India has scale (our population numbers speak for itself), but not a lot of IT organisations succeed in the quest to scale their organisations. Here are certain questions that leaders have to ask themselves when they speak of scaling :
- Are you easily replaceable?
- Can work continue to happen while you are not available doing what you do daily?
- Do you have a successor in mind ? Are you already investing the time and effort to get them up to speed?
- Are you putting the effort in mentoring the next level executives who can take up your responsibilities, so that you can scale?
- As you scale, how do you plan to ensure that the culture remains the same ?
In the context of delivery, I have seen a lot of times where delivery managers and leads get to a point where they feel doing it themselves would be the most efficient thing to do. This could be true almost 100% of the time, but how you do it is the most important thing. Again the question to ask here is whether the leader is doing it to get things done or is [s]he thinking of having his team learn how things could be done differently.
Humans understand and learn patterns. Each person has a certain way of doing things. What is important is that leader is focusing on spreading the knowledge they have to ensure that the team is getting influenced and capable of doing things independently without depending on the leader all the time. Each leader towards the end of project delivery should have a conversation with the team to figure out what learnings the team had during the process. Often organisations focus on the end goal such as whether the project was delivered in time, within budget with acceptable wuality. It is true that success is what matters towards the end, but how do we define success? Would a lot of wounds caused during the journey of delivery be worth the success? This is where the organisation needs to redefine success.
For 4-5 highly motivated guys coming together to deliver a project, lot of midnight oil, lot of ups and downs etc are all worth it if towards the end of the day they have great delivery. For a company looking for scale, the definition of success has to be defined differently. We are not dealing with 4-5 people any more. We need to define success to be an “end point” reached through collective experiences during the journey that result in great delivery. What is equally important is for the leader to answer one question – “Am I replaceable? Can I sit in Hawaii enjoying my holidays not bothered thinking if delivery will happen while I am not there.”
Now when we talk of scale, each leader in the organisation should put in effort to make sure they are easily replaced with another equally capable individual. When clients know you are required to make the delivery happen, you are just making yourself “stuck” on the project for a long time. The greater good is when the client sees that there are more than one person in the team who at any point of time can deliver the product, then you become able to move on to a greater good. This is “scale”.
Once while working at Stanford Graduate School of Business I had a question. “Why are the smartest people in the world who are worth millions/billions, teach here?”. After a lot of debate and with data points from the MBA office we came to know that the faculty think the learning for them personally is so much from the wonderful students that show up at Stanford that it is all worth it. The faculty at Stanford get an opportunity to work with students coming from different communities, different countries and each student has a different perspective. As much as students learn at Stanford, the faculty gets to learn a lot more. The faculty feel that they will never get such an opportunity to work with such diverse, smart and very capable individuals!
In the same vein, I think that a leader should always be open about learning from the team. I feel privileged to have worked and am working with such great individuals who are open, capable, opinionated and they enable me to learn everyday. Even though this writeup is about scaling an IT delivery organisation, I feel the same applies to any industry and any form of work. The cruz is that, it is in the interest of the leader to become replaceable and keep learning constantly.
Ashok Datla is the Client Principal at Compassites. He has 14 years of experience playing various roles in an IT delivery organization. In his role as Client Principal, he leads the software solution services pursuit, develops software solutions strategies and oversees delivery of complex engagements. Prior to joining Compassites, he has played various roles in technology and leadership front globally. He had lived in the Bay Area (California) for over 11 years working with Pacific Stock Exchange, Wells Fargo and Stanford Graduate School of Business. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Karnataka University, India.