February 27, 2006

From an organizational perspective bad news has a special significance. In fact, bad news is not really bad for an organization. It is good. But this logic depends a lot on the organizational culture. In one culture bad news will remain bad while in another organizational culture it will be good.

Not many organizations welcome bad news. In this sort of organization bad news is treated as ill omen. The messenger of bad news gets fired and ridiculed. But does this hatred for bad news do any good to the organization. I feel it doesn't. In my view hating bad news and shooting the messenger is more like a lost opportunity because every bad news comes with a seed of an equal opportunity bundled with it. Not only there is loss of opportunity, there is significant loss of future opportunities as well in the sense that no one in an organization will bring a bad news if the culture hates bad news. There is another angle also. Bad news is like initial symptoms of an impending disaster. Hence, it gives the organization time to take care of the symptoms and prevent the disease. So organizations which discourage bad news are big losers.

On the other hand, there are organizations where bad news is always welcome. People are not afraid of bad news but in fact, they encourage it. From CEO to junior manager, everyone is always open to hearing bad news because they believe that bad news may appear bad from outside but they eventually turn out to be good in long run if proactively acted upon. As a result, a culture of openness develops where people are not afraid or negative minded but are proactive.

A culture of welcoming bad news also results in a more innovative organization. In business or life, there will be problems and there will be solutions as well. Bad news is basically harbinger of problems for which solutions must be found or invented. Here comes the relationship between bad news and innovation. The more bad news you have, the more solutions you will have to find or invent. And the more solutions you have to find or invent, the more opportunity there is for finding or inventing innovative solutions! And who knows, sometime this innovative solution can turn out to be a billion dollar idea.

Unfortunately, in Indian context, organizations which hate bad news fairly outnumber organizations which encourage it. And this, I feel, is not a very healthy sign. In my short corporate career, many a time I have seen that this culture of bad news bashing has resulted in loss to organizations. People become so afraid of telling bad news that they keep it to themselves instead of letting it out of the bag despite knowing that what they know will turn into a big problem if not proactively attended to. And the results are for anyone to guess.

It is high time that business leaders put the task of creating an organizational culture of welcoming bad news high on their agenda.

February 21, 2006

Ajit Chouhan has posted an interesting piece on Bihari innovation on his blog Cool Bihari.

Setting up a FM radio station with an investment of just Rs 50 and which caters to an audience in 15 KM radius is something mind boggling. Yet this feat has been achieved by a young Bihari named Raghav.

After reading about this innovation, a thought has just crossed my mind. Can Bihar be the laboratory of grassroots innovation in India? I think it can be.

Bihar is at a critical moment in its history. It is a case of now or never. Bihar is currently economically backward. There was hardly any development in the last 15 years. It lacks basic infrastructure. Development and governance are going to be the key drivers of change. The conditions, as they are in Bihar today, are the perfect breeding ground for grassroots innovation. And with a government committed to changing the fortunes of Bihar, it is the most opportune moment for a revolution in grassroots innovation.

In fact, I feel that with the present circumstances Bihar can be the ideal place to test C K Prahlad's theory of "Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid". But for that to happen, a little bit of hard core marketing will be needed on part of the government of Bihar.

Following actions can help in bringing about a revolution in grassroots innovation in Bihar:

  1. Promoting the image of Bihar as a potential hot-bed of grassroots innovation among corporate India, academia, students, and educational institutions of repute.
  2. Tie-up with reputed technical and management institutes like IIT, IIM, and others of their ilk.
  3. Inviting private sector to be an integral part of this win-win revolution.
  4. Promoting a vision of "development through innovation and social entrepreneurship".
  5. Creation of special task force with Chief Minister as its chairman to facilitate the various initiatives in the field of grassroots innovation and social entrepreneurship.
  6. An awareness campaign targeted at people of Bihar to promote “self-reliance” and “self-sufficiency” through innovation and enterprise.
I strongly feel that this could go a long way in changing the fortunes of Bihar and its people. After all, nothing can stop an idea whose day has come! With ample doses of creativity, determination, enterprise, innovation, and marketing, Bihar’s fate can be turned around.

February 17, 2006

William Swanson joined Raytheon as a young engineer in 1972 and became Raytheon CEO in 2003 and chairman in 2004. When he joined Raytheon he was timid and sat quietly scribbling notes at meetings. Decades of observations and wisdom have been boiled down into 33 concise leadership tips that Raytheon had printed into a 3½-by-6-inch booklet called Swanson's UnWritten Rules of Management.

By word of mouth, it is turning into one of the hottest underground leadership books in memory. So far, Raytheon has given out 100,000 copies. You can get your free copy here.

Here are Swason’s Unwritten Rules of Management:

  1. Learn to say, "I don't know." If used when appropriate, it will be used often.
  2. It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.
  3. If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much
  4. Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there; few can see what isn't there.
  5. Presentation rule: When something appears on a slide presentation, assume the world knows about it and deal with it accordingly.
  6. Work for a boss to whom you can tell it like it is. Remember, you can't pick your family, but you can pick your boss.
  7. Constantly review developments to make sure that the actual benefits are what they were supposed to be. Avoid Newton's Law.
  8. However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best effort.
  9. Persistence or tenacity is the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement or indifference. Don't be known as a good starter but a poor finisher!
  10. In doing your project, don't wait for others; go after them and make sure it gets done.
  11. Confirm the instructions you give others, and their commitments, in writing. Don't assume it will get done.
  12. Don't be timid: Speak up, express yourself and promote your ideas.
  13. Practice shows that those who speak the most knowingly and confidently often end up with the assignment to get the job done.
  14. Strive for brevity and clarity in oral and written reports.
  15. Be extremely careful in the accuracy of your statements.
  16. Don't overlook the fact that you are working for a boss. Keep him or her informed. Whatever the boss wants, within the bounds of integrity, takes top priority.
  17. Promises, schedules and estimates are important instruments in a well-run business. You must make promises? Don’t lean on the often-used phrase: "I can't estimate it because it depends on many uncertain factors."
  18. Never direct a complaint to the top; a serious offense is to "cc" a person's boss on a copy of a complaint before the person has a chance to respond to the complaint.
  19. When interacting with people outside the company, remember that you are always representing the company. Be especially careful of your commitments.
  20. Cultivate the habit of boiling matters down to the simplest terms: the proverbial "elevator speech" is the best way.
  21. Don't get excited in engineering emergencies: Keep your feet on the ground.
  22. Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions.
  23. When making decisions, the "pros" are much easier to deal with than the "cons." Your boss wants to see both.
  24. Don't ever lose your sense of humor.
  25. Have fun at what you do. It will be reflected in you work. No one likes a grump except another grump!
  26. Treat the name of you company as if it were your own.
  27. Beg for the bad news.
  28. You remember 1/3 of what you read, 1/2 of what people tell you, but 100% of what you feel.
  29. You can't polish a sneaker.
  30. When facing issues or problems that are becoming drawn-out, "short them to the ground."
  31. When faced with decisions, try to look at them as if you were one level up in the organization. Your perspective will change quickly.
  32. A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter; or to others; is not a nice person. (This rule never fails).
  33. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, an amateur built an ark that survived a flood while a large group of professionals built the Titanic!

Postscript: The qualities of leadership boil down to confidence, dedication, integrity and love.

Read interview of Bill Swanson in USA Today.

Courtesy:USA Today

February 5, 2006

Purpose of life

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:40 PM | , with 2 comments »

What is the purpose of life? This is one question that is constantly ringing in my mind for sometime. I, like a trapped bird, am unable to resolve this dilemma. Frankly speaking I’m not enjoying my work that I do for a living. And this annoyance with my work has forced me to ask what the purpose of life is?

Work seems so dull these days. Same old reports, same old people, same olds routine stuff. Life seems to be devoid of any challenge. On the other hand I’m getting paid a decent sum of money to do this monotonous work. Is money the end? I don’t think so. Despite earning a decent sum of money I’m feeling unhappy. Sometimes I feel I’m wasting my time and talent in doing things I don’t enjoy doing. But on the other side there is a distraction called monetary security.

I'm a creative person. I like to conceptualize new things and create new realities. I like to dream. I like to plan. I like to be in the thick of real action. I like to break rules and established practices. I like to travel the road less traveled. I like to explore. I like to write. I like to challenge the status quo. I like to be a free soul. I like to be a beacon of originality. I want to change the way business is done. I want to make a difference to the world around me. I want to leave my footprints on the sand of time.

But am I able to do what I like doing? No. My day begins with daily drudgery and ends with it. At the end of the day I feel that I had hardly done any value addition to my skills and talent. A sense of emptiness is there. There is a feeling that I am missing out the real excitement of life and the joy of living it. And in these moments of agony I feel like tossing my job and all the security built around it to immerse myself in my true calling. But somehow this emotional and mental turmoil is not reaching the critical mass to throw me out into the orbit and to the point of no return. Or may be I am not yet sure what my true calling is. Whatever may be the case but the process is frustrating and agonizing.

And the search goes on for finding the purpose of my life.