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Successfully Handling Team Transition

Remote
Leadership
Agile / Scrum

4 August, 2021

Rohini Babygirija

Rohini Babygirija

Product Owner at Danske IT

Rohini Babygirija, Engineering Chapter Lead at Danske IT, shares her experiences in her company's transition process and how she tackled the whole situation single-handedly.

Problem

I joined a company in 2018. At that time, there was a transition going on for the company from Denmark to India. On the other hand, the team in Denmark was dedicated entirely to another system. Being a first-timer in the company, I was not accustomed to the systems, culture or even the stakeholders; I merely knew the tit-bits. The company was like a giant mammoth, and I had to manage it like a Herculean task. Starting from managing projects, transitioning the entire system from Denmark to India and then building up the team in India from scratch, there was a lot of attrition in the company. Imagine hiring people and building a team to speed up the work; in one word, it was hectic. Among all, the biggest challenge was to manage everything without disrupting the usual business.

The second part of the challenge was to handle the work with the data that already existed in the system. Now how can one do that? Besides, how could we even manage everything when the system was in transition to India? To add to that, the knowledge-base of the team in India was slightly different than the one in Denmark, which had us rise up to their level asap.

To sum it up, these are the challenges that me, my team and the company was facing:

  • The biggest challenge was to change from a usual mindset to an agile mindset for transformation. It would help if the team was nimble and innovative about solutions. Otherwise, it is not easy to gain the trust of the team and empower them.
  • Moreover, I knew that I could do specific tasks independently, but suddenly could not make any changes in the team because they were not used to an autonomous way of working. I had to guide, lead and manage them all by myself.
  • Another way of seeing it was, since I am a woman, others thought I was being too bossy.

By hook or by rook, it was my responsibility to transition the system into projects in the most usual way. Unfortunately, the team did not have the adequate skills, expertise and knowledge for me to proceed with. It was like fixing a car all over. Managing projects, transitioning, and scaling the team had all taken a toll on me. Fast forward into a year, my efforts all paid off when everything fell into place.

Actions taken

We began to figure out how we can start everything all over again. We started small and then slowly gathered the knowledge about the system by experimenting and analyzing. I had a team in India to figure out what was the main requirement for the system. I empowered the team so that they are charged up and enthusiastic. From my end, I did identify the stakeholders and figure out the knowledge transfer plan, with the help of my team members in India. I recalled the stakeholder from whom we should take over the tasks. Undoubtedly, the senior management was the most supportive when it came to figuring out the stakeholders.

The next step we took was to introduce agile scrum with the system. In that way, we knew the daily progress and whether we were going in the right direction. Earlier, we had a waterfall model, which did not work well, especially with the critical transition. So, we needed to have daily updates on it.

It is obvious that finally, we ended up hiring more people. It was to tackle the attrition in the team. My senior managers made an effort and pushed our talent acquisition team to get resources on board as fast as they could. If you are a manager, you have perhaps been through this nightmare. In the end, people believed in our system and that it brought them to speed up their tasks. Once everyone was productive, we aced it!

Finally, we had pulled it off. We had a complete idea on how to build our knowledge base, and furthermore, we also created some conference proceedings with all the information about the system. Even if it did take several months, we were able to accomplish something with success. The challenge had made us stronger as a team, and we would discuss it in our regular meetings.

Slowly, we did fix the problem, as a team. This was a great test of my leadership skills. Needless to mention that having to work 10 - 14 hours a day and manage each and every problem of the teams in both India and Denmark was the crux of the matter. The best part was that we were able to figure out what needed to be done and what could be done to fix the problem in the shortest possible time.

In India, they took it as a massive mammoth without knowing the problems or the incidence behind working in the company. We had to answer them while listening with patience, which was necessary. Building up trust with the stakeholders was required, like face-to-face meetings, interactions, and video conferences.

Lessons learned

  • The biggest learning curve for me was the agile transformation that we embarked on. It was an exciting change, with several new ways of setup and work. How we were reaping the benefit out of it was something worth learning. So, safe to say that never be afraid of change.
  • Leadership skills were a big learning. Not to be biased towards my actions, humbleness, transparency and accountability all came with it. There are queries when there is a transformation, and then it becomes easy to find the unrest in the team, which I learned deeply.
  • If you are a manager, your other role is to be an active listener. In tune, understand the problems, instead of reading through them, which will help you think of better solutions.

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