I want to provide a different perspective to this topic. I touched upon it earlier at ‘How many people report into you?’ Here, I want to linger on a little longer.
Software-services companies and MNC offshore units inherently introduce inefficiencies that are supposedly alleviated by increasing the headcount, which while benefiting the group does the damage of killing the individual. What do I mean by this? Let me explain.
A division or group in a software-services company makes more money when it has more number of people in it. Therefore, the division head, the project manager, and the project leader will all collude to ensure that headcount keeps increasing. This attitude is set in early on and at every stage. Those who resist will either have to conform eventually (so that they can succeed) or they will be weeded out. Over a period of time, what you have is set of successful individuals who have mastered the art of inflating the number of resources to do a project. Say, a manager X says he needs 8 people to do a certain job, while another manager Y says he needs 12 people to the same job. Invariably, the manager Y is selected for the job. Give this process few years- what you have is a set of managers who are all set to outdo the other in inflating the numbers. Only those who inflate the numbers with panache and flair succeed.
Now, what happens at the vendor who is outsourcing to these software-services companies? There is a competition within the vendor company too, between different outsourcing managers, to outsource more. Say, there are two outsourcing managers (OMs) outsourcing to two different companies. There are two factors that come into play here. First, the
As a result, you will end up with divisions of 400 people to service a vendor in US/Europe when the same work can actually be done by 100.
Now, let me also look at MNC offshore units in
Added to this, the influence or the contribution of a group, including its IP, is measured by the headcount rather than the actual value it produces. So, in effect, a group of 3 producing a superior IP is valued lower than a group of 20 producing an inferior IP. Therefore, you are not rewarding those who produce a superior IP with less number of people, but instead, you introduce a mechanism to reward the mediocrity. The head of offshore unit, bereft of any key decision making power on the overall strategy and business of the MNC, cannot show progress either in terms of revenues nor profits. In absence of these parameters, he resorts to showing progress in increase of headcount. Hence, the tendency to learn and perpetuate the art of inflating the numbers!
[Please note that the inflation of numbers in these offshore MNCs is not as high as in software-services companies since there are more checks and balances.]
I refer to such inflating-the-headcount practices as ‘mediocrity-breeding’ mechanisms. These practices do not award the star performers. They do not allow good performers to feel proud of their achievements. Star performers get disenchanted. They tend to award those who deliberately and smartly inflate the headcount requirements which actually increase inefficiencies. These practices tend to become virtues in both software services companies and MNC offshore units. Such environment does not take care of two fundamental things an organization should do- challenge the employee, and take care of the employee. Higher salary turns out to be the only incentive, which can always be used by a competing company to lure any engineer. This also leads to unprecedented levels of attrition. Solution to every lagging project or bad quality product or inefficient program seem to be addition of more people, as if, adding more people is suddenly going to alleviate the situation. Most often, such addition compounds the problem it is trying to solve. However, a suggestion to increase the headcount is more acceptable than a realistic toning down of the size.
Over a period of time, you have