Sunday, October 5, 2014

Expectations Mismatch

How can expectations be a mismatch ? Isn't it a misnomer ?

  1. Expectations are a consequence.
  2. Expectations are shared.
  3. Expectations are decided mutually
  4. Expectations are a reward of the future.
  5. Expectations mean a practice that has a precedent and is bound to be met all the time.
  6. Expectations evolve over a period of time
  7. Expectations shape up with change
  8. Expectations get realized by executing a choice
  9. Expectations are distinct possibilities in the realm of reality
  10. Expectations are meant for adequate care of the result and future preparation to live again.

Assumptions are self-focused and self-thoughts. Hence they can be rightly-placed/misplaced, matched/mismatched, negotiated/manipulated, right-on-target/over-estimated, compared, demanded, disoriented, disturbed, denied, non-gratified, disagreed upon. ....

While expectations can be fulfilled, assumptions can only be calibrated.

Friday, September 26, 2014

D.I.A.L change

Having been impacted by change early in career and seen the after effects to the organization and the people, then took a risky opportunities to join a start-up venture which failed and then be a part of a successful turnaround story, change has now become my De-facto tool to motivate, innovate and define success. The easiest way for me to visualize a change is to create different trajectories and reflect on the accomplishments vs misses. 

There are just 2 sides to a change or integration effort. One side are people who are given the mandate to make the change and the second side are people impacted by the change. The availability of information and the vision for the future are so different in the 2 camps that bringing them together is what makes a change challenging. The needs, wants and desires of the 2 camps are always tangential and never meet up, making even an experienced, senior, seen-it-all experts, start as a novice in every new project. 

To DIAL a change, 4 key metrics determine the outcomes and the shape of it. They invariably are present in every situation, turn and with every person.
The metrics are:

  1. Dialog: Do we and how much we Communicate, Collaborate, Share and Speak the truth ? Are we helpful and are the take-aways intended as it should be? Do we receive feedback ?
  2. Inquire and Inclusive: Are we including everyone required? Are we inquiring into everything we hear, see or asked ? This is the most time consuming piece. So many individuals have so many different perceptions and very many expectations that is impossible to match or could be conflicting with business advocacy. Are we considering the option that is most inclusive and do we conclude our decision with an inquiry that the choice makes the most sense in the given circumstances and with available evidences ?
  3. Actions: Is there a plan ? What are we leaving behind (if no to this, there is no need for change preparation) ? Where is our focus ? Do we have the complete buy-in from stakeholders and shareholders ? What can be the pain alleviating points ? Where do we go for help ? Whom are we recruting ? Are we course-correcting often?
  4. Love: For people signing up and people signing out, do alike with love. Inspite of best efforts, we have to shift or transfer our friends and people interwined in our lives for years. Does our solution show care, consideration, compassion, support, ease and are we giving appropriate time ? Are we sensitive in dealing with a hard call. The hardness cannot be recalled, but what are we doing to soften the blow ?
Change often links up and changes people lives in myriad unexpected ways. We cannot escape change and if we dont make it happen, it will happen to us. The deal is to DIAL and co-exist with it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How change is perceived - The paradox of Change

Managers and champions of Change, particularly in integration teams tasked with overseeing team merger with diverse cultures, needs, processes, systems, people and standards, need and are expected to:

  1. Be Disciplined, Adaptable & Flexible
  2. Incisive in diagnosis from symptoms,
  3. Take actions with clinical precision,
  4. Address every stakeholder needs truthfully,
  5. Behave pragmatic with people
  6. Insightful to tailor solutions than force fit past practices
  7. Pragmatic with people
  8. Practice being in the context and time and patient
  9. Manage crazy timelines
  10. Keep moving ahead in multiple paths to reach the goal
Paradoxically, every change always is mentioned in attributes of:

  1. Chaos,
  2. Turbulence,
  3. Insecurity,
  4. Lack of Focus,
  5. No clue of what is coming next
  6. Communication breakdowns,
  7. Missing ownerships and accountability,
  8. Unstable working conditions,
  9. Missed family times & Skewed work-life balance,
  10. delays, confusion and lack of clarity
How does change affect you ? Ask your manager what attributes they would associate and you would get the answer. :)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Alternate or better - the paradox of change

When we say, the current way of working needs to change, the immediate reaction is to show and ask us to choose an alternate practice that is worse than the current. It is often the need for a status quo and pushing back an idea that isn't mine, is easier, than asking to get involved or champion the unknown.

Digging deep, it is the pedigree that matters when I will align and would support the need to change. The idea, needs to be from a person I am comfortable changing for, or should be based on a future prospect that is skewed in my favor. Plus above all it needs to become an overwhelming current need- something as an imperative that cannot be passed on and that condition needs to be vouched by a person of trust. Otherwise, my reactions are often the first instant push-back type.

New managers always find the need to change and start early buy-ins, to identify who is in and who's out. Needlessly at such times, stars opt out as early adoption from an erstwhile comfortable, proven high performance and high market valuations doesn't play emotionally, physically and professionally to start afresh a new path.

Losing stars early and having a team minus them, may allow for new stars and better market professionals, but the losses to steam ahead and more bottlenecks in terms of calibration slow the pace down.

It takes a deep breath and few seconds of awful pause to ask "what better looks like?"  when a rather pale alternative is presented. Moving discussion away from speaking of the alternates in terms of reference of the current, peg the changes as the reference and wouldn't it be a win-win  to ask repeatedly - "what more can this better become?" and followed up with "how can you make it happen?".

Saturday, August 30, 2014

First post on Coaching

I wrote this as a feedback in Amazon and realized that it is good as a post with minor edits...
Let me know your feedback

Coaching is a tough subject and act. It spans cognitive, psychology, philosophy, bringing two experiences together and requires calibration in actions according to context and life dynamics of the coachee. Yet mastering these subjects is no good for a coaching career.

Coaching is a person-person interaction that requires
  • Attentive listening, 
  • Building relationships, 
  • Nurturing positive thoughts, 
  • Span new perspectives, 
  • Nudge towards self-realized actions in the coachee 
  • all without authority or responsibility or a formal hierarchy. 

Thus, a coach needs to do all of the above, every single time through
  • Continuous probes, 
  • Constant motivation, 
  • Following a long path for solutions to unravel than just giving them, 
  • Using no coercion tactics, 
  • Influence yet not over-power the coachee.

Being truthful, Holding confidence, Constant intent to help, Deliver messages directly not at the person but at the problem requires constant reminder of the basics.  

This book by Max Landsberg: Tao of Coaching does just that. Coaching is never measured in number of sittings or weighed in hours of meetings. It can be a hallway conversation(like how the book starts), a 20 minute discovery exercise or a structured feedback session and shows how it is needed for both successful people and struggling folks alike. Highly recommended!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

10 (+1) steps that worked for me in any escalation management situations

  1. Accept the issue/challenge on an as-informed basis and not probe/cross-question.
  2. Apologise without conditions.
  3. Appear without seeming abdicating
  4. Announce plans, not reasons, problems and past
  5. Analyze process not persons
  6. Own the chain, never leave anyone out. (affected parties, stakeholders - Up, Down and Sideways, Cross domain teams)
  7. Keep relevant the communications for different audiences.
  8. Offer personal services not automated responses
  9. Brief daily with progress report until resolved and back to normal
  10. Position yourself as a vent than to blow back
  11. Bring back your creativity and innovation to de-stress and lighten the environment

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lean concepts in 10 bullet points

  1. As you "see", "hear" and "find" opportunities, recruit a team, prioritize and "DO" what is necessary to complete them.
  2. Be concious of the steps you take and use to reach a result. That, is your learning and personal gain that translates to experience.
  3. Teach relentlessly. No matter your hierarchy, share your knowledge. This wisdom and passion, alone counts as your expertise.
  4. Waste and Losses are part of the process, not the people or outcomes. Reduce or eliminate them at the place of encounter to optimize the flow.
  5. Vison, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, Goals, Plans and Tactics is the compass to keep you guided and grounded. These tools enables discovery and realize the gap between realities and vision. People groups and actions, then, embark on the journey to bridge the gap and reach the desired state.
  6. Life is analoguous and so is Continous Improvement. Never rest, as "Better can be Better" and that is the best place to operate.
  7. Change is not the only constant. It is inevitable. The only constants are to increase: revenues, customer satisfaction and, profits that is given to the society, stakeholders and shareholders.
  8. Customers and employees will never ask for risks or path less taken. They will on-board when the value and success are greater than the asking price. Hence, innovate and communicate vigourously.
  9. Do all of the above as a clock work and in a rhythmic beat day, week, month and year, over and over again. Never stop it as a end state, but as a daily chore for path-breaking success.
Tip #10: Lean is difficult as it involves not great amounts of work but because it is least exciting and less visible as a measure. Isn't it the same with greatness and trust, which is always recognized and never measured in indices?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Career is a self drive

Career has lot of similarities with driving. 
  • Safety lies in pursuing change,
  • Strength is always found in resisting temptations,
  • Err is a detour to get back on track,
  • Milestones are only an indicator to achieve the next,
  • Navigators and Guides are partners to success and enjoyment.
  • Finding the power range is the key to enjoy the cruise and career,
  • Journeys are a pleasure when a sense of purpose is accomplished,
  • Tools to pursue the free spirit requires responsibility and following of basic rules
So how do we drive our careers forward? Looking forward to your insights. 

Hare and Tortoise Story - Tweaked for my kids to understand speed and practice

As kids, we probably took the "slow and steady wins the race" moral uncontested. For my kids, knowing they will turn the tables on me with lightning speed and thunderous effect, I required tweaks to the moral, that reinforces speed, practice, consistency, and focus, as success mantras for their activities. So here it goes:

1. Slow and Steady finishes the race.
2. Fast and Lazy loses the race.
3. Slow and Lazy doesn't wake up at all (this was completed by my daughter)
4. Fast and Steady Wins the race.

Couldn't this be why the tortoise finished the race and won because it was against a known loser (that particular hare).?

What if the Hare would have been steady and focused ? It would have won and tortoise would have finished the race. A win-win deal and demonstrates a sporting spirit of the race event. - Right ?

Friday, April 4, 2014

5 common mistakes during content strategy

Content is "King". Making the king affable requires careful selection, cohesion and showcase them in the best stage. Platforms, technologies, features, all service the content in the way a king would like to be served. The most important aspect of any content based project - be it  websites, collaboration mediums, knowledge management tools is to share the content in the most usable and likeable fashion for the users, it is meant to enable and assist.

Invariably across multiple projects within , the following 5 pitfalls are common and give a "Oh! yet again" feeling. These are so obvious that they skip the logic, analytical and focused and otherwise bright business minds from delivering a best in class experience.

1. Content consumption vs User Engagement
A content dissemination project is an experience. It needs to enhance or at the minimum sustain the expectations in every page and at every visit. Putting in processes and workflow to contain content, validate contributions, and determine a "Who s who" chart in a content rich environment is so common sense in the first round, but is very counter intuitive. Even a captive content dissemination requires users engagement, not consumption.

Consumption depletes and wears the content with age. A contributed and user engaged content shapes up to the needs of the audience and reaches far and wide, fresh every time. Make it easy to share, allow users to bookmark within your site and in the browser, make visible the stats, ask for feedback and importantly scan for usage pattern to bundle the content with likelihood siblings that users choose before and after the site visit.

Workflows can focus on moderation, add specialized services like taxonomy generation, proof reading and editing, ensuring content adequacy across multiple interaction points and pages, but must be very less towards routing for approvals and publishing.

Have at any time, your project has gone down because users were reckless in their contributions or have written nasty about the topics they care ? How many times after rejecting a first posting, the same users felt motivated to contribute more ?

Isn't this the reason why public facing sites become jaded after a couple of visits.

2. Research the audience before "context":
A user research typically classifies and categorizes the audience by age, ethnicity, race, region, religion, intelligence, etc, which is good for presentations but not much useful in final product success. When the final product isn't a success, will we blame that the audience types who accessed the site changed from what came out of research ?

A user research is to sample the intuition for the interactions a general user base can do at the minimum without an aid. Are instructions suitable ? Are the colors for a meaning or for differentiation ? Does the site behave well with custom style sheets ? Can the user be permitted to move across, up and down the site in a consistent way that can be explained by word of mouth to another user over a phone ? With a tool bar, when the site is translated, does it render well within the layout grids ?

A user research is to ensure the audience experiences based on their location and need in the site, just like in an audition. There is a general sensitivity required about the audience tastes and preferences and a better clue since in the content and web medium there is a direct interaction on the "stage" with the users.

The "context" is actually "open" in the web world and only the content requires definition of a context to drive its meaning and establish its brand in the web cacaphony.

3. Pitching wireframes and sequencing them as "Site Map":

Wire framing is a good concept. Site map is an essential first step. Both are different, though. Many a times, we do individual wireframes, thread them together to call as site map. Not a bad idea and an easy way to visualize.

It has just one flaw: We are enforcing conformity of page layout and page types (page design) to decide the site structure. Not creating a site structure to visualize the flow of "content" is a common mistake and will be a discussion point at some time in the content strategy meetings.

4. Adopting a "Template X" approach
This template suited a similar need in project x. Let us fast track it by fitting the content in the template. This is the main "break" factor. A new project or a client with similar needs exist because the earlier solution is not 100% compatible. Else in the age of Google, why take the pains to execute a content dissemination project ? Template X is for Project X. While in Project Y, leverage template X is acceptable, but ensure it suits the needs and never hesitate to go back to blank canvas.

This isn't a "product" which can be configured for multiple variants by choosing to mix n match or rip-off features  to match lower price points. This is content and a site structure, wireframe, design and development needs to match "content" and its relevance in "context" and never the other way around.

5. Missing the link between "copy writing" and "SME" collection

Never miss to create and follow a style guide. For the project team, it is boring and looks uniform. For the users it is consistent and sets the expectations.

6. It is "about" the users and "for" the users, not about and for content: This is the anti-climax. While all we do is to present content in a nice and great way, it is one and only about the users and User Experience. How many times in a content strategy discussion, is there a serious concern and involvement for users ?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Art to seek information

Seeking information is determined mostly by the way it is phrased than the person behind the questions.

Testing this hypothesis with multiple instances, I realized that any query with a moving intent to act or an expressed desire to prepare for action will always get the most factual details of the situation.Embedding a self interest in other's story as being compassionate and a keen listener gets the emotional side of the details. 

On the other side, if the phrase is provided as a question and the way it is asked looks reactive or gives the perception that it is to self dodge a prospective situation or if the impression is of using it to own an advantage that is different from the groups objectives, will result invariably in push-backs or a laid back answer. 

Many a time, senior people demonstrate this maturity by asking "Why do you ask?" and then give answers. Probably we can use it too. In the mean time, practicing phrases that demonstrates an innate desire to act or just the mere efforts to listen intently as an emotional shoulder, would help us break barriers to get intimate with the details and information desired. 

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