by Jiten Patel

Tough Times Requires A Strong Dose of Common Sense

Mar 08, 20095 mins
IT Leadership

I yearn for the days when I looked forward to eagerly walking to the edge of the driveway to pick up my morning newspaper and read it over breakfast. These days I recoil, shudder, shiver, and have started to rant as of late, on seeing the morning newspaper. There is no news, what there is all doom and gloom. On one hand one reads of the demise of the newspapers and on the other is my waning enthusiasm for the news, rather than the newspaper.  

The litany of bad news is not the exclusive domain of newspapers here in the US, it is no different in Europe, whereas in Eastern Europe regardless of whether the news is good or bad I am indifferent to it as I am not able to read the local newspapers.

Boy,do I look forward to travelling – allows me to avoid the incessant hourly, daily news cycles!!! That’s a turnaround, coming from someone who over the past three years has travelled extensively, regularly, andexhaustively. And it was wearing on me, till this past trip.

Couple of weeks back I was in Baku, Azerbaijan to meet with the project team implementing Flexcube retail banking software. The project has been ongoing for a fewmonths, and is progressing well. 

I stay at this small, clean family-run hotel near the center of the city. In the last three years, even as recent as over the past nine months, the city is dotted with ongoing construction projects, and also full of cosmetic projects changing the front facades of buildings across the city. These buildings, which one could easily tell were from the by-gone era of the 1930’s and 40’s, have had a face-lift that would make the cosmetic surgeons in Beverly Hills proud. Now if one were to venture inside one of these buildings, one is in a time-warp, transported back to Stalin’s Soviet era. Despite this people are okay with what they have. 

Walking around the city at night, one sees street cleaners doing their job at 9:30,10:00. Amazing!!!.  

The key here is that these “basic” forms of infrastructure projects keeps people gainfully employed. 

Despite the chill in the air, in the morning I would walk from the hotel to the office approx 25 to 30 mins away, of which the last 15mins was uphill. I for one was not used to these rigours of walking on a daily basis. Sure I go to the gym at home, but walking in a city, with no-emission controls, with cars, buses and trucks belching plumes of lung-clogging fumes, and if that was not enough then dirt and dust spiraling near you from the speeding cars is enough to stop one in their tracks. I am a glutton for punishment – walked every day back and forth to the work location during my stay in Baku. It was good exercise, but not sure whether it was healthy.

It is during these walks that one gets a small sense of everyday life of a “regular joe” in the city. And every day I count my blessings on one hand, and commiserate myself on the other. The latter because in some ways they seemed happier than I even though most did not have much. Then there are those in the city who live the life of luxury and abundance.

Every day I saw some of the same people, some young, some old, some with a grim look and some with a smile, and some indifferent, some puffing way (sorry a lot puffing away smoking) … most if not all in dark coloured clothes. And then there was one, yours truly, in a light, khaki coloured pants, and a light coloured down-jacket.

In my long-winded way, my point is that we in the US need to get back to basics in our lives, whether at home or work.   

Froma work perspective, we need to be mindful of the following during these trying times…

ˇ        People related …

Building a good, cohesive team is a key responsibility of management – to  attract, nurture, promote, motivate and retain talent.

o   To talk to your staff regularly especially during these trying times, and not via email, dictums, or newsletters but through face-to-face meetings;

o   To discuss our organization’s challenges and opportunities in a forthright way;

o   As managers, to better listen and understand our people;

o   To show compassion, to trust people, and to hold them accountable;

o   To nurture and promote creativity and innovation;

o   To smile more;

ˇ        To better understand the business, the business challenges and needs;

ˇ        To nurture better relationships with the business, across all levels from top to bottom; be inclusive;

ˇ        To proactively develop IT goals that are tightly coupled and aligned with business goals;

ˇ        To be acutely mindful of tight fiscal constraints;

ˇ        To promote quality and lower costs through the use of best practices and automation;

ˇ        To eliminate redundancy and streamline operations to respond flexibly to changing business needs;

ˇ        To squeeze more from existing IT investments;

ˇ        To streamline problem escalation and to improve customer service;

ˇ        To prioritize investments based on business value through the creation of Project Management Office with participation by key business stakeholders; and to improve and standardize project management practices;  

ˇ        To streamline vendor services and contracts, demand improved SLA’s, and hold them accountable;