Monday, May 25, 2015

Setting expectations is as necessary as manage them for everyone !

He was technically sound and had a proven track record creating and managing IT infrastructure in his chosen industry across multiple entities; recently he had moved into a position of power and influence in his new assignment and was enjoying flexing his muscles. Reaching out to vendors and others in the industry he announced his intentions engaging them in discussions that had most of them wanting to be part of future plans. After spending more than two decades in the industry he had aspirations of making it to the corner office.

The new company needed the fresh look he brought to the table; his hands-on approach is what was required to move them to the next level of efficiency. The company had consistently approached IT as a necessary evil to spend only when absolutely necessary resulting in decade old servers, geriatric laptops and desktops, and teenage neglected applications. The management took a penny pinching view of IT budgets always wanting to defer, delay or procrastinate on decisions after squeezing the proverbial last drop from vendors.

His demeanor driven by professional knowledge bordered on loud and brash, at times tended towards arrogance. To his credit he built relationships and trust quickly with the management getting their ear and then toeing the party line; with his ability to manage relationships and not being disruptive to the culture, he became part of the inner circle getting a view to the workings of the company though unable to change the decision making inertia. So he decided to enrol external help which he hoped would trigger positive change.

The hired external consultant provided a reality check and direction to take which he reviewed with his internal peers. Collectively they had a limited view which stalled progress; they knew what needed to be done but did not know how to get started with internal buy-in. Sliding timelines favored no one and the report finally elicited a view from the management chastising him for not delivering what was required. The absence of an articulated and documented expectation, it was like hitting a moving target in the dark !

He attempted to calm ruffled feathers on both sides though finally bowing to the management view with his subservient survival instinct prevailing over his professional pride. Capability and self-belief is a function of experience endorsed by past success. Professionals take a stand with conviction driven by confidence that is built on a foundation of deep expertise in a specific area; shallowness of bravado is quite evident when challenged. He backed off and tentatively offered to build a bridge which would save the situation.

Status quo dragged on for a while with silence and no action leaving the organization in suspension and users becoming restless after having seen a ray of hope. The company used to suboptimal process and technology solution continued to labour with obsolete and incomplete solutions while the industry was fast pacing ahead into a new world of digitally enabled customer engagements. For the newbie, it was a struggle for meaningful existence while wanting to change the outcomes he knew were possible with some of the recommendations.

Any strategy or plan with no resources, will, and buy-in to execute, is waste of time, effort, storage space and paper ! Contextually the difficulty was the management’s unwillingness to define what is required while expecting not just the necessary but the best of outcomes. There are many avenues to explore and break the deadlock, advice that coaches and consultants can offer to overcome the situation. Conventional wisdom will preach that the service provider to take a step backward and find a way to resolve the stalemate.

If you were the protagonist, what would you do ? Would you take a stand and risk losing your job ? If you were the management, would you give up your high chair and create a tripartite agreement on expected outcomes ? And if you were the consultant, how would you resolve the impasse with no access to the management and dependence on IT to find a solution ? If we analyse the situation, every stakeholder erred in the beginning by not defining the baseline or setting detailed explicit expectations. It’s a lose-lose scenario now !

Was the ending happy and satisfactory for everyone ? Coming soon …

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