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09 July 2015

Inspirational and enduring lessons learned from a training....

I attended a training about 4 years ago. This was a training program spread over seven months. As is wont, immediately after completing each training session all of us were very inspired and ready to take on the world.
However, after a few days or weeks, the enthusiasm waned off. The reality of the daily drudge took its toll.
However I still remember three lessons that I learned from that training.
One, never give up on people. It is normal tendency for us to give up on our superiors or subordinates. 'No point in going to him', we say about our boss, 'he won't listen anyway'. 'He makes me feel angry and irritated', fumes a manager about his subordinate, 'he is not ready to learn. No point in giving him any counseling. It is a waste of Organization's time', he avers bombastically. Somehow, his time  is equal to the Organization's time.
We easily and quickly give up on people.
The trainer, flipped the script for us. 
"Imagine that your parents had given up on you", said he, "do you think you would be sitting in this room now?"
Food for thought.
"It is not true that you did do things that frustrated or disappointed your parents. But did they give up on you? Of course, not. They had trust in you. They backed you up. They counseled you, and cajoled you and shouted at you and advised you. Continuously. Without giving up. Without quickly writing you off."
"But us?", he waved a majestic hand across the hall, "we are quick to give up on people. We ignore them, neglect them and ignore them. All because, we felt that they won't improve, that they won't respond to our good words, that they are somehow 'incurable'. We give up on people easily."
"So the lesson from our parents? Never give up on people. They didn't give up on you. And you turned out to be fine specimens. You shouldn't give up on people who look up to you"
Two, work one level above our potential. Many of us are habituated to working at levels below our potential. We do our homework at the last minutes. We do our assignments at a level just enough to get good grades. We do our coding, just enough to remove all the bugs, user experience be damned. We plan our work exceptionally well and do a sloppy job of execution. Our documents are just passable, our presentations are full of quality content, but an eyesore, with no importance given to the looks and feel....
The list goes on.
Can't we do a better job at any of these items? Of course, we can. Aren't we capable of doing that? Of course, we are. Aren't we working below our potential? Of course, we are. Aren't we aware that we are working at a level below our potential? Of course, we are.
Every day we get up and go to office, spend eight (or nine, or ten or twelve) hours and come home tired. A tiredness that comes out of having worked below our potential. A tiredness of not having given it all. Tiredness borne out of the realization that we could have done much better, but we didn't.
Someone called it 'Bad Tired', as against tiredness faced by a student who gave it all and studied 15 hours a day focused on a goal. That is 'Good Tired'.
That was lesson two. Always try to work above our potential, at least at our potential and not below it.
The third lesson that I learned from the training is the importance of working as a team.I remember  a role play that we played towards the fag end of the training. We were divided into teams. Each team was an alien rescue team, trying to rescue someone in a faraway planet called 'Earth'. The mission of each team was to rescue the earthlings from impending disaster. Members of each team had different roles. There were Leaders, Strategists, Planners and Doers. 
The first team to save the earthling will be the winner.
Very competitive. 
The teams were discouraged / barred from talking to other teams. In fact they were actively encouraged to find fault with other teams.
There was a dashboard. Once in a while message from earthlings will pop up on it. 'We are suffering', 'We are helpless', 'Please help', 'We are drowning'.....Cryptic messages.
Here was the catch.The success depended on teams working together. The team which found this out first came out as the winner.
I have seen this scenario pan out in many ERP Implementations that I have worked on. We will have customer mails saying 'Our planning problem has intensified, please help', 'Payments are stuck, we need quick solution', 'Data is corrupted, please resolve immediately', 'We are not able to close our books', 'Our shipments are delayed'....
What about back in the office? Blame game. 'I need new people', says the project manager, 'I have raised the request with HR, they are taking their sweet time'.
'We need to travel to customer location, we are waiting for the visa. Travel team is taking too much time'.
'I had already escalated that things are not going fine. But management did not take any action'
Internal blame game galore. Delivery team blames the competency team for giving sub-standard resources, Competency blames the project manager for not being able to motivate the team, the team blames the project manager, project manager blames the customer, everyone blames everyone else....
All the while the customer is out there shouting for help....

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