Indian Eccentricities..

27 03 2008

Another in series of forwarded wisdom – titled “Some Facts about an Incredible Indian”.. Some of them are really intriguingly true. 🙂

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1. Everything you eat is savored in garlic, onion and tomatoes.
2. You try and reuse gift wrappers, gift boxes, and of course aluminum foil.
3. You are Always standing next to the two largest size suitcases at the Airport.
4. You arrive one or two hours late to a party – and think it’s normal.
5. You peel the stamps off letters that the Postal Service missed to stamp.
6. You recycle Wedding Gifts , Birthday Gifts and Anniversary Gifts.
7. You name your children in rhythms (example, Sita & Gita, Ram & Shyam, Kamini & Shamini.)
8. All your children have pet names, which sound nowhere close to their real names.
9. You take Indian snacks anywhere it says “No Food Allowed”
10. You talk for an hour at the front door when leaving someone’s house.
11. You load up the family car with as many people as possible.
12. You use plastic to cover anything new in your house whether it’s the remote control, VCR, carpet or new couch.
13. Your parents tell you not to care what your friends think, but they won’t let you do certain things because of what the other “Uncles and Aunties” will think.
14. You buy and display crockery, which is never used , as it is for special occasions, which never happen.
15. You have a vinyl tablecloth on your kitchen table.
16. You use grocery bags to hold garbage.
17. You keep leftover food in your fridge in as many numbers of bowls as possible.
18. Your kitchen shelf is full of jars, varieties of bowls and plastic utensils (got free with purchase of other stuff)
19. You carry a stash of your own food whenever you travel (and travel means any car ride longer than 15 minutes).
20. You own a rice cooker or a pressure cooker.
21. You fight over who pays the dinner bill.
22. You live with your parents and you are 40 years old. (And they prefer it that way).
23. You don’t use measuring cups when cooking.
24. You never learnt how to stand in a queue.
25. You can only travel if there are 5 persons at least to see you off or receive you whether you are traveling by bus, train or plane.
26. If she is NOT your daughter, you always take interest in knowing whose daughter has run with whose son and feel proud to spread it at the velocity of more than the speed of light.
27. You only make long distance calls after 11 p.m.
28. If you don’t live at home, when your parents call, they ask if you’ve eaten, even if it’s midnight.
29. You call an older person you never met before Uncle or Aunty.
30. When your parents meet strangers and talk for a few minutes, you discover you’re talking to a distant cousin.
31. Your parents don’t realize phone connections to foreign countries have improved in the last two decades, and still scream at the top of their lungs when making foreign calls.
32. You have bed sheets on your sofas so as to keep them from getting dirty.
33. It’s embarrassing if your wedding has less than 600 people.
34. All your Tupperware is stained with food color.
35. You have drinking glasses made of steel.
36. You have mastered the art of bargaining in shopping.

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How To Be A Good Leader..

18 12 2007

Now that’s a question that rings in my mind quite often, since I joined the corporate world. Am trying to capture some reflections and experiences here, distilled from some real life’s learnings. Its tough to be a good leader or a boss, and its even tougher to acknowledge our weaknesses and the impact that we have on others. Yet, the more we grow in age, experience and cadre, the more our efforts and work is dependent on the contributions of others.

Now, what are the personality attributes that can make someone tick as a good leader or boss? They are pretty much visible to commonsense and are for experience. Tell me how many good leaders have you met in a daily work life context? Yet, there are some real qualities that differentiate them from the common managers and leave a lasting impression in mind. Here is a collection of some of those in an effort to identify, acknowledge and probably inculcate them..

Humility And Courtesy

Ok Ok.. That was pun intended! 🙂 yet, On a serious note, see most of the people who are in influential positions to be most humble and open to people around them. In any knowledge and people intensive industry, what differs one from another is how they apply their uniquely gifted talents and skills. No one is superior or inferior to another and the more we acknowledge this, the more enriching we become.

In fact, those guys who are most likely to throw their weight around are typically in the middle management or in support group as they are often responsible for executing decisions taken by others whether they agree or disagree. Hence, the craving for false significance which reflects in the demonstration of pseudo authority through bossism and shortsightedness. Watch out if you are indulging in this. This behavior can help you get along the day, but not far.

Celebrating Success and Credit Sharing

Celebration is fun. Sharing the success and joy builds the team spirit and unity. Celebrating successes and failures is the essence of life. Don’t you think so? Yet, so often, going through the rhythms of the corporate mumbo jumbo, we often rarely stop for that little pat on back. Hold a little party, acknowledge others’ contribution and live up to the saying-‘one for all and all for one’. Everyone loves to feel important and wants their work to add value to the organization and team. Be genuine and say thanks to all those who made your graphs sparkle in whatever minor way.

Sense Of Humor and Fun

Quite needed in high pressure environment. Humor brings in fresh perspectives and makes us more open to challenges and other possibilities. Added to that, a sense of fun energizes workspaces and makes us more productive. Life is a huge practical joke. Identifying the humor and playing along can really soothe nerves. Don’t wear sleeves on heart, try the vice versa.. 🙂

Staying Calm And Leading By Example in Moments of Crisis

There is no fun in scrambling around and getting worked up on minor crisis situations at work. Accept it. Risks and failures are a part and parcel of life. Its no fun indulging in blame game and taking a free ride on the tension swing. Stand for oneself and for the team and show that you are there and you care. Be around like a breather or a tower of strength in moments of crisis and exude confidence and positivity. Tough call? Indeed. It requires continuous effort.

Being Flexible And Playing The Good Listener

Are you that kind of boss, who stares at the laptop when your teammate drops in for a quick chat? The most vital part of leadership is to acknowledge that people have different priorities and your task list may not figure out on the top of theirs. Acknowledge their personal priorities, be flexible to work out win-win options and always be open, approachable and listen to what others are saying or not saying. Be a people developer and lend an ear when needed. Life may seem to be measured on how many millions we made, yet what counts in the end is how many lives we touched and how many smiles we spread.

Clarity and Expertise in Work

Be sure of what you are talking about and what you want to achieve. Most of the bosses I know falter at this. Often the delegation looks like this.

If you are not sure of what you want, not even the best of the world teammates can help you achieve it. Have clarity on what you want to achieve and then communicate it effectively to your team. It can do wonders.

And, trust me, no one wants to work for a dull head. Never stop learning and understand the significance of the contribution that you are making. Do you think only talent shows? Stupidity is even more tantalizingly evident. Don’t make suggestions under the pretense of adding value. 🙂

Trust and Motivation

The last on my list and the most important one. Believe in team, assert your trust, enlist them in your mission and give them space to carry on. That’s what is called effective and efficient delegation. Noone really wants to work for a boss who don’t trust their capabilities and hovers around like an intrusive security camera. Ask the one who tried. He probably doesn’t have a team now.

As beautifully put by Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

“If you want to build a ship
don’t herd people together to collect wood
and don’t assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the
endless immensity of the sea.”

Ultimately, it all boils down to this. People are leaders because they choose to lead. Else, they stay managers.. Now I see why this became a huge article! I can actually title this as ‘7 habits to be a successful leader’. 🙂 It’s tough to make sense of what makes a leader tick. If I missed anything, let me know.





Credit Sharing…

30 11 2007

Am just back from a little crib session and this was a hot topic there. How surprising it is to see this issue popping up in so many conversations. Credit Sharing is an important aspect of managing any team structure and I am sad to see many ignore it in their way to glory.

I am not trying to bring in Ayn Rand philosophy of selfishness here as in the current organizational context, in Indian industry, we work with people and the more we grow in our career, the more our success is dependent on the inputs and support offered by the others. Especially in IT industry, where a lot of work is structured around groups and teams, it is even ridiculous to ascribe the credit to a single person in the success of a project. Yet, I see this phenomenon of credit snatching and credit hiding instead of credit sharing. I don’t see any logic in blaming team for failure and appreciating manager for success.

In fact, some of the best leaders I have met in the industry are successful in their career are those who realize the potential of the people working for them and put it to effective use by aiding to their professional and personal growth. Though I hear some say that don’t mix up emotions in professional life, how can it be possible that we are emotionally insensitive to the people around us?

I can sense that people follow leaders, not the rule books. Please be the guiding hand to those you work with, making sure that they don’t need anything instead of dictating their lives and taking credit for their efforts. A little bit of recognition can do wonders for motivation levels and the work environment. And all those entry level people, it also means acknowledging the existence of the security personnel or those receptionists instead of treating them like pieces of furniture. A little pat on the back, a gentle smile or a small nod can do wonders, trust me.





Revisiting Bommarillu..

16 09 2007

This movie stole the heart and thought of me and my family and is arguably one of the best family movies that have come in the recent times. I still cant forget the time that my mom insisted me to watch this movie and came to theater along with me to watch it second time, when she is hardly a movie goer herself. For record, its still the most watched movie at home.

We typically use movies like a cushion. We want to be coddled, relaxed and consoled from the stress of the daily life. Yet, if we forget for a while that we are watching a drama, these fictional characters feel more real than the actual living people. Some movies stay with us for that moment, some come revisit us in life in some aha moment and some live with us as beautiful memories. This one is a practical experience for me and hence I am collecting my two cents on this beautiful celluloid journey when the memory is still afresh.

As my friend puts it beautifully, experiences can rarely be reviewed. One can only feel and connect to the sensation it kindles. Bommarillu is a realistic portrait of the current day family relationships that catches the reflection of the current day Telugu Youth who is bonded to his family through love and respect and yet strives to creates his individual mark in this world. It beautifully deals with the relationships between parents and children in a fast paced society.

I cant resist sketching the plot though. Prakash Raj is this current day loving dad. The one who carries the entire family responsibilities on his shoulders and longs to create the perfect world to his family. In his pursuit to offer the best of everything, he unawaringly tries to design the life of his son Siddhu and offer all the comforts of life in a platter. Siddhu is not our regular hero. He wants to live upto his traditional loving family’s expectations and yet play the maverick, charm the Juliet and grit it out in the rough world to carve his own niche which cant be done under the glance of his over protective father. He dreams of a career of his own making and a life partner who inspires love and how our hero sets to win both is the theme.

Genelia lives the role of Siddhu’s love interest, the pretty, charming, child-like, talkative, pretense less Hasini. She breathes life into the placid life of the Siddhu who is burdened by his accommodating nature and is already engaged to a girl of his father’s choice. Living with a widowed father Kota Srinivasa Rao who is more of a friend, Hasini is our bubbly, charming and after my heart kind of college girl who is unaffected by the complexities of a joint family setup. I basked in her exuberance and frankness and reveled in her innocent convictions. She is my hero of the movie!

Prakash Raj discovers his son’s love story and being an accommodative father wants to adjudge Hasini and hence requests her presence at his home for a week. Hasini charms her way through Siddhu’s family and to her shock discovers the dual roles of Siddhu: One as a traditional Rama at home and the other as a carefree, individualistic Siddhu with friends. As Siddhu forces Hasini to live upto his image at home, Hasini dumps him. Siddhu has many battles up to his sleeve now. Will he chooses to keep up the pretense and play the perfect son or will he stands up for himself in a confrontation with his family forms the crux of the story.

The tag line is just apt. “Love Makes Life Beautiful”, which kind of sums up the entire struggle of Siddhu for unconditional love and individual identity. Love that accepts him as he is and not for what he can be. Love that cherishes, enriches and supports him without any demands and obligations. I can empathize with the accommodating Siddhu’s of the world, yet I can only respect them when they stand up on their spine and learn to say no.

In the end, it all falls back to an old quote, ” To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I’ “. The movie raises some pertinent questions as well. Why do we pretend and lie to those who matter the most? Why are we afraid of sharing a piece of ourselves with our family? Is it a fear of rejection or the dread of loneliness? The movie brings out magnificently that avoidance is not a solution, personal space is vital in relationships and clarity in communication is essential in the journey of love. Love that inspires trust, acceptance and sets one free..





Slow Down Culture

31 01 2007

I simply loved this article! Author Unknown, yet kudos to him!
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It’s been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It’s a rule.

Globalized processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to posses a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Said in another words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo, a state in Brazil.
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm, has 500,000 people.
4. Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, Nokia are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies the NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work). The first day, I didn’t say anything, either the second or third. One morning I asked, “Do you have a fixed parking space? I’ve noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot.” To which he replied, “Since we’re here early we’ll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don’t you think? Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there’s a movement in Europe name Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of “hurry” and “craziness” generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of “having in quantity” (life status) versus “having with quality”, “life quality” or the “quality of being”. French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US’s attention, pupils of the fast and the “do it now!”.

This no-rush attitude doesn’t represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the “now”, present and concrete, versus the “global”, undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans’ essential values, the simplicity of living.

It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do. It’s time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there’s a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, “I can’t, my boyfriend will be here any minute now”. To which Al responds, “A life is lived in an instant”. Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalized world.





Maverick by Ricardo Semler

30 08 2005

I came across this book in a library and am tempted enough to pick it up. I got strong recommendations from my friends who have read this book. As I read it, I am absolutely fascinated by the industrial transformation that has took place in Semco.Semco is a Brazil based traditional pump manufacturing company under the leadership of Ricardo Semler. And, what a leader! Ricardo Semler fired 60% of the top management the day he took charge of the organization in 1980. He like to call himself as a Catalyst and I could see how he has done that effectively. He treated his company workers as adults, instilled in them a sense of pride and let them lead their life and in fact the company too. Moreover, he installed a culture that inspires freedom and let it evolve on its own. He is not one of those types who lead from front but then he is always there when the organization has steered away from the path by being a guiding hand.

By letting the workers decide on the things which influence their life, he paved a way for loyalty, experimentation and innovation. Free from the rules and dogma, workers were encouraged to experiment. At Semco, everyone became an entrepreneur on their own merit. There are flexible work hours, satellite programs, circular organizational structure, factory committees and so on. It paves way for self-regulation and self-responsibility and all that springs from trust. Its truly an inspiring book which talks about a new ideology and brings out a radical perspective about the industrial production.





Fast Food Nation..

17 03 2005

Fast Food Nation
The Dark Side Of The All American Meal

Author: Eric Schlosser

A great piece of investigative journalism, Fast Food Nation written by Eric Schlosser explores the fast food culture and the industry behind it with great detail to unearth many disturbing facts for all of us to see. Reading the book, I am reminded of a saying, ´Every beautiful face has an hideous skull behind it”, and this book tries it best to bring out this hideous aspect of the cheerful and the progressive fast food industry which became an icon of the American way.

The book traces the history of the fast food culture with case studies of McDonalds, Subways, Burger King’s and Wendy’s that has brought America efficiently prepared meals at low prices and has transformed the eating patterns and the lifestyles. Schlosser delves into the structure of the industry and explores the participants of the Industry, employees, meat industry, flavor Industry, packaging industry, potato farmers, the franchisees, the frozen foods industry, the agri-business aspects.

The fast food culture exerts a direct influence on large parts of the population, Schlosser cites an estimate that “one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald’s” alone. The fast food industry seems to provide cheap, convenient, and fast food, and provide employment to a large number of people — but the food is arguably not particularly healthy. The effects of the consolidation of the agribusiness, the demand of the unskilled, cheap labor by the fast food chains is disturbing.

To promote mass production and profits, the industry must keep labor and material costs low. Hence the bringing of the American concept of assembly-line production into the food industry to exercise control, deskill the job done, maintain consistency. Teenagers and recent immigrants make up much of the fast food workforce, often working under poor conditions. Companies profit from huge turnover. Schlosser recounts how McDonald’s and its ilk have fought against unions, sometimes closing stores to prevent workers from unionizing.

MNC’s have little regard to the economic fortunes of individual farmers or local communities. Poultry owners doesn’t even own the birds and the potato farmers have nothing in their control due to the corporate ownership of the agri-business units. The chapter on Why the Fries Taste Good offers a bleak look at the future of food through Flavor Industry, where any taste can be given to any product.

Regarding dangers to consumers Schlosser focuses on E. coli and salmonella infection. Workers in meatpacking plants routinely suffer from repetitive strain injuries, and many have lost fingers and worse as the pace of killing and cutting up animals has increased to create higher profits. The faster the line moves, the less attention is paid to food safety. Parasites and bacteria are another price paid for the meatpacking industry’s profit margin.

Schlosser ends the book saying that “you can still have it your way”, highlighting the choice the consumer has to say no to the fast food.