Monday, April 18, 2011

Making it stick

An intense debate was on, on how we ensure team alignment across the different organizational units that form a workgroup within an enterprise. As the discussion moved towards pinning responsibility (read blame) when things go wrong, there was a palpable sense of unease across the group; specifically the team that manages the vendor relationships and is expected to deliver and monitor the service.

The discussion had started when one of the stakeholders had raised the issue of inter-dependency across other teams and his ability to influence how the team is rated during the review and appraisal. It is true that all of us are no longer islands with any connection to others. We use services from within and outside and similarly provide it directly or indirectly to internal and external customers. The work subdivided into interrelated tasks when performed in unison lead to a positive outcome (in most cases).

Adversarial attitude is the result when we are not satisfied with the result or our perception of the effort put in by others. The conventional solution is to create Service Level Agreements, cross-linked KRAs (Key Result Areas). Review meetings are often heated while everyone trying to pin the “blame” on the other. Such meetings are rarely productive and highlight the gap resulting in the “you” versus “us” stance. The meeting was headed for a showdown that would have been messy for everyone with skeletons tumbling out of the proverbial closet.

It was an eye opener remark from one of the participants in the meeting that had everyone hushed and staring at the person who uttered the words “But are we are all not on the same side of the table ?”. Could anyone have disagreed to such a profound insight ? Speechless everyone exchanged glances feeling generally uncomfortable without acknowledging the cause.

The acknowledgement of the fact that we all are working towards the same objective is a starting point not just for any collaborative endeavour, but for teams within the organization. Everyone contributes and brings a skill to the table that matters, even if in a small way. When we are in a challenged situation, we know that the best recovery strategy is to help the other overcome the challenge and not berate the lack of skill or achievement.

Great teamwork is always a result of shared goal and common objective; the acknowledgement of complementary skills within the team provides a framework that nurtures healthy collaboration and focus on what matters, i.e. the result, without compromising the quality of team spirit. Keeping this as the foundation of review helps ensure better outcomes. It is indeed difficult to sustain such a mindset when one is at the receiving end.

The hierarchical leader of the team and the CIO in this case has to play the role of setting expectations and resolve confrontations and conflict which will always be there. The matrix organizations of today are necessary; we have to learn to live in the rain.

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