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Friday, August 04, 2006

Paradox of Doers in corporate world


I met Avinash. He works in an ERP support company. He is an excellent functional consultant in materials function, and regarded highly by his colleagues. He has worked in four companies in last three years. In one of the interviews in a big three of Indian software he was asked by an interviewer about ‘transaction code’ of a particular process in materials. He retorted by saying that ‘any novice knows a transaction code’.

I have worked in a software company myself. I have met many software engineers like Avinash. I call them doers.

Doers are believers in doing excellent job. For them, every task has do be done in an excellent manner. For them idea of ‘acceptable output’ is not acceptable, only ‘excellent’ output is acceptable. They owe allegiance to the craft. Because they care so much about the work quality and knowledge, they master the ‘work’. They have very little patience for those who are not ‘excellent’ in their job knowledge and skills, because they themselves go to extreme extent to become the ‘best’ in their professions. Because of this, they often seem to break the ‘team spirit’, which infact is not their intention.

Successful doers, to produce excellent results, realise that they have to be ‘part’ of a system. While being part of a system, one has to sacrifice ‘best output’ sometimes to ensure that customer gets what it wants. While being part of a system one has to ‘complement’ another junior team member who seems to have ‘latched’ on the specific problem being solved. While being part of a system, one has to rein one’s best ideas because they are untimely. One has to be ‘in tune’ with the system.

Difficult doers are like Avinash. They behave in the same ‘way’ in different systems and contexts. Because they are not tuned to changing requirement of a system, they seem to ‘advocate’ the best principles all the times. Radical doers start perceiving ‘genuine adjustment’ of a system as representing ‘compromise of values’ or even as ‘vagaries of bosses’. Once they attribute the causes to ‘bad management’, they view many ‘systemic’ patterns as a reflection of management’s high handedness. They exit the jobs. They find the same ‘issues’ in another job. They leave the job again. They become job hoppers.

Instead of using the systems feedback to discover what they are missing, they keep on blaming the ‘system’. The system, or the organization, tolerates them until it suits them. But they are dropped as soon as the system finds an excuse. They keep on changing jobs. As they become senior, they learn speak the right things. Overt resistance becomes covert resistance, which makes them even more sullen, pessimistic and distrustful. They are caught in a vicious loop.

Until these excellent doers learn to understand the system and why it is necessary to become ‘part of a system’, they cannot convert their excellent skills into worthwhile results.

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