Recently while watching National Geographic channel, I was amazed to see a striking parallelism between one of the series broadcasted on the channel, and the IT industry. It made me rethink certain incidents which I had seen in my career, and about which either I had a very different opinion or I could not think in the way I am thinking now. So, I have named this post – Learnings from the Jungle.
The series was on Lions – about their lives and certain insights into their strategies and the strange laws of nature. One of the sections was on what happens when a Lion enters another Lion’s territory. The new Lion has to fight the master of the existing territory. In the process, he might get killed or will choose to run for his life. If he wins the fight (by killing the existing king or by making him leave the territory), the first thing he does is – he kills the cubs of the old lion from all the queens (the lionesses). It gives him a sense of supremacy, it satisfies his ego and he does this to declare his ultimate authority on the territory. The queens do not interfere, for the fear of being killed or hurt. The next days depict the law of nature – “Move on!”.It’s the mating season for lion with all the lionesses – the beginning of HIS family – the lion never adopts cubs!
This might not be the best analogy for what I am going to analyze, and if to some this analogy seems offensive, I apologize. For me, it looks interesting and with this understanding, let’s proceed to understand what’s the parallel story in IT.
I can recall Jothi Gouthaman’s words (he was my reporting manager at Applabs, and now heads the Performance Testing CoE group at Accenture (India)). He had developed an excellent online reporting system for performance tests, while being at Applabs. When he was taking his career move, he told the team – “Please try to sell this reporting system to the new manager!”. I was wondering at that time, why one should try to “sell” such a great system, the new manager will definitely appreciate it and extend it further.
But after seeing the Lion story, as related above, I can now understand his words. A new manager comes with certain background, experience and values and tries it to carry them along wherever he goes. If the place where he goes is in line with his thought, he is comfortable. Otherwise, he tries to change the complete system with the help of the team. I understand that change is eternal, but when change is employed to imply supermacy for undue reasons, the change can spoil an otherwise decent existing system. If the change in such cases is driven by Lion’s law of supremacy, I pity the existing team in the way I pity for the Lionesses, who can not do much when the cubs get killed. As for the old Lion (manager) – he moves to a new territory – a new system – with his existing values – and there is again a team there for whom the situation might be pitiable.
I am not saying that the new manager should blindly accept the existing system. He should carefully evaluate it with the help of the team. This will help to bring out the positives and negatives. Because the team is involved in the discussion, convincing them to change those areas which were rated as negatives, will not be difficult. Next thing is that instead of relying totally on his previous experiences, he should try to find solutions with previous learnings and the outcome of present analysis. The target should be a revised system, which is as near as possible to the present team’s thought process – ultimately it’s them who are going to work on it.
I have purposely used the term Manager here, to imply someone who has authority to change the system if he wishes to do so. Others also feel such challenges, but there is little they can do about it, apart from suggestions or adapting to the new system. I fall in the latter category. The intention of this post is to suggest that bringing in new ideas and changing existing system is something which should be taken up with care. I would like to know the views of those who are in the authoritative positions, what do they do in such situations?