Leadership Lessons from Jim Williams: How to “Borrow” a Team

In 2010, the organization I was working for was in the middle of a large phone system cutover. Our system had reached its maximum capacity. We had decided to consolidate with our parent company in an effort to save costs. We had hundreds of custom call tree configurations for our clients. The conversion effort would be incredibly complicated.

Our parent company had selected a 3rd party contractor to configure the call trees based on our documentation. We were provided with access to the system to test the configurations less than a week before go-live. It was immediately apparent that we were in a really bad spot. The call trees didn’t come close to matching our documentation. Our customers wouldn’t be able to reach us on Monday morning. I remember my boss (Jim Williams) saying that if the configurations were code, they wouldn’t even compile.

We came up with a process to work with the contractor to correct the call flows. I would centralize all issues that were reported by our team and feed them one by one to the vendor. The contractor was quickly resolving our issues and it felt like we were finally making some progress. The testing efforts quickly became the bottleneck in the process.

At the time, I was only 2 years out of college and basically froze. I didn’t know what to do. Jim stepped in and came up with a great idea. He solicited volunteers from other areas of the business to test the hundreds of call flows. Even our executive team jumped in to help!

All of our testers volunteered to work through the cutover weekend to help us with final validation before go-live. Their efforts meant the world to me. I was so inspired seeing team members drop everything and give up their weekend to help out with our project. It really felt like one big family.

All of the necessary corrections were made in time and our cutover was completed without any significant issues.

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