Chapter 5: Build Relationships. Have no Conflicts.

Another very useful lesson taught to me by my mentor is about dealing with conflicts. The message was a simple formula. It stated as follows.

“If you are accused under any circumstances, analyse in your mind and heart whether you actually made a mistake.

If the answer is yes, immediately apologize and then take measures to never repeat the same again.

If the answer is no, then ignore the incidence and apologise. Remember everybody is a customer and the customer is always the king. It does not benefit under any circumstances to prove the customer that he/she is wrong. If you were not wrong, the time eternal will take care to appraise the customer about his/her error in judgement.”

Gandhiji possibly explained the same concept when he said that if one slaps you one cheek, show the other cheek.

First, there was a personal need for building relationships. I was new to the role of QA Manager and thus needed time to learn the job. Besides, I was new in the organization. I needed all the tolerance from all the customers till I had a grip on the job. Secondly, more importantly, I have always looked for a long-term in any organization and always consider the span of the lifetime in terms of knowing any person. I try to cultivate the same in all my team members. This is possibly the only lesson I try to teach any of my team members.

Our technique for building relationship was easy. We identified what was the most important thing any of our customers wanted. The answer was simple. They all needed delivering all the projects the business demanded. So, the way to please everyone was to accept all the requests for testing the products and projects in whatever form it was dished out to us. So, we set a rule in the team that we will not refuse any request for testing at any point of time, at any hour of the day. This one simple rule within the team and the cooperation of all the team members in adhering to this guideline, won us all the relationship we needed. This enriched our emotional bank account with huge deposits. This created a lot of workload and that meant a lot of sacrifices by each one of us and by our families. However, we readily paid the price.

There were huge dividends for this sacrifice. Whenever, we needed help from any department, we always got the needed help. We wanted to beef up our Consumer Track at one point of time due to extra load. We requested the Transformation Track Management to extend their project timelines and free some resources. They readily accepted our request and provided us the resources. After 2 full days of regression due to mid-week release, we needed someone to help us with the tests for production verification. We requested the IT Operations team and they readily extended their support.

The first time I faced a conflict was during one of the weekly Siebel Releases. Our practice is that we allow changes to be provided to us till 2:00 PM on every Monday for inclusion in the next Siebel Release. Then, we use the rest of Monday and Tuesday to create the build of the Siebel Release. We conduct regression testing on the QA environment on Wednesday, on the Pre-Production environment on Thursday, on the Production environment on Friday and the new release is ready for the shops to use on Saturday morning.

One day I received a call at my extension from one Business Analyst. He requested me to come to the workstation of the Gatekeeper for the release finalization. I rushed to his workstation. The Business Analyst complained that the Gatekeeper had behaved rudely with him and he needed apology for the same. The Gatekeeper would not apologise under any circumstances. I requested for details. The Business Analyst explained that he needed a project to be included in the release and the Gatekeeper refused the same. The Gatekeeper explained that the project inclusion was requested 1 hour after the cut-off time. The Business Analyst explained that he had requested from his workstation over phone as this was very business critical and the Gatekeeper had hung up on him. This he felt was insulting and thus demanded apology. The Gatekeeper explained that the test for the project was still not complete and thus he could not accept the project for the release. I requested details for the urgency of the project in terms of the business value. I understood that it was not that important. However, I called the tester in Bangalore asking for the status of the tests for the project. The tester informed that it was almost done. Seeing that the Business Analyst was extremely furious and he had actually forgotten about his project and was only interested in the apology, I told him that we will include the project in the release. Then, I apologized to him on behalf of the Gatekeeper. This calmed him down and he went away. We completed the tests and included the project in the release.

The incidence had however shaken me. I immediately designed the below Conflict Resolution Strategy for my team. I called all the QA Team Managers to my office the same afternoon and explained the strategy to them. They all accepted to give the strategy a try. My fortune is that my team never promises me anything. Instead, they always commit to try. And they sincerely try and thus this commitment is much more than a promise. None of our strategies have failed till date because of this one single quality of our team members i.e. they give every strategy the best shot.

Conflict Resolution Strategy

Our Conflict Resolution Strategy

The strategy is that we always want to be a part of the solution. Thus, we always want to cooperate. However, if cooperation is not possible for us as the other party may not be adjusting for that, we choose to compromise. If compromising does not work and the other party is not ready to spare an inch, we accommodate. However, before we accommodate, we take the other team members in the confidence so that we all can collectively pay the price for accommodating. If accommodating the customer is also not possible, then we choose to ignore. However, if we choose to ignore, we keep record of the incidence and monitor the same routinely. We do not want an ignored aspect to grow into a mammoth problem. Lastly, if nothing works, we choose to confront the customer. However, before we confront, we take all the heavy weights in our confidence and seek their support. Many a times, the superiors work out a plan to defuse the issue altogether and we are at peace.

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