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No Option is NOT an option
I intend to write a few things about a manager who is supposedly managing a team and runs into such situations often created by him. He is a nice person; however, off late that niceness has started hitting the team members badly. Indeed, it is good to be nice but I think that one ought to be professional and skilled apart from merely being nice. I had also given him a card to help him change and let him know what the team thought about him. The message said – “It is nice to be important but it is important to be nice”. Let me call him Mr. X in this blog.
Mr. X was assigned a task of delivering an important assignment that has been turned critical since past 4-5 months since its release date has been postponed twice. Firstly, the efforts were estimated incorrectly (yes, this types of mistakes leave little choice for any options). Secondly, he did not bring it to attention enough in the beginning when he was not provided with proper resources while starting the project. The dates kept slipping and he kept on seeking our help every time to resolve the issues.
Wasn’t there an option to call out for a proper analysis and then identify the risks, communicate it with customer and seek a retrospective? Well, that wasn’t unfortunately considered an option. So, you can’t call that there was no option.
Next, new requirements kept flowing and were asked to be accommodated within the same timelines. There was an option. Protest or Contest. Since neither was considered, customer assumed that Mr. X has signed up to deliver this. This repeated about thrice and every time before he went to meet the customer, I had warned him to put his foot down and justify why it would not be possible to deliver all requirements in such a short time. He had to be Mr. Nice, right? Guess what? Every time he went for customer meetings, he signed up to deliver additional requirements within the same timelines. Net result? He would come back, put additional pressure on team members, ask them to come over weekends and unconvincingly tell why there was no other option!
Since he would seldom listen to our suggestions, I had stopped providing help. I was getting more occupied with other important project and could help him only when he would ask for. One day I decided to take out time and help him since it was not only impacting him and the team; the customer was losing confidence if the team could ever deliver the assignment on time. I asked him to explain where he was finding it difficult to deliver the assignment. He was frustrated so much so that he had given up looking for any option and was merely trying to deliver the assignment whatever the customer would ask for, without even asking the team for feasibility. After listening to him, I realized that he had to take few steps without which he could have failed even if he would have planned to deliver the items. He had to take a sign off to deliver only specific items. There was a challenge to convince the customer for a sign-off. We suggested him an approach that would guarantee him for a sign-off. It worked wonders to get a good breathing space. Clearly, there was an option.
The things continued in ad-hoc fashion and the customers kept sending nasty mails venting out their frustrations for not delivering the items on time. He was asked to send a daily tracker. I learnt later that he used to bump up the status progress and send it to the customer to avoid escalations. He was also getting carried away by his manager, who was determined to deliver the project without understanding that it was in fact getting delayed because of the defects introduced due to pressurising team members!
When the team members vented out their frustrations of working on all weekends, Mr. X called up for a meeting with the delivery head. When the delivery head tried to explain the situation and stated that the team can return to regular schedule shortly and need not work on weekends; the team retorted that they were being told the same thing since past 3 years! The option of helping team members return to their regular schedule did exist – having a candid discussion with customer, explaining that there was a goof up in estimates and that it would take certain time to deliver. Its just that the option was not exercised. Instead, it was only stated that there is no option. That’s much easier for folks to state when they do not intend to work out any options or drag it as much as they can. Does any option exist for such situations? Indeed, exercise the option of disabling their logins and swipe cards to enter the premises