Saturday, February 09, 2008

It's all about the TEAM!


Ever since I joined MindTree, I have had innumerable opportunities to work with different teams on several of the initiatives. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a part of few exciting initiatives like MindTree Mini Marathon 2008. Every time I volunteered to be a part of any team, my sole motive was to understand the quintessence of working in teams and what it takes to play your role effectively and deliver your best. In my quest to discover that magical formula behind what defines a successful team, I happen to figure out quite a few threads that were common across several events, which I was a part of. I have made a sincere attempt to share all of them with you, in the context of MMM 2008.

MindTree Mini Marathon 2008

If the name is misleading, blame me not; for the event was definitely magnanimous in all aspects! It was after a gap of 3 years that MindTree decided to host another event of this sort. So we were all geared up to ensure that this event was a grand success. When I first received an invitation mail from Murthy R K (who himself is an avid marathon runner) to volunteer for this event, I was pretty much skeptical. My final assessments (I was in the yellow band) were due to kick start shortly and I doubted if my decision to volunteer was prudent. But nevertheless I told myself that I shall not hold myself back and let go any chance where I can contribute (in any small way) to make an event successful. The success story of MMM 2008 speaks for itself. I have made a small attempt to collate a few observations I made while working with an extremely vibrant team.

Role definition and leveraging experience:

I have always believed that the very first step towards ensuring you formulate a winning combination out of any team you work with, is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each member and assign roles to him/her which would maximize their contributions to the team. I am not against experimenting with assigning people roles that they have never tried a hand at before. But when time is a constraint; go with the above mentioned thumb rule for role assignment. That’s exactly what happened with our team. Murthy had loads of experience about marathon and was undoubtedly the ideal person to guide our team. We realized what each one of us would do and chalked out plans as per the requirement. We as a team ensured that we leveraged his experience to the fullest.

Trust your TEAM:

Once you have formed a team, the first thing that a team as a whole needs to do, is to pledge that there shall be no ‘secrets’ as such. Say no to all shades of grey in your team. Everything should be in Black and White! I emphasize this fact for the simple reason that once you bring candor in to our team, you are invariably instilling tremendous faith in all your team members. Mutual trust is such an impetus to any team that it can work wonders. Once you bring it in, you shall notice that people will be all the more willing to contribute proactively and shall also volunteer to go that ‘extra mile’ to ensure that your venture is a grand success. As long as you have an environment where people feel very much a part of the team, things will never go wayward.

Appreciation is good. But please accommodate constructive criticism as well:

It is human nature to crave for appreciation when they deliver something commendable. Your team members are human beings and let’s not challenge the basic law of nature. I feel that a healthy team always has its team members back patting each other whenever they achieve something; no matter how trivial it is. As long as it doesn’t take away your focus and you don’t lose your ground, a few doses of applause and appreciation is good for your health!

Having said that only reminds me of the other extreme of the spectrum. The side effects of excessive appreciation and applause can deafen your ears and render you blind. A more long term effect of this unhealthy team culture is that your team, in the long run might in fact lose the ability to question things and be critical of other people’s work. I feel that another important trait of a healthy team is its openness to criticism. A good team always encourages its team members to criticize constructively; for it knows that the source if authentic! I feel that we as individuals should be open to criticism (don’t take them personal) and work sincerely towards setting them right. I would in fact go a step ahead and say that every team ought to have some people who blow whistles just at right moment and help circumvent any mishap.

Even the best of the plans fail. Always have a plan B:

They say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. It’s not axiom folks. It’s just a quote! Quotes aren’t infallible. You shouldn’t dare to question the veracity of my statement if you have seen the true colors of IT industry (or any industry for that matter). A few glimpses of how circumstances caught us off guard during MMM 2008 and how we managed to cope up with the sudden mutation.

  • The walkie-talkie issue:

As you might be aware, this time we had three check points; each located 3 different corners of the marathon circuit. We had rolled out a plan initially that we could borrow walkie-talkies from the security and ensure that all check points are well connected. It was crucial for us to establish this connectivity for two important reasons:

  • To keep other checkpoints updated about the positions of runners at regular intervals.
  • To reach out for immediate help, just incase of any unforeseen emergency.

But when reached the venue on the day of the event, Murthy informed us that we couldn’t get the walkie-talkies for reasons best known to the security personnel. Thanks to our commonsense. Fortunately it never let us down. All check points had a sheet that contained the contact number of every member of the organizing committee. We somehow managed to update each other through our cell phones. But it was a lesson well learnt!

  • Bib numbers ki dastaan:

If you had been around on the day of the event, you would have noticed a glaring design glitch with the bib numbers that we distributed to the participants. Boy! There were smaller than the volunteer badges we wore on the final day of Osmosis!! We were taken aback and caught off guard, when we discovered this fact. We started worrying about how we would note down the numbers when people crossed each check point. If that weren’t enough. It also had MindTree spelt incorrectly on it. That’s something that doesn’t go well with any MindTree mind! I quote what Murthy told all of us, “Look this is a classic example of what happens in the IT industry. Client asks for something, you deliver something else. He then comes back to you saying… Boss I didn’t ask for this!” But the only difference was that in our case, it was just too late to question the designers of bib numbers, about the erroneous design.

  • Behaal @ registration counter:

At the registration counter we all had a print out of an excel sheet containing the list of all the participants who had enrolled themselves for the event. But you know what? The list wasn’t sorted at all. We had initially decided to either sort them alphabetically or as per the employee ids. But we hadn’t done it! Volunteers at the registration counter had a harrowing time figuring out the names/employee ids. So we quickly decided that we would just note down the name, employee Id and their bib number for the moment and then map them on the excel sheet, offline. When time is a constraint, people often tend to overlook the obvious and might land themselves in situations completely out of the blue. Not every time does a situation offer you an option for last minute tweaking, so watch out for the obvious pitfalls!

The bottom line is even the best laid plans fail!

Give due credit to every soul that worked for your team’s success:

If there is one thing that really turns off team members, it would undoubtedly be their efforts going unnoticed. When your team is in the spot light for any achievement, it becomes the duty of the team to ensure that people do get their due credits. A moment shared in spotlight might go a long way in motivating your team mates to deliver better results in future as well. Over and above, it gives everyone in the team a true sense of gratification and an unwritten acknowledgement saying, “Boys! You are on track!” A nice way to cherish the feeling of accomplishment would be to go out for a team lunch or a dinner. That’s exactly what we did. Murthy treated the entire team of MMM 2008, and trust me we had a ball.

I feel TEAM stands for the following:

T Tenacity

E - Enthusiasm.

A Attitude

MMotivation

I firmly believe that if your team symbolizes these traits then it is undoubtedly a healthy and high performance team.

~IT's My Life

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

NICE THOUGHTS !!!!!!!! WHO BETTER THAN FROM A MAN WHO HAS HAD AN EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH A FULL-FLEDGED TEAM , COMMITTED , UNDERSTANDING THE NUANCES THAT ONE WILL SEE IN ANY TEAM AS THEY WORK TOGETHER .

I MUST CONFESS THAT THIS ONE IS A REALLY A HOLISTIC AND VERY INNOVATIVE EXCERPT INDEED! CHEERS

KEEP GOING MATE!

ABSOLUTELY

Anonymous said...

WHAT's the walkie-talkie by the way??

Anonymous said...

where is the walkie-talkie

Suresh S. a.ka. Suri said...

@ Absolutely Anonymous,
Thanks! The walike-Talkie is still with the security guys da! We never got to use it:)

TechPavan said...

I would like you to add my blog into your blogroll, please do it and contact me back. Use the name and url as I have given here.

Name: TechPavan.com
link: http://www.techpavan.com

so, howz life going on.. enjoying mindtree na?

Suresh S. a.ka. Suri said...

@ Pavan,

I have blog rolled you. I am enjoying my work. How are things at your end?

TechPavan said...

Everything is fine at this terminal....

Shameem is into blogging....

Ask him also to take up with gym and also Harish MG..

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