Can consultancy lead to leadership?

The key challenge that I envisage in transformation of a consultant into a senior manager is that professionals find it difficult to find a balance between persuasion and power respectively.

This is based on the my first hand experience in the past few years. Having been in the management role for a while and then in an ivy league business school, followed by consultancy in productivity, motivation and predictability coaching to various fortune 300 organizations, I have no doubt that the answer is very subjective.

Being a consultant, the objective is to assess, strategize and persuade towards execution of strategic direction. Without power, it is a completely different ball-game. If done for too long, consultancy can lead to a innate personality change and egalitarian mindset.

Management on the other hand is about maintaining the direction given by leadership and fresh pair of eyes (consultants). If done for too long, the mindset shifts to authoritative and power struggle starts hindering results and performance.

Finding a right balance between consultancy and management could possibly result in a perfect recipe for a senior leadership role. However, it all depends on the personality type - in addition to the challenges experienced in career progression in the past.

The answer to "what the right combination is?", is - "who knows".

Time will tell...

Is the iron triangle ironic?

The triangle of basic business complexity based on ScopeTime and Quality has been manipulated in many ways to accommodate an ironic "Fixed Scope & Fixed Cost" paradigm in software solutions industry.

On one hand, business leaders directly correlate revenue projections to software features. Hence delivering on time with committed scope and quality will provide better budget projections to the stakeholders. However, on the contrary, it is considered as an industrial norm that software is delivered late, has lower quality (than anticipated) and curtailed scope.

Inherent mistrust between business and software solutions department is the fundamental of current organizational realm.

Having been involved in optimizing numerous organizations, i’ve been associated with large fortune 300s (ranging from 6 to 300), there is no doubt that business departments do not trust the development organizations. Denial, blame, justification and general dysfunction in such organizations is considered as a norm.

The irony behind this chicken and egg situation is that without visionary leadership, the trust can never be established. In the current economic crisis, once the business stakeholders can count on the commitments, the status quo demands that they start doubting the current forecasts. This is based on the basic assumption that "how could you if you are delivering on time?". This implicitly results in over-commitment and end-user expectations are raised accordingly.

 The basic measure of success is based on some of the following attributes:
  • Motivation
  • Innovation
  • Predictability
  • Productivity
  • ....

Not only is this unbalanced state - a significant challenge for most organizations, but available methods for improving predictability and productivity features over time are not readily available to most technology leaders. Morphing development organizations can accurately predict their delivery in time, scope, and total quality while continuously finding ways to improve their productivity.

Some basic recommendations that have been nearly fruitful to mitigate the situation include:
  • Bringing the business and solutions organization closer by face-to-face communication,
  • Having regular life feedback sessions with the development team,
  • Sharing simple metrics in addition to live demos,
  • Running continuous improvement (retrospectives) as a combined group.
  • ....

Can we have Time, Cost and Quality fixed and still maintain good business vs solutions delivery relationship? Some questions are better left to luck while hoping for the best...

Using the 'Resistance to Change ' to your advantage

Using the 'Resistance to Change ' to your advantage

Hidden conflicting agendas, misaligned priorities, and endless pursuit of personal goals are some of the symptoms of office politics that frustrate the workforce. However, these issues are impossible to avoid. Instead, you need to manage them. Here are some of the proven ways to make the most out of the situation and utilize it to your advantage:

Identify key decision makers and opinion leaders:
Start by understanding all of the stakeholders involved and how they are connected. This will help you navigate issues as you try to make change or simply do your job.

Facilitate transparent discussions:
When politics arise, engage parties in a transparent dialogue with each other. Organize a meeting or invite people with different views to lunch and make it safe for all by defining the casual limits.

Define decision making rules:
Clearly choose one of authoritative, consensus, consult or democratic methods before embarking on a group discussion. Identify the decision making process to be deployed and explain how it will be utilized according to the given context.

Explore win-win options as a group:
Create a plan for building alignment. Talk to people who would object and figure out how to respond to their concerns. Ask people in your camp to influence others through personal, social and structural motivation.

Having key stakeholders positively engaged, team members involved, decision making rules defined - you are all set to embark on an effective change initiative. By sharing the vision and following up with a road map, the change inertia can be utilized to your advantage.

Catalysts for a balanced agility

The question of engaging the teams affected by a change initiative is like discussing the value of oxygen in our breathing process.

To identify, inspect & adapt - don't view any of the transformation initiatives as one time event or a point to be reached. Rather, view it as a work in progress that will constantly need modifications. The following three steps will help you focus further:

Continuous Improvement

The two extremes:

Change strategists in the past have either focused themselves completely for top-down approach or an exact opposite. While there is value in getting reviewed by a fresh pair of eyes and focus on outside the box questioning, there is proven higher rate of success when a contextual and balanced approach is deployed.

Reality on the ground:

Irrespective of the high level strategic initiatives - engagement with the reality on the ground is crucial, critical and highly effective. Especially in such instances, it is imperative to get people affected by a change to help define the problem and design a solution (e.g. brainstorming, affinity/ KJ Analysis).

Rewards & Accountability:

Once the ground reality is established, gather the appropriate and focused (narrow) metrics. Base your change on hard data that everyone has access to and enhance multilevel transparency. Institutionalize the change by starting with a single project with a group of passionate influencers. Then move to consistently apply repeatable light weight and outcome driven objective processes across the rest of the organization. Build accountability into such processes.

While combining the above three steps, create interlocking dependencies between different parts of the organization so that they have a mutual interest in sustaining the change.

External forces require a company to constantly change, and a successful culture has a well disciplined methodology that allows it to do that.

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