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September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature
Taking an effective course correcting action
Virendra Gupta
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
This experience is related to one of my recent assignments. The situation was that - the team that I was assigned to lead was faced with many issues – Low customer satisfaction, Low quality of deliverables, High attrition, Lower compliance to Information Security, Low morale of the team and lack of clear direction and ambiguity about future.

In fact, when I joined this team, who ever I interacted with gave me a very bleak picture of the conditions and the future of this team. One person who had left this team when I just joined told me that I had come to this team very late and there were hardly any prospects here. For me, it was a challenge of my skills and my perseverance. Prior to joining this team, I was heading another team, which was doing very well, and hence moving to this team was not something very easy.

However, I had belief in the capabilities of people. I knew that this team does possess very good people and they can really deliver and turn around the situation but probably were lacking in direction. Every one had different understanding on that. In fact, when I asked them what is the top most expectation of our customers from us, every one gave me different replies.

I believed strongly in focused approach and simplifying matter. From my interactions with all the relevant stakeholders, I figured out the highest priority aspect for this team which can have causal effect on all other results such as customer satisfaction, low morale etc. After interaction with all the stakeholders, I realized that the root cause of all the problems and major expectation of customer was Quality of Deliverables. If we can focus on this and ensure high quality, it can help in eliminating almost every issue. High quality will mean high customer satisfaction; it will also reduce rework, once released to customer, it will give a super-ordinate and challenging goal to every one and help in improving morale of team. High quality was also a goal which if achieved will give a sense of pride, sense of achievement and satisfaction to the team members.

I single-mindedly pursued this goal. Repeatedly in all meetings, in all communication, I highlighted this. We geared our rewards and recognition program toward this objective. We oriented our goal setting and performance appraisal and evaluation system to highlight quality as most important goal and achievement.

Improving quality also required some short term and long-term actions and again a focused approach. If in one go, we want to improve quality of each deliverable, it may not be possible. We focused most on the deliverable, which really had direct and profound impact on customer. We examined influencing factors for that and oriented our strategy towards that. Our strategy for quality centered on improving code quality and competency improvement.

For people management, we again adopted a mix of short term and long-term actions approach based on people focus and interest in their career growth. We initiated many short term actions which helped in improving people orientation in teams such as Welcome programme for new team members, Team get togethers, birthday celebrations, wedding celebrations, etc. We also made it a practice to give a bouquet of flowers on these occasions. (Flowers have a very profound impact on people). Our long-term actions focused on training, feedback based competency improvement, rewards and recognition. We implemented many different methods of recognition.

We could resolve the issue of information security with a very simple but very effective mechanism of cross audits and awareness on impact of some of the violations. The team members’ receptiveness to these efforts and understanding on this aspect pleasantly surprised me.

I think we still have a long way to go. The past experience has also given us many lessons & learning. The most important lesson, which I have learnt, is on perseverance and patience. I feel teams can do wonders if they remain perseverant and patient. They can conquer most of the difficult situations. Supportive and understanding stakeholders and team members can also prove to be a strength in this situation.
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