Archive for the ‘Excellence’ Category

We all have among our circle of friends, acquaintances and relations people who are ‘different’. And, it’s no different with me. I’ve often brought them here as subjects of my posts. There are in their own ways interesting, intriguing, inspiring and instructive.

So it is this time.  About W, X, Y, and Z. Four of them in one post? All for a good reason you’ll know.

Beginning with W…

Though it is widely claimed social network is essential to ones well-being, we usually limit ourselves to a few and do not actively go out seeking others except for special reasons. Of course we’re civil to respond to anyone reaching us. I for one prefer non-intrusive channels for most part of my communication. But W…has his friends and contacts in Anakapalle (his home town in Andhra Pradesh), Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Vizag, including surviving class-mates from his Engineering days! Is in touch over phone (not WhatsApp forwards) with a 100 of them, 20 regularly and 80 of them once a year! And when he talks, with unmistakable warmth, it’s not hail-fellow-how-are-you-good-bye. It’s a good leisurely gupshup about recent happenings at both ends and all things of mutual interest. This is happening in the times when it is difficult to carry on a conversation for a few minutes even among friends without hitting a line that divides us sharply on politics, faith, and other affiliations. How he handles communicating with his polar opposites without acrimony is a secret I’ve yet to unlock.

His constant refrain: “I have no time; I am always busy; but I always have time to meet/talk to a friend or…”


Let’s meet X next:

He loves spending every day two to three hours, reading two Newspapers, Times of India (English) and Eenadu (Telugu) when he’s in India.  When visiting USA, it’s Wall Street Journal and a local Newspaper. As necessary to him as morning coffee for us.

How could he ever do that and enjoying while at it?

I told him I stopped reading newspapers online or in print many months ago. Because, it’s so negative and depressing. My BP has since gone down by a few healthy points. Am more at peace with life.

He disagreed. I dared him to prove me wrong.

On the following day, I get this from him:

“As discussed, I am mentioning a few items I read today in Times of India:

1. Consumer goods makers get a festive booster shot.  Double-digit growth over year-ago period. 2. Telangana records lowest Covid-19 positive cases since June. 3. Auto sales pick up pace this Dussehra despite dampeners. 4. KTR (Telangana minister) hands over 1,100 2BHK houses to beneficiaries. 5. Hearing through video-conferencing successful says Supreme Court. 6. India records 36K fresh Covid cases, lowest in over 3 months. 7. Should India raise the marriage age for girls?  There are social and economic benefits, but the same results can be achieved through education and job opportunities. 8. Oxford vax prompts immune response in old as well as young. 9. Dietary habits have a direct effect on our mental health. ”

I think this was on 28th Oct. He continued sharing what he read for the following 2-3 days before I told him he has made his point.   

He’s quite taken by Sri Gaur Gopal Das’s: “Your happiness is your choice”.

I suppose you get what you’re looking for!

Nonetheless I haven’t gone back to newspapers.


Moving on to Y…

It’s usual for companies to have mission/vision statements. Y has a “Personal Mission Statement”!

In its first line it says “Help as many people as possible to achieve their goals”.

Even his visiting card carries the caption: “Helping people achieve their goals”.

Presently he’s helping financially three young girls to pursue what they wish to study. There’s an obligation on the recipients to return the money when they are able to. He doesn’t enforce.

Under the locked-down conditions, he spends an hour in a week over phone helping a young boy to speak in English.

He’s constantly on the lookout for ways and means to act out his mission statement.


Now to Z:

Like W, his constant refrain: I have no time; I am always busy; but I always have time…to attend a learning event or read a book.

On an average he manages to attend two webinars a day!

Presently he’s reading a book “IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”. Quite impressed with it, he has tweaked his lifestyle accordingly.  


CK is a retired senior corporate executive, running 78 now. Regarded as a guru by many who were associated with him in his long successful career.

His belief:

I am always happy.  God brought me to this world and He has no choice but to take care of me.

“ThoughI expect to live for 90+ years, I am prepared for the worst, ready to leave this world today.

I capitalize on what comes.

I continue to do what I love every day.

I have adequate money to live comfortably. But I love to work anytime, anywhere and earn.Yes, he’s available for hire as a consultant, a coach or a speaker!! He expects to give talks on IKIGAI soon.

I love doing Manava Seva (helping people).

He’s W, X, Y and Z personas rolled into one!!!

Different like I promised – In his own ways interesting, intriguing, inspiring and instructive?

Looking forward to my next chat with him – am sure to hear something more about IKIGAI.


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vide PCKMC

Dont know if apocryphal or authentic. Never mind. The gentleman is quite capable of…

Here we go:


Chairman, TATA Steel was holding a weekly meeting with Tata Steel staff  in Jamshedpur. 

A worker took up a serious issue. He said the quality and hygiene of toilets for the workers was very bad. Whereas, he  pointed that the cleaniness and the hygiene of executive toilets was always very good. 

Chairman asked his top executive how much time he needs to set it right. The executive asked for a month to set it right. 

Chairman said “I would rather do it in a day. Send me a carpenter.” 

Next day, when the carpenter came. He ordered the sign boards to be swapped. 

The sign board on the workers’ toilet displayed “Executives” and the Executives’ toilet displayed “Workers”.

Chairman then instructed this sign to be changed every fortnight.

The quality of both the toilets came at par in the next three days. 


‘The Leadership is something much more than being an Executive’

Problem Identification requires critical thinking. But Problem Solution requires creative thinking_


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Sarah-Nicole LeFlore writes on The Key to Great CX? Balancing Delight and Ease here:

Delight has become a customer experience buzzword. A lot of people think that their customers will stick around if they dazzle them with perks and discounts. By contrast, some experts believe that you should forget about delighting your customers and that the best experience is the easiest one. Neither camp is wrong. We say “Do both!” The best customer experience is both easy and delightful…”

All too familiar, no surprises, no new insights here. But the real meat is in the ‘Comments’ section – three of them of significance are summed up here:

Michael Lowenstein talks aboutno kidding, he’s serious, giving examplesconsciouslyintroducing ‘favorable friction’ in customer experience of course with a deliberate strategy to create the value in the experience rather – exclusivity for example – than friction caused by incompetence or worse, apathy. Read the article here.

Ed Powers  avers – it’s included here more for completeness than any newness – it’s a bit more complicated than what it seems. According to the neuroscience, the brain makes goal-directed decisions among alternatives using a value computation weighing six elements: Context, Payoff’s, Costs, Delays, Probabilities and Preferences. The brain views effort as a cost which offsets the payoff, so reducing cost increases value. “Delight” increases preference, which also increases value. But depending on context, how the brain perceives the nature, speed or likelihood of the payoffs between options also affects value perception and their ultimate decision.

The most insightful comes from Chip R. Bell arguing: Delight has been defined as value-added or exceeding the customer’s expectations – that is, taking what the customer expects and adding more. That is a linear approach that risks elevating the customer’s expectations right along with the add. Upgrade me to a better room because I am a loyal guest of your hotel and what am I likely to expect my next visit? And, what happens if you need to sell that upgraded room rather than use it as a perk.

He introduces a new concept: I recommend value-unique, not value-added. As customers, we are far more attracted by different than we are by more; ingenuity more than generosity. And, there are unlimited ways to be unique and clearly a limit on how far you can push “more” before running out room or going bankrupt. My wife and I have the same brand of car and take both to the same dealership for service maintenance. The service tech always puts a logoed bottle of cold water in the cupholder of the car after an oil change or tire rotation. That is value-added and is very nice. But, they also always make certain my favorite flavored coffee K-cup is at the Keurig coffee machine the day I wait in the waiting area for service (Hazelnut is in my customer profile). And, there is sometimes a long-stemmed flower on the dash to take home to my wife when I drive awayThat is a story I am eager to tell all who will listen.

He further draws support from another experience of his: The line to get in Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway in NYC was three blocks long; the wait was two hours and in the rain. The food was okay, the seats were uncomfortable, the diner was packed. But, the magic of watching waiters perform Broadway songs was magical and worth the un-ease we endured.

My two – actually three – bits:

a. I like the concept of value-unique. But over time, even the K-cup coffee and the long-stemmed flower would be reduced to value-added. It only means it requires a constant refresh.

b. Value-unique does not stay unique for long if it is material based as observed in a. Can be replicated. However, hard to copy if the uniqueness is in the service delivery. Example: Ellen’s Stardust Diner.

c. As Ed says different strokes for different people. Me thinks it’s useful to segment the market into Basic/Utility/Essentials buying, Comfort/Brag-orthy/Indulgence (giving oneself a treat) buying and Luxury buying.  The value-unique (experience-unique) concept seems to go well with Indulgence buying – the burgeonng middle where many companies play and hence desrving closer look. So also ‘favorable friction’ mooted by Michael. Needless to add the concept is carried far beyond reason in Luxury buying. While it may be all costs with Basic buying. At times the driving forces do get mixed up across segments.

Rounding off with one more value-unique experience:

The “Le Petit Chef (Little Chef)” restaurant in France, came up with an original way to entertain guests while waiting for their order by using an overhead 3D projector on the ceiling.  The animation is on the table and your plate. There is a small chef who appears on your plate, and that’s only the beginning.

Watch one of the several clips available here:

Video is available here.


Source: The case of Little Chef was brought to notice by C V Anant Padmanabhan

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An interesting article, fairly short, relevant for these times when we are told to do things we never did before for collective benefit, with wider implications and applicability. The original content is very lightly edited and recast here for easy reading and comprehension (highlighting is mine).

Here we go:



For the past two months, we’ve been told to wash our hands, wear face masks, and social distance. We’ve come up creative ways to do them all—with viral handwashing dancespublic pledgesZoom parties with live DJs, referred to as emotion-triggering devices. Judging by the beautiful photos of eerily empty public spaces around the world, most of us have been willing to comply—for now. But when will the novelty wear off? And what will happen to our new habits, still necessary for the public health crisis we’re facing?

Some countries, like Denmark and Austria, and several U.S. states, have already started to relax the strict stay-home regulations and are counting on their citizens to make smart choices to protect themselves and others. But are we confident that we’ll keep up our good behavior when left to our own devices? 


Emotions are, by definition, temporary. So is attention. Using activity-mobilizing emotions such as fun, hope, anger, or fear can work exceptionally well to kick-start a new habit, but we still have months or even years of behavior change ahead of us. Before long novelty may fizzle out, motivation worn away and compliance unexciting. In fact it could get downright annoying.

Example: In 2009, designers created “Piano Stairs” at the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm. Each step was a piano key that made a sound when it was stepped on. The idea was to make it fun and easy for commuters to pick the healthy option of going up the stairs instead of taking the escalator. And it worked—for a couple of days. The initial excitement quickly gave way to the reality of rush hour, as commuters trampled over keys going up and down the stairs. To no surprise, the piano disappeared. But the video of the stairs gathered 23 million views on YouTube and is often still found in presentations by behavioral consultants.

So when the novelty fizzles out, how can we harness our current motivation and channel it into long-term change? The evidence is still sparse, but we do have several examples of behavioral interventions that have a longer shelf life. These are referred to as Nudges.

Nudges are of two kinds: Pure and Moral.

Pure nudges are simple changes to a preexisting choice environment meant to counteract simple inattention or laziness. They seamlessly blend in with their environment. They are typically not consciously noticed by the decision maker. Grabbing a ceramic cup conveniently stacked next to the coffee machine instead of a paper one from the cupboard does not require you to think about saving the rainforest before your morning coffee. The less conscious the nudges are the less they are prone to wearing off or even backfiring, regardless of whether you agree with the goal of the nudge or not. 

Two other examples of pure nudges: a) Perhaps the most successful example is Defaults. Individuals defaulted into pension plans, insurance in air-travel, two-sided printing, or renewable energy for their home seem to stick with the option. People either don’t notice it or don’t take the effort to change it from default b) Salience has also proven to be effective in the long term. Placing vegetarian food on top of a menu makes it more likely that customers will select it, and real-time feedback while showering reduced energy consumption of hotel guests. 

In contrast moral nudges are those that are fun or trigger fear, shame, or pride, rewarding “doing the right thing” with psychological utility or disutility. The nudges are meant to be consciously noticed. The most prominent one being the use of Social Proof—“9 out of 10 people in your city pay their taxes on time—you are currently not one of them” or “Compared to your neighbors with similar sized houses, you consume far more energy” or “Will you vote on Sunday? We will call you again and ask about your experience.” 

Social proof is powerful, no question—the frantic toilet paper buying we have seen in the past weeks was an unintended testament to that. In the short run, moral nudges can generate significant effects, but long-term behavior change is seldom. Further, moral nudges run the risk of backfiring. Individuals asked to donate repeatedly decided to opt-out of communication altogether, and others who regularly came out badly in comparison to their neighbors’ energy consumption were willing to pay money not to be contacted anymoreDeliberate defiance of these appeals could also explain the groups of college kids who went on spring break despite the health warnings or the Danish teenagers who now drive over the bridge to Sweden to party “because lockdown is boring.” 

Nudges can make it easier to do the right thing. All that said, taking past research in account, nudging on its own, whether moral or pure, won’t be enough to stimulate the required behavior change. The gap between what we want now (our lives to return to normal) and what we need to do (diligent maintain hygiene and continuous social distancing) is just too large. But that doesn’t mean lasting behavior change isn’t possible. We need to combine nudges with traditional economic incentives and regulations. Just like the traffic rules. We have laws, fines, and nudges (speed bumps or beeping seat-belts) that keep us and others safe on the road without invoking anxiety, shame, or fear every time we get into a car.

And designing the choice environment promoting/instilling long term habits. Example: Copenhagen, author’s hometown, has four large lakes in the city center, which have a small footpath around them that is popular for runners and people going for a stroll. At the start of the lock-down, the trail was converted to a one-way street to reduce the amount of tight face-to-face encounters. Currently, park guards control compliance, but already most people are in the habit of walking clockwise around the lake. A habit that can most likely be sustained with a simple sign and social norms. 

Like fighting climate change or obesity, overcoming this health crisis will be a marathon, not a sprint.  Our collective health depends on how we use these available mechanisms keeping in mind their long term impact versus the need.


As it must have already occurred to you, interestingly these concepts are equally valid and useful to bring about changes in various aspects of organizational behavior!

The article by Christina Gravert may be perused here.


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A boon for poor rural folks. No thanks to established companies, govt R & D, institutes of management, universities….

Surprisingly this is not from Ludhiana, but from South!

Watch it here optionally.

Worth refinement and large-scale adoption.

vide Suresh Dsouza


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I was waiting in line for a ride at the airport in Dubai. When a cab pulled up, the first thing I noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for me.

He handed me a laminated card
and said: ‘I’m Abdul, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk I’d
like you to read my mission statement.’

Taken aback, I read the card.
It said: Abdul’s Mission Statement: “To get my customers to their destination
in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.”

This blew me away. Especially
when I noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly

As he slid behind the wheel,
Abdul said, ‘Would…

View original post 444 more words

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” A government servant doing his official work as per prescribed rules!”


Source: Prakash Sankhala

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Today I came across a reaffirmation of something I had heard even earlier. It’s all about what is valued most in aspiring/practicing engineering-leads/managers by (product) companies in US.

A is a smart young man who has made rapid strides in his professional career in the few years he is employed in a very well-known product company in the west coast. He was recently promoted as the champion of a futuristic platform slated to serve as the bedrock for the company’s flagship products in the pipeline (or maybe it’s already deployed).  

Not surprisingly laudatory messages flowed in on his promotion, coming from his team, peers and others mostly congratulating him for his achievement. The manager’s message was a little different and more insightful. I understood in gist it went something like: ‘Besides being a genuine person, compassionate in his approach and frank without being brutal in his feedback, he was recognized for being a great help to his team and its success…’

My eyes lit up. Interesting, how did/does it happen? May be there was something in here waiting to be dug up and aired for broader good.  Or, like at other times, it might throw up some ‘Drinking milk is good for health’ kind of statements. Try I did and this is what I came up with.

At this point I must point out my digging – a short exercise – was not with A directly, but with a very articulate professional close to him and in the know. In a way it was a blessing because I was being served with sum-up’s without the obfuscating details (always available if needed).

A had in his team a good number of youngsters faced with and fazed by humungous amount of code thrown at them. Much as he might have wished, there was simply no way he could sit with them one-on-one and help them in their work.

Ye huyi na baath, ab batao, batao, kya kiya A? Tell us, tell us what did A do! 

No magic, here. He would give them pointers to what, where and how, induct them into a few structured processes (and possibly tools and techniques), and leave them alone to work on the details. It made them happy they did the work on their own, boosting their self-confidence. Soon they learnt to do some part of the analysis too all by themselves. Result: faster learning, quicker ramp-up, better productivity and a happier team.

While this may work with the younger lot, how did he handle the seniors in the team?

Firstly, he quickly appraised himself of their background, their skills and strengths. He would then place before them a few questions that needed to be resolved for the job at hand and challenged their mettle. They were free to research, analyse and figure out the answers for a discussion. It included bringing their prior experience and knowledge, wherever relevant, to bear up on the problem. It was thus an interesting, useful and tedium-breaking problem-solving cum learning exercise for them and for A too. Once again, the result of having tail-up seniors on one’s side: enhanced quality of the solution, better productivity and a happier and motivated team.

While the above may not be an entirely new read to many, it’s nevertheless an interesting insight into a) how a young successful engineering-lead on the rise in a product company made it work for him and b) what product companies value and recognize in their engineering-leads/managers.    

It’s clear while individual excellence may well be a prerequisite for other pieces to fall in place, it’s not an end in itself. Enabling and empowering others in the team to perform gets far better results for the organization and for oneself in terms of recognition and reward.


Source: Image from here.

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Peer Review


Source: Fawzy Elsharkawy‎ in Science Memes

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A recent article in Inc dramatically reports:

‘In 1 Powerful Sentence, Mark Cuban Just Gave Every Company in America a Harsh Wake-up Call’

It’s a simple statement, with profound implications.


Goes on with:

Mark Cuban, Shark Tank investor and outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, recently took to his personal blog to comment on a major issue facing the NBA — and every employer in America.

There’s been a lot of talk regarding how NBA players have really taken control of their league, with the most talented players teaming up behind the scenes to play together or asking to be traded to a different team if they’re not happy with their situation.

Quotes Cuban saying:

Some feel that the player movement we have seen … is a problem, I don’t. I think it is exactly what we should expect, and it reflects what is happening in the job market across industries in our country.

“This reality has changed what it is like to be an employer. In the past, the default was that the best employees would want a long career with their employers, because that is what you did. You kept your job as long as you could. No longer.”

And then, the 1 Powerful Sentence:

“Now the onus is on employers to keep their best employees happy.”

Don’t we guys in software industry of 1980-2010 vintage know? Talk to us and we’ll tell you horror stories to fill many tomes. With attrition soaring amok, further aggravated by shortage of talent pool, it wasn’t about keeping ‘best employees’ happy. One had to amuse whoever walked by within six feet of the front gates to lure 

Welcome to the Party, America – you’re a few decades late though. Invite us to talks – we can tell a thing or two – on how we coped up, kept the show going, our customers served without disruption!

To be fair, it’s not new to them either – I recall from many years ago a senior executive from HP,  wise to our predicament, mentioning it was no different in those early years in California. May be long forgotten with its learnings.

The article goes on to talk about the How’s of the sentence, covering all bases: coaching, empowerment, inclusivity, communication, career development…besides remuneration.

Coming back to the real subject of this post, ‘1 Powerful Sentence’:

“Now the onus is on employers to keep their best employees happy.”

You thought happiness is more for pets given to by their masters?  

Sorry, am being irreverent and flippant.

Years of working with colleagues at all levels and of all hues in good and bad times has taught us one thing that I share with you here – a perspective adding to (and not in any way invalidating) the professed sentence and its How’s:

Make it a journey with them – feasible, authentic, involved, worthwhile, interesting and enjoyable for them, for you and the organization. Happiness ensues and a lot more…

To cite a parallel, of relevance – Just as caring for community’s safety and earning their respect and the adrenal rush of running towards (and not away from) danger to save life and property are identified as the two pure and strong turn-on’s in the lives of fire-fighters who in many surveys end up high to very high in job satisfaction.

Each of those words feasible…is purposeful, non-overlapping and worthy of deliberation.

Well, I can tell you – and my colleagues out there would also vouch – it has been shown to work for its practitioners.


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