Beat OR get beaten

HR department of one of our customers had setup a leadership meeting to discuss customer issues and come up with solutions. I had another design meeting clash and as you may have guessed, I had opted to be part of design meeting. Halfway through, I received the call from a senior leader to be part of HR meeting!

Reluctantly, I agreed to be part of the meeting wherein I observed most of the audience was dragged for this meeting while a few others had considered this as an opportunity for forty winks and rest had decided for a live spectator entertainment:-).

As usual, HR tried to get few people start talking while others tried to hide behind folks sitting in rows ahead of them. As the dust settled down, few of the folks raised issue related to hike, appraisals that were not relevant for this meeting. HR realized that the meeting was not going in right direction and picked up their first target – this time the last person in the last queue. He spoke half being nervous while half of the time concentrating on his accent. He listed the issues but covered up fearing that he may be perceived as problem child. The second person in the queue repeated most of the issues and then expressed lack of support from his superiors. Slowly, one by one started getting up and started blaming the senior management and superiors for not being very supportive and passing on the pressure.

The senior leaders couldn’t help much but tried to explain their helplessness to do more about it as the trend was set from their predecessors to agree all with the customer and just do what is being told. This had had created loads of issues down the chain though. Everybody, including senior leaders to junior developers was under tremendous pressure despite working hard. What people were missing is 2 points- to understand their role and work together.

Let me explain what I mean here (which is what I shared in that forum) – Beat OR Get beaten – not in a literal sense though, I do not sign up for violence. If you would observe, I have highlighted the word ‘OR’. Why? The choice is yours. Either you beat or get beaten. I am sure that nobody likes to get beaten. Indeed, to beat, you must know your role better. It was clear that none of the folks had clarity of their roles. For instance, when mails were forwarded or copied to them, they didn’t know what to do. When status of tasks was asked, they didn’t know the answers. Why? Its because, they didn’t even know that they were not the owners for those tasks in the first place. Additionally, they didn’t know who the owners were! Worst, they didn’t ask right questions or even tried to seek clarity! Net result, the issues took time to get resolved and the pressure kept mounting.

Another thing observed was that since the project was a complex and extended to many groups, most of them tried to cover themselves whenever issues arose. They seldom realized that they all were working for one customer. It was common to point the finger to other group, not realizing that it was ending up in lose-lose situations. It was surprising to notice that the other teams missed that they were supposed to be on one side and the customer was on the other. I don’t mean to say this in terms of arguing. However, the basic fact that they had to work ‘together’ and NOT ‘against’ to serve the customer was missing. Often, I had raised this issue and observation with senior leaders to set the expectations with the teams. Due to frequency of issues raised by customer, getting the team leaders together was considered lower priority. And when the issues were not reported, that time was mostly used to relax praying for an ‘issue free’ environment!

To summarize, what I intend to state is that it is very natural not to know all things when you start working on a complex project. However, the least you can do is to understand your role, help your organization by collaborating and trying to accommodate timelines/activities to deliver quality to the project. If you are a leader, you have to have courage to bite the bullet, if required and ensure that you do not pass on the pressure to your subordinates.

Have you ever seen a sportsman getting beaten despite working hard? If yes, then he has not worked hard enough than the sportsman who beats him. I do not agree that it is not possible when someone plays politics either. One can still be careful of such people who tend to create nuisance. If you are not, you are not working hard enough! It all boils down to what you want to. Beat OR get beaten? 🙂

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