Monday, August 31, 2009

Employee Evaluation: It is not just Performance

The distaste in professional life, is that performance alone doesn't matter in retainer-ship of employment.

The blog Why Haven't You Fired Him Yet? , is a very good read. Good performers should also be good at creating deterrents around them from being tossed out as fantasized in my earlier post.

The blog is truthful about the practical fact that to a certain level, we tend to expect a mandate and homogeneity from fellow colleagues with our own internalized systems, while becoming uncomfortable with little threats to the thought process. In our management circles, we discuss an employee viability in cost terms, and performance is always a second priority (not without reason). The costs are:
  1. "Management Overhead Cost": Inclusive of performance is the analysis of the fact whether the resource needs to be managed not only for work, but for the self-team-organization balance. It many times, unfortunately, means and is used for "falling in line", when it actually should be used to analyze, the management attention created to address a probable negative impact. For example, a resource is self managed, goes about the job in a routine fashion, and completes the job allocation in their own style. They should ideally be more, right?
But if there is a mandate that knowledge sharing is a need and must, and the cultural aspect is neglected for personal gains, then the management over head in ensuring the cultural balance is prominent than performance required.

Similarly, there is something in the mannerisms that the next level performers find choking in the superlative performer, the management over head to elevate the next level performers to the superlative league is a crucial factor in the evaluation.
  1. "Peer Value Cost": This cost is measured in comparable terms. Again, it is often than not, misused, as a favoritism, while it is to be measured to value the attention(brags/self mentions)-attraction (perks/salary) -assertion(Choosing work, being finicky of others work ) ratio vis a vis performance.
This is typically manifested in teams where employees come from different profiles: Some working their way up through experience, while others have a degree to boot at the same level, or in some instances, the variable attention just for the prestige associated with the school.

In a team of equivalent talented great employees, the overhead of giving disproportionate attention, attraction and assertion to a particular employee would mean other equated employees would leave/live with heart burn that would affect the morale, brand of the organization.

Hence while it is important to lay down the performance parameters, it is equally important to be conscious of the associated costs and keep them to minimum for a self-standing success.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

User Experience Management Lessons: How to screw up and lose business: A case story

Club Mahindra owns chain of resorts in India. As per my understanding, in simple terms, they rely on membership fees and in-resort expenses by customers as its business model.

Their marketing strategy to identify customers seems to be good. They target visitors to Malls, Multiplexes, Shopping chains where their possible profile of customers visit. Conduct in-mall advertising or conduct draws to attract consumers. They claim to give free gift vouchers for selected people at certain outlets. The first twist starts here.

You get a call from their team, if you have given your details in any of the above places. Stealthily, they put in a condition that they would give the free gift, if you visit them with your family only and sit for one hour. They repeatedly claimed they would neither force nor sell anything in the meeting and would just provide info about their services. I thought "one to one marketing" and these guys could afford it - Not bad and it seemed that they get clients with families who visit them for free gifts. A good ROI for marketing investment, indeed.

Screw Up #1: Do you ever call a customer/prospect to your office to sell/market your services or request to meet them at their convenient place? Further put in a strict condition to meet family together? But resort businesses do have this audacity.

Good part is, there was a sense of professionalism in their follow ups. I postponed the visits as I was not interested in spending time hearing what they have to say to get a voucher. After 3-4 times, I gave in to the desire to reciprocate, as they kept repeating that 1 hour of my time is what they are after.

Immediately after, I was given a code number, there was a call from a so called manager (after the experience everything is circumspect) to confirm my visit and they were insistent that I visit them at a particular time. I indicated a time and they called to confirm. They elaborated how they prepare for each prospect visit by reserving a table, identify the materials, ship the gift to the place and plan ahead to give a good experience.

Till now, it was a mixed bag of reactions. But what happened when you visit their office, what they do with the earned 1 hour is a sour experience for me. But a gold mine of lessons at their expense, that I do not wish to hold it to myself.

We checked in their place. First thing that strikes you odd, is that there were empty chairs and tables with computer in every table.
Screw Up #2: Discontinued experience. The people in call were insistent on meeting time of their choice. Here we are staring at blank tables and chairs. Then why the fake ambiance of appointments, reserved tables, preparing materials, etc? If you had reserved a table, shouldn't my name be on one of the tables ?

Still having spent fuel and parking charges, we waited in the lobby.
Screw Up #3: If I have been given an appointment, why make me wait? Shouldn't my host, be ready.

We were made to fill a form. Five minutes later a person introduced himself. I said, you now have 50 minutes. He said his presentation is for an hour. I allowed to see what they have got.
Surprisingly, he told us about his personal details and asked our personal details.

Screw Up #4: Hello, Club Mahindra. Why do you train/ask your reps to say their personal details to me. I am not there to know him/her. I am there to evaluate your service and buy if I like. When I say, I am ok to listen further, your insistence on we saying our details is a put off.

Then, the worst thing was presented the worst way. The guy pulled out a questionnaire and said, he would now fill a pre-initiation checklist. And that if we qualify then he would continue otherwise we would get the gift voucher and walk off.

Blunder #5: Dont Club Mahindra fellows feel they are insulting their potential customer? You call a prospect at your place and you tell them that you are there to qualify if I can be your customer ? What the hell, do the process guys and trainers at Club Mahindra were thinking about this whole marketing design? WOULD ANY ONE IN A SANE MIND DO THIS ?

At this time, I felt it is time to quit their place. Still owing respect to the brand, I informed that he has 1 hour of my time and he can utilize it well, if required. Surprise, he goofed up again to SELL me their plans and said "I want a YES or NO from you with no hard feelings and we would not continue further, if your decision is No".

Screw Up #6: While you market, you do not sell. While you sell, you do not ask for YES or NO. Putting on my trainer hat, I explained that in business there is never a "no" for an answer. The best answer can be "NOT AT THIS TIME" and that would be my decision.

He immediately left his seat without basic courtesy of informing where he is going. He came back after 15 minutes to tell us that we need to wait for 1 hour to collect the voucher.

Blunder #7: You allow your reps to take a mobile call when they are sitting in front of prospect and leave their desk without a basic courtesy, that too in an appointment? You do not piss of a prospect at this stage. The damage they can do will be far more than what your customers would do for you.

At the end, I realized how foolish the people who were trained are, the quality of training imparted to them, the entire process design was left to poor executors. Is this what people say making an asshole of themselves ?

Worse, when I called in to tell them the bad experience, the manager who was professional enough earlier said, I would receive the voucher through courier that I asked them to do so in first place.


Would I ever be a customer of Club Mahindra again or any business doing such a mess in the initiation phase itself? Well, this time, the answer is as expected by the rep: "NEVER AT ANY TIME."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deterrents and using Game Theory rules to play them

When you want some one to NOT take a bad action, what do you do ?
1. Warn ?
2. Ignore ?
3. Shout ?
4. Object ?
5. Create Obstacles ?
6. All of the above ?

Did you notice a commonality in them ? The question and the options have a negative connotation on their tones. Would it be better to have a positive technique to ensure a bad thing does not happen ?

The key is to understand "Deterrents".

A simple example of a deterrent is the attendance/swipe system. It doesn't eliminate late comers or absentees. It just deters a majority to fall in line.

Deterrents
are to force and ensure a decision or an action is considered many times over to mitigate the sure set backs than manage for positive results.

But why is this required? Don't we assume every one takes decisions in right spirit ? Game theorists make an assumption that :

All players behave rationally: that is,
1. They understand and seek to maximize their own pay offs. 2. They are flawless in calculating which actions will maximize their payoffs

In game theory terms, there are times, when to maximize your own payoffs, you will play a "zero-sum", "one-shot" game with "imperfect information" to win. This is the place where deterrents are used by the game players who are defending their positions.

Some time back, there were lay offs which saw a "corporate" familyness being destroyed by new management team. The team that got affected most was the team I was closely associated with. My boss too didn't survive the swirl.

From then on, I have been wondering, if I could ever get a chance to reverse the circumstances, it would be to reverse this day. Pensive thoughts and brooding's coupled with other environmental factors in other organizations that happened from then on, made me realize that to prevent a bad action by any one afflicting you, there are few rules. These rules will make the bosses that be, step back a little and consider many things before they come close to a decision.

Some of these rules are:
1. Be Big: This seems a counter productive solution. You become more vulnerable to hate and generate that much more negative publicity to withstand. Further you become a cynosure of all eyes. But, if you notice, the resilient power also is tremendous and more strong that a small player, who is weakened in absence of power.

2. Be Well-Known: The team in case above, had this basic flaw. The members were individually known. But they weren't known enough for the value they created for the organization. Being known is to be aware. Being Well Known is to have a network that has a strong influence. Call it a "positive lobby" for ease of understanding.

3. Be Dispensable: Well, this sounds stupid, right. But counter-intuition in this instance works more. Remember, when you are indispensable, there are enough support structures that are created around you. But when you make yourself dispensable, the support structures are also absent. The risk of doing away is high in this case. What this means is, the team, company, unit would survive when you are not around. But it is easier and most malleable for closure by just one break point from new bosses. You would start getting calls from your ex-colleagues in short period of time.

4. Be Brave: The more you fear, the more you open the field for others to play with you. To make rules, to decide the match, you need to be brave and take tough choice. They could be making counter offer or proactive offer that bosses might secretly consider in their echelons. But knowing your proclaimed stance consistent with who you are will deter an early decision.

5. Never Compromise: If you want to exist, please don't follow this rule. If you want to live, if you are brave to set rules and decide, then follow this rule.

6. Be ready to Exit on your Own: One of my influences has been "First Things First" and "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. I still remember the phrase that if you don't take your decision, some one else will in one of these books. This one sentence, made me bold enough to take a big risk of quitting a job, that I stopped enjoying. It is a foolish decision looking back, I didn't even listen to my parents. BUT that ONE decision has made me where I am and happy that it extended my friend network better.

These rules create deterrents in way of taking an unpleasant decision without making a noise and it is this noise that people "fear" most, when it happens.

Am I right ?? Looking forward to your counsel...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The importance of a name and the rise of immediate surfers

My colleague in his blog chronicles his brush with Swine Flu impact. His take on the subject revolves around the hardships of a manager in his daily life.

Since this blog of yours, reflects on project management learning from the trenches, my hope is this post would interest you on these unknown travails in work life.

Today's economic times comment in first page talks about % afflictions being more due to other ailments than this imminent danger.

Then,
  1. why the scare,
  2. why the attention,
  3. why the frenzy,
  4. why the advices,
  5. why the chain mails floating around for this particular import product ?
Long time back, I saw photographs of people moving around in masks when SARS was around. Now I get to see it live in action in my own backyard as well.

The lesson on this is that wide and fast spread always gains instant and immediate action/reaction. So when you want your ideas to spread, spread the flu. The name needs to be spread. The details: History, Technicalities, Do's and Dont's will all spiral in various idea nets.

The containment of ideas is only through isolation (as in Flu). Hence ensuring your idea nets are spread wide, they would always be in the air and even weak strains would be able to spread into many clusters.

The rise of immediate surfers is the first big marketing break you need for your existence in the web world. Hence get your ideas in the Flu mode and spread your ideanets wide.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

IDEAS AND IDEANETS

My ramblings on ideas becoming memes, viral, and seeing light of day.

Ideas are aplenty. However, there are few that see the light and still few receive sponsorships.Does this mean that few ideas have less power than ones that are implemented ? Although, I would like to believe so, some experiences prove that all ideas are equally good and need to implemented. But it is time, cost and most importantly NEED that determines the power of ideas.

Wait, aren't we missing a vital ingredient here. If time, cost and NEED are the attributes to move an idea to benefit a group, society, business, then every idea shared can be a need for someone at that point of time. If not, this makes me think that there is a nodal point which is essential to make an idea successful. This nodal point is not one single entity. The entity itself is so fragmented yet connected that the power no longer lies in the nodes but in the connectors.

When these connectors with their power transmit an idea, they become "Ideanets" Multiple such ideanets get contribution from each node that the connectors can be thought of fattenning pipes as they progress with force towards a success. The final node that we stop is when it is market ready and in use.

If only we realize that it is another "ideanet" at play and starts from this point onwards and we connect the 2 idea nets that we have a successful business built on ideas.

How to make ideanets possible. Enter social media and their importance. I will reserve this for my next post...

Top Agile Blogs