At my first job, I worked at a huge investment bank. While I was there, the managing director (MD) of my team left the firm. I was curious and asked my manager how the firm decided on the new boss? The answer surprised me.
When a new boss gets appointed you would think he/she should be an expert in the work the team does. I was in the data science team. So you would think the top boss should be a data science expert. Which our previous boss was, a big shot PhD from Stanford. Though, when the new boss got appointed, this wasn’t the most important thing anymore. Rather it was “who can best manage the relationship of the team with other teams”.
The team cannot exist in isolation, we cannot do everything by ourselves. It’s part of the system and it needs to gel well with other parts of the system. Someone else produces the data you operate on. Someone else writes and maintains the infrastructure you use. And someone else has to use the insights you produce. These things don’t happen automatically. Someone has to talk to the other teams to convince them to give you their data. Someone has to talk to some other team to convince them to use your insights. Mind you, the data might not be in a format which you can work on. The infrastructure might not scale the way you want, and the person using your insights might not give a damn. I never thought that the org chart can be as important as the flow chart.
Doing all this needs serious work, and more than expertise, this needs trust. Our new boss was already in the company for 20 years. There were lots of relevant people inside the company who knew and respected him and most importantly, who would listen to him. By relevant people, I mean people who lead other teams, and their bosses. So our big boss having good relationships automatically translated into us having good relationships with the other teams.
Now to be honest, I didn’t stay at the place long enough to see concrete examples of this, but I can relate this with other things you might see around. For example, if you are a district magistrate, and you want to increase the yield of your farmers in your district. Your method is some new variety of seeds, which have high yield but need a lot more water. So you also want to have a canal in your district. To do so, you might write to the minister. The minister might or might not talk to the irrigation department. Then the irrigation department might or might not do your work, you know they are all busy people. So this might take forever, you’ll probably get transferred before that. But… imagine if you are friends with the person who heads the irrigation department. You might call him up and he might be willing to make modifications in his existing plan to include your district as well. Things get done much faster. So it’s the same story.
Thank you Priyanshi Gaur for being my editor.