Reflection on My Leadership failure at Ericsson

On December 20, 2013, I was tasked to manage the Radio Network Optimization team of
Ericsson Ghana working on Airtel network. This was at a time when margins had reduced
and Ericsson was facing stiff competition of Chinese Telecom giant, Huawei. The emphasis
was therefore on reducing cost of operations in order to stay profitable. There was, therefore,
a restructuring programme that was been discussed which included offshoring of some of the
roles that can be performed remotely to the Ericsson Global Support Centre (GSC) in India.
The duty of my team was to measure and analyse network performance and end-user
experience in order to improve it. Also, we were supposed to help Airtel to maximize the
investments made in the network.
In line with my job description, I was supposed to ensure that Key Performance Indicators
related to the quality of service received by end-users are met. I was also to ensure that our
operations were profitability and that we avoided penalties by meeting our contractual
obligations. Furthermore, I was supposed to ensure successful transfer of some roles in GSC
India and support the downsizing of the optimization staff in Ghana. It was my duty as the
designated authority to create a coherent team by ensuring the team overcame any gaps
created by differences in culture, time zones and distance. I was required to do this using the
technologies at my disposal: conference calls, video conferencing, e-mail, chat tools, digital
white, etc. I was also tasked to ensure that all the obligations of Airtel towards the telecom
regulator, National Communication Authority (NCA) are met. Below is a simplified version
of the new organisation structure.
MANAGED
SERVICES CHIEF
OPERATING
OFFICER (MSCOO)

HEAD, RADIO
HEAD, NETWORK
NETWORK
OPERATIONS
OPTIMIZATION

ACCREDITED ACCREDITED
SERVICE SERVICE
PROVIDERS PROVIDERS

RADIO NETWORK NETWORK
OPTIMATION OPERATIONS
TEAM, INDIA TEAM, INDIA

RADIO NETWORK NETWORK
OPTIMIZATION OPERATIONS
TEAM, GHANA TEAM, GHANA

Fig. 1: A simplified version of the organisation chart

The goal of my team was to help Airtel “get the most out of their network invest investment,
with the focus on the network performance and end-user experience”. 1 We were supposed to

1 http://www.ericsson.com/ourportfolio/services/network-optimization?
nav=fgb_101_0092

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the way we share information. I disagreed because I did not want the situation where tasks will be delegated to only a section of the team. Problems then started cropping up in the team. Diagnostic Analysis of the case The first step toward diagnosing the problem. The Key Performance Indicators started improving but there was another challenge. Some of the team members complained that they were been marginalised leading them to predict that they were candidates for the retrenchment. The potential of the Networked Society lies in transformation through mobility. With some hesitation. where every person and every industry is empowered to reach their full potential”. PROFESSIONALISM and PERSERVERNACE. I was forced to implement this. According to my manager.4 Even though the downsizing had not been completed.3 Also. that stood in the way of achieving my goal. Pressure starting mounting on Ericsson from the client so I used my informal authority to persuade the team in Ghana including those earmarked for retrenchment to join in improving our performance contrary to my manager’s instruction. The few engineers in Ghana were becoming overloaded because the team in India was not delivering according to the Working Level Agreement (WLA). Transformation in the way people organize their individual lives and carry out vital tasks. the technical aspects of the challenge are the engineering work required to achieve the KPIs. Transformation in the way we consume and the way we create. This heightened tension and reduced co-operation between team members.ericsson. the use of technology tools and the creation of the new organisational structure consisting of the virtual team in India. The adaptive part is the disagreement as to the strategy to use in achieving the targets and the cultural differences that existed between the team in Ghana and the team in India. and the way we do business. is to separate the technical aspects from the adaptive challenge.com/thecompany/company_facts/vision 3 ibid 4 ibid 2 . I and other members of the team in Ghana felt if the aim is to reduce 2 http://www. the financial management and the drawing up of a working level agreement. I was instructed to use the team in India and the engineers in Ghana who will not be affected by the retrenchment (the engineers did not know who will be retrenched but the managers knew). Transformation in the way we work. The strategy was not working and we were not meeting the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).2 The vision of Ericsson is to create “a Networked Society. In the light of the mission and goal of my team. this will help us understand the challenges of the new organisational structure before we actually carry out the retrenchment. The India team was not improving and the team in Ghana kept complaining that they were been overstretched.meet this goal by bearing in mind the vision and mission of Ericsson while upholding the core values of RESPECT. its mission is as follows: We lead transformation through mobility.

one is required to go back and forth between implementation of actions and monitoring of the system. The leadership team requested the support of other known technical experts but the performance did not improve. Other team members including my manager felt they have been mandated to make the new organisational structure work so it must be implemented. there were times that I used work avoidance mechanisms to reduce the tension during team meetings. I now realise represented the Ericsson Global leadership team who were also interested in ensuring that the Ericsson Global Support Centres mastered the managed services model. The team was used to doing the actual technical work but now they were supposed to act as demand managers. I was focused narrowly on the issues at stake without looking at the stakeholders involved and the constituencies they represented. I accept that this was a clear case of using work avoidance mechanism to displace responsibility. professional and perseverance. Strangely. I was just fixing the technical part of the challenge. This perspective made me see Airtel (client) as the cause of our challenges. Reflecting on what I happened. Looking back I realised by asking the team in Ghana to do the work contrary to the new arrangement. For instance. Looking back. Looking back. I think I should have expected that because he was brought from Europe by that team. I think the adaptive challenge was the disagreement on strategy and my inability to get teams of different cultural backgrounds to work together. The most disturbing part was that the head of the Optimization team in India was everybody’s scapegoat. the performance started moved towards previous levels before the roles were offshored. The Head of Operations supported me occasionally because he had the competing commitment as part of his role to support the achievement of the KPIs while still defending the interest of the Ericsson Africa Leadership team. I failed to let the team in Ghana understand the new model required new ways of working. who disagreed with me. Also. But I was concerned about our goal to provide good experience to the end-user. we were paying penalties because we were not meeting the KPIs. There were several conflicts between myself and the Head of Operations whom I considered then to be incompetent. Though. I also blamed my manager on numerous occasions by accusing the company of signing a bad contract with Airtel. When solving adaptive challenges. Probably. Actor Analysis 3 . my own frustration at certain times contradicted the core values of respect. my manager. On hindsight. the team started complaining about their frustration in getting the job done. when I asked the local team to start doing the work that was sent to India. then offshoring was not the only solution. since Ericsson was promoting working remotely with technology he was under obligation to ensure that it worked. this should have given the clear indication that the problem was not technical.costs. Rather. I realise I did not persevere enough. This required new skills and new attitudes in co-ordinating and managing the remote team in India. Probably. Though I spoke the unspeakable by disagreeing with my manager. it costs less in terms of labour. I realised that maybe my manager was interested in living the mission of Ericsson which emphasises transformation of the way people work due to the network society.

it is important identify these factors and ensure that the adaptive work supports those factors cherished by stakeholders. loyalties. A tactical thing that I should have done was to have identified values. of the various stakeholders. etc. I am not surprised because my relationship with each of them went beyond work. This would also have helped in developing a new strategy to help all stakeholders to co-operate and focus on the goal of ensuring that the client network performance and user-experience are improved. listening to him will help me see other perspectives that I have not considered. Upon reflection. To mobilise change. Below is a simplified actors’ analysis based on the adaptive challenge of the leadership accepting my proposal not to offshore the optimization roles to India. hidden alliances. I now realise that the Airtel management in Ghana were my allies. This can only be achieved if the engineers are situated in Ghana. I think an actors’ analysis would have helped me in spotting the similarities and differences of all the stakeholders involved in order to form alliances that will support my goal.Looking back at the challenge I faced at Ericsson. In this case. He was worried about returning to Europe with his family just when they have settled in school in Ghana. loyalties and risks with same. we both valued success and we were interested in ensuring that the KPIs are achieved. From the actors’ analysis. Though the Head of Operations did not share the same values. He was therefore 4 . My philosophy at the time was that optimization engineers must experience the same service they are providing to customer. it is clear that even though I disagreed with my manager. I have certain informal authority over them due to our past relationship either as colleagues or classmates. we preferred the same outcome: stop the offshoring.

Also. Though this may be a laudable idea. I will be spending more time in silence. I am prone to taking action and giving responses as soon as I am called upon. I have learned that I would have succeeded if I was able to separate the technical aspect of the challenge from the adaptive part. If I had done this analysis. For instance. I have learned that leadership involves making difficult decisions. I have learned that this does not only expose the blind spots of leadership but helps to build the adaptive capacity of the team. Old friends may be retrenched. This is the challenging aspect of leadership because something you cherish such as a close friend. you will identify those with common interests who are potential allies and those with different perceptive who can help you identify your blind spots. By preforming the actors’ analysis. Eg. These tough decisions may lead to you questioning your values. silence in this case is important. Adaptive leadership. however. I would probably have mobilised enough support. I could not achieve it. Lessons Learned To begin with. I had an interest to influence the leadership to keep the network optimization roles in Ghana because of my principle that those who take care of quality of service must experience the network first hand. these decisions will affect the constituency you represent negatively. I have learned that one must live life as a leadership lab. Furthermore. I was too bent on succeeding that I did not try different things. thinking and diagnosing the problems. Also. 5 . thinking and asking questions about my thoughts before making my contribution. Sometimes. You need help from inside and outside your organisation. Finally. Another important lesson I have learnt is that success and failure are both components of successful leadership.motivated to ensure we succeed. I realise that one cannot tackle adaptive challenges alone. asking relevant questions. thrives on resisting to the temptation of giving answers too quickly. As a talkative. I have learned that effective leadership requires self-examination and deep reflection. religious belief or value may have to be sacrificed. I have decided to adapt the strategy of listening. some difficult decisions and choices that are value- laden must be made. you need people who can help you stay on course during times of extreme stress and frustration. There is the need to spot opportunities to try things in order to build capacity. I was afraid to give work back to my team by asking them to come up with strategies for achieving the targets. I have now learnt the relevance of the actors’ analysis. Going forward.