Monday, November 27, 2006

Biopsy of a Team

For the last few days, I have been thinking about writing about a topic with most of the people around me define with. Teams. Yes, since most of us spend anything from 12 to 15 hours daily working with our respective teams and organizations, this topic should elicit the maximum amount of thought and emotion from us.
I am not a Management Guru or a thinker, but I write from what I see. And I see what most of us do.
Defining Teams
Teams are not just about the huddle after a success. They are more than that. A team, as I see it, is a collection of people who come together to accomplish a certain common task. The task can be playing a game, as in cricket or football, or working in an organization. Believe me, the latter can be as engaging as the former.
But, from the above definition of a team, there are two important phrases, viz. Collection of people and Common Task. Let’s take them one by one.
Collection of people, as it goes, is not a simple proposition, People picked up randomly and put together to accomplish a task, might just be an act of cinematic liberty. In real life and real organizations, this is not true. In today's scenario, teams are selected from a group of people with a certain skill set. This skill set can be true in terms of physical and mental attributes. For the purpose of discussion let us club domain knowledge with physical attributes. Mental attributes would basically talk of the person's fitment into the team, adapting and understanding the team culture and objective.
Team Selection - Role of Specialists & Generalists
In an ideal team selection, every single member knows what he does, best. And also, there is respect in the abilities of others in the team. But, if everything was white and black, where would generalists like me go. So, there are certain people who basically can fit in more than one role. They might not be specialists, but they can hold fort in most scenarios.
It is with these generalist people that most of the mental attribute problems arise. Sometimes in their minds, and sometimes in others.
The job of team selection is to me the most important in the ultimate accomplishment of a task. This is because, generalists, with their ability to handle a bit of others domain area, they might spell a sense of insecurity among the team members. Not to say that Generalists are more of a nuisance to team culture, we should understand, these people need special handling. They have to be nurtured as by multi-tasking they display a distinct understanding of team objectives, and in the present manpower reduction scenario, they form an essential part of the team.
Here the role of the team leader is important. He can move ahead and try and model all members as generalists, or keep a healthy mix of specialists and generalists. That to me is the key of team selection and reflects the means to end approach of the team.
But the end, to me is what most teams don’t understand. The clarity and singularity of purpose are not evident these days. Teams which work on defined timelines or targets mostly display this attribute. Sometimes, the team leaders also miss the real purpose and take on hands on day to day approach. Here we again delve in to the mental attribute of teams.
Mental Attributes – Fitment, Adaptability, & Clarity of Goal
Basic purpose or goal of team is a factor of many environmental parameters. On a macro level, this is ruled by the Industry, the technology, and mostly by outlook of the management. A goal once decided moves along as the team and the organization mature and grow. This transient nature of the goal, tests the mettle of a team and the vision of the leader.
Blaming the team leader for low engagement levels in the team is not completely correct. Although, by being the leader, quantum of the blame rests with him, but certain factors are beyond his control too.
If the organization has decided to focus its attention towards a new technology, then the entire team which was working on the now-out dated techniques is rendered in such a flux. I have faced such a situation, where in the organization decided, in face of competition, to switch technologies mid-way. The entire team was in a state of indecisiveness and was then relocated to various other teams. This led to low motivation and engagement levels, and further to mass exodus to other organizations. And till date, whenever we all meet, the person most criticized is the team leader for not being open and forthright with the team on such a drastic change. This might not be completely correct, but that’s how I see everyone, including myself, functioning.
In that state of flux, if the team was taken into confidence, before hand, and explained the impending scenario, at least some engagement levels could have been maintained. But that is asking much from the team leader, who himself was a member of someone else’s team.
But where most organizations and team leaders go wrong, is to shove the entire impending scenario under the carpet. Like as taking the above example further, all employees were taken for an outbound to a resort within city limits and engagement was discussed there. Its not that the team had a flock of sheep who did not understand anything, but the team leader and the management still thought it to be a better way of handling the situation. Result was the inevitable, the engagement score dipped to an all time low.
On a cautionary side, let me add, lets not see all such efforts (as in outbound etc.) by the team leader, as shoving concern under the carpet. Some Outbound trips I attended recently were pure unadulterated fun and led to good bonding between the team.
But still as per the common belief, things go wrong when they have to and are most needed to go right. Team leaders falter when then they are most required to go right.
Teams are complex and need very careful handling. A trick missed once can have a multiplying effect later. And this is the common scenario most teams and organizations face.
So if you are leading a team, then chalk out a vision for the team. Even if the goals are transient, vision is generally stable over time and through situations. Engage the team, involve them in decision making, but also be critical when required. All this is easier said than done. But try some of it, and your team, even after a long time will never criticize you. And you could simply believe in the phrase, Happily Ever After!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

An Ode to the Women in My Life

Agatha Christie said, "Any woman can make a fool of a man, and if he is in love with her, more so." This is so aptly put, and coming from a woman who created Hercule Poirot, this is more of a candid confession.

I am not saying that all women are conniving and cunning. I can never say that. You know why!! Not because most of my readers are women but because I enjoy their company!! Hence, proving my credentials once and for all, about my preferences.

Women enjoy interplaying men, situations, and other women around them. They have a good sense of timing on what to say or do when. Just imagine, you are winning an argument and suddenly her eyes brim. And then, even before you can imagine, the contest comes flowing down her eyes as tears. And then from an aggressive and winning partner, you are now the loser; and guilt is written across your face. Often this incident leads to gifts and your going down and scratching your knees.

Its not that women do it intentionally, it happens because they are like that. It has its benefits too. Imagine watching a romantic story. Women can cry easily and relieve them, as men, we have to blink our eyes to shun the emotions away or play on our cell phones. We are macho and can't cry or she might think am a sissy boy. So at the end of it all, we have to crack a joke on why these stupid sob story makers don't provide tissues with the tickets. This dilemma is perennial.

To say that women know what to do and when, would be giving them a larger than life aura. But if you give them a car, all that I said about timing can be thrown out of the window. They can cut across lanes, jam their feet on the breaks suddenly, and talk on cell phones while driving, as if it is god's will. And if someone tells them, it’s wrong, then promptly comes the counter-attack, which eventually in most cases, ends in tears and you being guilty.

History has always been His Story. Because she never let him know that he was the character and she the script writer. Every successful man has a women behind him, well so does every unsuccessful man. This is just like watching a puppet show. At school, my puppetry teacher, a woman, had all male puppet characters. I didn't understand then, but she took immense pride in ordering, and cajoling them to act on her fingers. When given the chance, I always missed a trick. The wrong finger moved, and instead of shaking his head, he did a pelvic thrust that would put even Michael Jackson to shame.

Decisions taken with your partner are always mutual. She decides that mutually, it is the best for you. It can range from the choice of a restaurant to the food you order, to the color of your shirt and tie. Women have such a sense of color and knowing what suits what. Men can take it casual. But women, never!! Even their casual has a dressing sense. The jeans are torn at the right places, the shirt has exactly the right number of buttons, the hair color has just the right tinge of red and what not.

But having said all of that, we are incomplete without them. They add the necessary charm and a daily quest in our lives, the quest of what next? Something.....that keeps us on our toes. Something.... which makes us better men.

So here's a Big Thank You to all the women in my life. God Bless You and more of your kind be blessed to save my soul.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

God Save Me

I am sitting here in a very dark room, looking all somber and sincere. There is just one light source which suddenly illuminates my face. And I look up to you.
“I need to tell you something.”
“Don’t know how to say it. But what should I do, this needs to be told.”
I grimace. And look at you with melancholy eyes.
What the heck, I still will say it, because this was the best way I found to start my next write-up on me and myself.
Well, I would imagine the lights go up, and there is a clatter of claps and whistles all around the room. Even if there aren’t any, I don’t care, ‘cause I am telling something which all of us feel and find it difficult and unexplainable.
Last time I wrote, I told you how the women I wanted to meet were all booked or married and the ones left for me were high on EQ and low on IQ.
As I moved on, in my search of finding someone who completes the puzzle, that’s me, I have now realized one very important cardinal truth. Women have these two basic traits given by nature to protect themselves from overtures of men like me.
Firstly, they have good intuition. And by good I mean very good, as in extra-ordinary. Whatever we men are dying to say, she has already understood. So, here I should assume that the problem is solved. She knows what I want to say, so every thing is fine and we can let the fat lady sing.
No, my friend!
There is still a second trait which most women exhibit. They show they are dumb. That they don’t understand a thing and are confused. That explains why most women on being proposed say, “I always treated you as a friend. Oh my God, I can’t believe it. I am so saddened by this. Its better we don’t meet.”
Didn’t I hit a chord? ‘cause that’s what I have heard so many times during my stay on earth.
Not just while being proposed, women generally portray the idea of being happy in small things of life. As this friend of mine who told me, “I got my nose pierced and my fiancĂ© held my hand all throughout. Don’t you think its beautiful?”
You ain’t!!
Even getting your nose pierced while holding hands with your can it be beautiful. I can’t imagine how that guy could stand this. I would have fainted as soon as the needle would have been brought anywhere near her.
Well, moving on. Women have this unique way of making you feel special. They would even make waiting for you sound so special, as in “take your time….I am here.” And once the wait is over the tantrums would follow. “You don’t know how to manage time. I don’t know how would you do in future.” Strange....but true.
The other day, this friend of mine told me, “You are the only guy, whose my such a close friend.” Wow….so sweet. But I have basically lost out on women, that I shot back, “Hey does your fiancĂ© have some problem?”
The outcome was natural. Needless to say my foot got stamped by her 4 inch heel.
You must have realized by now, how confused I am about women and their strange ways. But somehow when I see her, I go weak in my knees. Hey.....don’t imagine this to be mushy.
Whenever I see some good woman, I end up hitting my knee on some wall, chair or table.
I still am looking for a missing part of my life puzzle who completes me. There have been some who have come close to being in the vicinity of being near to perfect. But sadly.....none have been ideal.
We always look for someone who completes us. And in that search I move on. And on my way I meet women who can be intelligent and dim-witted at the same time.
I heard a British once say, “God Save the Queen.”
Hey, why save the Queen?
Save me. ‘Cause the Queen can fend for herself.