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.

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