John and Kumar are very good friends, they both work as IT project managers with different companies in Dublin, Ireland. They are very confident and experienced project managers. As a result their managers have lot of confidence in them.
One Thursday morning John received call from Kumar on his cell phone. Kumar invited him for drinks after office that John accepted gleefully. They both met at a local pub in City Centre. Kumar told John that he is very excited as his boss has asked him to manage a project, which is very important from company’s perspective and he felt that it will get him lot of visibility. John sipped in his cold pint of Guiness and congratulated Kumar. John also told him that it is a nice coincidence that his manager has also asked him to lead quite an important and big project. John also believed that this opportunity is very important for him to impress senior managers about his capability. After all he was doing MBA from a very reputed business school and he was very eager to apply his knowledge. Both friends decided to meet every month to discuss progress of their projects. However both friends got so busy with their individual assignments that they didn't meet for 3 months.
On fourth month John called Kumar to meet in the same pub after office, Kumar was a bit reluctant but accepted the offer. John reached pub a bit early and ordered a Carlsberg. Kumar entered the pub and joined John on the table. He looked very dejected and pensive. John asked if he is all right. Kumar replied that he is under lot of stress. The project that he was handling is going through a rough phase and he is under lot of pressure. Kumar asked John about his project and John replied that his project has just finished successfully and he also received very good feedback from his manager. John had a lot of confidence in Kumar's ability as a project manager and he was surprised to know that his project is not doing well. They both then started to share their experiences in order to learn from each other. Here is the narration from both of them.
Four months back my manager called me in his office and told me that management has decided to setup data analytics centre whereby different projects will be evaluated to calculate return on investment. So that different projects can be compared against common KPI's and scientific data analysis can be used to allocated proper budget to different projects. The idea behind this approach was to increase return on investment throughout company by at least 5%. My manager asked me to submit a strategy document that will be used to achieve this objective. I conducted a thorough analysis and consulted number of key stakeholders in the company and came up with strategy. This strategy was reviewed by number of change champions and they all agree with my approach. I submitted my report to my manager. This is the time when everything started to go wrong. This project was kept on hold for month because of budgeting reasons and I was allocated to a different project. When I asked my manager about this project he told me that I have done my part and that now any other resource can take this project forward for implementation. He told me that this is very common in our industry that someone does the analysis and some other person does the implementation.
After about a month this project was allocated to some other person for implementation. As this manager initiated the project he started to face resistance from different people in the company. Meeting was called in a hurry where everyone pointed out the risks associated with the plan. The current manager also got confused and gave feedback to my manager that improvement of 5% in ROI is very difficult to maintain with this strategy and that further analysis is required. My project and my idea were shot down. I could feel that everyone in the company was blaming me for the failure of this project.
My bossed asked me to meet him for a meeting over lunch. During the meeting he told me that company is starting a project to reduce the cost of sales by 4% and that I will lead this project. I was very nervous, as I have never handled anything like this before. I asked my manager about his expectations and how I will be evaluated for this project.
I asked my Manager if there is a need to submit any plan or approach document for this project. My manager replied that he is not expecting any document from me. What he needs is result of actual 4% reduction in cost-of-sales and not any fancy document. He continued that if I require he is willing to provide any support and guidance.
From the day one I was clear that my objective is to get results and this changed by mindset totally. I met many hurdles on the way but since I was clear that my job is not complete until I have achieved my results I kept my focus and eventually managed to meet the target.
The striking difference between the story of John and Kumar is not the way they handled their projects but the way their respective managers gave them task. It’s interesting to answer few questions with respect to this case.
1. What is the difference between the way two managers gave orders to Kumar and John?
2. Think how different managers give orders in your organization?
3. Can you think of past event where you faced similar situation as described in this case?
4. What style would you prefer as a manager to give task/objectives to your team?