Sunday, June 30, 2013

Aon Hewitt Total Rewards Framework

The Aon Hewitt model and approach believes in considering Total Rewards as a business tool and very much linked to overall business objectives!
Reward as understood is a very complex mechanism and some efforts of correcting the base pay and titling in a hurry by many MNCs in India have done a bigger crime by trying to correct it by market adjustments without looking at the talent map, complexity and expectations out of role and mapping it against the benchmark. Titles in India are a big misnomer and hardly any survey on compensation ever probes and captures and calibrates the tangible outcome based bench marking!

If we dive deep, we will find that the key factors of Education, Experience and Quality of Education, Quality and relevance of experience and education are not calculated granular!
A diploma holder technical manager gets the salary benchmarked for the top T-school manager with top quality experience in a challenging and break-through innovation environment with highly skilled and qualified managers, leaders and colleagues versus a manager who worked in less challenging environment where his job was maintenance and low key in complexity and delivery excellence by virtue of being built in a 6 sigma environment for a demanding client versus a less demanding buyer!

Technical competence shall be calculated and calibrated against the quality of experience versus the best quality benchmarked experience that could be thought of and experienced. Unfortunately, salary surveys do not take deep dive into the "QUALITY OF EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE" and "COMPLEXITY OF ENVIRONMENT", stress levels of CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS" and "CUT-THROAT COMPETITION" hurled by fierce competitor. Salary surveys also do not categorize benchmarked COMPETING companies based on their quality of products and services, levels of expectations of customers, quality of colleagues and leadership, quality of work set-up and environment, Expectations of Managers and benchmarked quality and other product or service excellence programmes that competing companies may be running. I shall not pay the same salary by broadly comparing titles and generic role comparison. Have a complexity matrix comparison. 

What is The Hay Group Total Reward Framework

The Hay Group Total Reward Framework
A new way of understanding reward
Reward strategies must be anchored in business reality to be effective. Which means linking it to your business strategy – and the needs of your employees as well as your organisation. Our Total Reward Framework helps you optimise reward, no matter how challenging the conditions.

The Hay Group Total Reward Framework

The issue
Remuneration tends to be one of the worst-managed parts of an organisation’s cost structure. But with 10-70 per cent of total costs wrapped up in it, reward cannot be ignored, particularly in a downturn. To be effective, reward programmes must reflect the needs of the business, now and in the future. Only if they are tied closely to company strategy, business performance and the needs of employees can reward programmes deliver the ROI that is needed in tough times[MK1] .
The Hay Group Total Reward Framework takes strategy as a starting point – and it focuses on total reward: every financial measure together with non-financial rewards [MK2] too. It also takes into account the needs of both company and employee: an even, balanced approach ensures the company’s interests are catered for, while ensuring employees are engaged and motivated[MK3] . This holistic approach is particularly important at a time when costs are under pressure and organisations are, in essence, focused on doing more with less.
Our framework is also tied to a strong implementation plan, ensuring it translates into bottom-line results.[MK4]
Hay Group can design total remuneration programmes that can help you:
·         align the value of the total reward programmes with individual performance, business performance and work culture[MK5]
·         provide a competitive and differentiated[MK6]  total reward package, one reflective of the internal and external value of work
·         ensure the external competitiveness of the total reward programme, so that the level and mix of remuneration is positioned against the right comparator groups[MK7] , at the right levels
·         develop reward programmes that most cost effectively meet the motivational and retention needs of employees
·         ensure employees have buy-in and understand new programmes, which in turn, will increase employee commitment/engagement
·         ensure line managers fully understand the programmes and can lead in implementing them
·         align people costs with business results[MK8] .
Why Hay Group
At Hay Group, we will strive to understand your business and how designing rewards right can make a difference. Most of all, we ‘know’ [MK9] people, what motivates them and how to effectively influence them.
Our style is to approach reward from a business and an integrated, not just technical, perspective. We blend the financial, organisational and behavioural aspects of reward to create tailored programmes that fit the business strategy as well as HR goals. [MK10] We also make use of proven diagnostic and survey methodologies and our database of rewards offered in businesses across the world.
The result is a total remuneration programme or programmes (base salary plus short-term incentives, long-term incentives and the value of benefits programmes) that ensures your organisation is providing the appropriate amount of remuneration, in the right ways.
Hay Group’s approach
Hay Group works closely with key decision makers across your business, including financial professionals[MK11] , to understand your business strategy, business model, key performance indicators (KPIs), employee demographics and work culture. From there we are better equipped to review and redevelop your reward architecture. We will:
·         examine your current remuneration programme and gauge the extent that it aligns with the business strategy, the HR strategy and the reward strategy
·         understand the economics and business priorities of your organisation
·         understand the employee demographics and potentially different needs of different employee groups
·         conduct employee surveys [MK12] to understand which reward programme features deliver the most value to them, and
·         look at the messages that your reward programme is giving around each element and determine the extent that they align with reward strategy[MK13] .
From this we then develop base salary plans [MK14] that are aligned with your business requirements and reward strategy. We also model outcomes and costs of alternative plan designs to help you see the bigger picture and explain the potential cost and accounting implications of our recommended strategy. We will then show you how this compares to other organisations and offer insights into why different types of plans tend to be used by different organisations.
Finally, we can provide you with the benefit of our experience and expertise in implementing and communicating the new salary programme: many well designed programmes do not provide a ‘return on investment’ due to poor communications or implementation.
Hay Group in action
Hay Group has helped develop a reward architecture for US store chain Family Dollar. Read our case study.


 [MK1]In other words, TR can fail if not tied to- company strategy, business performance and needs of employees. Three BIG heads and therefore TR needs Board’s attention and approval. It is not just an HR ball-game!
 [MK2]List of non financial rewards- 1. Office, Car, type of laptop, BB, 2. Privileges of travel class, hotel stay, leisure trips abroad in the name of meets etc. 3. Financial and approval powers.
4. Expanse of reports and locations under control.
5. Freedom from low end jobs.
6. Assistants and Junior employees at service and support
 [MK3]Is TR an engagement and motivation tool? Tell me how besides Performance Based Incentives.
 [MK4]List how TR results in bottom-line results? How is Business P&L, Profitability, Gross margins are related to TR?---You said, strategic, right? Is TR operationally tied with business financial objectives, targets and guidelines of performance. How often TR is revisited and reviewed alongside Business performance and results to check alignment or mis-alignment?
 [MK5]What do you mean by aligning with work culture? Does it mean, professionalism, Business Integrity, Commitment to team, client and management? Does it mean knowledge sharing, team work, mentoring, coaching? Simply, living company values? Explain for more and clarifications, if any..
 [MK6]What is ‘differentiated’? Give examples. Also, explain why differentiated is required and how it helps the idea behind a TR?
 [MK7]What is ‘comparator group’? Explain and how to arrive at ‘comparator group’?
 [MK8]This is strategy. How does TR help in building the right framework of reward/Incentive compensation, etc without knowing ‘business nature, profitability, taxation, cost structure, nature of business returns, face and shape of market and competition and “Knowledge of competitor’s Incentive pay structure, policy and guidelines?
 [MK9]Interesting? Any idea about Hay’s ‘secret sauce’ and depths and breadth of business and people understanding in different sets of industries, businesses, markets, nature of products and services, locations and levels of employees? Please explain..
 [MK10]This is the secret called, “KNOW-HOW”. Can you guess? What is that?
 [MK12]Why just surveys? Check financial performance data that was expected against this TR plan and what it achieved? Do not shy away from deep diagnostic and investigation/ audit/analysis…Talking about “Alignment”, right?
 [MK13]Survey, interviews and focus group can give this messaging sense? Also, check for if this met the objective of messaging that this plan had at the time of implementation and follow through!
 [MK14]I love this term, “base salary plan”. Tell me how does a company arrive at “Base salary” for any level? What all factors it considers and what all weight ages it assigns to each of them? Is base salary a range or a baseline figure or a percentile? How and why companies fix an ‘x’ percentile for the base pay? And what is the right band variance for the base pay range, if you recommend? Give reasons for your base pay range  and tell the reasons if range is not followed what will be the consequence?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Evidence-based management: Robert Sutton

Sutton's research focuses on the links (and gaps) between managerial knowledge and organizational action, organizational creativity and innovation, organizational performance, and evidence-based management.
Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School. His book, The No Asshole Rule, won the Quill Award for the best business book of 2007. Sutton was also named as one of 10 “B-School All-Stars” by BusinessWeek in 2007, which they described as “professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia.”

Evidence-based management entails managerial decisions and organizational practices informed by the best available scientific evidence. Like its counterparts in medicine[1] and education, the judgments EBMgt entails also consider the circumstances and ethical concerns managerial decisions involve. In contrast to medicine and education, however, EBMgt today is only hypothetical. Contemporary managers and management educators make limited use of the vast behavioral science evidence base relevant to effective management practice.
An important part of EBMgt is educating current and future managers in evidence-based practices. The EBMgt website maintained at Stanford University provides a repository of syllabi, cases, and tools that can inform the teaching of evidence-based management.
Efforts to promote EBMgt face greater challenges than have other evidence-based initiatives. Unlike, medicine, nursing, education, and law enforcement, "Management" is not a profession. There are no established legal or cultural requirements regarding education or knowledge for an individual to become a manager. Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. A college degree may be required for an MBA – but not to be a manager. No formal body of shared knowledge characterizes managers, making it unlikely that peer pressure will be exerted to promote use of evidence by any manager who refuses to do so

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't is a book by Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton, based on a popular essay he wrote for the Harvard Business Review. It sold over 115,000 copies and won the Quill Award for best business book in 2007
Bob Sutton's List of The Dirty Dozen Common Everyday Actions That A**holes Use

1. Personal insults
2. Invading one's personal territory
3. Uninvited personal contact
4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal
5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
6. Withering email flames
7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals
9. Rude interruptions
10. Two-faced attacks
11. Dirty looks
12. Treating people as if they are invisible

"There's an emotional reaction to a dirty title. You have a choice between being offensive and being ignored."
—Robert Sutton
Two tests are specified for recognition of the asshole:

  1. After encountering the person, do people feel oppressed, humiliated or otherwise worse about themselves?
  2. Does the person target people who are less powerful than him/her?

The Author cites companies that have effectively instilled a "No A**hole Rule" because they have realized that the true cost of the A**hole runs deeper than the A**hole's salary (TCA or Total Cost of A**holes). It truly can diminish productivity in the office, increase employee turnover, stifle communication, and lower employee self esteem and health. The book explains how to implement a No A**hole Rule at any organization.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ethics, Integrity and Governance!

The focus should be on e-governance and systemic change. An honest system of governance will displace dishonest persons. As Gladstone so aptly said, “The purpose of a government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil”.

Napoleon who said, ‘Law should be so succinct that it can be carried in the pocket of the coat and it should be so simple that it can be understood by a peasant’

Building trust and confidence requires an environment where there is a premium on transparency, openness, boldness, fairness and justice. We should encourage this.

Interlocking accountability is a process by which evaluation could be done easily and accountability ensured
If governance is by men who are derelict, the governed will suffer.
We have to keep in mind Plato’s injunction:

“The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in government, is to suffer under the government of bad men”

Good governance must be founded on moral virtues ensuring stability and harmony.

Confucius described righteousness as the foundation of good governance and peace. The art of good governance simply lies in making things right and putting them in their right place. Confucius’s prescription for good governance is ideally suited for a country like India where many of our present day players in  governance do not adhere to any principle and ensure only their own interests.

Confucius emphasizes the righteousness for life and character building. This is in conformity with Dharma or righteousness as taught by all religions in the world and preached in Buddhism very predominantly in its fourth noble truth. He also emphasizes that man himself must become righteous and then only there shall be righteousness in the world. This is comparable with what Gandhiji said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

{Ethics is a set of standards that helps guide conduct. One of the problems is that the present codes of conduct are not direct and to the point. They are full of vague sermons that rarely indicate prohibitions directly.}

The standard for probity in public life should be not only conviction in a criminal court but propriety as determined by suitable independent institutions specifically constituted for the purpose. We have broadly copied the British model of governance.
Ministers in Tony Blair’s government have had to resign on such minor improprieties as a telephone call to the concerned person to fast track the issue of a visa for the ‘nanny’ of the Minister’s child or the grant of British citizenship to a generous contributor to a cause supported by the Government. Such principles were upheld and pronounced by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Mudgal case in which the said Lok Sabha Member was expelled by Parliament on 24th September, 1951 even when the Member volunteered to resign.
The Mudgal case is often cited as the noblest example of the early leadership’s efforts at setting high standards of conduct in parliamentary life.

We need to reverse the slide by prescribing stringent standards of probity in public life instead of providing shelter to public figures of suspect integrity behind the argument of their not having been convicted in a court.

The standard should be one of not only the conduct of Caesar’s wife but of Caesar himself.

The solution to the problem of corruption has to be more systemic than any other issue of governance.

All procedures, laws and regulations that breed corruption and come in the way of efficient delivery system will have to be eliminated. The perverse system of incentives in public life, which makes corruption a high return low risk activity, need to be addressed.(here we are talking about consequences)

The focus should be on e-governance and systemic change. An honest system of governance will displace dishonest persons. As Gladstone so aptly said, “The purpose of a government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil”.

Ethics in governance, however, has a much wider import than what happens in the different arms of the government. An across-the-board effort is needed to fight deviations from ethical norms. Such an effort needs to include corporate ethics and ethics in business; in fact, there should be a paradigm shift from the pejorative ‘business ethics’ to ‘ethics in business’

The Seven Social Sins, as quoted by Mahatma Gandhi in “Young India,” 1925
1. Politics without principles
2. Wealth without work
3. Leisure without conscience.
4. Knowledge without character
5. Commerce without morality
6. Science without humanity
7. Worship without sacrifice

"No one can pursue another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change, that can only be opened from inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal".
--Marlyn Ferguson: 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What have I done in 10 years after my MBA?

It forces me to think the side that I consciously skipped! It is very difficult to assess, evaluate, savor, eulogize or criticize someone else's life and time in terms of tangible outcomes. It is nearly impossible and closely embarrassing to evaluate one's own life in terms of what we lived like, lived for and lived with.

The five themes of life and its objective evaluation, I think can be done, once we ponder over and do value assessment and not value judgement of what have we done and got out of us and our lives.

1. Recognition of "self-image"-What I think of my self today (respect, love, pride and honour): How have I evolved as a person and professional, How do I see myself: Someone or Just anyone, No one or Super-star Human Being!
2. Price is what you pay, value is what you get: Have I shortchanged? Have I got shortchanged?Have I done justice to my education, role, title, salary, company, bosses, colleagues, subordinates, employees, fraternity, ecosystem, including society and professional associations! ---This part asks for what my conscience says about "what I have done" against what was expected. Feedback includes what score have I got from people, I worked with or worked for or worked around? How clear is my conscience?
3. Trade-offs made: The work-life and personal/family life choices/balance, I have made! Personal and family values scorecard, as good partner/spouse, parent, son, etc. How clear is my conscience?
4. Clairvoyant/ Seeing the Future-My "Das Vidaniya"/ 10 things to do before I hang my boots or say Goodbye!
5. Purpose of life- Have I found my purpose of life? This is more of spiritual enlightenment. Spirituality is different from religion or being ritualistic. It is about knowing the 'invisible/unknown super powers' that charge and drive the universe! the magic, the enigma!


An HR interview for my batch-mates!

It has been a decade since the MPM batch of SIBM 2003 passed out. I was one of them. Suddenly a thought came to my mind to have an interview with selected bunch of batch mates and check for how happy, realistic and fulfilling the journey has been, both personally and professionally.

1. Can you think for a moment, what are you ....without Job, Title, salary, Home, Family, bank balance-property ?

2. What noticeable difference, you seen in yourself/personality, as an individual in these 10 years?
3. What difference have you made  in other's lives in your career?

4. Have the wish list been checked fully?
5. Have you got your dream job yet?
6. What is the brand value of the product called "you"?
7. The euphemistic, "Have you made it large?",
8. What is brand new list of wishes and dreams now?
9. Have you got the "justification" for your so called premier B school degree?
10. What is your USP, you built during 10 years in the industry?
11. What is your key to a successful career in HR?
12. Do you think you have more than lucky, less than lucky, unfortunate or doomed in the career objectives you set for your post MBA life?
13.How has your post MBA life been in terms of your personal life, aspirations, relationships, etc?

14. Did you get chance to create the right workplace with values like "meritocracy, fair, equitable and transparent organisational policies and guidelines?
15. Have you published any book, articles, websites, blogs for your trade and skills?
16. Did you acquire any other degrees, certificates in your trade after MBA?

17. Do you think your premier MBA degree helped you get specific positions, title, career advancements, transfers, promotions, investments in you?

18. If you have to list 3 truths and 3 myths and 3 lies of HR that you discovered in your career or in outside world, as such, what would they be?

19. Do you have any big concerns, you noticed with HR department or function as such that you are really worried about?

20. What 3 differences, you would like to make to MBA HR curriculum after having experienced the function and identified gaps and irrelevance or incompleteness of the discipline?

21. As per you, who is the biggest contributor to HR function, the HR guy, the HR boss, the CEO or the employee?

22. Have you ever experienced or noticed HR department/HR folks playing a catalyst role in business? What was that?

23. How would you react to the companies, who have handed over HR leadership to non-HR people, be it Infosys or KPMG India or any other?

24. What is the biggest threat to HR as discipline today and what are the reasons for them?

25. What 3 key learning that you have got in HR, that you hold close to your heart, mind and conscience, in thought, planning and execution?

26. What branches of HR, do you think have been recognized as making business sense and value, of late?

27. What is the future of HR that you see? How hopeful are you about HR's future?

Friday, June 21, 2013

How to Build a Beautiful Company: OPEN BOOK MANAGEMENT WAY!

How to Build a Beautiful Company
Employing open-book management and leadership by consensus, the Sky Factory's Bill Witherspoon has set out to create the perfect business.

Blue-Sky Thinking Bill Witherspoon's company manufactures high-tech illusions. Its virtual windows and skylights use backlit images and high-definition LCDs to replicate clouds drifting across perfect skies.
In the early 1970s, Bill Witherspoon lived for months in a school bus parked in the Oregon desert. A hundred miles from the nearest town, he spent day after day painting the sky and the clouds. He later sold his work for tidy sums. Witherspoon would spend the rest of his life alternating between painting and launching companies. His first company experimented with new methods of agricultural management. In 1982, he co-founded Westbridge Research Group, a developer of ecologically friendly agricultural products that boasted Jonas Salk as a board member. In 1990 came a brush with notoriety when Witherspoon carved the Hindu symbol for the forces of nature into a dry lakebed in the desert. The design spanned a square quarter-mile. Aerial photos from a National Guard reconnaissance plane sparked a panic over aliens.

During one of his peckish artistic periods, Witherspoon offered to tear out the ceiling in an orthodontist's office and replace it with a skyscape made from painted tiles in exchange for braces for his children. That act of creative barter provided the idea for The Sky Factory, a $3.9 million, 34-employee company in Fairfield, Iowa. The business makes backlit images of sea and sky that are installed on ceilings and walls. Its products are popular in hotels, spas, restaurants, and hospitals.

When Witherspoon, then 60, launched The Sky Factory in 2002, he wondered, Was it possible to create a company as beautiful as a work of art? A beautiful company, in Witherspoon's mind, starts with the elimination of hierarchies that impede and repress the expression of people's natural curiosity and creativity. The Sky Factory's organizational structure is as flat as its creator's beloved desert. There are no employees, just owners, and everyone cares deeply about doing what is best for the group.

Both painting and company building start with a blank canvas. In a painting you create beauty with the addition of each brush stroke. In a company you create it with the addition of each talented, engaged person and with each thoughtful act. I thought about how satisfying it would be to build a beautiful company, and how much better for the people who work there.

I am an optimist and an idealist. In shaping The Sky Factory, I started with the assumption that people are naturally curious and creative. I wanted to craft an environment in which they would act like entrepreneurs, not like robots. My first decision was to give people the opportunity to purchase discounted ownership, and 100 percent of employees have participated. The responsibility for revenue and profit belongs to everyone. From that foundation, I derived five principles.

1. Share information

As a company of owners, everyone who works here is naturally motivated to participate in important decisions. To do so, people have to know everything. All information about The Sky Factory is right out on the table -- with the exception of HR issues and salaries. And not to reveal compensation was the decision of the group.

On Fridays, we have a two-hour meeting. For the first 30 minutes, we go over all the metrics. In addition to the critical numbers, people will raise questions about how many problems we've had that week or how many architects our marketers visited. We track all of that and maintain a historical record of the data that anyone can see at any time. Everyone is trained in financial literacy so he or she can make the best use of the information.

Secrets corrupt cultures. Secrets cause backstabbing and power plays. They signify disrespect. Secrets can't survive in an environment of total openness. It cuts off their air.

2. Give everyone equal footing

Leadership should arise innately from the drive to do well for the company, exercise creativity, and serve others. It should not be vested in titles and cascading organizational charts. There is no hierarchy at The Sky Factory -- no managers or supervisors. Leaders are those who, in a given situation, lead. We use facilitators for the sake of coordination, and those roles rotate every week. Every week, a different person runs our general meeting -- we go alphabetically. People who see a job do the job, because they don't feel constrained by their perceived place in the company.

I believe great ideas come from everyone, and a flat organization ensures that all ideas are heard and given equal consideration. By the end of last year, we had accumulated a substantial amount of cash, and we discussed how to make the best use of it. We decided to pay off the mortgage on our new factory -- the idea of our newest and youngest employee, who is primarily responsible for data entry and international shipping.

Where there is no authority, there is no fear, and people rise to what is required of them.

3. Make decisions as a group

Most people believe the quest for consensus inevitably ends in frustration. That's true in an organization in which upper management, middle management, and the workers have different agendas and access to information. In a company in which there are no levels and everybody knows everything, most people are already on the same page. When an issue arises, someone presents the new information and gives people a few moments to digest it. That's followed by some back and forth, and we usually come to agreement in record time. No decisions are made behind closed doors. Everyone is part of the process. Everyone's intelligence is brought to bear. And by definition, at the end, everybody buys in.

When we don't achieve consensus, we don't go forward. We let it die. Maybe it will come up later, when circumstances are different or we have new information. At a meeting in November, I brought up the notion of establishing a Sky Factory in Europe. The others did not like that. I argued my case for 15 minutes and then said, "Clearly we don't have consensus, so we'll forget about it." And we have. One codicil: This works only if the person objecting offers an alternative solution or reasoned point of view. You are always welcome to say no. But you cannot just say no.

4. Serve each other

I think of our factory as a community, and service is the core of community. There are two kinds of service. One is: I do this for you, and I expect a return. For example, I provide good customer service, and I expect loyalty. The other kind of service is selfless. I do something for you without thought of a return. I help you spontaneously and without thinking about it. That second kind of service is powerful. When someone has a moment of free time, how wonderful if she automatically thinks, Now, what can I do to help someone else? At the start of our Friday meetings, the leader for that week tells an appreciative story about someone at the company and presents the person with $25. Often, the story involves an unselfish, unsolicited offer of help.

This leads to one of my more idealistic notions: that everyone in the company should not only know everything, but everyone should also be able to do everything. At most companies, people take courses because new skills make them more valuable, so they can get ahead. At this company, we value people learning new skills so they can help others. So if someone gets sick or goes on vacation or falls behind, no problem. Another person can step in. For example, our accounting guy is great on the lamination machine, which is a very expensive, sensitive piece of equipment. The idea is that the more I can do, the more people I can help.

5. Share the rewards

We reward based on performance -- of the individual, of the group, and of the business. Every month, we distribute 50 percent of net profit to everyone, providing there have been no late shipments since the last bonus, cash does not drop below six months' operating expenses, and we have experienced positive cash flow for the previous 12 weeks. The formula for the bonuses is salary divided by total salaries. Needless to say, those criteria were arrived at by consensus.

The Sky Factory is an experiment and an admittedly imperfect one. In the quest for collaboration and lacking lines of authority, we can sometimes be inefficient. It takes time to hear and consider so many ideas. Not everyone is equally comfortable with the lack of constraints and the emphasis on stretching outside one's accustomed terrain. I want this business to actualize every need that people have, and that is not possible.

Most Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, we turn off the phones and do an hour of training on subjects as diverse as photography, ecology, and business grammar. Recently, we devoted a number of weeks to a course I prepared in partnership with an art historian called "What Is Fine Art: Building a Beautiful Company." We all viewed hundreds of images and discussed how every brush stroke, every chisel mark, every pixel is linked to every other -- nothing stands in isolation. Then we talked about how at our company the rotation of leadership and familiarity with one another's jobs give everyone a deeper understanding of the product, the ability to see it as more than the sum of its parts.

That appreciation of what we are doing is what keeps great people here, and great people will ensure that The Sky Factory endures. After all, that's what great art does. Endures.

Open Book Management

Open-book management (OBM) is a management phrase coined by John Case of Inc. magazine, who began using the term in 1993. However, the concept's most visible success was by Jack Stack and his team at SRC Holdings .
The basis of open-book management is that the information received by employees should not only help them do their jobs effectively, but help them understand how the company is doing as a whole (Kidwell & Scherer, 2001). According to Case, "a company performs best when its people see themselves as partners in the business rather than as hired hands" . The technique is to give employees all relevant financial information about the company so they can make better decisions as workers. This information includes, but is not limited to, revenue, profit, cost of goods, cash flow and expenses.

Stack and Case conceptualize open-book principles in similar ways.

Stack uses three basic principles in his management practice called, The Great Game of Business
His basic rules for open-book management are:

  1. Know and teach the rules: every employee should be given the measures of business success and taught to understand them
  2. Follow the Action & Keep Score: Every employee should be expected and enabled to use their knowledge to improve performance
  3. Provide a Stake in the Outcome: Every employee should have a direct stake in the company's success-and in the risk of failure(1992)

Similarly, in 1995, Case made sense of open-book with three main points:

  1. The company should share finances as well as critical data with all employees
  2. Employers are challenged to move the numbers in a direction that improves the company
  3. Employees share in company prosperity

"In search of excellence"- 30 years after Tom Peters book release!

This publication is a survey written by a couple of McKinsey consultants that seek to define the characteristics of successful, I mean excellent, organizations using the McKinsey 7-S framework; Structure, Systems, Style, Staff, Skills, Strategy, and Shared Values.
Their findings suggest that eight attributes are common for an excellent organization;
1. bias for action,
2. close to the customer,
3. autonomy and entrepreneurship,
4. productivity through people,
5. hands on,
6. value driven,
7. stick to the knitting (=focus on what you do best), .
8. simple form lean staff, and simultaneous loose-tight properties (balance between centralized/decentralized organization). This is it.

Although the authors have a pleasant narrative style and are eloquent in making their point, I hesitate to buy into the arguments presented, first and foremost because I question the all encompassing validity of the McKinsey 7-s approach. Secondly, the authors cite companies such as Digital and Wang as qualifying for excellency. Whatever these companies did during the eighties, it wasn't good enough in the end since their advantage was not sustained and hence I wouldn't call them excellent. Thirdly, the best before stamp is obvious.

Few people can lay claim to having created an industry. TomPeters can.
Tom Peters is widely credited with having created the management guru industry. Before him it is said that "management thinkers wrote articles in academic journals, gave the occasional seminar, and worked as consultants for a few large corporations". The biggest blockbusters sold under five hundred thousand books.

`In Search of Excellence', co-authored with Bob Waterman, is Tom Peters first book and sold over 6 million copies. Its success surprised their colleagues at McKinsey, who had laughed at the idea that Peters and Waterman would keep the royalties, "should the book sell 50 000 copies".

Two decades later, `In Search of Excellence' is still one of the most readable management books. The eight characteristics of excellent companies, a bias for action, close to the customer, autonomy and entrepreneurship, productivity through people, hands-on values driven, stick to the knitting, simple form and lean staff, simultaneous loose-tight properties are all still relevant and still ignored today. It is written clearly, painting vivid pictures with anecdotes and examples from real companies.

Peters went on to become a megastar in the field of management entertaining, able to charge up to $80 000 for a one day show. The management guru industry is estimated to exceed a billion dollars and management books, including several by Peters himself, now regularly find their way into the best seller list. Peters'later writings have sometimes inspired and sometimes puzzled a new generation of managers.

This book is a classic. Great companies struggle to remain on top over an extended period. But the lessons learned endure. 

This controversial book had a widespread impact on Wall Street analysts and corporate management at its time of publication. The word Excellence appeared on many American corporate strategy statements.

However, some few years later, a significant number of the companies highlighted in this book as fine examples of Excellence, particularly high technology companies including Atari, Data General, DEC, IBM, Lanier, NCR, Wang, Xerox and others failed to produce excellent results. The book "In search of Stupidity by Merrill Chapman" chronicles some of the fallacies propounded in the book especially with respect to the high technology companies profiled in the book.

Many of the "excellent companies" have seen very bad times or were driven out of business completely in the years following the book's release. I think that shows that the authors were missing quite a bit in understanding the real nature of excellence. Fortunately, in subsequent years authors such as John Case (Open-Book Management) and Jack Stack (The Great Game of Business) have hit upon a much simpler yet more complete model for excellence. Not only does their model explain what is correct about The Search for Excellence, but it also explains the correct elements in many management ideas since including "reengineering", "TQM", "Empowerment", and "Six Sigma".

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

BlessingsWhite Engagement Report 2013

Nuggets of engagement. Here are 11 nuggets to get you started:

Stable engagement. Despite the the economic recession, engagement levels around the world remained roughly stable 31% are engaged, and 17% are disengaged.

Give or get? Engaged employees plan to stay for what they give while disengaged employees stay for what they get.

Trust me. Trust in executives has  more than twice the impact on engagement levels than trust in immediate managers does.

Survey damage. Engagement surveys without visible follow-up action may  decrease engagement levels.

Engage Individuals. Work on ownership, clarity, and action.

Engage Managers. Work on coaching, relationships, and dialogue.

Engage Executives. Work on trust, communication and culture.

Full engagement. Occurs at the alignment of maximum job satisfaction and maximum job contribution.

Highly engaged. Citing McKinsey research the report states, “only highly engaged employees enable performance.

Career conundrums. Most employees don’t have clarity around their career aspirations and job satisfaction.

Geography lessons. Read the well-written meaty global analysis and recommendations for: Australia and New Zealand,  China,  Europe,  India,  North America,  and  Southeast Asia.

Leadership Lessons from Tom Peters

'Celebrate what you want to see more of.'
-Tom Peters 

Lessons from Tom Peters--

Here's the way I like to put it, which I label "Seven Steps to Sustaining Success":
You take care of the people. 
The people take care of the service. 
The service takes care of the customer.
The customer takes care of the profit. 
The profit takes care of the re-investment.
The re-investment takes care of the re-invention. 
The re-invention takes care of the future.
(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)
The obvious point: Developing people comes first. It is the "That without which there is nothing ..."

Practice Perfect: 43 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi. It changed my life. I'm not actually sure about that, but I'm sure that it made me change my perspective. You damn well ought to read the book!

In short, in excruciating detail, the authors make the case for directing almost all training toward the bits—not the whole. Integration must take place—but integrative training is actually wasted or even counterproductive if the pieces have not been mastered. I was already starting to head down this path, but Practice Perfect iced the argument.
So the story here will be simple in outline—challenging as all get out in implementation. I'm arguing—not exactly original—that leading, like football or music or theater, can be largely broken down into activities. And until those activities are trained in and practiced and more or less mastered, it's premature to deal with the high falutin' stuff like vision and values and energy and enthusiasm. (Vitally important as these characteristics are!)
As you wade into what follows (if you choose to do so), I want to make one point clear. Every item below can be subject to study and training and practice and evaluation—e.g., re item #1, I don't want you to "get better" at listening. I want you to:
Study listening—book or video learning.
Subject yourself to intense training in listening.
Practice listening with effective feedback.
Then practice some more. Then take refresher training with some degree of regularity. (Slippage for bosses, assuming they get there in the first place, is the norm, not the exception.)
The goal: Become a full-fledged "professional listener."
Hey, God alone knows how many hours you spent learning accounting and finance, marketing, etc. I want you to direct the same abundant energy on becoming, yes, a notable professional listener.
To get at this topic in short form, I'd ask you to take a quiz and to score yourself on a scale of 10, where 1 is awful and 10 is masterful. What follows are the essence-of-leadership activities (or a rough stab at them) I'd like you to self-evaluate:
I am what some call an "aggressive listener," giving, without fail, intense, undivided attention to the speaker and very rarely interrupting; I am a visibly aggressive listener, attempting to be an implacable role model for aggressive listening. _____
Listening is Item #1 in our set of Core Cultural Values. _____
I believe in "aggressive listening" so much that it is part of everyone's evaluation; and every one must take annual refresher training in aggressive listening per se. ____
I am a full-fledged student of listening, aiming for the same level of "professional excellence" that I'd aim for in a specialty like marketing or finance. _____
I am exceedingly meticulous about the exact construction of the questions I ask, always mannerly, always probing, always giving the person questioned space/time to formulate a thoughtful answer; my follow-up is not "soft" but is "supportive" to a fault. The questioning process is near the heart of effective leadership practice and I approach it with the gravity it deserves. ____
I understand the complexity of and the power of excellent questioning skill. I am a formal student of the art and science of asking questions. ____
I view meetings, which absorb an extraordinary amount of my time (and which always will), to be my premier leadership opportunity; I do intense preparation for the most brief of meetings, and make it clear, beginning with body language, that I view the/any meeting as an opportunity, not an annoyance or distraction. I understand if I give off "another-damn-meeting" vibes, I will infect every participant in a flash. ____
In meetings and every other interaction, I make it clear that we are all part of a civil society; good manners, regardless of the passion for a particular position, matter a great deal. _____
"Helping" sounds innocent, but it's not; giving help must be tailored to each individual. I have studied in depth the complex process of helping and I am able to help in a way that is useful and psychologically sound. _____
Conversations—obviously—are the meat & potatoes, the hors d'oeuvres, main course & dessert of life. I have studied the science of conversations per se, learning the tools associated with making every communication count. _____
I believe in the Iron Law of Communication: Regardless of circumstances, if there is a miscommunication ... it's my fault. _____
I believe in effective & extensive training with passion to the point of fanaticism. The quality of each of our training courses is routinely "breathtaking." (And is evaluated remorselessly.) Our Chief Training Officer receives compensation and acknowledgement 
on a par with, say, the CFO; line trainers are chosen with the same care and rigor one would apply to hiring a research scientist. ___
Appreciation/acknowledgement; acknowledging may be the most powerful force in the universe, and I go out of my way hour by hour to connect with everyone I so much as pass in a corridor, and make them feel, by, at the very least, eye contact, that I "get" their importance to our enterprise. I have studied acknowledgement per se and understand analytically its stunning power. ___
"Thank you"; I thank people for their contributions--small even more than large; though "thank you" fits under acknowledgement, the TY words per se are "power words," and I keep at least casual track of my daily "Thank you" score. ___
"I'm sorry": Effective apology, as research as well as common sense demonstrates, transforms ("transform," strong but appropriate word) customer relationships and relationships among peers; I go out of my way to take visible responsibility for and the initiative in addressing the slightest of real or perceived screw-ups. Moreover, I have instilled recognition of the power of this "tactic" throughout our group/workforce. ___
I am always on the prowl for people who, unbidden, are regularly helpful to others, who will drop their own precious task in a flash to give a hand to someone who needs a hand at a critical moment. I make it clear that mutual helpfulness is a core "cultural" trait, which will be routinely acknowledged and formally taken into account in all evaluations. _____
Presentation excellence. Those of us who do not do manual work "listen" and "talk" for a living; together, talking and listening constitute our profession as leaders. Training in both is imperative—there is nothing automatic about these skills. I visibly support presentation training and development; and practice ceaselessly to improve my own presentation skills. _____
Body language is said to account for as much as 90% of our communication effectiveness. I am a student of body language and assiduous in turning body language per se into a primary trait of effective leadership. _____
Many say that hiring is the most important task in the organization. Assuming that's more or less true, I can call myself and 100% of my leader peers true "hiring professionals," avid students and practitioners of hiring excellence. ____
Is there a more complex task than developing and executing an evaluation process that is a major/"Top 5" strength for our entire leadership population? I have schooled myself in the intricacies of the evaluation process, instituted formal training in evaluation, and designed the evaluation process with the same care I would assign to, say, the budgeting process. All leaders are strictly evaluated on the quality of their evaluation practice. _____
I acknowledge that time is my only resource—and manage accordingly. I evaluate in exacting detail my time allocation to insure that it visibly matches my espoused priorities. I evaluate daily, weekly, monthly with dispassionate rigor. _____
In managing my time, I keep a substantial amount of my calendar open (25%+) in order to deal with the vagaries of the leadership job. I guard with zeal against the sin of chronic over-scheduling. _____
I am expert at and an avid practitioner of MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around--the key to staying in touch and modeling core values and informally engaging employees? "Obsessive" MBWA effectively surpasses other priorities. I am thoughtful, not haphazard, in my approach to MBWA. _____
Am I an avid student of the process of influencing others per se—or do I trust my instincts since I've "been around"? There is a massive amount of research on this topic, and influencing per se should be considered a discreet skill to be studied and mastered. ______
I have painstakingly made myself expert in understanding the complexity of the decision-making process. I am vividly aware of the (enormous!) biases that seep into the decision-making process, and work formally to address or reduce those biases—and instill this understanding and "studenthood" into 100% of the management corps. _____
I am a brilliantly schooled and practiced student of negotiation. All jobs include at least informal daily negotiation, and negotiating skills are an implicit part of daily affairs. Training, of various degrees of intensity, is available (required?) to one and all. _____
Do I talk ceaselessly about the importance of execution, but assume that since it is an obvious priority it does not have to be a subject of directed study? This is especially the case for young/first-time managers. Hence, the conscious management of the execution process is a topic of study and practice. _____
100% of our employees have specific development plans/programs carefully designed and precisely tailored for them and on which they—and especially their managers!—are rigorously evaluated? Any employee one stops in the hall can talk cogently about her/his personal professional development plan and her/his progress thereon (and the degree to which she/he has been aided by her/his manager). Individual and collective and directly managed employee growth is a part of our core value set. _____
I am excruciatingly aware of the "d"iversity of my/our team? (I call it "lower case 'd'iversity"—not the gender/race variety, but diversity on every-damn-dimension-imaginable.) Do I actively ensure, for example, that every team features an exciting mix of backgrounds that enhances the likelihood of their following interesting/creative paths to developing and executing projects of every shape and size? _____
I am fully aware through study and analysis of the power/staggering value of gender-balance from top to bottom in our organization and relative to everything we do? I have a priority strategic program for addressing this issue/preeminent opportunity. _____
Every leader/manager is exceedingly well trained in teambuilding per se. Every manager is assessed on her/his teambuilding skills and results. Attention to teambuilding per se is on the daily agenda of every one of our leaders. ___
I fully understand that perhaps the most important asset--and determinant of our success on so many dimensions—is the full cadre of first-line leaders. We have the most extensive and effective first-line manager/leader selection and training and development programs in our industry, so good that they make one "gasp"! _____
Everyone in the organization (100%!) is trained in "business"—that is, the way a business works, including the financial aspects thereof, so that he or she can have at least a rudimentary grasp of our overall place in the world. ____

This assessment list could actually continue, but I'm certain you get the drift. As I said at the outset, we talk ceaselessly about the likes of "charisma"—and miss the real "stuff" that leaders do day-to-day, hour-to-hour. Can you master all these bits? Of course not, but you can be aware of them—or some set like them. And you can pick off three or four—or one or two—items to really delve into.
The elements in summary form:
"Aggressive listener."
Expert at questioning. 
Meetings as leadership opportunity #1.
Creating a "civil society." 
Expert at "helping." 
Expert at holding productive conversations.
Fanatic about clear communications.
Fanatic about training.
Master of appreciation/acknowledgement.
Effective at apology.
Creating a culture of automatic helpfulness by all to all.
Presentation excellence. 
Conscious master of body language.
Master of hiring.
Master of evaluating people.
Time manager par excellence.
Avid practitioner of MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around.
Avid student of the process of influencing others per se. 
Student of decision making and devastating impact of irrational aspects thereof.
Brilliantly schooled student of negotiation.
Creating a no-nonsense execution culture.
Meticulous about employee development/100% of staff.
Student of the power of "d"iversity (all flavors of difference).
Aggressive in pursuing gender balance.
Making team-building excellence everyone's daily priority.
Understanding value of matchless 1st-line management.
Instilling "business sense" in one and all.
Have at it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What is organisational culture

The biggest enigma for a new employee of any organisation is knowing what is it's culture.

If I honestly try to recollect what I perceived and experienced as organisational culture at the companies, I worked for, it really has been very very different, very unique, very special and very weird.
Vital question is , does every organisation has a culture? Where do we find culture? In mission, vision, core values, employee handbooks?

I think the first question that helps one get the seminal understanding of an organisation's culture is, Who do you think you are and who do you think you are not and do not want to be. If we know who we are and what we are for, who we are responsible for, who inspires us and what choices we make in cases of dilemma and why we chose one against other options, we would know we have a culture that values something over something else. If we know what we do and would always do, we have a solid belief in what we are and what we do and then we start looking for people, employees, partners, customers, society that resonates those beliefs and values. There is nothing right or wrong. It is set of beliefs that are integral and time tested. This forms the DNAs of the organisation and reflects in everything that we think, act or believe in. Unlike values, which may be personal, communal, learnt hybrid and location specific, culture is a concoction, that does not change its composition, color or consistency, irrespective of who it applies to and which land and section of people it addresses.

Culture like character is a virtue that reflects and can be captured only on the 'moments of truth'. Anywhere else it is gospel.

Culture, while is reflection if character, it has 2 forms, one that we see with our eyes and the other, we believe in and hold on to ourselves as legacy, a form of belief that holds us together! The second one may have lost its relevance and context, but still it holds and you see, different generations in the organisation reflect those learned aspects of culture we call old habits! They are formed by generations that shaped them.

Culture is in small things, the way you treat people, the way you value them, the way you value other person's point of view and even beliefs, emotions and sentiments, way you treat success and failure, way you treat un-equals, way you accommodate change and diversity, way you act or not act in times of crisis and ethical dilemma. Offering a seat is culture, asking for tea/coffee is culture, leaving someone till door of your cabin is culture, listening with passion and intent is culture, speak your mind is culture, call a spade a spade is culture, raising a red flag is culture, promoting company values is culture, etc. And not doing all these can also be culture. Then, you can debate, a good culture vs a bad culture, an old culture vs new culture, etc.

Wikipedia definition of organisation culture is:

Organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling.

Some interesting quotes on organisational culture. My favorite is the last one!

"Fixing the culture is the most critical – and most difficult – part of a corporate transformation."
Lou Gerstner, retired CEO of IBM

“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”
Tony Hsieh, Founder and CEO of

"Everything I do is a reinforcement, or not, of what we want to have happen culturally… You cannot delegate culture.”
Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
Peter Drucker, Esteemed business thinker and consultant 

Is LinkedIn loosing it's sheen?

What happens if LinkedIn adds few flavours of Facebook, a few of On-line store? We have seen the News Channel industry has now been transformed into Entertainment Channel. It has added more flavours from scoop to celebrity malfunction to laughter and spoof bites. Presenters have become Characters and even change dresses to suit the entertainment needs, like they do in Circus.
You would observe, LinkedIn is pumping lots of article links throughout the day. It seems LinkedIn is trying hard to retain its members. Celebrity 'Aastha channel' kind of gospel preachers has appeared. These are young-sexy corporate Saadvis! Give them some hearing please! LinkedIn, it seems is flavour aware and flavour conscious company, as it is making a few changes in the way we operate it. But it seems, its business and profitability model is pulling it as a media that can earn for space. No wonder, we will have re-targeting hits on LinkedIn soon.
Also observed that the quality of questions on forums have gone drastically down and anyone is asking any question, just for the sake of it.
There are self-proclaimed self-help writers who have emerged and keep pushing their article. I know they have paid to become the posting members!
Yet another group is sharing stuff like, quotable quotes and expect people to like and comment as if it was Facebook!
Good thing is LinkedIn has realized quickly that it is not just enough to attract everyone on-board LinkedIn but equally important to keep the purpose and standards intact. It is not just another job posting venue.
LinkedIn must remember that Rolls Royce does not sell it's car just to anyone who can pay the price. It is consciously holding it's patron base and does not allow that to dilute.
LinkedIn has done a great favour by connecting the professionals of the world. We have been able to discuss issues and thoughts with people from across nationalities and ethnicity. Forum discussions have flattened the world and now we do not imagine how a developed world's citizen thinks and reacts about an issue. We read comments and reactions and replies and counter comments and replies from all nationalities, all ages and professional hierarchy, on the same topic of discussion. Many a times, I have realized that, LinkedIn has really busted several myths. I find Indians equally smart or better as the US and UK guys are, when it comes to their thought on any topics of discussion on these forums. I read mostly articles on business or Human Resources functions. I am equally thankful to LinkedIn for busting the myth that issues in western world are different than they are here in India and people's love and hate for systems, processes, and people are just the same. People from US also sound equally foolish and horrible as we Indians sound on many topics, where we insanely jump to write our thoughts. Some, who do not get sufficient hearing time and attention in real life, write longer and repeat responses. All these are human values and interestingly, they remain the same, irrespective of language or colour of skin. Thank you LinkedIn.
Somewhere I feel, LinkedIn is being used as marketing tool for people and recruitment consultants that professional networking firm. Even great ideas become obsolete if are not flexible, adaptive and innovative.

Hope LinkedIn does well and we see some changes in the way we operate, use and exploit LinkedIn.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What can you expect in your final round of interviews?

On hiring Mr. Nayar sounds more like the HR Department at Southwest Airlines than the CEO of an international technology company.   He said "I like to hire people who have the desire inside them because I can't create it. I can help you find your desire, but I can't create it." I have always found the most effective way to screen for desire is to try to convince a prospective new employee that they should choose something else.  If they don't fight back and stand up for what they believe in I know they will eventually choose another path.  Using this same style process Mr. Nayar finds that 90% are unsure of what they really want, they've not found their "true north."

Another key question he uses is   "What do you want to do next?"  He wants learners not teachers.  His interview style focuses on intent not just content.  He likes questions like; What excites you most? What depresses you most?

As the final leg in a lengthy interview process he likes to turn the tables by putting the interviewee in the hiring seat.  If you were the one hiring today and you had a choice of hiring any of those who interviewed you today.  Who would you hire and why?  The answers he says reveal their ability to spot strengths and weaknesses.

My friend Rick Powers is a brilliant interviewer.  He likes to interview people in groups asking unusual questions like; If you were a vegetable, what kind of would you be.  I always thought this was a wonderful way to test their creativity and authenticity under pressure.  Then he told me the real secret.  What he was looking for was not from the individual being asked the question, but from those observing the process.  Those who were supportive and encouraging got the jobs while the self absorbed, petty and indifferent got to bring down somebody else's business.

Reverse Accountability: Even innovation happens on fringes!-Gary Hamel

Reverse accountability is just not limited to--
Employee opening a ticket and he only closing it for matters as simple as, unhappy with HR, expense claims processing taken time longer than expected or disagrees with Manager, he shall open a ticket. Tickets are online and public to company. Sounds outrageous, right? But this is how the beginning of Change Management looks like. Call it 'Reverse Accountability', as they call it at HCL Tech. This is equally true for innovation to customer delight to creating shareholder value!

We must destroy the concept of the CEO. The notion of the ‘visionary,’ the ‘captain of the ship’ is bankrupt. We are telling the employee, ‘You are more important than your manager.’ Value gets created between the employee and the customer, and management’s job is to enable innovation at that interface. To do this, we must kill command-and-control.” HCL Tech CEO Vineet Nayar

As a first step in diagnosing the company’s sub-par growth, Vineet met with thousands of HCLT’s employees in groups large and small. He launched each meeting by acknowledging what many had been reluctant to admit—HCLT was slowly becoming irrelevant. With each point of lost market share, it was going out of business. Having disrobed the elephant, Vineet asked his listeners to be equally forthright in analyzing the company’s shortcomings. The exchanges were brutally frank and as they unfolded, two conclusions started to take shape in Vineet’s mind.

First, HCLT was in a service business and it was first-level employees, not managers, who played the most critical roles in creating value. As Vineet saw it, the world was filled with customers who had knotty business problems, but those problems could only be solved by creative and highly engaged team members. For HCLT, the “value zone” lay at the intersection of employees and customers. That’s why the most important decisions for HCLT’s future were the ones taken each day by front-line employees.

Second, as Vineet would later write, HCLT’s top-down management model “exalted those with hierarchical power rather than those who created customer value.” This meant that the company’s management processes were better attuned to the needs of control-obsessed executives than of customer-obsessed employees. “The archaic pyramid … was shackling people and keeping them from contributing all they could and in ways they longed to.” This was particularly true for HCLT’s young, tech-savvy employees. Having grown up on the web, they valued collaboration and mistrusted hierarchy. 

'Innovation occurs at the fringes'--Gary Hamel

'We live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organizational structures—those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.

So here we are in a world of amazing complexity and complex organizations that just require too much from those few people up top. They don’t have the intellectual diversity, the bandwidth, the time to really make all these critical decisions. There’s a reason that, so often in organizations, change is belated, it is infrequent, it is convulsive.'

I think the dilemma is that as complex as our organizations have grown, as fast as the environment is changing, there are just not enough extraordinary leaders to go around. Look at what we expect from a leader today. We expect somebody to be confident and yet humble. We expect them to be very strong in themselves but open to being influenced. We expect them to be amazingly prescient, with great foresight, but to be practical as well, to be extremely bold and also prudent. 

- Gary Hamel

Dummies, dreams and thinking on your feet!

From Core Competencies to competitive advantage, war for talent to talent coding, capability building framework to creating new benchmarks, setting new standards, new world order and new way of thinking, believing, striving and succeeding have always been left to management experts who inspired the industry captains and reminded them about their eternal and immortal values to establish the new concept of being and being successful! From CK Prahalad and Garry Hamel to new age Daniel Coyals, we have several icons of awakening in the world we live, compete and thrive!

What worries me is not the dearth of game changing thoughts or of transformational leaders, but the flood of coolies everywhere, who just know one thing, keep doing the same work, just maintain, just control, just tread the old and outdated path. We have stopped celebrating heroes, who are out of the herd mindset and have courage to challenge the status quo, courage to question the sacrosanct dilapidated concepts and mind-sets! We celebrate the survivors, as they remain like silt at the bottom, who hold the roots so strongly that  they never come up in the open! Survivors just do one thing, ESCAPE, vanish, vanquish and re-appear, when the tides of demands are gone! Valiant sailors who tried braving the high tide either won or lost but a survivor (read escapist) just wins due to its shameless capacity to reappear, not to be mistaken by re-emerge! They don't evolve, they just lie low, as low as you can not even notice and they are fine as long as they are not noticed. They just want to be there, hanging on or clinging?

Slowly in the world dominated or better say, flooded by the survivors, swamps the landscape and you will find them at all levels in all functions, in meetings, parties. They, by virtue of their overwhelming numbers decide the new world order! That order continues uninhibited, unashamed till the time, world demands NRNs to come back! How shameful it appears that the company, that was a dream company to work for, more like a dream to the parents than the kids, did not find a leader to hold and revert it's sagging financial performance and slipping to position number 3 in the IT services space. No succession planning or no planning as the heroes made exit for political positions, which unfortunately did not work out as media reports say and then, it was time to come back and play with the old toy and teach a few lessons to new Catamaran. Company that inspired the world by technology and drove all decisions by values has overturned all Golden rules for keeping company alive.

Big gun, Kamath could not do anything to save. It was ICICI success story, that made him popular and considerably the force behind the banks growth story. Media tells, it was a hype and and just not Kamath that made the bank grow as big as only next to SBI.

As nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure. And failure exposes all that was covered under the big blanket of inspiration, values, meritocracy, etc. Fancy words help only in packaging the stuff. Look for what the stuff is and here NRN says, it is maintenance job, remote services and BPO. It is not Technology or Consulting! Good to hear that the realization is back. This is called thinking on your feet! Appreciate!

Time to go beyond Competency Assessments-Look for Character and Cerebral impulse!

Got to see some weird HR bosses during last few months! One HR boss who was interviewing me for CK Birla groups's corporate HR role, distrusted me when I said, my company helps pharma companies in ERP implementations. What she doubted was that, "how come your 5 member team do ERP implementation? It requires 30 people or more. She asked me if I was sure!" Interesting isn't it? No blame to her being so average after having worked in industry for more than 12 years and the likes of Accenture and UB group. She should know that SAP has been implemented even in shops where 10 employees sell tyres and accessories. Someone please teach these half-baked muffins, to keep learning and do not be complacent and headstrong. Being boss is not stopping learning and correcting yourself! Infosys calls me for interview for OD position and the JD clearly mentioned that they are looking for a premier B school candidate, which I am. When I meet their office, I meet a lady, who heads that HR division that manages PMS, OD etc and to my biggest surprise, she was a part-time postal diploma from Symbiosis University. Really shocked to see if they  so much cared about "premier B school" tag, they should have got a panel of interviewers with such tags! Even more surprising is that fact that she was only interviewer for such a senior position, no others in panel. She seemed very busy and did a "my version" of my profile interview. Did not ask any questions beyond what I told her I did in PMS and OD. Perhaps she was not the right interviewer. This reflects how talent acquisition is treated in Infosys. Not surprised, if they had to call for rescue in NRN. 2 of my Wipro interviews were also, the same kind of fiasco. The interviewers who met me carried a very poor show. When I reached out to their VP-HR, he called me and seriously apologized for the behavior of their managers. They even mailed me the apology. Appreciate it but, does it help me? No. Who it helps? Wipro! Yes, Wipro, if they got a guy like me who can tell them how messy are their managers! They can correct things for themselves!
Bombardier interviewed me over phone from London office and then asked me to fly to Kolkata to meet Director-HR, with their India JV Partner. After much a do, they could not even book my ticket. I had to do it at the end of too many to and fro emails. Surprise came, when I reached their JV's office in Kolkata and I found that the person I was meeting was not actually a Director-HR but a Deputy Manager-HR. Though the name was correct, the person's title was wrong! She was much junior to me in profile and experience. As if this was not enough, they did not reimburse my air tickets for nearly a month. Added to surprise was the fact that when they sent me a travel reimbursement form that was meant for employee not candidate. I was furious and reached their Global Director-Compliance, after my compliant of harassment was not responded from
The Global Compliance Director-emailed me the apology and mentioned that, "they have learnt a lesson out of my experience with Bombardier" and thanked me for bringing issue to his notice. Who benefited, Bombardier. Who lost? Me.
World is full of jokers and many of them you will find in HR.

What I wanted to highlight is, your most important hiring is "HR", the Human Resources person. They are your face to the zone, called 'talent demography'. Not only the candidate, they manage your most precious asset called employees!

You need a much intensive interview process with multi-layerd assessments and evaluations than for any other position. Go beyond the KSA (Knowledge-Skills-Attitude) and test them for Character and Cerebral impulse! Do unstructured interviews carried by experts from other functions than HR, besides HR people.
Use Psychologist and check for Cerebral Impulse, by which what I mean is, their capacity to think and act, tactically and strategically, think structured and think big picture and 'out of box'.

Do not leave HR hiring to only HR or only her boss or only to one person.
The biggest threat to HR is the HR Boss! If boss is given to hire her report, she is going to hire someone who will not challenge her position, someone not smart and someone who would never threaten or disobey her! While all these qualities help the boss get a "spineless stooge", a boot-licker yes man/woman, company loses the BIG way. While not all bosses hire stooges but majority do. I have been advised by my friends and colleagues not to hire a smart guy or it will be a threat for me!

The matter of hiring becomes even worse, when the boss is asked to hire his subordinate just below his rank.

The beiggest saver could be a mixed-panel to shortlist candidate, interview and evaluate candidate. I remember, in a Global consulting firm, I worked with always believed in hiring the best candidate and did not allow the reporting manager to game a "staged event".

I met a few HR bosses who interviewed me in Bangalore last week. It was face to face meeting in their offices. The issue was that here the Boss was interviewing and no panel! I could sense a few behaviors-

1. Insecurity in them when I perhaps answered wonderfully well, that was cerebral and just not copy-book answer of a junior. Their discomfort is visible. They stop listening after such excellent answers or insights. They just start thinking hard, would this guy be a threat!
2. I sensed that insecurity in them and turned the table by appreciating their question and their point of view and here was the change, they talked and talked and smile on face, relaxed Boss. The orgasmic delight!

Having seen this, would it be a good idea to allow the Boss to interview his immediate subordinate and take decision of hire or reject? Risky, right? Is anyone in Business, The MDs, CEOs, VPs listening?

One interesting observation was, that the interview turns to shortcomings as soon as the interviewing Boss, senses threat! Even the interviewer Boss makes clear that you are not the guy, he is looking for. The threat makes him a demon! He cannot face you anymore. In such cases, you may have seen interviews end abruptly.
Discussion focuses what is missing than exploring your strengths and uniqueness of experiences!

Interviewing boss is a dangerous animal in most cases as only A players hire A players. B players hire C players.
If you want to know if your boss is an insecure boss or not, just focus on who he has hired and who he has allowed to leave.

Hope someone is listening!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"What Ever Happened to Accountability?" by Thomas E. Ricks-HBR

If you’re looking for management lessons from outside the halls of corporations, you could do worse than to study the United States Army. That master of management teaching Peter Drucker often turned to the military of his adopted nation for inspiration, especially on matters of leadership. Take, for example, this advice from his 1967 book The Effective Executive:

It is the duty of the executive to remove ruthlessly anyone—and 
especially any manager—who consistently fails to perform with high 
distinction. To let such a man stay on corrupts the others. It is grossly 
unfair to the whole organization.

It is grossly unfair to his subordinates who are deprived by their superior’s inadequacy of opportunities for achievement and recognition. 
Above all, it is senseless cruelty to the man himself. He knows that he is inadequate whether he admits it to himself or not.

When standards are not rigorously upheld and inadequate performance is allowed to endure in leadership ranks, the effect is not only to rob an enterprise of some of its potential. It is to lose the standards themselves and let the most important capabilities of leadership succumb to atrophy. 

In the spring of 1939, even before becoming chief of staff, George C. Marshall had devised a plan to 
remove scores of  officers he considered deadwood.

He stands as an extreme example of leading not by being charming or charismatic but by setting standards.

As transformational leaders tend to do, Marshall began by focusing on people. He truly was ruthless 
in getting the right people in the right jobs—and the wrong people out of them. When Brigadier General Charles Bundel insisted that the army’s training manuals could not all be updated in three or four months and instead would require 18, Marshall twice asked him to reconsider that statement. 
“It can’t be done,” Bundel repeated. 
“I’m sorry, then you are relieved,” Marshall replied. 

In the spring of 1939, even before becoming chief of staff, Marshall had devised a plan to remove 
scores of officers he considered deadwood. By his estimate, he eliminated some 600 officers before 

the United States entered the war, in December 1941.

Marshall listed the qualities of successful leaders, in the following order:
1. “good common sense”
2. “have studied your profession”
3. “physically strong”
4. “cheerful and optimistic”
5. “display marked energy”
6. “extreme loyalty”
7. “determined

Marshall emphasized character over intellect in his list. he did so consciously, tailoring his template 
to fit the particular circumstances of the united states.

When the process by which leaders earn and keep their positions loses its integrity, the loss extends far beyond poor outcomes achieved locally.

Reference and download-*XgOGK9j4tZZHMIn9u5XflZOy5zjX6zw*TRD1ivyf41bosjB4RZm9FDe0nipcflBTbqBJkerFp8aywRUdQ__/ArmyAccountability.PDF

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Radical speech of Ben Bernanke at Princeton, on Graduation day!: Classic!

Image result for bernankeBernanke starts with a bit of a head-fake to the journalists who cover him, saying that he recently wrote to inquire about the status of his leave from the university, only to get a letter back that said, “Regrettably, Princeton receives far more qualified applicants for faculty positions than we can accommodate.”

Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.

Here’s some real talk for the graduating class at Princeton University:
“The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it.
A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards.”
As the kids say, BOOM. But who said it? Who went to Princeton and told the assembled victors of the meritocracy that, in effect, they didn’t build that?
Why, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of course.
Bernanke didn’t stop with questioning the underpinnings of the meritocracy. He went after sexual attraction, too: “Remember that physical beauty is evolution’s way of assuring us that the other person doesn’t have too many intestinal parasites.”
And economics: “Economics is a highly sophisticated field of thought that is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much.”
And the rich: “I think most of us would agree that people who have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect–and help, if necessary–than many people who are superficially more successful. They’re more fun to have a beer with, too.”
And the rich again:
“A career decision based only on money and not on love of the work or a desire to make a difference is a recipe for unhappiness.”
And the costs of sending a kid to Princeton: “My colleague also used to say that, from a financial perspective, the experience was like buying a new Cadillac every year and then driving it off a cliff.”
Bernanke’s full address is here.
Of course, if Bernanke is skeptical of the meritocracy and even more skeptical that the rich deserve their wealth, that might be because he’s watched his policies make the rich richer, despite all they did to cause the crisis, even as the folks with “little formal schooling but [who] labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families” have fallen further behind. It’s enough to make anyone a radical.

Why people block you on LinkedIn?