Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Who is a leader ?

This is a poem which inspires me.  Written by an Anonymous Poet. 

A Leader

Patient and steady with all he must bear,

Ready to meet every challenge with care

Easy in manner, yet solid at steel, 

String in his faith, refreshingly real, 

Isn’t afraid to propose what is bold, 

Doesn’t conform to the usual mould, 

Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight won’t do

Never backs down when he sees what is true, 

Tells it all 
straight and means it all too, 

Going forward and knowing he’s right, 

Even when doubted for why he would fight

Over and over he makes his case 

Reaching to touch the ones who won’t hear, 

Growing in strength, he would not be unnerved, 

Ever assuring he’ll stand by his word. 

Wanting the world to join his firm stand, 

Bracing for war, but praying for peace, 

Using his power so evil will cease : 

So much a leader and worthy of trust, 

Here stands 
a man who will do what he must. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Bizarre Case of my Defective Geyser

I was really frustrated.  

Last month I installed the third geyser in my bathroom . Brand new ones. But somehow the water would just not heat up ! 

I had shifted to this house a few months back. So, when the already installed geyser did not heat the water, I thought that maybe the geyser was old and I should replace it. So , I bought a locally made geyser.  But even after keeping it on for 2 hours , the water was lukewarm .

"Ok..." I thought . "Maybe the geyser is defective. It is locally made without any quality standards....".

 After a few more days of futile trials, I bought another geyser from a standard company . It also had a warranty of two years. The installation engineers came and installed the same.  It was working perfectly.  "Ahh ..." I thought. "Finally I will have nice hot showers ... "

I enjoyed my bath the next day and the day after .  After the 4th day, again the water was lukewarm. The next day I kept the geyser on for a few more minutes. The result was good . Steaming hot water. Two days it was fine. Again the fourth day the water was lukewarm ! Even after keeping the Geyser on for 15 more minutes, it was not even lukewarm ! 

The next day I called up the service centre. The service engineers came and tested the geyser.  It was working just fine.  I did not know what to say. I told them that the Geyser was behaving erratically and they should take my word for it .  

"We understand Madam... ", they said "whenever you face any problem, just give us a call and we will come the next day and fix it.... today it is working fine .... !". 

The engineers were trained to be polite . 

The end result was that even in this freezing cold, I was really nervous of taking a bath ... I did not know whether I will get warm water or not ... ! I took resort to heating water on my gas oven for my bath. 

I called up the service center again.  After 5-6  repeated calls,  the Geyser company was kind enough to replace the Geyser and install another brand new one.  But to my utter frustration, it did not solve the problem at all !  Some day it worked excellently , the next day it did not .  

I just did not know what to do ! 


About 10 days back, I went to visit an ailing relative who was suffering from acute back pain.

"You know Ananya ... " She said . "All these years I suffered , thinking that something is wrong with my bones .  But this time when the pain was really acute, I had a thorough checkup and the investigation report and further discussion with my doctor made me realize that all these years my perspective was wrong.  I was taking care of my bones, taking Calcium supplements , having probiotic food , but actually the root cause was Ergonomics !  My work involved a lot of twisting and working at a particular angle for prolonged periods of time. This was the root cause.  As soon as I took corrective action about my posture, things improved drastically "

"Really ? " I said 

"Yes ! See, I was looking at the problem with a preconceived idea about the solution ... the problem was somewhere else ..... !"

Something clicked in my mind . 


The next day, I started with a fresh mind. 

I logged the days when the Geyser worked fine and the days it did not.   I tried to link all the activities before and after I turned on the Geyser in the bathroom . The study gave a strange result.  

It showed that on the days the maid cleaned the bathtub, the Geyser did not work properly.

I investigated further. 

And the investigation result was an eye opener for me

I found out that the pipes leading to the bathtub was linked with the Geyser pipe leading to the shower. And since the pipe to the Bathtub was at a lower height , there was a backflow of water into the geyser tank if the tap to the bathtub was not closed.  When the maid cleaned the bathtub, she invariably did not close the tap of the hot water , instead she closed the main tap. 

So what was happenening is  that the Cold water tap of the bath tub was open and water from it flowed back into the pipe which led o the shower and the cold water mixed with the hot water and the temperature of the water from the shower became lukewarm !

From the next day, when I switched on the Geyser, I closed the cold water inlet tap of the bathtub and I got steaming hot water from my shower - everyday, everytime !

So, the problem was not in the Geysers , but somewhere else !


Don't we make similar mistakes at workplace and also in our lives ? 

Sometimes, we just have to make a paradigm shift in the way we look at problems. 

The solutions lie infront of our eyes, but maybe due to the dreary habit of looking at the problems with the same angle and in the same way, we fail to find solutions to them ! Sometimes, "our clear stream of reason loses its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit". 

I have learnt my lesson. 

I will always try to keep my mind open when I try to solve problems. 

Have you ever faced such situations ? Do write your comments.

Monday, 12 January 2015

My Weight Loss Resolution Fiasco

Like every New Year, this year too I made resolutions.  The top one was to lose weight. As I wrote my resolution in my personal diary,  to my dismay , I found the same resolution written dated a year back !  

Folks,  I am sorry to say that I had failed to keep up my resolution.In fact , instead of losing, I have managed to put on weight . I kept my pen down and thought really hard. Where did I go wrong ?  I did start with a bang , but what happened after a few weeks  ?  Well ... there are always some festivities , ceremonies and get-togethers where we tend to overeat and these situations are bound to happen always.  So does it mean that I will never succeed ?  I became despondent .  But again , I thought harder.

I always like to go to the root of the matter and as I went deeper, I realized that there were two major flaws in my execution of the resolutions.  

1. I did not measure my progress
2. I did not keep it visual. 

Measurements are the keystone of tracking.  If we don't measure, we will never know how we are doing, which way we are heading and when we should come back on track for making progress.  

The basic point is that "the things that gets measured are the things that get done" !

We measure our academic success and try to do better. We measure the time taken to complete assignments and set benchmarks for estimation for completion of tasks.Measurements of schedule variance, defects found in the finished products,  number of complaints lodged , effort variance etc. all are measurements which help us to take informed decisions for the growth of the organization. 

In fact , I remembered that I had written the following verse for the in house magazine in one of my previous organization : 

I wonder…..
How far is the sky ?
Is the threshold large enough to keep it blue ?                          
Scale in one hand and magnifying glass in the other,
I wonder ……
What should we measure so that we can see a problem through ?

Measure , measure, measure,
Take a scale in your hand –
What is the life expectancy of a bug ?
How many defects were introduced ?
How long are we working ?                                       
What can we measure to get a clue ?
How are we doing on effort ?
Is the variance too large ?
Are we varying in schedule ?
How do we know we have reviewed ?

All measurements but no improvements ?
Hey ! This  does not sound correct !
Let us do an ISHIKAWA to get an essence.
Let us  measure our measurements ,
We should not measure what does not make sense.

Measure , measure, measure,
We will continuously  improve !
We have to monitor our thresholds
I am sure our  customers will approve !

So , the root cause of not being able to keep up  my resolution  was that I did not measure what I was eating, how much exercise I was doing and most importantly,  I did not weigh myself  periodically .

I have got myself a new diary and written "My weight loss program" .   I will now write every meal which I eat , all the workout which I do and a weekly log of  my weight

And most importantly, I will create a trend chart of my weight measurements and make it the wall paper of  my laptop.   This will serve as a visual dashboard and act as a motivator for me to be on track. 
If we use measurements to improve the organization, don't you think it will help me improve my life? 

Do write your comments.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Factory which Converts Failure into Success

In one of my earlier blogs, I had written about Failure .  Read :  Why Do we fail ?

We all know that failure teaches us to persevere, to become stronger , learn lessons and move on

But have you heard of someone who picks up failures or drop-outs and makes a success out of them and in turn mints money for himself as well as for others ?  

Well, he is by far the smartest unknown  Indian IT entrepreneur - Sridhar Vembu  - the co-founder of ZOHO Corporation - the company behind the ZOHO Suit of online applications. offers a comprehensive suite of award-winning online business, productivity & collaboration applications.  It gives competition to giants like Microsoft.  It has a CRM product which gives a run for money.  

Vembu, a graduate from IIT Chennai and holds a Ph.D from Princeton University in Electrical engineering is a humble, down to earth and low profile person , usually dresses in traditional Indian attire - Dhoti and Kurta has set up the most profitable product organization in India. 

Zoho has sales offices in the Silicon Valley as well as in other parts of the world, but 90% of his workforce in in the Chennai office in India. That makes it very very profitable . And ... ZOHO is Bootstrapped - never accepted a single dollar from Venture Capitalists !

But having development centre in India is not a new concept . 

What is unique about ZOHO are its hiring and people practices. 

Apart from the founders, none of the developers are from premier institutes like IIT. ZOHO believes that coding is an art and not science. It is also emotion and not just logic. 

Their unique idea is to hire drop outs - 12th graders or the students who have not been able to complete their graduation due to economic or family constraints.  The society feels that these drop-outs are failures so much so that the individuals too start feeling the same when they get rejected in admissions and marks are deducted due to their drop out year or status.

For example, a 10th grade pass out joined ZOHO as a Security Guard . But he showed lots of interest in computers and took the initiative to learn a few things by himself. He was noticed and  put through the year long training and now he works as a developer in ZOHO !

Zoho takes rounds of the Government run schools , scouting for 12th graders . These trainees start earning from day one so that they can support themselves as well as their families with some contribution.

The "failures" - the rejected people from big organizations like TCS, Infosys , who are labelled as unemployable graduates are put through a three month paid incubation programme.

According to Vembu, there is no co-relation between academic credentials and job performance. Unlike other IT organizations, employees of ZOHO do not require to produce their Academic certificates or past credentials.  After the three month incubation , ZOHO's hit rate is 60% !

ZOHO has a small HR team - less than 10 people.  The HR team mainly looks after the employees welfare .

Understandably so,  ZOHO enjoys a very low attrition rate. The employees have loads of trust on the company and its management.

Trust is the glue which keeps them together. Loyalty is the oxygen on which ZOHO survives.

 ZOHO is expanding.

Not in big cities of Metro's. But in small towns. Where ZOHO will generate employment as well as grow its business.

ZOHO factory converts Failures into Success !

May we have many more Vembu's and many more ZOHO's 


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Teeny Weeny : Forever Yours ...

She looked at the setting sun from her bedroom window.

She looked at her wrinkled hands.

She looked around her .

So many memories ...

She got up from her bed and picked up her painting brush and wrote " I miss you"  on the wall....

 The promoters will pull down the house tomorrow .....

Her pet dog Snoozie snuggled beside her ...

"Snoozie... sorry ... I made you homeless .... "

She blew out the flickering candle and went to sleep.


Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.   
 Looking forward to your comments.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

They look at you first .....

In one of my assignments , when I was working as a  Program Manager in a reputed organization,  I had to travel to a foreign country for a few client meetings.  I had never traveled to this country earlier and neither did I have any cultural training on that part of the world. There was a crisis and I just had to rush to meet the customer - a huge pharmaceutical company,  to placate him and give him the  reassurance so that we continued to get work.

Here in India, our official dress for a woman is either a sari or trousers or Salwar Kameej.  It was my post pregnancy days and I had bloated up and put on a lot of weight. The trousers did not fit me and I did not have time to buy some western official dresses. 

So, I packed my bags with lots of Sarees and Salwar Kameej and set off.  Unfortunately,  the weather there was very cold and Sari was totally unsuitable for the climate. I had to do with Salwar Kameejes. 

It really does not matter, I thought ... I have worked with them for almost a year now and I have regular phone calls with them, so they will see my mettle and not how I look .... 

In this post, I confess that it was utterly stupid of me to think like that. 

Like it or not, in this imperfect world, they look at you first ..... 

My customer meetings were almost  disastrous. I was not taken seriously.  That made me think hard about what had gone wrong .  I went to my mentor for guidance and much to my annoyance I found out that your dress and how you look matters. 

A lot. 

"Ananya"  he said " In a perfect world,  the only thing that matters is your performance.. but do we live in a perfect world ? No.... Here, we have to make sure that apart from our skills we also look the like person in that position ....

On the face of it, how you look or how you behave really does not have any impact on the job that you do and how productive and efficient you are.

But people do make assumptions about us by how we talk, how we look and how we behave. I may be sloppily dressed but the perfect fit for the role. In fact, I have recruited many people whose qualifications and experience matched with the job description though they did not look the role and they have proved to be excellent.

 But even now, I still agree with my therein mentor that the world is not perfect.  We are judged by our height weight, age, gender, dress, mannerisms . And again, whether we like it or not, perception matters a lot in the organization.  Unfortunate, but true !

People are selected and promoted who  look more like a person who is in the current senior role which you might be vying for.  So, my advise is, if you want to be selected or want to be promoted for a certain role, try to look like the person in that position.  If you think a bit deeply , you will understand that the people who are hiring or promoting are human beings . And as human beings we tend to be biased towards familiarity.  They want to take less risk. 

I am not saying that you forget about your skills and other requisite aspects about your employability or promotion prospects. I am just emphasizing on the fact that looking like the role might make things easier for you. 

It does not harm to conform . Especially so if  it makes you look more attractive as a candidate fit for that role . 

And on top of it, dressing appropriately also make us a wee bit more confident and there is  feel-good factor in our countenance which accelerates positive thoughts in our persona.

What do you think ? 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Teeny Weeny : The Tree

"I came here everyday to play ... I kept my bicycle here and played cricket ..." He told his wife , pointing towards the huge apartment.

He  had come to Varanasi, where he had spent his adolescent years,  for official work .

"There was a small house here and the adjoining playground used to teem with people in the evenings.... "

He could not tell about her... his first love ...  How he longed to see her standing on the roof of the house... her sweet smile,  her long hair , which she combed while looking at him....

She was looking so beautiful the day she got married.  He had gone to meet her with the other boys. As he gave her the gift, she touched his hands for the first time ... her eyes were full of tears... He will never forget her gaze ...

As he started to leave,  he saw the tree which she used to water everyday. It was in full bloom now with white champa flowers . The fragrance was permeating everywhere .

He touched the tree.

She whispered  "I am still here ...... Feel me, inhale my fragrance .... "

Teeny-Weenies will spice up the monotony of the leadership posts . Hope you like them.   
 Looking forward to your comments.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"I want an Idea every Tuesday Morning"

All of us know that creative and innovative ideas are needed for the growth of the organization. No matter how smart we are,  we don't know everything . Ideas are precious, but hard to find . 

Here in this post , I present a couple of real life situations which will make us realize why we make it either difficult or easy for the employees to be innovative and give creative suggestions.  The situations are suggestive and I hope self explanatory. 

Situation 1 

"I want an idea every Tuesday Morning ... " the boss roared.  

"Senior managers like you should be innovative . Where are your ideas ?  "

Tuesdays came and Tuesdays went, but no ideas could be generated. The boss roared and ranted , picked up the marker , went to the whiteboard , paced about , but ... no ideas ! 

Exasperated, the boss complained to me  "I want to listen to them  , I want suggestions, but it seems that their lips are sealed !"  

I asked him softly " Have you established a receptive climate for them to give ideas ? You know, just like you cannot force anybody to love you or respect you, you cannot force ideas from your team. The atmosphere has to be conducive... "

"But whenever I give any idea, all of them nod their heads in agreement, I know they have good ideas, but when I ask them to tell me, they just say that they want to go along with whatever I said !"

I did some talking around and then I again went to the boss and said "Are you sure that in the past they have not given you their ideas or suggestions ?  Think deeply. Did you reject them outright with sarcasm ? That is why they do not speak out. They feel what is the use - Our boss cannot take disagreements . Our suggestions will anyways will not make any difference ...!

Read my Post : I don't Agree

Situation 2 

Veeru always kept her office door open.  She was proud that by doing so, she encouraged her staff to come and see her anytime with their problems , complains, issues and suggestions.  

But hardly anyone came.  They were allowed, but then why didn't they come ? Maybe they did not have any problems or issues. But they worked hard and Veeru was sure that they had good suggestions which would help the organization. She was also under pressure from the Corporate office to get innovative ideas . 

One day , one of her managers resigned and she was a part of the exit interview . 

"You have been in the organization for quite a long time. Tell me one thing. I always keep my door open and this is an encouragement from me that anyone can come and talk to me about problems or suggestions. But somehow , no one comes. Can you tell me why ?"

"To tell you frankly, people know that the doors are physically open but psychologically closed.  Whenever someone comes , there is a look of annoyance on your face. It seems either you are too busy or people are not welcome to open up in front of you ... "

Veeru pondered over the discussion. She consulted her friends . Then she started keeping her door partially open. She set aside certain time of her day when she closed her laptop and smiled at people who came near the door. She started looking at their eyes during conversations and tried to be genuinely interested in what they had to say. 

Things improved dramatically. 

Situation 3 :

Anne believed in Management by walking around. (Read my post : Recipe for Successful Leadership : MBWA) She always walked about in the factory floor where the toothpaste was manufactured and packaged.  She asked the staff how things were . She also reviewed the process changes, machine maintenance status , problems reported earlier and she asked them about these and elicited comments about the progress and the problems being faced by the changes. She usually got innovative ideas and suggestions while walking around.  The people also knew that she wanted to hear them and if the ideas were good, they were appreciated and implemented. 

For example,  for the last few months there were customer complaints that there were many packets which were empty, i.e, the toothpaste was not put into the packet but were shipped to the suppliers. Lots of brainstorming was done.  Consultants were deployed who spent a lot of effort and money and gave a complex solution, involving major costs and augmentation of manpower. One day, while walking around, she saw a worker who was in the packaging area, he had put a forceful pedestal fan where the packets were being finally being packed after putting the toothpaste tube into it. Anne went and asked him why the fan was needed. 

"Well.  I have directed the fan towards the packets. If any packet is empty, it will be blown away and I will be able to detect that it does not have a toothpaste tube inside it !

Marvelous, isn't it ?

There are several other situations , but maybe I will talk about them in one of my next posts. 

In the meantime ,think about  how you will reject ideas without hurting the employee and without causing resentment.

Also, think, why the usual suggestion boxes kept in almost all the offices never get any thing in them! And put your thoughts in the comments below !

Till then , Ciao !!

Monday, 20 October 2014

How many times should you try ?

All of us have read the story of  Robert Bruce and the Spider. 

How the king - Robert Bruce, after being defeated 6 times was lying in the woods when he saw a spider weaving a web. Every time the spider tried to throw the thread to make the web, she failed and fell down. The seventh time the spunky spider won. This inspired the king to rise again and finally he won the battle. 

But in real life , how many times should we try ? 

Let me tell you the story of KFC . 

At 65 years of age, Colonel Sanders was broke and just  owned a small house in Kentucky.  He made a decision that things had to change. He loved to cook and his friends liked to eat the chicken he made at home.  The fact that this was the only novel idea as well as skill he had, he decided to act upon it.
He left Kentucky and traveled to  different US states to sell his idea. He would tell restaurant owners that he had a chicken recipe which people liked and he was ready to give it to them for free, in return for a small percentage on the items sold. He got rejections after rejections, but did not give up. In fact, he got over 1000 rejections.
He got 1009 NO’s before he got his first Yes. 
With that one success Colonel Hartland Sanders changed the eating habits of the whole world with Kentucky Fried Chicken, popularly known as KFC.
A few more counts : 
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected 3 times by the University of  Southern California before he decided to become a director
  • Sylvester Stallone was rejected 1500 times when he tried to sell himself and the script of "Rocky"
  • J K Rowling was rejected by a dozen publishers. Her first Harry Potter book got published because the CEO's 8 year old daughter begged him to publish it. 
  • Beethoven's teachers thought him to be hopeless in music. He composed his greatest works when he was completely deaf.
  • Vincent Van Gogh never saw success in his lifetime. But his works are considered to be the greatest paintings ever done .
  • Finally Thomas Edison. He only lasted three months in school where his teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything." He eventually was home schooled by his mom. In talking about his invention of the light bulb, he said :

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work.” - Thomas Edison

It is up to you to decide how many times you should try before giving up !

Thursday, 9 October 2014

7 Tips for Managing Content of the PPT

One day, when I was discussing some office matters with my brother,  my mother asked me . "Why do you always have to give presentations ? That too in office ? How much do you spend ? Do you always gift wrap it ? "

Both of us did not speak for a few seconds trying to comprehend her words.  It took us more than a few seconds to make her understand "presentation" in a business context. The vagaries of English language !!

Love it or hate it, you have got to use presentations because audiences expect it.   There are three basic tasks : Managing the content, creating appropriate supplements and delivering the content.  

I will elaborate on the first point in this post.

Managing the content :  
    • Content is the meat of your presentation.  This is what gives the presentation its weight and importance. But the content has to be organized in a meaningful way so that the audience knows why you are talking , Ask yourself "What do I want my audience to know ? "

    • The main point should be divided into sub-points.  This provides clarity as well as readability.  

    • Never ever put too much content on the slide. This will divert the attention of the audience from you towards the written words.  So, the content creation should be done very carefully . The main essence should be put on the slide , but the elaboration and the explanation should be done by your delivery. 

    • Also, the general claims you make in your content has to be supported for credibility. If you just say that " The company has made huge profits this year" , you should display the statistics of growth. Remember that pictorial representations makes greater impact than mere numbers. So, have fun with pie charts, bar graphs and histograms !

    • A picture talks a thousand words.  Again, be careful that your slides do not look cluttered.  Select an appropriate picture and make it the background.  This makes the slide look professional. Choose colours that contrast well. 

    • It goes without saying that the sentences should be grammatically correct , with a consistent capitalization style.

    • Use the notes section of the ppt. Since you will put short simple sentences - the best practice is to put not more than 6 bullet points , with each point not having more than 6 words in it, be sure to use the notes. This will help you practice and remember your talking points.  

Hope this helps. 

I will write about creating appropriate supplements and delivering the content in the next post.

On a lighter note,  I had attended a seminar a few years back when a speaker had started her talk without a presentation . She had made a powerful opening sentence , which I still remember . 

"If you have a powerful point to make, you do not need a powerpoint " !

Ciao !