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Under Engineered

Leadership Lessons from Tiger 3 (or lack thereof)

I really hit the jackpot when I accidentally found myself sitting at the screening of Tiger 3 (don’t ask me how). I was fascinated (read overwhelmed) by the turn of events that my brain went bonkers seeing so many amazing Leadership lessons (or lack thereof) that I thought are too precious to just keep to myself and the entire world should know.

This is not a spoiler (although you might get to know a few bits here and there), but it's by no means a replacement of the movie in itself, as my words or any words can’t do justice to what happens on screen.

Nobody, not even Director's father, understands it completely.

This story begins and revolves around two orgs (teams to be simple) – RAW and ISI in a large company called World Peace

RAW has Tiger (Salman Khan) and ISI has Zoya (Katrina Kaif). I don’t know about the actual positions, but these two are at Lead (Senior+ Engineer) positions that have high visibility and are leading key projects.

RAW and ISI are solving similar problem statements and need some collaboration. In this instance Tiger needs some info from Zoya but he’s unable to get a satisfactory response. He tries to get the project execution status and details multiple times but always gets a canned response – we’re on track, it’ll be shipped in time and everything’s good.

Tiger being a diligent employee doesn’t just sit back at his desk and takes matters into his own hands. He starts literally tailing engineers of the other team (ISI, Zoya) and begins confronting/spying instead of going via proper channels. After wasting a ton of time he finds out that Zoya’s team is doing the exact opposite of what he was thinking and gets into a direct conflict with her.

Lesson – Essence of keeping Project status real. #

Keep project status updates real and share the report with stakeholders at regular cadence to avoid last minute surprises. Avoid getting into meetings (or stalk) 1:1 just for status updates – huge waste of everyone’s time.

Later in the movie, another important moment comes when Tiger & Zoya have to choose between two projects as mentioned below

Project summary Complexity Success probability
Steal something (details not available) from an ultra high secure establishment (illegal pro max) Super high Negative, not even 0
Find a not-so-common drug Medium High (given the skillset of the team)

At this time, the team rejects all conventional wisdom and decides to go with Option 1, I mean, can you believe it? Yes, me neither 🤦

Needless to say the result was disastrous; led to astronomical losses for everyone and a multi-level escalation sending the entire organisation into a tizzy. It disrupted existing projects and caused huge stress for other employees too.

Lesson – Strategy and plan review are key for success. #

Never go into execution before carefully evaluating all possible options in the Design (HLD) review. Have a thorough review process for critical projects by Leadership (Bosses of Zoya & Tiger)

As you can expect, the Tech Leads made commitments without even thinking who will actually do the work and then ran helter-skelter for hiring the team. They beguiled 5 new hires into joining them by promising challenging work (which was actually true) and the opportunity to learn and get mentored by legends (of course)

Lesson – Integrity & transparency is the foundation of good Leadership. #

Leadership lacked integrity; Tech Leads exploited their reputation, using it to manipulate and coerce interview candidates through power games. Never hire candidates under false pretences which would prove detrimental for their future. Candidates should also do their due diligence before accepting the role

After the teams induct new hires, the project execution begins, things go awry soon and the Tech Leads find themselves in a helpless state needing immediate help. The organisation has no other option but to rope in an external consultant (Shahrukh as Pathaan) to help in overcoming this roadblock to meet promised deadline

Lesson – Careful with external help in the middle of a high-stakes project. #

Always review the project quote/plan given by expert external consultants as their solution might not always be best for the long run of the project or solve all edge cases

Final act was a mega major project where both teams (with considerable head-count) were working together against a common goal (read enemy Emraan Hashmi). This project was anything but smooth. One moment it would appear on track and the next it would be in grave red, almost like a sine wave which is never a good thing for a company’s report card.

Lesson – Culture and alignment form the bedrock of Leadership and defines future successes or failures. #

A project of this magnitude was undertaken without Leadership buy-in and alignment was sought between stakeholders as the project was being executed. Bad hiring where people were hired in huge numbers without a proper interview process which took the entire team down. Toxic culture where Women in Leadership don’t recognise Women for equal work – classic case of Gender Inequality. Tiger got the entire credit at the end and Zoya wasn’t mentioned at all by the Pakistani PM 😭

Apart from these contextual leadership lessons, there were some uber level lessons we can learn.

Lesson – Don’t celebrate early and avoid Hero culture. #

Leads celebrated victories prematurely, overlooked crucial details, displayed a casual approach, and later had to retract. The entire organisation was built around a Hero-worshipping culture which made the environment toxic and non-scalable. No precedent of knowledge transfer, mentorship or documentation. Hence huge dependency on a few shoulders.

Hope you enjoyed the Leadership lessons as much as the movie if not more 😜

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