All of us deal with a lot of situations in life, some good, and some not so good. Peaks and valleys, crests and troughs, ebbs and flows… get the gist? Good! In my technical communication career, I have seen many Information Development departments (just like any other department in a quality organization) ride this sine wave. This sine wave brings with itself, a fair set of unique challenges that many InfoDev managers struggle to deal with, almost daily.
My attempt is to highlight a few of these critical issues along with some experiential solutions to work around these situations.
Flat headcount projections with increased workload
Oh boy! This is a tough one, isn’t it? Don’t we all hear (experience?) this ever so often and swell our hearts refrain? 🙂
Well, in this case, you have the following options:
- Negotiate with the leaders in your management chain to take contractors on board if hiring full-time employees is not an option.
- If hiring is absolutely not an option, then you need to negotiate with your management for reducing the scope of the project, functionality/features, and so on. To do this, it always helps to collect metrics to clinically demonstrate the current workload versus the no. of available resources.
Ineffective collaboration between cross-functional global teams, perceived less-ROI from the Indian team due to quality issues, and so on
Working in cross-functional global teams, especially in matrix organizations, has almost always been a challenge, hasn’t it? Understanding, respecting, and then dealing with cultural differences is critical to the success of any global team. Working across time zones is also a challenge, yes! Difficult to overcome, yet 100% achievable. Perceptions play a key role while working with remote teams, so manage them well. They cannot see you, observe your body language, and understand your intonation/tone; thus, forming [mis]perceptions is usually quick. Explain how perceptions matter and what can be done to change them, if necessary. Good leadership involves leading by example and being a good role model for the team — helping the writers who are struggling with their writing to understand and incorporate edits correctly, and so on. In my experience, I have found that peer reviews and buddy edits (before sending the docs. out to a U.S. audience) go a long way in smoothing the wrinkles, and managers can gain the trust and respect of their team. In turn, the perceived ROI from the Indian writers also goes up! All in a day’s work, eh? 🙂
Lack of monetary motivators such as hikes, bonuses, spot awards to all the employees
Well, at the end of the day, it’s all about the money, honey, ain’t it? No amount of kudos/appreciation emails, pats on your back, and so on helps reduce the bile that fuels the acid inside the stomach. 🙂 Your employees come to the office with disgruntled expressions that make you feel so very err… ahem ahem! wonderful. Let’s leave it at that, shall we? So, as managers, how do we manage this situation? Well frankly, I don’t know. While this seems to be a helpless situation without the wherewithal to give everyone what they want, in management, you cannot make everyone happy, even if you want to. Golden rule, period! So, as a manager, one needs to make tough decisions and decide to go either with merit-based raises or a peanut-butter approach… Each method has its own pros and cons, and you need to take proper judgment calls on a case-by-case basis and then decide the method that works the best for you.
Setting expectations with your team and giving feedback
It is a good idea to let your team know exactly what is expected from them. Unless that is clear, there is always going to be a disconnect in what you want them to deliver and what they think they need to deliver. Having weekly staff meetings with your team and explaining things as-is really helps. Regular 1:1s help a lot. Egad! Now to the tricky part, about giving feedback: DO NOT sugarcoat feedback or mince your words while giving feedback; your team will almost always respect you for giving them straight and honest feedback. At times, as a manager, you need to be cruel to be kind, but try and give feedback that is useful and constructive. However, keep in mind that measureability is a vital part of giving feedback that is useful and constructive. So, give plenty of validated examples when you give feedback and explain how you plan to measure improved performance. Encourage your team members to have skip-level meetings with your manager; oftentimes you will find that people tend to be more direct and blunt about issues with someone who is not their direct manager, and that way, if you share a good equation with your boss, you can more effectively address team-specific issues.
About the author:
Manoj works as the Team Manager, BRM Information Development for the Comms B.U. at Oracle Corporation, Hyderabad. Please note that the thoughts expressed in the above article are purely the author’s opinions, and are in no way indicative of the views of his employers, either past or present.
About the illustration:
The image is used with permission from Mallika Yelandur.