Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Autopsy of a meeting

Ah, recently I attended a meeting where concerns were (supposed to be) addressed.
But I will make a generic analysis of such meeting before moving to make it specific.

What actually the statistics like employee survey or company policies reveal?
Ok, we will take an instance of any employee satisfaction survey and how the management plans to handle the good and no so good results.
An employees perspective of the survey:
Its anonymous, so if I have any frustration, complex or complain I would rather express myself generously.

Managements response:
But we do conduct personal meeting with employees and we encourage freedom of expression so ideally the employee should do that upfront as and when need be.

Reality's take on it:
Its a human attitude to be timid, pretentious and introvert. Most of the people will rather keep quite then to stand up and speaks (Specially in India other wise some mediocre politician could never out speak us to be voted).

An employees perspective of the survey:
If something is bad I must make it look worse, may be then they will consider it seriously.

Managements response:
All the employee response are facts so lets address them in a meeting and get first hand account whats wrong.

Reality's take on it:
The employee made the bad look worse anonymously, will he not make the bad look good when its public? I lier remains a lier. No meeting can fetch you clear data.

Now what happens in the meeting:
The employees never take these meetings seriously. Cause they manage to hide themselves behind a mass and hence feeling secure. For them its another meeting where issues will be just discussed. Cause they never revealed the root cause. So they know the management just knows anything but the real reason.

(Reality is the survey needs to be changed. Satisfaction is not objective. It cant be answered in binary. Satisfaction is subjective, there is always a degree or extent involved in it. They fundamental flaw is when they ask if you are satisfied under different norms, they actually are not interested in knowing the real reason. The attempt is to bias the answer in an indirect way to suit to the picture we want them to be projected in. Hence the real concern remains under the hood.)

The management equipped with wrong (mostly exaggerated) data start a rather wrong analysis in a failed attempt to zero in on the real cause. Hence the disinterested employees look blank through out the meeting and when they come out they have not reduced but added to the woes.

Specific scenario:

Compensation related: The management declares we are competitive as per the last survey. and there is no problem.

Employees psychology: A person unlike prefers to work against the law of gravity. They don't intend to leap from high ground to lower. They intend to or aspire to leap from high to higher ground. The salary of a same category company can never satisfy one after a while for the simple reason they don't aspire to go there. But they aspire to go to the ones considered higher to the one they are in. So may be marginally but being a little ahead in terms of salary from the peer or competitor just to be above the current bracket and create a category of own will never hurt but add to the company reputation, satisfaction and other parameters involved for the delivery.

Sense of accomplishment: This is something really specific to one instance. The management always is driven by statistics cause statistic is supposed to be fact and figure. Not always. (You can't apply statistic to gauge the average depth of a river to decide whether you can cross it. Mostly you will drown your self. And may be thats why we have so many (in)famous jokes about statisticians.)
There are ground reality that statistician not project. A human mind is complex thing, pie chat and histograms can't represent it.

When taking a fierce decision of changing the technology facts beyond assumptions were never taken into consideration. The training need, the creation and substantiation of new job profile. the migration of product was planed but migration of employee psychology was not. Migration and road map for deliveries were planned but new road maps of opportunities were never discussed.
Change of technology is like changing a home. The fact "Its takes time to prepare the same delicate Biriyani flavor in a new kitchen" was neglected. NO training formal or otherwise were planned. The domain people had mastered over years was altered and represented in a different manner which looked like a generation gap. The involuntary first reaction to change that any man can give is "reluctance" and avoidance.
The people who had a reputation who had a knowledge base built over quite a period of time were not able to accept the change like nothing happened. In the battle to protect their self and public image and now the reality of being unable to cope to new changes they floundered and they floundered hard. This frustration creep in to every where. Cause it becomes a preoccupation to defend "what I was" and accepting or building "what I am". You had been a performer but you don't see yourself anymore to be. Cause what now you are in is completely new. And you dont have any time for making yourself feel home, feel comfortable.

Comparison to other lines: Not comparable. Juxtaposing facts to make something look prettier is stupidity. To show a straight line bigger you can just draw line smaller to it. All you can achieve by it is illusion.

Some is worse, thank god I am just bad. Its a sense of complacency. Which this industry discard of. Isn't it? So you cant infest that sense of being better just by arguing some one else if worse.

After all the presenter was heard mistakenly saying: "Actually this is the only thing where do really do not discriminate" (among lines). :D

The solution is:
1. get the survey conducted to capture real reasons.
2. make it clear to the people where they are heading for.
3. Everyone loves to see himself as a champion, do tell them that the did a good job and they are capable of doing even better.
4. If some once can run 10km, that never means every one can or have to. There are people who can't run yet swim for 20 km. We need to understand every one is different.
5. Give the employee space and time to settle down to freeze to his/her comfort level before saying come on get of the mark.
6. Sense of insecurity is good, even in relations to keep things healthy but sense of obscurity is never. Have things transparent.


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