Monday, March 9, 2015

What I wish I had known :: Lesson 8 :: Roll with the Punches to Ride like the Wind

Boxing Gloves from
In life there will be times when the whole world seems to be falling apart. Projects will fail, you will be abandoned, politics will work against you, you will be cheated of what you want, you will be lonely, defenseless and vulnerable.

At times like this I have 2 reactions pretty much simultaneously.

Run Away, as Far and Fast as I can: The first thought is to call in sick. After all, aren't casual leave days meant for just such times? For times when I do not want to face the day.  For days I want to hide from everyone. For days when I know, just know, that nothing will be right.

Say Sorry and Fix It: The second thought is, "I'm damned if I am going to let this keep me down".  I can not accept defeat.  Defeat is when I say I am beaten and there is no way to recover.  I am always looking for a way to recover.  I find that when something goes wrong, I would rather admit that it's gone wrong, and then, spend time thinking about how to recover.

Over the years, I have learned to have a Plan B and often a Plan C.  So when something goes wrong, I can switch, to the next plan.  But there are only so many plans I can have. And not all eventualities can be "planned for".

I have found that most corporate teams appreciate it when a person accepts that something has failed.  Also, that if we truly want to fix something, there are many people willing to go out of their way to help.

"You Are The Guys Who Deliver Crap"

Within months of joining GECIS, and many presentations later, I was invited by GE's CLO, Bob, to serve on the Learning Board of Directors (LBOD). I was overwhelmed and proud. I spent over a month, getting to know the nitty-gritties of each project. Not just from Program and Project Managers, but also from members on their teams including trainees. I knew who our supporters were, where projects were performing well, where there were new projects and teams to be signed up.  I also prepared for the bad. My refrain was, "Tell me all the issues.  Tell me all the bad feedback. I don't want to be caught unawares."  I then prepared recovery plans and responses. I was ready.

I reach Crotonville, well prepared. Bob introduced me to other members of the board, saying, "This is Sangeeta, the Operations Head of the team we have in India". We go half-way around the circle of people, till we reach Paul.

Paul, shakes my hand and says, "So you are the guys who have been delivering crap to me!"  I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.  I was embarrassed and only my natural color, prevented people from seeing the blush on my face.

My response? "Hi Paul.  Sorry you feel that way.  I will stay here in the US, till it is convenient for you to meet me. And, I will fix the crap."

I did extend my stay in the US.  I did meet Paul.  And I heard from him the issues; real issues. I told him that I would do what it took to fix the issues (they were not all errors / bugs).  Also, that all new programs would be of the highest quality.

It took us months to fix issues, and at our cost.  It did not matter who created the issues. The whole organization, not just the project team, chipped in.  We got extra resources, changed processes, redesigned the organization, increased communication, created a QA-independence program, etc. Paul slowly became an advocate and supporter of the team. I knew we had won him over when he started to take calls from home at 5:30 am EST or come into the office at 6:30 am EST.

Finally, nearly a year later, in one of my one-on-one sessions with Bob, he told me that he was happy that I had managed to win over Paul. Also, that when he heard how Paul greeted me on day one, he was worried that he would need to work hard to get our relationship on even-keel. He was happy to see how we "got our act together" without active intervention from him.

If you want to make God laugh, share your plans with him 

(attributed to Woody Allen, adapted from a Yiddish saying that translates to "We plan, God laughs")

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