Posts Tagged ‘Performance’

Don’t miss the last few seconds – relate to it?




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Source: dumpaday.com

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On reaching the airport he completed the check-in formalities and had an hour on hand before boarding announcement. He headed for the club, a special lounge offered by the airlines. As a frequent traveler, he was entitled to free admittance to the lounge.

He freshened himself up and settled down comfortably. A rack on the far side held newspapers of the day and some magazines. He picked up a magazine – he had already read the papers at home. The weekly was two-weeks old. A trifle irritated, he went for the monthly magazine on current affairs. Here again he had seen a more recent new issue with a magazine vendor.

He was not one of those guys to let the sleeping dogs sleep. He went up to the hostess in the lounge and drew her attention to the stack of dated magazines lying on the side-table.


The lady made a quick check and found it so.

She apologized to him and withdrew to her desk promising to take up the matter with the organizational function responsible for timely replenishment.

That was that. He resigned himself to reading advertisements, obituaries and reviews of some art shows.

In less than five minutes the hostess stood before him.

As he looked up, she handed him a stack of fresh magazines.

When his eye-brows arched up, she volunteered: ‘I bought them now, Sir.’

The magazines would have cost at least fifty rupees. He was certain she did not have the time to take it up with her back-office.

He was overcome with a sense of guilt: ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…you didn’t have to buy them out of your pocket.’

‘Don’t give it a thought, Sir. My company pays for it.’

Seeing a quizzical look on his face, she explained: ‘Sir, I’m allowed to spend up to fifty rupees a day for right reasons. This was one.’

This is a simple yet powerful story on enabling the (wo)man on the job to respond to unanticipated situations in the field towards an endearing outcome. It was shared with us as his personal experience by a senior executive – I cannot recall who it was – in an internal training program.

It is easy to imagine any number of scenes of a similar kind:

A staff in a shopping mall gives out a candy to distract a child throwing tantrums.

A cabbie takes a cut in the fare because of a detour made that his customer did not need.

A stores clerk taking in a return of goods when it could be argued both ways.

Etc. etc.

These acts are more commonly observed in operations that are not encumbered by thick policy books. This is not an argument against policy books. It’s just that a policy book must allow room for an employee to respond appropriately if the situation merits.

What about some corporate examples?

Lack of empowerment manifests in different flavors and is usually much more debilitating. That’s a story for another day.


Credit: openclipart.com(j4p4n)

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On a weekend a mirasdar (a big land-owner) went to his mango orchard accompanied by his son. The resident guard received them and conducted them around the numerous fruit-bearing trees in the orchard. At the end of it, the visitors rested in a hut and called on the guard to fetch some mangoes.

When the mangoes came, the mirasdar and his son feasted on the ripe, juicy and sweet fruits. Verily food of the gods.

They happily took leave and made to the second orchard nearby also owned by the mirasdar.

Here again, he ordered the guard working in this orchard to get some mangoes.

When the mangoes came, the mirasdar took one bite and rejected them: ‘These taste sour, get some sweet ones.’

The guard brought a second lot.

These too were set aside by the visitors as not sweet.

A few more rounds happened of the guard fetching the fruits and their rejection by the mirasdar.

Finally the mirasdar and his son got up to leave disappointed at not having had good mangoes.

The mirasdar pulled up the guard: ‘You’ve been working here now for over a year. Don’t you enough to identify trees with sweet fruits?’

The guard politely told him: ‘Sir, frankly, I’ve not tasted these fruits myself. I see you paying me to guard the orchard against pilferage of fruits and not for tasting them.’

The son drew himself up to admonish the guard, but was restrained by the mirasdar.

On their way back, the mirasdar asked the son who of the two guards should be given charge of the new orchard the mirasdar was buying.

The son’s choice was for the first guard who knew about his trees.

The mirasdar had a different view: ‘You see, the first guard knew which of those fruits were good. How do we know if he hasn’t taken bags of them for himself? Only a step away from tasting the fruits. On the other hand second guy was doing an honest job. We need people like him to work for us.’

OpenCA thinkingboy ryanlerch

This is an old story of wisdom that may not hold in present times.

Today the first guy would be the man of choice. He had knowledge of his trees. He would use it to take extra care of those trees bearing sweet fruits. Who knows – he might even hold those fruits separate from the other produce and recommend they be priced with a premium. Clearly he has enlarged his job for the mirasdar’s profit and hopefully his too. The gains of his empowerment and initiative far outweigh loss due to pilferage if any.

Admittedly a possibility, pilferage – the downside of empowerment, a far less problem, could be addressed by other means.

Winners secret sauce today is to find imaginatively newer ways of empowering those who are on the job, and the latter seizing the initiative to enlarge and enrich their jobs, of course with checks and balances against possible abuses.

This is an obvious corollary emerging from today’s reality – it is neither feasible nor wise to comprehensively anticipate every possible situation faced by one on the job and specify in advance responses for the same.

How often we forget every pair of hands comes with a head of their own! And unfortunately, more often than not, so do the hands.


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Credits: ryanlerch at openclipart.com

PS: This post was originally written for madgigs, a company implementing an interesting concept for both the professionals and the prospective employers. For more information, visit their site at madgigs.com/

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Today I can’t imagine myself or any manager getting away with such acts in public. It might even land us in jail under some IPC section.

The year was in late eighty’s.

It was 6-00 in the evening and I took a break and walked around the unit. It was a great sight all around – the papers were strewn on the work-tables and manuals left open on whichever page. All signs of the premises being vacated in a tearing hurry like there was a fire.

So in the following morning, the entire unit had assembled as I launched into another of those raving and ranting session:’ blah blah…Guys, I hate to tell you this – your parents seemed to have given you birth and forgotten all about it and now it for us to teach you basics of hygiene…blah blah…’ Graveyard silence, one or two feet shuffled. No wise-cracks or angry remonstrations. In a little while usual camaraderie returned and all forgotten until the next repeat in a few days and then again…

Fast forward by a few years.

I was in a short-term course at IIM, Ahmedabad. The Professor – unfortunately I’m unable to recall her name – was presenting her analysis of an acute problem the software industry was facing then – attrition of software professionals.

Guys were jumping jobs faster than a frog on hot tin. And the industry did not have a clue on how this could be managed.

And the talk veered around to the (then) youngsters and the esteemed Professor made a few insightful observations:

* The kids all along have been pushed and pushed by the parents to achieve great results in their academics. And when they come into the industry, they are told to slow down: ‘Well, you are too young to become a team-lead,’ ‘You must have at least 5 years of experience in handling…’ etc. etc. They can’t understand this kind of push-back.

* And as a corollary, they’ve missed their childhood fun. When they come into a job, they let their hair down and catch up on the fun they had missed out. The strain of the years of a professional course also tells (Once a kid watched me for a while and asked me how could I possibly enjoy reading a (technical) book at my age). This explains, for instance, why the kid does not report to office on a Monday morning with no prior intimation whatsoever. No point in bursting a few blood-vessels over it.

* Lastly, the only language they understand is one of performance. And use this language to get most out of them. Appealing to ‘feudal’ values like allegiance to the org, values and culture, etc. etc. do not make a significant impression. And this is where most managers fail by merely tasking these kids routinely and unimaginatively without an eye on their performance or drown them in some impersonal high-level metric. This is a subject for a later post.

She did not stop at a passive explanation of the phenomenon. She concluded by saying our leadership style must get appropriately tweaked to pique the interest and performance of these young professionals pouring into the industry year after year. And, of course, save yourself from a stroke or two!

What a colossal waste not doing this! And we bemoan their mediocrity and lack of application. At the risk of displeasing my friends in HR, in most cases I must say they’re entirely innocent of the happenings-on in these quarters. Thankfully for the industry, a small number of youngsters continue to perform very well despite uninspiring and inept leadership.

These observations have not lost their relevance even today as the practices unfortunately have not changed much from what I observe. I suspect the scene may not be very different in other industries.

At least for me, the wisdom had dawned and the rants thereafter dropped off quite significantly – rants of this kind excepted!

Am I tarring them all black? No, not by a long shot. I have known, worked with and gained much from some lucky-to-be-with senior professionals in software and in HR who are an absolute antithesis of what is profiled above. My regret is they are in a minority.


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There was a farmer who collected horses. One day, he was fortunate to find a specimen of a rare Arabian breed for sale. The delighted farmer paid an arm and a leg to acquire the horse.

A month later, the horse became ill and he called the veterinarian. The vet examined the horse carefully and finally declared:

“Well, your horse has a virus. He must take this medicine for three days. I’ll come back on the third day and if he’s not better, we’re going to have to put him down.”

Nearby, the pig listened closely to their conversation.

The next day, the horse was given the medicine and left to recover.

The pig approached the horse and said:

“Buck up, my friend, or else they’re going to put you to sleep!”

On the second day, the horse was given the medicine and left to recover.

The pig came back and said:

“Come on buddy, gather up or else you’re going to die! Come on, I’ll help you. Let’s go! One, two, three…”

On the third day, they came to give him the medicine and the vet said to the anguished farmer:

“It’s mighty unfortunate. We’’re going to have to put him down tomorrow. Otherwise, the virus might spread and infect the other horses.”

After they left, the pig approached the horse and said:

“Listen pal, it’s now or never! Get up, come on! Have courage!

Come on! Get up! Get up! That’s it, slowly! Great!

Come on, one, two, three… Good, good.

Now faster, come on…. Fantastic! Run, run more! Yes! Yay! Yes! You did it, you’re a champion!!!”

All of a sudden, the farmer came back, saw the horse running in the field and began shouting:

“It’s nothing short of a miracle! My horse is cured. This deserves a party. Let’s kill the pig!!”


Are you beginning to relate it to what happens in your organization?
Source: IIA Forum

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