March 25, 2007

Satisfaction is the end of growth

Feeling satisfied is like moving into a secured comfort zone. I believe growth is the antithesis of satisfaction. Growth comes from stretching oneself and pushing beyond the imagined limits. Satisfaction has the habit of telling the mind that one is doing well enough and there is no need to push the limits. And this aspect of satisfaction builds an inertia that curbs the very basis of any growth i.e. pushing the known limits.

Growth cannot come without the presence of constructive dissatisfaction. By constructive dissatisfaction, I mean certain degree of restlessness that spurs one for continuous improvement. Unless there is an inner feeling to keep on improving in life, one cannot venture towards the realms of possibilities, higher growth, and extraordinary achievements.

It is said that success is a journey not a destination. One has to always keep walking to set one milestone after another. The moment one stops, it would mean reaching one’s destination and feeling satisfied. And that would be the end of the growth process. But if one keeps walking and strives for continuous exploration, the journey would open up new avenues of growth. For someone who views success as a journey, a little constructive dissatisfaction is a continuous part of life. This constructive dissatisfaction always acts as a torchbearer and gives rays of hope for continuously improving oneself to find new opportunities for growth.

Constructive dissatisfaction is like salt. In right amount it spices up the life and makes it more interesting and rewarding. Lack of it or excess of it ruins the quality of life.

March 14, 2007

If you empower dummies you get bad decisions faster!
– Rich Teerlink, former CEO of Harley-Davidson

Having been a witness to some havoc created by empowerment of dummies, I hit an instant emotional chord when I read these truly remarkable words of wisdom. You just can’t ignore the people aspect of your organization. How your organization or company fares depends on what kind of people you have. If you have monkeys you will get only peanuts. And if you have empowered monkeys, you will not even get your peanuts as they will devour it too!

So simple a fact it is, yet it eludes the thinking horizons of our leaders. And till the time this is the case, people would continue to be promoted to their level of incompetence.

March 13, 2007

I have often reiterated that two things – People and Process – matter the most in any company or organization. Everything else comes to a naught if these 2Ps have severe defects. Some incidents over the last few days have further reinforced my belief in the importance of these 2Ps. I have come to a conclusion that organizations can never ever grow up if they don’t first fix their 2Ps right.

Here are two incidents worth mentioning. An official circular floats in an organization whereby it is notified that with immediate effect a very routine work done at the bottom of organizational hierarchy will have to be approved by the divisional head, who is someone just one rug below the CEO! I tried hard but could not find a single reason to justify this decision, which, I must dare say, is nothing less that moronic. It is centralization at its zenith. Finding it hard to justify this decision, I, instead, tried to find out what prompted such an unwise decision. The answer was not hard to find – both critical Ps had defects. People who were supposed to be doing this routine work were not good enough to be trusted for this work even by the person who appointed them! Process of doing this routine work had many bottle-necks which not only unnecessarily delayed the work but also created hurdles in the path of finishing that work in the most optimal way.

Instead of trying to find the root cause of the problem and streamline the people and the process issues once and for all, the wise men treated themselves with a short-sighted solution. Will this solve the problem? I can bet it will not. It will make it worse. Because even the divisional head will have to rely on the judgment and opinion of the same people who were doing this work before. You can’t expect a divisional head to go to 30 places all over India every month and see with his own eyes before approving something. So, same thing would be done, but in more time due to unnecessary extension of the loop. Don’t you think it would have been better to put a competent person at the level where this work is done, give him proper authority to take decisions, make him accountable for his decisions, and do away with multiple approval channels? Why the hell something as simple as classifying stock as saleable and non-saleable has to go all the way up to the divisional head’s desk? It tells a lot about your people, processes, and the level of inefficiency at which you operate!

Second incident is equally bizarre. A company spends a lot of money on making promotional and POP display kind of stuff. A good part of it gathers dust in the warehouse without seeing sunshine for months, even years! Even the event for which something was specially made passes, but the packets remain unopened! You must be scratching your head in disbelief. Even I was until I saw it all with my very own eyes! With a little probing, this esoteric phenomenon unfolded itself to reveal that again one of the 2Ps needed serious overhauling. This time it was process. The entire process of giving orders to suppliers, receiving ordered goods at central warehouse, entering dispatch orders for dispatch of goods from central warehouse to various locations across India, and intimation of the arrival of goods to the concerned official at various locations was designed to create serious bottle-necks resulting in process inefficiencies, at times even complete break down, at various stages resulting in utter chaos, confusion, and wastage of resources.

As a result of serendipitous exposures to such incidents, I am slowly acquiring the habit of making these 2Ps – People and Processes – the starting point of analysis for most of the organizational and business problems. And trust me, 90% of the times, the root of the problem lies in fault-lines present in these 2Ps, and the solution lies in making these 2Ps defect-free.

March 7, 2007

Gandhigiri Meets Pester Power

Posted by Bizaholic | 9:52 PM | with 0 comments »

Kid: Mom, I want that toy air-plane
Mom: No, you have so many toys. No more.
Kid: (Plants a kiss on her mom’s cheek and smiles) Mom, just one more please.
Mom: (Frowns) No, my dear son. Let’s go.
Kid: (Plants one more kiss on her other cheek and smiles) My sweet mom, please get me this one. I will grow up to be an ace pilot.
Mom: (Some sense of pride on face) But you have so many toys
Kid: (Plants a kiss on her forehead and smiles) But to become a pilot I need an air-plane, mom. Of course, I will also need to study hard.
(Smiles again and hugs his mom)
Mom: (Sparkle and emotion on her face) You, my naughty son (plants a kiss on his cheek and hugs him) so my little boy is going to be a pilot. So sweet. I will buy you this air-plane but you will have to promise me that you would study well.
Kid: (Plants a kiss on cheek and smiles) Of course mom.
Moral of the story: If you want your mom to buy you something, smile kar ke binamrata se bahut saare kisses dene ka hai, bahut saare hugs dene ka hai, aur tab tak dete rahne ka hai jab tak mom maan na jaye...lage raho baba log!

Creative sparks come at the most unexpected of times. Today, while coming back from work, I suddenly started wondering about what would happen if Gandhigiri met pester power of kids. Kids are an important as well as lucrative market for marketers. But as with any other consumer market, kids market has also become cluttered. To rise above this clutter, something very innovative is required. Considering the attention span of an average kid and her instantaneous judgment about what she likes or dislikes, the task of a marketer becomes tougher. And here, I have a gut feeling that if marketers incorporate Gandhigiri based pester power in their brand communication, something miraculous could happen – something where the kid gets what she wants, the parent is happy with her Gandhian well-behaved kid, and the marketer is happy with a fat bank balance!

Pester power is often based on the brashness of kids, their persistent and public display of unruly behaviour, often to the embarrassment of parents, to get what they want. This is irritating for parents most of the times. What marketers could aim for is to transform pester power from something unruly to something polite yet influential, with lots of fun moments, both for kids and the parents. Brand communication could aim at transformation of kids’ behaviour from undisciplined pester power to a seemingly responsible pester power. And this could be done with a dash of Gandhigiri elements- politeness, love, persistence.

In this strategy of “Gandhigiri meets pester power”, marketers need to focus on following aspects to influence the behaviour of kids towards polite pestering, which is more influencing and less offending to parents.
  1. Show the kid as a polite stubborn and not as a brat
  2. Focus on the innocence of politeness of the kids
  3. Show how the polite persistence ultimately melts the parent’s heart.
  4. Show the kid as a responsible and knowledgeable kid.
  5. Bring in the fun element.
  6. Show how Gandhian pestering brings about a happy ending with a smile of the face of both the kid and the parent.
  7. Give the message to kids that Gandhian pestering is much more influential and effective than rona-dhona (whining) kind of pestering.
In the process, apart from boosting sales, the marketers may end up doing some social good as well in the form of teaching politeness and Gandhigiri to an entire generation. No one knows when and how something reaches tipping point and gains entry into mass consciousness. Revival of Gandhigiri through kids, thanks to the shrewd marketers, may become the next big revolution!!