Monday, November 08, 2010

of textbooks and teaching...

Why do training institutes in our burgeoning educational market insist on 'developing' their own course material! Most often this is a mish-mash of plagiarised book excerpts and generally understood concepts ingested and regurgitated in incomprehensible form by the 'doyens' of the educational institute concerned.

One such case, belongs to a institute, where lives the irony of the majority of students struggling with the subject of OB (Organisational Behaviour).
Surprising in that OB is the foundation that provides the fodder for HRD, motivation, and well, many issues in corporate life.
Not surprising considering the convoluted rubbish that passes off for the prescribed course material.

Why can't they be like NCST, a great R&D and training institute, but not blindsided by self-admiration and wise enough to buy and prescribe best of breed books written by professional authors.

Take the case of OB. There's a professional tome available, 'Understanding Organisational Behaviour, 2e, by the late Prof Udai Pareek, founding father of the HRD movement in India.

I don't mention this out of a sense of loyalty or commercial interest. I happened to meet Prof Pareek and TV Rao at home as a kid. They'd became close professional friends of my father, during the course of his extensive research on his first HRD book. As I pick up Dad's book today, I'm puffed with pride at how beautifully it reads and its focus - spartan, poetic, professional. But that's another story.

Back to Understanding Organisational Behaviour with Prof Pareek. There's something to be said about an academic, a researcher, and a professional rolled in one, writing a text.
The value add is indisputable. The concepts crystal clear.

Take Chapter One, 'Organisational Behaviour: Scope & Processes'.

He describes OB in terms of the dynamics (processes) of various human units (individual, role, team, inter team, etc) in the organization.

Contrasting the preoccupation of organizations with the what (structure and content) and their tendency to ignore the how (process), he shows how the dichotomy between process-structure or process-content is at the cost of effectiveness. The human and behavioural dimensions are the other side of any organizational issue that we tend to focus on using a purely structural or content-focused approach, which, taken singularly is likely to fail. They are more aptly viewed as two sides of the same coin, interacting and reacting to each other.

He points out the key processes that come into play at the different process levels (planes of existence) in an organization:
at the person level - existential processes concerned with self-awareness (of one's own goals, relationships, etc)
at the inter person level - the empathetic, relation-building process with facets like communication, collaboration, cooperation and conflict.
at the role-based level - coping with conflicts between one's self and one's role and one's role and others' roles, with a focus to their impact on one's role-based efficacy
at the group level - the dynamics of group formation, cohesiveness and normative behaviour -- for effective group functioning
at the inter group level - the play between cooperation, conflict and power and the use of competition to raise the bar on performance rather than to block the path of another groups' success
at the organization level - a growth process of continuous learning
... and so on at the environment, community, and society levels.
A framework for putting into context the processes that play a role in OB. Simple yet elegant! All that in more, in the first chapter alone! Now aint' that nice!

I wish the doyens of that training institute would wake up and just pick the best texts available. Sigh...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

wordle

discovered this cool word map tool called wordle and loved the results...

my blog's wordle :

on Interviews & Employability

Two articles in ToI, Ascent* struck a chord.

One is to do with how employers test and gauge suitability of candidates.
There are, run of the mill interviews, where they grill you 'in-depth' in your functional area. So functional abilities are taken for granted. But aside from that, there are a few thrilling experiences where a senior manager or leader will probe you in different aspects - logical/creative thinking abilities for instance, going beyond the functional probing.

The questions at such times could range from logic puzzles and analysis skills tests to stress tests to behavioural event interviewing. I went through a couple such recently.
While it is true expectations are high -- and justifiably so, considering the reality of doing business today - we talk of quantum shifts not incremental change -- there is also a subtle point missed.

The barrage of functional questions, the out of the box, non-functional probing that touches camels, corporate logos and brain drain. All these have a purpose yes - to gauge analytical or behavioural skills as the case may be. But as the article mentions, they also have a purpose in unsettling and testing how the candidate reacts, persists, or gives up in the face of a problem they're unaccustomed to.
So do you hang up your hands and flay about, or do you try in however unconventional a manner to get at it!

Some years ago I was fortunate to gain my first experience in interviewing. And my latest experience, a quick reversal from interviewee to interviwer in a fews days, showed my how truly employability is a concern in the whole process.
The onus on technical and soft-skills development today more than ever before, is on the candidate.

* ToI, Ascent, Mumbai, Wed, Sep 15 & 22

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Loan shopping lessons

Loan shopping can teach you a lot! -- (apart from the obvious rate comparisons) -- about yourself and human nature in general.

Competitive challenges have elicited many responses from nationalized banks of India.
Here you see strange initiatives under the rubric of customer service.
Things like service with a smile. Ah well, those posters on the notice board goading staff to smile cos, hey, it ain't gonna cost ya!

I walk into the zonal office of one such, and sure enough, one lady sitting right in front of the main entrance gave me a smile.
She seemed friendly too once I returned her smile -- a far cry from the iron gate and foreboding double-door I'd just passed through, reminding me of the US consulate (if you've been there for a visa) - shudder!

She guides me to the loan officer who teaches an important lesson:
A smile is just an externally visible behaviour change that is recommended in the hope that it changes your internal dispensation -
from treating the customer as a thug,
to genuinely caring for and tending to his needs.


Friendliness - a mindset and an attitude. Two people at this bank demonstrated it.
As for the loan officer, his attitude seemed to be that he was doing me a favor -- entertaining me by answering my queries! He might as well have said,
'look here son, we do you a favor so get on your knees and cry!'
(It's a good thing he didn't smile too. That would've been so insulting).



Contrast this with another bank where the loan officer was helpful and caring.
She didn't offer me a chair, nor did she smile as I recall. But her attitude was to help serve my needs as a customer.
What a pleasant and more importantly, useful interaction.

As a result the latter bank is a frontrunner for my custom,
whereas the former, well, I wouldn't patronise them to save my life!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emptiness

The days roll on bye,
and I feel within me,
a deep, emptiness.

Life's canvas, stark and dull,
whenceforth the colours did run,
and leave my dreams aloof in ether.

Some dreams that held me dear, I hurt,
and some in my heart were broken.

Chained in purgatory, I bleed,
tears unheeded, unheard.
Child heart, flaying wildly,
for a hand to hold, a soul to love.

And yet all about, and within,
there is this stifling, emptiness.
How can I find without,
what lies not within.


The joy, the love, that infant heart
was blessed with, seem far gone.
A foreign land, distant shores,
no more my own.

For here lie I, marooned,
on my isle of emptiness.

I bend my head in toil, and it
takes away that dreary pain.
But when I face myself in the mirror,
there I find it lying still, emptiness.

Must I wipe clean, the slate
of recriminations past,
or free myself
from enslaving future.

I know not yet. But
for now, I stand
alone, in emptiness.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Believe I Can Fly!

How much of a difference does it make,
when you love your work.

When you find people with whom
you have a meeting of minds.
It energizes you.

When the people who select you for the job,
hold great expectations from you.
You become driven.

When a colleague tells you,
they heard your boss say 'that guy was one
of the best we selected on that day'.
It pleases you.

It changes your paradigm.

You make light of a 3.5 hour commute,
because you know when you walk through that door,
there are a bunch of great mentors in the form of leaders,
and friends in the form of colleagues,
who share a common goal and passion.

You smile at old-world mindsets,
the very surroundings in which others seem to chafe
- they don't bother you, for you know the reason
why you get up in the morning and go to work.

You feel fear. An anxiousness that you might exceed
not only the expectations of your mentors, but your own,
and at the end of each day, stand proud and tall!

You start to dream and to believe,
that you can fly!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Limerick

I met a man in a big Kom-pa-nee,
'I grew from an Engineer to an AVP', said he,
'in fourteen years at this Kom-pa-nee'!

We had a conversation, animated and engaging,
in which he sold me, the benefits of working
for this Kom-pa-nee!

We spoke at length, and to quote what
he said, here is a summ-a-ree:

'So you see, although we don't pay well,
and the work is mostly not good, you get
to grow well, at this Kom-pa-nee!'

'Hmm', I thought, 'but sir, as it goes,
a man's work says what he knows,
and if the work is no good, then what good is he?'

To which he replied,
'Well, you see, to grow is to grow, not always linearly!
You grow as a tree, silent-lee, over the years, as the case may be!'

I liked my new friend, and we had a conversation,
animated and engaging as it may be.

But I don't think I walked away too impressed,
with my new friend, or his Kom-pa-nee!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Rural-shoring

I recall some years ago, reading about the engineering talent scattered across Eastern bloc countries like Romania, and China emerging from its Communist sleepover into the corridors of open-market Capitalism. The feeling that some day these guys would raise their quality and organizational levels, beat the language barrier and be a major challenge for the Indian industry was just a premonition then.  Sure enough, there's evidence of engineering services being off shored to more cost effective shores like Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Korea and China. It makes sense, considering the levels of inflation we're witnessing -- the trade press reports of a 5-year rise of 25% in entry-level salaries and 18% in rental costs that troubles the industry, presently worth $11 billion.
It's not just the West that's finding them cheaper, our companies are helping grow those markets too. The quest for increased margins and new markets beckons all alike. Mahindras, Bajaj, NIIT, Tata Technologies, they've all done it, and with good reason.

But what surprises me, is that I completely missed a whole new front - domestic price competition.We have what, 700 million living in rural areas! Who would've imagined the pace of infrastructure development (fibre optic networks, telecom, transport, etc) over the last few years, would ever take place? Looking back, it's like a revolution crept up and caught us unawares.
Even an infinitesimal percentage of that corpus, with exposure to 4 years English-medium schooling is deemed fit to handle the rule-based back office work like digitization of civic administration records, account opening forms, health records or basic verification work. Coupled with a purported 38% price advantage over an urban setup it's no wonder that everyone from the $ 1 billion BPO major Genpact to the CEO of a rural BPO are excited at the potential, estimating it to grow from the present 5,000 to a whopping 150,000 strong in 5 years! Over time
What does it herald for the 800,000 strong urban-centered BPO industry, which is at least in part, due to be rural-sourced itself? The same argument that Indian BPO firms sell to the West to counter allegations of job loss. It provides you with an opportunity to repositino yourself and shift up the value chain. But in this case, it's not so much an opportunity as a challenge. Even if say, 1% of the urban BPO industry is rural-shored, it will be forced to re-invent and re-position itself. And I'd only expect that figure to grow as we move further away from the Gandhian ideal of self-sufficiency at the rural level.
We will I think, see a phase of animosity toward our rural cousins. Who doesn't feel the pain of a livelihood threatened by shifting industrial patterns. And a little reverse migration perhaps, but the big thing someday, is going to be a forced step up the value chain.
Imagine a new breed of entrepreneurs innovating to create and deliver a new line of products and services. Visualize innovation at the micro-levels as opposed to the present aggregation of Tata, Ambani, and other conglomerates at the macro-level. Small will be big. The infrastructure and resources will be there, or are already getting there, and people will be forced to get out of the rut and think big.
I think the potential for that change and the employment generated by it will cause a major shift in our relations with the West bloc someday soon. We'll be trading with them more as peers, and evolve to be a service nation (a step up from the industrialized goods producing nation stage - which we never really reached with China beating us to it).
From employment seekers to employment-generators. From potentional enablers to potential generators. All from having done unto us and we do unto them ;)

The only thing is, I wish someone had the political spine to advance a little population control in this country. There are 4 families (across communities) in my neighbourhood, with 3 progeny apiece. In these times! What mindlessness and criminality of deeds! Where are we taking this world. And these aren't even some rural semi-literates. They're the schooled, yet un-educated, noveau riche, bourgeois.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A New Day

Weary, tiresome world,
filled with the din of machines,
humming, trudging along in drudgery.
Enslaved automatons everywhere!

Nary a dream that floats free here,
the horizon - gloomy and dead.

Yet a heart beats secretly, quietly,
under the iron mould that enslaves it - heart and soul.

A dream breaks free and
fills the soul with desire.
A wanton hope gives rise to something else,
a Spirit, strong enough to break that mould of iron,
cast off those chains of enslavement.

The dream breaks free, the spirit is abroad.
Yet it walks alone, free spirit, searching
that the temple of its soul may be found.

‘Tis a hard quest, and it feels the chill,
shivers in the rain, 'n cowers in the dark night.

Yet it holds onto that dream, free spirit,
searching its heart and soul,
hoping, believing that the night will pass,
and a new day will come.

It toils, and toils,
beating through the brush,
forging ahead all the while,
creating its own path.
It toils, that its temple may be found.

At once it breaks through the jungle,
into a rocky clearing.
An imposing shadow lies ahead,
a stone monument perhaps.
It looks promising.

But on a stony-path,
around the bend,
it runs into,
a dead-end.

Saddened at first, it reaffirms its belief,
and toils harder still. Till at last,
it bursts into, another opening.
A meadow, with a lake in sight,
tranquil, yet promising.

A pebbled path rises at one end,
and over boulder and hill,
it is revealed... the temple of its soul.
Free spirit finds its home.

Yet, in its moment of triumph,
it feels not glee, nor gloat,
but a strange calm and peace.

For it knows now, the taste of
lonesome sorrow, and tempers it,
with the sweetness of joy.

Just reward for its toil.
Toil that gives birth to devotion.

The spirit stands firm and free,
a new day has begun!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seeds of Hope

<For Pat: May you find the strength within...>


A seed of hope sprouts,
an act of love.
It plants its roots tenaciously,
nurtured by the womb of fertile earth.
It grows, a shaky sapling,
ever wary, in need of support.

Then comes a day, it stands in its own right,
a sturdy young treeling, confident n hansom.
Not yet wise enough to bear fruit,
but invincible in its bloom.

The earth beams in pride,
the treeling's roots have struck deep n wide.
The earth is its anchor,
steadying it in the face of strong winds,
letting it bounce back against the lashing rain.

All's not well with the world though,
fate strikes, a cruel blow.
The roots that make the tree strong,
a times they are cut, a times they are gone.

The tree is left weak, the earth forlorn.
The wound feels too deep, the pain too sharp,
and yet the tree and the earth,
are infinitely bound.

For every root that is cut,
the tree digs deeper.
In time it heals.
The earth does provide,
the substance that is life.

From an act of love,
a seed grows anew.
Its roots are spread,
and the earth does renew.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Runaway Employee - with apologies to Julia Roberts

A column in an HRD magazine on the lead indicators of an employee about to resign brought back some memories. The author presents a common sequence of events indicative of an employee about to fly. Managers typically ignore these leads and make Quixotic statements during a face-off with the employee who's just resigned.

I had a good friend called Sonova Rockstar, who got a really bad increment. This guy was a conscientious fresher, hard-working and committed. He'd give his best irrespective of whether he was on a crappy project or a good one. At the time he was a shadow, non-billable resource (an unacknowledged phantom), doing the work of a senior resource who was being billed to the client. He was so to speak, wearing shoes a size bigger than his own.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I Believe

All of us land on this planet with a larger purpose in life.
Some of us spend a lifetime in search of our mission. Some while away
their lives aimlessly.
Some are lucky enough to find their goals early and live a focussed,
directed life.
Many allow a rat-race to rule their lives in the guise of 'ambition'.
Some shine, some are frustrated. Some find their purpose, only to lose
their way later.
Few stop to appreciate the simplicity that can hide a 'larger' purpose.
A flower stands, a reminder of beauty, spreading its fragrance.
A mother makes her child complete, nurturing it, teaching it the value of love.
And however meaningless a mendicant's life may seem, it too has a purpose.