually' working and who was totally stressed was the poor lone cashier

I could but only give a knowing smile to the drained-out cashier and wish her good!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Does more time at work improve productivity?

11:09:00 PM

A rarity nowadays and I hope it remains a rarity, I was leaving office at 20:30 and I see this guy aimlessly looking into his laptop. Knowing him professionally, a person who didn't think much about pro-activeness; I was surprised to see him around at this time

"What're you doing at this time?", I asked surprised & worried if my watch was 3 hours behind

"Just sitting around", he replied. I had to admit, after all, he was an honest chap

"But why?", I blurted out, still dying of curiosity

"I don't have enough hours for this week, as per the new HR policy. I'll leave in an hour"

That made complete sense... totally... I nodded in agreement and bid him goodbye

I'm pretty certain, it doesn't come as a surprise to most of you in the software industry

Management observed that not all employees were working 'hard enough' as their in-time was pretty low, so it was suggested that a mandatory rule of minimum hours be clocked-in and presto it got implemented

So now, we have this lot of 'hardly working' employees who have suddenly become productive just because they clock in more hours! Awesome isn't it?

This knee jerk reaction is more like shoving the unproductiveness under the carpet assuming if people stick around office premises, their productivity improves. Rather what should be done is to discuss with their managers and ensure those employees are allocated enough work

As the saying goes - Tell me what you measure and I will tell you how I behave - now most of the employees are looking at time-clocked rather than results, as a measure of productivity

We need to understand, Knowledge Industry unlike Process industry need different methods to improve productivity

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pay structure drives employee behaviour

11:48:00 PM

If you haven't yet read Does Education throttle us off simple solutions, I urge you to read it in order to appreciate the intricacies of the current matter being discussed

So in continuation to the previous blog, our software professionals decide on continuing their spot audits through random visits; the randomness aided by complex pseudorandom-number-generator using Javascripts, which surprisingly falls on friday nights or weekends

Meanwhile, out there, our 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker' after much deliberation, is convinced that he needs a pay hike. After all, he has toiled for a year, put his sweat in tilling the land, watering the crops and guarding them through night & day

"Yes, the crops did get 'stolen' under my supervision but that was fate; I need the hike for my hard work" he reasoned to his wife

"Yes, these software guys just sit in front of that coloured box all day, keep drinking tea and get highly paid; of course you should get a hike" added his loyal wife

So when our software professionals arrives 'as expected', our 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker' approaches them

"Sir, I need an increase in my pay; I have worked hard and I deserve the hike", he said sternly and with conviction 

The look on our software professionals was of utter shock & disbelief; they also realised the situation was delicate and had to be handled carefully; for, what would they do, if he quit

An emergency huddle was dutifully called

"I still can't believe he is asking for a rise", said one of the software professionals

"Exactly, what does he think? Because of his carelessness, we lost our yield and he has the audacity to ask for a pay hike"

"And think about it, we are giving him free stay, electricity and water for his family apart from aiding his child's education and he still expects more!"

"We should add these in his CTC and show him the total cost" quipped the fourth

So after deliberating for an hour, as most corporate meetings, they decided to call for another meeting

In Bangalore, they huddled again and one of them had the eureka moment

"The problem he thinks he deserves a hike is because we did not link the result of his work to his salary", she exclaimed 

Assuming that the 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker' was a paragon of virtue and had no hand in the robbery of the crops, it is bound that he thinks he had toiled for a year, got the crops to bear fruits and thus had achieved his targets; just one incident of robbery shouldn't outweigh the other goals that he had achieved

As pointed out, if they had linked a part of his remuneration to the successful outcome of the crops, he would have felt more responsible to ensure the goals are achieved

Remuneration structure should always be thought out well because it drives the employee behaviour; it sets the difference between an employee feeling satisfied that he has clocked 45 hours a week to another who assesses if he has helped achieve the project goals

Be prudent, Remuneration and Metrics, drives employee behaviours

Sunday, May 31, 2015

'I Only Care For Results' syndrome

1:14:00 AM
"I don't care how you do it; I just care for results" she said proudly to her team, as if she had given them a magic wand to solve their problems!

I have been hearing this more often than I would like to admit from couple of senior members across the industry; be it Managerial or Technical role

This culture usually starts from the Top, when the Executive tells his next level Manager, "I need this release to go in six months and Anu no lame excuses - Get the job done"

Anu to her Front line Manager, "Mike, we have an amazing opportunity to prove our salt!"

"Yet again, Anu?", a perplexed but not entirely surprised Mike

"Huh, get your team to gear up for the Product release in 5 months"

"5 months? We haven't even frozen the requirements, then there are the dependancies. Our suppliers would need at least 2 months, after which we would need at least another 4 months to work on it"

"I don't care what you do Mike, we need to be ahead of the competition, we need to get this Product out. No is not an answer"

"Ok, I'll see what can be done"

Mike to his young team, "Guys, our product is the lifeline for our company, Management wants us to
 release it in 4 months; we may have to extend on weekends too..."

"... but Mike, that's impossible, we need to work on the entire architecture, resolve the dependencies and work on understanding the user behaviour..."

"Yeah I understand and I trust you guys can do it"

"But we need to..."

"I don't care what needs to be done, we need to show results to Management", says Mike in a stern voice

"ummph... but..."

"and oh by the way, ensure you guys send me a daily status update mail at 8 PM and on Monday's we shall have the status meeting; Ashok, book the meeting room before someone blocks it"

Does this sound familiar? If yes, your organisation has been bitten by the 'I Only Care For Results' syndrome

This is a cancerous disease that quickly spreads down through the organisation ladder. Not surprisingly, the bug stops with the team of 0 to 3 years less experienced members to figure out what needs to be done to meet the Project Objectives!

What some Seniors fail to realise is that senior positions are more than only showing direction. Each of them are employed to utilise their past experience and provide hands-on solutions for the less experienced members and guide them to success. Unfortunately, some wear the CEO hat and focuses only in giving directions rather than solutions

The problem here is not with the challenging goal but how no one offers a practical solution of how the team can achieve the objective

God save these teams!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Does Education throttle us 'Off' Simple Solutions?

12:19:00 AM

Here's a short interesting story of my colleague, her husband & their friends. As most software professionals, after years of toiling in front of laptops, null pointers & memory leaks, they too, like many others in their mid career, were bit by the Entrepreneur bug and decided to invest in a farmland. So they invested in a Farmhouse in a remote village, a couple of hours drive from Bangalore

To manage, they appointed a local 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker' for their Vineyard. They visit once a month to check on things

When they visited last month, they were excited to see their vineyard and estimated around 1.5 tonnes of grapes, a little on the lower side, nevertheless the toil of their hard earned investment

However when they visited last week, in the hope of taking the produce back home, they found, not one, yes, not even one grape! The whole vineyard was empty

When the 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker' was questioned, he looked down and said the entire produce was stolen and he was too scared to inform them earlier on the phone

So our Corporate friends, in the most professional manner, gave 'feedback' on how disappointed they were to the silent 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker'; after all a software guy seldom knows to handle the 'exceptions'  beyond the world of codes

Needless to say, after the chastising session, they huddled to brainstorm on a permanent solution to this issue. They couldn't immediately replace the 'farmer cum watchman cum caretaker', as there were no 'succession plan' in place. So they had to have him around, until further recruitment

On the theft front, they had to address it; clever as all of them were, they quickly arrived at the best solution - they needed to put the farm under CCTV surveillance; probably the first ever farm under CCTV surveillance in India, nevertheless it was the need of the hour. So they dusted their disappointments and got back to Bangalore to work on the costs and vendor, listening to Chumbawamba's - I get knocked down, but I get up again

At home, my colleague spoke to her mother about this incident & how they had decided on installing CCTVs. Her mom, who herself owns a farm, looked very bewildered. After a few minutes of puzzled look, she asked

"Why don't you put a picture of a God, tie some threads and write below that the one who steals the fruits will be punished?"

"After all, all villagers believe in God, Mantras & Magic, wouldn't this be enough to scare them away?"

All of them were dumbfounded. Anyone who's from an Indian village knows that they deeply believe in God and fear the powers of Mantra's & Magic. A black thread would do the whole trick! A Rs. 100/- solution to a Rs. 100,000/- solution from the best software minds!

As we become more 'educated' and sophisticated, do we stop finding obvious, easy, straightforward, localised solutions?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Faking Empathy

9:43:00 PM

I was walking around the office cubicles looking for a team member, when the Manager of the team spotted me. He reckoned I was looking for someone and the friendly person that he is, asked me if he could help me

"I'm looking for Karthik"

"He sits here", he said pointing to an empty cubicle

"I shall call him" he generously offered

"No that's ok, I shall ping him when he's back", I said

He looked around and spotted Karthik in the breakout area; having coffee with his friends

"He's only on a break, I'll call him", saying he called Karthik's number

"Where are you, Karthik? Krishna is here to see you

I was mildly surprised, why he had to ask that question, when he knew where he was 

"I'm on a break, just here in the breakout area" Karthik said

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't know you were on a break, can you come once you are done? No hurry"

I watched this scene unfold. Would Karthik have any respect for his Manager, if he knew, the concern on disturbing him on a break was faked?

Although we think we can fake empathy, it is only a matter of time, our team members see through it! As always, Honesty is the best policy

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A loose tongue can cost you dear

10:40:00 PM

"I am surprised to see so many people, usually there are only a few in the first class, 2 or 3 scattered around in the second and just myself from the third", jokingly remarked the Professor

The seed was sown...

This weekend was the first contact session for our MS Program and there were around 25 students in the class, all attentively listening

Earlier during the welcome speech, the coordinator had emphasized us on attending the classes. The professor jokingly telling us about the behavior of earlier batches, made us realize it was acceptable to miss classes

Many years back, my role demanded that I reported to someone who was 4 levels above me.  He was a friendly Manager and one day he hinted regarding an opportunity he might have and whether I too would be ready to move along with him

The seed was sown...

Until then, the thought of quitting had not occurred to me - at least this strongly. What he said liberated me of the guilt of 'betraying' - the feeling a fresher 'imagines' when he thinks about resignation

I bet him to it - I had much lesser experience and baggage. I got a job within a month!

In the next job, I decided I would continue for a long time - rather the thought of quitting never occured to me. Three months down the line, my colleagues, who were seniors along with my manager were discussing regarding the sudden spike in attrition over a cup of coffee

My Manager looked at me and asked "Krishna, you have plans to stay at least for a year, right?"

The seed was sown...

A little more than a year after this discussion, I quit. The question indicated the expectation - It was OK to quit; it would only be seen as natural!

As a Manager, we need to be very careful with the our behavior - verbal and non-verbal. Our teams look up at us for approval irrespective of whether they admire us or not! A shadow of weakness or an inappropriate behavior would be sufficient to give them the wrong message!

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to see the attendance in the next contact session

Monday, July 15, 2013

Is being transparent with your team, putting your foot in your mouth?

12:24:00 AM

Tired? Need a break? Take 4 days off in August and get 10 days off in a row... thanks to a long weekend and Independence Day

In all probability, majority of people taking off is high, considering the long weekend. A friend and colleague of mine had the same thoughts when she called for her team meeting. The meeting went uneventfully until she came to the last agenda - Leaves

She had thought of this long and hard; an easy way, was to ignore that there were long leaves that can be availed since her team members had not approached her for leave, so she could plan assuming business as-usual - why unnecessarily give them ideas?; on the other hand, it was inevitable that many may want to avail leave at the last minute where either she would have to disapprove their leaves or have slippage in her plan

Being the good Manager she was, she decided to throw the ball in the teams court

"How many of you have plans to take off in August? We need to plan our work accordingly" she 
bravely asked

The moment she uttered 'off' the energy levels changed. There was excitement in the air and everyone was talking animatedly. She did expect this; she also expected all her team to apply for leave

"I know everyone is going to apply for leave. It would be a joke when I go to Management and say my entire team is on leave!", she thought. The only comfort she had was that her teams key deliveries would be over much before August but it still would be an embarrassment which she had to face for her teams sake!

"I need leave for the 4 days" said one of her team members

"I too need off" said another

"Hmmm.... I am not sure whether I need... I don't have any plans... no I don't need it" said the third, overwhelmed by the options

She sighed in relief, at least it is not going to be the entire team!

"I don't need leave now, I have something planned later this year" said the fourth member

She went around the table and to her surprise only 3 of her team members wanted leave! She wouldn't need to talk to Management, it would be business as-usual in August

She discussed this incident with me. How often do we end up assuming group behavior especially assuming the negative? Most of the time!

Every time I discuss a change in the way of working, I almost always hear people taking a negative stand - What if this happens? What if that happens?

We debate on 'n+1' number of negative alternatives and try to address the exceptions in the process rather than addressing the common flow. This stems from the fact of mistrust and when there is mistrust in the environment, you would be proved right!

In the above case, she braved against the common fear and won the trust of her team - everyone was contended that they were given a choice. Transparency and consensus does help in building strong teams

Monday, July 8, 2013

Burnout at work? Try Time-boxing

11:59:00 PM

My friend who's in the retail business and I were discussing about our jobs. He is normally a very positive person but he seemed put-off. He was having issues with sales and was lamenting about businesses going down, economic slowdown, etc

He works 7 days a week from 9 AM to 10 PM - needless to say a workaholic. Even when he takes a break, it would be to socialize in circles which would give him leads. It was clear that he was 'burnt out'. I advised him to stop exerting so much

"I cannot, I have lots of work, even after all this effort, I go home leaving a pile of work for the next day!"

This is common in software industry as well. We voluntarily put in extra effort 'just for this one delivery'; in no time we tend to look at "more than office hours" as a buffer; our pace slows down and we start 'effectively' using up the buffer. In no time, you realize you have more work than what you can do in '8 hours' and the buffer used earlier, becomes a norm. Pretty soon working on Saturday becomes your buffer and subsequently you would end up working regularly on Saturday too. Parkinson's Law has a major role here - Work expands to fill time!

Not surprisingly, your smart Manager would observe this and work will be planned with Saturday in mind; until now what you had thought, you could push to Saturday, will be replaced with new work... once you realize you're working more, you would start pushing work to Saturday, impacting your productivity, in-turn making you put in more hours. It has a spiraling effect and would burn you out

The best way to handle this is by time-boxing. It is an old concept but have gained wide popularity due to its usage in Agile methodologies such as SCRUM. Time-boxing is fixing a specific time for an activity or phase and stopping it once the time is up, irrespective of whether it is completed. Although it looks simple, it is a difficult concept to implement as it requires discipline

The advantage of this approach is that you always work with a sense of urgency, as you know you cannot extend the timeline

You would experience benefits initially and realize how much work you can accomplish without any distractions - like interruptions, multi-tasking, etc. The challenge is when others are affected by your way of working - someone brings up an unplanned meeting, your friend wants a coffee break, etc; this is when you could loose confidence and slip back to your earlier way of working

To make your time-boxing successful, you need to accommodate the time for these interruptions in your daily plan but try to club them as much as possible... Check your mails at defined intervals, go for coffee breaks at fixed times, if someone wants to discuss something, put it off to a fixed time of the day. With practice, you would learn to work your way through

One great approach to start your day is as follows
1. On Monday make a weekly goal of what has to be achieved this week
2. Everyday, write down the top tasks that you would like to complete for the day in the order of priority. The first few days, you may pick up either more or less tasks, over time you will arrive at the right number of tasks
3. For each of the task, time-box; avoid multi-tasksing - context switching is a killer
4. Study how you have progressed against your plan each day and apply the learning's the next day

Coming to my friend, he tried out this concept and it worked wonders for him and he requested me to pen it down as a blog - thus this one!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Is impatience becoming a virtue?

11:17:00 PM

"I like a job where there are a lot of changes and travel across the globe", said a friend who was looking for an alternate career after his service in the military

"This is not the kind of work I signed up for. I like dynamism - solve a problem here, solve a problem there...", said a colleague of mine

"I am the kind who is innovative. I can start off something great but then I get bored soon, so I need constant change" another friend said proudly, as if it was his right to wash off his hands mid-way since he is a self proclaimed 'innovator'

I've been lately hearing such comments from friends, colleagues and even college pass-outs! It is but a matter of self esteem to declare that one is impatient...

Is this cultural or merely the modern generation with low tolerance or is it escapism?

Some confuse impatience for aggressiveness and 'learn to become impatient', since aggressiveness is considered as a virtue for business acumen; there is a reason that these are two different words in the English dictionary

Success however is all about implementation as much and much more than innovation!

Learn implementation; learn from China. Their method is very militaristic- the Leader commands and the rest implement - no questions asked. This makes the execution extremely strong. The leaps and bounds in their economy talk for themselves - they being a $9 Trillion and we at $2 Trillion

Of course they have their own fall backs and the militaristic model may not be sustainable. However the power of implementation is something that we need to learn from our neighbors

With more and more of us lacking patience to see things through, we would falter in our journey. A small aberration of impatience could cost our country dear

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Don't ask me - It ain't my responsibility!

3:05:00 PM

Last week, I had traveled to a holy place with my family. Usually the trip is planned just a few days in advance and we book accommodation in one of the local places. This time around, the trip was planned months in advance so as to avail the special tickets for darshan & accommodation from the temple administration

We planned to stay overnight, have the Darshan the next day and return back. We reached late in the night and realized the process overhead in getting a room allotted. Since we had booked on-line, we did have a room somewhere around but in order to get an allocation, one had to go to a reservation center, stand in a queue, get an allocation and then go to the allotted cottage for check-in

I braved the queue and after certain hassels got the allocation letter. Armed proudly with the letter, we marched along to 'discover' our cottage. One of the main motivation to book on-line accommodation was the lovely cottages that we had seen from the outside, during our earlier trips

Our cottage looked appealing from outside however the interiors were not well maintained. Our disappointment would have been evident for whoever cared to look at us... sadly not even the attender bothered to take the pains to notice! The attender groggily guided us to our room and we were shocked to see that the bedspreads were dirty. We asked him to change the bedspread

"What is wrong with it?", he asked surprised, totally jolted off his sleep

"See these stains, we need clean sheets"

He wore a look of disbelief, almost as if I had asked for the moon

"They are clean, sir", he emphasized.. It was evident that these were the best rooms by their standards

"Ok, can you at least replace with a new set?"

"All the sets are like these", he insisted

It was a war of wills. I kept persisting and he kept insisting. In the end, frustrated he said

"Sir, all the sheets are like this. The washer-man cleans them - not me"

We resigned to our fates and decided never to use the temple accommodation again

The attender scoped what he understood was his responsibilities and blamed the washer-man and absolved himself of any professional guilt!

I have noticed similar instances, where the software engineer does not think beyond his work because his manager did not assign him that activity

Mostly it is an issue relating to Roles and Responsibility and the type of leadership practiced by the Manager. In Situational Leadership theory, leadership styles are characterized into four behavior types - Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating. Unfortunately in the intellectual industry, manager's sometimes get caught up in the "Telling" leadership style, as they feel this is the least risk averse approach - probably yes, if they are knowledgeable - but helpful only in the short run. The impact of continuous use of this style would end up in making our engineers take less ownership and divert their focus on 'assigned task completion'

In the attenders case, his responsibility had probably been to clean the room with the available resources. Management had not educated him to also ensure Customer Experience; therefore he was oblivious to the dissatisfaction caused by him

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Are you an Excellent or a Mediocre Manager?

11:27:00 PM

Since we were in the new facility our HR decided to have a small "snacks get together", last Friday. We were supposed to meet in the breakout area at 16.00 for the snacks. At 15.30 we got a mail informing us to arrive at 17.00

At 17.00, there was a short speech and we were requested to wait for the snacks... after about 15~20 minutes the snacks was served, meanwhile people started trickling out overwhelmed by the unusual 'continuous networking'!

There was mixed response from people... while some formed a queue to collect the snacks, others decided to finish off their work or head back home. I had decided to call it quits for the day and headed down for my shuttle

On my way back, I asked my HR friend as to the reason for the delay. He explained that the vendor had come late due to which the whole plan had got muddled up

"So what will you do now?", I asked curiously, knowing well nothing can be done

"We won't pay the vendor", answered my friend

"You mean for the food not consumed?", I asked, pretty impressed that some action is being taken on the vendor

"No, we won't pay him at all"

"But isn't that harsh?", I asked totally shocked

"No, that's expectation setting"

His reply took me aback. I was sure the vendor would never again repeat this mistake with us

On reflection, sadly we fear to take such tough actions in our projects. We always try to find the middle path - If someone checks-in their code without testing, we would let it go "just for this one time", if someone comes to a meeting 15 minutes late, we would let it go - "after all we understand he is busy"

We keep compromising on Quality, Cost and Commitments with our teams & suppliers, without realizing "If you say 'yes' to something, you make it more likely to happen again"; the more frequently it occurs, the more conditioned we become to believe that, that is the only natural way to execute

I have had the opportunity to work with few VPs who have motivated members to achieve what was thought to be beyond their capabilities - they could do this solely by giving a constant message to the team, that a compromise was unacceptable. This is the difference between excellence and mediocrity

Monday, June 3, 2013

Choosing the Path of least resistance

12:39:00 AM

The rewards and recognition committee was presenting the rewards and rewardee list to the Management Team for the final sign off. There was just a month to go for the big company annual event which was celebrated in a grand fashion year after year

As they were going through the rewardee list, they came to the reward category for the "Business Unit having best self initiated improvements". This award was to encourage the teams within each Business Unit to strive towards continuous self improvement which was driven by the employees. It was a bottom up approach where-in employees identified improvements and solved it themselves, thereby taking the project and the organization one step closer to be a more efficient place

Unlike other award categories in which there would be at least one awardee for each Business Unit, this award category was limited to a single award - meaning only one Business Unit could win it

The moment this was presented, there was a lot of furor among the Management Team

"My Unit has maximum number of improvements, why isn't my Unit getting the award", said one Unit Head

"My Unit has key improvements which has positively impacted the bottom line", said another Unit Head

"Our Unit has been appreciated for our improvements even by our Customer", said the third Unit Head

"The measurement criteria you have used are incorrect", revolted one of the Heads to the Rewards committee

The arguments went on and on, with the reward committee trying the explain the objective and criteria but to no avail

After 10 minutes, the Site Head intervened "Team, lets not fight over this - Mr. Jack, please cancel this award category for the function" and the meeting moved on

What the site head had done was to choose the path of least resistance. This case is comical especially if you can picture the heated arguments and the sudden final decision. However this indicates weak leadership. One may push it off claiming it to be a trivial issue however these indicate a person's character & leadership skills. To avoid conflict, such irrational decisions would have been taken in other circumstances too

One cannot please everyone at all times - Decisions should be taken by applying Principles and Rules

In this specific case, the reward category had already been approved, which means the reward was found necessary. The Site Head should have been capable of objectively arriving at a conclusion on the awardee rather than shying away from conflict

Monday, May 27, 2013

Does the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few?

11:19:00 PM

A friend of mine posted this question "Does the needs of many outweigh the needs of a few?" What do you think?

Surprisingly I found many agreed that the needs of the many outweighs that of the few, in fact this was even associated to Rewards and Recognition system

Consider a situation where you have a large team whose overall performance varies from average to just above average; on the other hand you have a smaller team which has consistently performed well - but they form a smaller portion of your organization. If you apply the above principle, it would be wiser to reward the larger team, as a larger portion of the company would end up with a higher morale after the awards ceremony

While this may sound logical and many Senior Manager's opts this method in the hope to reduce attrition & improve team morale - in reality this has the opposite effect on the organization. The team which performed well feels disadvantaged they would realize 'no matter how we perform, the result would be the same - so why sweat it out?'

The larger teams' Manager would rejoice - he would, with all probability, like to believe he has done a good job; however the team knowing better, understands there is no value in the reward and thinks either there was a political angle for the award or that the senior Management has no clue on the ground reality. Also, the team would think that this is the 'level of work' expected by the organization and would continue working on these lower standards - Thus a simple R&R has lowered the expected working standard of your organization!

If you apply the same principle to a society - where there are 8 thugs and 2 good men; what would be the greater good? Theft, murder, bribery? The 8 thugs would vouch that the 2 men are murdered, for the greater good, as there would be no one to report their misconducts!

So by blindly satisfying the needs of many, one only facilitates in degrading the society. Whether in projects or society one should take decisions based on Principles and not rules bent to satisfy situations
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