Monday, 5 September 2011


What is more important - Living up to the "attrition" targets decided on industry norms, which eventually ties to your incentives/ bonus? Or Try to drive, manage, enable each team member towards achieving short term or long term business results? Question is not new, neither are its answers. Every management scholar will advice you to strike the right balance. Balance which will be different for each organization, which may be different for different divisions within the same organization, though arguable but can be different for each team within the same divisions of the same organization. So what really is the appropriate "portions" of each component to strike this balance.Some will advocate Jack Welch's theory of moving out bottom performers, but what if you are loosing average, good performers in attempt of making them better.  Understood that you cant run your business if you keep loosing your people, but is it healthy for an organization to have mediocre performing people? What is the impact of having mediocre people eventually taking over management, decision making positions in the organization? Will such organization succeed?

I have been in this industry for 11 years, working at different layers for entry, middle level management. What Industry do I belong to? Well, the size & structure of the organization may differ, just to add context to my case studies, Just like every theory, it is important to consider few assumptions. I'm referring to companies:

  • In knowledge based service industry, could be technology firms, could be data processing firms, few will call it KPO, few will restrain themselves to name it BPO. Could be related to finance, health, research...
  • With medium to large scale operations, often through multiple locations
  • Providing variety of solutions, services
  • With different divisions, often working independently on different segments
  • Providing customized solutions to variety of client

I feel the people management, team handling approach required for such industry will be different than what is prevalent in manufacturing, sales industries and that's why I'm so particular in specifying the dynamics, type of industry in my example. People managers in this industry face few unique challenges:

  • Providing customized solutions often restricts organization's capability to document project/ client specific knowledge. Though the basic principle, platform may remain same but the level of customization depends on client needs, contractual agreement with clients. This knowledge remains with individuals who are aligned to such projects/ client, eventually making them very "critical" to the business.
  • Small teams work on individual projects, clients. Each will have their unique challenges, advantages. Few are more difficult then others, few clients are more demanding etc. Defining "Success" of these individual groups is easy but Its very difficult to apply "Bell Curve" method of performance appraisal on the whole division. You cant measure them on units produced, hours worked as we can in manufacturing industry. You cant measure them on volume, value of sales as we can in sales industry. For instance division consists of 300 employees, divided in teams of 10 each, working on 30 different clients, it has been very tough for me to stack rank them to arrive at a bell curve. 
  • Even rewarding individuals becomes an art. You may have done good this month on your project however the other team does that every day because they handle much complex project/ client. I know each individual should be appraised and rewarded based on the goals set for them. Goals in turn should reflect organization's objectives but reality is complex. Its not apple to apple comparison.

In subsequent pages, I will share my observation of three managers, who follow different approach (my assumption) of handling people & business.  I know them for past 5 years. Different personalities and management styles. Who is more successful? who is manager's favorite? who is team's favorite.