no!" exclaimed Rajan Trivedi, allowing his normally unflappable
self to get flapped. His colleagues Santanam Shankaran and Kirit
Singh stopped and shrugged.
Till this point, Reflex Systems' three senior
sales and marketing executives had been on their way for lunch after
a routine meeting. Now, it was two of them left waiting, as Trivedi
rushed to recover his rolodex file left on the conference table-apparently
a crisis of unspeakable proportions. Trivedi was mortified by the
thought of someone-anyone-thumbing through it.
"Teamwork 101," said Shankaran, with
"Yeah," Singh chuckled, "all
for one and one for more."
It was half an hour later-at the local pizza
joint-that the issue was broached again. Trivedi had opted out,
and both had one name on their mind: Trivedi.
"The Razzmataaz deal was quite a stunner,"
said Shankaran, at last. He was referring to Trivedi's latest coup
for the company-a contract worth Rs 10 crore for an upcoming retail
chain. "Weren't you supposed to go with him for the deal-closing
Singh frowned. Something
had come up, and Trivedi had not been able to re-schedule the meeting.
And so it happened that their colleague went alone, again, to score
the big one. "It's been tagged in the credit records for all
three of us anyway," mumbled Singh.
"And he's also filed the deal report in
proper format," said Shankaran, "I studied it with a magnifying
glass. Very nicely written. The negotiation process is all there,
right to the last detail. A masterpiece."
They both laughed-in consolation for the grim
fact of the moment. Without Trivedi, they knew, neither of them
could possible make any headway with Razzmataaz, with or without
all the documentation processes on how the deal was swung. The report
was what it was-a report with bald facts and obvious numbers, as
the office template demanded, rounded off with a nice dose of prose
elaborating the supposedly insightful details of the client's business
"Do you think Ramanathan ever sees these
reports?" asked Singh, himself a diligent report-filer-as a
way to make an impression on the CEO, who had founded the software
firm some 10 years ago.
"We're supposed to study
the market together, chalk out strategies, and then go get
the contracts. All of us. That's the job"
"Well, Mahajan certainly does," replied
Shankaran, referring to the President, sales and marketing. "Didn't
he just mention how our reports are beginning to sound so similar
that we must have terrific cohesion?"
The two laughed again. "Maybe we're subconsciously
mimicking Trivedi's style," ventured Singh.
"As if reports mean anything..."
"So long as it formalises the process
of institutionalising the whole sales operation, I think it's positive,"
opined Singh, "Better than operating as lone rangers... mysterious
cowboys who gallop alone into the night and turn up at dawn with
bags of gold at the saddle."
"What makes you think this is any different?"
growled Shankaran, "putting statistics together for group analysis
and reading each other's reports is not my idea of market-knowledge
"So what-you want us to read each other's
minds and turn into professional soul-mates? There's an art to the
damn thing and someone will always be more artistic at the job than
others. We can't grudge Trivedi that, you know," shot back
Suitably provoked, Shankaran turned on his
most argumentative voice. "Ha-now you're talking art,"
he bristled. "If it was so much art or whatever, you could
bet your next bonus he'd be a lot happier letting us into the tricks
of the trade. Artistic skill cannot be copied, but this guy is behaving
like we steal his job if we steal his rolodex. Wake up, man. The
guy's paranoid or something."
"Maybe he's just highly individualistic,"
contended Singh, "in any case, I don't think we have any business
sitting here psycho-analysing a colleague. You know, one of America's
greatest folk singers used to hand out the music score to his accompanists
only seconds before the studio recording-he was nuts about anything
leaking out beforehand."
"Accompanists?" Shankaran raised
his voice. "What on earth are you talking about? We're a three-person
sales team, dammit. We're supposed to study the market together,
chalk out strategies, and then go get the contracts. All of us.
That's the job. We're supposed to be on a common wavelength."
"That's not the job," said Singh,
"that's the theory."
"Fine-maybe even you're developing a special
antenna to pick up signals from deep within clients' minds."
Shankaran was turning morose.
"Hey, trust me. I'm just as zapped as
you are, so cut out the 'me and you' thing. But admit it, we're
damned lucky to be in Trivedi's group. We're also getting the fat
sales bonuses. All we need is some real teamwork."
"That's not going to happen at the rate
we're going. Trivedi sees this quiet arrangement like some sort
of mutually acceptable equilibrium. You know what he was doing once
when I walked into his office? He was talking to an ex-customer
of Raazmataaz-there's no mention of it in the report. Now look at
the brief we've prepared for the programmers. No retailer looking
purely for shelf-space efficiency maximisation would go with such
software specifications... it's obvious they're looking for some
non-conventional metric for shelf-space value, but they did not
verbalise it. So how did our man know?"
"Good question. Try figuring out what's
on his mind, and he'll just stonewall you."
"Yeah, so let's have a heart-to-heart
with Mr Mystery... we're not challenging his sales skills, we're
just pursuing the company's institutionalisation objectives. The
system's bigger than the individual, remember?"
Shankaran looked sceptical. "Sounds too
much like a threat for any such discussion to end amicably. I think
we're better off taking the issue up..."
"With Mahajan?" cut in Singh, incredulously.
"Of course not-he has a stake in papering
all the cracks, and he's cool so long as our group's targets are
met. And when it comes to a budget battle to retain his team, he
also knows exactly who Mr Indispensable is."
"Terrific. Got any ideas?"
"We go to the hr head for advice. I mean,
he'll at least take an angel perch view. And this could be symptomatic
of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed before it's too late.
This systemisation thing is not working, and the CEO should know
it's not working. An atomised company cannot retain its edge for
long. Teamwork 101. Company alert."
"Oh-and risk letting Trivedi get the whole
bonus all to himself the next time round?"
The question: What should Shankaran and Singh
do about Trivedi?