This is the story of 12 young professionals from Indonesia who found their new capabilities in an unexpected way. It all began when Ms. Maria Laurensia Chrysanti (Laura), CEO of PT. Kairos Utama Indonesia, a Microsoft Gold Partner in Indonesia, asked Fourteena of Arc Australia Consulting to give a talk on negotiation skills.
When Fourteena asked why she wanted this specific subject, she replied: ‘My project team don’t know how to say “no”. Many additional features in some projects for one of my top customers were given free-of-charge – if they continue to do so, our project revenues would not be optimal. I am worried.’
Further Fourteena asked how her team worked – apparently, without knowing, they worked in isolation; almost in seclusion: Projects created – project team assigned; tasks distributed. Her project team, comprises project managers, system analysts, and hundreds of programmers, have no idea the importance of active communication and the commercial impacts of what they’ve done.
They were very project-oriented whose KPIs were to deliver a certain number of man-days every six months. They didn’t see the value of their works; works that worth of revenue generating.
They don't know something bigger and essential ...
It sounded very simple: ‘they don’t know how to say “no”’ – in truth they don’t know something bigger and very essential: management and project leadership skills which were mistakenly diagnosed as lack of negotiation skills.
“What shall I do, then, to uplift their skills?” She asked. The most effective way to address this is by coaching them; coaching can help them address specific areas where they lacked of. And help them discover new skills to help them perform better.
So the 12 were chosen
In mid-March 2017, at Fourteena’s suggestion, Ms. Laura nominated 12 of her valued team members to be coached for three (3) months. These 12 consisted of two (2) project managers and six (6) system analysts (dedicated resources for Kairos’ major customer), three (3) junior account managers, and one (1) solution designer.
A comprehensive six (6) sessions coaching plan was developed. Through the coaching, kicked off on 17 April 2017, Fourteena provided them with practical guidance based on best practices and real-experiences that they can use for immediate impact. The coaching was finally completed on 27 July 2017.
And these are the results, they are transformed ...
Alfian, a project manager with 13 team members (system analysts and programmers), knew his team can achieve more, but he didn’t know how to motivate them. He never had any team meeting – relationship with his team members was merely giving tasks and monitoring their works to ensure their timely completion. His team members worked very quietly – no one talked to one another.
“It was always so quiet throughout the day like a graveyard”, Alfian described.
The coaching sessions helped him see the importance of building a relationship with his team members and nourishing it through a regular team meeting, and understand what motivates them through friendly dialogues. During the coaching period he was able to put into practice what Fourteena suggested and proudly shared during the lessons learned that he has turned the “graveyard” into a fun place – his team now became more open to him, they laugh and support each other.
The coaching also helped him see a different point of views in every situation that made him become a more flexible and approachable individual.
“Feels like the walls that divided us have been crumbled,” again, Alfian confessed.
From a self-centered to an understanding individual
Adi, also a project manager with 18 team members of system analysts and programmers, was a self-centered person who only interested in the results. He didn’t realise that every project has the human side that needs to be treated with care. Often he had conflicts with his team members; and he wouldn’t mind to see them go than fix the interpersonal issues between them.
He knew he needed to change. He didn’t know how. Like Alfian, through the coaching Adi was able to see the human side of the multiple projects under his responsibilities. And he was able to create a pleasant environment for his team to nourish their working relationship – where they can share their ideas, successes and failures.
He was also able to restore the broken relationship with some of his team members and instil discipline and build a strong working relationship with them. Now they work with fun; they communicate freely but with respect – work becomes more enjoyable. Even with those who happened to leave the company during the coaching period, Adi was able to give them a happy farewell.
And for the first time at Kairos he initiated a “moment of appreciation” where he acknowledged the “high achievers” and presented them with a token of appreciation. He’s changed!
Improved team-work synergy. Empowered to say "no"
Iwan, a system analyst, has a different story: His working style was command and control and hardly had a meaningful conversation with his team beyond checking their work. He was one of those who cannot say “no” and lacked of self-discipline.
The coaching inspired him to be disciplined and well-organised; he also learned about the human side of a project and started to appreciate his team by encouraging them to share their thoughts and ideas through a regular team meeting and lessons learned.
He found a sustainable way of improving his team performance by giving opportunities to junior programmers to work with a senior programmer on a complex project. This way, the junior programmers, while assisting the senior ones, have the chance to learn from them. And the senior programmers felt less burdened.
Seeing his effort in improving the team-work synergy successful, his confidence developed and he was empowered to say “no” or provide the customer with an alternative solution such as charging them more man-days for any additional features requested.
Still performed. Even with tight deadline …
A recently promoted system analyst, Hovis, had a poor time-management and found it difficult to communicate with his team of programmers and customer.
The coaching taught him not only how to be organised but effective through the creation of an action plan or project plan that he called a “master plan”. At the beginning of the coaching, Hovis was tasked to deliver a project with a three-month delivery time frame, however the customer insisted to cut it short to one month.
Hovis put into practice what Fourteena suggested in such a situation; thoroughly, he created a comprehensive master plan, documented every task and its details and shared his master plan with all stakeholders (internal and external) to introduce a collaborative monitoring system and shared responsibility.
Good news is – Hovis and his team were able to deliver the project in one month! How did he do it? Like a compass, the master plan helped him and his team to be very highly organised: they anticipated what the next tasks were and strictly adhered the crucial deadlines set. Indeed, his master plan impressed his external stakeholders (the customer), in fact at the end of the project they adopted Hovis’ masterplan.
Good communication started with respect
Like, Hovis, Indra (not in the picture) is new to his role as system analyst. He had difficulty in communicating his minds to his team. He felt, sometimes, they did not take him seriously and thought it was because he was younger than them or about the same age. At other times, it made him feeling incapable when he can't make a decision promptly.
The coaching helped him understand that if he wanted to be respected, he must show respect first. For example by soliciting inputs, encouraging others to give opinions or solve problems collectively; showing them that their contributions matter. And it is not necessary to do all the thinking and decision making himself. Indra now feels more comfortable to work with his team and lead them -- he has overcome his low self-esteem for being a junior system analyst and earned his respect. His team's performance also improved.
One happy result he shared was – his team was able to conduct a UAT (User Acceptance Test) once and successful (usually it takes several times). This impressed his customer and boast his and his team’s spirit.
Being structured helps express the thinking articulately
Yohanes is another system analyst who despite his clever mind lacked of self esteem, and was not able to express his ideas clearly. This caused misunderstandings and often conflicts with his programmers. Fourteena guided him how to arrange his thinking logically or systematically and present it methodically to help others follow his thinking easily.
And always synchronise his thinking with others by documenting all discussions related to information gathering (that could be converted into a project specification) and sharing it with his audience for confirmation purposes to avoid misunderstanding.
Putting it into practice diligently, Yohanes’s communication skills improved: During the coaching period, he demonstrated his ability in solving complex problems in a couple of his projects through better communication. As his communication improved he also became a more enjoyable person to work with.
Creativity leads to efficiency
Steven, previously a programmer, was promoted to a system analyst about a year ago. He had an interesting weakness. He realised that he was not creative enough and didn’t know how to be creative; if one element of his project was missing, Steven was not able to make any progress. He didn’t know the art of isolating a problem or making assumptions.
Through the coaching and real-experience based guidance, Steven is able to see beyond problem and persistently find a solution through active listening and being observant
“While gathering some data from the client, I tend to be more observant than before. I took some notes and then connect the dots to solve the problem and give the best solution,” recalled Steven while sharing his recent achievement in solving a solution problem for one important project he undertook.
Running an effective meeting and leading discussions with confidence
Martinus (not in the picture), a soft-spoken system analyst, found it hard to deal with people: external stakeholders or team members, especially those who were not disciplined and took their commitment lightly.
It is understandable how difficult it is to get someone’s commitment without a formal process or request – it’s like holding a bottle with many holes in it. No matter how much we try to fill in the bottle with water, it will be wasted. In other words, information will easily get lost and progress interrupted as discussions back to square one.
Martinus was not familiar in preparing an action plan detailing tasks, person-in-charge, and deadlines that he can use to formalise his request for commitment to his external stakeholders; and taking in-charge in meetings (mainly for information gathering). The coaching introduced him to some best practices how to run an effective meeting; creating an action plan, and leading discussions with confidence.
Like the rest of his colleagues he also immediately put into action what he learned in the coaching -- He's now more pro-active in leading his team, even takes initiative to have a lessons learned in order to increase their level of engagement.
Now, these eight (8) project team realised the importance of being organised and setting thing right from the very beginning through a comprehensive action plan and collaborative leadership and team work.
And most importantly, with improved communication and project leadership skills, no longer they hesitate to say “no". They know how to apply the principal of “triple constraints”– time, budget, scope. If one of these is altered, accordingly and with confidence, they are able to counter-offer their customers’ request for additional features or reduced timeframe without giving away man-days or resources voluntarily like before.
DISCOVERING SOMETHING NEW
Unlike their colleagues from the project team, the junior account team, Winta, Ranly (not in the picture), and Khoirul – who just started their career in selling, often deal with tenders – learned something they’ve never heard or done before: bid management.
They’ve learned how to run the production of a bid or tender response effectively – as Khoirul shared during the lessons learned session: “Before I knew about bid management, I was always in rush, but with bid management I am more organised.”
While for Endrik (not in the picture), the only technical solution designer at Kairos, who previously felt bored with his role, learned that coaching helped him broaden his knowledge beyond technical, in fact, in all aspects of a project. He was also inspired to learn more about bid management discipline to enhance his solution design skills. He felt his role is more exciting than ever.
NEW SKILLS. NEW CAPABILITIES.
We wish these 12 Kairos valued team members all the very best for their future. May the new skills they’ve discoverd during the three (3) months coaching period stay with them for a longer time and make them more capable individuals. And may whatever they do flourish.
This article is dedicated for 12 of them, and Fourteena would like to sincerely thank Kairos' management: Ms. Laura and Mr. David Satrio (not in the picture).
PT. Kairos Utama Indonesia is an IT outsourcing company, a Microsoft Gold Partner in Indonesia, specialising in software and application development, IT consulting services and 24/7 support services. Kairos founded in 2005, employed more than 200 employees; most of them are from strong IT and software programming backgrounds. Visit its website on www.kairos-it.com