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Posts Tagged ‘Problem Solving’

In my long career in hi-tech, there were two HR chief’s I was fortunate to observe from close quarters though their tenures were short. Both ladies, early in their career, graduates from TISS. In the years that followed we went different ways. But I continued to measure the HR chiefs I encountered subsequently and they all fell short by lengths in comparison.

This post is about one of them, U.

Passing out from TISS, she joined the org as an Executive Assistant (EA) to the Big Boss – not sure if this was her first job in the industry. Several months later she was sent to the Division dealing in hi-tech and also the most profitable of the many in the brick-and-mortar company as the HR chief, essentially a one-woman team.

A hurricane on the move, only benign.  Some saw her as a very useful ally and others, an overbearing youngster, often going beyond her brief running smack into know-all senior line-managers.

Was she ‘successful’ in the traditional sense? I don’t know, for, can’t recall her being feted in public as such in her short stay. During which time, all the same, some magic she had wrought, I thought. 

What did she do?

  • In all her thought and action, org’s interest was the first and foremost, possibly the only preoccupation, I suspected. Yet, not wearing it on her sleeve.
  • Abs fearless, she thought nothing of taking up issues with and questioning pet theories of the senior executives until satisfactory closure. Of course this was possible because she sought and got the crucial support of the Big Boss, all credit to him. In this regard, perhaps her earlier stint as his EA helped.
  • Though young, she had the maturity to go for the doors that were open to her rather than bang her head against walls that wouldn’t budge (some seniors). She could live well with both kinds.
  • Most part of her time she was out sitting one-on-one with employees. Like with the bosses, she would mix her praises with provocations to get them spill out their guts, all work-related of course. She would herself address many of those problems by offering solutions, work-around’s or through counselling with, yes, subsequent follow-up’s. And the more complex issues would be taken to their bosses. If you’re not happy, why are you working here still…? OrWhy are you still doing the same work you did over the last two years? Aren’t you good for anything else? Or Why are you not getting promoted? Not doing good, eh? are not unusual in the provoking sessions which, to be sure, did not end in destructive fire-works. Her disarming and bonafide ways let her get away. These sessions revealed the swirling under-currents and provided useful inputs to the manager, otherwise impossible to get. And she would take points-of-view from the boss back to the employee. Yes, playing politics it was, but constructively. Issues often got fixed before too late.  Of course the bosses too had their sessions with her.
  • She would play it likewise with peers running their feuds to the detriment of the org.
  • She was no cat’s paw nor did she play favorites. Nor cowed by heavy-weights.
  • A high-energy person with an infectious enthusiasm in a team, also good to talk to when chips were down.
  • In her own role she was constantly wanting to do more. I remember going with her for campus recruitment of trainee-engineers. After watching me a few times from the side-lines, things came to a point when she carried on with the technical interviews all by herself rendering me superfluous!

That’s what a capable and empowered HR can deliver. Want to settle for less?

Neither the land nor the heavens would ever be the same after her premature and unfortunate transition a few days ago – she was one to stir up the stew wherever she went for the larger good.

RIP, U.

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Vide விஷ்வாமித்திரர்

Drawing water using manual pumps (If the clip doesn’t show, go here):

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Leaving aside the party politics for the moment, it’s still an amazing case of innovative problem solving and communication the corporate’s would do well to look at its merit.

ToiletThis is election time in India with parties engaged in a fierce fight over voters’ mind-share.

The above is a message in this tussle coming from Prime-Minister Modi’s party BJP.

On the left is a panel depicting the state-of-affairs under the rule of the Congress Party that held sway for most years since independence, dominated by the Nehru family. It shows a man relieving himself publicly under a sign-board admonishing Don’t commit nuisance here‘. On the right is a panel intended to show the transformation achieved over last 55 months of BJP’s  rule. Here the sign points the offender-to-be to Use the toilet 50 feet away from the spot!

The difference in the approaches of problem-solving and its communication is so stark and brilliant!

Of course, it’s another matter to independently check on what the ground reality is.. Though the official claim is: 1.31 crores of public facilities were constructed in the state of Tamil Nadu during those 55 months of their rule under the Swatch Bharat campaign.

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And it’s unbelievably cheap too while yielding immense safety benefits!

From an article (and clips) here by Christoph Roser, brought up by Gopalakrishna Sunderrajan:

Look at this short clip (49 secs):

What is the train driver pointing at and what is he saying?

The technique of ‘Point and Call‘ is practiced by the Japanese railway companies from around 1900, and it is now widespread throughout Japan. And to a little extent, however not with the same rigor, outside of railways too.

With Japanese railroads, anything that has to be looked at is usually confirmed using point and call. First and foremost, this is for observing railroad signals that indicate whether the train is allowed to proceed, whether there are speed restrictions, or whether the train needs to stop. For example, when a speed limit starts in 500 meters, the train driver points at the sign and says, “Limit 75 Distance 500.

The technique is also used to verify the timetable. At every stop, the driver points to the corresponding line in the timetable to verify the target arrival and departure times. For example, when leaving the station, the driver points at the timetable and says, “Three o’ clock 12 minutes 15 seconds depart Shibuya station.

While the train stops, the speed is verified by pointing at the speedometer. Platform attendants and conductors also point along the platform to check if the train is clear, often also pointing at additional surveillance monitors for this purpose. For example, the conductor points at the doors after closing and states, “Good Closure,” then points at the monitors and states, “Good monitors for departure.

Pointing and Calling combines looking at something, pointing at it, calling out the observation, and listening to your own voice, giving co-action and co-reaction among the operator’s brain, eyes, hands, mouth, and ears. Not only looking but also pointing and sometimes stating the observation avoids sloppiness and helps keep focus and attention. For simple tasks (and most of these tasks are reasonably simple), this technique reduces errors by almost 85%. Some companies use only pointing, or only calling, but the technique is most effective when combined.

Here’s another clip on the subject (3.55 mins):

The article appeared in the beginning of 2014. Surprisingly for some reason this easy-to-implement innovative practice does not seem to have caught on yet outside of Japan.

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tears

I once read a story about a kid R who loved to write fiction. In his home lived a kid P staying with her mother employed in that home as a household help.

R once received an email from his uncle praising him for latest piece. The excited kid read out the email to P, “My uncle quite liked my story. He wrote ‘Bravo!'”

P: “Well, of course if he liked it, must be a good one. What’s the story about?”

R: “It’s about a man who finds a magic cup. Soon he learns if he weeps into the cup, his tears would turn to pearls….And at the end of story, he’s sitting on a mountain of pearls with a blood stained knife in his hands and his dead wife by his side. ”

P: “So he killed her so that he could cry more and get rich?”

R: “Yes, you’re very quick”

P: “But why couldn’t he just smell and cut some onions?”

 

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Source: quora.com/profile/Bhaskar-Dutta-15, image from independent.co.uk

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M is your guy to grab…not many around like him.

Read on to know what I meant:

Episode 1: When he stopped ‘it’ in its tracks…unbelievable!

He was visiting Hyderabad (Begumpet airport, Secunderabad) from Chennai, in by the morning and scheduled to return by the evening flight 6.30 pm, flying both ways on propeller-driven Avro.  Till 5.30 he was checking up regularly on flight departure and he was told it was uncertain due to unfavorable weather conditions at Chennai. And then they said the flight was cancelled for the day. M happened to be nearby and hence rushed to Indian Airlines office to check on alternatives available – booking wasn’t online then.

He was in their office by 6 pm when he learnt the Avro flight was after all leaving on time! He blew his top for the  misinformation and insisted on taking that flight as he would be able to reach the airport in the next 10 minutes. It wasn’t possible, he was told. Not one DNA’ed to take a ‘no’, M insisted they inform the duty-officer (DO) at the airport about his coming in regardless. Disconnecting without waiting for a response, he rushed to airport and was at the counter by 6.25. The staff quite expectedly refused to check him in. He rushed to the DO who also regretted his inability to help, pointing out to the aircraft all ready to move with the ground staff closing the formalities and giving thumbs-up to the pilot. He threatened the DO he’ll rush out and stop the aircraft which is what exactly M did next! He jumped the security; chased by all including DO, he outran all of them reaching the aircraft just then beginning to move.

Fearing worse, the DO did what he could to keep M out of his hair: the aircraft was halted, the ladder expressly brought in, a boarding-pass printed…was he happy to see M’s back as the door closed!!

Today, of course, a mere attempt in the direction or even an expression of such intent would get him arrested!

Episode 2: Just the man for the herd

The Air-India flight from Dubai to Mumbai was for some reason diverted to Delhi. Obviously there was total commotion and clamor for seats to make the onward journey. The staff at AI counter were simply unable to handle the onslaught. Just the scene cut out for our man to jump in. M managed to push himself to the front – his lean frame lets him move edge-ways! – climbed onto the counter and raised his voice to cow down the belligerent passengers to some order. He then asked them to make up different queues: one for families with small children, another for senior citizens and, lastly, others. Further M declared seats shall be allotted in the same order of the queues i.e. beginning with the families with small children. Some in the third lot were not happy with it, pressing on their needs as urgent over others. He got the duty-officer (DO) also to make a concurring announcement and stick with it.

M made his wife and children (not small) to stand aside, not wanting to be seen as self-seeking. Thence it was smooth-going: the first lot and the second were accommodated in full. About a third of the rest could also be pushed through before the flight was full up. The remaining, including his family, had to perforce wait for another flight. He arranged with the DO to authorize priority seating for them on the next flight. Finally when the counters opened for their flight, our man duly queued up with others. That’s when he was called to meet up with the DO. The DO thanked M heartily for helping them manage a chaotic scene and gave him the glad tidings of an upgrade for his family and him to first-class – a fine gesture from AI!

These two episodes – it wasn’t easy to choose from the many on hand – give you a flavor of what M was and is.

It may just be possible yet to tempt M with a challenge, to come out of his peaceful retirement in a community off the city of Mysore. A word of caution however: liaising, lobbying, scratching people’s back…are not M’s cup of coffee as also underhand dealings of any kind. A square-shooter of the old school, that’s what Mani is and what you get, dealing with him.

 

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Manager's Problems

 

A different point of view.

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