Too much of success will lead to failure…

I read this hard hitting blog about how Toyota messed up their cars and they had to recall almost every other vehicle they had produced.  some interesting facts the authors put here and we ll look into this from an Indian IT perspective.

Author says that a critical weakness by many successful leaders: failure to learn from success. He also mentions the three reasons about doing so well means bad for business..

1. Fundamental attribution errors. We assume that our talent or strategy is responsible for our successes, giving short shrift to environmental factors and luck. “Any number of factors may lead to success, independent of the quality of a product or management’s decisions,” Gino and Pisano note. “Yet it is all too common for executives to attribute the success of their organizations to their own insights and managerial skills and ignore or downplay random events or external factors outside their control.”

We could see number of examples for this issue. Many of our IT companies were successful during the boom era and most of them thought it was their own success factors which lead to the success. But we know that at that time almost every IT company was doing well as clients were not as tech savvy as today and other countries were catching up with India on outsourcing. Now except a few companies all others are facing single digit growth and slowly declining bottom line.

2. Overconfidence bias. Success begets hubris, and we all know where that can lead. “Overconfidence inspired by past successes can infect whole organizations, causing them to dismiss new innovations, dips in customer satisfaction, and increases in quality problems, and to make overly risky moves,” the Harvard profs observe. “Consider all the companies that grew rapidly through acquisitions only to stumble badly after biting off one too many; and the countless banks that made ever-riskier loans in the past decade, sure of their ability to sort good borrowers from bad.”

We see that quite often in our industry isn’t it? Number of companies got folded which were successful due to overconfidence and unnecessary risk taking. Companies like Penta.. comes into my mind. Even Infy’s problems are somehow related to overconfidence I believe. Companies like Yahoo and Microsoft are victims of this problem. Failing to recognize Google as a major threat is Yahoo’s overconfidence I would like to think.  Failing to understand how internet is going to affect their core business is Microsoft’s problem isn’t it? Their too much success in the Windows / Office led to this blunder. Even the subprime problems in US could be attributed to this behaviour easily.

3. Failure-to-ask-why syndrome. No one’s asking the tough questions that transform a success into a replicable strategy. “When you’re confronted with failure,” Gino and Pisano explain, “it’s natural to ask why disaster struck. Unfortunately, success does not trigger such soul-searching. Success is commonly interpreted as evidence not only that your existing strategy and practices work but also that you have all the knowledge and information you need.”

This is the most difficult part right, we never care to analyse “how did we do”? when we are successful. We tend to think mostly it is due our own strengths (first problem) we are successful but a deep analysis will bring out the other factors which are not in our control but contributed to our success. There are many examples we could identify here but I would like to talk about Hindustan Motors (makers of Ambassador cars). I guess they never cared to ask “why we are successful”? If they had, they would not have kept the same model with minor changes for 50 years.

As you could see all three issues are interrelated and we could identify every failure(after mega success) into one of these reasons.  Companies which realized and corrected these problems were able to rebound like IBM. Even to some extent Apple. But I am afraid our dear old Infy is still not asking the right questions. In fact most of our IT companies are not asking the right questions about how long they are going to believe in T&M models and what if the low end jobs gets replaced by Automation (machine learning etc..) / Robotics etc.



The Roofous phenomenon

How do you like to have a team full of star developers, great leaders and excellent team culture! Well I did come across one team like that and I had the privilege of playing a small role in creating such a great team.

Team Roofous was formed in 2005 to support / develop a product which sounds similar to the team’s name. When I was tasked with forming the team, I and my then boss decided to go for a top-down approach. We decided who should be the manager for the team and we hired a person called GS. We also had 3 internal stars coming into the team as leads. We also had 10 graduate trainees coming in to the team fresh out of college.

With GS and other leads we managed to hire the rest of the team from the market. Well, the whole team was new to C# and initially we had to focus on training the team in C#. The client also supported that idea and they also arranged the leads to travel to onsite for 3 months to facilitate the knowledge transfer. One great thing about our customers is, they had a very good exposure to offshoring and they were well aware of the pitfalls in offshoring. They supported us in every move. There was a guy, let’s call him JCR, who was very supportive and knowledgeable.

We split the group into two teams 1.freshers 2.experienced developers and provided c# and .Net training for both the groups. Another good thing we were able to do was asked all the team members to do a tool (a project) in C# for 4 to 6 weeks. This has helped the team to a great extent as they had learnt most of the tricks & techniques of .Net by doing these tools. GS who believed in continuous learning has made the team to have at least 3 knowledge sharing sessions on technology, domain and soft skills every week. This has helped the entire team to learn continuously and improve their knowledge and understanding about the product and technology.

Another great thing is the team went out frequently for dinners and day outs which helped the team to really bond together. I have attended many of those outings and it was fun-filled and action oriented adventures which resulted creating a great team. They had a person to manage all these outings and the title given to that person was ‘CM’. Few guys really did the CM role very well. The amazing thing about this is, despite the team’s disbandment in 2009, it still continues to go out for dinners etc. They still have a CM who coordinates with all the guys across the world (literally). And whoever is around at that time will be present in the get-together.

No need to say that the team had excellent delivery records. For the first two years no one left the team (in 2006 & 2007 where attrition in India was at its peak). They excelled not only in project delivery they also did well in other activities (google code contest, quiz contests, certifications etc..).  After disbandment the team full of superstars went to various teams within the firm and they really did very well in each of their respective teams. Those who went out also performing very well. Now 60% of the team members are living abroad and doing really well.

I saw simple concepts like mentoring, continuous learning and mutual trust implemented in this team and worked very well. I tell the same thing to every manager I managed and every team I created but only a few actually believed. Team Roofous was one of them and credit should go to GS and the leads as well as our customers. Roofous was one team I can never create again I think..



Success factors : Team Culture,Continuous learning , transparency, quality of work, onsite support