Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Employees and cars

I have often thought about myself with the analogy of a car - calling myself 'high maintenance'. Actually this analogy is not very off-track. Fits rather well with most people and bosses. Just like certain cars go with certain personalities, so also the pairing of bosses and their reports. And just like the family has some say in the car you take in, so also the team. And its not just the boss and the team that help decide what kind of employee should be inducted, it also depends on the nature of the job and the company culture.

Let me try to enumerate the possible car type and their personality counterparts to see if this analogy flies ..

1) The vintage collection : Antique value, unique personality, very high maintenance, feels good but limited utility. OK to inherit - but not to buy
- employees who TALK about values and a lot of 'gyan' and how things should be etc. etc. Feels good to have, probably need a few in the team to train others?? but at the end of the day, the value far outweighs utility. The are prohibitively expensive, slow, crib a lot but well known personalities - looked up on from the outside

2) The family SUV : Adaptable - can fit into many different roles and functions, very high utility, some maintenance, generic personality
- the dependable employee who isn't the star but you go to for all those odd jobs that other are either not capable of or not willing to do, not too demanding,

3) The sleek sports car : your prized possession, very very high maintenance, to be used carefully, but what the speed, drive and acceleration is unmatched, a real treat, expensive and rare. Best to use for special occasion lest you run it down
- the star employee, highly specialized, difficult to manage but what he brings to the table is both rare and valuable

4) The economy small car : you need one to run errands, no maintenance, high few efficiency, no personality
- these are the mediocre employees in the team, you use them to execute tasks, little personality, lots of utility, easy management

5) All terrain vehicle - 4 wheel drive : High fuel consumption, low maintenance, but necessary for bad weather and difficult terrain where none of the other cars can do
- you trouble shooter, you can send to fix any problem

6) The problem car : breaks down all the time, at the wrong time, spend most of the time under servicing in the garage, you'd love to dispose of this but cant. Terribly high maintenance with negative utility.
- the bane of every manager - PIP candidates, either for work or attitude or both

The above five are the most extremely examples, just as there are cars of all shapes, sizes, colors and values, so also people, sometimes a mix of one or more above. The same person behaves differently is different situations just as the car behave differently in different terrains.

I guess it is important for every person to figure out their personality type and see where they fit into the team. If their role and personalities match. For example if I have the personality of a sleek sports car - requiring constant attention and expensive maintenance and yet at the same time I do not bring the cherished value to the team, I am a poor fit. I need to move on to a place where my unique abilities are prized so that the high maintenance can be afforded.

What should a team composition be?
I guess depends on the work, the skills required for the work and company culture and philosophy.
If the work is normal routine job, its best to fill it with small compact car personalities - low maintenance plus easy execution
If the work is rocket science - then ofcourse you need to go for the sports cars, irrespective of the maintenance costs because what you need cannot be filled with anything else.
Service industry would need mostly SUVs where one size fits all - probably augmented by a few 'sport car' specialists.
For most product companies I guess a combination of a one or two sports cars, a couple of SUVs and bulk of small and mid size cars should do the trick.

Where does the manager fit in?
The manager is like the person in charge of the upkeep of the cars. They decide which car goes where - who does what. If they send the sports car to rocky mountains, the car and the journey will both be a disaster. They decide how much investment in terms of servicing to invest, which cars to disinvest. They decide, which fuel to fill in each car, the sports car needs 'premium' the small economy car doesn't. They decide which brand of car to get on board, what are the gaps and what cars to fill them. One wrong decision and ...

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