Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grit

The nations grace is the girl

Who had the true power

To rally the people for a cause

 

Sob that she needed to be the sacrifice

To teach the respect that we forego to apply

 

Summon the courage, to power:

 The voice, that is not spoken

 The peace, that will never shatter anyone else

 The name, that spurred us to invoke justice

 

May Santa reach you girl to gift a life of anonymity, potent power to guide generations to respect life and body.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

15 Lessons South Indian Fan Clubs can teach any Marketer.

I come from southern part of India where filmstars command a great following. Infact, we are so used to personality led culture that we awe, rever and worship them whenever they are sighted in public. Many a times people are so fan-crazy, travel long distances and wait at the gates just to catch a glimpse. This, imagine, when the families would be struggling for one time food, next time work and loads of family commitments simply slighted just for this one cause.

The key part in the life and journey of filmstars and leaders of political parties from the area I come from, in particular is the way they nurture fan clubs. In fact it is seen that great careers and high successes in successive films is no guarantee for lifetime employment of an actor in the field. You would see that flops and hits continue with the actor who has an active fan club.

As a child I was infatuated to the fan club culture. It is really hard to miss the palpable action and talks around you. The craze to be part of crowds, the reverence that is commanded not in front of the living soul but by a 12-24" inch larger than life hoardings ("cut-outs" in our lingo), the urge and the high to see the first day first show, the creativity in the promos (these aren't done by paid publicists of the movie company but by a motivated crowd(fans) out of competition to vie for attention) and the way the buzz is created around the movie to bring in audiences for giving the movie a decent shelf life in the theaters, all attracted me much. However, owing to adolescent fear relished all of this action from fringes.

Fast forward to my professional life, having travelled multiple cities, I miss these old days of single screen theaters and the splash of posters in city wall-scapes and the charm of watching a movie in a sea of fans animated from their seats. If you watch it a week later, you can see your neighbours uttering the dialogues synchronized with the screen play.

Thanks to this child hood exposure, I realized many good lessons in marketing.

  1. Paid promos or self promotions cannot create buzz. They at maximum can give you the reach. It is your users who can get you the mass you need.
  2. The intrinsic value of product and the reach alone cannot guarantee a commitment from your customer. There needs an eco system which the customers need to be a part for gaining the commitment.
  3. What is projected in professional world, needs to be practiced in personal life as well. There have been careers in film industry with good fan following which have been way-led due to wavering ways or controversial decisions behind the cameras. In short, be responsible in all facets of your life - be it in glare or off it. Remember, "how" is as important as "what".
  4. No doubt, critical mass is important. However, critical mass is not numbers. The number needs to be with right mix of people who could carry you along untiringly towards your success. It is who you connect with (segment), how many (target) and in what ways (position) they sign up for you determines the longevity of life.
  5. Giving is the best form of taking back. The salaries, revenues and lifestyles - for fans gives little room for jealousy. In fact fans talk more about the philanthrophy than the multiplicity in riches. Practice to give - may be portion of sales to charity, or free samples to a sample population or your work/product/service to a cause. It aids in positive image associated with the offer you sell.
  6. Fan clubs need to be active all the time and so should be your marketing engine. During movie release season fan clubs are hyper-active. There is never a dull moment nor an opportunity created that makes one think of alternatives or comparisons. When movies are not around, fan clubs keep themselves busy in taking part in events or conducting them around festivals in the locality, in the interim period where there is nothing external, they conduct elections, reorganize their structures or conduct membership/collection drives to keep them energized for the peak season work. Actors are canny managers and adept at planning their movie releases to make sure they retain the flock intact.
  7. It is important to keep contacts. In world of technology everything is seen and watched in 2D. But it is clear that keeping contacts and mingling with crowds is still a potent marketing technique to establish the connect and renew it once in a while.
  8. Appreciate others and be kind with words for equal work of others in your field. The higher you grow the more you need to display genuine appreciation for juniors in the field. Promote products or services around you. Encourage an eco-system than being the end-all of doing everything. It helps you grow insulated from prying eyes.
  9. Display human tendencies at times. While we, in Tamil Nadu, consider our filmstars - god, we subtly understand and feel happy when they express natural emotions. Offer the softer side of your personality. It associates with the product or service you offer.
  10. Help budding performers and promote them in your field. It makes you a god father and reduces the number of people in opposite camp waiting for your downfall. Sponsor early talents is a great way to promote and spot talent who could help you.
  11. Even in stereotypes, mix in variety for freshness. Superstar Rajinikant movies are loved for his style. However every movie is watched for his variety that he brings in his inimitable style that is unique in every creation. What you represent might be boring. But how you present them in various mediums determines the freshness.
  12. Enjoy power responsibly: As a potent force, as a live wire who can change scores of lives, impact a large following who seek you as the leader and waiting to seize the command, comes a great responsibility and accountability to not use power the wrong way. And great stars never go beyond the limits they understand is a no-crossing zone. For marketers wield a great power to seduce mind about the products they market. Be careful to not promote a faulty one.
  13. Handle criticism: A flop movie gets face time of critics more. You are written off. Events surrounding the failure generates stories that sell on  pessimism. It is often said in industry circles that every friday a life is changed. It is constant change of fortunes that stars get used to. And fan clubs are a great stress-buster. Getting to spend more time with your users and feeding the news of improvements and excitements coming the way is a great way to stay the course.
  14. Wary of Flattery: A great product gets rave review. But making it a formula and expecting the same every time is a flattery. Stars are surrounded inevitably by flattery. Staying to not falling prey gives the service and product a longer duration to fix issues and not gloat in glory.
  15. Be an asset: In any field, your recognition is your reward. Your image is your asset. Be one who is useful for others. If your service is liked, you are liked by default. If you are hated, a great on-time delivery is still not good.


(Dedicated to #Rajnikant Ji on his birthday today, for whom at one point of time I was willing to go in direction along with scores of his fans without battling an eyelid).


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Social Learning is not about using Social Media but how to learn Socially

Remember "Group Studies" we did in our school with friends? Well, it isn't important as to what we studied together, but neverthless they were enriching lessons useful for life. Atleast for me, the learning went besides text books that gave me confidence to approach people better.

The concept of "Social Learning" exists way back. In India, the dominant form of education referred to as "Gurukul" system passed on knowledge through multiple generations based on this system. If you look closely at "Gurukul" system, it is a group of students getting together in the teachers place (akin to boarding school). They learn not just by sitting in class room but by also by doing daily work and assisting the teacher in various chores.

While we know this, it is natural to visualize that the possibility of peers/classmates exchanging work, doing complex tasks together, talking about various topics of interest that allowed their learning to flourish in the multiple social contexts making them strong and experts at the subjects they mastered in when the teacher then played to guide to use them properly.

Other great facet of "gurukul" system that we often miss is the "group" chanting or reading scriptures (the religious places of learning practice this) exercise. It is by following the group that newbies pick the  pronunciation, accent and familiarity with the subject. The peers match recite together matching the rhythm of the group that they remember the details of intonation and memorize them well with various cues set by others. It is so heartening that this is still a prevalent practice to this day in temples all around India.

Another great example of Social learning is in sports training. It is by observation of fellow trainees and the insights shared by the group that sportspeople learn the tricks of the trade. In fact you play with your fellow sports companion to hone your skills. Ofcourse coach is important and necessary to share the observations, make corrections and give right set of motivation and key insights on winning. Most of the times coaches share them in public intending for others to assist and help in reinforcements. When I saw my daughter learning skating tricks from her seniors who translate what the coach guides them to do, it compelled me to think as to why is this being ignored as a formal channel by learning practioners.

An age old concept is getting a makeover now. However, can the makeover stop emphasizing tools over context. Can we focus on "social" contexts dissemination than looking at learning value in social media tools when they are not intended for the purpose ? When a new application/tool is becoming a mainstream media platform, it necessarily needs to stay away from learning arena. Adding learning as a goal in social media space may be great for social media tools marketing but under-values the purpose of real learning. While chat conferences, online forums for collaboration like discussion forums give much need information on any subject or point you to multiple sources and manage to sway your opinions, they need to still be evaluated on a time-value trade off as far as serious learning experience is concerned

Friday, November 30, 2012

Byte Suckers: How endless browsing kills attention

I have come to detest my habit of browsing endlessly for news, articles and cross-interest scanning of social media streams across laptop, mobile and tablets. At the end of the day, there is still no tiredness. In fact the more hours I stay up to work the satiation for sucking more bytes increases. Looks like it is more addictive than nicotine.

What this does to me is nothing comprehensible. True to the nature of bytes all that is consumed is binary form most of them garble my memory. Given the side effects of distractions, makes me rude to answer partners or fellow colleagues while scanning posts and not looking up, and in the end meaningless meanderings to prolong work which otherwise could have allowed me to spend time with my kids.

Why am I confessing this ? Don't know. Could be a start to move free from being a byte sucker to a meaningful information seeker and plant myself with few trusted knowledge providers and be watching their intellectual space.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vocal Shrills: Easy to let viewers suffer

Take Indian news channels for example. They are full of rhetoric, opinions, sways of editor/host choices to steer the debate, grab a vocal share, and less of research, rigor, analysis, explanations, and multiple view points.

In this clutter, I often wonder if I would subconsciously absorb the wrong traits in my work areas. As a parent, I often fear I will let my kids view such debates (in fact they are arguments flawed by concocted phrases), they will develop the mindless egoistic shrill, uncultured interruptions, curt cut-offs that are insensitive, inject a tangent that deflects any in-depth introspection. Instead of understand and learning that the required skills of putting in efforts to understand a topic, reading literature, doing their homework before seeking views of others and the necessity to have conviction to understand multiple views is a necessity for their excellence.

As a child, our parents used to encourage us to listen to BBC radio for news coverage quality and to listen to cricket commentaries for extempore art of speech. It should be viewed in the context that for most of us, English is a secondary language. It is difficult to use the language as a primary choice due to "mother tongue influence (MTI as is measured)". Hence continuous exposure have made most of us become good in English speaking and pronunciation and to hide MTI creatively.  Can this be said of the news channels today as a learning tool ?

Another most often suggested and encouraged medium in childhood is to read the editorial of news papers. All of us slowly veer towards the authors we like and invariably these articles are incisive and with precise language to communicate the subject. Having followed them on a regular basis for many years that we come to admire and adapt in our lives. Can the time of watching these mindless, superficial analytical debates be devoted back to reading ? Wouldn't the news channels over a continous period of time have a similar effect on our psyche ? Can we allow ourselves intellectually sell to business interests and lose sight of a generation growing on shrill, shouts and behaviors that are detrimental for a good network ?

We are often coached by teachers, peers, mentors, parents and advisers about the behavioral errors and blind spots. We always come to expect from others smiling behaviour, positive body language, warm greetings, polite utterances, patient listening and are reminded to value others opinion and thoughts. Are any of these followed in the debates happening anywhere in the TV mediums ?

I didn't have TV for past 3 months and gained a lot than miss any of the frenzied updates and minute by minute happenings that are rolled again and again or content scraped from earlier footage to create time wasters.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Learning Leadership

I get repeated reminders in my head to adopt continous scanning and learning of leadership styles in my career. Whether I have mettle to apply them and will I shape up better depends more on how I train myself to learn it. These posts are self ruminations in the learning journey on the soft aspects of leadership.

Fact: You can either learn it the hard way or hardly learn it.

Good News: You get a style to suit you and you develop your own. So earlier the good lessons learnt, the better part will be available to live and flaunt the style for years ahead.

Bad News: is learning what your style is, or imbibing the practiced ways of established leaders to your style is tough. Following the prescriptions that worked for others will lead to fail if it is not a part of you.

Worse: is that we need to fear the self to prevent us doing harm to others (knowingly or as a consequence) yet not be scared of taking right steps in the stride.

It is a dichotomy world to live a leader life. Only if it is seen this way. The better part of leadership is to maximize the good within available and utilized resources.

The tough tasks get tougher because
1. All things you stand up for, are always critically reviewed in context (not yours but in receivers own world). Hence the need to be critically self-aware of the chances to succeed. To achieve it is imperative to persist as last man standing throughout the distance to deliver maximum good of everyone involved.

2. Assuming good behaviour and intentions in people yet looking for bad patches or tracking and coaching on undesired outcomes is not a contradiction, but the essence of leadership. As long as it helps you to ensure assured returns that do not diminish in/with time, it needs to be a contigous exercise.

3. Essential to explaining hard decisions is to apply the lens of logic and combine them with emotions and impact. Not everyone will see it a good move. But it is essential to move for good. If the move expands to take advantage within available means, then it becomes a harmonious existence of you, your organization and the spread of economic value.

4. Pushing the limits is not to test the breaking point but to challenge the greater innate abilities that is desired to be tapped.

5. Making decision on people is tough and is hard, but it is never postured nor executed with the suprise of attack. It is with good grasp of future that you value people, relationship and their suitability to changing trends.

6. Even in leading small teams, we find multiple differences and the need to make a coherent view to make a rationale decision and move with strict execution.

There are many facets of organization, shades of people and social/business opportunities where good things do churn out continously. It is the learning to lead the wave (even to change the direction or steer it off the blocks) that makes the job stressful yet eventful and colourful careers do exist for us to aspire and emulate.

How much mine will be is for years to tell me. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Entertain your Market

If you are like me, managing small teams, being all for your customers without other departments attention, interfacing for sales, maintaining relationships across accounts, involved as a single point in sales and deliveries, this would be my advice to you.

Your market is made up of your own people, solutions they develop, clients who use them and competitors who have the equivalent of your solutions and want the same people and client. Thus the entertainment starts in making sure you keep your people, clients and increment or change the market to steer the competition far away behind. Even competition would love if you can create the entertainment that is enjoyable as playing catch up always gives excitement to stay the course.

Try to create the music that would make the constituents keep you company and this would benefit you to run your business as an independent offerring.

There are 2 currencies that can help you determine the entertainment levels.
1. Smile: Bring forth it and make it your companion in tough times of listening to an irate boss, customer or in tough negotiations. Your smile will get you a thaw point and that will bring you up steadily.

2. Thoughtfulness: Believe me, it doesn't cost much to be thoughtful and doing something worthwhile that will aid in keeping the constituency happy and satisfied. It is the little things that makes you the master entertainer in a crowded market place. Never replace it for processes, organization dynamics or short term gains.

 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Social Management through SCRUM

SCRUM teaches you to go social with your project management skills. And this is where traditional managers get uncomfortable at the thought of letting the control go. 

It heralds you to use tools that are accessible and editable by project teams than relying on specialized management software. It exposes project managers who create their specialization in usage of tools to focus on people advocacy than glancing through charts and making paper models of project completion.

SCRUM is right approach for those who believe that it is the feeling of togetherness in the process of deliveries that is important for a self actualized (in Maslow terms) working than just getting there.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Management by delegating control: Create, Remove and Monitor

Often managers make the mistake of using delegation as a play and drive the perception that it is an excuse from their work. My earlier experiences, some managers keep forwarding emails for action. Most often the thought then wanders to can't I do this myself if told so and deliver if I am given the background and the big picture. Why or what is the value I gain from this type of delegation. And lucky I have been, some good managers who were willing to tutelage me shared their behaviour to instill the real meaning of delegation.

If you are a new manager, or have been getting feedback about improving your managerial style, the table below could serve a ready reckoner as it has done to me. This served me as my style anchor when nuturing teams in my past experiences.

Create
Remove
Channels of Access
Information Barriers
Listening Posts
Hierarchies
Ideas
Biases
Communities
Silos
Horizontal along with Vertical Alignments
Task Segmentation
New Offerrings
Old and Outdated Processes
Collaborative Value
Always Fire-fighting situations
Multiple Decision Makers with one Veto
Punishing People for taking decisions
Value System
Non-Learners
Markets
Competition

 

Friday, July 13, 2012

SCRUM Control Process

Lots of times, when managers look at Agile processes and Systems, what strikes is the difference from command and control structure.

A typical project has plans, documents, sign offs, change requests, invoicing, all that are done at managerial level and then passed onto teams for coordination and implementation. The traditional model works with defined facades and interfaces with the good intent of maximizing time and to fix responsibilities and accountabilities on individuals.

However, current businesses always do good with best ideas and bringing them to fore, where ever they reside. Agile  allows us to create a working, practical system where the accountability is divided equally among all team members for success of projects. Thus, with equanimous participation in
1. User stories creation and estimations,
2. Prioritizing backlogs,
3. Determining sprints and schedules,
4. Identifying dependencies,
5. Tracking effort charts,
6. Continous integration,
7. Testing of incremental builds,
8. Sharing status, impediments and ideas in kick offs, stand up meetings, retrospectives,

all team members develop ownership of their respective roles. This facilitates an accomodative styles to enable and empower their teams to finish their work without lag times.

An important lesson to be learned for leadership and sponsors is to identify a good functional and co-opting members on SCRUM projects over using SCRUM on a dysfunctional team. Often the by-product is that you get a better team co-ordination and could convert a dysfunctional team by introducing SCRUM, but that is a risk and need not be the main objective.

An agile structure is not a deflated control system but a leveraging system by ensuring distributed controls across individuals. The onus is on successful delivery as a master than a manager. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Acknowledgement

Eliciting the phrase as an acknowledgement is the most  difficult task for a manager. Try sending a read receipt, requesting a  confirmation, it is always a miniscule percentage of people who respond  for acknowledgements. This is the lifeline for a manager. To make sure  communications reach all intended recipients and the recipients have  accepted it the way they want it and the way it is expressed.

Oft the information is consumed in 2 seperate streams - Processing for consumption or Processing for Expression. Choosing to do either or both depends on individual personalities and contexts. Driving the messages and channelizing them for an acknowledgement is the hallmark of the managerial profession.

Nods, blank gazes, wriggles, frowns, smiles give us a reality check to our expressions in live setting. It is with same zeal that we need to look for comments, queries, phrases, words that gives the closure to the exchanges.

Typically "call to action" is how experts advice us to complete our communication. While call to action evinces responses from the minority, it is the hard work of reaching out through multiple mediums that makes the acknowledgement come through from the majority of recipients.

To this need, management as a profession will long be alive and important in execution.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Uncovering Layers in Problems

When there is a problem, it is imperative to check the formulations that created it and layer the solutions with possibilities to arrest further such problems. As in health, any problem is a combination of failing pulse in multiple dimensions. Than fixing the symptom, it is important to cover across the spectrum to have a lasting resolution. Just as in a medical formulation, the solution needs to have potions that address various parts to a problem.

 Most problems occur in more than one composition. Few common ones to address are:

1. Structure: Most often, looking at structure or creating one in paper, you can expect, guess and pre-empt the extent of problem. It could be

  1.     Differences in peer responsibilities,
  2.     The level of access to information,
  3.     Different roles but same responsibilities,
  4.     Reporting relationships, etc

2. System: While structure is an arrangement and an assortment of pattern on the ground, systems are the arteries and roads through which the people dynamics, navigation, conversations and work takes place. You can bear with a structure with cracks for some time, provided you give a system to close the loops and gaps.

 As in,

  1.     Are there open ended gateways that shoots the ball in wrong direction or leaks the ball before it is passed on to others,
  2.     What are the unmanned getaways that are utilized to escape often
  3.     Are there open and broken bridges that allow the ball to be dropped,
  4.     Are there distinct turfs that operate independently and the chances of cohesion are being weakened,
  5.     Does personalities dictate policies or policies applied to individuals on merits
  6.     Are there common base ground to play the game and set of accepted rules to adhere
  7.     Has there been a harmony between messages and actions

Till the systems work as a well-oiled synchronized engine, you have the most difficult task at hand.

3. Service: As long as the “Value” of the service is never understood in business, personal, commercial, productivity and career longevity terms, it is difficult to rally the groups around a simple dot. Service relates to people, stakeholders benefits and approaches that can make it exciting and fun along the way. If we don’t think towards accomplishments in more than one parameter in delivering a service, the “Value” of service never gets truly appreciated.

It is common knowledge that we do a service for a client and the client sees a benefit with the offerring. That is good for the client, but for you, it is important to realize self importance of delivering and doing the tasks to be concious of the results.

4. Strengths: Beating cynics is not an easy suit. There are fault lines everywhere. Every structure, system has limitations, every service has scope for improvements, every decisions are laced with personal information and unique conditions.

  It is therefore the strengths inherent in the structure, system and service that can propel beyond the cynical view that the place is laced with contradictions, people racing ahead with powers, comparisons over little matters concerned with work, other issues pre-occupying performances.

 How else have you uncovered problems for lasting resolutions ?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Drift

Not a post to share information but just reflecting my state today.

----------------------------------------------------

Few are those days when

Mind is rested

Yet in sub-concious flux.

 

Your sleep if affected

And dreams show your end

 

Hands resist working

For fear of doing something naive

 

Legs beg seperating from the body, not out of pain

But just that it needs its own sobre quietness

 

Brain refuses to take in anything new for it is currently rebooting itself

As a person your heart wants to reinvent you

And your own self begs "Do i know you?"

 

It is just one of the days where I whine and while, nothing in particular, nothing to attend, and drift to blank gazes

Thursday, May 17, 2012

“We are different” is now boring!

8We normally put up this façade in face of an idea, challenge, change. Yet it is a loser when faced with a mandated onslaught when challenged with change, growth, adoption and reality.

Disruptions have become the norm. Yet staving it off with reasons, justification and rationale make it more hard and rigid hits us with a loud bang to realize the unworthiness of this very statement.

It is better to believe and behave as we are normal and would adopt the change and swim through chaos to the shores to make the difference. This betters the outcome from routine of “We are different” mental attitudes, games and resistance.

What is better is to talk and share a lot, analyze and dream of best and worst future scenarios, support the normal state to change and set terms on which you would wish to implement the change. It inconveniences us for sure, but makes for a happy ending when we start thinking as to what is hitting us than hiding in shell to hurt ourselves in both current and future years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hand-offs: The grueling duel to communicate reliably

Is there a model to ensure that hand offs result in a good positive environment ?
1image

Any theories, concepts that are practical to make it easy for the receiver to take over smoothly and continue your good work ? I have found checklists that states that you need to give a certain set of information in certain templates. Doing this makes it a predictable case to cover data areas in hand off. However, the structure of a hand off resulting in a firm understanding from the receiver is a soft issue that cannot be enforced.

In a hand off instance, I often find the receiver go through 4 channels in which information is processed.


Image

Result is a hand off does happen, but an affirmative nod still is not forthcoming. Can this be made a mandate in the exit clause ? If so how could it be reinforced ?

I found the impact of sharing information in the below 5 dimensions enables the key decisions and a better personal experience.

0image

I have not taken a hand off yet, as mostly I land up opportunities in entrepreneurial segment where there is a need to start or establish from scratch. But giving hand off is something I have gone through multiple times and I can definitely say, it is better to get a nod than following a checklist (rather ticking a checklist could be an after thought).


Sunday, May 13, 2012

What s so wrong with the “others” mindset

In my initial days of career, one of my mentors said in his farewell speech “Don’t take other reality on you”. I always retained it in the context of leaving org's. But now realized that it is related to all situations when comparisons are the most demanded and expected stories than the real worth of the message in groups.

You start perceiving yourself and your work “for” others and not “with” others.

In short, you are not “in it” for your own business and you can value anything for you when compared with or against others.

Where then does individuality lie ? When and how will you receive communications involving you and not others? How can you evaluate yourself and determine your priorities? When anything is done in your benefit, how can you perceive the same in your context ?

When the “other” gets more value than self in making or judging your decisions, you know where this is drifting. You are not earning to set the context in your favor. This is the biggest laggard in any discussion as the handle to look within, needs to come from external uncontrolled and mythical "other". When this happens and you get a whiff of it - Stop right there and it is time for a change. Since you neither initiate, control, nor allow for energies to garner attention. What use is it when the goal posts keep shifting away.

"Others" mindset spoils more inter-personal commitments and relationships and team opportunities that never hurts visibly and hence tolerated in workplace. They remain under-currents and forces management only to do more of lesser good because of counter balances than be in it for growth, good and scale.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Focus on Commitments than planning for Schedules

Communicate commitments proactively and follow up on the commitments to showcase it is done as per the plan. That is the secret of great project successes and basic expectations of all clients worldwide.

Commitments are misunderstood by many including managers as creating elaborate Gantt and plans and tracking the happennings to plans. Yes, these are required for many reasons. Understand cost, complexity, schedules, audits, controls, risks, etc. It gives a holistic view on whether the revenue earned is profitable and plug the leaks in the system to maximize gains and invest more in better customer experience.

But these grand scheme of things are not close to what commitments can do for client and your business leaders.  What is valued much is a delivery arriving at a planned and pre-communicated date. Making it a habit to ensure constant flow of deliveries at set future dates that are consistently proposed in advance is what commitments are and symbolizes great working practices. In short milestone after milestone we just to need to keep sharing the dates in advance and release at the pre-committed date to gain trust and premium worthiness to our service portfolio.

If you notice, in actual projects, plans and schedules get adjusted to the actuals and those planned dates serve to analyze the differences with the acutals for next projects. The plans serve to improve predictability over a period of time. It is a common understanding that plans exist to be scrapped and redone as the work unfolds and new players, deliveries get produced that alter the environment to deliver.

Commitments need to always come from grounds up. People on the field say they will deliver the desired scope in the given time. As long as manager keeps the course by keeping themselves out of the way and work towards clearing the impediments in the paths for working professionals, the commitments are bound to be met.

Clients are happy hearing from the actual field people on the feasibilties, risks and dates with inputs from managers than gloss over presentations detached from the actual workings.

Commitments need to always be near term. Because this is the only specific that can be controlled and managed without interferences and distortion and thus can be met.This is quick, transparent, visual and tangible. More frequent the positive feelings, better is the perception and experience.

Commitment messages are understood nearly the same by every one: "I am going to get it, I am getting it and I have always got it." Semantics to this may wary, but the messaging is consistent, clear and harmonious throughout all stakeholders and without ambiguities.

This is what Kanban and Sprints in SCRUM help you achieve. Kanban helps people in ground share the status visually. Sprints focus on delivering near term goals and scope. Both Kanban charts and burn down charts show case the ability of teams to deliver on commitments and impediments crossed to deliver them.

Believe me, making a project successful is not rocket science. But it is utmost difficult because of lack of commitments and over relying on past plans and practices. These can easily be overcome with little discipline of tracing Kanban charts daily and meeting daily to share and exchange workloads, dependencies and learnings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pursue the madness

Doraemon is a craze with kids in India. My daughter made it her basic need to carry cable TV when we shifted our house as first priority. Nothing else would she believe is required in new house. And when the craze is converted into something tangible, it relates better and makes for more meaning – to kids and parents alike.

Create the craze and pursue them with madness is a sure shot marketing success. And I realized it this way.

A new mall had opened up in Pune. Yea, one more spoilt for choice and lots of choices confuse you more. Don’t know if the new mall players cleverly deployed the tactic to attract kids and thus bring families to increase their footfalls but I would congratulate them if this is the case.

We went past the mall at 5 PM and didn’t see much of a crowd there. We thought may be the mall hopping population have given this outside the hip zone a miss. We did our shopping in nearby MG road and then thought let the kids enjoy what they love on TV – Doraemon. There were games and fun organized around Doraemon theme for kids with loads of giveaways in the said mall.

The reality started immediately when I turned to the road from MG road. A consumer exhibition and fair was going nearby. The traffic in that area which is normally choked is now more congested with pedestrians jostling for their space. Navigating traffic, I kept extreme left to make sure I don’t miss the parking lane. And lo, I saw a long queue of cars and bikes squeezing in between cars to enter the parking lot. With my wife and kids bolted out not wanting to accompany me in traffic snarls as Doraemon was more important than anything at that time.

I should appreciate Kumar Pacific mall in Shankar Seth Road. After 35 minutes of touch and go speeds, I finally slotted my gears to enter the gate. Few good things about the mall are:

1. The security managing the temperate crowd due to us waiting for our turn in entering the parking lot was ok and organized.

2. The parking lot has ample space and the driveway is spacious to maneuver.

3. The mall A/C was working. (many of you know what I mean if you visit Vishal and Big Bazaar).

4. There is ample room for walk ways and well lit shops.

But looking at this in positive way was short lived. I had to bide my kids wanting and paid for the events participation. Even if it meant that you needed to wait for 1 hour for you to get your turn.

It is all crazy, I said. My wife said “Kids are loving it. Do we say anything when you sit with your laptop all day long watching a download. Better watch them go after what they like.”

And I realized how sold are we when it comes to kids expectations and likings. Their craze is our madness, their wanting becomes our pursuit. And there in lies a great marketing tactic.

 

 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Symbolic Structures

In an endeavor to cut down costs, we often overstep to cut corners. What seems frivolous, extra, or a good to have feature is actually a need to have the personalized feel of comfort. And many times their needs cannot be justified rationally.

Take example of your workspace, your own bedroom, kitchen or living space. How they are is what you are!. The arrangements of articles, shelves, photo frames, the labeling, coloring, positioning all lead us to internalize the personal experience from the immediate environment. It gives us the ability to find what we need it, turn to places where we get the smiles, motivation, etc. It helps us reduce dependencies, memorization and often by rote, we are confident to use them when we need it.

However, this does not make a case of storing trash or supporting the behavior of mindless storage of everything that comes our way. The subtle difference is that this applies to what we need and use and not to have things that we think we would ever need in future.

Any shift or constraints to accommodate more at expense of cutting of these symbolic structures always keeps us boiling. In work space, frequent shifting of machines, work spaces or moving teams for projects or sharing of telephones are inconsistent practices that we never get around to arrange and set things our way.

Give importance to symbolic structures and observe the teams working conditions. Most of the times, clues for quality problems, motivational issues, conflicts, alignments, bonding lie in careful consideration of allowing needs for personalization with symbolic personalized elements in our own working area.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Keenness to Ignore

We just can’t keep ourselves away anywhere given the fact we always have an opinion about everything and feel the urge to say it. Most often we tend to focus on our thoughts and in what to respond that we ignore most part of the conversations.

The other side is with so much distraction in consuming passive asynchronous bytes, we give the chances of synchronous(face-face or a distance real time conversation) communications where we can make a difference, help a smile, share our support, empathize for instilling beliefs, a miss. Often I am a victim of fiddling my phone when I am in conversations ignoring present and reading up past.

Either options are difficult to overcome and only proliferate us backwards. Important lesson for me is to control ourselves to know what/where to ignore and focus on what is meaningful.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SCRUM in Organization Change Management

SCRUM works well in development and production environments. Many of my posts have attested to my experiences in implementing SCRUM - self-styled way. SCRUM gives a good framework to apply JIT, Kanban and increase throughput in a peak performance production and delivery oriented environment. There is scope for SCRUM implementation in this arena because you get measurable parameters of velocity and a logical completion measure in releasing a shippable product.

Recently, I was thinking of the notion of shippable product at end of sprint. My experiment is to work and check if I can implement SCRUM practices to ship products and then extend to get shippable product. Any change management requires working on lots of undercurrents than explicit stories and features. There cannot be a defined scope for resolving interpersonal conflicts , improvements in trust and getting together as a cohesive learning unit.

While I was considering the scenario, I could realize that SCRUM can be used in same way to

  1. Implement multiple tracks of initiatives at same time,
  2. Calibrate velocity of individual initiative tracks as per situation (most important value of Agile which is being responsive)
  3. Continue few assignments across multiple sprints,
  4. Assign and design initiatives to be completed in short term sprints, medium term multiple sprints and
  5. Even conduct a long extended single sprint which is the most important and overarching initiatives that needs investment and constant attention to sustain.

Ideation of the change management actions and areas could be a free-wheeling mind map, capturing random thoughts, focused discussions, personal experiences and understanding under currents, loyalties and preferences. SCRUM provides a good support structure to create

  1. A backlog of these ideas,
  2. Prioritize them in Sprints,
  3. Track their movements and velocity as Kanban,
  4. Trace and control efforts in burn up and burn down charts,
  5. Measure success through EVM.

 

Shall keep posting more as I progress along the journey.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Loyalty is

A structure: A common ground where self interests are aligned with group interests.

Self Interest example: I need to have a work life balance.

Group Interest example: Helping my mate who has to give me the working output and sharing status helps groups become loyal to each other.

A System:

A series of dependencies which flow both sides (never a one side giver or receiver) and inter-operational hand-offs that helps people not distinguish “me vs they” but accept “me” while thinking about “us and we”

Based on cycle of relationships: It is not just work. It is not just about spending time in office or home or with a constant group for a period of time. It is about sticking yourself up predictably every time all the time in the same zeal, vigor and support for the same group. Relationships transcend time and place and beyond this place is where loyalties are born. Any time and in any place cherishing a presence and feeling a relationship is what makes a group feel so special.

Built on core values and shared principles: What you are at heart and/or desire to be is the core value. Wanting to be fun/sport/debate loving, truth seeking, always seeking/helping out or experimenting or being constantly challenged are the core that becomes the reason to thrive and live the together moments happily.

Feeling these moments are enabled with shared principles. How each of the partners behave, live and shape the core and how it gets adapted to the personalities in relationships allow degrees of loyalties to be developed across individuals.


This possibly will be my last post in my current profile. Am thankful for the mates for the wonderful loyalty and camaraderie shared with each other and wish they last forever.

Friday, January 20, 2012

#Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier | My Synthesis from her video

This is Sheena Iyengar video. A must watch for designers and solution providers. Love her speech, modulation and simplicity. It will do a lot good to remember her messages and look at how we can apply it in our relationships while providing solutions to clients.

 Here is how I could relate to my own approach towards e-Learning solutions and SCRUM teams.

1. Limit choices to client for accepting and appreciating your solutions better: Do not show too may design options of screens. Create maximum of 2 and adapt screens to not more than 4-5 templates per course.

2. Provide concrete consequences of each decision or change or requirement to drive projects towards closure. Make it more visual and real than writing documents and pushing more and more descriptive text.
Make weekly charts on budget and schedule burn and forecast. Use it to iterate on impact of every request on schedule by making what-if scenarios to drive the acceptance on a holistic level. Create a minimal working proof of concept to iterate on the working.

3. To me this is important : Categorization. You can handle more categories than choices as categories help you to tell them apart. This is critical to understand why metadata is important in web world. Why we should assign semantics and leave a trail of our own synthesis to make web world more intelligent. So categorize your options and limit choices within each category. Create a short team and project vocabulary that is distinct and has unambiguous meaning. Apply folksnomy and taxonomy in communications so that it is easy to index and refer it from archives

4. Condition for complexity. Gradually introduce new features and move from simple to complex. Introduce one/few features at a time in solutioning world. A reason may be why niche tools that  accomplish one task well than multi-approach tools could be why we stick to the app and become loyal users for a long time.

When you introduce a new interactivity, animation, new process, a revision to an existing priority, allow and give sufficient time for its acceptance. Do not rush on releases or changes in a train mode. Rather bursts of releases at predictive intervals enables to understand changes better.

A great use of time watching this video. Highly recommend it.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_choosing_what_to_choose.html

Friday, January 13, 2012

e-Learning towards direct empowerment - My wish list for 2012!!

e-Learning as an industry has succeeded to hold on to its promise of 

1. just in time,

2. just in need and

3. just on request access to information and training all these years.

In the last few years I have been happy to feel and see the following transitions in e-Learning projects.

1. The project success rates have gone up and initial cynicism of adoption has gone down.

2. IT departments have now entered the domain to sponsor e-Learning projects (while it was earlier primarily sponsored by business teams). Hence the adoption of e-Learning solutions in main stream IT initiatives will augur good news for the industry work force.

3. e-Learning as a medium while still being initiated as a cost control mechanism in training (at least first time adopters start small on this basis) has blended itself well with ILT initiatives and has started becoming main stream in delivering on results and improvements.

4. The awards, reviews and recommendations have all grown up and cloud based solutions have made their mark and e-Learning as an industry is a leading adopter of these technologies.

What I wish to see in this year and my focus areas will be on the following trends.

1. Proliferate Meaning to Mobiles: Apps on mobile, Social Media on mobile and Transactional communications have held sway on mobile usage. In this scenario, making learning happen on mobile and vying the same screen space with multiple tasks on same device is a tough challenge. I am not talking of m-learning or making courses available of mobile.

I will be looking forward for meaningful solutions that are making sense for professionals that enable doing their job better.

2. Move over Learning Management Systems to Dynamic Learning Systems: LMS has, by far been thought of as a single window application to launch e-Learning courses and show reports on progress and performance.

Sadly, the dynamic interactions and re-living reading history has not got adequate attention in the e-Learning journey. Remember, when we were learning from a book, we take notes, book mark, highlight, talk to peers, read journals, magazine, reference books rehearse some quotes, sentences in our quest to understand the subject well. We try to rephrase them and analyze these multiple records to create our own internalization of content. While these are considered as functionality and tools are built enabling them as functionalities, their way of usage within courses often leads us to get distracted in juggling between multiple apps.

When we look at our own bookshelf, we tend to look at history, open a book and try to remember our learnings, scan through random pages, check the marks, notes, scribbles and get new perspective within revised context and experiences. This dynamism in e-Learning course-ware currently is boxed within courses themselves as few functionalities in header and footer or navigation panel instead of a naturalisitc progression towards deeper knowledge and wisdom.

My take is to see a different paradigm of dynamic learning being adopted by industry and next evolution for great learning involvement come from more dynamic learning systems and platform. We would need such action tools while learning or recording own contexts from where the learners are getting the content.

3. Power to Users for Learning Exchanges: I am a big fan and had in earlier blog posts shared that learning exchanges and facilitation, needs to be at forefront of any learning medium. I wish that social media platforms are harnessed and creates a system of good, steady learning exchanges that makes e-mediums a powerful learning accelerator and transformation tool. Also more power and time is accorded to live human interactions and not just promote tools and applications to rule our learning environment.

Happy Learning for life time!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SCRUM way for productive meetings

Next time, you want a productive meeting don't  share the agenda. Instead share a questionnaire that each one needs to represent themselves in the forum.

SCRUM in its definition emphasizes 2 meeting models in each sprint  - stand up and retrospective. Both have different purposes yet same goal - make meetings productive and useful. The tools I use are surprisingly simple and hence sharing it here.

The tools are:

1. Questionnaire:

For stand up, I use a mind map to record standup meetings. The key questions people need to prepare each day for the meeting are:
a. Can I finish my next day tasks as planned ?
b. What risks do I foresee and what is the support required ? 
c.My next days tasks are: ___ , ____ and ____.
d. My previous day tasks status is ___
e. I want to share that ____ (share problems solutions ideas, etc)
 
For Retrospective, the template I use has following simple questions.

1. list at least 3 positive points you experienced in the project?
2. list at least 3 negative points you experienced in the project?
3. list at least 3 important take away learning’s from the project?

4. Rate your experience while working on the sprint ?
5. Rate the competitiveness of team working with you ?
6. Which team member would you like to give a credit ? (this is the motivation question for team to feature themselves in each sprint).


Each member fills it and sends it before the meeting. Without which the moderator doesn't start the meeting. This is the ensure that members speak well thought out points and not adapt their pitches at run time.

Questionnaires allows you to think through the audience required and the participation and expectation from each teams so that meetings are steered to be productive.

 2. Rules of game:
In both stand ups and retrospective the rules of game is simple.
a. Each member gets their turn to speak.
b. Any disagreements can only be registered and only when floor is open to discussions the differing points of view can be shared. 
c. No insinuations or personal attacks allowed.
d. Moderator decision is final.

3. Moderator
The meeting organizer becomes more of a floor coordinator and time manager. According to individual styles, you can choose to conduct the meeting. The only key is to enforce a timer based system so that preparation becomes key with every member and equal opportunities are presented.

Not necessary that you use the tools in sprints or SCRUM context meetings only. As I have seen, am sure, you could see a transformation in participation of all members and no one would ever complain that meetings are boring and long winding.

Use in any business context and I shall be happy to showcase your results on this blog.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Self Quote

"Being indispensable locks you into continuation. Dispensing yourself, then is the key for disruptive growth."

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