Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

It’s one of those weird coincidences, you’ll have to trust me, if he resembles your manager!

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unfortunately, remains unwritten. If only Lt Gen Krishnaswami Balaram (1927 – 2010) had put his pen to paper in his life time. Then as an army officer given to action and a practitioner, perhaps writing a book was not appealing to him.

BALARAM Report My Signal PVSM

I heard about him only a few days ago in my evening gup-shup session – an hour-long chit chat about this and that – in the park with a small group of seniors presently in US like me spending a couple of months with their sons and daughters. My source among them is S, a gentleman long retired from employment in the estate maintenance department at Kurukshetra University in Haryana. The anecdotes he shared with us about KB who was then the vice-chancellor of the university piqued my interest I decided to look him up on the net.  What I got was quite scanty. Not unusual – after…

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At least to me, it’s new. Never thought the joke could be on us, not about someone from south-of-boondocks as I had imagined.

A policeman sees a drunk staring at the ground beneath a streetlight. “What are you doing?” the cop asks.

“Looking for my keys.” says the drunk. “I dropped them in the dark alley over there.”

“Then why are you over here?” asks the policeman, confused.

“Because the light’s so much better over here.”

The streetlights are our controlled environments where we look for answers —labs, classrooms, fixed timetables, and clear metrics. But things are more fluid in the real world. For that we need to rely more on tacit knowledge from our experience




Source: conversationagent.com/2016/07/striving-for-conciseness-and-clarity.html while talking about ‘Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making’, a book by research psychologist Gary Klein, a pioneer in naturalistic decision making.



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Source: Internet

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Are you looking for a simple clear answer to the question? I cant find one better than what Dan has to say in his blog on the subject. As always, it is short to the point, no bull-bowel-voiding and very readable. Here we go:

The State Trooper And I

A State Trooper pulled me over for speeding. It feels like yesterday. It was several years ago.

I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My speed was between 25 and 30 mph over the limit. I sounded awesome singing along with John Mellencamp blaring on the radio.

life without consequences.png

I remember seeing the Police Officer pulling his arm in the window of his car, a black radar gun attached to his hand. I just pulled over and waited. Mellencamp couldn’t help me.

The toughest looking trooper I have ever seen walked up to the passenger window and asked if I was in a hurry to get back to the office. Obviously he saw the company logo on the passenger door.

Without waiting, he asked if I knew how fast I was going.

I replied that I wasn’t sure, but that I knew it was fast. He didn’t ask for the car registration or my licence. He simply said, “You better slow down.” Without another word, he turned his intimidating frame and walked away.

Fear turned to jubilation!

After my heart rate slowed, I became teflon™ Dan. “I can’t get a ticket,” I thought. This wasn’t the first time I’d been let off with a verbal warning.

In the next three months, I earned three speeding tickets!

In order to protect my licence, I was “invited” by the Pennsylvania State Police to attend driving school.

5 Lessons from speeding tickets:

  1. Consequences say decisions matter. Life without consequences – either good or bad –  is meaningless.
  2. Consequences express compassion, when delivered with a person’s best interest in mind.
  3. Don’t feel responsible to help irresponsibility. Too much help doesn’t help.
  4. Deal quickly with issues. It’s irresponsible to neglect holding people responsible.
  5. Create an environment where performance is expected, enjoyed, and honored.

Motivation: Hold people to their decisions, because it’s best for them.

How might leaders hold people accountable in ways that serve them and organizations?

A simple prescription for effective leadership, yet profound, I thought. Not for winning popularity contests.

You may enjoy reading Dan’s posts at: leadershipfreak.wordpress.com.


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Project-Management premium.wpmudev.org

There was a news item recently in the press about Tata Consultancy Organization (TCS) planning to lay off 30,000 professionals accompanied by words on the ‘big corporate for-profit exploiter’ from some of those impacted or to-be guys for the human element in the story. The guys, it seems, are largely managers with 8 to 10 plus years of experience.

The company has denied it saying the annual weeding out exercise would be only to the extent of 2% to 3% of total strength as it has done in preceding years.

Let us assume for a moment the company is true to its word and there are no compelling reasons of business downturn warranting a bigger-than-usual axing.

While the development is certainly unfortunate especially for the affected, it is hardly surprising. And I’m sure it is neither sudden.

Why does this happen?

When it comes to weeding out, the organization looks at the value an employee brings to the operations in a series of assessments. This is even more significant at senior levels as these guys are pricier and hence most vulnerable.

The avenues available to a senior (a project lead or a manager) to enhance his contribution are essentially in two directions: a) He contributes to the project he is managing/involved or b) He contributes to some corporate objectives not linked to his project. In many organizations seniors are mandated to wear both the hats to get more out of their strengths and maturity.

As far as direct contribution to the project goes, opportunities are many:

1. Of direct and high impact for the organization of curse is to mine the project/account to increase the billing incrementally/strategically. Or, to wow the customer on scope,cost, time, performance or quality parameters of the project.

There are a number of other ways to step up the value (not in any order):

2. Reduce income leakage by handling the lost hours.

3. Increase productivity by using tools, cutting waste, streamlining processes, etc.

4. Flatten the cost pyramid by substituting more junior resources in place of seniors

5. Get the customer to sponsor an incentive plan and other recognition schemes for the team. While the costs incurred in these schemes are low the returns are manifold.

6. Develop it as a reference account/project by putting together, solution stories, application/technical notes, and other marketing/sales assets.

7. Get the customer to agree to site visits by prospects.

8. Get the customer to speak in the organization’s promotional events.

9. Generate newer views of the project by formulating imaginatively metrics to address his pain areas. For example, mapping the change-requests to physical pieces of code would be useful in pointing out which modules are hit by poor articulation of requirements, lack of coding skills or sheer business volatility.

10. Reduce the hassles of dealing with the team in some perceptible manner. For example, cut back on the communication load.

11. Alter some service parameter to customer’s advantage like coverage/turnaround times.

12. Engage the customer to gain a business perspective and his plans, to support mining efforts.

13. Harvest reusable/training assets.

14. Validate and refine quality assurance/productivity/staffing/estimation/methodology models/norms.

15. Groom junior resources in technical and soft skills. In one project, juniors took turns to be present when the lead reviews with the customer to improve their reviewing, communicating and objection handling skills.

16. Stand by him by going beyond the letter during his crisis time.

I’m sure you have a few other ideas too. The opportunities are many limited only by imagination.

So what is holding you back, friend?

If the project is a dead-end kind offering no scope for any initiative at all over an extended period of time, it’s time to move on to another project or even organization.


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Those were the days – mid seventies/eighties – when the Department of Electronics. (DOE) had a strangle-hold on import of computers to the country. Perhaps for a good reason – the country did not have enough foreign exchange to fund imports. The lakshman rekha was Rs 5 lakhs. To procure a computer system costing less than Rs 5 lakhs, one made an application to the DOE justifying why the import was necessary and waited on them for clearance. For pricier machines there was this long drawn public-tender process. In either case the DOE made sure importing computers was a tad easier than banishing poverty. It also led to some ingenious/ridiculous justifications put forward – a colleague of mine in Sales told me how a gym of a leading educational institute claimed it needed a machine with user-microprogramming facility (for those of you not in the know, it allowed you to design/micro-code new CPU instructions and deploy them in a writable control store)!

Before you mark it as a case in point against government controls, I must also tell you how many many institutions in those days recklessly used up scarce hard currency importing instruments and systems they did not need. For instance, it was not uncommon to see adjacent labs in the same facility each importing a top-of-the-line oscilloscope only to sit on the rack and collect dust. Misuse and abuse invite more controls. .

I digressed from the main story here. Back to where I was…

It is not difficult to imagine what all these meant to a small operation like ours that depended on margins earned on import of computers and the subsequent income from their support. Income from other operations – import of electronic instruments – subsidized our unit.

The fall-out was none of us got a raise in our salary for a stretch of 3 years or so. Annually the boss called us in at appraisal time to tell us we weren’t making any money, so any raise in salary was out of question. He was always a straight shooter and in this matter, we felt, he made sense.

And we were a bunch that needed stronger reasons to leave our jobs and we quietly went back to the trenches!

As for me, I came into industry fresh from my institute, filled with apprehensions about questionable motives and practices rumored to be followed in commercial enterprises. And this organization, quelled my fears, not appearing to be an agent of Satan from all I could see and hear. The colleagues were friendly and helpful. Not the least of all, changing a job within a few years of joining was unthinkable unless they forced you out. Cutting to the chase, I continued as did my colleagues.

At one point a reorganization was announced and a senior manager from Delhi was to take charge. The news was received with mixed feelings in Mumbai. The man designated from Delhi, a Punjabi to the boot, was a suspect in the eyes of the Mumbai-ites, considered as a slippery guy who always got away with whatever he did.

My fears reared their ugly heads once again. Punjabi’s are known to be tough’ians of a kind. What would he do to us?

A few weeks passed without any blow-up’s. And one afternoon, he called me to his cabin. Made me nervous as this was not the done thing. The bosses never talked or discussed anything one-on-one with rookies like us without the seniors around. And to heighten my agony I saw on his table the ominous red file carrying my name (these were personnel records).

As I sat before him in silence under his steady gaze waiting for the sword to fall, he said:

‘Look, I’ve gone through your red file,’ he paused.

‘And I’m shocked. I’m shocked to see what you’re drawing.’

Well, I couldn’t say about him – as for me, I was more than shocked – ‘paralyzed’ would be more apt.

‘Oh, sh**, this man…just as we feared. The ex-boss was a saint in comparison – yes, he did not give us a raise alright, but at least he didn’t cut our wages,‘ were my thoughts.

‘Give me some time- I’ll make sure it gets to where I think it should be. I cannot correct it right away. But I’ll do it, trust me.’

It took a while for the blood to resume its course thru my insides.

Well, in the following months and years he was everything but what we took him for in our first days.

In fact, over the years, he commanded unflinching allegiance, not coerced, from us that could be the subject of study for many a HR professional. And we enjoyed a great relationship with him that continues till today extending to families on both sides.

teamwork bitterjug

If you ask me what worked for him,

a) I would say he was a genuine person on and off track, liking his people and concerned about their interests. Hence there was no question of catching him ever off guard.

b) He was sensitive to individual’s problems and he sought as best a solution as possible within the organization framework. There were a number of instances where he found an acceptable way out of a seemingly intractable situation. This of course called for mutual trust, free communication and an understanding of compulsions on either side.

c) And he involved guys unreservedly on issues. So, often, it was a situation the team – that included him – had to jointly address without any need to display one-upmanship and go glory-hunting.

d) He did not play one against the other as many ‘successful’ mangers do. He was able to defuse an unpleasant situation when it arose by explaining one’s point of view to another. Not one to fan the flames.

When a major but friendly shake-up took place – the computer vendor, a MNC, took over the operations through direct presence – most employees moved to the new set-up for better work, compensation/amenities and a MNC brand value. His team took the changes in its stride and stayed back intact! And he wasn’t giving away goodies for retention.

The merit of fostering a team relationship that held fast under trying conditions – there were enough attempts by other players in that space we were in, to woo the guys away – did not regrettably get the attention it deserved, I thought. The bonds forged endure even today though in time we all have gone down different paths in our lives.

Lest you think it was all a cosy chummy family scene, when the occasion demanded he was his true self, a Punjabi no-nonsense tough’ian in getting us to perform on the track individually and collectively.

We fondly call him GRK. Guri Khanna was more a Guru than a Guri.


Credits: openclipart (teamwork bitterjug)

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