Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Nascence, Idling & Adolescence

One of the things I’ve always been scared about, in an organization, is the transition from Nascence to Adolescence. What I mean is a new/small/fresh/startup environment of the firm (NASCENCE), gradually maturing into the processes/culture/large company environment (ADOLESCENCE). However, the theme here is the transition process and my fear around Idling. Often, as we build delivery capacity, the lag between sales and delivery often leads to idle (delivery) time for the team.

Let me show a cycle of events, which I hope some of you will identify with –

  1. Company gets a project in a new space (analytics here)
  2. Company hires people to get it done
  3. Company views this as an opportunity to build its presence in the space
  4. Company starts building the business case. A core team is put together to convert the project into a vertical/business
  5. The wheels start rolling. Sales team is roped in for selling. Delivery capacity starts getting built. Everyone is busy. Everyone is enjoying the dirt on the track.
  6. New guys come in. Some start working on new projects. Some wait for projects.
  7. The unutilized team members are put on firm-development and intellectual capital development
  8. On the ground, there is an uncomfortable buzz. The seriousness required to complete these internal initiatives is often missing. The unrest begins!

I feel that the initial lot of people are usually overworked, because they came in after a project was sold, which, in high probability, led to the identification of opportunity. The IC and FD guys seem to be creating unrest. Why?

My guess is that the blame should be taken by the initial overworked guys like me, who end up believing that they are the ones doing the “real” work, all FD and IC is just a way of keeping guys busy.

The second group to take blame should be the leadership which is in charge of looking at the FD and IC initiatives. Its their responsibility to inculcate the sense of pride, responsibility and importance associated with these inward oriented projects.

The third group to be blamed, to the least extent, is the new group itself. A simple saying like Rome wasn’t built in a day goes a long a way in building organizational maturity. We all need to realize that everyday cannot be a perfect 9 hour work day. Just as there are bad days/weeks of 16 hours+ work per day, there are bad days/weeks of 0(ZERO) work per day. Just as you need the client work to generate revenue, you need FD and IC initiatives to build the backbone of a firm. The initial chaos of excitement needs to gradually mature into a process driven organization meant to meet the needs of a large number of people working together. The ad-hoc decision making needs to be replaced by structures that are ready to take the load of a large number of people demanding individual attention.

That said, I believe that it is how well we handle this stage of growth, that differentiates a great leadership from an average leadership. and yes, one of the ways of doing it is communication (clear, effective and copious)

What do you think?

5 comments:

Amit said...

Evolution of organizations is one of my fav reading topics.. well there is so much pulp out there on this thing :P ... anyhow.. handling lifecycle from initial startup env to a mature process-driven, predictable, Nasdaq listed firms is a process which is yet to be perfected. As you very rightly said, the transformation process not only disillusions the early birds but also the new comers. & the more I experience this thing happening, the more evident it becomes that success depends so heavily on top leadership.. they can really make or break the situation.. thats why you have some guys who are great at seeding ventures & pulling it all together till a certain level where they hand it off to a "professional management team" whereas some leaders do very well in more structured process driven env. I guess every leader sometime needs to take this call.. what say..

Amit said...

Well.. Yes.. Leadership defines the company. Often, its the vision of a leadership which is just getting executed by the middle and junior management. If the vision itself is bankrupt, there isn't much chance of growth, right?

And the fact is, the great leaders thrive in growth.. Not in a limited sized small playing field! You can call such people smart entrepreneurs, but not great leaders! :) What do you think?

Asterix said...

Fully agree .. alas! most of the indian analytics companies lack such visionary & pro-active leaders ... at the end of the day, we all have to realize that it's difficult to handle employees than clients ... hahaha

Amit said...

@asterix.. yep.. agreed! Employees are gradually becoming more demanding!

Ankur Jain said...

As I see it now, most Indian KPOs' leadership has not had the chance to display maturity since the industry itself has had a life of less than 10 years (not counting GenPact which created the Analytics business in India).

The current breed of leaders have not seen a downturn in the business yet - but the butterfly effect of the potential sub-prime bust in US might hit more than one vendor soon (and these kinds of things will continue to happen). Consequent to business revenues hitting a roadblock, dealing with issues like attrition, costs and mismanagement will occupy a large portion of the leaders' calendars.

Most of the Leaders today in this business come from a Management Consulting background - quick project turnarounds being the keyword in their professional lives to date. Without getting into which business models will survive, it is evident that leaders who mature with the industry will thrive, and those who hold on to past baggage will only turn some dreams into nightmares.

I see the following things being critical factors:
- Evolution of the BOT model as an alternative to a totally captive vs 3rd party route
- People who have worked ground up in this industry taking on the mantle of leadership (or should that read "being allowed to"). Some sectors of KPO being niche, they require people to stick to them.
- Talent pool development: as KPO breaks into Research, Analytics, Finance, etc etc specialized lines of work - training capability will be the most important distinguishing factor for any organization