Saturday, October 14, 2017

Animal Instinct II - My Territory

Animal Instincts II - My Territory

I felt it was colder inside Kens' office than the outside on an autumn morning in a Boston suburb.  He had his reasons.  The company was trying to recover from a bad year, layoffs and extended working hours for the remaining staff.  Nothing would rattle him more than an Indian techie with equal experience in his office.  Ken tried to be nice, explained what he was working on. 

I was there to help them plan the next year's goals for the IT organization.  The management was expecting a better year, began outsourcing work to India to save on costs and was doing everything to recover to a healthy operation.

After a half hour meeting with Ken, I returned to my seat, pondered over the problem he was working on and read a few articles that could solve Ken's issue.  I went back and explained how he could design the solution based on what I had just read.

That changed the mood.  Ken opened up, talked about the company, his bosses, family, etc.  We continued a professional partnership for a few more years.  On hindsight, I can't say I sensed his insecurity but did what comes to me naturally, problem-solving.

Ken wasn't an isolated case.  We come across this insecurity all the time.  When a new member joins a team, it takes a lot of effort - from both the sides, to gel in and work together.  The difficulty increases with the experience of the new member.  A fresh graduate may find it easy to fit in than a seasoned manager, just like a puppy getting accepted into a pack of street dogs.  A house dog faces hostile barking and growling for months after a move.

Human advancements have broken a lot of natural barriers for habitat.  So, we stopped growling at others - well, almost. 

Similarly, organizations aren't limited by their geography or available capital.  They can grow far beyond what its employees can imagine.  But, it is a challenge for them to assimilate people at various levels.  In M&As, the cooperation from the existing staff is often bought.  A new member just means that there is more work to be done and more money to be earned.  As a company expands, it is the responsibility of the top management to be sensitive to this animal instinct.   It needs to remind its people that it is no more a forest and we can naturally walk on two legs and use the arms to welcome the new.

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