What do you do when things explode?

My daughter, a high school junior, asked me yesterday whether I had heard about the NASA rocket which exploded midair. My response was yes; I saw the headlines and read about it online. She continued to ask what you would do, when something you have worked so hard for during the last several months, and perhaps years, suddenly blows up in front of you in 6 seconds. What do you think the scientists and engineers went through when they saw the explosion happening? What do you do when the project you are working on explodes like this?

We have all experienced this. Much that no one wants to face it, unfortunately things sometimes just blow up. The projects, programs, initiatives, bids, deals, milestones, launches, results, scores, etc. that you are working on just do not take off or produce the expected results or simply fail. What do you do when things do not go as planned? Do you start with root cause analysis? Call for emergency meetings? Draft new strategies or ask for more budget? Do you deviate towards finger pointing, bring new players or change the existing team? Certainly, there are many more steps which can be debated intensely.

Rather than answer, I thought to ask her what she would do in such a situation. I asked her what she thought about the explosion and what the scientists might have been thinking when they saw it on the screen? She commiserated that they must be really shocked and for some time no one would be talking in the control room. She really felt for them. However, that is not the only point: she continued, the question is what do you do next?

There is no right or wrong answer here, as I learnt from our dad-daughter discussion on this. There were some good pointers which came up, to deal with situations when things do fare badly though. First and foremost, stay calm – even when feeling overwhelmingly bad deep within. Being edgy at such a time will not help improve the situation. It is acceptable to acknowledge that as much as no one wants it, sometimes things do go wrong. It does help to adopt and undertake subsequent actions rather than to operate in denial mode.

Affirmative statements enable: e.g. we can overcome this and we can do significantly better. The key is to reinforce the positivity individually and as a team. Prepare the mind for the intensity of the course corrections: What happened, what was missed, what could have been done better, etc.? Although not in this case, it is often that the results are known before they are officially out. The gut knows, one may or may not acknowledge it at that time. It is like knowing your test scores, pretty close to submitting the paper rather than waiting for exam results to be announced later.

Obviously, there are many more steps involved to fix the core issues on why, including some very complex algorithm to fix the technical aspects as required and some very simple misses which may have caused the blow up. However, what matters most is the self-belief that you can come back stronger; the resolve that there is always a better tomorrow. The rocket will fly again and we will see it soon!

Software Led Healthcare

Marc Andreessen stated, “software is eating the world” in his article for WSJ in August 2011. Looking around us, it is easy to see every facet of our lives, both personal and professional, being impacted by the power of software. Software is pivotal to the growth of most new and emerging industry segments. Even mature industries such as agribusiness, mining, construction, industrial manufacturing, automobiles, aerospace, etc. have been changed by the power of software, and the healthcare industry is no exception. The healthcare industry is responsible for saving and enhancing the lives of people, even if the outcome in some cases is not certain. Although the healthcare industry has been leveraging the power of software, it is high time that software took center stage to tackle the industry’s complexities and achieve the key objective of delivering effective care at the most optimum cost. Read more

Two August Heroes

Many a time you meet people who leave a significant impression with you. Some by their ‘change the world’ attitude, some by their courage and gutsy approach, some by their humility – irrespective of how successful they are – and some by their ability to simply ask the right questions. Interacting with them, listening to them and more importantly, learning from them is a sheer joy. Among several people whom I met this month at the business, social and personal levels, two of them stood out because of their ability to be different and create significant impact. Read more

No one remembers the footnotes

Recently, I attended a strategic governance meeting with a client, in which the joint teams presented the status of a critical program being reviewed by execs from both sides. The best practice which I have seen to work well happens when both teams co-own and work together to deliver the expected outcome. There is no us and them. What matters are the results and expected benefits to the ultimate end customers, and everything else must align to meet those objectives. Critical programs will have many twists, turns and dependencies, and require a high intensity to bring all of them together.

In that meeting, one of the important aspects for the critical program presented had a deliverable date marked with an (*). Read more

Six Key Tenets of Awesome Teams

One of the questions I am often asked is what makes an awesome team? Over the years of working with global teams across industries and service lines, I think there are certainly a few key tenets which Awesome teams possess. They have a method to them, and the best in class teams diligently work towards achieving excellence through a set of formal and informal processes day in and day out. The following aspects clearly stand out on what I think make these teams awesome… Read more