How often managers get into this tangle between “The Customer” and “Employees”?
In a normal mode of operation, both your customers and employees work as “one team”. There is trust and transparency in the team and the work environment is very conducive. Employees are motivated and eager to work with the client and the client reciprocates. All going good and managers are delighted.
Now consider a scenario, where the Client is a tough one, a fixed timeline, and the team is new or burnt. Requirements are not clear, resulting in a lot of debate/arguments during the development phase. Not enough analysis is done before estimation resulting in delays. Eventually, status meetings become a finger-pointing exercise than a healthy discussion. The delivery is either late or not with quality and so on. And we all know, a scenario like this is not imaginary!!
There are some key questions here:
Let me share my view on these.
Being diplomatic helps here!!
It’s easy to say that managers should manage both customer and employee expectations and ensure delivery. There will be times whereas a manager, needs to take a stand for employees because if you don’t do that, you lose trust with your employees. This could be more damaging than losing a customer. On the other hand, one also needs to assess the situation as a neutral person. So it is for the manager to decide at that point of time.
No matter which side you are, the important thing is to take a call based on your judgment and back it up with data points.
These are 3 important factors to consider:
Just like any other relationship, initially, there will be challenges as it takes time to understand the way of working and the thought process. But as the team starts to deliver and the customer starts to predict the delivery, work becomes fun and issues are solved together.
First of all, it is really difficult to turn this around quickly. Everyone (Team, customer, management) wants to see the positives ASAP but this requires constant effort and short cycles of good delivery. Putting a medium/long-term plan with actions doesn’t help much and all of that slips through the cracks as people get busy doing stuff. At the end, the situation is worse than before.
There are certain basic things that can be adopted to further relax the team a bit and then improve this over a period of time. Remember, there is no magic wand here!!
Irrespective of where the manager stand, the following things will help improve the situation:
The biggest motivation for the employees is to deliver on time and make the project a success. And you know what, the same is true for the customer as well. So, start delivering less (but on time) and with quality and then improve it further.
Keep delivering value!!