Maybe stories are just data with a soul.
~Brene Brown
~Brene Brown

The Challenge of Appropriate OD Intervention

A telecom major has its wings spread over various regions … its second largest region having highest potential for sales is showing a slackening performance ….reasons cited by various functionaries are …lack of consensus amongst teams….need for OD to identify and resolve real issues…need to improve quality of life of workforce ….there are some who feel the HR team failed in recruiting the right people…lack of training ….inadequate reward and PMS system …what according  to you should the  COO  do?

By Harish Raichandani*

Satak Telecommunications Ltd (STL), a telecom operator for past 7 yrs, having almost national foot-print (about 75% of coverage in country) - offers both fixed line and mobile telecom services. It is divided into 10 regions with HQ in Delhi.

Each region has its own peculiar issues & market reality (including difference in competitor profile – nos. as well as players).  Each region has a self-contained organization structure for Operations (which include Sales, Switching & Network, Customer Care and Installation & Maintenance). However, support functions (viz. HR, Finance, Marketing, Training and Quality Assurance) have matrix organization structure with these functional managers having dual relationship – one reporting into the region and the other into respective functions at Corporate HQ Delhi.  A typical region has about 450 employees.

Region-VI is the 2nd largest region within STL.  It’s market-share position is no.4. It has 460 employees of which about 140 are Sales & Channel management, 85 in Installation & Maintenance, 110 in Customer Care and 95 in Switching & Network.

Competitor growth for Region-VI is higher than STL. Despite the best efforts by STL the customer satisfaction ratings and sales do not indicate any improvement for over six months.

Two months ago Markandeshwar (called Marc) took over as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Region-VI replacing his predecessor who had barely lasted one year.  The Managing Director of company shared his belief (given, technology supremacy of STL vis-à-vis competitors and improving brand perception by customers) with Marc while welcoming him on-board STL “Marc, Region-VI is the region with highest potential for growth & market leadership; the challenge is harnessing human capital there, I am sure you will soon turn-around the Region. I look forward to you joining corp. HQ team as Dy. MD in less than two years”. 

After two months of first-hand, on-ground experience Marc’s own assessment was similar to that of the MD.  He called a meeting of key members to know their views. During the meeting --

Seema Paharia, who had done masters in psychology, the HR head, said “our performance is lagging due to lack of maturity and absence of collaborative behavior amongst different teams. This can be improved through a combination of appropriate Human Process Interventions aimed at improving Individuals and Interpersonal Relations. I suggest we engage a Leadership behavior trainer to facilitate enhancing sensitivity amongst managers”.

Seema’s second-in-command, Prasad, a no nonsense HR professional with 5 years experience with industry leader shared “while we do have a problem on people front; I do not think sensitivity training will change that. We require a group level intervention aimed to mobilize the resources of the entire organization to identify problems, set priorities, and begin working on identified problems. I know an OD consultant who will exactly be able to deliver that. I can fix a meeting within next two days”.

Jambunathan, the Finance head had very strong views, “I don’t think softer people aspects are the problem; HR team has done very bad recruitment – how can you expect results.  Look at my team not single individual has stayed for more than two years. Also, I had to face so many Audit queries due to such inefficient people recruited for accounts team”.

Nair, the Network head, opined, “I think the moot point is people involvement; most of our people are highly qualified professionals with ambition to make big in exploding telecom market; but we do not take care of their Quality of Work Life. We need initiatives which generate high sense of ownership & employees across levels & functions – we must move in that direction, without delay. I am sure within one year we can achieve our goal of becoming the fastest growing telecom company of this region”.

Vidya, the Training head, who was listening to these views, confided, “I think the reason for our state of affairs in inadequate training, for which, the root cause is our organization structure. Our HQ guys have no clue of ground realities. Virtually, they control all the program designs & content and budget – last year we were allotted meager sum of Rs. 1.20 crores (not even 5% of employee cost). We must do away with matrix structure, as a first step.”

Steve, the head of Sales added, “Our primary problem is, we do not set our goals, lack incentive programs for employees, do not have robust appraisal & reward system. First thing we require is a good Performance Management System”

If you were COO, will you chose any of the above approaches; if yes, which one. State your assumptions. If not select an appropriate OD intervention for the given situation explaining your rationale & assumptions.

Elaborate, explaining the outcome of the approach you have selected. What steps/ stages will be involved in implementing the intervention you have selected. If you were to chose one more initiative to complement your chosen intervention, then which one will that be? Why?

* Case context by Namita Venkatraman, formerly with Titan
* Harish Raichandani, CEO potentia & visiting faculty XVJIM (2007)