November 20, 2006

“People rise to the challenge when it is their challenge.”

Belasco & Stayer

This is really some food for thought for every leader and every manager. It is quite profound and yet so simple.

People work best when they own something. Unless there is a sense of ownership involved, the motivation to excel in any work is never optimal. For optimal motivation, one always needs a sense of belongingness and a feeling of close association with success and failure of something. Unless you establish a chromosome connect between your people and the projects they work on, you can never get the best out of them. Make something their baby, tell them explicitly that it is their baby; and they will do all they can to raise the baby in the best possible way.

Give it a try. It can’t fail you!

November 9, 2006

Don’t trust always, but first trust and then see if the person is trustworthy.

Yesterday, this gem of a wisdom transpired during a discussion I was having with a Senior Vice-President of one of India’s leading software companies. He said, “Not that I trust always, but I believe, first trust then see if the guy is trust worthy or not”. Nothing less than classic management wisdom! At that time, the gravity of his words didn’t go down my head immediately. But as I pondered over it and reflected, it dawned on me that this management wisdom is much needed in today’s world.

Trust and confidence go hand in hand. Only trust can generate confidence. When there are so many things to do requiring varying competence in so little time, delegation is the natural way out. With effective delegation, accountability and authority flows down but responsibility rests with one who delegates. This responsibility demands that work is delegated to someone who the delegating person has confidence in.

So instead of following the traditional time consuming process of first building confidence over time before trusting, use this nugget of wisdom to reverse the process. This will not only result in better use of time and talent but will also ensure that trust worthy people are found early and trust defaulters are weeded out as quickly.

This approach will also develop an excellent emotional bonding that will ensure that person who has been trusted gives his best to prove himself quickly and reinforce his trust worthiness.

But this approach is not for the chicken hearted. It takes guts to use this approach.

November 8, 2006

Google Docs and Spreedsheets

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:54 PM | , , with 0 comments »

Fellow blogger and my senior at B-School, Rajesh has raised some pertinent questions about Google Docs and Spreadsheets on his blog.

Here is my 2 cents worth of opinion on the issue.

First of all, I feel that to analyze Google Docs and Spreedsheets, target audience is not the ideal place to start. This recent service of Google is perhaps futuristic which will fulfill a need (still in nascent stage) which has the potential to become a want in a few years time for millions of people. And the key word perhaps is ‘collaboration’ which was mentioned at one point by Rajesh also. The world is shrinking, time zones are becoming irrelevant, and no one person is intelligent enough to tackle the emerging scenario. The emerging world and definitely the yet to emerge world would be dictated by synergy of minds spread across seven seas. Perhaps the only survival kit in future in such scenario is going to be COLLABORATION. Google Docs and Spreadsheet may be one of the baby steps in that direction that will aid collaboration.

Secondly, one of the offshoots of collaboration is going to be the death of software as we know it today. Collaborative platforms like open source software and confluence of minds from all across the world might send chill down the spines of the likes of Microsoft. In a few years time, as the open source community grows and collaboration becomes stronger and stronger, no body will go to purchase standard operating systems and software of the likes of MS-Windows and MS-Office. Either they would be downloadable for free or they would be working online without any installation on the hard disk of the system. This transformation is going to be aided by cheaper and widely available bandwidth in coming years making always-on connectivity a necessity for scores of people around the world.

Already many cities are planning to become wi-fi and, in say 5 years time, I can visualize many cities around the world becoming wi-fi giving always-on connectivity to people. The day may not be too far when the roti, kapda, aur makaan slogan may turn to roti, kapda, makaan aur broadband. I don’t think it’s a utopian fantasy considering the continuous flux the world is witnessing and the role connectivity is playing in various spheres of life and society. With such always-on and almost free connectivity, it is very likely that free internet based operating systems and software made possible by collaborative efforts of open source platform may replace both standard operating system and need of basic software.

So where does Google fit into all this. Simplistically, it is providing a free basic internet based software for real time collaboration from anywhere at anytime making the use of paid software almost redundant for basic computing needs. Apart from this, having ambition to own information, Google will in all likelihood get to see the contents of this service stored in its databases thereby giving it access to a vast universe of information that may continuously throw light on latest or emerging trends and also present Google with many new opportunities to tap.

Initiatives like Google Docs and Spreadsheets are all about empowerment, collaboration, connectivity, and freedom. Definitely, Google is playing a long term game which in short term may not make much sense. But just consider the market for word processors and spreadsheets and what will happen if 75% of these shifts online to services like Google Docs and Spreadsheet in 10 years timeframe. Planning to kill a monopolistic giant like Microsoft requires a visionary look into the future. Perhaps Google is seeing what remains invisible to the naked eyes of ordinary mortals like us.

Let’s see how the story unfolds.

November 5, 2006

With availability of myriad communication tools and the power of internet, the world is rapidly shrinking in time and space. Many organizations are using these new-age communication technologies to empower their people and change the paradigm of doing business. And this is evident in the astronomical growth and innovative practices of many organizations.

But as the world is becoming smaller and smaller, some companies in India are still in deep slumber blissfully unaware of how the world is changing. These are typical command and control organizations that believe in archaic philosophy of not disturbing the status quo if something is behaving in predictable ways. But in the process these organizations miss many opportunities of massive growth and betterment not only for self but also for its customers, employees, and society at large.

There are many companies in India, which in this day and age of free information and lightning fast communication, censor the usage of internet in office. They don’t give access to internet to many of their employees thinking that it would be misused. The reasons can be as bizarre as “employees visit job sites”, “employees do personal things on internet”, “employees play games on internet”, “employees chat with friends and neglect official work”, etc. To me this kind of logic seems nothing less than childish. For instance, an employee interested in visiting job sites will anyway do so after the office hours from her home or cyber-cafĂ©. Blocking internet in office is no way of engaging the employee or to tackle the issue of attrition. Similarly, with the advent of internet access through mobile phones, the concerns of the employer can never be justified. With a GPRS enabled compatible mobile phone, internet access is possible anytime and anywhere. So it’s foolhardy to believe that if you can cut the access to internet or technology for an employee in office then he would be cut off from that technology all the time. It’s a no-brainer yet many companies are yet to understand the damage they are doing to themselves with such ridiculous policies. My simple philosophy is: If you can’t trust your employees with productive use of technology then either you are not hiring right or you are not leading your employees effectively.

Another problem with some organizations is that they apply technology but don’t milk the technology fully. An example: The latest version of Lotus Notes has chat facility but many of the organizations that use Lotus Notes as an email client keep the chat facility disabled. I have a simple question: Who is at loss? The answer is much simpler. It is the company which suffers due to under-utilization of the technology for which it has paid a big price. For instance, encouraging the use of chat facility will result in cost-effective real time communication. It will save on telephone bills. Moreover, it can aid faster decision making and at the same time avoid many a nuisance created by telephone. This is just an example.

There are numerous such instances when under-utilization of technology or censor of technology results in massive cost and least enhancement of productivity. The problem with technology is that it can’t be as effective in isolation as it can be in a holistic framework. Technology works best when it is open and uncensored. The sooner Indian companies learn this, the better it would be.