Leadership Mantra: Rome Was Not Built In A Day


In this fast world, we are so much obsessed with hurrying that we tend to get all things done ASAP. Every account manager or customer answers that he wished the results to be delivered yesterday, when asked on timelines. Net result? Many a times, the quality goes for a toss.

It took nearly 22 years to build Taj Mahal. No wonder why it is considered a wonder and admired world wide. Now imagine if it was ordered to be built in one month. You get the point, right?

This does not mean that we should be doing the things in a slow paced way. It is not right to expect the critical or important things to be turned around in a short time. However great a leader may be, I have not heard or seen that he was able to turn around a situation within a day. Some people succeed in creating an aura around them when they achieve a difficult milestone. Only the people who set the goal know the hard work and time it takes to achieve it.

Well, let me resume sharing my experience with one of our customers. They had been planning on few important initiatives for a while now. When they had started consulting with us, an important initiative that had failed couple of times was dumped onto us. Initially, we were asked only to help from technology perspective. The timelines and the plan was ready (it’s a different thing that it was an extremely tight scheduled plan). We reviewed the plan and started helping. Soon we realized that the person who was supposed to deliver it wanted to move on other project and hence, we were asked to take over in charge of delivery too.

When we took over delivery, the first challenge was to motivate the people working on it since they were dejected due to earlier two failures of this initiative. We had our first taste of internal politics when we were told that this initiative was not approved in first place! Imagine this being told when you were 2 weeks away from delivering it. We were dumped with so many other tasks that we were not even able to attend the meetings for this initiative in the beginning.

Slowly, we started understanding the working ethos and style of our customer. We then scheduled meetings and then took control of the situation. We made necessary changes in the plan wherever required, synced up with appropriate people, got them into confidence and then started sharing regular updates with the stakeholders. There were dozens of issues/problems faced while we were nearing the delivery; however, since we had all team members tuned to the project, the success had become a mutual one.

Then came another jolt from the same team who had raised issue of approving it. They stated that it cannot be done since they had lined up important releases during that period. We had to discuss and then finally, when we agreed to complete it couple of days earlier than schedule, they gave us their approval.

Finally, the activity was completed on time and confidence was won after a gap of 2 years. “Thank you” and “Good job” mails started pouring and senior management got a chance to mention another “accomplishment” on their Powerpoint slides. So much so that I received another mail on when was the next initiative being delivered and if the plan was ready! This is one of the drawbacks of achieving successJ.

Expectations do not grow linearly; they grow exponentially once you achieve success. There was a lot of pressure of delivering another important milestone with an unachievable timeline. We had learnt enough lessons and had gotten to know Who’s who in the system to confidently stand up and say that it cannot be delivered in that short time. Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t get arrogant due to success of first delivery; we learnt enough lessons to deliver it better. We had realized on day one that we could certainly help our customer to come out of the chaos and earn the respect from their customer. We just needed to understand the dynamics by working hard and keeping our ears and eyes open.

There was a laundry list of such other initiatives that their customer wasn’t confident. Today, they are looking forward to get them completed successfully. When they ask us on the timelines, we proudly tell them that we have just built a castle as of now and that we will indeed build Rome, but not in a day.