November 30, 2008

"Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

- Mark Twain

November 29, 2008

Keep Non-believers Out of the Team

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:02 PM | , with 0 comments »

When a leader takes on a new project or a challenge, one of the key decisions is about selecting a team. Selection of the team is one of the most crucial decisions for ensuring the success of a project. Although qualifications and experience determine the make up of the team, there is one universal rule for selection of the team for crucial projects. It is - "rule out the non-believers".

Ruling out non-believers doesn't mean filling the team with people who mirror your way of thinking. Any successful team has a diversity of opinion, views, and approach towards finding a solution. Critical evaluation of ideas, views, and arguments are an intrinsic part of a strong team. The make up of a great team is such that they agree to disagree. Yet there is one binding factor amid this diversity - the belief that they will succeed in their mission at all cost. There is a strong conviction that forces the team, despite diversity of thoughts, to find the best possible route to make the mission successful. The unwavering belief to succeed pulls the team through critical situations and keeps them glued together till they achieve their mission.

If the team has a few non-believers, it becomes tough to pull through tough times as they tend to infuse negative energy in the team and try to pull it down. When the going gets tough, which is a regular phenomenon in challenging missions, non-believers are the first to surrender and that affects the overall morale and determination of the team. When there are only believers in the team, they become blind to obstacles. They see only the goal.

As a leader, make sure that you only have people who believe in your vision and would not back out when it is tough. Building the team with a set of believers, having right mix of talent and experience, will ensure that half the battle is won before the start.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

- Aristotle

November 28, 2008

"Things which matter most must not be at the mercy of things that matter least."

- Goethe

November 27, 2008

Does your organization budget for learning costs? Well, I am not talking about classroom training costs. I am talking about costs and losses due to 'learning mistakes' of people.

People learn and grow when they take charge to tackle challenging projects. And when they take charge, sometimes they commit mistakes and learn from them. Many times these mistakes cost the organization dearly in the short run. But these mistakes are 'learning mistakes' that help develop people and groom them for bigger roles.

Everyone learns from mistakes only. The more mistakes one commit, the better one's chances of achieving higher and higher success, provided same mistake is not committed twice and one learns from each mistake. You can't learn to walk and run unless you fall a few times. Great organizations recognize this power of mistakes and actively encourage people to take up challenging roles without any fear of committing a few mistakes on the way as long as mistakes are used as a learning tool.

My point is why not explore the idea of having budgetary provisions to take care of short term costs and losses due to mistakes committed by people while performing a challenging job. That would be a great way to help people overcome the fear of failure and cultivate the habit of prudent risk taking when in charge of a challenging project.

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman."

- David Ogilvy

November 26, 2008

"A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts."

- Richard Branson

November 25, 2008

Business problems are mostly simple. Commonsense is generally more than enough to solve majority of these problems. But managers tend to make them complex. The process of co-creation of complexity drains the managerial resources so badly that they never really have the energy to tackle the problem. The result is typically a vicious cycle of problem - analysis - paralysis - more analysis - sometimes committee formation - acute paralysis!

My observation and experience says that simple solutions are seen as weakness on the part of the manager to comprehend the ramification of the problem at a macro level. The general perception among managers, perhaps, is that business problems are too complicated for simple solutions. And the quest for complicated solutions that prove the mettle of managers keeps complicating the problem. The search for a perfect solution remains never ending while the business suffers!

In majority of business problems, a "KISS and Act" strategy would prove most effective. Keep it simple stupid and act fast!

"Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products, doing great engineering, and providing tremendous service to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships."

- H. Ross Perot

November 24, 2008

Global financial crisis. My ears have gone numb after hearing these three words in the most inappropriate of situations. It seems that entire Indian corporate sector, whether they are really being impacted by liquidity crunch or not, has been gripped by this global meltdown virus. I checked with a few friends from various sectors and was surprised to know that these days global financial crisis is the talk on every table from boardroom to cafeteria. This panic mongering is understandable if there is some connection between the company's business and the global financial crisis as is the case with IT, BPO, Banking, Realty, and such related sectors. But if there is none, why break one's head along with heads of the employees?

On a closer look, this panic is not unjustified. Four years of economic boom gave a sense of everlasting prosperity in the minds of corporate honchos. In the economic wonderland they forgot about the laws of business cycles. It seemed that the merry go round is meant for eternity. And with this sense of irrational exuberance, many irrational decisions were taken. With the economic slowdown in sight, suddenly reality has started biting and stupidity of some of the decisions taken in during economic exuberance is looming in front.

Here is a snapshot of such rash decisions based not on merit but on assumption that India will always wallow in unprecedented economic prosperity:

One company, a strong market leader in domestic market, suddenly gets an urge to conquer the whole world all at once and decides to enter dozens of markets (some on the back of acquisitions) on the hopes of funding the global aspirations on domestic cash cows. A logical and measured response would have been to win a continent before spreading wings to other continents. Instead the company decided to spread its wings too far too soon and without the financial muscle power or the talent with global expertise. Now when heat is on, there seems to be a burning sensation on the back!

One company was so happy with the economic boom that it started hiring like maniac. Positions were created at will, sometimes with just hazy ideas about what the people in these positions would do, in the vain hope that more people would bring more business. Suddenly, there were too many people and too little work. Something that was done earlier by one person was being done by a couple of people. A classic case of 'work expands to fill people available.' And when economic slowdown is in sight, suddenly manpower cost seems too high and cost cutting in every sphere, whether justified or not, is the new rule of the town!

One company got so engrossed in the magic of economic boom that it started diversifying in unrelated sectors, that too without necessary expertise. It even lacked serious commitment. Entire diversification was based on a hope that the magic of economic boom would convert every stone into gold. When the economic virus is threatening to strike, the core business is feeling the heat and suddenly cash seems to have developed a bottle-neck!

Look around and such cases of irrational exuberance during boom time are scattered across corporate arena. Global liquidity crisis may not hit India as hard as these seemingly economic goldmine turned monsters can.

"We've got to learn to live with chaos and uncertainty, try to be comfortable with it and not to look for certainty, where we won't get it."

- Charles Handy

November 23, 2008

The performance appraisal form asks about areas of improvements. It asks about negative traits that affect performance and penalizes accordingly. Training programs are designed to work upon areas of weakness. Feedback of the boss mostly focuses on what the weaknesses are and how to improve upon them.

Where is the place for strengths of the employees? Very few organizations focus on the strengths of their employees. A big majority of them remain preoccupied with the weaknesses of the employees.

Research has shown that excellence comes from leveraging strengths and working on to make our strengths stronger. Weaknesses are present in every individual. But focusing on converting weaknesses into strength is mostly a futile exercise. At most, weaknesses can be managed around to transform them from a liability to a neutral form where they neither adversely affect performance nor add any significant value. Development of an individual or an organization only comes from playing to the strengths and continuously focusing on them.

The best thing about strength is that everyone has some areas of strength. The key is identifying those areas of strengths and finding out ways to leverage them. Similarly, everyone has some areas of weaknesses. The key is to identify them and try to stay away from things that require these weaknesses as strengths.

But despite strong backing from research, organizations are yet to embrace a strength focused performance management system. They are still weakness centric and despite all the efforts in converting a weakness of an individual to strength, they fail miserably because nature of things can't be changed. Have you ever succeeded in straightening the tail of a dog? Wise men know it can't be done so they don't bother about it. What they bother about is how to utilize the dog in the best possible way despite that curvy tail!

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familier and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."

- Alan Cohen

November 22, 2008

"Brands are like pieces of fine crystal - they take time to create and are easy to break."

- Mike Isaacson

November 21, 2008

Under-led and over-managed organizations are breeding ground for a large majority of organizational problems. Leadership driven companies are often more resilient in blending themselves with their economic environment and emerging out stronger. On the other hand, management driven companies tend to operate in a reactionary mode. So, leadership development throughout the hierarchies becomes imperative.

Any work profile involves both leading and managing. It is the proportion of leading vs. managing that determines whether a person is leadership driven or management driven. To deliberately develop a leadership driven culture, an organisation must map the proportion of quality time that each of its executives spends on leading and managing. It could be developed on the lines of a personal score card and can be made part of the performance appraisal system. By rewarding people who lead more and manage less, one can create an incentive for people to become more leadership oriented.

At the same time, people who are managing more and leading less should be coached on systematic development of some key leadership traits. They should be exposed to the virtues of mentorship, desired behaviour invocation, delegation with accountability, independent thinking, role modelling, holding everyone to high standards, change, challenging the status quo, focusing on strengths, creating synergy, and getting the best out of people. With a systematic on the job coaching, the proportion of leading vs. managing can be positively influenced for such executives. This can go a long way in gradually moving a management driven organization to become leadership driven.

"Give the youth a proper environment. Motivate them. Extend them the support they need. Each one of them has infinite source of energy. They will deliver."

- Dhirubhai Ambani

November 20, 2008

Sales management is mostly about relationship management. Many times, sale suffers not because of any real issue but because small issues affecting customers or trade partners are left unattended. This leads to dissatisfied customers and disgruntled trade partners who feel ignored and develop bitterness. With time, this becomes a big issue and seriously starts affecting business.

Generally, a polished sales man or a sales manager would not allow this to happen and will do whatever it takes to delight customer while maintaining a win-win scenario. But occasionally, sales guys forget the fundamental rules and develop arrogance. This particularly happens with companies who are strong market leaders and who in absence of strong competition become complacent. Customers and trade partners are taken for granted. As long as competitive pressures are absent, these issues remain subdued. But once competitive pressures appear, these hidden resentments become a Pandora box of agony.

Resolving these issues which are mostly local in nature is a sure way to improve things. The issues may appear small but when these local issues from across different geographical market are given importance and resolved on priority, the magnitude of sales improvement is collectively huge.

So when your sale is going down, first of all check whether your customers and trade partners are happy, taken care of, and well serviced. Problems more often than not would have local roots.

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."

- Jimmy Dean

November 19, 2008

"When a product tries to appeal to everybody, it winds up appealing to nobody."

- Al Ries & Jack Trout, Bottom-Up Marketing

November 18, 2008

A growing organization guzzles resources, including human resources. To keep track of effectiveness of these resources and their contribution in organization's growth, measurement is essential.

There are two ways to look at effectiveness and contribution of human resources in the growth story of an organization.

First, extent of growth contributed by new manpower i.e. manpower growth vs. business growth. This analysis can give some idea about what extent of growth is being contributed by new manpower vis-a-vis existing manpower.

Second, extent of growth contributed by manpower productivity i.e. manpower productivity growth vs. business growth. This analysis can give some idea about whether the growth is being strongly influenced by increased employee productivity.

When both these analysis are seen together, it can act as a fair indication of what is influencing an organization's growth - increase in quantity of manpower or increase in average productivity of manpower.

An organization's goal should be to maximise the influence of both increase in manpower and increase in manpower productivity on business growth. That is a healthy sign which indicates that business growth is driven by continuous improvement in overall manpower productivity even when there is an increase in manpower.

"Anyone can manage in the short run and anyone can make money in the long run. The truly great ones are those who manage both these simultaneously."

- Jack Welch

November 17, 2008

It is said that success is the biggest cause of failure. It may sound contradictory but is true. Once an organization succeeds at anything, slowly and gradually it tends to avoid doing things that made it a success in the first place. With success comes a feeling on invincibility followed by arrogance. Success, many a time, blinds the organization to the what made them a successful organization. As a result, they gravitate towards unnecessary complexity and move away from fundamentals. Artificial facade replaces the real self and all troubles find roots.

The only way to avoid this trap is to have a thorough understanding of the set of core values and practices that made an organization a success and make these sacrosanct. DNA of an organism never changes and so is the case with organizations. It makes sense to clearly understand and respect the metabolism of an organization. The moment conflict is created with this metabolic process, everything loses balance and heads for disaster.

There are two things that are most vulnerable and act as a trigger for failure. First is forgetting the fundamentals, and second is forgetting the systems that propped the success story. With success, fundamentals are the first thing to get the axe. With success people start thinking of themselves as experts and slowly start bypassing the fundamentals on which the whole organization was built.

Similarly, behind every success there are some strong and simple systems. They may seem mundane and out of fashion but are often the backbone of success. But in the glitz of success, these get ignored and are gradually replaced by visibly sophisticated but in reality hollow systems. The result is often slow decline of fortune and glory.

Getting successful is relatively easy compared to staying successful forever. Staying glued to success means keeping your feet firmly on ground even though you might be soaring high in the sky. And it requires discipline of sticking to the fundamentals behind the success.

"Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula."

- Bill Bernbach

November 16, 2008

What it takes to be a giant killer? Well, this could be one of the greatest riddles of marketing. The goal, nevertheless a tough one, is mostly achieved on simple truths and commonsense.

First, you must have a good product or service to start with. Without this, you are on crutches.

Second, be very clear that you are not going for a full frontal war with a giant. You would, in all likelihood, be overwhelmed by the giant in a frontal war.

Third, identify the weak spots of the giant. There are always a few weakest links, though hidden by the sheer powerful appearance and invincibility of the giant. These could be consumer segments, customer service, geographical market segments, trade relationships, and many more.

Fourth, concentrate your resources at the weakest links with the clear intention to overpower the giant in these areas. While on mission to wreak havoc on weakest links, try to outnumber your resources by 3:1 or more. The weakest links have to hammered down in one go in a swift action before the giant has time to salvage the situation. This is a critical path to giant killing.

Fifth, after having successfully invaded the weakest links, try to find out small but profitable customer or market segments which are too small for a giant's attention. Building on a few such segments could add some strength in the fight with the giant.

Sixth, maintain movement with swift action. When you are successfully profiting from ignored smaller customer or market segments, the giant is bound to notice your actions and may feel like joining you for some action. So you have to keep moving from one ignored segment to another till the time you can keep finding them. This way the giant has too many open fronts on smaller customer or market segments which are insignificant for it leading to diffused focus.

Seventh, after gaining some ground in your battle with the giant, start becoming disruptive. Do something with your product, service, or strategy that the consumer's eye balls pop out. Disruptive offerings or strategy often surprises the giant and gives you the attention of consumers.

Eighth, constantly surprise the giant. Do the unexpected. Get the giant in a reactionary mode. It's like dictating the giant what to do next. Let it play your game with your rules rather than the other way round.

Ninth, with all your actions try to confuse the giant. The more you confuse it, the more it scratches its head, the better it is for you. Too much confusion often leads to lunatic actions. In this case, it would result in concentration of focus on too many arenas of insignificance and complete diffusion of focus in its areas of strengths and vital customer and market segments.

Tenth, with the giant in a state of lunacy, slowly start eating into its main customer and market segments much like termites. With some luck and consistency, over a period of time the giant tree with huge branches may become a small heap of mud hill.

Sounds simple, isn't it? In reality, it is one of the toughest plans to execute and requires courage, consistency, guts, tenancy, out-of-the-box thinking, a great team, and an inspiring leadership to stand on the dead body of a giant.

"Almost everyone is for decentralization - from themselves up, but not from themselves down."

- General W. L. Creech, The Five Pillars of TQM

November 15, 2008

"Memo to marketers: Boring always fails. Winners are remarkable."

- Seth Godin

November 14, 2008

Having a few well-fed thoroughbred is always better than having hundreds of under-fed monkeys.

Many organizations often go wrong on hiring decisions involving the dilemma of quality vs. quantity. There is a school of thought that believes that an organization can be equally productive by hiring too many mediocre people at lesser remuneration compared to investing in quality talent at higher remuneration. Nothing could be more off the track. Quality will always score over quantity. On surface it may appear to be a good financial deal to hire 3 mediocre people at the remuneration of 1 superior quality personnel. But this policy, in long term, would normally turn out to be a disaster.

In reality, it is always better to go for fewer superior quality people at higher remuneration instead of too many poor quality people at lower remuneration. Quality will always deliver many times more than the monetary incentive of hiring mediocre talent. And quality will always command a premium!

"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

November 13, 2008

"You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction."

- Alvin Toffler

November 12, 2008

Don't Make Life Hell For Your People

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:37 PM | with 0 comments »

Sometimes organizations inadvertently make life difficult for people who work for them. But the point is that when this happens, productivity suffers and as a result the whole organization suffers. Leaders must be careful that their decisions and policies don't make it difficult for people to perform well.

Sample a couple of worthy examples of such abrupt policies that do more harm than good:
  1. Product Managers being asked to share their PCs i.e. one PC for two Product Managers. Don't gasp in disbelief as this is a real life happening from one of the respected companies in India. Will this help cut cost or will it cut productivity?
  2. Guidelines for travel for managers - Avoid travel and if you have to then preferably use trains instead of plane even if it means spending 20 hours on train! Isn't it cutting cost at the cost of forcing your people to become idle on their productive time and exposing them to undue physical stress?
The simple lesson is - don't make life hell for your people. Your people are your biggest assets who work for a better part of their waking hours to help your organization do well and grow. Care for them. Trust them and their talent. Learn to value them. Never cut back on tools that make them productive.

"Great effort springs naturally from great attitude."

- Pat Riley

November 11, 2008

If you are charging premium for your product or service, make sure that you deliver higher perceived value than your competitors who don't charge a premium. If you miss even once on delivering on expectations associated with a premium price, chances are very high that you will not see your customer again.

There are a few salons in the residential locality where I reside. A month or so back, I visited one glitzy looking salon for a hair cut. After the hair cut, I had to pay almost double of what other salons in the locality charged. Hair cut that I received was nothing great. It was similar, perhaps a bit inferior, to what other salons in the locality delivered. The only difference in this salon was that the barbers were well dressed and looked smart. Everything else was constant vis-a-vis other salons in my locality. I vowed not to visit that salon again.

Today I went for another hair cut. But I didn't visit the salon I visited last. I went to the salon where I normally go. I paid half of what I paid last time but came out more satisfied by the experience and the hair cut!

Lesson to be learnt: Premium pricing doesn't make a product or a service premium; perceived value vis-a-vis price paid does.

" If things seem under control, you’re just not going fast enough."

- Mario Andretti

November 10, 2008

Social networking is the buzz word these days. Linkedin, Facebook, Orkut, Myspace and their ilk are on everyone's lips. Creating one's virtual identity on these social networking sites is de rigor. There is no doubt that these social networking sites provide a platform for excellent networking, be it professional or personal. But social networking throws up another emerging possibility that could change the fate of online recruitment services.

To make it less dramatic, some of the social networking sites like Linkedin are real threat to the survival and growth of online recruitment services. With the increase in number of people who are active on social networking sites, these sites have become a large sea of resumes. Who needs the paid services of online recruitment services when one can access endless quality resumes from across the globe for free? All one needs is time and willingness to separate diamond from coal.

Linkedin can be the real party spoiler for online recruitment services. With 25 million users worldwide including 1 million in India, it has the potential to dig the grave of online recruitment services like Monster, Naukri, Jobsahead, etc. Linkedin has the added advantage of the depth and range of talent that is active on it. People from CEO level to a management trainee are available on Linkedin. Another advantage of searching for talent on Linkedin is that you can learn a lot more than the resume. You can get to know what others feel about the person (check recommendations), who the person knows (his connections), and the depth of expertise of the person (check Q&A section). When these information are cross checked with information generated from the virtual profile of the person on other social networking sites (Facebook, Orkut, Myspace, etc.), it can provide a fair idea of the standing and capability of a person for a job profile.

The biggest advantage of social networking sites vis-à-vis online recruitment services is that the former not only provides the resume but also other relevant details of the person (who he knows, what he feels about a subject, how he talks online, what groups he is associated with, and what other activities he is involved in. All these help in much better preliminary evaluation of the candidate.

So what should online recruitment firms do? The simple answer is – evolve. Online recruitment services are still operating in the web 1.0 world while social networking sites are operating in web 2.0 world. While social networking sites are dynamic and interactive; online recruitment firms are static with predominantly one-way communication. If online recruitment firms wish to compete with social networking sites in recruitment space, they must evolve fast and provide a more user friendly and interactive platform for the recruiter and prospects to know one another better.

Let's see how this saga unfolds in near future. But odds seem to be in favour of social networking sites!

"Even if you are on right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there."

- William Rogers

November 9, 2008

" The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture toward what some would believe is impossible!"

- Arthur C. Clarke

November 8, 2008

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."

- Abraham Lincoln

November 7, 2008

Are you so preoccupied with your star performers that often you tend to ignore ordinary folks of your organization? Don't forget your 'small people'. An organization runs not on star power but through the collective effort put in by scores of ordinary people doing monotonous, routine, and not so glamorous work. They may not be highly paid or handling important profiles; but they are the cog in the wheel that runs any organization.

Many times we get so blinded by star power that we forget there are many ordinary folks too who are working hard. Unlike star players, these 'small people' don't need frequent attention and pampering to function at their optimal level. They just need some praise once in a while and a regular acknowledgement that their work matters in the bigger picture of the organization. They crave appreciation and want to feel important. If leaders ensure this, they can go an extra mile to deliver results.

But if you forget them and don't give what is due to them, they feel disgruntled and disheartened. Their productivity suffers. They start complaining in whispers. They feel unimportant. They tend to spread rumours and indulge in gossip. All these affects the productivity and efficiency of an organization.

A little pampering can go a long way in not only maintaining organizational harmony but also in enhancing the overall productivity of the organization.

"Innovation is not the product of logical thought.. although the result is tied to logical structure."

- Albert Einstein

November 6, 2008

Marketing Lessons From Barack Obama

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:25 PM | with 0 comments »

Barack Obama has created history by becoming the first black President of the United States of America. In the process, he ran an excellent campaign and re-wrote many rules of politics and marketing.

I have been closely following his campaign since last 10 months and feel that marketers can learn a lot from Obama.

Here are a few instant lessons in marketing as successfully demonstrated by Obama.
  1. Start with a good product. If you don't have a good product, marketing can't help.
  2. Differentiate your product in market and rise over clutter. Obama's political theme of hope and change was something having universal appeal and it differentiated him from the rest of candidates in the field who were running with routine election issues.
  3. Create a brand signature that resonates well with the USP of the brand. Obama's brand signature was 'Yes we can' and 'Change we can believe in'.
  4. Create a tribe around your brand who eat, breathe, sleep, and live the brand.
  5. Give the ownership of the brand to your customers. As a marketer, act like a guide and moderator but allow customers to be the real brand owners.
  6. Keep your communication consistent. Wavering on communication is a signal of weakness.
    Conventional wisdom is not sacrosanct. Dare to go against accepted rules. Rules are meant to be broken. Obama's decision to invest in marketing in traditionally Republican states forced Republicans to spread their resources across American political arena and not confine themselves to a few "battle ground states."
  7. When faced with a problem, don't shy away from acknowledging it. Fight the bull by the horn. Obama's famous speech on race demonstrated this.
  8. Focus on customer acquisition. Even in a cluttered market you can establish your brand if you find new customers in hordes. Obama's strategy to bring the youth in mainstream politics worked on this principle. He ensured addition of millions of voters by activating the politically dormant youth to participate in political process.
  9. Be present everywhere. Obama's strategy to use every marketing channel – electronic media, print media, digital media, buzz marketing, and word of mouth – to spread his message worked well to create awareness about him among all target audience.
  10. Explore full potential of PR to spread your brand message.
  11. When attacked, never get defensive. Instead go on offensive by playing to your strengths.
  12. Give the credit of your brand's success to your customers. Let them feel that the brand is their baby.
Keep visiting Bizaholic as I am planning to do an exhaustive series on 'Marketing lessons from Obama' in near future.

"An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore."

- Edward De Bono

November 5, 2008

"An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success."

- Stephen Covey

November 4, 2008

What do you look for when you are hiring? Is it qualification, experience, or something else? I think more than anything else, you should first check for the right attitude. A lesser experienced or a lesser qualified person having the right attitude can go a long way in her career vis-a-vis someone who is well qualified and experienced for the job but without the right attitude.

You can train a person with right attitude for a thousand jobs. Like wet clay, you can mould her into as many shapes as you want. You can fit her into different roles and yet find her delivering results. People with right attitude tend to rapidly learn the tricks of the trade on the job. They get into the skin of a role quickly. They are flexible and generally don't get emotionally attached to a particular role, vocation, or industry. They seem to be always on the move to deliver results wherever they are required. They learn through experimentation and are generally game for a challenging role.

On the other hand, a person without right attitude, despite having all the qualifications and experience, may not be a good choice in the long run. Without right attitude, people generally tend to be somewhat rigid in their approach to life. Quickly shuffling roles may be a little difficult for them as they generally enjoy being in their comfort zones. People without right kind of attitude may find it difficult to gel with an organization's culture. Over a period of time, these people tend to hit stagnancy.

Someone once said, "Attitude decides altitude." I can't agree more. You can go wrong with a person having right experience and qualification, but seldom will you go wrong with a person having right attitude towards work and life. People with right attitude are bound to shine wherever they go.

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."

- Theodore Roosevelt

November 3, 2008

Forgive me if I sound like a fear monger. But reality is dawning and India may soon be hit hard by a severe economic downturn notwithstanding the assurance by government officials. Most likely a number of economic realities of India will have a multiplier effect leading to a painful economic period for India.

Let's look at some of the triggers that could derail the grand economic momentum of India in the short run.

Acute slowdown in IT, ITES & BPO sector - Over the last 5-6 years, Indian IT & ITES sector has seen explosive growth and have managed to put a global footprint of their prowess. To service the ever growing demands from international markets, companies mushroomed in every nook and corner of technology centers like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, and Noida. The demand mostly came from banks and financial institution in US and Europe. With current global financial crisis, suddenly the financial power houses across the world are on their knees begging for survival. And with this, the fortunes of Indian IT & ITES sector in all likelihood would take a beating, at least for a few years. Since, the crisis is global in nature and not only confined to US, even firms who had strategically decoupled themselves from US economic health by finding clients in other markets of the world would not be spared.

Slowdown in Export - With imminent economic recession in US and some other economies of the world, Indian export industry is bound to suffer. Over last few years, Indian firms have established themselves as suppliers to many leading global retail chains. With slowing of consumption in developed economies of the world, these export firms will definitely experience turbulent times in the short run till world economy recovers. It has been reported that a few textile export houses in India have retrenched workers due to slowing demand.

Pay cut, pink slips and domestic consumption - With turbulence being experienced in IT & ITES, Export, Real Estates, and Banking & Financial institution sectors, pay cut and pink slips are expected in the next 3-4 months. When an economy suddenly applies break to slow its growth rate from 9% to 7%, some contraction in employment sector is inevitable. This is going to seriously affect the domestic consumption due to lower disposable income. This in turn has the potential to affect consumption of a wide spectrum of goods and services.

Loan and credit card burden - Explosive growth and resulting economic prosperity in last 4-5 years has seen a steep increase in disbursal of loan and usage of credit card. Many youngsters, particularly from IT, ITES, Banking, Insurance and other financial services sectors, who smelt money at the very start of their career without much pain have taken loans to finance their houses, cars, vacations, et al. Credit card culture, particularly among youth, too may turn monstrous in current scheme of things. With pay cuts and pink slips, the perceived never ending rosy outlook is soon to deal a major shock resulting in major loan defaults across the board. This is going to drastically affect banks and other financial institutions who loved to dole out loans and credit card to everyone on the street irrespective of the capacity to pay back the loan. Similarly, housing loan defaults may create more turbulence for already troubled real estate sector.

Stock market crash - In last 10 months, Indian stock market has crashed by over 50%. I think, in the last couple of years, a good chunk of domestic consumption has been driven by fortunes made from stock market, where prices doubled every 6 months or so! The sudden crash has resulted in heavy loss to many small time investors who entered late. With the fortunes of the stock market not expected to change in near future, an easy money making machine is out of bounds. This will play its own little part in slowing down domestic consumption.

So, the writing seems to be on the wall. A chain reaction is waiting to happen in near future. But a looming election season is forcing the gatekeepers of our economy (read Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Governor of RBI) to ignore the warning signals and pooh pooh any talk of adverse impact of global economic slowdown on Indian economy. A more responsible behaviour would be to do some scenario planning and draw a pre-emptive crisis management plan to lessen the adverse impact on Indian economy.

"The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority."

- Ken Blanchard

November 2, 2008

Sometimes an organization's obsession with knowledge management can turn out to be a big pain in the butt. In the name of knowledge management, clutter generation takes off! This not only results in loss of productivity, but also it fails in the objective of managing knowledge within an organization for greater good. Is your organization too suffers from knowledge management nuisance?

Here is a list of few indicators to signal problems with knowledge management system in an organization;
  1. More of a fad or a feel good system rather than a well conceptualized system, taking into consideration unique present and future needs of the organization, with clearly defined objectives to help the organization evolve and grow continuously.
  2. Lack of clearly defined metrics to evaluate value addition by knowledge management system.
  3. One-way system i.e. a non-collaborative and non-interactive system that hinders in knowledge sharing.
  4. Excessive secrecy defeating the very purpose of knowledge management. To make any knowledge management system work effectively, it must follow a rule of thumb to share 90% of the stuff with 90% of its people. Knowledge shared is knowledge gained.
  5. Lack of training for employees about the features, relevance to their job and the organization, and value aggregator and multiplier aspects of the system.
  6. Documentation of routine stuff in the knowledge management system.
  7. Too many complicated procedures to make it user unfriendly.

"Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning."

- Warren Bennis

November 1, 2008

Since February 2008, I have been closely following the US Presidential election. I can't help getting amazed by the marketing savviness of Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential nominee. This brilliant man, with the help of out-of-the-box marketing strategy, is on the verge of creating history. What is his secret?

Well, his entire political marketing strategy revolved around the following pillars:
  1. Universal message of hope to transcend across religion, community, socio-economic conditions, age, and sex. Particularly in times of distress, the message of hope and grassroot empowernment gelled well across various segments of the population.
  2. Engaging segments of population, particularly youth, which are generally disenchanted by politics. Taking an idealistic high ground, making the whole political campaign fashinable, and communicating in the language of youth worked well to bring a large segment of population, which in normal circumstances is aloof to politics, into his fold.
  3. Using the power of digital marketing to create an enthusiatic tribe of followers and convert a political campaign into a change movement. Dominance over virtual world ensured that the message kept spreading like a wild fire. It also helped in encouraging many members of the virtual community to volunteer for building physical communities around the movement at grassroot level.
  4. Using the power of Internet technology to turn drops of political contribution into an endless ocean of money to fund the entire campaign.
  5. Expand reach and multiply frequency by supplementing the predominantly digital and 'word of the mouth' marketing effort with tradinational media vehicles like TV and radio.
The strategy seemed to work and all indicators suggest that Barack Obama is poised to become the President of United States of America despite starting off with a big baggage full of political disadvantages.

My question is - can this model of well oiled political marketing strategy work in Indian context? In all likelihood, yes. Five years back, in last general elections, Indian politics saw a glimpse of political marketing. "India Shining" and "Common Man" campaign of the last general elections were organized advertising campaigned developed by professional agencies. But these were more of an advertising campaign rather than an integrated marketing campaign.

This time around Indian political scene provides an opportunity for an integrated political marketing campaign. Any political party that invests time, energy and resources in understanding the new reality may reap huge benefits in coming elections. Here are some important facts to consider while developing an integrated political marketing campaign.
  1. High penetration of mobile telephony in urban as well as rural areas. India has >300 million mobile subscribers (includes GSM as well as CDMA subscribers)
  2. Growing internet usage (>50 million Internet users)
  3. Low involvement of urban youth in politics.
  4. Growing percentage of youth in population distribution.
  5. Rising aspirations of people, particularly in smaller towns and rural centers.
For any integrated political marketing campaign in India to succeed, there are three essential elements.

First is focus on mobile marketing. Since mobile phones have penetrated almost all sections of society, mobile marketing could be the most effective pan-India marketing vehicle for any political message.

Second is an aggressive digital marketing in form of viral, blogs, and social networking to target the urban youth who has lost interest in politics. Any political party that captures the imagination of these youth is bound to improve its performance by several notches. A secondary benefit of high decibel digital marketing is that it has the potential to influence mainstream media, which in turn could help the political party that is active in digital arena.

Third is the message that taps on the rising aspirations of people in general and youth in particular. If a political party can come up with a credible message of how it is going to provide platforms for people to fulfill their dreams and aspirations, it is bound to resonate well with the people of India.

If any political party in India can combine these three elements with their regular campaign strategy, it is bound to reap rich dividends. If Indian politicians learn the Obama lesson, the coming elections would herald the arrival of full fledged political marketing in India.

"A perfection of means and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem."

- Albert Einstein