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September - 2006 - issue > Tricks of a Good Manager
Hands-that-mould-minds
Keerthana Venkatesh
Friday, September 1, 2006
Project Managers at EDS are busy modeling cars out of vegetables. One member of each team is chalking out a plan while the rest are trying to find a mechanism to fix the parts. Vasanthi Suresh stands supervising the teams. ‘Attrition’-she announces. And the teams grumble while a member moves out. This was her PM 3-I approach in her previous role as the Project Support Office Leader at EDS India, before taking over her current role of a Resourcing Manager with them.

A simple tool like a Vacation Planner was designed by a Project Manager (PM) who used this to manage his team when a member took off from work. Suresh soon realized that each PM had his own set of good practices and expertise in handling projects assigned to him or her. Unfortunately, these talents were confined only to that particular team; they needed to be leveraged across other managers so as to help the larger organization. Hence, her team brainstormed and initiated the PM 3-Is that holds innovative programs every quarter.

To start with, the first month had the PM Interconnect, a newsletter encompassing the success stories of organizational leaders and PMs. The second month had a forum called PM Interact wherein PMs were divided into five groups, given a problem and asked to solve it using their own techniques, like the “vegetable-car-modeling game”. The third month witnessed PM Instruct. Here, a subject matter expert addressed Project Managers on different project management areas. She elucidates, “A manager who handles a lot of risk related activities addresses the team on this. For a database administrator team in EDS it’s the most critical activity.”

Each PM introduced their individual technique and in the end all the managers learnt four new techniques of problem solving apart from their own. “We’ve learnt that the teams have, individually and collectively, started using these new techniques scientifically and it has solved problems efficiently,” explains Suresh.

The end of this project’s first trimester found managers networking a great deal within the organization. Suresh’s team observed that knowledge sharing grew leaps and bounds at EDS India.

“The new networking-culture and knowledge exchange resulted in several PMs learning about and utilizing this tool. Today it is extensively used across EDS India,” she informs. This ‘fun with learning’ for the managers at EDS has been a part of Suresh’s fashion of managership. And if she’s learnt how to poise her fashion, she’s also played an important role in shaping the couture of the PMs as well.

Project Management Level certification has been raging in the tech industry for a while now. And Suresh only had to wait to discover enthusiasm for this among the PMs. She instantly went about setting up study groups and initiated 13 sessions across all project management areas in each of the EDS’ centers in India. “We also set up a help desk in the Project Management Office where any queries related to PMP certification could be clarified,” says Suresh. And, for the PMP certified managers, resources for Professional Developing Unit (PDU) Qualification to maintain their PMP status was also arranged for. “In three years you need to give 60 PDUs. The program zoomed to success with the numbers increasing from 23 PMP certified to over 100 in no time,” notes Suresh.

Commencing her managerial role as a module leader, Suresh recalls, “Even if it’s a small team you realize you need to do a lot of things differently. The very first lesson I learnt was that each individual is unique and has to be respected for that individuality.”

Growing from a Module Leader to Resource Manager, Suresh has 16 years of professionalism championing her. As a Project Support Office Leader at EDS, she was asked to analyze certain resource challenges within EDS and suggest efficient solutions for them. Says Suresh, “I had to take an outside perspective first to understand if a problem did exist and then to find the nooks from where these problems were repeatedly shooting out.” She roped in a couple of seniors, brainstormed and, together, they took a scientific perspective of the entire issue. In fact, Suresh confesses that she did use many techniques that she learnt when organizing the PM 3-Is. Fishbone analysis, Five-Whys and other techniques came into use to chalk the diagram of the problematic areas. She initiated people across EDS India into different programs to fix the issues.

With EDS in the process of doubling its strength, interview management was one of the challenging areas that she was asked to tackle. Today being a candidates’ market, the recruitment team, which consisted mainly of people working on projects, found it quite demotivating when candidates wouldn’t turn up for the interview. They were putting in an additional effort for this firm-building process apart from their project responsibilities. “So, we deployed an online testing tool for recruiting people below certain years of experience as there is more focus on technical competency here,” informs Suresh. This cut down the interviewing effort by nearly 30 percent taking the shortlisted candidates directly to the managerial round.

Simultaneously, her team began conducting workshops, forums and training for interviewers to air their woes. Skits were enacted to educate interviewers about the do’s and dont’s during the interview process, a typical one being a manager receiving a phone call about some production problem and leaving the candidate stranded half way through the interview. “Treating candidates with respect and sending right signals to the market as ambassadors of EDS was a part of these grooming sessions,” she explains.

Suresh’s initiative to develop management skills within the organization is best seen during her training classes. “A team is a group of people working together for a defined goal but people complexities are different with different people,” says Suresh. Understanding each individual’s strengths and leveraging it across the team for the organization’s benefit has been her forte.

Into her sixth year at EDS, Suresh has come a long way in the tech world. Professional adroitness in technical programming, program management, people care management, project leadership development, workforce management - what does she next intend to add to her tricks of a manager!

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