December 31, 2008

"Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders."

- Tom Peters

December 30, 2008

"The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity."

- Al Reis and Laura Reis, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

December 29, 2008

Monday Blues: Why and Why Not?

Posted by Bizaholic | 7:00 AM | with 0 comments »

Sometimes I feel corporate life is more like an auto repairs workshop rather than a state-of-the-art assembly line. We spend an enormous amount of our time in fixing the things and fire fighting instead of creating something new and meaningful that doesn’t require frequent repairs. We are becoming experts in repairs. But we are moving away from innovation and creativity. And all these developments mean spending more and more time and effort on things which should not have got our time and attention, and spending lesser and lesser time on things which should have got our undivided attention.

Why is it happening? It is happening because we are not asking enough WHY and instead are directly moving to HOW.

HOW is the action and WHY is the knowledge. We are moving to action without having complete knowledge. We are, in fact, taking shortcuts. But is it difficult to guess what will happen if we jump to HOW without asking WHY? Just think of a doctor who prescribes medicines without knowing the disease.

The problems keep reoccurring in one form or another with increased frequency like a patient who has been treated wrongly revisits his physician with increased frequency and added complications. And sooner than later the problem becomes incurable. Some typical examples of doing things without asking WHY: Sales is down. Give a scheme (when root cause is mismanagement of field force). Employees are leaving. Increase the salary (when root cause is lack of challenge and motivation among employees). Deadlines are not being met. Send reminders and follow up (when root cause is a corporate culture where people have scant regards for deadlines). Will any of these actions solve the problem? Never, it will keep on reoccurring. This is what I am witnessing day after day.

But the story doesn’t end with not asking ‘why’? There is another side of the coin called ‘why not’. If fewer people ask ‘why’, even fewer say ‘why not’. Saying ‘why not’ is a radical proposition that is the seed of all innovation. But I am astonished to see that majority of people are uncomfortable with the thought of breaking the status quo. The problem is chronic with old folks. They dare not think beyond what is working fine. Their logic says: Why break it if it is working fine? They are reasonable people of the world. George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Remarkable breakthroughs come from a thought process that keeps on saying ‘why not’. The essence is: If it isn’t broke then break it. Often I notice that processes and practices in many organizations are outdated. Small problems have often big roots. But nobody dares to think ‘why not we should overhaul the system’ just because there is a certain comfort level associated with it. There is a deep rooted fear of unknown. So what happens is mainly a little patch up here and a little there and keeping the old thing moving around. But it hardly helps and the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire system is compromised.

Isn’t it time we shun our mental laziness and start exploring things? The spirit of a maverick should be there if there is any progress to be made. Human mind has limitless capacity but it has a serious limitation in the fact that its capacity expands only when thoughts like ‘why not’ stretch it. It cannot work in vacuum. It has to be provoked with a ‘why not’.

Break all the rules. WHY NOT?

"Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind."

- Walter Landor

December 28, 2008

Leaders Must Be Visible During Crisis

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:14 AM | with 0 comments »

In times of crisis, a leader must lead from the front and ensure that he is constantly visible to the whole organization. For employees, crisis often turn out to be a crisis of confidence. In such times, it is the responsibility of the leader to personally get into the picture to restore confidence, calm nerves, and guide the organization to navigate out of the crisis.

Some CEOs try to manage crisis by chalking strategies while sitting in their corner offices and interacting primarily with their top lieutenants. This is wrong approach to crisis management. Crisis demands that a CEO roll up his sleeves and jump into action on the ground. Crisis demands that a CEO interacts not only with his generals but also his troops. Crisis demands that a CEO must make his presence felt to the entire organization and reassure that situation is within his control.

Communication plays a vital role in crisis management and CEOs have a role to play in ensuring that communication lines from top-to-bottom as well as bottom-to-top are open all the times. The leader must engage in communication at personal level with his people, not only to restore confidence and charge people to rise to the occasion but also to get ideas from grassroots to tackle the crisis. With modern communication tools like email, video conferencing, SMS, and corporate blogs, the task is not tough for a CEO to start conversation with all his people and try to make the whole process of crisis management inclusive and lively.

It all boils down to the simple fact that in times of crisis, the leader must become the most visible light to energize and inspire his people so that they confidently follow the leader, collectively contribute with their ideas, and toil hard to emerge out of a crisis stronger than before.

"Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress."

- Theodore Levitt

December 27, 2008

"Customers don't always know what they want. The decline in coffee-drinking was due to the fact that most of the coffee people bought was stale and they weren't enjoying it. Once they tasted ours and experienced what we call "the third place".. a gathering place between home and work where they were treated with respect.. they found we were filling a need they didn't know they had."

- Howard Schultz, Starbucks

December 26, 2008

"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership."

- John Kenneth Galbraith

December 25, 2008

A book is judged by the ideas it provokes in the mind of the readers. By this measure, Nandan Nilekani's Imagining India is a winner. It is a bold book that attempts to tell as well as foretell the story of India. The best part about the book is an almost perfect amalgam of in-depth research and authentic thought process.

Although it takes patience to navigate through this 485 page tome, the time is well spent in understanding post-independent India, her problems, how she rose to succeed from an almost certain failure, and what challenges she is facing in her quest for a glorious future. The book tries to solve a jigsaw puzzle called "India" by coherently stitching together major issues affecting India, associated challenges, and possible way forward.

Fundamentally this book is not about ideas. It is about social, political, and economic issues we face today. In the process of analyzing these issues, some 18 of them, Nandan provokes the readers to think. This forced contemplation throws up some insights to tackle our problems. The book is more of tool for idea generation to solve India's problem rather than a foolproof blueprint.

For example, while discussing demographic dividend, Nandan takes us through "double hump" nature of India's demographic dividend and forces us to look at India's future from a completely different perspective – that future growth is likely to come from demographically endowed but struggling states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan instead of western and southern India that fuelled the current growth story but whose demographic dividend is bound to vanish in coming years. This provokes us to think – what are we going to do to make sure that, as Nandan says, this dividend does not turn out to be fool's gold? The real worth of the book lies in its ability to provoke a reader to think and act to claim the opportunities that are tapping on our doors.

The book is not a continuous flow that builds the momentum from start to finish. It is essentially a collection of essays. This makes it easier for readers to snack on the book and get immersed in one issue at a time without following the defined flow of the book and yet not lose the essence.

Some of really thought provoking and vibrant discussion of issues are contained in "India, by its People", "The Phoenix Tongue", "From Maneaters to Enablers", "S is for Schools", "Erasing Lines", "Jostling for Jobs", 'Institutions of Sand", "ICT in India". Even if one doesn't have the time and inclination to complete the whole book, I highly recommend readers to read these chapters.

But despite all the virtues of the book, I have one big grievance. The issues traversed in the book need to reach the youth of India. Unfortunately, in its present form, it would hardly reach a fraction of India's youth. Cost of the book, highly scholastic language, and the thickness will limit the reach of this remarkable book among youth. And this, I feel, is a tragedy. The real worth of this book would emerge only if youth, who are the driver of future, assimilate the multitude of issues engulfing India and use their talent to trigger an ocean of breakthrough ideas to propel India's growth story to its next logical orbit. To reach youth, the ideas in the book need to be put in a simple yet interesting language and packed in 200 odd pages with a price tag of less than Rs 100. May be Nandan should think of an abridged youth edition of "Imagining India" to reach the "Five Point Someone" audience!

"Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make. It is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers and benefits for the stakeholders."

- Philip Kotler

December 24, 2008

"A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself."

- David Ogilvy

December 23, 2008

People are the pillars of any great organization. Companies that understand this simple fact go out of their way to put employees on the same pedestal as customers because like customers, good employees too are valuable part of any business and are vital for sustained growth.

Here are a few reasons why employees must be treated with same respect as customers:
  1. Like customers, employees are the life of a company. Without customer a company can't survive and without good employees a company's customers wont get satisfied.
  2. Like customers, employees are a great source of business ideas.
  3. Like customers, it takes a great effort to attract a good employee and even greater effort to retain him.
  4. Like customers, happy and satisfied employees will rally behind their company and turn out to be a source of immense strength in difficult times. While disgruntled and dissatisfied employees can turn their back during difficult times and become aloof.
  5. Like customers, employees are the mirrors of an organization that tell the hard truth if the organization is receptive to constructive criticism.
It is easy to neglect employees and not be sensitive to them. But that would eventually turn out to be suicidal. Neglected employees and scorned customers can create hell on earth in no time!

"Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth."

- Peter Drucker

December 22, 2008

There are two ways to approach cost-cutting exercise. Either cost-cutting measures are thrust upon employees or employees are actively engaged to deliberate, discuss, suggest, and implement cost-cutting measures.

When cost-cutting measures are thrust upon employees, it feels like burden and chances are high that general resentment sets in. This may lead to disenchantment among employees and can affect the productivity negating the benefits of cost-cutting exercise.

For making any cost-cutting exercise become a success, employee involvement and engagement is vital. This must be understood by the top leadership team. Instead of thrusting upon a slew of measures down the line, the leader must tell all employees why frugality is the need of the hour and invite their suggestions to cut costs without affecting the needs of business or the morale of employees.

Explaining the business scenario and inviting the employees to participate in the cost-cutting exercise has many benefits.
  1. Employees get a clear picture of what is happening and what may happen. This removes confusion and drastically reduces chances of rumour mongering.
  2. Employees feel important and valued. This leads to commitment to implement cost-cutting exercise earnestly.
  3. Being close to where the action lies, employees are more likely to come up with ideas and suggestions that may help the company significantly cut cost without throwing the axe on something necessary.
  4. Employees feel engaged in the affairs of the company and develop higher level of empathy to connect with the prevailing business scenario.
In these times of economic distress, CEOs and business leaders should take it upon themselves to coalesce the company around their employees and jointly chalk out strategies to fight tough economic times. It would go a long way in not only fighting cost in the short run but also in actively engaging the employees to create a unified cohesion in the long run.

"You can say the right thing about a product, and nobody will listen. You've got to say it in such a way that people feel it in their gut. Because if they don't feel it, nothing will happen."

- Bill Bernbach

December 21, 2008

Competence or Loyalty?

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:15 PM | with 0 comments »

Whom would you prefer in your team - a competent person or a loyal person with limited competence? If you ask this question to different managers, chances are high that you would get a divided opinion. Old styled managers would prefer loyalty ahead of competence (they believe that loyal people irrespective of their level of competence can always be groomed for any role!) while new age professionals would put competence and ability to deliver in a role above everything else.

If objectively viewed, competence is a higher virtue than loyalty. The task of management is to deliver outstanding results. For delivering results, competence is a necessity. It's as simple as that. As far as loyalty is concerned, it is the responsibility of management to recruit competent people and make them loyal.

It becomes difficult to discuss competence vs loyalty because loyalty has emotional undercurrents while competence is solid logic. Emotions in business tend to blur logical decision making.

Loyal people with limited competence may give an air of familiarity and comfort, but may not deliver the results. Due to their limitation, it's almost impossible to train and develop their competencies beyond a point. By ruling in favour of them instead of competent people, it would turn out to be suicidal.

"Good leaders must first become good servants."

- Robert Greenleaf

December 20, 2008

"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion."

- Jack Welch

December 19, 2008

Pursuit of Better

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:18 PM | , with 0 comments »

"Pursuit of Better" is perhaps the magic wand that can transform companies. Striving to make things better than what they are today in each and every sphere of one's business is one of the surest ways to lead a company on the path to greatness.

How can we make our customers feel better? How can we make better products? How can we engage our people in a better way? How can we collaborate with our business partners in a better way? How can we become better corporate citizens? How can be become better at whatever we do? These are some of the questions that need to be asked everyday while doing any job.

Continuous improvement needs be integrated into the DNA of a company. Every employee of the company should think in terms of improving things under his areas of responsibilities. "How can this be made better" should be a constant thought at the back of the mind of every employee right from a shop floor worker to the CEO. In short, continuous improvement should drive a company.

If "pursuit of better" becomes a living, walking, talking, breathing philosophy of a company, better things are bound to happen!

"The goal in creating a brand identity is not just surface consistency but inner coherence."

- Aubrey Balkind

December 18, 2008

"Too many leaders act as if the sheep.. their people.. are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep."

- Ken Blanchard

December 17, 2008

"Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity."

- Bo Bennett

December 16, 2008

Marketing is an outward looking process. Seldom does one come across great marketing ideas by looking inwards. Great marketing is evolutionary in nature and thrives on new ideas and new ways of fulfilling customer needs and building relationships.

When a marketing deadlock is encountered, often the first reaction is to look inward to find a solution. Solution that comes from inward looking process is generally of the nature of short gap damage control. Breakthrough ideas are a result of looking beyond the routine pattern of looking at things.

What does looking outward mean? It means looking outside your company and industry to get breakthrough ideas. It means looking at your customers as well as customers of your competitors. It means looking at society beyond your target segment. In simple language, looking outward is a process of continuous learning from others to discover insights that can take your marketing to a higher level. It means drifting away from the tried and tested but routine path to explore possibilities which are not yet known to you.

There is an excellent example for this outward looking approach in the form of astounding success of mobile telephony sector in India. Marketers at almost all mobile telephony companies looked outward and borrowed marketing ideas from FMCG sector. Just imagine where mobile telephony would have been in India had they not adopted FMCG marketing tricks like building volumes through small pack offering (small value mobile recharge), distribution through grocery stores and roadside stalls of tea and paan (betel) shops, co-branding (bundled package through tie up with mobile handset brands), and value pricing strategy.

So next time you face a marketing dilemma, don't hesitate to look outside your company and industry for breakthrough ideas. In marketing, future belongs to those who are willing to explore ideas beyond their circle of operation.

"When you innovate, you've got to be prepared for everyone telling you you're nuts."

- Larry Ellison

December 15, 2008

These days newspapers are flooded with reports on the government sponsored economic stimulus package. Opinion and counter opinion on whether the package will deliver desired results are dime a dozen. I am also tempted to share my two cents.

The whole exercise of government bailout and stimulus package appears to give a suspense filled twist to the tragic economic drama unfolding before us. Will it work, will it not? This is the question on every lip that bothers even a bit about Economics. Unfortunately, these economic stimulus packages are not going to help much. Like a typical business cycle, the economy would hit the bottom and then gradually start the ascent once again. Stimulus package may help avoid the bumps but it is not going to bring the economy back on the track anytime in coming few months. It is because economy runs according to the laws of Economics; not by the whims and fancies of economic institutions, government agencies, central banks, or business houses.

Last five years were an economic merry go round kind of thing. Everything was rosy. Easy money was all around. It seemed like a never ending party. It was about arrival of India on the world stage. Stock market was running like a wild bull. Real estate prices were doubling every year. 25% salary hikes seemed normal. Banks were ready to hand out loans and credit card to every human standing outside suburban railway stations. Was anyone complaining then? No. Then why complain now? Just because the universal laws of Economics are threatening to bring our feet back to ground? The problem is not hard to guess – we made the mistake of spreading our legs beyond the size of the blanket! And now it hurts when someone is pulling the blanket itself away from our body.

Current government stimulus package is basically counter-cyclical and primarily aimed at helping the real estate sector thereby boosting demand. But it means that government is not willing to accept that there are serious problems in some sectors like real estate and banking. Why would it otherwise try to help it when it is clear that realty prices are too inflated? It is better to leave such things in the hands of Economics to get themselves corrected by the rules of demand and supply which is, in any case, going to happen, with or without government stimulus! For those with weak memory, in 1996 the housing sector went bust and prices crashed by almost 40%. Economics will ensure that this time too, prices would crash by 25-30% or more to even out the gap between demand and supply. Government sponsored economic stimulus may delay the crash, but they can't prevent price correction.

Similarly, India's dependency on services sector would show its dark side during this economic slowdown. India's consumption power of the last five years has come from money generated through services sector. Now it is the service sector which is getting hammered the most. This will have a chain reaction affecting the overall consumption leading to greater economic hardship.

Instead of unsuccessfully trying to prevent economic laws from taking their own course through bailouts and stimulus packages, the government should try to help them in correcting the abnormalities of economy to bring it to the just level before thinking on how to take it to the next higher level.

We should never forget that Economics, like death, is a great leveler!

"If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful."

- Jeff Bezos

December 14, 2008

There is a special species in corporate world - people who are hardworking but stupid. Beware of such people as they can choke productivity of the organization. These people are specially dangerous if they are in managerial or leadership role. Because when in positions of authority, they tend to create needless work for others. These people have little brain and too much time at their hand to create mindless clutter and make others life hell.

Whenever you find such people in your organization, it is better to show them the door. If they stay in a position of authority for long they can create enough clutter to choke an organization's systems, processes, and productivity by transforming simple things into maze of complexity.

It is always better to get rid of such creatures of mindlessness.

"In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. But the most important is integrity because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you."

- Warren Buffett

December 13, 2008

"Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."

- Stephen Covey

December 12, 2008

Do you get mad seeing some of your people in your organization failing to meet their commitments almost all the times? Do you feel there are too many people in your organization who have hardly anything to show up on their performance? Do you and your team feel getting bogged down by incompetence of a few people? Do you have too many 'easy going and carefree chaps' working in your organization? If 'yes' is the answers to these questions, it is high time your organization pursues "Forced Distribution Rating System" to build a high potential workforce and weed out people who can't deliver.

To put it in simple language, a great organization cannot be built by an army of mediocre. Great organizations are a result of great people. The easiest and the surest way for an organization to become great is to enhance the overall quality of its people by continuously increasing the benchmark of performance and removing people out of the system who fall below the benchmark. One way to practice this is to adopt the formula made famous by legendary Jack Welch to fire bottom 10% of people every year on the basis of their performance.

It may sound harsh, but it is an absolute business necessity if an organization wants to become great. Any organization building exercise is people dependent. If you keep on enhancing the overall quality of the manpower, organization is bound to scale new heights.

Of course the system is not flawless. By practising this model, an organization may lose a few good people and sometimes judgment may go wrong. But in the long run, the model works wonders to develop a superior quality of manpower by constantly raising the bar of performance. It also forces the managers to differentiate talent and get emotionally detached from their people when reviewing their performance. As a result, absolute meritocracy prevails.

But there are a few words of caution. Perfunctory approach to this system may do more harm than good. For making this system work, an organization first needs to work on the following:
  1. Developing an objective system of performance measurement. Subjective judgment must be minimized.
  2. Open and transparent performance measurement system. There is no place for ambiguity. Everything must be open for questioning so that people don't question the fairness of the system.
  3. The process should encourage debate so that chances of misjudgment is minimized. The decision to categorize someone in bottom 10% should not be a cold call but a call based on objective judgment and rigorous debate on the various performance parameters.
If the system is adopted in full seriousness and applies to everyone from CEO to the shop-floor worker, it is bound to change the fortunes of the organization by making it a performance centric and people driven organization.

"Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business."

- Zig Ziglar

December 11, 2008

"The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer."

- Peter Drucker

December 10, 2008

"There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

- Sam Walton

December 9, 2008

Making of a Great Sales Manager

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:26 PM | with 0 comments »

What makes a great sales manager? Based on close observation of some excellent sales managers, here are a few essential traits:
  1. Self directed accountability for the results of his team. Every great sales manager has an inner desire to deliver what has been committed and he can shake the whole world to keep his words.
  2. Accessibility. Great sales managers are accessible 24*7 for their team members and customers. They are always there to guide their team and listen to their customers.
  3. A leadership style that shows direction to the team members but avoids too much hand holding. They believe that sales is more of an spontaneous process and hence all sales personnel must quickly learn to stand on their feet and take decisions without much dependence on their superiors.
  4. Aggressive work style. They are aggressive as far as growth of business and delivery of sales numbers are concerned.
  5. A sense of urgency. Dilly-dallying is never appreciated by a great sales manager. They believe in the power of now and love to act fast.
  6. Action orientation. Great sales managers have firm belief in the motto of "actions speak louder than words". They are men and women of action and speak the language of execution.
  7. People orientation. They love to engage with people and are empathetic to their team members, customers, and trade partners.
  8. High on energy and enthusiasm. Sales is a tiring process and there are times when things appear too gloomy. A great sales manager must have the ability to not only keep himself motivated through such testing times but also his entire team.
  9. Ability to leverage strengths and not get distracted by weaknesses. Strong sales managers believe that focusing on strengths of individuals and team is the key to success. They seldom delve into weaknesses. They are into business of milking strengths to achieve great results.
  10. Belief in the principle - "Credit goes to the team; blame comes to the leader".

"You put together the best team that you can with the players you've got, and replace those who aren't good enough."
- Robert Crandall

December 8, 2008

Superficiality is an organization killer. I am often surprised to see how superficial issues and actions blur the real issues. Through the veil of superficiality, non-significant issues get blown out of proportion while issues of substance concerned with the bigger picture get lost.

During economic downturn, when the going gets tough, an organization is more prone to superficiality. Every small thing looks big and attracts superficial actions. If the organization is not on guard, many small superficial actions become a big bottle-neck to organizational performance and future prospects. Many a time decision makers never realize that their incorrect reading of symptoms results in wrong medication which may turn out to be lethal in the long run.

Let's see how superficiality hurts. In an economic slowdown, often organizations go over the board in their reaction. As a result, superficial and irritating cost cutting exercise is put into place. These cost cutting measures save little money and many times turn out to be rather costly in the long run due to lose of productivity and employee motivation.

Smart organizations don't delve in superficiality. They think of constructive, concrete, and out-of-the-box approaches to survive and prosper in economic blues. For example, when faced with the prospect of an economic downturn, a smart organization may bring in the collective mind of its employees to share ideas and decide on the best course of action, not only to survive but also to grow. Adversity has the unique potential to bring out the best and a collective mind is better prepared to prosper from an adversity. Smart organizations tend to tap into the creative energy of its manpower instead of undertaking superficial measures to straighten things up. This way the employees not only feel engaged and an active part of the organization, but also tend to display high level of energy and motivation to fight any eventuality that the business may face.

The best way to avoid the superficiality trap is not to panic in any kind of economic environment and to always strive to keep the bigger picture in focus. Another thing to keep in mind is that when adversity strikes, stick to your people and channel the power of the collective mind. One can steer around any situation as long as one's people are engaged, energetic, and motivated.

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

- Andrew Carnegie

December 7, 2008

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has."

- Margaret Mead

December 6, 2008

"It is amazing how much people can get done if they do not worry about who gets the credit."

- Sandra Swinney

December 5, 2008

It is said old habits die hard. Often this truth of life becomes a big headache for organizations. When what you have been doing since a long time suddenly stops bearing fruits, there is an urgent need to shake things up and bring innovative approach into practice. But old habits make the transition from "comfort zone" to "a new approach that is potentially rewarding but risky" difficult. People prefer to continue embracing the old way of doing things even when things don't seem to improve. The pain and discomfort of moving away from the habitual seems much more than the rewards that comes from pursuing an uncharted territory that is potentially rewarding but risky. As a result, status quo is maintained for too long a time which adversely affects an organization.

Change is initially painful. With every change people have to adjust, make changes to their way of thinking, and learn new habits. This transition period generally is tumultuous. But in larger interest of the organization and its people, it needs to be executed despite all the associated resentment and pain.

In such situation where there is resentment to change, a leader has to take charge and use all his persuasive skills to convince people why change is unavoidable and must be adopted. But if this approach fails to make people change, somewhere the leader has to foot his feet down and force the desired change ruthlessly. In such situations of forced change, the key is to start moving on the road to change, close all exit routes to turn back, and then teach the virtues of change to your people during the journey.

Never ever shy away from change when it is a necessity. If need be, be ruthless and firm. Sometimes one needs to administer painful injections to treat a deadly disease despite all the associated discomfort!

"When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality."

- Joe Paterno

December 4, 2008

"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

- Peter Drucker

December 3, 2008

Learning From An Achiever

Posted by Bizaholic | 9:05 PM | with 0 comments »

There are many ways to learn in a corporate setup. Hanging around with achievers is one of the fastest routes to learn the skills one would require to succeed in corporate world. Hanging around doesn't mean scheduling a meeting for a formal discussion or sharing thoughts randomly near coffee machine. It also doesn't mean accepting everything an achiever says as pearls of wisdom.

To learn from an achiever, one needs to observe him, not only when he is on the job but also when he is off the job. Observation of an achiever makes a great learning experience. The way he talks, the way he responds to a tough situation, the way he handles his subordinates, the way he talks to his superiors, the way he analyses a situation, the way he plans, the way he executes, the way he builds team...everything he does may be a source of learning. It is because most of his behaviour and actions are guided by his past experience, his failures, and his learning. Observing an achiever can give one some indirect experience of real action that one may have missed out in his own career.

With some observational skills and patience, one can cherry pick some of the most valuable lessons of one's career.

It’s easy to get good players. Getting them to play together, that’s the hard part.

- Casey Stengel

December 2, 2008

"The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals."

- Rensis Likert

December 1, 2008

It has happened once again. Terror attacks on Indian soil are happening rather frequently. Mumbai, Ajmer, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, terror has struck almost in every corner of the country. Hundreds of innocent people have died. Many more lives have been changed forever. Yet the suffering continues. Pungent smell of fear remains in the air. Terror attacks and our helplessness never seem to cease!

After every terror attack on Indian soil, investigations reveal some links to Pakistan. After a few days of tough talk by Government of India, everything gets lost. People who have died are forgotten. Life returns to normal but at the back of the mind there is a nervous anticipation of yet another terror attack.

To be frank, Indian government is helpless, to a large extent, in tackling this menace. We can't directly attack Pakistan due to nuclear deterrent. And like Pakistan, we cannot sponsor terrorism because we are Indians. So what options do we have?

I am no international relations expert but I think there is a way out, that too a non-violent way. If PR can work for business, it can work to fight terrorism as well. We cannot attack Pakistan but we can show the world how terrorism grows inside Pakistan. If each and every day, for a continuous period of two years, we can highlight how Pakistan nourishes terror, international community would isolate Pakistan to the extent that she would have no option but to root out the terror from her courtyard.

Indian government should now try to engage in a single point agenda to hammer Pakistan and its image continuously for a long period without any break. Everyday we should try to showcase a new face of terror and how Pakistan, directly or indirectly, supports it.

Let's play a mind game that would make Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw proud. Let's form a high level team and run a Barack Obama type campaign. Let's use all media vehicles and diplomatic suaveness to portray the real face of terror and Pakistan's involvement in it to the whole of the world. Let's show how terror affects not only India but the entire world. Let's put all evidence on the table one by one. Let's use the viral power of the Internet to build a world opinion on Pakistan. Each and every day without exception, let's feed the world on how Pakistan breeds terrorism.

In this era of globalization, Pakistan cannot afford to survive on its own. No country can. If bad publicity isolates Pakistan and establishes a global perspective on how it supports terrorism, Pakistan will have no option but to either uproot terrorism from its soil or perish in isolation. Adverse world opinion can shake Pakistan through its spine. That is evident in the reaction in Pakistan after India's tough talk and pouring in of global support for fight against terrorism.

But the hammering should not last just a week or two. The key to success is "each and every day without exception" till the mission is accomplished.

In today's world, can you control your brand? This is one question that is perplexing me for some time. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that brand managers can no longer control their brands. With the change in the role of consumer, influx of abundant information, spread of internet and virtual communities, and changing role of competition, a brand gets affected at multiple points, many of which are beyond the control of any brand manager. A brand manager can control the physical and tangible aspect of the brand to a certain degree but he can't control the intangible and experience aspects of his brand. The role of a brand manager is changing from that of an influencer to one of a facilitator. The truth is - in future a brand can only evolve through consumer interaction and experience rather than move through a thoroughly charted path by the brand manager. In such a scenario, a brand manager would have to focus on facilitating the evolution of brand in a desired, though concrete, direction through close interaction with consumers, suppliers, competitors, external agencies, and employees.

Standardization may still be an operational necessity to a large extent, but branding has to change to give a personalized experience to the consumers. It has to evolve through personalized inputs of consumers in a co-creation effort with all stakeholders. This can be achieved by activating consumer communities where consumers can actively participate to initiate dialogue, share views, be critic, and in the process shape up the brand.

Traditionally, consumers are a passive participator in shaping up a brand. They react to what marketers hand them. They are not the originator of ideas or dialogue to shape up a brand. This is changing and consumers are becoming an active participant in the branding process and voicing their opinion vociferously through networks and communities. Internet and social networking are acting as a catalyst to accelerate this phenomenon. The challenge before the brand manager is to be an active facilitator to channel this consumer energy in positively shaping up the brand and helping in integrating consumer inputs with the brand.

The key is to view the consumer as an invaluable part of the value chain. Once consumers participate in value creation along with other stakeholders, resulting brand experience tends to be personal. Consumers then think of the brand as an extension of their self and become emotionally as well as rationally connected to it.

Brand personality that emerges through this process is the real personality of the brand. It is not something force fitted through astute communication, but actually given shape by the consumers. The resultant brand is not the marketer's agenda. Rather it is the voice of consumers.

Brand democracy is bound to arrive soon, when the rein of control of brands would be with the consumers. Brands would be of the consumers, by the consumers, for the consumers!

"I've always found that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team."

- Lee Iacocca