Step Back Smith

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finally… some Fursat…

Whosoever said that you have all the time in the world when you are shaking your alliances, hasn’t really been through a multitude of corporate divorces as I have.

I mean – imagine when you are just about getting divorced. You are battling for empowerment to take a call on your worldly possessions and who gets to possess them after the split; you are so full of energy and constructive engagement towards all things called life so that you could complete all that you have to in this life and walk into the next alliance with no burden of a backlog; and of course – most appropriately – the book-keeping has to be impeccable.

So, where do you have the time – the Fursat?

As the Learning and Development Head in many corporate organisations in the last few years – in fact more than what my infatuation with these alliances would have allowed – the worldly possessions have been more in the mind, than any storage devices in the Dells or the Lenovos. The 103 sign-offs that you would need to ensure that you walk out of the organisation with no encumbrances (read penniless and head held high) are a pain in the wrong side of the human anatomy and as such keep you constructively engaged for the last 20 days of your employment anyway.

And then you discover, there are more people in the Company to autograph your exit that you ever knew existed or you thought you ever needed them! And, of course, the fervour with which your employer would love for you to finish off everything at hand would put all Project Leaders of the likes of E. Sridharan (Delhi Metro) to sheer shame. And your employer knows that given the grey hair that you brought to the role and the sheer marketplace dynamics, your replacement cannot show his or her dirty face while you are still alive in the company. So, you better complete what you have chartered for the company, so that your replacement can undo all the great work you believe you have done!

It amazes your own wits when you walk into your new life – a role that is worth the company’s while – is, how quickly you become a “Step Back Smith”. You are God’s gift to humankind! You exist because corporate organisations are impoverished of wisdom – or at least the wisdom the previous guy in the role lacked. You have been hired because there was nothing – read nothing – that was ever going right when the previous guy was on, courtesy who, the role had become stale, the environment sultry and the organisation was slowly sweating into sluggishness, a state of near decay.

So, lo and behold, enter you – SB Smith. Tooled with a fashionable effervescence, you would like everybody to step back and take a fresh perspective of things – so that you could step on and stamp over the entire place and bring in the “much needed change” that the organisation has been craving for. “We need to re-strategize”, you would say. In the first few months of a rampage that you are on, when you are not expected to deliver anyway, you meet with all the key “Customers” – the “Stakeholders” – that your role is expected to impact; ask them painful questions that you have so painstakingly coined and paint-worthily articulated to elicit their pain-points. Step aside – the Lord has come. The Lord shall alleviate all worldly pain!

The discerning Stakeholders are visibly excited – or at least that’s what you assume – and welcome you as part of their own indulgent responsibility to “indoctrinate, integrate and ingrain” the new leader into their scheme of things. They do not want to be seen seeing your arrival a pain in itself, because then they are not seen as leaders who can embrace change! Well – what if you have been the sixth change in as many years of the organisation’s own dismay at “filling, shutting and forgiving” this strategic role that you have stepped in!

You observe some “fundamental challenges” in the way the Company has been operating – in your absence. You ask all the “intelligent” questions – of course stepping back on most occasions. How can the Company be running without these basic “hygiene” establishments in place, you ask. You are lauded as the messiah by your boss and everyone around – because they do not want to deflate you before you hit the road. Because they paid so much to get you in. Because they don’t want to tell you the truth which seems to stare everyone in their face. Because, honestly, they are afraid to tell you the truth.

So, the SB Smith in you soon starts living another life – a life full of inquest rediscovering the truth, a life causing a difference with a newfound vigour and energy till you become “Jumping Jack (JJ) Jones”

Till you all discover the JJ Joneses in you…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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