Corporate Jobs, typically in the middle and lower levels, in Operational roles, often become mundane, as routine sets in. We start getting used to repetitive tasks and the tasks slowly stop being interesting. Soon lethargy creeps in and our efficiency levels on the job start dropping as we stop applying our mind to tasks on hand.
Typical issues in Large Organisations
In large organisations, the problem gets compounded because of hierarchical issues. Communication to teams become monotonous and to-the-point. Bureaucracy sets in; new tasks set for the larger group come down to individual teams as targets. Everyone assumes, someone has thought through the how and why and await instructions rather than apply their minds. Often, no one would have actually thought through the detailing; tasks therefore are mishandled or are partially handled, in a reactive manner rather than in a planned, proactive way. So targets and timelines are missed repeatedly and the organisation receives a setback- a common problem, especially in large, multifunctional organisations.
What follows is not pleasant and typically, people land up leaving the job because “I don’t know what’s happening here”! or “He was asked to leave”.
People who leave, join a new operations job, make new friends and get some excitement for a while as the new operation is being learnt and experienced; but slowly the next job also starts becoming a routine; and the cycle starts all over again!
Is a job shift the answer to the individual’s loss of interest at work?
Is change of employee the answer for the organisation’s lack of efficiency?
Could both have done something different to keep the employee’s interest alive and get the tasks accomplished?
Work Culture needs to be defined across the Organisation
The core issue in many organisations is that the work culture and managing execution are not standardised to manage efficiency. Work styles vary with each department, with the departmental head setting the tone.
More often than not, there is a high degree of informality in setting tasks, communicating and reviewing, specially at the middle management level. While the concerned leader may do it with the belief that he or she is giving a comfortable work environment to the team by doing so, the net effect is one of lack of total clarity amongst the team members, a dependance on individual initiatives and a slack in the drive to achieve.
The informal style of working misses keeping focus on all key issues, often misses out important deviations, wastes more time in rework and resolving and therefore loses productivity.
Structured working works wonders in any situation
During my tenure as a middle management member of a large telecom organisation, I learnt that the only way to ensure efficiency at work and also full team engagement, was to move important tasks into project mode- setting targets for myself and my team along with detailed activity plans and timelines which, put together, would meet the overall objectives set for us.
With larger responsibilities, not only in terms of the complexities of the assignments but also in terms of the team size, it became crucial to be able to delegate and review the progress in each area of work. Delegation and reviewing is difficult if each step, timeline and the measurements are not decided in advance.
So started my project mode where the assignments, which otherwise would have been just tasks handed down, got converted to projects and got clearly reviewed and discussed leading to enhanced performance.
A project I am proud of, as an example
One such assignment that I had given the shape of a project was the seamless migration of a Premium Call Centre from In-house operations to an outsourced partner.
The Call Centre served the Premium set of customers of the telecom business and was till then run in-house by a team comprising of an Assistant Manager, a few Team Leaders and a group of 40 Executives. All of them had been selected through a stringent recruitment process as they had to have the service aptitude and good communication skills.
Attending to this set of customers with best of behaviour and solution was critical as they were socially, economically and politically influential people.
Hence outsourcing such an activity had to be done very carefully. The shift had to be accomplished in a seamless way with the valued customers not even realising such a change had happened.
We went into a detailed plan for the activity and created a 12 step document as follows:
- Creating a Project Charter
- Intimating all the stakeholders associated with these set of Customers
- Identifying pros and cons of running the Project
- Carefully working out the Commercials such that the activity does not result in any revenue loss
- Briefing and involving the In-house Team to avoid any unforeseen attrition owing to fear of losing the job
- Defining the working of the IT systems and infrastructure
- Streamlining of processes for First Time Right Solution at the Partner Location
- Handholding the Outsourced Partner at every stage
- Monitoring Partner’s ability to scale up for the set performance standards
- Recruitment & Training at Partner Location
- Handshake and Business as usual at Partner Location
- Redeployment of In-house Staff within the Organisation
Every team member was given specific responsibilities. The team delivered a seamless migration as the detailed planning was already done and minor hiccups were quickly handled to ensure the stated deadline was met. For the customer, it was the same quality of experience that they were used to.
The team gained through
- Clarity of task and the approach
- Each individual’s role was clearly defined and responsibility pinned
- Support was available at all points of time since every one was on high alert
- Each person had to think through his/her work and thus was proactive and not reactive or waiting to be told
- They could envision issues beyond the immediate, thanks to the involved working and commitment
- Their deeper appreciation of quality of customer service being delivered went up due to the in-depth discussions and planning
- Team meetings were heavily work driven yet enjoyable due to the participative style
- The successful completion was celebratory and became a milestone for all of us
As a Leader of the Team, this way of working taught me lessons on
- Negotiating with various teams and partners
- Ability to take risks
- Being flexible when needed
- Managing emotions and morale of the team
- Finding solutions for every road block at various stages
- Discipline to meet timelines
And for all of us, our work became so much more enjoyable and the workplace a place to look forward to.
While structured formal management may sound an obvious way, the fact is that in rapidly growing organisations, people outgrow positions fast. Thus, imbibing good management practices and deploying them becomes really an individual initiative.
Organisations may benefit tremendously if along with work flows, management systems are standardised at middle and lower management levels to ensure highest employee alignment and productivity; which in turn will have advantages of lower employee turnover, improved assessment capability and readying managers for larger responsibilities in a fast growing industry.
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