Obtaining results with an human touch

A few months ago, on a Sunday, I was going on a scooter at about 7 PM. It had just gotten dark and there was light traffic on the road (population glued to TV at this time?). As we were passing an intersection we heard a crash behind us. A lady was standing at the intersection with her bike since another bike had blocked her way. A bike driven by a 25 year old guy has just bumped into her. The crash we heard was his brakes screeching and his bike hitting the lady’s bike. Good thing was that she was ok and no damage to either bike as well.

Since we were just passing them, we could clearly hear the guy saying to the lady; “Why did you brake all of a sudden?”. This erupted into an argument. Got me thinking if there was an alternate scenario where the guy riding the bike could have laid aside his ego (that was one reason why he could put the blame on the girl while hitting a stationary bike) and create a scenario where both of them depart without as much bitterness. It is also possible that the guy was not able to see the girl’s bike and hence rammed into her bike.

Though this was an incident in the street, it got me thinking about a transaction that we did in our business. We are a small services company (Ajira.tech) in a niche segment (top notch developers — aka Guild of Silicon Valley — building awesome innovative products for our customers). Being a small company, we have had cases where a project comes up and we don’t have any availability of the right skills for the engagement. In these cases we have had to pull one of our team out from an existing customer that had the skills and switch him with another colleague. A few times, though we took care to ensure that the new person was onboarded well and rotated people, the transaction did not go well. Our first instinct was that customer’s always crib when you rotate people and left it at that. The incident on the street, though made me rethink, is there a better way to approach business transactions that would leave behind a pleasant experience though each person gets what they want at the end of it.

A month ago, we needed to do another rolloff from the customer, and this time around, we did not even have another person replacing him. However, at the end of it, both the customer and us were really happy with the overall transaction. The customer keeps reminding that we need to start a few more projects with him, though we don’t have the people to pick it up. The framework that we applied to create a smoother option is the following;

  1. Put the cards on the table of why you need to make the transaction happen with the other party; lay particular emphasis on minimizing risk to the other party
  2. Unlearn what you think a good approach is; knowledge creates blind spots; each customer is different and unique; co — opt the customer in the approach that benefits both parties
  3. Lay out the guidelines with all involved stakeholders (project stakeholders would be different from the customer — in our case the CEO is our customer but the team that is working on the project may have different needs)
  4. Clear visibility of the items that needs to be checked off; customer is apprised on a timely manner to ensure that he knows the progress (keep minimizing the risk)
  5. Communicated at appropriate times with all key stakeholders. For each transaction the time/frequency would vary

6. Make the transaction happen

Being a consultant, could not resist coming up with a framework (Empathize → Solutionize → Communicate → Execute). It has helped us a few times already on our journey. If you have better ways of creating pleasant interactions that allows both parties to win, please share.