Category Archives: Leadership

Welcome 2019!…#keepgoing

While working through 2018 & reflecting back , I have gathered small reflections that have helped me personally to balance and continue to move another year in sustainable manner & yes there is no midlife crisis neither the musings of nirvana but pure realistic facts that have moved me all along the year gone by!

#stop-look-go

Very necessary that we pace ourselves and not go for the plunge directly. In world where agile , iterations , test & learn seem to be over-powering our traditional approaches , there seems to be no substitute for some amount of planning and pacing before one approaches his or her objectives. 

#value-at-work

Always question is your work another transaction output of an employment contract or are you delivering value while enjoying at work?

Working hard is different than working efficiently. just achieving a desired output does not mean much in today’s world so if you are having a flat tone , not re-inventing your own working styles then it is time to introspect. Identify your limiting factors to bring more joy to your work – #stop-look-go

paul-skorupskas-59950-unsplash.jpgPaul Skorupskas

#avoid-system-traps

Adapted from Thinking In Systems authored by Donella H. Meadows

When playing sustainable and long innings you can become susceptible to system trap of “eroding goals.” It is also called the “boiled frog syndrome,” from the old story (I don’t know whether it is true) that a frog put suddenly in hot water will jump right out, but if it is put into cold water that is gradually heated up,  it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. A drift slow enough can erase the memory of (or belief in) how much better things used to be, everyone is lulled into lower and lower expectations, lower effort, lower performance.

Always mark yourself with absolute standards regardless of your performance. Consider failures as temporary blocks towards achievement higher longer term goals. Always be reminded as a team this can have a catastrophic effect on end-goals

#stay-fit

Remaining fit is very important to have positive and open mind to solving problems, and reduce friction to improve efficiency for sustainable future & society. 

#keepgoing with #focus , have a happy and productive 2019!

Lessons From France v/s Argentina Game

Being a week-end it was easy to catch-up on FIFA World Cup games and what more than to see France and Argentina fight out. It was an outstanding game where team dynamics accompanied with individual caliber led to France edging Argentina out.  While it sounds sad and a heart-break for many Argentinian fans , one has to respect the game dynamics which led to this. Football is truly a team sport that reflects on how team dynamics can impact the outcome.

While having a objective is important for a team to deliver but it is not enough to make the team move. Here are some picks from my side while watching the game on how it could have meant a totally different result.

  • Lesson from fourth Goal : Check out the video
    • Planning : Mbappe was left unchecked , when he had already scored earlier in the game. The sheer agility at which this individual was making through defense lines was amazing and the ease with which he played it out! There was no struggle on his face , but he was left unmarked or almost given a free run. What happens on the field needs to be constantly analyzed to course correct and respond to changes around you. Initiatives if constantly not monitored , planned and observed can never meet desired outcomes. 
  • Lessons from being a star performer
    • Being a star performer comes with lot of burden. The constant limelight just kills it. People look upon you for being a role model , leader , planner & strategist .. almost everything. I think so at the end of the day it was too much for Messi. I guess somewhere the man was made to look bigger than mission. You can never be bigger than the mission itself , because then the focus on mission goes away. Yes you can be important to mission but portrayed or deemed bigger than mission for an initiative is not positive signs for success. 
  • Playing in decentralized approach
    • You got to do the best on what you do. A lot was seen from what the French side was trying to achieve. Players like Pogba , Mbappe were living the game with their own stride , doing what they knew best for the game and orchestrating a run through Argentinian defense.
  • French Teams fitness level
    • The speed and agility showed by the French made them look ready for the mission. They were making runs within 15 minutes at speed which Argentinians could not match with their skill or talent. When getting into an initiative you need to be very critical whom you pick for it as that can make or break your ability to succeed. You also need toe ensure that skill alone will not play it out , one has to be make it work !

The T.E.A.M

For last few years working across multiple organizations I have been involved and / or led many green field technology initiatives that are geared at bootstrapping new markets , re-platform in existing markets or unlock new business models. All these genres require teams to be formed or come together. Additionally in global set-ups you need to string teams across many locations to drive desired outcomes.

While we try to achieve set objectives, it becomes necessary to see what qualities should exist in  new or current teams so that they can stand up and deal with business pressure autonomously.

Here is my run-down [ you may through vast reading depth or previous references find some correlations in what I have hypothesized ]

TTenacity : The quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly; grip.
E : Energy : The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.
A : Aspiration : A hope or ambition of achieving something.
M : Management : The process of dealing with or controlling things or people.

If as a team you can demonstrate Management & Aspiration with Energy & Tenacity then there is a greater chance that you would be able to put right level of effort to increase chances for success.

Write me back on what qualities you see could make a difference.

Reflections By Steven Sinofsky

I chanced to read following article Steven Sinofsky on Building Your Product Team  published on the MixPanel blog. It had some great insights  which , I  have captured for my readers and fellow companions who cross their path with product management.

From the above blog

Steven Sinofsky is known as one of product management’s earliest champions. In fact, he was at Microsoft when the company invented “v. 1.0” of the product manager career path.”

While I read through the article , I made this story come out more as my questions in mind as reflections followed by relevant portions from the blog as excerpts.

Why did product manager came into existence?

What is the world beyond developers , testers and marketers? , do they make the whole picture…The answers to that is “no” . We need people who can act as “Pivot” & iterate on the product instead of the marketers , who in turn should worry about demand generation.

Steven states that “Microsoft needed a role that helped making changes further upstream. That way, there would be people who could facilitate changing the code, and minimise big fights”

What value product managers add?

Product managers help achieve intersection between customer feedback and how it impacts the codebase. The role demands ability to glean data and generate focus to mobilise the group towards most high value generating activity.

Steven reflects as “product leadership to be deeply personal, something that must scale within the product manager as the product scales”

What can make a product manager successful?

It is very necessary for a product manager to have deep understanding of the product & more so if the product is a software , then technical acumen becomes very important. In addition to this having ability to manage people and channelise their thought process is a very relevant soft skill that they need to possess.

Steven mentions in the blog that “knowledge helps facilitate a discussion. It makes one run through higher-level strategic thinking. It is important to understand the argument being made and then have a healthy way to address that.”

In Steven’s words “Skills in technology, user experience, and empathy (with internal team members and customers) are prerequisites that can be honed and trained. While building your expertise as a PM requires a mastery of all three areas, it’s important to remember that you’re never “done” building your skill set”

“There can be millions of debates that need to be addressed but sensing the meta-level information about the conversation – is the best entry point for problem solving.”

I think that is what makes a transaction based mind-set differentiate from a strategic outlook.

Good Better Best – Quality of Decision

You might heard following phrases several times :

 “This is a wrong decision , we should not made this call”

“Why did you not inform us , otherwise we would have made right decision”

“I think if we would have collaborated , we could have made a right call on this issue”

Being a programmer at core , made me see these statements coming out with binary response : “Right” or “Wrong” , but as I travelled through the journey of being a manager and executing more responsibility with years gone by , it has started to make me feel that decisions in itself cannot be so binary in their outcome!

Quality of decision is always known post-facto unless we follow some mystical science of crystal ball gazing! You would have seen that I highlighted a particular term “Quality“. There is a reason to it , because I strongly feel post my experiences that we put lot of pressure on self and others by classifying decision in binary manner.

Man-thinking-by-Creative-Ignition-Creative-Commons

 Photo Credit : Creative Ignition ( Creative Commons )

 

We want to remain quick on decision making and at the same time we expect them to be always right , but that is not the case. According to me the spirit and context in which a decision is made , it starts with always being “good” . The intent with which we make decisions is always good , it can only be the case that we evaluate whether our decisions could have “better” and could we make it “best call every taken !

 

It is important that we constantly review out decision outcomes and rank them against this strategy to improve our decision quality.

Happy Decision Making!!

Make Process The Winner!

We encounter problems statements everyday and there are ‘n’ number of ways to solve them. In addition to this there is no good or bad way of solving them !

Over a period of time I have come to see that we generally get into conflict due to internal workings and although we do arrive at solution but the journey does become painful for individuals who might be pivoting to solve it.

One of the things that I tried to experiment and improve upon was trying to make ‘process’ the winner & keeping ‘problem’ in centre of the ‘solution’ . Most of the time we make mistake of putting people in centre of the solution and try to solve for them whilst , it should be other way round where we focus on problem and make ultimately process the winner so that people then are able to scale themselves using a solution which was designed to support process.

Looks simple in the way I put it .. but honestly it becomes difficult and requires one to really sieve out various layers to iterate on solution that makes process the winner !

15 years on..Journey thru Professional Wilderness

I still remember this day 15 years back , when I was heading alone to Kolkata for joining my training at TCS . It was raining hard , when I arrived at the station. Being a day scholar most of my life , this was a big step forward outside the protected layers of my family cocoon , making way to lead an independent life…This kicked off series of things in my life from getting to learn German language to being trained on making myself presentable while I speak.. It was an interesting experience for me .. and my first tryst with professional life.

Things moved fast , training came to an end and we were told to join the Delhi centre.. moving in corridors and making some friends as moved along , I found myself in midst of pros, the seasoned and the newbies 🙂 .. all but shared one common thing , searching to attach purpose to what they were working for .. Lots of learning & great foundation years for me…then somewhat I looked to progress my self financially as well wanted to exposure beyond current .. usual human paradox of more want & higher expectation …I spent then good bit of my career with CSC and learnt new things , especially in area of team management and new culture.. My life was starting to look like the sinusoidal wave ..I was feeling bored with regular stuff so I made a shift to Oracle India. Amazing to learn the technology and process.. Awesome product company to work for and for me by now I had taste of IT services biggies to large product company ..

Somewhere down the line spending 2 years … I thought to challenge myself to do MBA and took a plunge by packing my wife – my critical support system back to home town .. on a journey of self planned sacrifice by leaving job behind .. and taking financial risk to earn a degree at S P Jain . This was truly a new phase of my life and my rationale was demand of techno-functional is high but less satisfy that ethos.. I was still good at coding and if I could club my communication skills with business acumen , I would have a good recipe to contribute back in the value chain at a higher level…

Post MBA I worked at  AnthelioAvotus , something which was my second learning ground after TCS . It taught me to be a leader and connected with great people , who again were trying to seek purpose in what they did.. a quest which seldom is successful .. and when it is , it creates radiance and sustainability for self and org. After spending almost 3 years in this nursery , I joined Cimpress India . We sell the Vistaprint brand here.. I have been heading technology for last 3.5 years plus now and solving newer problems everybody. My sense of purpose remains at highest levels here and I think I am able to learn albeit little , on how to connect dots between value and capability..It is starting to take shape and hence the I say I find more of purpose at Cimpress.

All along I have made great friends , met many people , learned alot but yet discovering … above all I cherish the teams I worked with & for …a support ecosystem , which can only be next to your family if not above them … Three cheers to all my peers and team mates to make me feel like that..

Thanks to my primary strength my wife and kid .. along with my parents , who have allowed me to spare time with the companies I have worked for and supported me to give my best …

Window To The World…Ideas On Communications….

So I am back again…although , I am still infrequent..but making improvements. Currently I am passing by quite a few cultures on my trip and it makes me super happy to learn new things beyond just the realms of my job. As I do this , it sounds funny but human communication is highly perceptive and has great self-context.

What is there for me in this , outcome , mode of reaching to that outcome…lot of things pop when you engage across boundaries , businesses and most importantly the people who make it. There is no defined prescription to manage communication and yes there might be great books around this but it all depends on the individual / team on how they approach it.

“Dank u”!! … “Danke”!!… all are about saying “thank you”.. but how you present it makes the difference. Getting people excited about your objective , listening to them and considering what is important all are important part of being effective and we should try to be as much as possible in that mode.

If the window has layers of dust , the world will not be the same place , when it does not…have dust. Dust comes from constant ignore of ability to clean it on regular basis…which means communicate and do that frequently in small bursts..Everybody prescribes to eat small meals several times a day ( I guess 8 … although I am not a dietician ).. I also recommend that we should communicate often to a point that people are not paralyzed with information but also don’t suffer from exclusion syndrome or feel anemic of not having information!!!

Frying-Pan With Air-Cover!!

My sister got married while I was very young ( in 5th grade to be precise !! ). When I started to make some sense of life and what it meant , my sister after many years of her marriage shared with me a funny incidence which she got subjected to. This was just after she had reached the US and it was winters when she and her hubby landed. I don’t exactly remember where it happened but it went like this; Standing by a road crossing , with snow and sleet on it , my sister ventured to cross it with her husband standing behind her. She ends up falling and for obvious reasons because she did not have right kind of shoes neither idea about to handle snow. For a lady travelling for first time and seeing snow for first time because she came from plains of North India!! , this was waiting to happen…

When she questioned her husband about why did he not make her aware of how to approach and tackle this problem , he was blunt to say that you ought to fall to learn something…At that time when I was told this by my sister, it seemed funny as well not so good because of the fall she had…but after many years since then , I could reflect couple of things out of that incidence.

In our office life as managers we should prepare people only to a certain extent , that they feel empowered to approach the problem. Hand holding them through challenges is a mistake which we commit because it acts as barrier to get true potential of individuals and how they apply themselves. Another aspect of this is , that we should be present always as managers to own our team if they fail while handling a challenge ( my sister’s husband was all the while there , to take care of her , he did not walk away).

I believe a mix of frying pan approach with air-cover serves as good recipe in preparing teams to deliver performance in spotty situations while also increases their confidence.

Leadership Lessons

Yesterday at office we had a wonderful session on leadership , where mid-managers were invited along with the senior management. A full day discussion on how to effect a change and other aspects of leadership were discussed as part of this session. There was one particular activity which caught my attention more than others. It was related to making changes to self in bunches of 3 , 6 , 12 while standing in pairs. How people react to such activities is very interesting.

The first reaction was to start remembering the change we were doing in anticipation that we may be asked to entail that in the end. Second was about how to make a new change. Funny ideas popped around the place and third was “what are we trying to do , just end it!!!” This exercise was a reflection of the fact that how important it is to prepare people for a change. Readiness levels for each individual remains different and yet we still continue to effect changes without preparing our workforce to embrace it.

I consider that it is important to give an objective to people and give time / space between changes for it to take effect or show results. I know that there may be circumstances when we would not have a choice but to effect the change and that to frequently but as senior management we should allow a change to get absorbed and help people prepare better for the next set of challenges. Compare this with a common-life situation where if you a have problem in neighborhood you see people getting together to solve it or help out but on any other day they would be busy doing their work. What that means is that the “problem” comes out as an objective whilst on other days you keep doing your own things. That is not what you would an office culture to adopt because , business is like a simulated war game where you have to fight the known and unknowns at all times , therefore give objective to people for why you would like to effect a change and be part of it!!!