01. Why People Underperform: Caselet

Why People Underperform

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    Dear Participant:
    Listed below are six caselets that focus on the theme of underperformance . Each caselet is followed by a question. Please read each caselet carefully and respond to the question in the space provided at the end of each caselet.

  • Caselet 01:

    “So you have met only 50% of your target again this week? You have acquired only one account. What happened to that big account that you were chasing and had said was sure to close? You were banking on that one big account to close, in order to meet your targets, is it?” Virat, the North Zone Head of SME business with the organisation, was in conversation with Uma, the sales manager.

    Uma had joined her current organisation from a larger bank five weeks back, and was finding that customer enquiry generation and customer acquisition were a whole different ball game, here.

    “That customer closed the deal with a PSU bank, who had offered him the loan at 25 basis points lower than us”, she replied. “In addition to the one account, which closed, I was working on a total of five cases, which were in the final stage of the sales cycle and I had counted on at least more one of them closing.”

    “So you were hoping to close two accounts out of six, this week? Do you not know that if you want to close two accounts, then your sales pipeline has to be at least eighteen customers strong? Don’t you know that our sales closure percentage is 11%”

    “No one ever told me that since I joined here. I am accustomed to a closure percentage of 33%”

  • Question: What would you attribute Uma’s failure to meet business goals, to?

    Your Response:
  • Caselet 02:

    “How on earth did you forget to initiate the process of filing an FIR at the police station, when there were five counterfeit notes that were found in a single transaction with the customer? Don’t you know the procedure to be followed in such a situation?” Manoj, the teller, had been pulled up by his manager, for the oversight?

    “Sir, I do not remember being told about this. I am in the system for only two weeks, now”

    “What the hell do you mean you weren’t told? This is part of the briefing every new joinee gets”

  • Question: What was the missing ingredient that had led to Manoj committing the blunder that he had?

    Your Response:
  • Caselet 03:

    “Janice, you have done all that was required of you. You gathered the data, you collated it and you sent me your analysis. Just two challenges: One, you have missed out on one critical data field. That has led to you to get skewed results.” Gunjan was speaking with Janice, his team member. “What led you to make this mistake?”

    “Oh, I am not aware that another data field was required.”

    “And, two, even with this error, what on earth took you this long to complete the project? The deadline was the day before yesterday.” Gunjan asked.

    “Collation and analysis of the data, Gunjan. It takes so long to complete the task.” Janice replied. “It took me close to a day to do the calculations and data analysis.”

    “A day for the calculations and analysis? That should be an hours’ job, at best” Gunjan responded, surprised. “Wait, do you know Excel functions like VLOOKUP, LOOKUP VALUES TO LEFT, MATCH, and HLOOKUP? Or, did you do all the calculations, manually?”

    “What are these? I have never heard of these.” Janice replied innocently.

    “Now I know the reason behind the error and the delay.”

  • Question: Janice lacked some knowledge, which led her to commit an error in her work. She also lacked some ability, which led her to breach the turn-around-times on her deliverables. If you had to bracket the competencies that she lacks in one bucket, what would you call this bucket?

    Your Response:
  • Caselet 04:

    Kuldeep, assistant Manager IT, was having a chat with Vidya, AVP IT, about poor internal customer feedback that was being received about the IT Department in the recent survey. Vidya had decided to write to a few of the IT Team’s customers to find out why.

    One of the responses that Vidya received was an email that is mentioned below:


    Dear Vidya,

    “If I could, I would have nothing to do with your team. Your team members are a real pain to work with.

    There was this need that my team had felt for automating a certain feedback collation process of ours. The job would not involve too much effort from your team. I know, because I had asked a friend of mine at another organisation, who had done a similar project there.

    In my initial discussion with Kuldeep he had asked for some sample feedback reports that we collected. However, that day, I was in a terrible hurry to leave for home, due to a personal emergency and I ended up sending him the wrong sample reports.

    The initial plan that Kuldeep had prepared –and it was a simple plan that should have not have taken him more than twenty minutes to prepare - was thus based on the wrong report types. When I received the plan from him and I realised my mistake, I mentioned this fact to him. I even apologised to him.

    However, Kuldeep got borderline abusive with me for making that mistake and for wasting his time. He began questioning me about how I could make such a mistake. It was not the question itself, as much as his tone of voice when he spoke with me that really got to me. He was talking to me like he was talking to some office peon. Just who does he think he is?

    At one point, when our discussion got a little too heated, he said to me “calm down, you are simply getting angry”. What did he mean by ‘simply?’ Does he think that I am some kind of an idiot?

    Bottom line: your team needs to learn how to manage customers.




    Other customers had also revealed similar experiences.

    Now, in the discussion that they were having, Vidya questioned Kuldeep about these situations. “Vidya, you know that I am customer focused. I am more than willing to go the extra mile to satisfy my customer. You know that I even cut short my vacation in order to serve a customer better”

    Vidya knew that Kuldeep was being honest. She had seen this aspect about Kuldeep more than once. However, the feedback about Kuldeep’s gruff manner of speaking was something that she had heard of from peers and team members, as well.

  • Question: What might be lacking in Kuldeep, which could be the cause of the poor customer feedback that the IT Team had received?

    Your Response:
  • Caselet 05:

    “Rudrajeet, you cannot interview him, you say. Why? We have gone through the whole interview process together, so many times. You have sat in on interviews with me. You have undergone the behavioural interview skills training. Yet, you are hesitating to interview him?”

    “I don’t think that I am the right person to interview him. He is so much older and so much more experienced”, Rudrajeet answered.

    “You knew that your job involved interviewing senior candidates, when you were hired.” his boss questioned. “And you are well trained. I have observed you in the training performing a role-play where you had to interview a senior candidate.”

    “Boss, that was training” Rudrajeet replied.

  • Question: What do you think was the reason for Rudrajeet’s hesitation to conduct this interview, especially considering the fact that he has been trained to do so?

    Your Response:
  • Caselet 06:

    Rajan, a vastly experienced Customer Service Executive with the bank, was beginning to slip up. Quality issues were cropping up, along with issues related to TAT on various activities in his work. This morning, he had again, for the third time in the last week, made a mistake as silly as failing to affix the transfer stamp on the face of the cheque of a transfer transaction.

    This had not been the case with Rajan earlier. He had been the most dependable resource in his branch. He had been chosen ‘most dependable employee of the year’ twice in a row.

    In the last three weeks or so, his demeanor had changed, too. The usual bubbly and energetic Rajan, now seemed to dragging his feet on things. The desire to excel no longer seemed to be there.

  • Question: What might be the matter with Rajan, which is causing his performance to suffer?

    Your Response:

Specific Steps I Will Take to Improve My Communication With My Onshore Counterparts

Benefits/Outcomes that will accrue if I do this

Target Date

Probable Barriers to Implementing My Action Plan

How I Will Overcome These Barriers

Target Date