HOT POTATO THEORY – way to survive BT

September 3, 2009

My current project in a broad sense is improving the customer experience for Wholesale Broadband.

A typical average day my calendar will look like this

8:00-9:00: WBC Performance Review

8:15-9:00: WBC Systems Stability Plan

9:45-10:00: WBC Morning log calls

9:30-10:30: Daily Fallout tracker call

11:00-12:00: Systems stability call

12:30-12:30: CE Lead update call

1:00-2:30: OTD call for BB

1:00-1:30: Weekly reporting call

…..

…..

….

….

So the day continues but have you noticed that there are multiple calls that demand your attention almost every hour of the day and combine it with the calls that get put out on the day because of some crucial issue. Unless you have learnt the art of successfully cloning yourself or going behind in time it will be impossible for a normal human being to attend all of these.

So if you are wondering how can a CE lead go through his/her day.. here is the answer ‘HOT POTATO THEORY – FIFO and ROUND ROBIN STYLE’ The theory holds states that at any given point there will be a number of hot potatoes (important issues) floating around. But only a few of them are genuinely hot potatoes others are the noise and background issues that are unavoidable if you are working in a company as huge as BT.

Next question is how to distinguish the real hot potatoes from fake hot ones. That is where the FIFO (First In First Out) comes into play along with the ROUND ROBIN style. If somebody hands you a hot potato you deal with it until the next hot potato comes into your hands and you keep doing this until you find that the same hot potato is being handed to you every time. This means that it has accumulated enough heat for you to divert your energy into it and you will see that people are also ready to talk to you about it. (Unlike the other hot potatoes where people will not even care.)

Lesson learnt is focus your energy on that one issue, but identifying that issue is the hardest task and which might take time.. So keep  watching this space until the new version of this theory is published.

If you are all wondering that how I managed to articulate this theory so well, I must admit this is not my invention but from a colleague of mine J.

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BT: from the life of Intern and Full time

August 6, 2009

We had our team meeting last week. Since one of my project meetings clashes directly with the weekly team meeting I had not able to attend previous ones. But last week I was appointed to the chair and hence I could/had to attend one of the meetings.

Given that background, you must be wondering what is so special about the meeting. The meeting is a normal one nothing special, what made it special at least for me were the interns. One of the agenda item was asking the interns one thing that liked about BT and one thing that they do not. Surprisingly enough it is not much different from the full time.

There list could be summarized as below:

Top three things that can be improved

  • Flexi desk
  • On phone all the time
  • Number of home workers in BT

Top three things that are good

  • Interns like the interns + Team
  • Inefficiencies in BT as they are the areas of improvements
  • Being able to call upon the team members for any info.

The similarities between the full time and interns is an indicator of how good the internship program is as it gives them a real flavour of working at BT as opposed to an artificial one.

I thought I could give my sort of rationalization that I have done for myself as a full time.

Flexi desk system: once you know what your project is, you go around looking for an empty cabinet and then you just get it to your place and then make sure that the cabinet moves around with you. And then even in the space for the B3 (that is MLP floor), people actually just sit on the same place.

On Phone: this I must admit took some time getting used, but if you get a headphone it is great as it leaves your hands free. And also if you really tired of headphones then go to an empty room and get a phone with speaker on. Then there is something which is called as mute on the phone which blocks off any noise at your end.

Number of home workers: I have given up even trying to explain this. The only reason that I could come up with was that if people have been working in the company since they were 19 and then I guess by the time they reach 50 they would prefer to be at home.

About the things that we liked we all just love our team, the people. It is so much fun. Even the project that I am doing right now has all ex-MLPs in it; we have so much fun and laughter around our area. The team is an resource that you can pool into to get all the support and information needed.

At the end of the day, the more I speak to my other friends outside BT and the more I see where my personal journey is taking me I am really grateful that I chose BT and am really glad to be working here.

Lifeline of BT – Conference Calls

June 22, 2009

Indian Accent: ‘BT Operate will have to decide what impact it will have?’

Spanish Accent: ‘How much funding will I get for Etherflow?’

Italian Accent: ‘Hello Paulo, how are you?’

British Accent: ‘What about the data build upon OS then? Will it be a part of the Q2’

American Accent: ‘When will I get the report back?’

And now imagine a floor full of people with headsets and combine it with the scenario from above. This is BT for you, welcome to a typical BT floor.  It is normal to walk into a floor and see people sitting on a table with headsets and talking – but not to each other.

As a new joiner in BT you do wonder how these people can talk so much on phone. That’s what I thought. Then I got into one of these projects and I figured out that basically what you are trying to do is recreate an environment where people are sitting next to each other and solving issues with the sole exception that it is with the help of phones.

Given the following reasons

  • Nature of work which requires a lot of co-ordination amongst different teams
  • Diversity in terms of geographical locations
  • Working from home

It is impossible to get work done without being constantly on the phone.

Oh yeah, another very good reason is lack of meeting rooms (which seems to be booked by invisible employees 24 X 7). For example our team meeting, we are about a dozen members but could not find a room and hence we all had to a conference call even though we are all on the same floor and looking at each other but talking through phones.

On the other had one could argue that since BT has its offices in almost every tube stop in London we better make the best use of the our real estate and ensure our employees are spread evenly across different locations not only across the world but also across all the different offices in Central London too.

The one time I asked the question ‘Why do we talk on phone so much?’ I got a a very smart answer from my colleague ‘We are a telephone company after all – so we better use our products’.

Tough to argue with that one. Welcome to BT 🙂

BT – A Complex Beast or Changeling?

June 10, 2009

I heard about the MBA Leadership Program – MLP (at the time it was the FLP- Future Leadership Program) during the milkround when I studying at the London Business School. We had a presentation from BT followed by a networking session. What stuck with me was the statement from a BT representative: ‘We need change agents who can help transform BT’. At the time I knew very little about BT, but I went back did my homework and found out that BT started as a Post Office. It was only in 1981 that it became the full fledged British Telecommunications as we know it today. It seemed really fascinating to read the history of BT – the history definitely does not lack variety.

I submitted my application to BT, and once accepted went for the interview.  It was in two phases: a case interview and an informal interview. Since then the process has developed into a well structured full day intensive screening session.

A few tips to prepare:

– Go through the Annual Report of BT which is available from the website. It is a brief summary of what all happens at BT. In fact I remember making notes of the annual report :).

– Case interview: be prepared for a case with a technical perspective, it is about technology after all.

– Be yourself: MLP program has developed its own culture and you will enjoy it the best if you fit in with it, as in the MBA.

I was accepted by BT and joined as an intern in June 2007.  My first project was about the ‘CSSN’ – Customer Self Service Network, which is about ‘Enabling our global customers to create, manage and control their communications services in real-time, taking their experience to unprecedented levels’. After a grueling one month of working on presentations and talking to people, I came in and was told that the project was being halted due to lack of funding. This was the first realization of the challenges faced getting things done in BT.

The same day I was put on another project about the ‘Baselining BT Design’ – a transformation project. This was an ideal internship project as it gave me an overview of the BT Design. It gave me experience working with people across BT which is an enlightening experience. The project was similar to a consulting project with its cycle of data gathering, analysis and then recommendations. It also showed how BT could improve its current way of working through the processes that people used. It was during this project I realised that what you take out of the MLP program is up to you.

The best way to describe it is with this anecdote:

A company sends out two salesmen to Africa to identify opportunities

One Salesman writes back: ‘Situation hopeless no one wears shoes’.

Other one writes back: ‘Glorious Wonderful opportunity, they have no shoes’.

Which salesman are you? If you are the one who sees opportunity to have an impact and blazes your own trail then grab the chance and MLP is the prefect boat to sail the waters.

Hello world!

June 1, 2009

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