Saturday, December 12, 2009

Be easy it is?

This is probably the punch dialogue of most motivational speakers "Stay Positive" "Attitude is everything" etc. The question is how easy it is to stay positive given the fact Human evolution is closely linked to monkeys (I mean the animal instinct remains with offense..stay positive as this is just the beginning).
There can different reasons why we can become negative-circumstances, previous experience, our image of a person/country/culture etc. Assuming that we are neutral how easy is it to swing to positive or negative direction is the moot question. If we answer this, we have answered the subject (no I will not be subjective this time..stay positive). There are some basic premises we should acknowledge that makes staying negative easier than staying positive..the most important of those is it avoids more efforts and probably is consistent with our other paradoxical thinking of seeking disproportionate reward for efforts. Philosophy apart it is very natural to seek rewards in monetary or recognition (cash or kind)for everyone of us.
How tuned we become to this starts from how we are brought up. If our parents pander us a lot more than we deserve then we become more attuned to seeking rewards more than efforts. Probably we do the same to our can be time for entertainment (watching TV/Computer games etc) or it can be amount of icecreams or chocolates. Coming back to the topic-responsibility comes with age but how much responsibility one willing takes and delivers defines how much positive one can be. Usually the responsibility is implicit but demanding right is explicit. The more the gap is the more staying positive is difficult. Not many think of the Responsibility/right gap as a reason why staying positive is difficult. People usually look at outside for solutions-comparing self with others who have been treated worse in life, pride in being part of some great effort, seeking to stay positive by tutoring the mind of jargon's of motivation. Nothing will stay unless we take responsibility for our actions, take responsibility for our thoughts and take responsibility for efforts. Positive is a state of mind and I hear a lot of medical journals talk about the electrical circuits in our nerve wires..yes body is charged by thoughts and there are both positive and negative ions. So despite of wiring carrying positive and negative ions the only way to charge ourselves to stay positive is to make it a Direct Current and not alternate current. We can make it a direct current only when we decide that staying positive under all circumstances makes me different and I like being in that state. So it is not easy but it is possible.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Self Realization-how long it can take?

It is long time since sharing thoughts on Philosophy...this was triggered by a chance meeting of a school teacher of my son who has given up teaching to take up Aikido (a Japanese self realization program which begins as self defense training).
The more I reflect about the meeting the more I start to believe nothing is by chance but by choice. Being an inquisitive personality I started to probe into what made him make this sudden decision (in fact I made a comparison to the book "The monk who sold his Ferrari"-he had not read that book but nothing bothered him). He said it is the normal feeling of emptiness and unknown dissatisfaction of the mind. I always thought he enjoyed teaching as the feedback from my kid was one of joy to be in his class. He did mention that he enjoyed teaching and was quite content but had this small vacuum which snow balled last 3 years into driving him to look inwards.
As I was talking I noticed him more closely -he was glowing, become younger by at-least 5 years and his eyes were smiling. Unbelievable changes in such a short time. Something stuck me that probably I am near a Guru. I bowed in respect before him and said "Please guide me to self realization". He laughed and said " I don't think I am there but I think I have taken the first right step in that direction".
What changes has he had in life-He does not get up in a hurry in the morning, does not compete with his wife to go to office not even looking at her face, does not feel that a statement of his wife is not to prove her ego and has all the time in the world to reflect on goodness of everyone. Simple-focus on good things within you and others, stand in your comfort position and don't attack which are the basics of Aikido. Giving up ego is not easy but accepting limitations is part of this giving up. If we accept our limitations and take life as it is then 80% of tensions on our mind are less. He says to realize that we are part of the whole is a life time process but the first step to acknowledge the strengths of others. To be like a child and accepting that I make mistakes, I can loose but still smile and to be living in this moment are keys to this. He talked from his heart and smiling eyes-without trying to preach. His positive experience was touching my soul/
All of it is reflected maybe in a lot of books. But I see this person who has changed for better by taking the right first step. I am not sure when I will take this first step but to realize that we need to look inwards in a more conscious way is the path to self realization has stuck to me. How long can the whole process take is for the motivation in me to decide like all of us...but this is the path all should take for peace of self and society is clearly the fact written in stone.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Restructuring and moving with market-pains and gains

With some serious signs of recovery of economy visible already a lot of companies are planning for scaling up productions/activities. A lot of line and staff managers are happy that there is not much follow up on the long term viability and restructuring questions. The situation is one of cautious optimism so the relief symptoms are natural. But underlying fact remains that the World will not be the same the next few years as the changes are permanent. Economic balance is tilting in favor of new economies much faster than earlier years (as the recession did not hit them-India, China, Brazil continued to grow while Europe and US shrank). The overcapacities in Developed economies will surely hit their long term survival though most companies think the pressures will be lesser. The pains of restructuring need not be elaborated as indeed to remove people from employment and moving to a new location is never easy. Knowledge and loyalty is lost, so is the public image. But the fact remains that without economic justification it is not possible to sustain a business. This means that while timing a restructuring is important, so is the willingness of management to take the acid test proactively rather than waiting for acid to come to nose levels.
Every restructuring has unique aspects. I don't believe that there are a few blessed people who can foresee all issues and claim to be called as Restructuring experts. The sensitivities of communication (the extent/content/timing) and ability to get stakeholder confidence is different in different countries. In US it is quite normal to be out of job in short notice but in certain other countries it takes months to move one small step. Most important aspect for success is having the person on ground with most credibility-who does the right things and won't project himself as know it all person-balances emotional and rational decisions.
Gains of restructuring is for the organization but does not start the next month of completion. Usually there are pangs for atleast one to two years especially if it involves moving manufacturing capacity to a new economy. Quality, productivity, consistency, learning curve-all of it takes time as knowledge is still not a commodity that can be transferred as easily as manufacturing capacity. The earlier one harmonizes the capacities to align to demands of market the more quick they are to become leaders. If we delay restructuring and thereby also delay new capacities in right markets we loose at both ends. Sure, companies are learning that and so are shareholders!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Learning's of connecting back to old friends!!

Internet with its social networking sites provides ample opportunity to connect back to people whom otherwise we would have never imagined to get in touch. In a world without internet (example that of my parents)there might have been situations where school or college friends may physically meet in a shop or movie hall but not recognize each other as age metamorphism will be difficult to imagine.
However it is important to recognize that less than 1/100th of people moved so much across the globe or even within countries and the need to network through virtual world did not exist. For sure the boon of Internet is the ability to get back in touch with friends who otherwise would be just in faint memories.
Coming back to the learning's of connecting back...I do think the most important of all learning is to take it slow. The usual informality which existed in School or college days is not to be taken for granted at middle age or beyond. Sure it comes back but the time to accept this transition is different for different people. There are some people who take this to an extreme when they address people who are a little more successful or lucky as "Sir or Madam"...this is lack of self confidence. You should not go to the limit of calling the pet names or some specific habit the person had while young making the other person uncomfortable but building a distance by calling him/her Sir or Madam is also not a good starting point.
There are several ways one gets connected back-maybe through the social networking sites when someone guesses it should be you and calls to connect. This usually is quite sober interactive mode as it is one to one to begin with. There is a cascading effect to this that with enough quorum there is a need to build an Alumni Group.
This starts with a lot of zeal with friends getting friends and slowly building the network. There are some uncomfortable moments when the group tries to reinvent its current position with likes, what will tick, when things can be viewed seriously (in college days these were not even noticed), when to appreciate, when to wish etc.
This journey needs to be managed well. Usually the initial enthusiasm soon dies down with people taking to normal day to day affairs and not bothering to move further on the networking while some of them are very eager to pump emails/seek responses.
There is an important learning here-motivation of people who were together in their teens and led a carefree life competing with spirit (maybe partying with spirits too) evolve to be responsible parents with a cautious approach to everything in life including networking friends.This motivation difference is difficult to gauge and manage as most are spread out across the world and want to disclose as little as possible of what happened in the 20 years they were not in touch. A lot of them are apologetic but a lot more are wanting to stay aloof assuming friendship can be burden. (to be continued)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Periodic Table of basic human traits

As I am a great fan of convergence of knowledge, I had this weird idea this morning. Like we have periodic table for Chemical elements is it worthwhile to have Periodic table of basic human traits. This is just a conceptual thinking and is very much aligned to my confusions (some of my friends say they try to understand just 25% of what I try to say to avoid neuronal instability).
For example out of the 114 periodic table elements 92 naturally occur and only 22 don't occur naturally. Maybe in the periodic table of traits it will be 92 born traits and 22 will be those that can be learned traits or is it the other way. This can probably answer the questions which has long been pestering a lot "Are leaders born or made"...probably a bit of both. Situations make them but there is something in the DNA of a few that clicks faster than others.
Coming back to basics of periodic table-some of the basic metals become stronger if blended with some others for example Steel/stainless steel etc..nickel, cadmium, molybdenum make Iron stronger (bearing steel for example is a very high grade steel able to take dynamic loads without getting stressed). This also means that the basic DNA is just a starter..we need to blend a little more into this to get it perfect for situation. Some situation requires leaderships of strength (steel), some require high malleability, some high ductility, etc. The broad classification of metals and non metals may also be valid in traits. Most metals are solids except for example Mercury. Most leaders will have certain characteristic except certain exceptions but will still be leaders.
Whatever be it Chemistry with the people and create a following is an important leadership trait..this chemistry is very different from Periodic table. But Periodically there are some great leaders who remind us the power of perseverance and showing possibilities are limitless. Periodic table may just be a frame to structure a trait classification for a start.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cold and Dark-Energy lost?

Living in Sweden there is one topic that cannot be Whatever you start with finally an informal discussion always ends with weather discussions. There is a natural smile on everyone's face when it is a bright, sunny day with temperatures beyond 12 degrees. If it is raining or dark or cold or all of this together you can see serious people all around you. This is a big contrast for me-I am used to seeing people in India irrespective of wealth status or pains they have to push one day at time wearing a smile or are happy all the time. Maybe it is because they have sun all the time or there is something else that makes them happy.
This made me dwell deeper into the subject-"Cold and Dark-does this equal to Energy lost". External conditions which we don't control directly impacts our energy which we own and control. The answer to this lies not in the equation but in the way we are brought up. When I moved to Philippines, I heard a discussion of an interview in which there were 4 candidates for a position and was considered to be very tough competition. I remembered when I joined my first job there were 45 engineers interviewed for 2 positions and everyone thought they had a fair chance. Everyone was cheerful. When the results were announced apart from a momentary disappointment everyone moved on. Is this a philosophy of life Indians due to religion, culture or sheer competition imbibe? I am not sure. But the external factors (in this case competition) was not able to blunt the internal energy enough to take away the smiles and inherent happy state. On a similar note when I was talking to an old lady who has lived here for last 50 years (Who fought her cancer away)-she had a simple advice to live. Rain or cold-dress up your physical body for protection and do what your soul enjoys to do with no inhibition. Then you control your happiness. Don't sit at home and stare through the windows cursing the rains or darkness as this does not change anything but makes you feel more miserable. Just tuning the mind and telling to self that nothing can stop me from being happy is the therapy which we require to spread to the world. There is energy lost if we think hard about it and do nothing about it. If we have to do something then let us first tell ourselves that we are the Sun when light is not there (which is the principle of Advaita-every soul is the reflection of the bigger soul (God) similar to reflection of light from the Sun making smaller suns), we are the heat when heat is not there (we are afterall warm blooded and it only requires happiness to tune the body settings right apart from clothes)..Energy is in the soul and soul is connected to the body with the brains. Let us train ourselves to get the energy booster which is fully in our control and keeps the world moving forward despite pessimists and fatalists saying for example as per Mayan calendar the world will come to an end in 2012 Dec 21st.
As long as we live we will enliven others by not feeling depressed by anything outside us with the simple remedy within us-happiness reflected by smiling faces.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Project Management- skill or art?

There is a lot of books on Project Management including newly developed tools on ensuring transparency and tracking progress. Every year there are atleast 2 to 3 major Global projects in every Global company newly launched, while there are already 9 to 10 projects which are running from previous years. While some projects can be limited to a function most projects span across different geographies and functions. There is a strong belief that Project Management can be trained with a program targeted at specific individuals who are currently leading or will lead projects in future. I even heard recently that " Only certified" Project Managers should be assigned Global Projects. Like most management skills for sure Project Management concepts can be taught in a structured program. However if we see the number of projects which don't take off even with full top management support and several other projects which remain successful on paper and window dressed reports, I really wonder if this certified Project Managers can make a consistent success story. After a lot of personal observations I am starting to believe that Project Management is an Art which some individuals master by sheer personality and street smart aptitudes than training.
I will list out why I think it is an art:
1) Usually Project Managers don't have all the cross functional knowledge or span of control on a straight line basis...they have to master the art of identifying the right team members, motivate them and also understand the political dimensions of decisions-when to compromise and whom to take along etc. This cannot be taught in a "Certification program" as this is more feel and situational.
2) The project manager cannot allow himself to be seen as a stooge of top management as it only takes a little distance to use (misuse) the name of big leaders. The more it is used the less powerful the Project Manager becomes. Taking in middle management and understanding what can work in which geographies is key to success. This ofcourse is known but there is on one standard way prescribed in certification programs.
3) The temptation of Project Manager to protect his job, create artificial success feelings and develop pilots to showcase is understandable but if it stretches beyond a limit, the journey downwards starts for the project and the manager. Most projects fail due to this overstretching success stories. This is not taught in classes as a lot of it is self defensive behaviour of every individual
4) The art of managing a project is like managing a fire place with different grades of inflammable material. Some catch fire fast, some slower. But the key is how to keep the heat for a long time to ensure there is action all the time but within control. If this is not managed the fire dies down or burns out too fast. (I am not using the orchestra example as it is overused). The most important element is patience and understanding when the trigger happens to be self sustaining.
I really feel that every high potential employee should be given an opportunity to prove the worth by being assigned a Project of Global stature..if there is mastery of skill or art will be known then. I am also against people close to their retirement assigned some key projects to just keep busy as this kills both the spirit and the value of project management process.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Importance of removing badness early

There is a nice Thirukural which means the following " If there is a thorny bush starting to grow and you/others don't want to get hurt, cut it the moment you notice it as the more you delay the more difficult it is doing to be". This signifies an important element of ethics as "Tolerance to badness" will only result in more badness.
Classical example is the "Pakistani Taliban". No doubt they were a nice handle for ISI and even US when Russians were in Afghanistan. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that this is a thorny bush but allowing it to grow was a mistake every party who ignored their threat made as a strategic blunder. Now when they have grown as a Thorny tree to threaten the world the wake up call comes. Sure it is going to be more painful to remove this than it would have been 10 years ago.
Coming back to more mundane badness we cultivate in our daily life-for example bypassing the queue. This is something a lot attempt-the assumption is that "Most will turn blind eye to this..if someone does object then we can become a rule follower". This usually results in verbal fights and in some cases even gets physical. I am not sure after this if the person who attempted to jump the queue starts following rules. But the temptation to move ahead of others where there is a simple first come first serve rule indicates a total lack of ethics. I am sure the people who attempt this will try to create political situations in office/personal life to get short term gains. This badness is something that grows with age and needs to be removed from a very young age by coaching.
Goodness requires a lot of positive coaching and internalization like a flowering plant. We need to take extra care to ensure they don't wilt under too much adverse conditions etc. Badness is like a Thorny Cactus..survives with minimal care and once rooted difficult to take out. When I read a lot of fights of Gods and demons where Demons get killed in the end-there is a subtle feeling I have that they all depict the demons within our character which needs to be won by the goodness at some point of time. The realization has to be happen within. Without being negative an introspection usually gives a few stunning badness in each person starting with how much self centered we are, how over critical we are etc. These need to be healed quickly taking a few at a time with a conscious self realization. I have started this journey and sure will try to be better than current as Souls need a more healthy mind to prosper with wisdom.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Art of shooting Sandbaggers!

Now is the business planning time in most global companies. First cut plan should have been delivered by now. The yearly business planning process is an iterative approach to arrive at an agreed future scenario of the business climate and results the organization can expect from different functions. However it is easier said than done to arrive at this agreement as depending on how safe or how risky you want to play the reference point can be different. There are also the seasoned Sandbaggers who exist in all functions to justify why it is not as good as others think it maybe.
I have found that shooting at Sandbaggers is an interesting psychological game in the process and it is not necessary sharp shooters win.
There are some general signs of Sandbagging which will exist and I quote a few for those who are interested to master this art better. I cover all functions to be democratic.
1) Though the last three months results are better than plan and next quarter of this year is also better in terms of order book next year is not going to be a steep uptrend. The competition is already showing signs of starting a price war as there is excess capacity in market and customers are moving quickly to grab the opportunity. The special government policy support will go. Interest rates will go up and confidence will taper. As per XXX report this is confirmed..the graphs are indicating slowing down next year. Inspite of all this we have taken an aggressive 3.7% growth assuming we will gain new business, gain share etc. This is the general Sales pitch.
2) The commodity markets are strengthening. Suppliers are getting desperate. They cannot sustain this low volumes and there is no economies of scale. Overall we will see increases in costs next year at increased pace. Clearly we are moving away from buyers to sellers market with demand upturns. This is the general purchasing pitch.
3) The mix is adverse next year. We will increase flexibility but reduce scale effects of manufacturing. We have already got the benefits of lean initiatives and other low hanging fruits. The results at best can be as of this year. This will be the general manufacturing pitch.
What are the ways to shoot Sandbaggers...the styles are different with different outcomes depending on the culture of the company but here are some general recommended styles.
1) Listen patiently and empathize. In the end say " Inspite of all what you say there seems to be an opportunity to improve here and optimize there". Give an objective of improvement and be sure they will come close to this.
2) Prepare a counter with specifics and show it without elaborating. Make a polite but cynical comment that during Business plan time such reports do miss our eyes.
Then state that we need to deliver so much and find a way to do this.
3) Shoot sharp when presenting. Say that you started to believe that the person is a pessimist. Don't allow to complete the presentation (by finding too many holes) and in the end say " You know what to do..try to change my opinion so that I believe that you are an optimist".
But expert Sandbaggers are able to deflect any style and be sure that they exist in every organization in good proportions. Not to worry that if there is no safety you will end up overstating and underachieving...we can never get all safety out.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

No to Yes or Yes to No...

The subject may look very strange. Sure it is, as this depicts personalities and the way we approach issues. There are basically two major types of personalities when confronted with issues-those who start from a " No it will not work" and elaborating why it will not work and the other end "Yes it will work". You can say this is the same as optimistic and pessimistic characteristics. But this is a little more than this. Those who start with a No are not necessarily pessimistic and those who say Yes are not necessarily optimistic. You may ask how can that be. The people who say No and argue for status quo are also those who are optimistic/realistic otherwise but think that saying yes will add too much work to avoidance can make them say No. This can be tuned to their past experiences of having said Yes and get assigned with a lot of unrelated work which neither is enjoyable nor is making any sense on hindsight.
Therefore there is a conscious change on the part of the individual who slowly builds a Tortoise like Shell to challenge every change proposal, every new idea as it is not may result in something which is not normally part of the role of the person. Are they people bad..not really. They might have been yesterday's super performers with high energy but the invisible shell they carry makes them behave they actually do. Very soon the Shell kills them as it ensures they are seen as resistant camp leaders (as they still retain leadership qualities to convince No sayers). It is important that the bosses of those Shelled individuals identify this early and give feedback to remove it from their behavior. It is a responsibility of the bosses and not HR to do this.
Coming to Yes sayers..are they genuine optimists. Not really. In a lot of cases they are survivors. They know saying Yes is what Management wants to hear and say Yes but studious ones push the consequences of the yes to someone else. This group is more dangerous than No sayers as they look like fully devoted but are not really. This differentiates them from Optimists who are also doers to ensure success of a decision. These Yes saying Chameleons can be distinguished by characteristics like not owning failures, blaming everyone else, everything outside after a failure and sometimes finger pointing own team members.
It is important to note that some genuine optimists can fail due to lack of experience or circumstances that were not foreseen before. They usually own up failures and try to become better. It is important for leaders not to punish them for their entrepreneurship as risks needs to be taken for better tomorrow but success is not 100%.
Next time if you are in a meeting look out for the Tortoises or Chameleons. Just ensure you are not one of them. Forget the inactive, cat on the walls. As they are there today and will be there tomorrow. Looks to me like a zoo in corporations but that is the way it is.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


If there is one character that should always be consciously or as part of DNA be built it is Humility. The speed of today's life has dramatically changed compared to last 50 years...but this has been the case the previous 50 years too. Younger generation is smarter than older ones in a lot of ways and continuously gives a challenge to middle aged ones who feel the sense of obsolescence much sooner than previous generations. Success is short lived as there is someone somewhere in the world creating something that can challenge what is new at this moment. However when I study the stress of people who live in insecurity of future and giving up present happiness due to this insecurity I am more and more convinced that this speed is too much for humans to handle unless there is a concerted global effort to build Emotional competences. Out of all Emotional competences the sense of "I" should be well defined with a sense of humility. With little success there has been significant changes in behavior observed in the last two generations. Sudden increase of income, accelerated improvement of social/official status for sure builds an extra sense of security but also has downsides. The most important of it is the building of overconfidence. There is less sensitivity towards family, friends as is reflected by a self centered reply " If I have time.." rather than " I have to find time...". There is also a possibility of bloated Ego's which tries to Tell rather than ask people in family who have seen us grow and support during times when we have been less confident or struggling with something. I also know some young managers who try to emulate the more feared executives of previous generations-they walk without recognizing people who want to smile at them for fear of someone coming to them with a request for help. There are situations when people receive distress calls in the form of emails from friends asking to support them or their near ones (maybe a job request or financial support)...most don't respond. Once a friend of mine asked me why I bother to forward such emails to him as he deletes them as he receives it. He grew up the ranks from a lower middle class family like mine and was supported by his uncle through his education (including financing his US trip for higher studies). He is quite active in the social networking sites and is able to place appropriate comments on friends pages,etc and is perceived positively by all. If perception is what social networking is about then he has mastered the art. But when it comes to how many near and dear ones would have benefited by his growth (except himself as he measures his success with the wealth he has..for example his ambition is to own a Ferrari in the next 5 years) then there will be far too few. I met his parents recently who continue to live in their modest home refusing to have even a car. His father welcomed me home and remembered the fond memories of his son. There was no mention of his current wealth during this recall. I brought this up and with a smile on his face (showing his gums as he has lost all his tooth) he replied " What is there is there, not there is not there...we are happy for him as our son than for his wealth or position". He learnt computers to send emails to his son as his son preferred this to talking on phone. He gets chocolates and flowers on his birthdays, anniversaries etc as his son which pleased him the first time he got it-only later to realize that they were through automated reminders and auto-payment set up at an online shopping site. He said he now takes the flowers and chocolates to a nearby orphan center and distributes it. Seeing the smiles of the children gives back the good feelings of life-he celebrates this day as his son wanted(he never complained about his son setting automated gifts). He walked with me till the end of his street and he shared a smile/warm greeting with most of the people he met. Some did not even reciprocate but this did not bother him.
I am quite convinced that he is happy and will be happy as he has the humility to cling to. If humility is a DNA trait then his son should have it but maybe this character is tested at some point of time in everyone's life. If one passes the test they find a way to be happy irrespective of what happens to them as they stay connected to life rather than comforts/positions/possessions. But if one fails the test they start to develop overconfidence and stress themselves with artificial happiness which takes the joy of living very soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Learnings from Non-heroes!!

The focus of learning of leadership or something to emulate is from heroes of great stories/life. However I find that there is a lot to learn from non heroes too. As a case in point I take two example from Mahabharata (the great Indian Epic..I quote this too often as this epic is the mother of all epics as per me).
The first one is Vidhura-he is a brother of Dhirurastra and Pandu. He has profound knowledge matched with strong ethics to speak out the truth irrespective of whom it may affect. He is not bound by any Oath (unlike Bhisma) but remains loyal to the King. He expresses his views with a dispassionate and a strong fervor. There are places in which he epitomizes Gita rendered by Krishna much later. He is sharp to read political dimensions and unravels plots at early stages. For example he senses the plot of Dhuryodhana to kill Pandavas by burning them alive and warns Pandavas in a very smart way. He shows maturity in dealing with greed and anger throughout the Epic. He never wants to be a hero but becomes a hero if you want to think him as one. If there is a more detailed version dwelling into the life of Vidhura I would definitely like to read it.
The second one is Ekalayva. A smart, aspiring young hunter from the forest who wanted to excel in the art of Archery. He would not settle for commoners as Guru and wants the best of best. He watches Dhrona teaching the Pandavas and Kauravas from a distance and is happy that his search has ended. He approaches Dhrona with folded hands and requests him to teach him. To his agony, Dhrona refuses. He says he will not teach him as he is not from the right social standing. A normal student of this age and background would have promptly become angry and shouted abuses at Dhrona. But Ekalayva was one of a kind. He says to himself "It is my Guru's body which refused but his soul accepted me as his student and I can feel it". So saying he takes mud from the feet of Dhrona and walks to his forest. He makes a statue of Dhrona and everyday practices in front of the statue. He gets insights in his dream on the improvements of his technique and new skills in archery. He thinks that it is Dhrona who is providing these. Slowly and steadily he becomes an archer equal to Arjuna without he knowing it. As we know that fire cannot be hidden in cloth for long his superiority is exposed when Dhrona with his royal students visit the forest. There is fox which runs and Arjuna aims for it using Dhrona's newly taught multiple arrows in one pull technique. But before he releases the bow the fox is down stuck with multiple arrows. There comes Ekalayva with an innocent smile on his face. Arjuna is amazed as he was at a much farther distance and a more difficult angle to have executed the perfect shot. He looks at Dhrona with disbelief. Dhrona recognizes Ekalayva and asks him who is his new teacher. Ekalayva says" There is just one Guru and that is you". Drona is surprised and so are the other princes. Drona is taken to the place where Ekalayva trains. At this Drona shamelessly asks for "Guru Dhakshina"(salary to Teacher). Ekalayva is surprised at this but recognizes that this is a must and should be given to the teacher. He agrees to Drona that he can ask for anything(including his life) and he will give it happily. Drona asks for the right hand thumb of Ekalayva. Drona's evil intention is to make Ekalayva loose the edge as an archer as Thumb is key to Archery. Without any hesitation Ekalayva gives it. Drona looks at Arjuna with a smile. Arjuna smiles back as his place is assured as the Best Archer in the world. At this point Arjuna ceases to be a hero and Drona ceases to be a Guru. Ekalayva overshadows them with his glow and he becomes an unsung hero. What if he is not the best archer...he is epitomizes everything from passion to learn, excel and give even when asked with evil intentions. Maybe we learn from such non-heroes as they stand silent with their experiences which teaches more than heroes we sing praise of.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Three worlds-conceptually

Several beliefs and philosophies endorse the existence of three worlds-namely the one above Earth (say Layer 1), Earth (Layer 2) and Below the Earth (Layer 3).For example in Hinduism there is elaborate description of life below the Earth(Nagalok-where snakes kingdoms exist)and above the earth (Devalok). Forgetting that they have to exist at a level of planets and universe I think there does exist three layers with distinct living styles everywhere. For example the society has three distinct layers-the rich, the middle class and the poor.(I recently read an article and was amazed to find there are three layers even in what we call "Underworlds"-so this concept can be considered universal) Their lifestyles and accepted social practices are governed by their position in society. Similarly when we look at the sea as a world by itself we have three layers-birds that live on the fishes/sea food being the world above, Ocean itself and the one below the ocean floors. I am sure within the ocean itself there are three layers. No wonder functional gods of Hinduism had three responsibilities-create, protect and destroy. This cycle is considered an ongoing process(which is true for organizations too). I was always thinking that Gender is only two but now we start recognize the third gender. What is the significance of this?
I think this is a very important concept to understand as holistically to put everything as ONE is not an ideal approach. To look at it from three different perspectives gives a three dimensional view of issues. For me to look at issues from People, Strategic and operational point of view in that order is key to success of any major decisions. In minor decisions the people part remains but it is the execution and alignment which remains to be focused. Three world theory is a good way to sound our ideas as there are people whose expertise is limited in certain worlds but have friends/well wishers who operate in those worlds. Knowledge connect of worlds is key to success but most of the time there is either no time to do this or impulse governs our decisions. To believe we can rule three worlds is a myth and we need to acknowledge it as true leaders as it the realization of this that makes us look for options beyond what we are usually comfortable with.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Forecasting as a ritual!!

Most companies struggle with forecasting process as it is indeed difficult to predict the future in a realistic way. Recently I was reviewing the forecasts and found that there are four major categories under which units can fall. I have listed them but it maybe that most companies have the same patterns.
1) Average demands prolonged over this year remaining and next year-no change month on month just same nos. Amazing as it may sound but this is what I call "pulling the excel cell to fill all the blanks". There is no value to such information (for example suppliers will just ignore such information as they know this is wrong from day 1).But still people fill the files and ritually send this back.
2) Erratic demands with a 200 k in one month and next month 9k followed by 350 k in the month after. Maybe we got supplies like this in previous years but to use this to forecast is disaster. We cannot have such abnormal variations based on historical supply records as it will also turn out wrong. Puristic forecasting only on historical patterns which are skewed is a disaster from day 1.
3) Conservative forecasting with a low 2010 and a high coming months. Maybe the focus is on this year but we cannot have this patterned like this. For example growth economies have a forecast fitting into this pattern with some cases supplier getting much lower demands progressively (in some cases moving to zero with no alternative suppliers)..why do people do this..just to ensure they don't pre-empt business plans. Sand bagging in every step. Recipe for unadulterated diaster.
4) Real forecasts-some units do a fantastic job of forecasting supplies with a clear move of suppliers (share/volumes etc) with clear timings.
I remember a story:
Once a king provided a 1 liter dark coloured jar to each of the houses in the kingdom and said he wanted each house to pour in a concrete well one liter of milk on a new moon night. The milk will be used for feeding orphan children next day. There was a big queue by 10 pm on the appointed night and each one poured their share in the well. Most thought that since it is dark and since most others will pour milk he pouring one liter of water will not be noticed. So the smart ones choose water instead of milk. Next day morning the King showed the well which had 99% water and 1% milk. He said" The milk poured by the honest people are also wasted due to the water pourers". The country learnt the lesson. I am sure we are in the same situation as people who have done a good job in forecasting will not get what they want due to others who choose to do a linear progression or just give the file approach.
While it is important to analyse the patterns it is not right to expose the units which are not doing justice. We should come back to specific units with more specific comments as the intention is not to find faults and demonize.If the forecasting process has to take off it needs a lot of focus and detail working. We cannot be accurate to the last digit but we cannot be wrong from the beginning for want of efforts.
So if companies are doing forecasting as rituals it is time to take a review as we might be swinging from an overforecasting mode in early last year, to underforecasting mode this year. More importantly average forecasting mode is a sort of middle path which will be inaccurate in most cases. Rituals can become strong processes with strong commitment and focus. It is for leaders to make it happen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Angry Young man!

Everyone passes through different phases of showing disappointment. A baby cries, walks off, throws things or randomly gestures etc. As a child there is some evolution of anger-there is rationalization, comparison or quoting earlier situations. The show of anger can be withdrawal also in such situations. As an adolescent there are several ways of showing anger-to consider everyone else stupid and not understanding is the most common denominator. However most of us go through a phase of Angry Young Man where the social responsibility and callousness of society becomes the target of anger. I thought it was an interesting phase to discuss as the evolution of an independent individual happens in this phase. The age at which this evolution happens and the amount of time one spends in this phase can be different but surely this phase does exist in most.
The realities of life or the acceptance to the envitable dawns in this phase. I would think evolution of great leaders (including Gandhi) had happened in this age. Anger when followed up with firm belief that we can lead a change evolves leaders in everyone. Not accepting discrimination (in any form), compassion for others, angry at the older generation for having accepted life as it is and surplus energy to make an impact in life (live the life) makes this phase a wonderful formative one. If we are able convert the energies in the right direction we can create wonders with the youth. I would love to read sociologists researches on this phase and directed actions towards this group. Not from a marketing stand point but from a social stand point as today we are overdoing marketing at the cost of social interests. I hope I will find time in future to devote some time around this.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Detached Leadership !

The topic of leadership is quite vast in knowledge as this is one of the several things human want to learn and become "one great leader" (scale maybe different). While there are several aspects to leadership I focus on the detachment as it has always been my favorite spot. A lot of research and proof indicates that compassion, commitment and humbleness are part of strong leadership traits. Intelligence, situational management and perseverance are others. There are also questions is a leader is born or situations make one. Whatever be the research questions there is one common denominator-sustainable leadership is about detached leadership. The fact that the leader does not think he is indispensable is made out in the detachment, the willingness of leader to develop second and third line is possible under such circumstances etc are some of the benefits which make leadership sustainable. There is a humbleness to the detachment-as the leader ensures he does not stand in the way of the achievement of the objectives of the group and also allows it to evolve democratically. He does not overuse his charisma or authority preserving it for much more dramatic situations. There is also less incentive for sycophants to grow as the leader does not encourage them by his detachment-so the mediocre does not find roots making leadership sustainable. Detachment is a form of delegation some would argue. But I say it is much more than that-it is a sense of security the leader has that he has a role and the role need not be forced in. A leader with a habit of delegation will not be successful if he is not detached as this ensures he does not micro manage. How much of detachment is a moot question-that is depending on the situation as usual. However detachment to leadership but attachment to the cause is critical. Result focused leaders never give up their thirst for results. Detached leaders should not view their detachment as away from the roots. They should still be approachable to commoners and feel comfortable to converse without sending a message to them that he can overrule his second line. Realizing that we are activated carbon with a soul and each human has an objective to deliver for being born is important. This realization will lead to detachment of too much self ego. This is the stepping stone of Detachment. So says several scriptures...but when power intoxicates a lot feel attachment than detachment and this is the start of the doom of leaders.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Healthy body=Healthy Minds?

We start to hear this very frequently when we reach 40 is absolutely true that at midlife one needs to revisit their lifestyles as reflected by eating, drinking, sleeping, working and playing habits. I have done this to ensure that I don't pay up more than I earn to the eagerly awaiting medical device companies or hospital industry (not hospitality industry though when I start to hear " Medical Tourism" as a marketing terminology I start to believe that the distinction is blurring). For sure Obama is reviewing the health care policies in US-fortunately inspite of pressure not many developing countries could afford to adopt the bad practices unlike the Financial engineering (innovations?) which hit everyone.
From an individual perspective I see Sweden to be more health conscious than several other countries. Since I live close to Botanical Garden in a path close to where most people Jog, I have developed a sense of inferiority complex looking through the window as irrespective of the time of the day there are people of different ages who keep running. However due to inadequacy of Sunlight, Sweden has a disproportionate number of people who suffer from varying degrees of depression. This made me think if indeed Healthy body=Healthy Minds as we naturally assume to be true. Coming to Healthy mind I remember my uncle who is active at the age of 78 leading a lot of social activity in Chennai. He organizes music programs, marriages of Gods, religious discourses. Whenever you meet him, he gives a ticket book asking to donate for some program he is co-ordinating. He smiles exposing his gums (as he lost his teeth 10 years ago) and takes criticism as a joke. He had a heart surgery at 65, diagnosed for high sugar at 70 and has some other smaller list of complications for which he says he eats half stomach as the other half should be filled by medicines.
I remember his daughter complaining to me 10 years ago that he rarely adheres to the guidelines of doctors-pounces on tasty diets without guilt etc. He refused to take sugar replacements as he said they taste horrible. He is going strong. Recently I sat through his introduction of an event-it was mind boggling. He had the skill to keep people of all ages interested with his wits which also gave me a perspective of his knowledge of technology. He was able to relate the events which happen in day to day (like watching a television serial at home to wrong email address deliveries etc). He personalized each of the incidents and created more interest. After this I talked to him on how he manages to keep such a healthy mind though his body is not so healthy. He replied" It is the mind which controls the body and not otherwise. If I stop doing what I am doing there is no point in body living. I have been a live wire and want to be one. Let the doctors treat bodies like inert machines and give advices. Nothing stops me as I know with the power of my mind I will be dynamic as always."
I asked him" How are you abreast of so many new things in technology? I don't see you read newspapers or internet?" He smiled again and said" I talk to people and listen to people of all ages. God has given the art of conversing and I use it to full extent." I kept quiet. There are people who read and get knowledge. There are people who talk and get knowledge. There are people who take rest once diagnosed for health problems hoping it will delay death. There are people who move faster to ensure they don't give appointment to death. Body is holistic and to fit in equations doesn't work is the message to conclude. Body and soul together should be healthy as they are one as long as we live. To generalize saying one is a precondition to another is a misconception. It is like calorie values governing food intake than the health aspects of the food. I need to close now as I need to start to Jog says my mind and my body says yes I enjoy it. So much to start Healthy living!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sleeping Giants!

There is a character in the Indian Epic Ramayana named Kumbakarna. He is the brother of Ravana the Demon King who was killed by Lord Rama. Kumbakarna is supposed to be more powerful than Ravana himself but had asked for a boon (which turned to his bane as he mispronounced his request) that made him sleep for 6 months in a row and wake up 6 months (effectively disqualifying him for being a King).When this giant sleeps-he really sleeps and when he wakes up he is extremely hungry that he eats up mountains of food (no-one dared to go near him when he was about to wake up to avoid being his snack). Why is it I am elaborating his usual there is a learning in his lifestyle to corporations I would think. A lot of giant corporations are usually on hibernation mode though several hundreds of executives travel between continents, millions of emails gets exchanged everyday and thousands of hours are spent in brainstorming, meetings, strategic plans etc. It is like in hibernation life goes on with heart pumping, small positional changes in sleep etc. Then suddenly there is a wakeup call for this giant company-either competition or business climate or technology gave them a hot rod treatment. The company roars (even if it is a bit late) and starts to move. It tries to shed its conservative outlook and most of the old strategic plans(which are usually incremental thoughts within boundaries but well structured power points) are put to dustbins. There are some changes of top management, signals to middle managers to deliver quick results and restructuring decisions affecting a lot of lower rung people. For this period of revival the company usually sheds the stricter interpretation of its principles and goes on autocratic mode. With strong brands usually the impacts are positive and they survive the pains of changes. But less stronger ones never come out of the hibernation impacts and that is why we find very few corporations more than 100 years (similar to humans). We may argue that the longest living creature is the Tortoise which is the slowest but it is important to note that Tortoise does not search for a home to sleep as it carries one. So if companies don't carry safety shells and does not recognize that it goes into hibernation then they qualify to be called as Sleeping Giants. They cease to capture the full opportunity and the ego state prevents them from believing something needs to change. The worst part is people working for Sleeping Giants are more busy than others but on hindsight realize what they did was just passing through motions. Most of these Giants gets recognized by best corporation in this and that awards further encouraging hibernation. So much for Kumbakarna Corporations...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Power of smile!

This is a topic where a lot of it is obvious and probably well written by many. But still I wanted to add a perspective on this. Smile is a gift to humans though I do think animals do show their happiness in their equivalent of smile. What makes smile special is it reflects the soul. If eyes are the mirror of the heart then smile is the crown. I have rarely seen a person with genuine heart as reflected in their eyes not wear a smile. We are comfortable starting a conversation with such people (I am not talking of sales people who do their job by conversation). When I travel these faces stand out (glow) in crowds as they have magnified their souls with their smiles. If there is Godliness in everyone then smile is surely the manifestation of this..a child like smile in all situations make us feel good. Ofcourse we should cry when we feel like (not bottle this emotion up which creates distress) but after a session of crying try to smile from the heart. A good way to recharge our soul as when we smile it is not just the body which feels happy. Standing back from a situation to ensure fairness, less stress and true spirit of attached detachment says several old philosophies...the truth is if we truly stand back we can laugh at ourselves (the mess we have got ourselves into). But smile can be extremely powerful is a fact I learned recently. Our family got the taste of overbooking by airlines recently. The airline staff said " Sorry we are overbooked. But we can look at options". I was taken aback and my family started to get very aggressive. I had to hold them back and asked him with a smile and wink" So which hotel we stay? I would prefer something exotic!!". The staff was surprised at this and smiled back. He asked me to come inside the counter and look at his computer for options. He gave me some practical tips (the most expensive is not the best etc). Finally he gave some add ons which they give only to tough customers after prolonged negotiations.
He went to his Supervisor and got the next day direct flight fixed for us in Business class.
I was very impressed. I asked him why he stretched this far. His answer was he never faced a friendly customer for a long time and wanted to reciprocate what his soul said to him. There was a clear message for me...though customer is king if we act like one we never get treated like one. But if we act like equals we always get something more. Being polite and smiling in difficult situations does not do any damage at all. Maybe some will exploit this as weakness but in long run we always gain more than loosing our tempers. So if there is one thing the management school does not emphasize in soft skills it is developing the ability to smile in all situations. Believe me it helps much more than you think!!Keep Smiling!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Opinion is Bias!

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine on email which started as a simple comment and flared into a discontent. Without getting into the details of what the issue was-there was a learning for me. We cannot make a comment on a non verbal medium without making it look like we are opinionated. The consequences are immense as if it indeed is true then we can have communication breakdowns as the others may view it with their screen and color.
There are no written rules in informal communications (as if you have rules they cease to become informal) but sensitivity of people needs to be respected at all times. Some may say this is against freedom of expression as if we cease to express opinions then we are suppressing our feelings. I would agree to this too. Is this a paradox we have to live with or is this another situational stuff which as most others use-the answer is yes. To comment on everything is a human urge-like a baby tries to stamp on a moving ant purely instinct (not a bad one as it is not an intention but an instinct) but to control the language is maturity. What is written with a comic intention (in our best moods) can be viewed as an insult by someone who is not in the same best mood. Who cares-there are always finnicky people you may say. My point is if you don't care you loose a great learning opportunity. There can be opinions which stems from biases but opinions should not be rooted on biases as the worst of all biases is " Not to listen to feedbacks". Worser still if the other person has the bias and you seem to mirror his bias 180 degrees as we start loosing friends with this zero win game. Is this a compromise..not really. Sometimes it is better to accept that there are situations we need to correct our statements as it is our ego which needs to be tied in. For sure this does not challenge the statement that "Opinion is Bias". Indeed it is-try to have a positive Bias is all I say.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Everything will be ok!!

I happened to meet a leader of a critical project of restructuring recently. One striking thing I noticed was after every 15 minutes he said "Everything is under control and will be ok." While till that time he makes such a statement, we were discussing very rationally the issues and trying to address them at ground-the discussion will skew for sometime around not so rational things after the statement.
While the intention of my visit was not to find faults I found that people have not done enough thinking around the scenarios that can emerge making them believe they were ready. Surprisingly most of the key members were interested to do the thinking but were dissuaded by the belief of the leader as in the subject. After the fourth time he made the statement just before lunch I had to put my cynical hat and tell him politely " Can you define what control is and what ok is after lunch?" He was taken aback and tried to tell me "That I should not be pessimistic". But I persisted and said we can take this discussion for 30 minutes after lunch so that everyone is on the same page on this. A young lady seemed to be waiting for this and said " I think it is a good idea as I had this question but never asked for more than 3 months". The lunch time was unusually silent except for the sounds of munching. There was discomfort in everyone's body language and people refused to look at each other in eyes.
We assembled again and the leader said with a loud voice" So Ramki wants to discuss this topic though we all know what it means. Except the lady who else thinks it will add value to our discussion?" Surprisingly there were four more who put their hands up and said " Maybe we can discuss it briefly". With no choice the leader said "Ok. I leave to the group to discuss". I smiled (which probably was villianic) and said to him "Before we discuss I want you to explain what you really mean by these two words". After some reluctance he came with a sketchy explanation of what he thinks. I wrote this down on a board and asked the group to build on this basic idea. Surprisingly nobody agreed-so we split into two groups and discussed it threadbare expanding a little more into what needs to be done by the team to ensure they have done a good scenario planning. The outcome was fabulous. People spoke of their concerns and there were solutions for each scenario. A more concrete plan emerged. A decision was made to communicate to all relevant stakeholders what are the potential problems in the next 3 months and how they will be fixed. There was more clearer view on the extent of service level impacts and how it can be managed. Finally there was a feeling of what Control was and why everything will be ok. With this positive feeling the team leader felt a little puzzled and said " I thought we will end negative with such discussions and therefore wanted to be a moderator. Maybe I am wrong". I said to him" Whoever advised you that you should moderate active planning has given you an advise which will make you perenially fail. You may have managed thee moment but are sitting in a landmine". He seemed to agree. I hope everything will be ok though I know OK is a relative word.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Seeking feedback!!

The aspect of seeking feedback of self, actions of self/team and improvements is critical to sustain, adjust and evolve in a continous way. However this does not happen in a natural way as there are several DNA related issues which can inhibit this. The first is the way we have been brought up. For example in India/China in for generations we are taught to respect authority. Several of us either first or second hand have seen if we try to give a feedback to a teacher on his teaching style (genuine concerns like I don't understand your pronounciation or the speed of talking etc)usually the response is of defiance. Either it is punishment or the teacher in a menacing tone asks the class if anyone else has a problem. The class senses the power and the answer the teacher wants-so is silent.The teacher then concludes it is the stupidity of the student which is to blame and punishes him/her.
The message is clear-negative feedback is not appreciated. This does gets into the DNA. There can be similar experiences at home which shapes the attitudes of the young mind. While there is some freedom the rebelious adoloscent age brings in it is not really structured. Therefore giving an improvement suggestion in a positive way is not really inherited by a lot. This creates issues in teamworking as well as realising the full potential of a group.
Next is how to elicit feedback. While etools are fantastic in seeking feedback and there are a lot who look at averages for judging if they are above a particular level in a particular parameter etc, this is not exactly what we should do. Averages are a myth in measuring satisfaction. The people who rate below are not necessarily biased. They are the ones who are trying to talk to us with their ratings. If there are open ended comments in the forms-we should look at what they are trying to talk with this. Feedback is not to have a comfort feeling that we are doing ok but to see where we can improve.This is not an option for those who want to be sure they are rooted on realities. Informal ways of feedback is also ok but there should be a consistency in way we seek feedback as a lot of time in informal feedback we try to filter information to suit what we think or want to hear. There are no shortcuts to the thirst of seeking feedback as if we stop this activity we are already stopping to improve. Be it forecast improvement (in demand chain) or relationship improvement (with suppliers or customers) it is always the seeking/acting on feedback which makes the difference between winners and losers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I have always been intrigued by the promotion of India as Incredible India. Being a regular traveller across different places (contrary to popular belief that Travel expands your knowledge horizons, I personally think that it actually makes you realize that all people are the same-emotionally and underlying culturally. We meet about 1% bad people (on unlucky days..this concentration varies by continents), 1% extremely nice people but 98% normal people who want to be undisturbed but don't disturb others too) I dare to compare.(sorry again for making a long sentence...but this time I have the right punctuations hopefully).
Culturally diverse, plenty of languages, noisy, less concern for privacy etc make India a unique place. But they all cling to a Nationhood which is a concept than a reality. The concept will live long as it is from a free mind as regional, local aspirations are never given up when taking this concept as part of life. This makes India incredible. When I was young I was almost converted to communism by a good friend of mine. One day I saw him dejected and when probed he told me that Communism does not promote free expressions and he cannot imagine how he can cope with this. Strange but true-freedom of expression is a right which when curbed can never survive as a philosophy in India. The fact that there have been several religions, cultures imported into India but still the originality of Indian culture remains despite so much disparities of wealth is an indication that this freedom is the lifeline of Indian thinking. Bollywood will continue to the biggest Industry in world despite the best efforts as India is Incredible. I remember reading a statement by Taliban" Democracy is Anti islamic". This is a sufficient reason why a true Indian will not accept Taliban or any other extreme right parties. If freedom of expression(in its extremes sometimes) is curbed then Indianness is touched in a wrong way and people will conspire to make it fail. There can be several reasons why the seemingly lazy, socially less conscious majority citizens will take a long time to change-but it is the diversity that gives the lessons to modern democracies. Maybe it is not a necessary condition that equality should be there to having thriving democracies. There should be the mind set of society that wants to be heard with full freedom. Freedom is the foundation of democracy and we have that in India though in varying scales. Maoists and other terrorist organizations can strive hard but they cannot take this DNA out of the Indians. That is India is Incredible and no other country is. May sound bombastic but most facts sound this way initially.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Emailing-boon or bane!!

Everyday I receive about 90 emails...10 addressed to me, 20 generally addressed to a lot of people, rest copy marked to me (for information etc).
By default most of the people "Reply to all" to avoid being called less communicative or it is easier to press this button than pick the phone to clarify. Whatever be the case the quantity of communication is much more than it was some years ago. Escalations happen without giving an opportunity for the person concerned to clarify or rectify building pressures on support functions in particular. There is no doubt this positive pressure helps to increase the response time but it also creates a sense of overlap as several e savvy bosses who cannot resist to comment on every email enter the scenario mostly quite early liquidating their powers.
Let us look at types of emails that arrive in a day. Some of them are fire fighting tones, some of them are factual tones but most of them are pushing the responsibility to someone else with a cautionary clauses etc. Ownership is clearly thought to be shifted with emails but in several cases this is just a feeling. I know very good hands on people who deliver results don't respond to emails promptly but always deliver as they are glued to ground level and are there for people who matter showing full commitment and support. At the sametime there are floaters/survivors who ensure whatever be the outcome they act like consultants with their emailing skills and get credit which they don't deserve, get away from ownership when it is a debit. This is a short term paradox most organizations face as it takes time to understand that it is inaction which is covered by emails. If someone is passionate about something then he moves with hands on approach is a fact. But if someone is passionate about commenting intending to escape responsibility then he does manage this with emails but stands exposed at ground level. He can never be a people's person and he can never have a team which stands for him. He may please bosses with a pleasing "everything is possible" slogan but very soon the bitter truths stands exposed. The options the person has is to change jobs at short intervals or hopes his bosses change jobs frequently.
Emails like several other tools are fantastic tools but does not replace inability to stay glued to the operations and ground level realities. It creates temporary satisfaction in minds of people of people who get immense satisfaction of over communication and exemplify their working by prompt responses to every email. Actions matter the most and if a email is a mask for inaction's you can be sure that it will stand exposed by your own conscience sooner than later. Therefore if you choose to reply all or reply to a email in defensive think twice as it is maybe the start of a bane which you are building unconsciously.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pollination-a way to spread Knowledge!

Global organizations always find it extremely difficult to manage a natural way to spread Knowledge-or connecting knowledge as it is more popularly known.
Older people in developed economies know a lot by experience, by being part of evolution or by being the concept originators. They are an asset to the organization and there is no question about the value they bring in. How willing are they wanting to spread this knowledge to newer economies, how much they want to hand hold is another topic-usually it is very little willingness to part with knowledge. There can be several reasons-insecurity, let them learn the hard way or the standard reason used is "there is no willingness to learn and adapt to our standards". This last one is true to some extent as most new economies have young people who are faced with aggressive managers with a zeal to deliver quick results-make it work somehow is the mandate they have. This makes them focus on day to day more than trying to extract knowledge lying elsewhere-primarily driving out standardization.
The byproduct of this when there are initiatives like training or competence building there is not many people from these emerging economies representing as they see little value. This is a real challenge as it proves the theory of the experts for not dissipating knowledge. An approach leaders can take is what I call as "Pollination" approach. When I walk in the roads last 2 months in Sweden-there is so much of pollens in air. Some land inside noses making us sneeze or even worse creates allergies. Bottomline is a lot go waste but some land in right places and germinate to sustain next generation of their life. If a plant thinks that 98% of its pollens are a waste so stop this activity then the next generation is gone. Similarly a leader should accept that a lot of knowledge connecting activities will be not well received by most but will impact a few in a very positive way. These positive spirals will re-inforce more positive spirals creating a good knowledge base for future generations. This will break the myth that people do not want to learn as they are comfortable with local ways of working. This will create a platform which everyone will colloborate. Not easy but I see no other way. If we worry about the waste we stop pollinating knowledge which will make us worser.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Knowledge convergence-a spiritual maturity!

Convergence of Technologies is a much hyped subject. There can be no doubt that the convergence of communication and Information Technology changed the world through Internet. I remember when I looked at amazement the "Two In One" (Radio and tape recorder) when I was young. But today's mobile phones are no doubt remaining to be mobiles but less of phones. The concept of having one equipment to be a camera, radio, music system, internet etc is such a powerful convergence that is changing the landscape of the world. On its way like computers overran typewriters ( and a brief life of electronic typewriters) SMS capabilities of mobile phones overran an interim invention called Pagers (I don't know how many remember them. I do remember as I got this in 1996 and had it for a year..I also remember my boss who will call sales people with a one hour notice to be in a particular place to check if indeed people are in field...a doubting boss is pain in every part as most will agree).
When reflect the technology convergence, I also think of convergence of Knowledge. There has been a gradual build of knowledge among not so very connected civilizations-from Indus Valley, Sumerian, Egyptian etc. Each civilization has acquired knowledge and passed on to next generation. Maybe it was not as easy as cut/paste technology of today but indeed a lot of hard work where some knowledge was lost but a lot of knowledge was polished and enhanced. Be it Astronomy, mathematics, science, engineering or medicine-each field of knowledge grew either independently or closely twined. The close twining was driven by philosophers who were looking at similarities between not so similar fields. So it is safe to assume that most of the greatest minds that gave knowledge breakthroughs for humanity are philosophers (that is one extra reason I have great interest in this field).
Philosophy without religion is very difficult to imagine as in most civilizations they were and are interlinked. For sure this is not exactly linked to definition of God as several mature philosophers recognized that a non believer of God belongs to the religion of Non Believers but is still a philosopher if he tries to find himself or find truth which helps mankind. Most great Philosophers were not great advocates of a particular religion. So several scientists who are actively involved in unlocking the puzzle of life or the power of mind are indeed philosophers in their own right.
Convergence of knowledge is a path to spiritual maturity is my firm belief. For example Case studies became an effective way to prove a particular course of treatment is working in medical field. They were emulated by Management courses as indeed even if the conclusions can be different there is a learning in each case study.This business cycle will provide enough fodder for case studies I am sure as most companies are loosing balance as they are too late to react.
Looking at similarity between radically different situations and getting a flash is the ability of great minds. This is the first clear sign of spirituality as it goes even above the Maslow's hierarchy as a crown. If someone wants to gain maturity in spirituality-there is just one thing they need to practice...convergence of knowledge. Don't oversimplify but Simplify as there is a common denominator for all life. Inventing something is important but inventing self is even more important.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Motivate this complete?

People orientation is a lot discussed subject.Though there can be different opinions by researchers, this one aspect has an unanimous agreement-a great leader should be a people's person. To inspire people and to lead them is part of a leaders role. When there is an issue on hand, a crisis, a situation wanting a clear leadership role-then leaders emerge to guide and set the group on track. However in business as usual situation this need is less felt by the group as there is a strong belief that nothing can go wrong. This sense of security provides room for high inertia which will include a situation "Nothing seems to motivate people". Leaders have a tougher job to drive changes if this becomes an organization culture. The longer a company has survived and lesser crisis faced the more likely this culture will develop.
First let us address the subject " Motivate people" this really required is a question. For sure a leader has to create the right environment, clear objectives and backed with right resources..but if people are not motivated to deliver because of no explicit reasons then it is time to act. Usually HR will tell-apart from above we need Rewards and recognition programs which is very critical to drive changes. Yes..but R&R programs should be used with care as it sure motivates certain types of employees but not all. When motivation is a explicit question then usually work attitudes are also implicit question. Times like this are real opportunities to challenge work attitudes to create positive change. To look it from sustaining motivation using R&R is treating the symptoms and not holistic enough. For it takes years to change attitudes of people, especially when it is ingrained as an organization culture. But unless we make an effort it will remain as an Achilles Heal for the organization.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Survival of the fittest-continued!!

The logic of give and take is clearly the key to survival and strength which is underlined in my last post. However while the natural forces work with a clear logic of prioritization in the path of evolution this is not necessarily true in organizational settings. There are several extraneous factors and politics which create imbalances in favor or against give and take. The central control factor or leadership plays a very key role here. It is good that most times leadership takes an ambiguous stand allowing the concerned to resolve issues(reflecting true spirit of decentralized management)-this does not result in step changes as the process is very painful with each trying to justify and protect their own turf. The current economic slowdown for example can be taken as a situation similar to environment changes (sudden like a volcanic eruption) forcing evolution at a quick pace. This forces organizations to review the internal setups and come with some radical changes. In some companies even the pre-study shows very small opportunities as the people involved in pre-study are themselves concerned parties. Most of them describe that the opportunities are similar to Cheese slicing...and this is complete nonsense as per me. The opportunities exist and it is for people to have an open mind to see it. Even if pre-studies come with opportunities the implementation takes for ever and by the time implementation starts probably there is some positive signals in environment further slowing the evolution. This is a situation which is both dangerous for the organization's long term survival and a challenge to the leadership to drive positive changes. For sure a change is always painful especially when it is quick. But not to make changes is even more painful..imagine if we continue to walk with tails and someone stamping on your tail as you walk or you get tripped by another tail. Quite amusing to think but it makes sense that we don't have tail in hindsight. If it was given to individual choices then maybe the evolution will still be happening(and we may have longest tail competitions etc).
Therefore it is important to accelerate evolution which is possible with a strong directional leadership which fosters collaboration. The collaboration should negate all the "Passive resistance"(everyone agrees but none move-happy meetings,same agenda every time) syndrome which is the most dangerous pandemic in organizations. This creates stagnation as people live in their comfort zones (with tails for example) and never look at each problem as an opportunity as they are very much in their own little world. There will also be a tendency to push for over optimization in areas which are easy by the same people but create long term disadvantages. This should be noticed early and even at the cost of being called dictatorial there should be loud and clear mandates with time lines. Nothing works better than "Act the talk"...leaders should review those who are in their immediate teams and show the door to people who are actively or passively championing the slow progress by being defensive or justifying status quo in organization changes. To make a change is a matter of attitude, to drive a change is a matter of follow up and to be the change is a matter of passion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Survival of the fittest!

From the time Darwin proposed his theory of evolution the most favorite phrase of Managers is "Survival of the fittest"-the law of jungle is now the implicit law which drives career paths of business leaders.
While the Jungle law gives a perpective of ruthlessness one should have to succeed, it fails to recognize the more subtle but important element of evolution.
Single simple cells were the life which was originally did these simple cells become complex, integrated living things. If you review it you will know it is because they decided to co-operate. At the cost of some cells becoming redundant colloboration was established allowing life to evolve. When fish developed lungs that can breathe in land, legs that can walk etc-the cells agreed to give up something and take up something more by partnering with some other specialist cells which can perform the jobs demanded. To ignore this part of evolution is to champion destruction as colloboration and co-operation has been the core to evolution-not competition.
If we apply this to business situation-we have operating units, business units, countries,divisions, group etc. If all of them compete to show their existence is the most important and rest are incidental then you can be sure the extinction is near. Sure to be agile, adapative etc are key to survival but the most key to connect knowledge and drive the organization's collective wisdom is colloboration and not competition. It is not about who has the kingdoms and how they are bigger or better than others but it is about how kingdoms are run collectively. A lot of frustration of young achievers is due to the fact their achievements are narrowly focussed sub-optimizing something else(inventory reduction at cost of service for example). If we need to truly realize sustainable growth we need to embrace colloboration and not Survival of the fittest as what is true in green jungles is not necessarily true in the concrete jungles as we have lost a lot of intuitive instincts with our forced sixth sense.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Getting Lucky!

There are a lot who believe that luck has a crucial part in one's success. There are reasons to believe indeed it is. After a lot of hard work if the results are not achieved or we don't get what we desired then what else can be at fault than luck. The aspect of luck is said to fostered by some of the older religions/cultures in the forms of astrology, numerology, pleasing demi-gods etc. The huge following in China for Feng-shui (the Indian equivalent of Vastu) is a good example of how one can increase chances of being lucky.
I recently watched the movie called "Kungfu Panda" as it is the kids movies that interest me even after spending 40 years in this earth.
The movie has a core message given by the Great Master (who is a Turtle-the slowest creature is the master of Kungfu which is the fastest reflexive sport) "There are no accidents". Basically the message is "To believe in Fate/Luck is a good short term escape but everything has a purpose is the core philosophy". Why is it different from normal approach to believing in luck or not being lucky...the approach is to take life as it unfolds. Don't judge at every stage and be happy or unhappy. Let success not go into your heads and failures into your hearts. Very simple and effective way to avoid stresses of success and failures. Nirvana is a state when you reach an ego position where nothing bothers you-the position you are, the position your friend or enemy is in or what you should possess or not possess etc...nothing bothers you. It is easier said than done. But the more one starts to consciously move away from seeking material possessions or get away from thinking that in every meeting I will talk something and it should be heard and appreciated etc the more closer he/she gets to Nirvana.
The self ego drives our beliefs and actions..blaming luck is one form of defense which this ego has designed to protect that is nothing is wrong with self. A more effective form of defense is no defense. Don't carry negative thoughts as they stink like a dead fish. This is in the way of positive thinking. But don't carry too much positive thoughts of self as these are as poisonous as the negative thoughts as they create a artificial sense of superiority. Just take the day as it comes. Look at positive aspects of everyone and it is surely luck that you have them around as the experience you are getting is unique and cannot be experienced by someone else. But don't take an approach to blame luck when it is a failure as perceived by you or others as you are also equally lucky to experience this failure to share your learning with some one who has not. Therefore success in life is driven by 75% attitude, 24% hardwork and 1% reflection. Luck is in your attitude but it is completely under your control, so you cannot blame it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Art of Crisp communication!!

Communication is always an under and over rated animal. We always hear in meetings on why a change project failed to take off-the animal to blame is Communication. There are also circumstances where relationships/projects fail due to over communication but most of the times this animal escapes from criticism. Therefore it is clear that communication by design is critical and a fine balance is required to manage this animal.
To say that make only 5 slide presentations, limit each slide to 5 sentences etc are good guidelines but not necessarily fit all remedy. The fact when to communicate and when to shut up is very situational makes communication an art than a science. Great leaders who were able to transfer hope and faith through their commitment and communication have mastered this art while we commoners always struggle with this.
Some time non verbal cues are more effective communication tools than verbal. Seasoned leaders and Managers are able to effectively mask this non verbal cues making it more difficult for others to read them. Having said this the positive energies remain with great said in Thirukural " The Speech Artist is never tired and afraid, to defeat him is next to impossible". In Ramayan Hanuman (the Monkey God) is portrayed as this Speech Artist by Kambar.
When he finds Sita and comes back to inform this to Ram, knowing the anxiety and depressed state Ram is in-he breaks the grammar rules-starts a sentence with a verb. Seen the epitome of Chastity, with my eyes is what he says. Why with eyes? By saying this he forces Ram to look into his eyes which is gleaming with confidence. This part is called Sundara Kandam as this is when Sundaran(means a beautiful person-refering to Hanuman-beautiful with his communication)brings back confidence to Ram to wage the war over Ravan.
Is there crisper communication to do this? Maybe. But with such a topic I have already exceeded the limit of Crisp communication I think.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Belief or interpretations!

There are times when we have to face challenging questions about beliefs which have become part of us by the religion we are born, the culture we were brought up or the experiences we have had.
In most cases a natural reaction to the situation is a Closed one with remarks varied from a very aggressive "Will you shut up or stop hurting others with your bully questions" or a more subtle " Maybe you have a point. But I am comfortable with my beliefs and therefore see a need to argue with you who has a contra belief".
Whatever the reaction is, for sure we have recognize it is not the belief that gets challenged but it is more the interpretations.
Yesterday I had an interesting discussion when a Swedish lady approached me and asked "Do you know this Indian Book called G...I...T..A." I said "Sure..It is the holy book of Hindus". She was taken aback. She said "No, no it is about resolution of personal conflicts as there is good and bad within oneself. I am not sure there is any religion to this". I was a bit puzzled and went into more details on where she got this inference. Then she told me about Yoga classes she attends where they also discuss this book. Her Teacher uses a lot of quotes from Gita to ensure that the students have some connection back to soul. She believed that the book is not about Hindu religion but about realizing oneself.
I had a choice-to leave her with that impression or introspect my belief.
I decided to do the later.
For sure who wrote GITA under what circumstances etc are important but the more important is the how the contents are interpreted. The first one is build on beliefs and second based on the objectives fulfilled for receiver. How many people in India live by Gita? Maybe less than 1% of population. If this is the status in the country which believes in Lord Krishna how can I expect any other country to share same belief. The objective of Gita is to bring peace in oneself and as long as this is achieved by interpretations I think there is only good purpose achieved. Afterall Global world is missing the spiritual connection which can be provided by all Holy books and Gita is one of them. To claim superiority of religion, belief is for sure more fanciful for politics but for individuals what matters is self realisation. If interpretations are able to guide this than blind belief then let it be so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Introvert or Extrovert!!

Personality can be categorized into different ways and everyone is keen to know it from different angles as it is about themselves (who cares more about anything than self). One simple classification which one starts talking even in casual parties is Introvert/Extrovert. It is quite simple as the name indicates-a view if one is too much focussed on himself/herself or is a gregarious kind. I recently had a question from a friend who had less than 10 people networked in his LinkedIn compared to my more than 500-He said you are a real you make friends so easily. Again numbers don't indicate how much friends you have but with how many people you can truly share your feelings indicates this.
There is a lot of times as a matter of over simplicification Extroverts are made equal to be being more friendly than Introverts(like my friend above). It is the greatest myths that I want to discuss(I have more experience now as most Swedes will probably fit in the defintion as Introverts as per Global standards and I have been with them for more than 2 years now).
Let us go step by step into building of this myth:
1) Extroverts are able to start a conversation and smile their way into the hearts. They are very comfortable with strangers (more comfortable than with friends) and break the ice with ease. All this make them approachable and able to discuss on any topic as they strive to find a match...all are good signs of good friends. Right----Wrong I say. And why?
Extroverts are no doubt good at all the things mentioned above. But they are more floaters in most cases. They don't want to touch controversial issues or force decisions. In most cases they compromise to avoid uncomfortable situations. In other words they look at ploughing the field as wide as possible not as deep as possible. For an outsider it will look very impressive as the soil has been tilled at all places around the field. But is it good for the seeds to grow with roots set in firmly? Obviously not(for sure grass/weeds can grow better). Even if the field is tilled for a small area but deeper this when seeds get roots and grows healthy. Introverts are the ones who focus on fewer and smaller set of people but become genuinely attached to them. They cannot hide their emotions in their faces which is a strength rather than weakness. Therefore makings of a true friend is always in an introvert than an extrovert.
2) Introverts are uncomfortable in parties, get togethers and try to look for a corner to hide. Extroverts are loud and make the party memorable to all as they entertain themselves by entertaining others. This is indeed true. But party is not life. We can have party like pickle for food but can it be the food itself.
Therefore to feel extroverts are better than introverts itself is a feeling of depression which probably has been triggered by extroverts to make them feel one up against others. Introverts should feel proud about what they stand for and should live with what is most comfortable to them without getting distracted.
This does not mean that Introverts cannot be extroverts sometimes in life and vice versa. Actually I have always been comfortable being an Introvert the personality I was when I was till I joined college. Ragging does strange things to Teen age pride and it did bring in a change in me. I changed but try to retain the core of being introvert.
Therefore if anyone has debates on this topic let us be clear in our thinking. Live the life as we like it. Change only if you truly like the change. Else be what you are comfortable with as the world has enough possibilities to accomodate diversity.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ice is melting!!

Every day is new day as long we are able to live with a spirit of fresh energies. However we suffer from continuity and experiences-if positive it is good but most of the time it appears to be negative. We should recognize that "Today's solutions which fix yesterday's problems are actually tomorrow's problems". One important discussion is around Global warming. I thought it is apt to have a point of view on this to put this discussion in perspective.
When you watch the movie "Ice Age" you hear a comment " I hate Ice...I will vote for global warming". It may look like a joke but this is part of philosophy of life. What we have too much is something which is a perceived problem. If you have too much wealth it is a problem, if you have too much anger it is a problem. if you have too much food it is a problem etc. How much is too much is very relative...but coming back to the topic on "Ice is melting".
Scientists have long said that economic activity of man (a pseodonym for Greed of man) has accelerated the process of global warming. There were always champions who pushed this away and said Scientists exagerate things. After 20 years atleast a lot of the population is convinced indeed it is and everyone wants to do something about this. But the timing is not right as per a few as the economic growth is tilted towards West and putting restrictions when new economies are just trying to establish is too partial. US which has a significant share of the Global warming has so far not put into action any tangible measures to reduce its warming actions.
There have been a lot of species which became extinct from the time Universe was created. Blame has been taken by unknown asteroids etc. So why not for a change it be a known Human?
The difference is how the death happens-if there is an accident and some people die sure it is painful but not prolonged. People who lived after the Hiroshima/Nagasaki are standing proof of what a prolonged suffering can do. Global warming is similar to a cancer where the suffering is longer and death is slower. The sinners will get away with awards and recognition (like US celebrated the win over Japan)but the next generations will slowly and silently die. It will start with the polar creatures for sure but it does not take long to reach the humans.
So if we are casual and think Ice is melting-let us remember it is not the ICE but Life which is melting. Greed is the fuel for this fire and if we everyone consciously reduces consumption then this fire has lesser power. Let us take some simple steps in life to make a difference. Read Gandhi's life for more emulate him in someways will make a difference to the world.

About Me

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Gothenburg, Sweden
Still finding introspecting to find who am I? Waiting for a Guru!