Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Submission is not Subduence

When you apologise or accept a bad, it is submission to the fact that given a possibility, you could have changed it. This is possible when you are conscious of your actions. This is the phase where your growth is unhindered, because you know the result of an action and you are malleable to amends. You wish to make a statement that you were given the right to choose and you own the right and wrong in decision or action. In the particular case, the fact states that you could have made it better and you accept it, often sad but yet as a experience to not repeat.

Subduence is executing others wishes. You are handed a checklist and asked to comply. You have a choice or opinion, but the way is chosen. You are either in or out. When freewill is passed over to a note that demands action according to set wishes, you do not allow yourself to submission. In essence, you have lost what you could have owned.

Submission allows amends, Subduence is rigid. In long term subduence allows you to carry on with your current life. Submission allows you a change of course. Be concious and you can never be subdued, EVER.

Touching the Ground

In hindu culture, it is a habit and practice to touch the feet and ground of elders and in front of gods.  Traditionally, this is an enforced rule. But in reality, it teaches you an important lesson - Being grounded to realities irrespective of the heights you reach.

In Managers too, this needs to be an enforced trait. I recently was struggling to find words explaining the role of an Instruction Designer to a senior manager. The commentary was how and why we cannot use fresh talent from college to analyze content and write them up. It was difficult conversation.

Today, I realized that may be, I being aloof from the ground is not helping matters. So under the able guidance of my senior most ID, I requested to be mentored in writing an existing storyboard. Not that I came out trumps from the exercise, but I got enough words to express the travails and troughs a designer needs to go through to get a great learning flow and seamless understanding of content.

Touching the ground this time wasn't a conscious exercise. But it is good to add to my arsenal at least once a year to be hands on with tools and techniques used by the team working with you.

Mentor-Mentee Relationships: Value in Gurukul way of teaching

I was watching Karate Kid movie. In it, Jackie Chan as tutor would advice the kid to do a repetitive act for months together. And he chose the act based on the kids bad behaviour observed casually in the kids default habitat. When the kid gets fed up and decides to leave that he is not learning anything new and feels there is no karate lessons in it, the master opens up the Karate lessons. Teaching the kid that the basic good act and discipline to do them is the first lesson.

This is how Indian mythological stories talk about gurukul students doing lots of daily chores and helping the master and their family before they are inducted to main stream teaching. It serves as a filter for the teachers to decide the dedication, respect and above all the implicit confidence and obedience in the wards before they attain the worthiness for being taught.  This process of induction takes years for a ward to attain studentship rights. The conditions of learning are tough and the acclimatization to the toughness and rigor of daily discipline is the first lesson for wards to master before proceeding further. 

In corporate mentor-mentee, this is a crucial lesson. The lessons, I come to value in this system is that in any mentee, ego, attitude and prior experiences needs to be broken apart first. The way the mentees take this first step decides the investment that mentors wish to allocate to the mentees. Many a times mentees will feel that they are being abused in the model and decide to leave. Mentor and Menteeship is build on relationship of trust and implicit obedience. So filtering out in first step is an essential way to allow for the correct combination of Mentors with Mentees.

This is not to say that there could be mentors who would misappropriate and misuse the system and mentees mental state. Good mentors like good teachers are rare. It is to spend time in evaluating the quality of mentorship in the individual and investing reasonable time is the only way to evaluate and find the right mentor. The true quality of a mentee is to search for a right mentor and then place their trust and obedience in doing exactly what the mentors decide and want you to do. Even in gurukul system, wards move from one teacher to another to seek out special skills that they wish to learn and gain from different experience.

Real learning is self-inflicted and happens in silence. What mentors traditionally do is to allow for conditioning the mind, heart and attitude to be tuned for learning from the surroundings. That is also the way gurukul teaching is structured. It is always the ward who completes their study and question the teacher for clarifying the doubts. In effect, the mentees should seek out the mentor and not wait for the mentor to keep a check on the progress.

Egos, Attitudes, Misplaced self notions, Peer and Self conceived importance that block the mental state of learning are all what corporate culture provides to an individual. True and great mentors take the burden to break them down and make mentees humble enough so that learnings can seep through them. The osmosis of learning is what teachers and mentors expand and clean up for a mentee. Rest is self-discovery and getting required exposure that Mentors seek to provide to their mentees to test out their hypothesis in real life.

 I am lucky for getting Mentors early in my career. One sign of a true mentor that I had was they used to gift and initiate with a book. This shows the caring and the attitude to take me under their stewardship to groom me further.  I still look up their tweets and blogs to learn and assimilate their thoughts.  Process of seeking mentor is itself a great experience. Start out on the path for a great learning and career.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


When something is not right, the proposed plan is not going to work, the management decisions are slit and drowned in the throats, the first signs of revolt will be from creatives. The pen-down strikes is famous and will be in the form of key thought provocators to leave for greener pastures than to fight a battle losing their age and time in what could be used in more fruitful creative pursuits.

Creative people are not ones who always start from clean canvas and start from scratch. Nor are creatives who always yearn to create everything new everytime. That is a bad attribute and such individuals never can get close to being a creative. Creatives are an inspired gang who go beyond social prophecies and exist to live for their spirits and create their self satisfaction boundaries. The boundaries that are truly personal. It is not that they do not need social attention (as in Maslow social layer). Their cravings are for their belonging within environment that allows them to contribute their own ways. Creatives find places more viable where they can take up existing chaos and are able to thrive in seeing the path within.

Organizations looking at managing Human Capital programs for creatives need to go beyond compensation, training programs and creating their growth paths towards creating opportunities for networking, interactions and empowering them with resources to allow the creatives to explore themselves.

Creatives need empowering managers.Managers who allow 360 degrees freedom to move themselves around as long as ideas, thoughts and deliverables are harmonious in existence within an individual. This is because creatives are self-managed with their time, are conscious of the efforts and are controlled in executing their ideas. Creatives look towards shipping their work often and are eager lot in seeking feedback. Hence managers practicing frequent positive toned feedback and holisitic examples towards honing their character is a desired way for managing creatives. Many times, managers give feedback for homogenizing creatives within their groups for ease of appraisals. This works against creatives in continuing their work.

Creatives are idea fountains who don't pass on fads and jump into every visible opportunity. They need time to sink and sync up with relative environments. When they take the first step and mind it, it shouldn't be a management mandate, they are sure to see it to their fructification.

"Half creatives" look up and around for taking up their work and seeing it executed by others. But it is not the completely developed individual who has the creative abilities to network, seek, inspire, work around and get their desired results. Self and all-round developed creatives always and always will be the first to see their results. It is an insult to present their ideas to them and make them a second recipient.

Creatives are inspired by work. Not that they need to see their titles and select the work that is assigned in their job description. Creatives job description is simple: Get the job done. Run till the last mile. Seek and see the satisfaction and glee in the customer.

Are you a creative ?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Be Cranky, be Bold, be Risky: Digress to Initiate is a success habit

Often, I had realized (thanks to my boss for pointing it out) that the team which signs up for a bold new initiative or idea, digresses a bit to get the mojo to make the initiative a success. I deliberately follow what my mentors taught me: "Be cranky, be bold, be risky". It was too personal a learning that I didn't pass it along. But when I observed my teams who are ready to take up new ventures, I realized that they have taken these lessons onto themselves.

Be it a new productivity tool, a process change initiative, a team wide initiative like Knowledge Management, a New Product Implementation, an over-committed project, deadlines that are in past, initiative takers do not follow the path of management, existing processes or rules of organization. They need to digress, they need to create fun, they want to find  doing something out of realm, each one have to find out the personal connection, and they need to reinvent new methods for the initiative to succeed.

While lots of books have been written on how innovations, new products happen with top-down evangelism and many celebrated failures before a great hit and a sustainable model is evolved, I think often overlooked fact is how many times digressions has taken place by individuals and how it helps initiatives thrive in organizations and particularly when it is driven bottom-up and has created blue-oceans across industries.

At least my team seems to find their mojo from this and hence almost any new initiative often has a tangible and good end signalling start of a new phase. How has initiatives been shaping in your workplace ?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Confidence and discomfort for better Thinking

Once we know we are on the path free of traffic, we put on cruise control and hold the steering wheel just to navigate.
This is comfort zone that devours us from thinking and is boring to our spirits. We are controlled with a switch and no longer live our way.

In traffic, we get uncomfortable, navigate our way, think to get our way out faster, change gears, calculate probabilities of lanes for fast movement and importantly make choices all the time.

In both instances, we are confident of our riding abilities. It is just that thinking, evaluating choices  and making decisions, makes us alert, responsible and responsive in uncomfortable situations. It is in making continous decisions and evaluations that allows every one in traffic to bring out their best abilities to get their way faster.

Hence it is confidence and discomfort that makes us agile and better professionals than use confidence to slip in comfort zones.

What say ?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Harmony between Multiple Management Theories

One of the promises and a great point that theories of
1. JIT
2. Critical Chain
3. Agile Practices
4. Earned Value Management
5. Systems Thinking

propose is to streamline operations and management across every key business functions. And the target of reducing waste is multifold:.

  1. Keep near to zero inventories
  2. Identify the bottleneck (Constraint) and work to eliminate the constraint. Never let Inertia be the constraint
  3. Make Velocity the primary driver on projects
  4. Plan closer to realities and meet forecast due dates and costs every time
  5. Ensure to look at whole than to address it in parts (more appropriately think long term than to spoil it for short term gains)
What each of the theories explain is in harmony with other theories. It is the context and culture that defines the importance of a theory over other that determines the extent of practice within an organization and industry. Manufacturing and automotive industries is
where JIT had its origins. Book "Goal" where ToC parable was made known
to everyone is set in a plant.
IT and software industries do not need warehouse inventories as they rely on human capital. Hence agile practices are more common. In RnD organizations, science and infrastructure industries that need heavy investments and need long term management for results and control on cost escalations, EVM is more appealing. 

In my experience at team, product, project and service management, I realized that bringing in the understanding from each of these theories and crafting your operations model is a great way to deliver exceptional customer satisfaction, team achievements and a sustainable long term sustenance of business, teams and clients than a short get-together for climbing up professional ladder.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

State of Mind for Instruction Designer

I have the luxury to watch my senior Instruction Design consultant working meticulously in a project. He has given me the language to express the function of Instruction Design to managers and non-ID teams.

1. It is a state of mind. Agreed that every role and function, beyond training, skills and competencies requires you to have the state of mind to bring out the desired output. For Instruction Design the state of mind and orientation is lot different. Creating content is about penning out phrases and sentences as it occurs to mind and is understood in ones mind. While Instruction design is about writing for an audience mind. There is a great difference in this. Only reflection can allow one to sink in the real value of instruction vs sentences.

2. It is about Analysis, Period : Instruction Design and Instruction Writing are interchanged to suit convenience (at least it is a norm in my country). If you do not find a person to write, hire an ID to do that job. You are unable to hire for Writing position, elevate them as IDs.

However, a good Instruction Design practice and ID is not about writing (a flair and love to write is important and critical though), but keenness to analyze reams of pages of content and build up measurable objectives. First build and define Performance objectives. Performance Objectives evaluation is done 2 ways. The primary method is interviews and management vision on the job skills and competencies required. The secondary and most often used method is to glean them from available content. Based on Performance objectives, repeat the analysis to determine the learning objectives and the sequence. This is a pain and the most tough portion to absorb the content to measure them in objectives.

Go back and forth on content to now map the content to learning objectives. Invariably gaps in content will surface. It is here that ID dons the hat to bring in relevance to existing content and make them closer to objectives.

 Doing this analysis is often skipped and most times in projects, a content material is read and re-read to be re-purposed into smaller instruction units. A proper analysis phrase is where a true ID professional delivers on value.

A good analysis phase in my current project has realized productivity gains of 60% in storyboarding phase.

3. It is not about English alone, It is about the subject: I have often been told by bosses to groom and pitch in people with good command of English as IDs. Have went that path too, although reluctantly. Observing my colleague I realize that it is not English and the grammar theories to look for grooming a candidate in ID role.  It is only in the person whose state of mind can amend to ways for grasping the audience and subject is a valid candidate for ID grooming.

4. Instruction is visualization : Couldn't feel this or accept this, since it is verbose as opposed to common thinking of seeing graphics. Visualization is key to writing an instruction. Instruction delivery is key role in Instruction Design
phase. And that is why writing instruction is not about writing sentences. It is about consistency of saying similar and same things the same way every time. Try this and you will know the state of mind required for this one is much different than content creators.

Visualizing the reading mode and style and adapting to write steadily is what a good course is all about. Graphics, animations, interactions and functionalities are all manifests of visualization and allows choosing the best instruction type for conveying learning intent behind sentences.

5. ID delivers metrics for learning and training: This can be laughed at or could be ignored. It is not in one course or just courses that a user can learn and become productive. Since schools and college degrees and learning do not get us to become professionals from day one. 
It is repetitive working and learning from peers on job and mistakes we do that we develop most of time.

Which of the two statements appeal to you will determine your liking to the point.

  1. A course is a result of a goal.
  2. Courses are a means to enhance skills.
If you are going with #2, then it is time to look at #1 seriously. ID as a profession is to measure the output against business or personal goals. Measurements to state the degree of closeness to the competencies, skills, gaps and strategic intent of roles and responsibilities within a context is all what a course can emanate to a metric system.

The level of awareness, level of understanding, the compatibility of reacting to situations is what courses teach. And if analysis is done right, measuring from learning to performance can give you measurement oriented results.

In practice, having worked with a large number of Instruction Designers, these qualities are what an Instruction Designer brings in to the success of project teams. The state of mind of ID is a specialized skill. Misunderstanding it as a series of steps and templates to execute is not a good way to perform the function.

Chime in for more learnings...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SCRUMmers and Crack Teams

With news of Osama death and the news of how the crack team that executed it replayed for 2 consecutive days continously, couldn't help but liken it to a SCRUM team. SCRUMmers like crack teams:
  1. Have and Share a Plan,
  2. Assemble quickly with Tools,
  3. Decide the Goals,
  4. Get started and
  5. Finish it in Short Time.
  6. More importantly, Move Over.
While Osama as a non-living being generates lot of talking, wonder where the crack team is doing the next op.

SCRUMmers, be proud. Welcome aboard!!

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