Posts Tagged ‘Management’

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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you getting monkeys is not just with hires. Goes for vendors, contractors, third parties…

This is for the managers and executives priding on their ability to squeeze every freebie, concession and discount out of their beleaguered vendors.

Here we go:

The  headman from the painting cum landscaping company  was speaking with the hard-driving customer about the job awarded to them.

Laying-Turf  jokesoftheday.net

In the first room, she said she would like a pale blue. The contractor wrote this down and went to the window, opened it, and yelled out “GREEN SIDE UP!”

In the second room, she told the painter she would like it painted in a soft yellow. He wrote this on his pad, walked to the window, opened it, and yelled “GREEN SIDE UP!”

The lady was somewhat curious but she said nothing. In the third room, she said she would like it painted a warm rose color. The painter wrote this down, walked to the window, opened it and yelled “GREEN SIDE UP!”

The perplexed lady then asked him, “Here I’m telling you what to do and you keep yelling ‘green side up’?”

“I’m sorry,” came the reply. “them…are laying sod in the front and around.”




Source: Adapted from jokesoftheday.net


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bea16f181b9553084879e01c5be59e2f patch com

There was a King who bred 10 wild dogs. He used them at his whim and will to torture public servants in his court who fell out of favor.

So one of the ministers once gave an opinion which proved to be wrong, and the King didn’t like at all.

So he ordered that the minister to be thrown to the dogs.

The shocked minister pleaded: ‘I served you 10 years with my sweat and blood and you do this?’

His pleas fell on deaf ears.

‘Okay, so be it. Please give me 10 days before you throw me in with those dogs.’

The merciful King conceded.

The minister went to the guard in charge of the dogs and told him he wanted to serve the dogs for the next 10 days.

The guard not knowing the reason was baffled. But he agreed.

So the minister started feeding the dogs, cleaning for them, washing them, providing all sorts of comfort for them.

So when the 10 days were up, the King, true to his word, ordered that the minister be thrown to the dogs for his punishment.

But when he was thrown in, everyone was amazed at what happened – they saw the dogs licking the feet of the minister!

The King did not like what he saw.

He asked petulantly: ‘What ever happened to the dogs? Do they know what they are doing?’’

The minister spoke up: ‘I served the dogs for 10 days and they didn’t forget my service. And I served you for 10 years and you forgot all about it in a trice.”

So the King realising his mistake made amends…

and got crocodiles instead for the minister and the dogs.

When the mighty make up their minds the meek don’t stand a chance.



PS: You may read ‘Authority’, ‘Government’, ‘Management’…for the ‘Mighty’. Need I add attribution to Chanakya is advertently erroneous 🙂

Source: facebook.com/groups/101024580247213/ (Gautham iyengar) and image from patch.com

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I’m doing fine as is.


Source: Internet

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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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Q: The concept of ‘nishkama karma’ (work without attachment to the outcome) espoused in Bhagwat Gita seems to allow for employers to deny employees and also to accept perfunctory performance. What is it for real?

A: As you suspect the concept runs much deeper. Let me explain:

At our work-place a role is assigned to us: a salesman, a fitter, a coder

Each of these roles has a code of conduct specifying behaviors implied by the role. This is in essence the dharma of the role. It is usually prescriptive focusing on the steps more than the outcome. We must consider ourselves sworn to uphold the role’s dharma. This is exactly like the Hippocrates’ Oath associated with doctors (though contrary to common belief, they don’t take the oath). We’re required to practice the role dharma to the best of our abilities.

Since our behavior is demanded by the role and its dharma, in a way, we could say we are employed not so much by the employer as by the role. At the next step of simplification, it gets even more interesting. If we fold the abstract into the real i.e. if we merge the role with the man, it turns out we’re our employer!

Now, does this mean while we perform like we’re our own employer, the real employer takes advantage of the situation?

Well, to be honest, he might. Note most importantly our behavior however is not affected by the adharmic behavior of the employer. It is perfectly legitimate to counter the adharma of the employer through our efforts of assessing the situation (is the employer truly adharmic?), negotiating with him and employing other persuasive tactics to make him see reason and finally work out an acceptable middle-ground or even accept the employer’s position. As a last resort, the dharmishtan (practioner of dhrama) may decide to move away to a more conducive location – not a desirable outcome for the employer if he knows what’s good for him.

In our daily lives we interact with numerous entities that may or may not practice their respective dharma’s to our disadvantage. For instance a vegetable vendor may overcharge for his produce.We are free to counter these as we see fit not largely affecting our practice of dharma.

In real life things get a little more complex. Firstly each of us plays a multitude of roles at different times and in different contexts: an employee, a boss, a father/mother, a son/daughter, a husband/wife, a customerEach of these roles has its own dharma. Where is the role’s dharma written? It can’t be in the ancient texts since some of these roles are entirely contemporary. Actually it is a lot simpler than it appears. For instance any service related role would imply striving for satisfaction of its customer through some service-specific means, etc. etc. At the time of marriage we take a lot of oaths (unfortunately we in India hardly understand what we mouth as these are in Sanskrit) about our conduct with our spouses as described in old texts/scriptures. A practical subset of these oaths could serve as the dharma for our role.

When we do this across all roles we play, does it result in a bewildering variety of dharmic prescriptions, too many to keep track? Fortunately it is possible to reduce all of these to a few strong injunctions like the Ten Commandments – a list that we created, believe in, strongly motivated to uphold in our lives. More enduring than the use of carrot and sticks. Examples: I’ve tried to inculcate in my daughters from young as part of ethics in life: ‘Don’t touch what does not rightly belong to you.’ A professional’s dharma would include the obligation to deliver the best service/solution for his customer. It implies the professional must update himself with recent developments in his field. Of course these dharmic mandates may carry realistic qualifiers.

Coming back to one of the original questions: Does the concept of nishkama karma breed mediocrity? The answer is: The criterion for good performance is already built into the role dharma. Thus below-par performance cannot be passed off as dharmic compliance.

One final question – why are we introducing a fancy term dharma? Isn’t the term ‘duty’ adequate for the purpose?

Well, a big no. The terms dharma and dharmishtan are much more powerful concepts. They connote ownership, empowerment, self-image and even pride in the practice.

Note the above concepts are secular and simply practical – by no means altruistic.

Hope this clarifies.

So where do we go from here?

It’s quite a light and simple process. As an illustrative example, let’s take a software development shop and a professional working there in.

We give him a small set of dharmic principles that emanate from the organization’s vision and culture. We give him the choice of adding a few on his own, of course, in line with the operations of the organization and his role. We agree on how to look at his compliance over time. After,say, six months or so we do a supportive review to figure out how far he is gone in building the persona for himself. Note these principles are not to be confused with KRA’s or performance goals. Neither do we interfere with the customary review/appraisal process until we have more data and maturity in this experiment. The dharmic principles are not so volatile over time, they are not project specific, they are more to do with what is right for the professional to do in his role. Example: The bane of most organizations in this space is the failure to share knowledge. Would it get better if this is incorporated as a dharmic principle that he proudly owns as part of his professional persona?

Well, needs to be tried out.


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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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