Sunday, September 16, 2007
Fundamental theme has to be that employee is responsible for his life, what he is and what he wants to be. Organizations are only a context. Like family is a context. What is the context? Like families fulfill a certain need of the human being which is emotional need, feeling of completeness, organizations too fulfill a certain context for the employee. The context provides the employee to learn, to grow, to fulfill need to make money, to express his potential.
Seen in this context, the employee - organization relationship moves beyond the relationship that can come from a contract. A contract is where something is given and something taken. Here the relationship is between the human being and the context, where the goal is the expression of the individual. It is the same as that of a nation-citizen. A human being-family. They are not complete, they are not perfect; simlilary organizations should also be able to take such a position, and only such a position. Anything else will make them feel inadequate and imbalanced.
Strengths will enable a person know what he can do well. So what should one do when one finds that he is in a role which requires some other kind of strength. He then has two options. Either he gets out of the situation and finds a place where he can exercise his strengths or learns to manage the situation. The best way to manage the situation is to acknowledge the strengths and the lacuna as well. Let us assume that I am not good at people management but am a brilliant tecnical guy. But my role demands that I involve myself with people. Then maybe I should bring in a person who will help me fill this gap. This is not something new. Even CEOs take help. What are boards for. They bring together different kinds of strenghts and fill something which he may need, but is by himself not capable of producing. Things fail when we make a pretense that this can be met. Typical problems confronts the managers. They are into the position and then they are left high and dry expected to fill all that is required for the role.
Yes, if you can think that a challenge at work or home can be done, you are most likely to achieve the same. At the same time, if one has doubts it can be achieved, then success is unlikely. Because when the mind sets about the task in a positive framework, then it’s easy to cross any hurdle that we may face.
All successful folks began with positive thoughts and dreams. Bill Gates, Pete Sampras, Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, etc. each one of them had a goal, believed they could get there, put in efforts and never lost hope at any point in time.
Think of the small things you achieved at school, home or workplace. Did you not start with the thought that you could do it? Did you not have the faith in yourself to succeed in the task? Yes, you can recall that you didn’t have any pressure on you at that point in time. You knew that if you’re focused, you could certainly complete the job at hand.
Starting with a clear mind, goals and thoughts is like beginning a formula one race with a fabulous vehicle filled with gas. Hence you start so positively, the confidence builds up to get you nearer the dream.
“Champions aren’t made in the gym. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill,” said the boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Positive thinking is like a tonic, like fuel that can drive you to success. Make it a habit to start with an advantage and you will get ahead in life. Success is all yours.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
By collectivism I mean bring into the open, for more people to share, participate in, contribute to a common cause; or sometimes not so common a cause. Individualism, on the other hand, means a greater expression of an individual's character, profile, potential.
If we take the web and some of the most commonly used applications or utilities in the web which include Wikipedia and Google, I find that without the collective thought process or contribution they will not hold any meaning or possibility. The simple truth here is the willingness to share ones abilities and knowledge to a common purpose - enhancement of knowledge. At the same time what does the web or even these utilities encourage. Expression of the individual self. By having access to vast expanse of knowledge in terms of breadth and depth one is able to go deeper into his/her pursuit of chosen sphere of knowledge, and therefore express his or her self in a more concrete manner. One is able delve deeper into his her interest, multiply the expression further.
Without the individual contribution, collectivism would not be possible. Without the collective knowledge or spirit, individualism may not flourish. They are linked to each other. They propogate each other. They strengthen each other.
What has made collective individualism possible and strong. Technology.
It is not about information technology alone. It is technology in every area. Some of which come to my mind include - supply chain management, entertainment elctronics, bio-technology etc. Take the example of the impact of supply chain management. What is the objecitve of the advancement in SCM - making it possible for the individual preferences to be brought closer to the individual. This will be possible only if we are able to aggregate bits of individual needs into economically viable units, and then be able to disperse them economically closest to the individual.
Technology has enabled and made this possible. Individual is able to exercise a greater choice when he or she goes to nearest super market. Choices in entertainment electronics has made it possible to economically create diversity of entertainment; and also bringing it closest to the individual and that too through various media. Earlier there was one channel in black white shown in the evening for a fixed number of hours. Contrast this to access to entertainment today.
Undelying this collective indivudalism is the ever prevailing nature of human being. Which is to expand his self - externally and also internally.
Primordial needs are getting expressed in many by taking diverse forms and names. Strengthening of the individual expression. Strengthening of the colelctive expression too.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
There was a time when company's bound employees through golden handcuffs to retain them in the company. The forms included deferred bonus, esops, loans etc. These do exist in many companies even today, but employees are not very receptive to these ideas and would prefer not to enter into these handcuffs voluntarily.
There is one other kind of handcuff which most corporate professionals have locked themselves into. Voluntarily. They cannot get away with it for years. That is the handcuff of the EMI. Today most professionals have taken loans of huge amounts mostly for purchase of house. The EMIs form anywhere between 60% to 80% of the monthly salary. Earlier nett take home, to decide to move from one company to another, was calculated as monthly fixed cash minus tax payable. Now the nett take home is calculated as monthly fixed cash minus tax minus EMI.
The EMI handcuff has lot of significance. EMI assumes a steady outflow month on month. This means a steady income is needed to service the EMI. If one does not like ones job and wants to move to a job where the pay may not be great but the experience of work is great, one cannot take it. One cannot take a break from work or corporate life to pursue other interests for a while, maybe study, travel etc. One cannot afford to consider entrepreneurship as an option because entrepreneurship means a risk and thus a possibility of unsteady cash flow. One may decide that he could live with lesser money but the banks will not allow you to exercise this option. People crib about their job, the meaninglessness in it, the stress it creates, the imbalance in work-life because of it. Nevertheless they have to be there in the office at 9 the next morning otherwise the EMI cheque will bounce at the beginning of the next month.
We hear of loyalty of people to companies coming down. However, there is another form of loyalty which has got strengthened. People are more loyal to the banks which have given them the loans than to the companies. People can change companies. Can they change banks so easily? One friend of mine has shifted four companies in the last five years. He has been servicing the same bank in the that period. They get more communication from the banks than they get from the company in which they work.
Btw, we also seem to get addicted to the EMIs. When one comes to an end we need to add a new one. When salaries increase and the ratio of the salary to EMI comes down, we will take one more loan and ensure the ratio comes back to its normalcy. Maybe we will buy one more house or one more facier car.
Earlier, spouses particularly the wives were frustrated having to go to work, manage the kids, prepare food, take care of in laws. Now EMIs have been added to the list. A neighbour of mine working in one of the big IT companies had the same complaint. She is tired of doing all that is expected of her in the role of a wife. Now she has to also contribute to the EMI though she would otherwise like to stop working in the corporate. Contribution to EMI is included in the criteria for shortlisting the partner for life.
Life decisions seem to revolve around EMIs.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Business plans carry lots of information starting with the idea, followed by whole lot of things on money, technology, methodology, timelines et al. People are not given the prominence and are treated as one more aspect to be covered. However, in my view the foremost need in a business and thus the business plan is the people who are going to own the business from planning to execution. Mind you not parts of it like sales.
In order to assess a business plan one should evaluate the people who are going to manage the business. Show me the people who are going to running a business plan first and then the business plan. The people who are going to run or execute a business plan are more important and the the deciding factor compared to the others i.e. those numbers, excel sheets and ppts.
If we can assess the people on their business acumen, commitment to the business or the alignment to the project, approach to the augmentation and deployment of knowledge and skills, ability to take a long term view, result orientation, attitudinal alignment of the people with that required for the business everything else will fall in place and things will happen.
Business plans are only that - plans. They are drawn on assumptions of the future context. The future contexts will change. Only thing which keep the idea going will be the people who run or own the project. The right people will appreciate changes and keeping in view the long term goals, make changes to the plans and make the desired results happen.
I used to see in the companies I worked that guys will go and sell to the customers projects with their ppts and other information. Then when the order comes there is chaos. No talent will be available. Extreme pressures will come up. Some projects die. Customers feel let down. All because we did not put people in the front. I myself have learnt this from running an enterprise. I have come up with couple of ideas in the past. The ideas which, of course I felt were excellent, but were also acknowledged by others as being excellent. But then when it came to a point of take off I had to shelve the project because I did not have the people to make it happen.
Business plans should start with the people who are going to run the business. It should begin with saying A, B and C are going to run this business. Give details of A, B and C. They should be allow to express themselves on the business plan.
If we have the right people even if the plan is wrong the business will make it.
If we have the wrong people even if the plan is right the business will not make it.
Lets put people first in the business plans.
Gulf prospered with the discovery of oil in the regions. Suddenly coutries there became rich. Propserity zoomed.
Lets consider some facts:
1. Indian population makes up for one sixth of the gloabl population. Our population is one billion in the world's population of six billion.
2. I quote here exhaustively from the article "The battle for brainpower" in the Economist, Oct 5th, 2006. Ageing population will have dramtic effect in Europe and Japan. By 2025 the number of people aged 15 - 64 is projected to fall by 7% in Germany, 9% in Italy and 14% in Japan. Im America retitrement of the baby-boomers which has just started will mean companies will lose large numbers of experienced workers over a short period of time. Biggest companies will lose half their senior managers in the next 5 years or so.
Economics will require manpower in the countries which will face large scale shortfall of manpower. This will mean that Indian manpower will be sought after. This may not be just in the area of IT, but even at the lower level jobs. Legislation will be the biggest restricting factor. But economics will govern. Politics will follow economics. Legislation will follow politics. Economics will mean that people will find ways of getting the necessary labour where they need to keep the economic engine going. Maybe illegally too.
But population itself is only a raw material like crude oil. Unless crude is refined it is of no use. So also with the manpower. Unless it is educated, skilled and employable the numbers itself mean nothing.
But the good thing is that the awareness of Indian talent has been increasing over the years and will increase over the coming years. Fifteen to twenty years later those who are good at refining the raw material into meaningful skilled talent, like the large Indian IT companies, will tend to benefit. MNCs or anyone ouside will have to give up the view of being able to get trained resources off the shelf. If they want talent in large numbers they will have to be able to invest in the refining process.
Govt will not be in a position to create adequate infrastructure to provide the right kind of education. Private investment has been happening in the post schooling education, but the primary education is still a big domain of the government and this is not going to move fast enough to keep pace with the need. Economics will find its own path for fulfilling its course.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Is outsourcing something new?
To look at this we need to define outsourcing first. Outsourcing is a way of gettings done which will help in doing things which you want to do. I want to create customer delight for which I need to do many things - create quality products, ensure my employees deliver, ensure customer service and all that. So in order to do that I do some things internally and then get somethings from outside. Things which I am not either good at or do not have the scale to do it effectively and efficiently. In effect there is a contirbution by people within and outside of my organisation boundaries. So if outsourcing is bringing in contribution of people outside my organisation into the fold of delivering the goods and services, then along the history such contributions have been happening.
Lets try and trace the route of the final food prepared by my mother - rice. To cook the rice she needed the raw rice, water, LPG, gas stove. The rice came from the retail vendor near our house. He got the rice from the wholesale seller of rice in Chennai who in turn bought it from a "mandi" in Andhra Pradesh, who bought from different farmers in the nearby areas. In order to grow the crop the farmer needed good fertlizer. Where did it come from? Maybe a plant in Gujarat? What all went into the fertiliser - potassium, calcium, soda etc. Apart from that they needed gas or other form of fuel. Where did these come from. Some came from Bihar. Some from came from West Africa. The gas came from the gas fields in the Middle East. Who operated these gas fields? Some of the engineers from Britain? How did they get the knowledge for doing the drilling? They were educated in a college in London? Where did the paper for the books they studied from come? They came from trees in the Indonesia?.........................
The rice which I eat has had a contribution of so many nationals and geographies. So what's new with the current buzz of outsourcing?
Everyone and everything has been contributing to the existence of every other being and thing right through. They all contribute to each other. They are all connected. Only we are seeing it in a more explicit manner, maybe closer to our eyes now.
In response to appreciation of the rupee against the dollar, I have read/heard that companies are looking at alternate models for the business, need to accept lower profitability levels, increasing of billing rates, increasing the work hours of employees etc. Why is that we do not hear of talks about decreasing of the salaries?
Salaries in IT industry is by far the highest compared to that in any other industry in India. Why is the salary level in IT companies high in the first place. Companies which were running the IT companies started paying much higher than counterparts in other industries. That is to say someone in IT industry was paid much higher in IT company than his colleague who also had made his mark in the company or industry. This was primarily because the earnings in IT industry were in dollars. Lots of dollars poured in. The employees were paid high because it made sense to share this large gain from the dollar revenue by the companies with the employees. The salary was factored on the revenue, there was no other reason other than this.
To take an example and then are real examples for this. If a company had two divisions, lets say one in IT export and the other in manufacturing, then the employees in the first division were paid significantly higher than the employees in the second division, simply because the first division earned revenue in dollars and the second in rupees.
The traditional demand-supply rule for determining the salaries did not apply then. i.e. post 1995 when IT in India started booming and every company was trying to retain and attract talent mostly from other companies. Times were also good on the billing front. So profitability remained high and growth was taken for granted. Post 2002, the scenario on compensation re-emerged but with with one very critical additional factor - entry of MNCs, captive units, start-ups, all of which made it a cut throat competition. Nevertheless, growth was sustainably high. Revenues crossed the billion dollar mark.
But my own judgment is that compensation for one sector cannot remain significantly higher than that for other industries if the basic qualities in the manpower are not different. To me a civil engineer with 6 years of experience and working in a hydro project in Assam is as critical as a mechanical engineer working in tool & die shop in Jalandhar or a chemical engineer working on an oil platform off the Mumbai basin. To me their contributions are as important as that of a software engineer in Banagluru. It is accepted that differences based on the industry will be there. There will also be other factors like whether it is a sunrise industry, demand and supply, growth of the industry as such etc. But it is difficult to fathom the very significant difference in the salary levels between IT industry and others.
Somewhere along there has to be a balance. It cannot be that one sector alone gets paid considerably higher than other sector. The same demand and supply will even this out at some time. If sector A generates lot of foreign exchange and pays its employees high, at some time the foreign exchange reserve will increase and will thus will see the local currency level appreciate, which then lower the local revenue value of the foreign revenue which will then mean a lower capacity to pay the employees which means that the local salary levels have to come down.
I do not see how this trend can be countered. It has to happen. Its happening will also be for the good. Because it will narrow the differential between that for one segment vis a vis the other segment which is healthy from a social and economic point of view. People will not run behind education in one particular stream and thereby reducing the availability of manpower for other sectors. One segment of the population will alone not be the reason for pushing up costs right from the auto fares to real estates. Slow and steady increase in income levels will bring in a better appreciation of the value of money.
Maybe the employee will be able to realise things which his seniors in the industry enjoyed at the early stages of his employment and will have to wait for a longer period of time now. Which is good because it will bring parity with his counterparts in other industries.
Why then companies are hesitating to relook at the salaries of their employees? Why cannot we go ahead and say that we are going to decease your salary now. Earlier the exchange rate helped us pay your high salaries. Now that they are unfavourable we have to pay you lower. Maybe it is because of the fear of losing out employees. Maybe such a thought itself is blasphemous. Actually money alone does not matter either for attrition or retention.
Salary decreases are inevitable. If economics kept the salary levels high, then it is the economics which bring them down. companies will have to succumb to this at some point. Someone has to bell the cat. Some leader will emerge who will lead the way and as usual there will be others who will follow.
The web is a great example for this. What does the web do? It brings everything in the public domain under one signle umbrella. Everything gets connected. No barriers of time or space. Maybe everyone is a netizen - a citizen of the networked world. The actual citizenship linked to the nations does not matter. The web breaks down the barriers of nations, age, religion, caste, creed, time zones, language and brings them all to the same platform. None of these matter for one to become a netizen. We are all of the same ciitizenship. How marvellous!!!
The same web also is helping in individualization. Individualization by way of creating opporutnities to individuals to pursue ones own interest and uniqueness, and strengthen the uniqueness. Earlier maybe I did not know how to express my idea, where to go to express them, how to get feedback on them, how to improve my thought process. Today I can use the web to do all these. In the process, I strengthen my individualization. Businesses get created because I know avenues to express ideas and find the means to execute them.
The paradox of division and one is not new. It is all along been studied, accepted and expressed in the Hindu philosophy. The atman or Brahman is one. It is infinite and eternal. The world is divided epxpression of the one.
The web is only an example for us to appreciate the truth of divided yet one. Oneness in the many. Many in the oneness.
This in fact came up in my discussion with a friend of mine who is working in one of the top five Indian IT companies. He is a HR professional. He was facing exactly the same dilemma. Last two years he spent in a particular sub function within HR rather than do a generalist HR role. He was wondering whether he should move into another sub function of HR, get a few years experience specializing in that sub function and eventually move into a generalist role. Or should he move to generalist HR role rightaway.
In my own assessment of business history world over, career profiles of achievers, countries which developed or did not develop, I feel that there are no two ways about this dilemma. One needs to specialise. Period.
Now, one clarification is warranted here. Even generalization needs specialization. For one to shine in a generalist (management) function, one needs to specialize in that space. We will discus this further later.
If we look at achievers the world over and over time, we see that each of the achievers specialized in some field or the other. Muscians, painters, writers, scientists, biologists, technlogists, teachers, gurus, business leaders chose some area and went deep into it to gain mastery over it. We do not have musicians who will dabble with different instruments. Scientists do not move from one field of research to another and then yet another. Companies to have specialised in some area/product/service to grow and become soemthing there.
This is a natural process. How can anyone gain mastery over something if we do not go deeper and deeper into it. Mastery requires continuous learning, experimentation, innovation, research, application of knowledge, sharpening of skills. All these will come only with focused effort over long time. Dilution of the focus will only lead to diffusion of energy and thus blurring of the image of the output.
Maybe we can question whether this applicable to a field like management where the main theme is engagement of resources in an effective manner, to achieve a desired output. Here again unless we specialize in this field of effective engagement of resources, by applying knowledge, skills in different contexts of time and space, learning from them to refine the ability to deploy the resources, one cannot gain mastery over the field.
To me USA is a great nation which could be an example of this. It is a nation which has encouraged and continues to ecourage specalists in every field; from science to humanities. No wonder maximum number of nobel laureates are from the USA. So also technology, engineering and scientific innovations. They have also specilized in business. Many of the world class businesses are managed, funded, invested in by the financial aggregrators who have specialised in spotting, and nurturing, taking risks, making financial judgements, financial solutions. One is to do with the depth and the other is to do width. Either way only if one expands these with clear focus will one be able to gain mastery over the field.
So what should one choose - specialization or generalization? On what basis should the choice be made? It should be made on an inner calling. Only an inner calling willl give the necessary passion to focus the energies and gain mastery. The reason cannot be external. The external focus will lead to mediocrity by way of being hung between the specialization and generlaisation. Listen to the inner voice which tells one what he or she is good at doing or would like to do. Once we listen to it we need to pursue the same.
Maybe for econmonic, social or historic reasons we did not have the luxury of following the inner calling. But at least those who are above the two levels of Maslow's heirarchy need to look inward and start pursing the specialization. That is what human freedom is all about. Pursuing one's freedom.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
My concern, however, is that this car is going to cause social chaos in India.
The issue is whether the already highly stretched infrastrucuture will be able to take an steep increase in the number of cars. As it is the infrastructure is cracking and is creating enormous discomfort to the citizens.
Here are some numbers I am quoting from a site: http://www.ctn.org.in/cms/content/view/54/106/
The total number of motor vehicles in Chennai Metropolitan Area has increased from 144,282 in 1984 to 1,674,185 in 2005.
The vehicle population has grown at the rate of 50% per annum during this period.
The number of two-wheelers has grown enormously from 87,000 in 1984 to 1,266, 114 in 2005, at the rate of about 65% per annum.
If I assume that the number of two wheelers are increasing at the rate of 20% annually.
And that 10% of those who intend to purchase two wheeler go for the car instead. This is an assumption from an article published on this car in a leading business weekly).
This would mean an addition of around 20000 cars. Of course in the initial few years of the introduction of the car this kind of addition will not be possible because of the production capacity.
Will our road be able to take on this kind of additional car traffic? This is not going to be possible. What then would be the consequence?
- Flats which were purchased by the middle and lower middle class do not facility to park cars. They did not assume that they will be purchasing cars so early in their life or career. Now they will not have space to park the car they purchase. Some will try to squeeze in the car into the apartment complex. But most will have to park their cars on the public roads. This will narrow the width of the roads further and reduce the space available for moving vehicles on the roads leading to further congestion.
- Traffic will choke at most roads. even without the 1 lac rupee car traffic during the peak hours are very high.
- Higher level of pollution and thus health problems caused by them
- People will race against time. They will get delayed. They will spend a greater amount of time in jams and signals. Tempers will fly. Stress will increase. This will show on their health, their relationships with office colleagues and family members.
Some positive actions may emerge:
- shifting of population to the outskirts, de-congesting the metropolis areas
- greater pressure on the Govt to improve the infrastructure, to come up with newer projects including in areas like public transport, to complete projects with greater urgency
- of course, improvement in employment by way of ancillary industries and services
On the whole I fear there will severe social impplications coming from the coming of the 1 lac rupee car.
Communicate with Colleagues
Whether you like it or not, you have to communicate to co-workers. It doesn’t mean you have to be nice at all times to people you don’t like. It only means one must recognize co-workers with a hello or smile. Or else you may face criticism or gossip during the breaks. Starting with a positive attitude to be good to people around will make your life at work peaceful. This will make life at office happy and you’ll feel great coming over every morning.
Don’t say Negative Things
Refrain from talking ill of colleagues. This will save you a lot of trouble. I mean even if you don’t like the turn of someone’s nose, keep it to yourself. Or share it with someone you trust. Never say something negative in a group. It reflects badly on your personality. It’s tough to be like this but thing of the tremendous benefits. There’s always positive energy around you at work. Bosses can easily get a feel of whether co-workers are looking forward to your leadership. This will become critical when you are in line for a bigger responsibility.
Bosses want you to be Professional
Be professional with regard to bosses. Showing overt eagerness to be in bosses’ good books is seen by many as unprofessional and also assesses as a sign of incompetence. So it’s best to carry out the challenges assigned and maintain cordial relationship with bosses. Remember to show initiative and take reasonable risks at work. Keep bosses posted about critical developments, even when the work has not been completed.
Resolve Misunderstandings Quickly
Have you run into trouble with someone? Connect and resolve the misunderstanding as soon as possible. Speak to the person concerned and be frank. Everyone makes mistakes, but the world loves folks who admit the same. Make up rightaway.
Show genuine interest in people regardless of tags. Managers always love folks who are people-oriented. We are full of emotions and keeping relationships well oiled means we are on the road to peace and success.