Category Archives: Change Management

Relationship

Going by www.etymonline.com, the word Relationship in use since the 1640s and had its meaning as “sense or state of being related.” Over time (by about 1944) it was more related to romantic or sexual relationships. While users have continued to use the word in various context, none reflect the complete understanding. Each user has his/her intent of using the word.

Relationships exist all through our life; in personal as well as in business. I cannot even imagine a meaningful and successful life without any relationship. I have been thinking on this word as in recent time, I have come across very strange and varied interpretations of the word. I have tried to create a mind map around the word “relationship.” I am confident it is not an exhaustive representation. At some point, I started having difficulty in drawing the mindmap as there were too many cross-links. I guess that is what a relationship can mean.

The map is self explanatory in most instances. For ease of reading the map, let me explain one dimension. The relation with mother can exist at different levels:

  1. Each one of us is connected with our mother right from the time we were in her womb.
  2. She possibly has a dominant impact on our mind space. She is part of the forming stage of our life. That Napolean said, “Give me good mothers: I will give you a good nation.”
  3. Our soul constantly connects with our mother even after her life.  Spiritually, the Shraddha done in Gaya has special significance for mother.

However, “Purpose” of relationship may not connect with every relationship. For example, any attempt to have a relationship with the mother with “Materialistic” objectives will always end in a bitter experience for both though the bitterness may not be experienced at the same time. However, the devotional and spiritual relationship can exist with anyone. There are several examples of such relationships. Ramakrishna Paramhansa is believed to have worshipped his wife as a goddess.

Any relationship to last, there has to be a two-way component in the relationship, with few exceptions. The two-way component reflects the famous WIN_WIN paradigm. However, that does not exist in some relationship (to the best of my knowledge). for example:

  1. Relationship with mother can never be bidirectional. Our scriptures have stated “माता कुमाता न भवति”. This implies irrespective of what son may do to her, she will always wish her well.
  2. The relationship between Master and Slave will not be bi-directional. The slave never gets anything in return that is useful to him/her.

One dimension which may often go unnoticed is the relationship with oneself. Our attachment with our physical body reflects the permanency of the relationship. The last this any human wants to give up is his/her body. This dimension of the relationship with oneself often a source of all negative emotions like Anger, Pain, etc. The Ethereal relationship reflects the spiritual state of mind of an individual. In this form of relationship, one connects with his/her soul. Most saints and “siddha purusha” are in that state.

Samudra Manthan

The Samudra Manthan (Sanskrit: समुद्रमन्थन, lit. churning of the ocean) is one of the best-known episodes in the Hindu mythology narrated in the Bhagavata Purana, in the Mahabharata, and in the Vishnu Purana. The Samudra Manthan explains the origin of Amrita, the nectar of immortality.

The word मन्थन can be understood in two different ways in English –  Churning and Agitating. The process of thinking can have

  1. “churning” effect, that brings our best from us in the same as we get butter from the curd when we churn the curd
  2. “agitating” effect, that brings depression or confusion. One agitates contents in a vessel to mix it well. A good agitation brings out an outcome where the individual entity is not visible,

Our thinking process (intellectual process) should bring out best outcomes

The churning of the Ocean of Milk was an elaborate process: Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, a nāgarāja who abides on Shiva’s neck, became the churning rope. The Asuras demanded to hold the head of the snake, while the Devas, taking advice from Vishnu, agreed to hold its tail. Vishnu, in the form of the Kurma turtle, came to their rescue and supported the mountain on his shell.

The churning of supposed to have brought out

table 1Anyone who has practiced some form of meditation would realize that during meditation mind does go through some churning before it settles at the higher states of realization. In this process a lot of ideas, thoughts, visualization does appear. Some of them would be wanted, and some would be unwanted. The terms “wanted” and “unwanted” is one’s perspective. For example, No one wanted Halahala (Poison), but everyone fought for Amrit (Nectar).

I have personally experienced that some good ideas do appear when you are meditating on a particular topic or issue. Churning happens even when one is not performing meditation. When we focus on a subject, churning occurs in our mind.

Next time when you are meditating or focusing on something, remember the story of Samudra Manthan, you would appreciate what goes around your thought process.

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.

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).