Category Archives: Management Thoughts


Going by, 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.


Do Entrepreneurs need a Coach (GURU)?

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुर्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः 
गुरुरेव परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥१॥
Gurur-Brahmaa Gurur-Vissnnur-Gururdevo Maheshvarah |
Gurure[-I]va Param Brahma Tasmai Shrii-Gurave Namah ||1||

The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru Deva is Maheswara (Shiva), The Guru is Verily the Para-Brahman (Supreme Brahman); Salutations to that Guru.

Guru is the Creator or Generator; Vishnu is Manager; Shiva is Destroyer or Terminator. They are called Trinity of Hinduism. In the eyes of the Creator, all his creation is equal. Unfortunately, there are desirable and undesirable in every creation. Managers bring harmony among all creations and provide from everyone based on their merits/demerits. When Undersiarable becomes a sore, Shiva destroys them. Shiva absorbs /destroys all negative forces in the society.

Every Entrepreneur is a Brahma. He converts his dreams and creates an organization to fructify his dreams. With all good intent and positive energies, most entrepreneurs fail. Why do they fail?

  • Do they run out of idea?
  • Do they run out of money?

There are several research papers on the failures of the entrepreneurs. Not sure if anyone of them is conclusive.

One needs to understand the journey of an entrepreneur. All successful and growing organization go through the phases about the size of the organization. In the book Blitzscaling by  Reid Hoffman refers to stages of the organization:

In Family and Tribe stage, Entrepreneur plays all the three roles. He tends to control everything while he is creating. He is the one who is expected to troubleshoot. He is expected to fight against his evil. In a family or tribe, this may work. In family size organization it works. There are pressure points as the organization approaches the tribal size. The entrepreneur continues to think that he can play all the three roles. While he does play at his best, but the best is often not enough. He starts losing his steam and often destroys himself.

If the entrepreneur has managed to pass through the Tribal stage, he has a better chance of success if sheds some of his role as Trinity.  The management of the village should be left to people who can manage it. The entrepreneur should focus on creation and procreation through his organization. The challenge at this stage is his ability to give up his role as “manager.” He puts someone in place but continues to manage in the proxy. This often creates significant bottlenecks in growing. Many start failing here.

Once the organization is more than 1000, the entrepreneur should consider diluting his role as Trinity. The faster he does higher is the probability of organization growing faster. He does not need to give up, but he has to dilute and empower others to create, manage and destroy.

This sounds so simple. But then why the entrepreneur is not able to follow this. Moving from one stage to another is not an easy journey psychologically.

When you relinquish the desire to control your future,
you can have more happiness. – Nicole Kidman

One needs to have someone who will guide him and manage his emotions through the process. This person is a GURU (Mentor/ Coach). AN entrepreneur must choose a Guru for his success. Most entrepreneurs do not invest in coaching themselves. They often consider this an unnecessary and waste of time and money.

Once the entrepreneur has a GURU, his chance of success multiplies.

अखण्डमण्डलाकारं व्याप्तं येन चराचरम् ।
तत्पदं दर्शितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥

Akhanda Mandalaakaaram
Vyaaptam Yenam charaacharam
Tatpadam Darshitam Yena
Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha.

Guru can guide us to the supreme knowledge of THAT which pervades all the living and non-living beings in the entire Universe. I salute such a Guru.

अज्ञानतिमिरान्धस्य ज्ञानाञ्जनशलाकया ।
चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥

Agnyaana Timiraandhasya
Gnyaana Anjana Shalaakayaa
Chakshuhu Unmeelitam Yenam
Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha.

A Guru can save us from the pangs of ignorance (darkness) by applying to us the balm of knowledge or awareness of the Supreme; I salute such a Guru.

स्थावरं जंगमं व्याप्तं यत्किंचित्सचराचरम् ।
तत्पदं दर्शितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥

Sthaavaram Jangamam Vyaaptam
Yatkinchit Sacharaa Charam
TatPadam Darshitam Yena
Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha.

That Guru who can enlighten us about the all-pervading consciousness present in all the three states (of activity, dream and deep sleep state), I salute such a Guru.


Leadership Qualities – from Ramayana

The Ramayana is one of the most important epics for Hindus. Several people are credited with for narrating the epic story of Lord Rama. Ramayana written by Maharishi Valmiki is considered to be oldest and base for all other Ramayanas written later.

A particular section in the epic is relevant for this discussion. After Rama was sent to exile for fourteen years, Bharata (his brother) was to be crowned as King. Bharata refused to accept the Kingship and he goes to meet Rama in exile. He  requests Rama to come back and accept Kingship.

When Bharata meets Rama in his exile, Rama first enquires from him on his Kingship (read Leadership). The verses are provided below.

Verse from ramayana

These verses, in essence, define the character of Good Leaders. The terms used in these verses need to be reviewed in the context of the period of Kingship. For understanding  Leadership Qualities from these verses, the following correspondence should be considered.

Blog Ramayana Table

The lesson is structured by explaining what a leader must not be. Poor characteristics of a leader based on these verses can be represented as below. The boxes in “cloud” shape is explained further after the mind map:


Non- Believer

While the word in the verse translates into an “atheist,” it is important to understand that one who does not believes himself or in his/her abilities can never be a good leader. Belief in self is the most important characteristics of an individual from any perspective.

Deciding without consulting

While a leader has to take the final decision, but not involving key people in the process of decision making has a greater risk for the organization. In today’s complex business environment, the knowledge lies with several experts within and outside the organization.

Taking advice from incompetent people

Consulting incompetent people is worse than deciding without consulting. The impact could be worse.


Hunting in the Ramayana period refers to the passing time of kings. The practice was to go for hunting. However, hunting can be a big distractor for kings if that becomes a priority. Secondly hunting in a way a destructive approach to the natural resources.

In his advice to Bharata, Rama identified the type of people who should not be considered as Leaders. The mind map below would help one identifying such people.

The boxesin “cloud” shape is explained further after the mind map.:


Criticize Gods and Brahamans (can be read as Brahmin also)

If one ignores the religious and caste context to it, (based on the understanding of the period that the epic corresponds to), God corresponds to Regulatory and Legal authorities. Brahmans represent the Inteligencia Class. One cannot succeed by merely criticizing these sections of the society. Business has to be carried out in a given regulatory environment. One can manage and influence regulatory environment depending on the status in society, but cannot go against it.

Without Armed Forces

Armed Forces for King is same as capable resources for a leader in the organization. A leader’s success is dependent on the follower that he(she) builds.

Penalised by Gods

A convicted person should not be a leader of an organization.

Qualities of Good Leaders

Essential knowledge

  • Vedas

Vedas represents principles of life and its ecosystem. The leaders need to have the understanding of philosophy and principles of organization and business. One must recognize that this is nothing to do with educational qualification. This refers to the maturity of an individual. There are many successful leaders who are school dropouts but have vast knowledge.

  • Farming

Farming also means Operating and Growing. The leader must know how to operate and run his system. A good leader must be able to grow himself, his team, his organization.

  • Cattle farming

Cattle also means  ‘Stocks”.  Stocks in the modern business sense can imply Inventories and the shareholding. A good leader should manage his/her inventory and the shareholding to protect the interests of all stakeholders.

  • Legal/ regulatory

The leader must understand the legal and regulatory of the business in the country of business. Ignorance is not bliss. This knowledge is essential to make effective use of the statutory provision to enhance once business. The regulatory framework is part of the environment. The difference between successful and rest is how one has understood the framework and effectively used.

Essential Abilities

  • Stay connected with the enemy

Read the enemy as a competitor. Keeping a tab on what is happening in competitor space is essential. The ability to get such information is an integral component of the organizational strategy.

  • Engage in battle

The days of monopoly is always short. In today’s context, it is more relevant as one cannot avoid competition in most business. One needs to engage in competition. Engaging in battle here could mean the leader must be able to keep positioning differently in the market and also keep building strategies for creating differentiation internally,

  • Attack enemy

At some stage in the business, one may need to take on the competitor directly in the marketplace.  Price wars in the market space are prevalent. One has also seen the battle in courts between competitors.

  • Wait for opportunity

Patience is a great virtue. One must wait for the right opportunity. Leaders can sight the opportunity and strike at the right time. Untimely initiatives often boomerang.

  • Multipronged startegy

Plan A and Plan B are the most commonly known term in the context of organizational planning.  Looking into different aspects identifies weak spots and hence increase the chances of success.

  • Collaborate with enemy

Coopetition is the norm for many successful businesses today.  This is also known as cooperative competition. However one must be watchful of such practice. It is easy to move from collaborating to forming cartels. Cartels in the most regulatory environment are not permitted.

  • Recognising External threats

The organization who work on Business Continuity Plan understands this well. One needs to be prepared for external threats of nature. The epic lists the dangers that were possibly prevalent then. They are Fire, Flood, Epidemic, Famine.

  • Recognising Internal Threat

The biggest threats are the ones that come from within. Some of them are the acts of greed (seeking gratification) by the Leader, his Officers and his Close Aides. Also, a good leader should be aware of the thieves and enemies person within he / her organization.

Disclaimer: This is my interpretation of the text. This does not be considered as a translation of the Epic Ramayana.

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.


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

  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 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.

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 ( 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.