So a page is about to turn and I can’t decide whether it’s because of the age (mine), the business conjuncture, the Euro crisis or the simple fact that I’m moving on to a new adventure – not backwards or out into the desert – but I simply don’t feel any particular regret and reticence at moving on and leaving behind something that has been my primary occupation and preoccupation for the past 14 years or so.
I certainly don’t feel any nostalgia about leaving behind an environment that has always been something of a maverick, that (best case scenario) appears to be heading into some turbulence and may well (worst case scenario) at some time in the not too distant future, disappear or at least transmute into something else.
I also have no concerns about those I’m leaving behind – some may even say the best have already gone. They’re very astute, fine strategists, honed in the art of surviving and very certainly scrutinizing the horizon anticipating the storm and, if they aren’t already doing so, preparing for the aftermath with the diligence and deftness I know they possess.
And why do I feel this way? From having co-habited with such persona for the past 14 years a little of their savvy (savoir faire) – but decidedly not their culture (that’s the maverick in me!!!) – has obviously rubbed off on me and even though the change is not of my own doing, but imposed, these people have helped me realize that I have gone as far as I should, I repeat “should”, with the current structure and environment and, well, to be honest the clock is ticking for me too, and a timely decision was required to help me negotiate the change.
Change? What change?
The change in question is the termination of a service contract on which a certain number of resources, with yours truly as operations manager, had been working on for a longish period time. This “Termination” put an effective end to a way of live that had been theirs’ (and mine) for quite a while now (Tempus fugit). It was, so to speak, the end of an era and a way of life, with all its time established comforts and customs.
What the resources in question perceived as, from their standpoint, being an unjust and cold-hearted termination of a longstanding partnership was in fact, from the client’s standpoint, compliance with corporate policy and the termination of the service contract linking 2 companies in a perfectly objective and legally clearly defined manner… you could almost hear the “How could they do this to me?” wailings echoing across the ether and the office door slamming behind each of the resources the day they filed out the office for the last time.
OK so why am I talking about resources when I should be talking about real people? Well that’s the key to the problem. With time relations got blurred and confused for most of the resources. People who had spent a lot of time and effort on the contract, building up the business and gaining value add for the client, started to consider themselves as integral members of the client’s team, genuine relations between different actors had even been built.
But the fact of the matter was that the client was paying for resources and not people and over time the resources lost from view the fact that they were always “resources” and never were, a) from a contractual/procurement point of view, considered as individual production entities nor b) from the client’s perspective, integral members of the team we were subcontracting to!
Yes at a specific point in time it served purposes to create a haze around a very clearly defined business requirement.
Yes it’s only logical to want to exploit situations to suit requirements and when I took over the role as Operations manager, which just happened to coincide the ramping up of some newly inaugurated “Off-shore” production units and an astucious move on my predecessor’s behalf, the need to clarify the situation and keep communications extremely clear became an outright priority, one of my prime objectives.
And so over a period of 6 years, from the time I took over the role of managing the resources – most of who thought they could do the job better, deeming themselves better “Leaders” or whatever and in so doing totally missing the point – I made observing the changes the client, and their mother structure, underwent one of my favourite pastimes.
Watching the client go from strategy to strategy – garage to cloud – every time they changed CEO or whenever the corporate “nous” deemed it appropriate was extremely instructive. I also made it one of my priorities to learn as much as possible about the workings of this intriguing business unit as it meandered its course through that of the bigger, much bigger corporate environment it belonged to until one day it fatalistically hit an obstacle of global dimensions, one that reasons by relevance and profitability, nothing else, like some giant scythe mechanically “rationalizing” productivity in response to the latest corporate dictum.
If the change concerning my team was, as far back as 2005, a foregone conclusion, after which it was just a question of when and how, I defy the shrewdest amongst the client’s team – and I know there will be one or two who would have access to such info – to say how long its been since they saw the tide turning and realize that a Damocles sword was also over their own heads!
Missed occasions and misinterpretations
As far as the change pertaining to my team is concerned. My job, from day one, was no more, no less, to make sure the change happened as late as possible, as smooth as possible, in an orderly way and to the advantage of the maximum, starting with BiBi here (me).
Looking at it one way, managing the winding down of the service was just like any managing any project I’ve done but with an amplified human factor and as such it was great learning material and an enormous personal experience so deep-rooted it will never leave me now.
It was a project, a mandate that had to be managed cleanly and correctly, avoiding the pitfalls, and mantraps, along the way so much so that risk management became another of my primary objectives. The problem here was that we weren’t just dealing with Information Systems, Infrastructures or e-communications but proficient, intelligent, insightful, even, in my eyes, occasionally ambivalent1 minded people, who knew the game and when it came to influencing situations, totally dedicated the energy required to advancing their personal agendas, obliging me to be continually on the alert and one step ahead.
One of the biggest challenges for the maverick in me was learning how to master and dominate inherent traits in the face of such situations, my talent for situation management bloomed as a result. Everything from failed coup d’états to external, but partial, advisory services and personal histrionics (did I mention navel gazing?) was used in an attempt to advance their personal agenda(s).
(1 Ambivalent: In psychology: Of or pertaining to the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.)
Oh yes they knew the change was underway alright, with the gradual reduction in production it was impossible not to see, but what I can’t help noting is that if such “perspicacity” and energy had been used in another more “insightful” way the outcome would have been totally different.
Yes I know they would say theirs was the right approach, including the use of external advisory services!!!, and they would have been right a) had errors been manifest or bad practices been used or b) had they been integral members of the client’s team 2 but they weren’t and never would be and once again they had missed the point, failed to see and accept the reality and move on.
(2certain tried but by their singular approaches transgressed an elementary rule: you just don’t bite the hand you are looking to get food from.)
D-day: Thursday May 31st2012: The curtain finally falls!
And so 4 or 5 months after most of the resources have gone to follow their destinies, with just one person, plus yours truly, for what remains to be done it will be my personal “honour” and hard-earned pleasure to be the last person to walk out-door, the final evening, closing the door for ever on an activity that brought so much, gave so much and took what it took…
(…never again to spend sleepless nights mulling over such and such problem or escalation that seemed so critical at the time. Never again to face the weekly meetings and remonstrances from those who thought they knew better, perhaps they did but it wasn’t for them to decide and that they never understood! Never more the palace revolutions every time the network line crashed or froze… Never more the animated “face to faces”… Never more the mind games… Never more the scantly dissimulated hidden agendas…Never?)
And me? Well Friday morning June 01st I’ll walk into the very same office building, just like I’ve done for years, for the start of a new adventure and a new challenge. I just love adventures and challenges, but that, as they say, is a story for another day.