CHOW #90- Critical conversation

Nipun Sehgal was the designated QnC (IT Service Provider) Program Manager for the engagement with Spot-On Power Solutions (SOPS) to develop their next generation Analytics solution. A key assumption in the QnC proposal was the re-use of artefacts from the earlier project undertaken by SOPS which had not succeeded. After QnC won the project bid, Nipun and his team were putting together the plan for the engagement. Nipun felt it was high time that he validated the re-use assumption. In general, he felt he needed the active ongoing support and high-quality inputs from people in SOPS who were knowledgeable about the past project. In Nipun’s view, the right person to start with was the SOPS Chief Architect (Brian Johnson) who had been actively involved in that project. Nipun felt that Brian could be extremely valuable in many aspects of the QnC engagement such as:

  • Initial training to the QnC project team on the data mart
  • Defining the re-use approach & ongoing validation
  • Refreshing the data of the past few months in the data mart
  • Visiting QnC at Bangalore for review of progress especially in the Analytics area
  • Reviewing deliverables from QnC
  • Ongoing support for answering technical queries

Nipun got in touch with Brian over mail and set up a video call in the following week.

Prior to the call, Nipun contacted people in the QnC bidding team who had interacted with Brian Johnson and gathered the following information:

  • Brian was a long-timer in SOPS IT – having grown in the organization from an intern to Chief Architect in 15 years.
  • Now in his early forties, Brian was considered a bit of a loner. Nevertheless, he was highly respected for his technical acumen and knowledge of the various SOPS applications in production
  • Brian’s role in the earlier project was as an architect, working with the team from Headstart (including a Project Manager). Headstart was a staff augmentation service provider who had worked with SOPS for several years). The Headstart team was able to create a pretty decent data mart primarily because of Brian’s knowledge of relevant data sources in the existing application portfolio. However, the cycles of data mart tuning – prediction model improvements were not good enough to attain the 90% prediction accuracy target at the given time
  • David Brennan (Director, Solutions) of QnC had interacted briefly with Brian while on a visit to SOPS. At that time, Brian had made a comment that it was unfortunate that the earlier project was called off after six months when it was quite close to success – another month or two was all that was needed to improve the prediction accuracy from 60% to 90%, he had said


If you were Nipun, how would you prepare for the forthcoming video call with Brian – think about 1. Your mindset, 2. Objectives for the call, 3. How you would open the call, 4. What questions would you ask?

Suggested Solution:

Meeting Preparation – Dos and Don’ts

1. Mindset

  • DON’T: Brian is a ‘failure’ and ‘victim’; he will be defensive & uninvolved
  • DON’T: Brian’s inputs cannot be trusted – he may be trying to redeem himself
  • DO: Brian is a professional, mature and objective; he will be willing collaborate and contribute to make the project a success
  • DO: ‘Expect’ collaboration – remember “You will not get what you deserve, but will get what you expect”

2. Objectives

  • DON’T: Validate the assumption in the call – will just be an opinion
  • DON’T: Get Brian to agree to exactly the list of activities you have identified
  • Get buy-in from Brian to agree on adequate contributions that will help validate the assumption and contribute to the program’s success in a collaborative way

3. Opening

  • DON’T: Jump into stating your objectives straight away without connecting
  • DON’T: Give an impression that you are going to get him to do something
  • DO: Connect again!
  • DO: Then, state your ‘objective for the call’ and seek collaboration

4. Questions

  • DON’T: Make statements – does not help in an influencing situation
  • DO: Ask questions to understand Brian’s position
  • DO: Ask questions that create ‘fertility conditions’ that will help meet your objectives e.g. forward-thinking questions
  • DO: Ask questions to help you learn – you may be mistaken
  • DO: Ask questions that seek how Brian can help
What do you think?

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