Author Archives: Subramaniam P G

Mr. Subramaniam is COO of AMNET Systems Pvt Ltd, (www.amnet-systems.com). Before joining AMNET he was CEO of Threads of Excellence LLP. He is a natural trainer and has been consulting in India, South East Countries, Middle East and USA since 1995. He has offered training and facilitation services to companies in varied industry and business sectors. Mr. Subramaniam has trained and certified Black Belts and Green Belts. He has facilitated teams from various organizations to complete Business Process Improvement projects. He coaches and mentors number of CXOs and Managers from different organizations. He provided advisory services to senior leaders and CEOs of Small & Medium Organizations in their growth strategies.

He commenced his career with ITC Limited – Paper and Paperboard Division (then Bhadrachalam Paperboards Limited). Subsequently, he joined Bakelite Hylam Limited, a Pioneer Product company that created HYLAM as generic name. Prior to starting ASAP Management Consultants Pvt Ltd, He was with Kancor Flavours & Extracts Limited. He led the organization to receive best managed company on Environment and Safety from State Government.
Mr. Subramaniam’s areas of specialization include:
Six Sigma/ Lean Principles
QMS / EMS / FSMS/ HACCP
Business Process Improvement Management/ Business Excellence Models / IMC Ramakrishna Bajaj National Quality Award/ CII Exim Award
CMMi (Capability Maturity Model – Integrated)
PCMM (People Capability Maturity Model)
People Capability Development
Mr. Subramaniam is a graduate in Chemical Engineering from IIT-BHU with experience of over 29 years in different Organizations. He is an expert in Food Processing and Hygiene. He is a certified Trainer from TTI, Australia. He is an Intermediate CWA through ICWAI. He is a qualified Six Sigma Black Belt from Motorola Academy through TQMI India. He is a Certified Senior Assessor and Certified Trainer for RBNQA. Kerala Management Association adjudged him Best Young Manager in 1994.
Mr Subramaniam is
Director, VMS Foods and Beverages Private Limited
Director, Fresh01 Limited, UK
Director, IIT BHU Global Alumni Association
Director, Shriram Distribution Services Private Limited

This is the personal blog of Subramaniam P G. The views expressed here are his personal. The content and views are not representative of the views of AMNET or any of the group companies of AMNET.

Understanding Excellence

A few points from this interview:
1. For professionals everyday is a new day.
2. Success and failure would always be alternate with each other
3. Do not take the next job for granted.
4. Do not look for just aping other norms or standards. Search for strength in what we have and make use of them best, while augmenting with other best practices.
5. Look for USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in you
6. Confidence in your craft is critical to success

His view on excellence was very good. Excellence may never get achieved, but keep doing better than yesterday. Defining excellence can limit our achievement.

 

Customer Service Experience

Is there a limit to the services that one can offer? My answer continues to be NO in long run. In Short run it may limited by constraints like Budget, Policy, Competence.

In this context I would like narrate a personal experience. Most of us are familiar with the issue of weak signals on our mobile phones. The signals in mobile telephony can be either weak or fluctuating at a particular point in time and/ or location.

The experience with most Indian Mobile phone operators would be largely limited to

  1. We are sorry for the inconvenience. We have forwarded your complaint to our technical department. OR,
  2. Please check your handset if you have any setting issues OR
  3. There are some technical problem in the tower near your location, we would revert to you as soon as it gets over
  4. ….

In some rare instance the technical department would call to get same information that you had provided them during the initial interaction. It is often so irritating to complaint that we prefer to live with or some time change the service provider.

In contrast, I had a different experience with a Mobile Phone Operator in Bahrain. I had purchased a Prepaid 3 G Data connection for use of internet during my visits to Bahrain. I might be paying the company approx. 3 Bahraini Dinar per month and sometime less than that (1 Bahraini Dinar is approx. 2.78  US Dollars). The operator is known as VIVA Bahrain (http://www.viva.com.bh/content/about-us).

I had problem of the consistency and strength of signal from my hotel room. I had lodged a complaint and contacted support on live chat. They gathered all the details. They followed it through a message with expected time to resolve. Next day evening, the hotel receptionist calls me and inform that I have a visitor. I was wondering who this could be, as I know very few people in Bahrain and all of them were part of my meeting during the day. I was then told the person is from VIVA. The gentlemen was a technical person from  VIVA. He came with his laptop and some gadgets. Spent about 15 minutes in my room and then he look into settings in my WIFI device. He explained me the problem. He also explained me the limitation. In place of asking me to live with problem, he provided me a solution that meets my purpose. I also noticed his work style. He was preparing his technical visit report while he was speaking to me. He was constantly taking snapshot of the screen info coming from his laptop to the report.

This experience was a kind of thrilling experience as I have never thought of such service from a Service Provider. This was despite the fact (which they were aware of) that I am not likely to be their regular customer and I am not a permanent resident of Bahrain.

I am quite sure as an organisation they would have invested in their people and process to enable such deliveries. I had a great experience from their shop as well when I purchased the product. When I narrate this to group of people, often participants ask me can we keep doing this. I remind them of the famous statement by Dr Deming.

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

 

A way to look at Innovation

Innovation is one the most talk about subject in last couple of years. It is likely to remain focus area for most organisation. The future of organisation is going to rely on their ability to continuously Innovate their Processes and Products. There are several definition of Innovation and each one of them adds to its own flavour and approach. At time it appears that Innovation is expressed like the blinds defining elephant as they feel.

Wikipedia defines it as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society.

In simpler terms it is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. The picture below represents different terms often used interchangeably to indicate innovation.

Some pointers to explain the picture

  1. The arrows in picture indicate the direction of relationship. For example,
    1. “Invention” may lead to “Improvement”, but every “Improvement” need not be “Invention”.
    2. “Novelty” may be there in “Innovation”, but every “Innovation” need not be Novel by itself
  2. Alteration, Transformation are different forms of “Change”

Innovation is often an outcome of events and processes is an organisation. Peter Drucker in an article “”The Discipline of Innovation”, Harvard Business School Journal, 1985, listed following as sources of Innovation. The content of the article by Peter Drucker is available at https://notendur.hi.is//~joner/eaps/druck7-b.htm

  1. Unexpected Occurrences – Post-It is an example of such innovation. The product was not something planned and worked for creating. It was an accidental finding and put in use.
  2. Incongruities – Conflicting requirements. A classic example here could be the current days rim in cans (used by many beverages companies). The rim design actually resolved both strength required as well as maintain the weight of the sheet used in can. This is often illustrated application TRIZ. TRIZ is in fact all about developing solution (which are innovative) in conflicting situation.
  3. Process Needs – The process constraints thrown on professionals in real life situations often leads to line managers coming out with innovative approaches.
  4. Industry and Market Changes – Several examples of outsourcing of different services or moving into self-service models in businesses are examples of innovation to counter a change in Industry and Market.
  5. Changes in Perception – This is very similar to changes in market and Industry changes, except that here on deals with perceptions only. Many innovation in food products both in recipe and presentation has come out to manage better perception.
  6. New Knowledge – Using technology and newer development in different way of using. Many of the innovation has been possible with touch screen technology today in products and services.

Organisations do adopt a systematic approach that begins with Process of Ideation and ends with Innovation in Products and/or Processes. Organisations like 3M, Google are known for their systematic approaches towards Innovation.

The most important factor for Innovation (which is facing a reducing trend in society and organisations) is “Tolerance for Error” and “Freedom to Experiment” Unfortunately both society and organisation do not have right attitude towards both. One cannot be sure but it is noticeable that most innovations (in real sense) are not related to “Last Mile Delivery/ Usage Issues” of Products and Services or possibly they do not reach out to the common man. There are lots of incremental improvements and repackaging. This may be an offshoot of the fact that bringing in Innovative changes in Products and / or Services are often loaded with significant risk of failures. Successful Innovation often requires experimentation that can be considered (perceived) risky in competitive environment today.

Quality – Measuring what gets Delivered

Quality is what we deliver. Every organisation works on measuring their product or services delivery performance.  A few pertinent questions around Delivery Performance Measurement are:

1. Are we Measuring what we are Delivering?

The most obvious response to this would be “yes”.  However, often these measurements are from business or organisations perspective not customers perspective. For example, a recruitment consulting organisation was measuring the proportion of requirements (positions) that have been closed, but the time taken to close was not getting measured. Even in cases when it was being measured, the definition of start point and end point of the process was not defined. Often organisations view is narrower than customers’ view. For example, the consulting company may look at starting point as the time when they received requirement, but customer may be considering the start point as the time when they have communicated or released order. In most repair workshop the start time on job is from the time the vehicle was handed over to workshop. For customer the count down begins from the time he has entered the workshop.

2. Do we tell customers what we are delivering?

There must be organisations who are measuring a lot of indicators. How much of it is being communicated to customers? Even when it is communicated, it is communicated only when it is asked for. A common example is in the banks. Most banks have defined and displayed SLA’s on how long it should take for customers to get their services from a counter for different category of services. Some examples are time taken to get a demand draft or time taken to withdraw cash etc. How many times customers are told the performance of the Bank on those parameters? Why declare a standard if it doesn’t get measured or do not get shared. Another example would be TataSky (in India) may be communicating with customers on the additions of channels or new services. But they rarely communicate the data on outages (downtime) in services for various reasons that can be assigned to their delivery performance.

3. Do we inform our stakeholders on what we are delivering?

There are others in the organisation who would be interested in knowing what is being delivered. In many FMCG companies, it is very common to provide more than declared quantity to ensure compliance. This is often called as Give Away. There are many instances where this is not measured periodically and communicated to all stakeholders.  There have been instance of complaints on lesser weights / quantity based on what was being given not based on what is declared.

A survey conducted by ASQ along with American Productivity and Quality Centre (APQC) was published in August 2013 issue of Quality Progress. One of the interesting finding was that only 27% of organisations agreed that they provide information about delivery to their customers. The rest were either not providing or providing it in parts. What is more worrying is only 33% of front-line staff measures this on a daily basis. At this level of measurement, any improvement in customer delivery performance would be either incidental or in pockets.  This article is available at http://asq.org/quality-progress/2013/08/global-quality/measuring-up.html. Access to this article may require membership to ASQ.

It is important to understand the reasons behind the instances and issues relating to measuring and communicating Delivery Performance Measure:

  1. Many professionals do not invest in understanding the requirements of the customer. The “marketing” today at ground level has become more of “what organisation provides” rather than “what issues of customer gets resolved” This calls for switching from “looking from organisation’s perspective” to “looking from customer’s perspective. This often requires investment and building knowledge about how customers uses the products and services. Such approaches would lead to genuine Value Additions from customer’s perspective. A leading service provider had divided it customers into Premium and General category. The only differentiating factor was the price that is being charged to the customers. The service delivery and communication of service delivery was same. This obviously over a period became a key factor in poor performances leading to significant customer’s dissatisfaction.
  2. The business and customers is progressively moving towards services. The products are merging into service. Most products are already a commodity or it is only a matter of time that they become commodity. Measuring services requires different tools, different thinking.
  3. Most stakeholders at the senior management get worried about services only after customer has submitted a formal complaint. The result of such thinking approach is that most organisation today measures “number of customer complaints received”. Most organisation have objectives on reducing customer complaints and often linked to the Performance Criterion of their managers.  This is possibly the easiest objective to achieve to impress the senior management in short run. The easiest way to achieve this would be to ignore complaints or convert complaints into inquiry.

Organisation would need to re-look at their processes and measurement system to bring in changes. Some of the steps would be

  1. Conduct a processing mapping exercise from customer’s perspective
  2. Minimize all measures that are not expectation of the customers
  3. Eliminate (if possible) all lag measures that are not  of customers’ interest
  4. Create a strong MIS or provide access to customers to know the status by themselves on the performance levels.

Talent Acquisition or Growth

This is one the most debated topic by all passionate HR members in almost all forums. This sounds more like the conventional Make or BUY decision in manufacturing or service operations. I propose to add my two cents to this debate.

Making or buying decision is as old as the time when mankind started living in settlement. The option of buying did not exist before that. The concept of “Someone makes and someone consumes (buys)” was only after sometime the mankind settled and became a social-able animal. The barter system of exchange was to exchange goods or services that I do not make and am willing to buy from someone who makes it. Such system was known to exist based on recorded history approx. 6000 BC. Imagine if every person had to make his fire or his wheel from scratch, we would not have seen this kind of revolutions and change that we experience today. One can always argue that this is ok for goods but how would this get applied to Knowledge/ Talent.

Can all kind of knowledge or talent be grown within? My response would be Yes and No both. One can possibly grow all talents within. But does the individual and organisation has necessary time and other resource to invest in growing this talent. Is the investment worth? I am reminded of story from the pages of life of Swami Vivekananda.

Once Swami Vivekananda was waiting on the banks of a river for a boat to cross the river. Another saint from the local village passed by, who had not seen Swami Vivekananda earlier though knew about Swamiji. He got into a discussion with Swami Vivekananda. He also learnt that Swami is waiting for a boat. The saint was surprised.

Saint : I have heard so much about you and your achievements but I am surprised that you have to wait for boat to cross river. With your powers you should know how to walk on water.”

He demonstrated to emphasize his achievement by walking on water.

Swamiji : That’s a great feat! How long you took to ACQUIRE this talent?

Saint :    I did rigorous tapasya (religious austerity) for 20 years to acquire this talent

Swamiji : Your 20 years is wasted on something that can be BOUGHT for a penny

Talent can be grown within but at what cost and time. I reckon that till 80s or early 90s the stress on memorizing tables were pretty high. Today students and many teachers do not believe that it is necessary, as calculators have replaced the need for memorising. It does not matter whether this new belief is right or wrong. The fact remains that today you have more individuals who cannot perform basic arithmetic computation without the help of calculators. In this context it is almost like buying TALENT / KNOWLEDGE (Calculator represents Talent provided by a machine) instead of growing (MEMORIZING).

If this is true then why debate, why not buy every talent that one needs?

This is a question that needs more attention. A life cycle of human takes pride in what he or she has learnt and the talent that remains with him after his “working life”. This to me an inherent need for a human being. This means as he grows he constantly attempts to acquire newer skills and talents. This is important for him/her to remain relevant in family and/or society. This desire is reflected by the fact that every culture and religion in the world has a deity or two for knowledge, learning.

Hindus worship Saraswathi, Ganesha and Hayagriva ; Persians worship Anahita; Greek worshiped Athena, Eidyia, Prometheus; Egyptians worshipped Thot ; St Paul is considered by many as Saint for Wisdom;

The growth of talent is a great motivator for many to work in an organisation. I have met many who leave organisation that has little to offer as learning opportunity. I have myself moved from one to another organisation in my early carrier for exploring and learning newer skills and knowledge. Organisation needs to invest in Growing Talent (Making) while it continues to Acquire Talent from outside (Buying). The need to invest in Growing Talent within can be

  1. Keep the motivation of existing employees high by giving them opportunity in newer technology, skills, knowledge. This would also help in managing retention of available talent within organisation.
  2. Investing on acquiring Talent well in advance can enable organisation to effectively meet the client’s requirement in the initial stages of business acquisition. The start or transition phase usually requires smaller number of resources with the new Talent.

An approach in acquiring talents from outside.

There are two ways of acquiring new talents within organisation.

  1. Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) Mode

    One can hire expert for a defined time frame with following objective

    1. Setting up system and define the processes that consumes the talent
    2. Operate with the existing resources with higher content of on the job training
    3. Hand hold the team
    4. Exit the team
  2. Acquire the Talent for full time
    1. This is regular staffing process
    2. The challenge in this approach is the lead time to hire and time available to hire.

Either of the options or both of the options can be deployed. The factors that would define this would be:

  1. Type of Talent required
  2. Availability of the Talent
  3. Time available to hire
  4. Time required to hire
  5. Capability to attract such Talent
  6. Capability to assess such Talent

In the end, I think it is still a decision that is dependent on organisational and business context. What works for one need not work of another organisation.

Think-ability

I have been guiding several professionals at Team Leaders/ Supervisors in different organisations. Most of these people are with work experience of more than 5 years. They were working on improvements in the business processes that they manage. The improvement journey requires to seek think and come out with causes and solutions for their current performance levels. Most have been able to explain only what is obvious and the experience that they have been demonstrating were at the surface level.  I first thought if this is a case of “tool” as it is almost customary to find fault with tools.

I have been doing chintan-manan on this. The causes / solutions that we see is an outcome of our thinking process. It does not matter whether it comes from Right Brain Thinking or Left Brain Thing. Either way I thought the key word was Thinking. Possibly this was the key differentiator between the ones who came out with brilliant outcome versus the rest.

This prompted me to do some work on “thinking” process. When I wanted to understand the thinking process, I came across large list of thinking Processes in Wikipedia. I have a significant bias for our ancient language and philosophy. I have used the word ancient as most may consider them today as not so relevant.  The Sanskrit equivalent of word thinking is

  1. चिंत् refers to reflective thinking. I call this “Looking into Mirror” for ideas and /or causes. This calls for courage to accept oneself as one with positives and negatives both.
  2. ध्यै refers to meditative thinking. This requires thinking without any external influences. Distractions and shortcuts cannot allow one to perform meditative thinking.
  3. पर्यालोच् refers to deliberation, attentive observation. The observation process is different from seeing. It requires one to go into what is not visible or obvious. We are so used to “makeups” that we have forgotten the beauty of the inner layer of skin.
  4. वि-, तर्क् refers to argumentative thinking. This implies that one may need to argue with one’s own bias and assumption while thinking on cause or solution to a problem. We are often better at challenging other viewpoints. If we can start challenging our own, the chances are high that we would have better long term solutions.
  5. विचर्Refers to investigation. One may need to go beyond what is obvious. Any investigative process requires asking questions to seek answers.

In Chapter 3: Karma-Yoga; Shloka 31 and 32 of Srimad Bhagavat Gita, highlights the “thinking” aspects of human nature.

ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः |

श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः ||३-३१||

ye: me: matham idam nithyam

anuthishttanthi ma:nava:ha |

sraddha:vantho::nasu:yantho:

muchyanthe: the::pi karmabhihi || 31

Those who always act according to the rule I have here laid down, in faith and without cavilling – they too are released from the bondage of their actions.

ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम् |

सर्वज्ञानविमूढांस्तान्विद्धि नष्टानचेतसः ||३-३२||

ye:thv e:thad abhya:su:yantho:

na:nu thishtanthi me: matham |

sarvajna:na vimu:dda:m stha:n

viddhi nashta:n ache:tha saha || 32

But those who cavil at the rule and refuse to conform to it are fools, dead to all knowledge; know that they are lost.

I would like to think beyond the meaning given in the shloka. Some of the key word in this shloka are matham, sraddha, anusuyantah.

मतम have different meanings and some of them are religion, thought, belief, conjectured, perceived, opinion, view.

श्रद्धा means trust, faith in general. It also means composure of mind, strong desire.

अनुसूयन्तः means free from fault-finding, critical, carping, quibbling, nit-picking, censorious, hypercritical, and captious.

The shloka when applied to Problem Solving and Process Improvement activities of a manager would mean

  • “Based on your experiences you may have different views, perceptions about a situation. You need to have faith in the process of improvement and have strong desire to improve significantly. You can come out of your current problems and move to new levels of performance, provided you think of the problem, causes and solutions without taking an approach of fault finding.”
  • “One should not get lost in trivial thinking”

The later shloka (no 32) actually warns about the consequence of not following the earlier one.

If one continues to think about the casuses and solutions without following the appraohes of thinking, would continue to live with the problem. Such situation would only worsen as the law of entropy in nature would prevail. Law of entropy in simple term implies that any process left to itself would tend to deteriorate over a period of time.

Sensory Thinking for Leadership

The phrase and the title “Sensory Thinking for Leadership”  came to my mind when I was watching two great videos on TED (www.ted.com). Change Management initiatives by leaders have always met mixed fate. The success stories of long term sustained benefits from CHANGE are very few. These two videos gave me a thought on possible factors that can increase the probability of success.

First Video was  a lecture by Temple Grandin. She was diagnosed with autism as a child. She speaks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids. The title of video is The world needs all kinds of minds

It was amazing to realize the power of visual thinking. The communication through the visual thinking is also powerful as it would be devoid of any ambiguity. Visual thinking can often reduce the number of words required to explain. Language in any form requires other side to decipher and absorb. Pictures communicate by themselves. I visualize that some of the challenges in CHANGE MANAGEMENT can be addressed if one uses pictures to think and communicate. These challenges emerge from some of the reality of organisations ecosystem

  1. Organisations are becoming MULTILINGUAL
  2. Associated workforce come from VARIED PEDIGREES.
  3. Most people have shorter span of attention to details
  4. Ever changing workforce profile

I am reminded of a crazy definition of BOOK from a Tamil Movie “Nanban” (This was a remake of 3 Idiots in Hindi). The definition was

“Instruments that record, analyze, summarize, organize, debate, and explain information that are illustrated, non illustrated; hardback, paperback, jacketed, non jacketed, with forward introduction, table of contents, index, that are intended for the enlightenment, understanding, encouragement, entrancement and the education of the human brains to the sensitive root of vision, sometimes touch”

A simple picture of book might have more effective.

The problem solving processes always become more effective when the “problem free scenario” is visualized. In my view it is important that leaders at all levels visualize what they want to achieve or communicate. Great scientists like Newton, Einstein, Tesla had phenomenal Visual Thinking ability. Great warriors like Alexander had always visualized himself as a world leader.

The another video was about power of listening to the sounds. This video was by Bernie Krause , who has been recording wild soundscapes — the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds, the subtle sounds of insect larvae — for 45 years. The title of this video is The voice of the natural world

This video is about impact on nature by acts that are considered to be “environmentally safe” or “environmentally sustainable”. A case mentioned in the video refers to timber cutting activity of a forest in a method that were considered to be environmentally sustainable. This is assumed to have a net zero impact on environment. But it is amazing to see the change in profile of the ecosystem of living organisms. The pictures before and after do not look different. The count of trees are not different. This assessment is based on studying the profile of the voices of nature within the ecosystem.

We have often seen leaders failing because they have either not listened or not paid attention to the “changes in voices”. Often changes are initiated by the leaders to show case results in short run. However the changes in Voices of Stakeholders is ignored. CHANGE is often considered good if the results relating to financial and market dimensions are good. The Voice of Customers (VOC) / Voice of Employees (VOE) may undergo change but it does not get noticed unless it takes form of visual impact like attrition (both customer and employees). The changes may be so subtle that it may not be audible unless specific attention is given.

A case in hand as experienced during my consulting services. Leadership team of an organisation decided to institutionalize the Performance Measurement based on the Results that have positive impact on business.  This is one change that is probably easiest one to justify and expedite. The change was bought in. It was believed that this has brought in the desired change in performance of the people (read behavior).  A deeper interaction with the members of the organisation threw up some interesting dimension. If I can relate them based on my views on the videos above:

  1. The CHANGE was nether visualized by the employees nor the leaders shared the VISUALIZED PICTURE with employees. Possibly a series of sessions based on concepts were considered enough.
  2. There was no effort to either to LISTEN the Sounds (rather noises in form of murmurs) or the changes were ignored (rather considered as  normal behavior).

It is not difficult to imagine the likely outcome if the CHANGE and the CHANGE SCENARIO is VISUALIZED by the leaders and then communicated. Leaders can take significant corrective measures if they LISTEN to the changes in the sounds of nature (ecosystem of organizations).

 

Performance Management – A perspective

My friend sent me a story which is pretty popular. It can be found easily in circulation on internet.

The New Donkey and the Dog Story.

There was once a washer man who had a donkey and a dog. One night when the whole world was sleeping, a thief broke into the house, the washer man was fast asleep too but the donkey and the dog were awake. The dog decided not to bark since the master did not take good care of him and wanted to teach him a lesson.

The donkey got worried and said to the dog that if he doesn’t bark, the donkey will have to do something himself. The dog did not change his mind and the donkey started braying loudly.

Hearing the donkey bray, the thief ran away, the master woke up and started beating the donkey for braying in the middle of the night for no reason.

Moral of the story “One must not engage in duties other than his own”

Now take a new look at the same story…
—————————————————
The washer man was a well-educated man from a premier management institute. He had the fundas of looking at the bigger picture and thinking out of the box. He was convinced that there must be some reason for the donkey to bray in the night. He walked outside a little and did some fact finding, applied a bottom up approach, figured out from the ground realities that there was a thief who broke in and the donkey only wanted to alert him about it. Looking at the donkey’s extra initiative and going beyond the call of the duty, he rewarded him with lot of hay and other perks and became his favorite pet.

The dog’s life didn’t change much, except that now the donkey was more motivated in doing the dog’s duties as well. In the annual appraisal the dog managed “ME” (Met Expectations).

Soon the dog realized that the donkey is taking care of his duties and he can enjoy his life sleeping and lazing around.

The donkey was rated as “STAR PERFORMER”. The donkey had to live up to his already high performance standards.

Soon he was overburdened with work and always under pressure and now is looking for a NEW JOB.

I am sure most would have a kind of agreement with this story. Many may even find themselves in the story. I would like to see this story from a different perspective.

From Dogs’ View

Dog’s failure to performed the defined task was compounded with

  1. His inability to learn from experience
  2. He took his status as DOG – A perceived animal for safety

It is not difficult to find such workforce. General characteristic of such people would be

  1. There isn’t much to be done now.
  2. If someone can do my job let him do it, I can take rest.
  3. “Retiring” from job even before they have got retired.

Such people in system has problem in growing and they become someone who exist but not so important.

From Donkeys’ View

Donkey actually did a great start of attempting to do what other are expected to perform. Donkey was promptly rewarded as well. There few important challenges that existed.

  1. Donkey did not develop the overall competency of the Dog
  2. It only copied the dog behavior
  3. The task based performance would always increase the work load on those who perform the task better. The only people can overcome this is by investing their time and resource to build their competency for tomorrow.

Such frustrations are common among hardworking employees.

From the Farmer’s View

Farmer typically represents the Managers and leaders of the organization. They are very happy with the results that are transaction driven. The performance review process do not consider competency factor beyond identifying a standardize list of training that would be required by the employee.

What should we do then?

In today’s business environment, it is necessary that we build our competencies that would enable us to manage varied aspects of business. Hence the old moral of “keeping yourself to your job” is not relevant in most circumstance. This would possibly be relevant to only job roles where experts are required. The challenge is that we are not willing to expect that we are not expert. We somehow believe that if I am successful I have to be an expert. The reality is contrary to this.

While we would need to experiment and do different tasks, it is important that we build ourselves to be proficient in different field. The business organizations require more people who are proficient rather than experts.

  1. We need start looking at Performance Review beyond Appraisal for compensation change decision.
  2. The review of the performance must include Learning aspects of the job and outcome.
  3. Competency Development should be the focus of the Performance Management.
  4. Rewards must consider the competence building factors.

Self Consciousness is Enemy of Excellent Performance

Self Consciousness is Enemy of Excellent Performance

I first heard this phrase when I was listening to a TED Talk (Fix the Broken).The context of the talk was more to do with the social impact of the US Legal System. I looked at it from the perspectives of Excellent Performance of the people in organization. Last week a senior leader of an organization was asking me is it possible for people to be outstanding all the time and if so how do they know that they are outstanding. The two events (listening to TED talk and the question from a leader) happened within a short span.

Excellence in performance is an outcome of several dimensions. Our system today has taught us on how to create a system of performance starting from goal setting to review. While these systems are great and are required, it is important to note that they work well for most people. Such system do not excite the outliers.

We have got used to insisting people to be careful in what they are doing; too much emphasis on need to watch every step. While these are necessary rather important for beginners and growing professionals, but can become a bottleneck for good professional to perform excellently.  The speaker gave an example of pianist. It struck the string well for me as I see my son playing his piece on Piano. He often come back after his performance and plays back the recorded version to know how he performed. He come out with his own fault.

There few important points that could be seen only if one looks for them

  1. While playing he does not even know how he is playing. He is not looking at the keys that he is striking.
  2. He gets appreciations from great musicians like A R Rahman for his performance. He is happy but he stills listens to his piece to find if he was happy and he declares the points where he could have done better or differently.
  3. There is a judgment that he applies on how he is playing from time to time. The judgment is never just on a key stroke, it is on overall aspects of his play.

I tried imagining what if he would have been focusing on each of the key stroke while performing. He may do so while learning or practicing but not during performance. This is possible only when, we do not keep telling him at every stage (read policing) to be careful. His teacher is critical about his output during rehearsals and practices. He has been explained about the program; occasion, likely guests, the piece, expected outcome etc. These are not even reminded during real performance.

In nutshell, his performance is possible because he is not “Self Conscious” while he is performing. The formulae for his excellence is now ready.

Is there any way we can see this happening to many on the management floor? This calls for a significant change in mangers to stop policing. The most important factor for this is that Managers would need to learn to TRUST their people.

 

First Attempt!!!

 

First Attempts !!!

Atempting to do different things is as important as getting new ideas. New ideas by itself cannot become innovation. The innovation funnel may look like the diagram below:

 
first attempt 1

Refinement and subsequent product in actual use requires experimenting new things, except in case of changes to products and process. The experience of doing new for first time is critical but ,most people hesitate. The reasons could be many. I thought it would be easier to explain this through a story. This is an anecdote from my own experience.

I had a new construction as part of modifications to my existing house. The area that was built had approx. 125 Sq Ft of wall space. This space required to be painted. Getting a painter for such a small area was becoming an herculean task. I decided to do it myself. Now begins several reactions and comments that had high chance of discouraging me and deciding not to do the painting.

  1. My family members were not sure if I can do. Some thought that it would be too difficult for me to handle.
  2. My hardware store owner looked at me as if I have come from another planet. He said with a smile to try.
  3. Products and tools available were not DIY (Do It Yourself) friendly. I had to figure out myself. Somehow I did not hesitate in
    1. Seeking help from a friend of mine who is in construction business
    2. I looked into the printed items in the containers of the raw material.
    3. I was not sure how to decide whether my work output was ok. I choose to seek feedback from my family members.

I need to use following traits / behavior to manage the challenges mentioned in this series.

  1. Remained firm and focused in what I decided
  2. Allowed for additional wastage on material (Efficiency was not important. It is never important in first attempt)
  3. Did not hesitate in seeking help. I asked the hardware shop fellow, a painter in his shop, a friend of mine.
  4. I enjoyed and celebrated every milestone in the process. There were gaps but learnt and filled as I went along.
  5. Did not hurry and was patient to follow advice of experienced people.

In most organization when you want to do something different thing or same thing in a different way you will experience same.

  1. Your bosses and colleagues are likely to tell you not to attempt. They use the term RISK for that. Innovators do take risk. Learn to take Risk.
  2. You will have lot people within and outside your organization. Do not hesitate in taking their help. It does not matter how they help you. What matters is the help available in any form. You have to decide and choose the path and step.
  3. Celebrate even if it is a small milestone. Do not worry if others join or not. You must celebrate. Celebration is biggest source of motivating yourself.
  4.  Must not hurry and take short cuts. Searching for shortcuts can land you in trouble. Shortcuts and hastiness are enemy of a sustainable success.

Most importantly
first attempt 2