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!

About Me

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