December 12, 2013

Future of work

During college days, being part of a communist party student movement we conducted programs and meetings explaining to students and trade unions, the impact of Uruguay Round of GATT and formation of WTO in 1994.

The world is talking more about future of work.  Thought leadership, initiatives, movements and legislations are continuously shaping the future of work.  The period of industrialization has shaped the way we produce and therefore the way we live.  Now it is the social media, mobile, analytics and cloud computing that will change the way we produce and live.


Cloud working

In late 2009, Malcolm Frank of Cognizant delivered a talk about Future of work in Managers Meet for Cognizant India.  That meeting by itself, in a way was an example of Future of Work.  We connected about 2500 managers from 36 different locations across the country over two-way videoconference.

The future of work concern, initiates from the voice of the investor about returns on investment and inventory turns.  This voice directs the energy towards capacity and capability building. Frank talked about the market, the opportunities in the market as a result of SMAC.

Stowe Boyd talks about employees becoming 3D+D.  Employees are distributed, discontinuous and decentralized.  The discussion this article is trying to initiate is about the fourth D: disengagement.

Disengagement reduces voluntary effort to contribute and increases intent to depart the organization. Business Leaders are experiencing difficulty keeping their team connected to task.  When keeping them engaged to task being difficult, how do managers keep the employees continuously connected to the purpose?

  • What will drive the employees to up skill and feel valued constantly?
  • How do we ensure that employees know and stay connected to their customers?
  • What will make the employees make efforts to continuously improve throughput?

Attracting talent, ushering performance and retention remain issues and become perennial problems to some organizations because the team does not have answers for these three questions.  Organizations have tried and tested many systems and process that were known to be successful in one organization not being so in another. All “**** Way” books that gets published are technically the same.

The answer to the above three questions remain tacit knowledge with those successful organizations.  It is the tacit knowledge of the leadership team and the leader.  The answer is unique to every organization.  If every individual is unique so will the organization be. Solutions search for one organization’s problem cannot be found in another organization’s experience.

It takes effort to build up the tacit knowledge.

November 13, 2013

Men don’t laugh, Women wouldn’t cry

When this client of ours gave us a mandate to work on emotional intelligence learning program, it looked like satellite launch ahead for us.  Uh.  May be not a satellite launch.  But, at least, like making a UAV.  It was a big task because we want the program to work.  In an environment where soft skills training programs are considered un-productive and just fun time off from work, it is obviously a mission ahead.

It took a while for us to realise that learning program requirements like Assertiveness, Negotiation and Emotional Intelligence are the ground reality.  Business leadership is looking forward to remove performance setbacks at individual level as well as at organisation level.


Imagine an organization where every individual knows how to respond, is emotionally intelligent.  Imagine an organization where one to one transaction works like tic-tock of a clock.  Imagine an organization where one to many and many to one communication works like a satellite link.

How do we make it work?  Research on work done by Reuven Bar On, Joshua Freedman and Daniel Goleman helped us understand where the current learning program deliveries in the market are anchored.

The programs are rational.  They are anchored at the struggle of individuals for liberation of the outward.  The programs are designed with belief that every individual can be brought to same level of outward and inward consciousness.

We however believe that every individual cannot be and need not be brought to the same level of outward and inward consciousness.  We believe that limits of outward and inward consciousness vary for every individual depending on his life search and his environment.  So the approach to the program is to enable a person, as a person, to be a person, not any particular type of person.

With these inputs we now have put together a learning session built on individual experiences. A program that is emotionally anchored and rationally structured.  Our work with theatres and dance, and our research helped build an emotionally anchored and rationally structured program.

We hope that at the end of this people will identify and break stereotypes that limit them. Men will have genuine laugh and even cry.  Women will cry unpretentious and laugh too.  Take-away are possibly customized for every individual. Their level of inward and outward consciousness defines individual take away.  As for the organizations that are looking for a difference, they can see seamlessness and a change in the air at every day work.

Looking forward to more such provoking and igniting work…

October 29, 2013

Chennai auto rickshaw meter

Auto meter 3 “I am happy after recalibrating my auto meter and charging as per the meter reading” said the auto man who dropped me at Central railway station.  His second statement rang a bell “I am getting about 10 to 12 savvari (means ride, in our context, customer) every day.  I used to do only 4 or 5 per day before recalibration”.  The local government enforced metered auto once again after mobilizing commitment from various trade unions.

With out metered auto rickshaw, public (especially the ones new to city) had nightmare bargaining for rate per trip.  Those who have not used auto rickshaw in Chennai might not have experienced bargaining with at least 4 auto men before fixing one.  Many times you wont even know if the rate he is asking for is appropriate and fair, especially if you are going to a place where you are not regular.  Early mornings, late nights and rainy days are even more strenuous.

As organization performance consultant, our attention went into the phenomenon, the auto men’s movement from resistance to auto meters to being happy about it.

As much the public, they too have become tired of bargaining for every ride they need to take.  Bargaining is an act of win – loose especially when one side is groping in the dark.  They need to constantly fight, seek the customers.

They constantly lived in uncertainty.  Uncertain whether they will get a ride (customer) or not.  Uncertain whether the rate he asked for is appropriate and gainful or not.  Uncertain whether the route he takes is shortest or not.  Uncertain whether he can ask for more if he thinks he has taken a loss-making ride.  Uncertain whether the last set of rides will be towards way back home or away from home.

They have lived in an arena world.  Constant fights, uncertainty, looking for victims, urge to hold on, recreating victimhood, getting constantly pushed and challenged defined their world.  This world challenges the fundamentals of human needs.  How far can that go?  Leaving it as is, will result in loose – loose situation, especially with mushrooming call taxi operators.

The recalibrated meter stitched together the relationship between auto men and commuters that fell apart.  The auto men and the commuters now speak a common language.  The commuter takes the first auto that is metered.  The auto keeps running longer when metered.  Very less empty rides.  If the auto man is smart enough to maneuver the final rides towards his home he saves even more.

What changed?  All the bargaining is now filtered and framed through the recalibrated meter.  It is now more predictable for the commuter.  What the meter shows is the transaction that is acceptable to both auto men and commuters.

This is a process world that works like a clock.  The auto man and the commuter are part of a larger system.  The system is calibrated to fulfill before and after situations of both auto man and the commuter.  This system takes care of some layers of human needs.

What does it take for an individual to move from the previous scene to the new scene where things are predictable, defined, assuring, repeatable, standardized and dependable?

What does it take for an organization to make this move, for the country to make this move?

July 21, 2012

E = Q x A

A year of dynamic market, 2012 seems to be an exciting challenge across sectors, across scales of operations.

As we navigate this year, people imperatives are taking a turn at organizations.  The recession that has been around for a while sticking its neck in and out adds to the dynamics of the stakeholder market.  With all these under the microscope, some of the typical channels that organizations take are:

  • Hiring Freeze
  • Head count reduction
  • Up-skilling to meet customer demands
  • People effectiveness by ensuring the right number of people with right skills and resources

Yes, these are some of the things that would help the organization at quadrant A & B of the below matrix, but what we end up forgetting are quadrants C & D.

Effectiveness = Quality/Quantity * Attitude

All the channels are built on the belief that working on Q will resolve the issue. We disregard a vital element – ‘Attitude’ that contributes to effectiveness.

Most large brands are already at least 7+ on a 10point scale in Q, but A? It would be at a 3 or 4, since most employees are happy being attached to the brand and do not really want to put in more efforts.

Isn’t moving 7 to 9 on Q more challenging, than to move 3 or 4 to 7 on A?

Isn’t this is time to invest right, on your people?

There are organizations that are focussing on A and showing growth year on year in spite of the market. Do you think you can be one of them too?

May 15, 2012

The Corporate WoMEN

I recently happened to watch a talk show on the television where the discussion was between women bosses and male reports. It was quite interesting and triggered a lot of questions within me regarding women at workplaces:

  • Are men really comfortable with the growth of women counterparts in organizations?
  • Are women really competent with men at work?
  • Why is it so difficult for men to report to women; is it the men’s nature or the latter’s fault?

Mulling over these questions, I stumbled on the fact that our society shares the history where women were housewives and men, the providers.

While perceiving the changing role of women in the society we can see different thought groups.

  • Women’s liberation groups that talk about equality of men and women. They fight for the rights of women on par with men in every walk of life.
  • Groups that talk about women’s inadequacy to cope with the systems and cut off women from getting their fair share
  • Feminist movements that concentrate on gender bias, domination of men, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.

I noticed something that may not look evident but is the key to resolving a major chunk of issues at work and in the society at large. Here is what it is.

All of us are aware that the primary source of learning for every human is through imitation. Women started imitating their male counterparts and bosses as they started working, to learn the job.  However, the basic nature of men and women is distinct.

Putting together the basic  nature of men and women, it is clear that the skills they acquired by imitating men at workplace bring out the male within. In simple words, we have probably ensued exceedingly well in activating the masculine in all of us.  On the other hand, in organizations, we are driving to increase people connect, engagement, human touch, and all of those which are female nature.

Aren’t all the ideal men from Christ to Mohammed, to Rama to Krishna, to Buddha; ideal because they had the balance of the male and female within them.  As we move into the next generation of corporate world, is it time to awaken the female in all of us men and women?

May 6, 2012

Pebble the Pond…

A serene pond gives an amazing reflection of the calm Self within each of us, the one that is so DEEP rooted, which is also probably the reason why it is highly inaccessible – Too deep rooted.

Deep within each of us, there is the Self that is desperate; desperate for joy, success, craving to grow, to be popular, to be sought after, and to be the apple of the eye to everyone; in other words yearning to be ‘the Master of the world’. The child in us completely believes “I am the best” and propels each of our action despite all past experiences.  It’s amazing how this Master operates.  The only setback is that this Master takes charge only during the critical moments of life.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like, if every moment of our life is controlled by this Master? The more I think about that, the more it feels this way to me.

Like a pebble that creates beautiful ripples in a pond, the ACTIVATED MASTER in us causes the ripple-effect over everyone around us.  Mining our Self is not an easy task.  While mining, we come across sand, stones and rocks of all sorts within. While some are really beautiful elements, others are extremely hard to break, there are some sullied stuffs and of course, we would have to kill some germs and insects that has grown within. As we burrow deeper, fear increases due to high resistance and we don’t let ourselves unfold. It is definitely not an easy task to reach the Master without passing through all the pawns.

As we reach this Master, we realize Him as an ocean of knowledge. Not a still pond, but a deep ocean that is placid, for its depth is so unfathomable.  It is blissful as He enlightens us that all the extrinsic factors are simply excuses through which we try to justify our ineptness. Interestingly we justify its cause because we know that the Master within will feel elated if it had happened as it should have. The Master knows that everything in our life is the choice that we have made.  I decide to not marry someone of another caste. Why? I may say it will make my parents unhappy.  But the Master within has His own reasons; either HE himself believes that it is not good to marry from another caste, or YOU have chosen to please your parents and make the Master unhappy.  In reality, we are so busy trying to be happy and attribute all the unhappiness to the Master whom we don’t want to face at all.

This only leads us to the space where all of us think that happiness is about keeping others happy by SELF-SACRIFICE. Think about it. How can we ever generate something in others what we lack? Do we ever realize that we keep moving in circles thinking that the pond is the ocean?

The realization has generated in me a super power that gives me strength, joy and success, and I can fee l MY Master awake and active. Trust me, it is a huge transition which of course is not easy to attain. But what is worthy, if it comes through easily? The effect is definitely fruitful and LIFE TRANSFORMING. I got enlightened and felt you too would thirst for it.
May be you too want to pebble your pond to reach the Ocean…
Do share your experiences, am sure that will motivate more and more people.
May 1, 2012

THE ASSEMBLY LINE ARTISAN: A whole and a part of the whole

There was once an old man who made beautiful pottery.  He spoke to the clay and the wheel each day and told them what he wanted of them.  They loved him so much that they heeded his request and became what he wanted them to become.  They were completely in sync with each other so much so that, the pottery always enjoyed what he did and spent all day making and selling earthen ware.  So flew by several years and the potter’s son also took to the same profession.  Then one day the old man passed away.
A few years later there was a new king who said “If every potter makes his own earthenware completely, there is lot of time and effort wasted.  Henceforth in my kingdom, all potters will work together under a single master, each taking up a specific task like preparing the clay, spinning the wheel, molding the wares, baking the wares, etc.”  After this law, the kingdom was able to produce lots and lots of pots so much so that, they had excess of pots and could even sell it to other kingdoms and make much more money.
Every one rejoiced the decision of the king and made more and more in this system of pottery until one day the master realized that potters did not talk to the clay or wheel anymore.  There were so many people working with one piece of clay that they couldn’t relate to it any more.  They were getting bored since they were not in sync like before and therefore over time, they started limiting the time they spend making what they were making.  Does this story strike a chord with you?
All of us realize that the involvement that individuals had as artisans before the industrial revolution is very different from what we have in today’s assembly line.  People don’t feel aligned, they don’t want to work long, they crave for work-life balance, there is disengagement, there is fall in productivity – we all hear these all the time.  There is a huge gap, alienation between people and their work.
Unanimously, we agree that the solution is “ENGAGEMENT”.  All organizations are trying to put engagement in place, but the issue doesn’t seem to be resolved.  Do we realize why?  The solution is right in front of us.  We are trying to create a family by singing and dancing, talking and walking, awarding and rewarding, but we don’t see what was that we have lost.  We have lost people whose passion is their profession, who communicate with tools and machines, who tell their machines what they want, and who can get it out of their machines through sheer love for them.  We are all trying to scratch the surface earth to mine gold instead of getting to the depth.
In the current age, it is not just sufficient to be a whole self or a part of a whole since neither would help you survive.  The survival mantra today is “A whole by self and yet be a part of the whole”.  It is time we reach the synthesis, the new age associate/employee, of the 2 systems: Artisan and Assembly – ‘THE ASSEMBLY LINE ARTISAN’.
April 27, 2012

Millennials: Are they such a contrast as being spoken widely about?

Millennials also known as Gen-Y is identified as the demographic group of birth dates ranging somewhere from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. The characteristics of this generation vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. However, it is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.
One of the consistent criticisms on the Millennials is that they possess an over-developed sense of entitlement. The logic goes something like this — after receiving a steady stream of praise throughout their lives and being told by their parents and teachers that they can “do anything they want to do”; Millennials are caught off guard by the harsh realities of the modern workplace. This is even truer during an economic downturn, when employees are expected to do more work in less time without complaint. Heck, you might not even get a “Whoo-hoo!” from your boss. Working in the so-called “real world” is not always easy, and nothing frustrates people more than a person of privilege complaining that everything isn’t exactly the way they want it to be.
Many employers are concerned that Millennials have too much of expectations from the workplace due to which they will switch jobs frequently. Studies show that many large firms are currently studying the social and behavioral patterns of Millennials.  A UK based institute researched the gap in understanding between Gen-Y recruits and their managers, and found that there are high expectations for advancement, salary and for a coaching relationship with their manager, but no hamper to the structure or business of the organization.
 When we look at the data on what is their priority, they are clearly looking at a work-life balance that has always been a distant dream for the generations before. They demonstrate this over and over again through their need to be connected to their personal life through the day, the facilities for which were not available earlier and not utilized sufficiently by the older generation even today when available.
If all of the articles that talk about Gen-Y being difficult to fit into the current corporate work were accurate, we would have witnessed almost nonstop convulsions in the workplace over the past sixty years, and knowledge work environments that look nothing like they did a few generations ago. But instead we still have org charts that mean something, jobs with narrowly defined responsibilities, promotions, bosses and subordinates, and most of the other longstanding trappings of organizational life.
Absolutely millennials have different technology habits and preferences than before. That has been so with every changing generation.  The solution as always would be for organizations to adapt and accommodate the changing foray of work-life balance and yet make the best use of Gen-Y. After all anyone can be a Millenial if they are tech-savvy, open-minded to all kinds of diversity, and are into the latest in everything from career to entertainment. If we do not adapt then today’s workplaces will change Generation Y more than the reverse.
April 25, 2012

Time to manage perception!

Performance Feedback – A crucial business activity
This time of the year, organisations are overhauling their performance management system to better its impact on organisation performance.  Most of the organisations provide just one opportunity for formal feedback to employees about their contribution towards organisation performance, at the most two.  Using this only opportunity flawlessly is crucial, not only to set the platform for next year organisation performance, but also to fulfil an important employment value proposition.
To positively impact organisation performance, every employee should trust the performance management process.  It is important that employees perceive performance management system to be fair, meritorious and equitable.  Every manager need to ensure that all their team members perceive the system to be fair. An employee may evaluate the fairness quotient at multiple points and definitely during large foot print items like goal setting, performance feedback and rewards. Our focus in this article is about performance feedback.
Performance data on individual contribution comes handy to set context during feedback.  It brings the manager and the team member to the same page.  Keeping this data-based discussion as a foundation, moving on to next level discussion by explaining relative performance of the team member makes a great manager. Discussing the relative performance of individuals describing the difference between expectation against reality bring in subjectivity to the discussion.  While there can be a number assigned as rating at the end of the discussion, managers will agree that the algorithm to arrive at that number is extremely complex as it may vary from manager to manager and team member to team member.  The good news is that there can be a table that a manager can refer to which would only need to be customised to organisation.
Perception is not built over this one time interaction rather; it is over a series of interactions.  A manager constantly communicates opinion on performance over different settings like review meetings, day to day interactions, recognition programs, email communications about things going good and not so good etc.  This time of the year, when manager gets ready to give feedback in a formal setting, it is important that managers collects the thoughts together, consolidates all informal feedback given and communicate in the formal, structured performance feedback session.
Actively listening, without preparing on counter arguments is crucial to manage the right perception about performance management process among employees. Actively listening helps consolidating the employees views into a pattern that may be aligned or not aligned to the teams micro work culture.  Manager may attempt to build on the observed employee view point and take the thought process to next level.
Performance feedback is an opportunity to exhibit genuine care in the employees’ career growth.  Career growth is an important value proposition the managers can play an active role in.
We will discuss more in the blogs to come.