Report of Report Cards on Modi Government – corporate style

May 26, 2015

Yesterday one of my school friends sent me an article for my comments that gave one year report card of BJP government. And this is what I wrote to him.

Dear Vivek, Yes, I have read this article.
Like the author and as she herself has mentioned, hundreds have written a report card on Narendra Modiji’s government. In a democracy everyone has the rights to comment and it is a sign of healthy democracy that everyone’s views are heard and criticism is taken into its stride. ( isn’t that also speaks well for the govt?)

I think, democratic process is not like a school system, where we enter for 5 years and every year we are evaluated whether we have passed or failed. There are many decisions that are taken for long term impact and strategic direction – specially foreign policy, defence preparedness, education policy and infrastructure. Impact of some decisions are felt after 5 years, some after 10 years and some after one generation.

You and me work in corporate sector, we have annual review against our annual targets and plans. We are evaluated on set parameters on how much have we achieved.

But as we go up in the hierarchy we realise that many of these parameters are lagging indicators. We find people’s performance after they have achieved or have failed to achieve. If they have failed to achieve we give them feedback, we might put them on some ‘plan’ – euphemism for putting them ‘under watch’ – or some jobs are made redundant (again an euphemism for retrenching non performers). However the damage was done in terms of non achievement. We have to work extra hard to repair it and achieve next year’s ( or quarter’s) targets. At that stage we learn to focus on leading indicators – focussing on actions that would give desired results. Because we now know that if right actions are not taken at the right time we won’t get the results and in the end we would be only doing postmortem.

Also we are given responsibility to make a 3 years plan, 5 years plan, a strategic plan and an operational plan. As we start executing it, we focus on key decisions keeping an eye on long term impact. Many times a lower level manager doesn’t realise the importance of certain decisions or recruitment of certain skills, as he or she is not aware of the strategic plan. But we know that to achieve these long term goals we need to prepare in advance – need to get right systems in place, right people in place and start working towards it.

I feel that in the nation’s planning and progress, there is a much more complexity than corporate planning.  Though there is no harm in taking stock of the situation annually and evaluate the progress, I feel we should use the leading indicators to understand the government’s progress. Because we should be concerned about long term impact as much as we should be about short term decisions.

My leading indicators for a government’s performance are :

Intent : It is obvious that if the intent is not right all the decisions would lead to downhill path as we saw under UPA. If the intent is to serve the country well, then automatically corruption and corrupt practices vanishes at the top and then it slowly percolates down. We all have seen a corruption free India in last 1 year.

Vision and Plan : Intent drives the vision. What do you want to make a country as eg. Swaccha Bharat, Make in India, Digital India, Financial inclusion etc are part of the the vision. And putting together a plan for it. Constructing toilets, cleaning of Ganga, connecting roads, opening of bank accounts for hundreds of thousands of people,  etc are part of the plan behind the vision

Policy framework : Putting policy framework in line with the vision e.g.. putting together Digital policy, putting together policy of water ways, ‘Act East’ policy etc are the examples.

Team : Having a competent and capable team that would work together is important. Along with the competence what is needed is clarity and cohesiveness of intent among the team. If that is in place then even if there are differences of opinion they can be managed ( Actually healthy amount of dissent is needed for robustness of decisions making) “Matbhed hona galat nahi hai, Manbhed nahi hone chahiye” ( मतभेद होना गलत नही है, मनभेद नही होने चाहिए ।)

Leadership : Strong leadership is most important. We all are experiencing how a good leader can channelise the energy of the nation.

Connectedness with the masses : It is important to check how well the ministers and policymakers are in touch with the people of the country. Very often power and aura of Delhi makes the ministers lose touch with the reality and decisions are taken for the benefits of the creamy layer of the society. It is great to see many ministers are regularly going back to their constituencies and are appraised on their connectedness.

Engagement with all stakeholders : It is important for the government to connects well with all the pillars of the democracy and establish very good relationship with them for the smooth functioning – judiciary, bureaucracy, financial institutions such as RBI etc. Also being the federal structure not just having good relationship with the state government but also working to strengthen them is most important. We have have seen how Modiji’s government has acted on finance commission report and increased the fund allocation to the states and how the funds generated through coal auction have gone to the states- mostly to the non BJP states and how states are being made stakeholder in the growth of the country.

If you would like to create your report card, please go ahead and do so. Make sure that you are focussing on the leading indicator to get a true picture of the progress.


“When you can not change things in a hurry, change the context”

April 3, 2014

Imagine this :

You were the world champion in a particular sport for over 6 years, you lost that title to someone almost half of your age, your performance declines further and people have started writing you off. There are comments with a near cetainity that you were finished and your days were over. Next year you enter into the tournament, winner of the which would be challenging the world champion. Before the event you are not even amongst top 3 favourites. And you emerge as a winner with a thumping victory.

Stop imagining.

This is the real story of Vishwanathan Anand who just won the candidates tournament, undefeated, earning the right to challenge the current world champion – who defeated him in 2013, in November 2014.

On his return to Chennai on April 2, in an interview on NDTV among other thing, Vishwanathan Anand talked about “what it felt like playing with his young son, Akhil” The response to that question had a great insight and a message. I have enclosed the audio clip of that response here. For me it had three insights :

 

1. Change of context : When you can not control what has happened or what is happening, you need to find a way out by changing the context or getting into another situation – mentally or physically. This is what he said he did when it was a tough time to accept that he was no longer a world champion. He spent time playing with his son. Which basically relaxed him, helped him forget what had happened and most importantly helped him prepare for the next phase.

2. Playing with your son (or kids) : This is another important aspect. Spending time with your son is so much relaxing, it is such a stress buster. It gives so much happiness that it makes us mentally strong to face the world.

3.  When I was listening to the interview, I thought his son might be 8 or 9 years old, old enough to play chess with world champion dad. But when I googled, I found that he is just 3 years old. And if a world champion dad feels good about playing a 3 years old boy, he must be really really good, another world champion in the making? Lets wait and watch.

 


Social media shaping our lives?

May 25, 2012

For most people including the marketeers, social media is a form of technology which maps our behaviour into digital world. Actually this is how the entire automation or for that matter the computerization has started. We first tried to automate the routine work with the help of machines then we made them little intelligent by adding ‘CPU’ or brainpower. Think of machines – typewriters then word-processors on the computers or calculators and then spreadsheets. Think of the early use of computers for payroll etc. Essentially we were asking the machines to do our work. Most people ( who are 35 and above today) have to come to think of computers, internet as a way to map our tasks – personal work and office work in the internet world.

But social media such as Facebook or Twitter or Google hangout or Linkedin are proving to be much more than manifestation of our lives in the digital world. Though the founder’s of these companies might not have started with the grand vision and great psychological studies or with the intentions of changing the people behaviour, but these tools are precisely doing that – they are taking us into an era where our social behaviour is being shaped by them. Here are sample examples why I think it is happening :

Definition of friends : We all value number of likes and comments to our posts by our friends. We engage and connect with the people with whom we did not have in-depth relationships in real life. But we value their comments, we establish some bonds with them. With more and more people being on-line, the way new generation would think of ‘friends’ is entirely going to change. There are going to be more online friends than real life ones and they are the ones who are going to be more influential.  These influences would not have cultural boundaries. This wold lead to the behaviour patterns that have no historical pattern that can be studied. It is all going to be very new.

‘Hanging out’ : With the video chats and ‘hangout’ types tools becoming common coupled with online games becoming more interactive where do you think people are going to spend time on? What is going to shape their minds?

Learning process : We used to think sending to school was enough for the children to get knowledge and information. To give them something extra there were libraries. In a way, it was a linear process, there were defined ways of acquiring the knowledge. Now we want children to be all rounded at an early age and are exposing them, at times pushing them, to many sources of information – schools, tuition, classes, workshops, camps and online assignments. If that is not enough they are expected to understand the latest developments in each fields while learning the basics. For example we teach them ( in the schools) sound waves, light waves, fundamentals of electromagnetic theory, atomic structure etc and then we want them to know about the latest developments in satellite communication, nano technology, super computers etc.Essentially we want to shorten the learning cycle by pointing to the resources available online. Obviously they get pushed to spend more time going through internet and all these social resources.

The entire social media is going to acquire its own form, without we noticing it. The minds, culture, behaviour, societies and nations are  going to be shaped by what people get exposed on the social networks. Are we ready to embrace it?

Note : I have made the image by combining three different pictures available on various sites.


Ego and Fear : two sides of same coin

September 2, 2011

What we call as fear, is actually our ego that comes in our way.

Just think of it. Many times we stop ourselves from doing something. eg. trying out new outfit, trying to learn new skills in the classes, trying to pick up conversation with strangers, going to new places etc.. the list is long. We call it as our fear. We feel its ok to tell people “I am afraid of picking conversation with new people” or ” I am afraid of going to music class”. We even say ” I don’t know if I would be able to do it”, “People will laugh at me”.

On the face of it all of these excuses look like ‘being afraid of’ syndrome.

But think little deep. Why do we have this fear. What are we afraid of?

We are actually afraid of losing our ‘position’. We think of ourselves as somebody, at some position, in some particular place in the hierarchy. We have reached that position due to our current characteristics. If we have to learn something new, try new outfit, we are looking at ourselves from our ego point of view. We bring the lenses of our position and we don’t want to disturb it. We don’t want to upset the applecart. Why?

Because we think of ourselves as ‘somebody’ at our subconscious level. ( I am not an expert in psychology, these are merely my observations).

Now bring yourself at the ground level. Think you are nobody and you are learning this new skills, trying our new thing for your benefit. You have your strengths but you don’t have to defend your position. Take out your ego and make yourself humble… all your fears would be gone. You would feel free and you will become happier.

Ego comes in way of having peace of mind. At the extreme level when we say ‘ I am afraid of height or of adventure sports, we are actually afraid of death. Why?

If coming in this world was not in our control, death is also not. We have not brought ourselves in this world, ‘someone’ else, then why cling onto the notion of ‘I’?

If we work towards removing ‘I’ from our life, I think, we would become happier.


Communcation that leaders should avoid

January 6, 2011

“ I would like to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to meet me. ….”

I would think twice about meeting even if these words come from the God. I smell tremendous attitude in these words and I don’t think it does any good when it comes from the democratically elected PM of a nation. Somehow I felt these words lack humbleness and give a picture of a person who wants to show his position of leadership.

When I read the enclosed news, the first thing that struck me was how leaders forget that they are leaders because of people and followers, they have not come from the sky.  When you are the elected PM of the democratic nation you need to avoid the language that connotes that people are the subject and you are (whatever you think you are).

My intention is not to critise the person or the PM per se or the initiative mentioned in the news item. Actually it is a good initiative and nice way of leveraging social media. However to me it is a lesson as to how leaders need to be careful in their communication. and avoid unpleasant language. I would have drafted these lines as “ I would like to have an opportunity to meet you all”…


Pearls of wisdom on entrepreneurship

October 4, 2010

Last week, I attended one of the talks that SMU-IIE regularly organises. I went to the talk with no particular expectations. My main motive was to get out of my office seat and be among the people. .

But after the talks, I felt thousand times grateful to SMU-IIE for organising it and bowed million times  to the speaker for such a wonderful insight. So let me share with you what I learned.

Firstly about the speaker. Dr. Bala S. Manian has been an entrepreneurial innovator, investor and a mentor in the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial community for the last three decades. You can read his bio at the above link. What makes him special is the fact that he has been on the entrepreneurial scene for long, much before it was fashionable. Has seen through 7 ventures successfully.

Now what I learned :

The one bit of advice which set me thinking most and which I liked was :

There are pieces of information with many people, someone who can organise it and present it gives knowledge but one who brings this knowledge with real life experiences is bringing wisdom.

My take on this bit is that, many of us know what is right thing to do. We know a lot about various subjects through reading. For example, by reading internet and books one can give good lecture on entrepreneurship, but when it comes from the person who has been there and seen it, it has weight, it makes more sense. Does this means we should spend time in listening to such people – no.. very clearly this means we should spend time in “doing” it, practising it, then we can preach.

On various other pieces of wisdom that he shared, that is important for the entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are :

“It is not about state of mind, but ability to execute what is in your mind”

“Ability to read people, gives you ability to lead people”

“You need to be a good communicator, but more important is the ability to listen”

“Need to have passion bordering on addiction” and “Self confidence bordering on arrogance” But should also know the borders.

“Will to succeed is more important than desire to succeed”

” You go to school only to learn to how to learn”

“Risk taking is important, but more important is the ability to deal with and manage uncertainties”

Some interesting thoughts on business plans :

You need a business plan but the purpose of the business plan is “to show your analytical thinking ability, it is not a roadmap”. Another piece of wisdom was so important ” You should not believe in your own B**Sh**”. This was in the context of the what we communicate externally. While is good to be bullish and come across as a confident person, we should know the reality.

He also talked about VCs, about exit strategies, about pace of advancements in technology, about the importance of mentors.

On a particular question regarding pace of change and a narrow window of go to market, how should entrepreneurs look at it, his advice was very helpful. He said, ” if you find you are little late in coming to market with a particular product, you can re-purpose it for next problem to solve. You would be the first one with ready answer”. In this context he also mentioned that don’t get hung up on a particular product per se, focus on the opportunity. If you know the opportunity well, you can find different technologies to solve the problem. In the same context he said ” the answer we get depends on how we frame a question”.

He also talked about India’s strategic place in this context. His advice was India offers an opportunity to entrepreneurs to fail inexpensively and hence is a good place to leverage.

For me this was a great learning. I am sure most others who attended would have found it too.

Note : This is an attempt to share my learnings. This not a transcription of the talks. The words in ” ” are very close to what he said in exact words.


First year of entrepreneurship – Learnings

September 4, 2010

One year has passed much faster than I imagined, but it made me wiser ( thats what I think) beyond my expectations. I am trying to share my learnings without being judgemental about other people.

You are alone when it matters most : Even if you may have found support and encouragement from your professional network while making the plans, when it comes to execution you are alone and it becomes your sole responsibility. You can not count on any one else whatever they would have promised. People like to join you only after you are successful.

No amount of prior work experience is good enough : Even after spending 20 years in work, the situation and circumstances that you face are totally unique and you come to know about it only after you have taken the plunge. So if you get a chance to take the plunge earlier, don’t stop yourself.

Be prepared to avoid ” I have arrived” feeling : I am not sure if this happens with everyone, but I guess must be true particularly for those like me who start after long years in job. You are given feeling of special person, person who has shown courage by the people around you. While this is a good thing, very helpful in the beginning, but it might give you a feeling of ” I have arrived” and take you away from rational and practicality of the entrepreneurship. It might give you sense of accomplishment and slow down your hunger for real success. Just taking a plunge is not enough, succeeding is more important.

One thing I would like to share that happened with me.  I realised, pretty late,  that I made a classic mistake of not building enough pipeline even after running sales for so many years.  Every lead that I generated, I thought would convert into business. When I look back today and ask myself, what could be the reason for getting  into such complacency ? I realised that it might be because of the feeling of “I have arrived”, ” I could do no wrong” sense that might have been developed. Hence wanted to share this story.

Many possibilities, many avenues takes you nowhere : This again may be because of long years in the job. You tend to think – I know so many things, I have network in so many areas, I can do so many things and you get proposals for many business ideas. In the initial stages, it may sound good, it may satisfy your ego, it may give you feeling of being busy, but soon you would find, it has not taken you anywhere. This may happen despite you having a good business plan.

Sounding board : When you start as one man army, it is very important to have someone around you who is well wisher, aware of the market conditions and who can be your sounding board. At least I found it very difficult to keep talking to myself or keep coming out with ideas without someone around. It helps tremendously when you hear yourself talking. You immediately realise the wrong and right.

I have gone through many more personal learnings. It has been very enriching experience from that point of view. At the same time it has been challenging times. Things have not gone as per the plans. Lot of things have fallen through at the last moment bringing me back to square one etc.

Family support : I think if there is one thing that you absolutely need is family support. Entrepreneurship is as much a an emotional journey as a commercial venture. When you feel alone it is only your family that you can reach out to. That is the only support system you can count on. I am fortunate that I can count on such.

Now I think I am much more grounded to reality. Looking forward to next year.


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