Two weeks in, two weeks remaining. In some ways it feels like I’ve only just arrived, yet in other ways, it feels like I’ve been working with these people for months. With the customer, we are able to speak less guardedly, more candidly because we understand their challenges better and they know that we have their best interests at heart. Full-fledged projects can take a lot longer to establish that trust. I’m glad we have reached this point in two weeks; it means that we don’t have to delicately dance around difficult discussions during the second half of our engagement. That is one of the potential benefits of working on a 4-week project. We don’t worry that if we accidentally offend the customer, we still have to work awkwardly with them for another year. We have confidence that they are being transparent with us regarding their challenges, and they know that we will share our “outside-looking-in” perspective in a non-judgmental way. I’m still doing my best to not offend anyone (we change mgmt types are supposed to build bridges not burn them), but I’m comfortable in being open about what they could improve.
Some of our internal team challenges aren’t just because the personalities are so different, you realize that you bring your work style into the effort. I mentioned a few posts back that our team of 3 comes from very different areas of SAP business. I am 100% customer facing in my role, focused on consulting delivery. Our Australian is about 50% customer facing, 50% internal, focused on pre-sales. Our German is 100% internal facing, focused on software development. Those cultures affect us more than our regional differences do. My world is about people. The German’s world is about software. I think about usability, he things about function. I’ve found that the Australian has to interpret us to each other sometimes, because we aren’t speaking the same language. Finding that middle ground has been very interesting and pretty fun.
It’s also been good for me to realize that we can’t always give the customer what they want or need. On an SAP project, we have flexibility to do that. If they don’t have budget for what they need, we can discuss risks and potentially build a use case. On a volunteer project where there is no software budget and so many of the issues come down to discipline, it is hard to make a positive impact. If Villgro’s core mission is to better the lives of the poorest of the poor (bottom of the pyramid in their terms), what can I suggest to improve their processes that will enable that impact? Keeps me up at night.
Speaking of night, we are going to visit 2 orphanages and a nursing home this evening. I have an image in my head of what an orphanage looks like, most likely based on reading Oliver Twist at too young of an age. The severe flooding that hit Tamil Nadu last December took more than 500 lives, and left more than a million homeless. I was told that orphanage numbers increased dramatically either because the child lost both parents, or the parents were no longer able to provide a safe home. Think I’d better take some kleenex with me in case tears start flowing…