Case: Managing the Virus Hunters
Symantec Corp. is a security software company, best known for its Norton antivirus. Founded in 1982 by Gary Hendrix, it is the market leader in security software. Its headquarters are located in Mountain View, California, U.S. and the company operates worldwide. Symantec hires over 18,000 employees and customers all around the globe. Their Response Lab, in Santa Monica, California, is called the “dirtiest network at Symantec” and is the place where the virus-hunters hunt for new computer viruses. Discussion Questions:
1. Keeping Professionals excited about work that is routine and standardized and chaotic is a major challenge for Vincent Weafer. How could he use technical, human, and conceptual skills to maintain an environment that encourages innovation and professionalism among the virus hunters? The job of the virus hunters is, round-the-clock, a hectic and chaotic job. With professionals facing new challenges every day, which just keep on getting tougher and tougher, it could be a cause to demotivate the professionals, and demote innovation. Vincent Weafer is in a position, where he has to encourage his team to remain professional, and work with as much innovation as possible; and for this purpose, he will have to utilize his managerial skills.
In a job where all the work rotates around technical elements, it is an essential requirement for Mr. Weafer to be knowledgeable in the technical aspects of the work his team does. He should give priority to the learning and understanding how the world of computer viruses work; how they are made, how they function, and how they are cured and get rid of. Without these technical skills, he will not be able to keep a good watch on the work his team does, and not understand or figure out what quality of the work is being done. This will ultimately become the cause of demotivation among the virus-hunters; when they see the person in charge has no idea of what work his team is doing, and they will start working at a lower quality because they will be able to get away with it. If Vincent Weafer knows everything his team is doing, it will help keep his team at a professional level.
As Mr. Weafer works in a challenging and chaotic environment, it won’t be considered abnormal for his virus-hunters’ team members to feel stressed, depressed or heavily demotivated. To tackle these problems, Mr. Weafer has to be good with human skills. The ability to interact effectively with his team members, both individually and in groups, is essential for a well-communicated and well-coordinated team. Employees feel confortable working with a trust-worthy manager, and that’s what Mr. Weafer needs to be. With the trust of his team members, he should coach and mentor them to be the best. Technical and human skills are not enough to be an effective manager; Vincent Weafer needs to have good conceptual skills too. His ability to think and conceptualize abstract and complex situations will define how well his team succeeds. He should think creatively, look into abstract information, and develop innovative ideas and models to motivate his team. His ability to understand problems and challenges, and tackle them in the best way possible will surely be rewarded with a team that puts all its effort into their work, and do their jobs with responsibility and dedication. To summarize, Vincent Weafer needs to give equal importance to all his managerial skills; technical, human, and conceptual.
With best possible effort from him in these skills, his team will reward him with being motivated and being professional. In an environment of the sort Mr. Weafer works in, teamwork and results are the most important things that matter; and with the proper skills, Mr. Weafer can surely be a very effective and efficient manager.
2. What management roles would Vincent be playing as he (a) had weekly security briefing conference calls with coworkers around the globe, (b) assessed the feasibility of adding a new network security consulting service, or (c) kept employees focused on the company’s commitments to customers? When holding weekly security briefing conferences with coworkers around the globe, Mr. Weafer will be transmitting security information to and from coworkers around the globe. This job would best be defined as the managerial role of a ‘Disseminator’, as he is holding informational meetings transmitting security information to members of the team. When assessing feasibility of adding a new network security consulting service, Mr. Weafer is seeking internal and external information, to better understand the organization and environment. This job would best be defined as the managerial role of a ‘Monitor’, as he is seeking and receiving wide variety to information to take best decisions possible. When keeping employees focused on the company’s commitment to customers, Mr. Weafer is motivating his employees to perform their responsible tasks of fulfilling all the commitments the company has made to their customers. This job would best be defined as the managerial role of a ‘Leader’, as he is motivating his subordinates to perform their duties.
3. Go to Symantec’s Web site (www.symantec.com) and look up information about the company. What can you tell about its emphasis on customer service and innovation? In what ways does the organization support its employees in servicing customers and in being innovative? Symantec has a very user-friendly website and gives a lot of emphasis on customer service. Some customers have complained that it is hard to find contact numbers on the Symantec website, but whatever the case may be, Symantec does provide phone support to all of its customers, be it household consumers, enterprises, or partners. Symantec focuses on thinking up of new ideas which would help make the experience of their customers even better. One good example of this would be Symantec’s approach to solve problems with multilingual customer service, solving the issue, and providing security alert to global customers in not only English, but also in their native language. As far as innovation is concerned for Symantec’s employees, Symantec utilizes an ‘open innovation strategy’ to implement innovation among its employees. They use the term ‘open innovation’ to include both, innovations inside the company as well as innovations they bring from outside the company, be it through acquisitions, or partnering.
According to Symantec’s CTO Mark Bregman, in an interview in 2007, he stated partnering is the way to bring new relationships into the market. Symantec uses this strategy to innovate their already existing ideas and plans, with ideas and concepts from the outside environment. Combining their in-house innovativeness with innovation from the outside helps them to create a better strategy, ultimately increasing user experience, support, and service. 4. What could other managers learn from Vincent Weafer and Symantec’s approach? One of the most important lessons for other managers which can be taken from Vincent Weafer is that no matter how complex, stressful, or chaotic of an environment you work in, your managerial roles are always equally important. Your employees will always be looking up to you for everything, ranging from technical help, to motivational support and trust. A good manager is one whose subordinates feel comfortable in working for.
The manager must be knowledgeable, communicative, and trust worthy to lead a professional team and keep them motivated. Managers can also learn very important tips and ideas from Symantec’s approach. Their approach to keep a chaotic job working round-the-clock around the globe is a lesson that non-stopping tasks can be tackled and made easier for the workers. Symantec has shown that a firm that hires the best people, no matter how diversified they are, performs well. But, the most important thing that managers can learn from Symantec’s approach, is that innovation is available everywhere. We must not limit it to within ourselves only, but look at the outside environment too! Summary of the Case:
Symantec corp. is an organization that has to perform their operations in a very dynamic environment, where market is being shifted every hour. Their “Response Lab” can be defined as the most chaotic and problematic department. They have a new requirement every hour and have new viruses emerging all the time. New viruses mean new analyses of each viruses and all the time spent in figuring out the cure for the virus, that virus could be out there infecting other users and customers.
These viruses are the most important concern for the teams at Symantec, as the sole purpose of most of these viruses is to steal information from those infected, be it personal or corporate data. Whenever a huge outbreak occurs, for example, the launch of the Blaster-B worm in August 2003, there is nothing but stressful work round-the-clock, with the frontline analysts working 24×7. And because of their constant 24×7 work, they had to have workers working 24×7, and for this Symantec has different labs around the world, with each working while others sleep, so as to keep the continuous work going. This brings a lot of problems in the managing of the team. The stressful and chaotic work can easily demotivate the workers, and have them feel fed-up of this routinely stressful job. Even the dynamic unpredictable environment gives the manager the challenge of not being able to predict what may happen next. What Managers can learn from this Case?
Answered previously in question # 4 (previous page).
Case: Managing the Virus Hunters