Contribute beyond your title

Easier are the decisions where one side is right and the other is wrong however in many situations, leaders have to choose one from the two rights.

Here is a story about Peter, the project manager, who assumed responsibility, led beyond his title and made a difference by his decision.

Quandary or the Growth Opportunity?

Background
Peter was working as a project manager with a small but growing software service provider company.  For last few months, he was working on a project very critical for the client – Caroline.

Caroline was very happy with the way the project was progressing; especially with the way Peter was managing it. Peter never missed a Status report and always kept Caroline updated with the progress.

In fact, Caroline’s positive feedback was one of the reasons behind Peter’s recent salary rise.

Quandary of Two Rights
On a Thursday morning, Peter got an email from his CEO instructing him to “hide” an important piece of information in the weekly status report which was supposed to be sent on Friday.

Benefit of hiding the information was continuation of the contract with Caroline for at-least next 6 months which meant a lot of money for Peter’s company.

On the other side, Caroline may go bankrupt in next 6 months if she continues funding the project which had no future – at least it was apparent with the information which was to be hidden.

Peter, the project management professional, was well aware that as a project in-charge he has to do the right thing for the project. He wanted to inform Caroline about the fact but he was asked by his superior NOT to do that.

Now, he has to make a choice between two rights. Between integrity (with the client) versus commitment (towards his own company).

Now what would he do? Would he send the status report and pretend that he doesn’t know about the “hidden” fact or update the client about the situation which will lead his company to lose the contract?

The Decision
Peter decided to Eat That Frog andchose a road less traveled.

He decided to meet his CEO to tell that he won’t hide that information in the status report and still do well for the company.

Peter quickly developed a plan which would enable his organization to earn the money they were losing if they unhide the truth to Caroline and presented to his CEO.

“This plan is not bullet-proof and there is no guarantee we will gain the money we are going to lose,” said the CEO.

“But, it’s definitely a way to go!  Peter. You, the leader beyond your title – Project Manager – have made me realize that the path I was heading was faulty and was not in the favor of our company’s long term sustainable success,” CEO said slowly.

“Go ahead and update Caroline with the facts. Even if we lose the contract we will at-least win a friend who will be ready to stand by our company for the rest of her life,” added the CEO.

Conclusion
Peter sent the status report without hiding the fact. Caroline took the decision to stop further development on this project. Actually, stopping this project saved Caroline from going bankrupt also.

On the other side, CEO worked with Peter on the business plan he developed, made it bullet-proof and stared executing it.

6 Months Later: Peter, who is now leading the SBU as per the revised business plan, got a call from Caroline who wanted to start a new project which was three times bigger in size, of course with Peter’s company.

This was the story about 3 such quandaries which stand as fundamental models or paradigms while deciding from two-rights quandaries.

  1. Honesty Vs. Commitment – Honesty towards his profession and commitment towards his company.
  2. Personal interests Vs. Organization’s – Hiding the fact was easy for Peter but was going to be bad for the company over the long run.
  3. Quick-fix Vs. Long-standing – Again, the quick-fix,  hiding the fact, would have affected the company adversely over the long term.

In such situations, the first thing you need to do is to what’s right for the greater good of everyone involved, as Peter did.  The people around you will know it nevertheless.

Everyone will learn it the harder way if you don’t shout it out.

Pause. Take a deep breath. Decide how you are going to work out the problem. Make an alternative plan and execute it with a specific purpose.

Power Question: In quandaries, do you assume responsibility and take the tough but the right decision?

What many #sales driven organizations sometimes forget (and how not to)

I’ve observed organizations keeping no stones unturned to sell their stuff.

From hiring (so-called) intelligent management grads from top B-schools to making a wild number of on-site visits to making a local veteran with 40 years of industry experience overloaded with more functions than he can justify – just so that other persons can focus on sales…. means getting the “Goat” in the box!

Photo Credit: Shahrokh Dabiri’s Flickr photostream

Such organizations focus solely on increasing sales. To do that, they run aggressive campaigns, extensive cold calling, participate in many trade-shows, do a large number of on-site sales visits etc. – all the time they are running, running and running… to find more customers to sell their stuff.

They do not like to invest their time in making their operations process-based/effective. Investing in industry standard certifications like CMM or ISO 9001 and the discipline that is required to maintain such certifications is a waste of energy for them. Instead, they rely on an individual’s skills to get things done. In essence, they are neglecting to measure the quality of services or the products they are providing.

Often they overlook the basic principle that if the service you provide or the product you sell is outstanding; it will sell itself!

I’m not saying that aggressive marketing efforts are bad, I’m just saying that equal attention should be given to operations part of the business as well.

Such a biased mindset negatively impacts their employees, their family life, and the overall business over the long run. Such organizations end up with the poor group of employees who are just helpless people who don’t have any other career option available and hence are staying with them.

And such organizations expect that such employees will take care of their business. Can it really happen?

Here is one way to fix this problem to an extent: validate the quality of their products and services from the customer’s perspective and ensure the right delivery.

They can:

  1. be their own customer. Call their customer service department to talk with one of the executives. Call at different times. What kind of experience do they get with different executives?
  2. hire external consultants or ask their friends to just walk-in like their real-time customers… get the report of their experiences.
  3. ask their employees, “Would you buy the services that your organization offers?”  they should also drill into the reasons.

Now they should observe the pattern of the answers. Do these patterns resemble anything? If yes then they know what to do.

The Sculptor

Remember, when you were a child, you wanted to perform the best you could?

Oh, and you heard the famous story about the sculptor who made idols.

A man once visited a temple under construction where he saw a sculptor making an idol. Suddenly he noticed a similar idol lying nearby.

Surprised, he asked the sculptor, “Do you need two statues of the same idol?”

“Well,” said the sculptor without looking up, “We need only one, but the first one got damaged at the last stage.”

The gentleman examined the idol and found no apparent damage. “Where is the damage?” he asked. “There is a scratch on the nose of the idol.” said the sculptor, still busy with his work.

“Where are you going to install the idol?” The sculptor replied that it would be installed on a pillar twenty feet high. ”If the idol is that far, who is going to know that there is a scratch on the nose?” the gentleman asked.

The sculptor stopped his work, looked up at the gentleman, smiled and said, “I will know it.”

When I was in my early twenties, I had not heard this story but I for some reason, I ended up re-writing VB6 code for 4 times to better an Accounting Software I developed.

Each time, the earlier code used to work but I was not satisfied with its structure and quality.

All four of these projects were service projects that used my accounting software as an important module but here’s the thing:

I really did not understand what “scope” of work meant and still, I was running a profitable small business!

Oh, the project management knowledge I acquired later was a still a decade away from me.

I had a desire to make the software better and it resulted in 100+ installations of my software, both as a standalone desktop app or as a part of a bigger system with multiple modules in those days.

I knew that no one would appreciate me for the rework I did to improve the code quality of my accounting software but it gave me the satisfaction of excelling at my work.

So when I heard the story of the sculptor and the idol, it resonated with me well.

The desire to excel at what you do, regardless of what activity you are involved in, is exclusive of the fact whether someone else appreciates you or not. Excellence is a drive from inside, not outside.

Unreasonable decisions like this give you an immense “kick” to bring out the best within you and make the world a better place.