Monthly Archives: September 2015

Mastering the art of surviving and thriving !

Life is all about juggling different balls. The more balls you are juggling, the more challenging it becomes and the test lies in not dropping a single one. Mastering the skills require real efforts to develop synchronization between mind, body and soul. More than a billion people are living in the same world but all of them having different types of balls to juggle – these balls may be work, passion, family, education or any other thing. A lot many people just go through life with no aim and leaving no impact on the world but a very few think about changing it for the betterment of others. Depending upon the way you want to live, you would be choosing your balls to juggle.

At times circumstances try to shape us and if we are not internally strong, we will get shaped the way these circumstances want us to but only with our strong will power we can not only push the circumstances to be shaped in our way but we would come out more stronger from tough situations. Life is full of crest and troughs – at times you just have to wait for the storm to go other times you may see clear sky and a clear path ahead and can easily rush through. The key to success lies in mastering the art of making judgment and hitting the nail.

Three internal forces which can make your employees work your way !

Employee Motivation

TOP LEADERSHIP

  • It should be much more interactive and formulate a strong system which shouldn’t rely too much excessively on personal opinions.
  • Bring more hope and more certainty by continuously interacting with employees, even working down the level; otherwise you will only be left with mediocre talent.
  • They should also realize that things have changed (both internal and external environment) from the time they were in a low cadre position. They should no more be looking for their own reflections in their sub-ordinates.
  • Bring Young Leadership up. Formulate interdepartmental teams of youngsters, to interact with Top Leadership directly; this will not only keep top management well informed of the ground realities but will also make youngsters feel more involved.
  • Create a culture of respect.
  • Build a mentoring a culture.

HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT:

  • Identify and train well educated employees as leaders with a positive attitude having diversity.
  • Interdepartmental transfers to be encouraged, as employees having alacrity for learning don’t like to get stuck with one dimensional routine job for years.
  • Money / Benefits are not the only source of motivation.
  • Salary Comparability / Benchmarking to be performed + Benefits like corporate memberships of Clubs etc. to bring more charm to the lives of employees and their families.
  • HR should have direct personalized/confidential level of communication with employees. How would I see my future here? It seems that much of it isn’t in my control. Should I keep waiting for the upper hierarchy to have some movements or vacancies; should business figures be the only criteria for promotion (even if I don’t have any contribution in formulating a clear strategy) and keep waiting for the crop to grow even from a dead land; should I keep worrying about ways to please bosses, even if I know at times it isn’t in the interest of company.
  • Formulate a talent Management program.
  • Make interdepartmental teams of employees and assign in general tasks like canteen management or any event management etc. This will keep them more involved and will give them “Sense of Achievement” (as if they may not get it from their immediate leaders). Such activities will also help HR in identifying talent.
  • System should be made stronger and too much reliance shouldn’t be placed on perceptions formed; as it happens that the preceptor has only “Hammer” in his/her tool box and every problem he/she perceives to be a “Nail”.
  • HR should be well aware with the capabilities (in terms of Knowledge, skills and attitude) of employees. It’s difficult but not impossible especially when employees are to be considered as customer from HR’s point of view, to serve in the best possible way.
  • Create a culture of respect.
  • Give Sense of Recognition/Achievement to Employees.

IMMEDIATE LEADERS:

They have a vital role to play as far as motivation level of employees is concerned.

In this role priority should not be given to such people who have this organisation as their only source of learning in their lives – as such people cannot bring change and their capabilities remain a subset of their previous bosses. Such people don’t bring change and don’t encourage change. They want to make the ball role as it has been rolling since their time.

Give Sense of Recognition/Achievement to Employees.

Create a culture of respect.

Build a mentoring Culture.

Need for a balanced organization: Thinking + Doing

Henry Ford once wondered querulously, “Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?”

Imagine if Wright brothers had to take approvals from their manager, General Managers etc. to build an airplane; or Thomas Edison had to first satisfy his bosses for his 1093 patents. They would have never been able to contribute to this world what they have given with their crazy unique ideas rather their jobs could be in threat on account of insanity and stupidity.

There exists a dilemma for many Business leaders to tackle. Whether they should proceed and organize their resources in a well disciplined (Army like) way or they should compromise all this on account of openness. There are pros and cons for both the approaches and none of them can be termed as perfect.

Discipline, Chain of command is good enough and in a way it is necessary; especially when you compare your organization with an armed force. But such an organization can not be a source of generating unique crazy ideas. In such organizations, targets/objectives (one form of it is MBO- Management By Objective) are highly regarded by management. As a result, you will find many of the employees running after a piece of paper (i.e. target form) for the whole year; irrespective of the fact they may miss many other breakthrough opportunities by just limiting all their attention to a piece of paper; which may lead to lack of self initiative by the employees and they may consider themselves only as a tool for management. This sort of feeling can especially be prevailing in first line employees. In such an organization, best business is usually handled by the best personnel and the business with less attractive figures is handed over to someone less talented.The leader of such an organization likes to remain at shore, so as the sub-ordinates. As Einstein once said, “A ship is safe at shore, but this is not what it is meant for”. Toyota (being considered as one of the best practicing management organization) did not consider only objectives to be the path to success and believed that first-line employees could be more than cogs in a soulless manufacturing machine. If given the right tools and training, they could be problem solvers, innovators, and change agents. For organizations, who consider innovation as their critical success factor, it is indispensable that they should bring openness in their culture. But on the other hand, there is too much of risk involved in allocating resources to any crazy unique idea.

Before we move on to find out any solution, lets first take a glance of how Breakthrough Ideas get obstructed (you can add some more bullets).

How do Ideas die out?
Lack of Openness
Lack of Culture of respect
Idea generators not properly managed.
Experience given much more preference over Imagination.
‘Doers’ are given preference over ‘Thinkers’.
Employees threatened of failures.
Figures/Numbers are given more preference over capabilities.
Performance considered only for short term results.

Ideally, an organization should be where ideas get promoted and at the same time there exists discipline and a chain of command. The foundation for such an organization is laid by segregating Primary Thinkers and Primary Doers in your organization.

Start changing the roles of people to get different ideas across the organization.

Three pillars of success !

What makes a person a champion whether he / she is a singer, an artist, a student, a teacher or a business man or any other professional you think of. Some say hard work, some say talent, some give credit to luck bla bla. Lots of things to say, we can keep on talking on this and never come precisely on what exactly is required.

Whatever you do! To become a champion only three things are required to be worked on (make your life easier) Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.

Knowledge plays its role as of foundation, basic building block and also supports the other two pillars.

Skills help in doing things effectually and plays a very visible role in dominating over others and becoming competent (like communication and presentation skills help in convincing others and taking the edge).

Attitude plays a front line role and is a major driver for converting potential energy into kinetic energy.

If you have K and S but negative A then still a lot remains to be done for achieving success. Attitude is one thing that is very common in its application whatever form of field or application is whether it be sports, job, teaching that’s why one must have something to do to get the attitude right, that something can be sports or religion whether one is a student, teacher, sportsman, doctor, engineer, scientist; good thing about attitude is, in every field almost the same sort of attitude (positive) required to achieve success (as they rightly say “ATTITUDE DRIVES TO ALTITUDE”), so if you have been a good sportsman and right now doing a job that will certainly be a strong point for having success in your hands.

Knowledge and skills define the area of expertise, specialization and field in which you are playing. To be the champion in your field, you have to strengthen these pillars, not only by gaining knowledge and mastering skills but also by being creative, which will help in exploring new avenues and new knowledge.

Creativity and innovation has played major contribution in the lives of individuals and nations for taking edge; it has proved to be the only short cut available for success.

Knowledge not only supports vertically but also horizontally by supporting and strengthening the other two pillars. Having knowledge of your field will help you strengthening your skills and developing a positive frame of mind with attitude.

One important thing that yet remains to be discussed is VISION which interconnects all the three pillars.

YOU HAVE ALL INSIDE YOU, IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TAKING IT OUT !

WHAT IS ESSENTIAL ?

JUST UNLEASH YOUR POTENTIAL !

DON’T REMAIN STATIC

BE MORE AND MORE KINETIC!

Trust – building block for an enterprise !

It all starts with a raw idea in mind then you connect this raw idea with the real world and think how different pieces (just like in a puzzle) would join together and form a complete picture? It’s a matter of climbing mountains after mountains and keeping an eye on your next target. But building a bigger enterprise can never be a one man show.

We must be pragmatic to realize that for doing bigger things in life, we can’t deliver alone. Connecting with like minded people is important and it is important to gain their trust for having synergy. Dreams become realities when you have passion to go forth with wisdom and confidence. We have to conquer our fears and have the guts to explore those avenues which have never been seen before. Trust connects people heart to heart and when this level of bondage is established, materialistic considerations become secondary. People start supporting you and become willing to move forth with you even in some cases regardless of any materialistic benefits in return. We must be pragmatic to realize that for doing bigger things in life, we can’t deliver alone. Connecting with like minded people is important and it is important to gain their trust for having synergy. Dreams become realities when you have passion to go forth with wisdom and confidence. We have to conquer our fears and have the guts to explore those avenues which have never been seen before. Trust connects people heart to heart and when this level of bondage is established, materialistic considerations become secondary. People start supporting you and become willing to move forth with you even in some cases regardless of any materialistic benefit in return.

Embedding Sustainability !

Sustainability has already become a widely talked about agenda globally. CEO’s around the world continue to face pressure from responsible investors and societies regarding the way they conduct business and how they interact with the stakeholders.

For those who hate personnel working in Corporate World and studying in Business Schools even to the extent of abandoning them should learn that Corporate world ain’t that selfish anymore and pupils studying in the business schools are not just concerned about wealth generation rather they too have a heart for the betterment of humanity.

At the heart of sustainability, lie two basic concepts:
1) Businesses assuming responsibility for the sake of betterment of society
2) There is a business case for sustainability when businesses invest in those areas for the betterment of society, which are linked with its own value chain.

In developing countries like Pakistan also sustainability is gradually coming to limelight in the corporate world with few companies taking responsibility and striving to take lead in pushing the Sustainability agenda. These companies include Engro Corp and its investment companies, Lucky Cement, Attock Cement, Crescent Steel and Allied Products and others. These companies have not only focused on the reporting aspect of sustainability rather they are keen to embed sustainability within their organization by assigning targets and also by inculcating it into the day to day routine and habits of their employees. Such embedding of sustainability will ensure that sustainability should not only be forced from the top of hierarchy rather it should also evolve from the bottom of organizational hierarchy.

Now the question is what sort of tool is appropriate to embed sustainability into an organization? Well, one can also think about using the flexible tool of Balanced Scorecard to embed sustainability targets and commitments. What Robert Kaplan and Norton came up with was Balanced Scorecard, a tool with four dimensions i.e. Customers’ Perspective, Finance Perspective, Internal Perspective and Learning Perspective. Using the tool, measurable targets are assigned to individuals and departments. If this tool can be slightly modified to include sustainability aspect, it can be helpful in cascading down the overall sustainability strategy of an organization to operational level.

The fifth perspective should be included in the tool as ‘Sustainability’ – this will include targets and commitments pertaining to the areas of:

  • Environment – Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) covering this aspect include Emissions intensity (e.g. tons of CO2 equivalent per unit of production), Energy intensity (e.g. Giga Joules of Energy per unit of production), Water footprint, waste, material consumption;
  • Occupational Health and Safety – KPIs covering this aspect include Total Recordable Injury Rate, Number of lost days, work-related fatalities;
  • Community investments’ impact – KPIs covering this aspect include number of children educated, number of patients treated;
  • Economic aspect – which not only ensures financial stability of the Company but also how the company can have a positive impact on the society. The KPIs pertaining to this aspect may include total amount spent on local suppliers engaged, number of employees hired from the local community, total payments made to the exchequer;
  • Labour and Human rights Practices – KPIs covering this aspect include employee turnover rate, top talent ratio, time to hire new employee and also ensuring that no child labour or forced labour incidents occur;
  • Product responsibility – KPIs covering this aspect include reduction in energy requirement for using a product, number of new sustainable products and ensuring no banned product is sold.

By embedding these aspects in the organization using Balanced Scorecard and by also making relevant KPIs part of the job description, will invigorate employees as they will now be held accountable and their career growth becomes dependent upon becoming truly responsible in their behavior and conduct.

We also need to move beyond restricted sustainability, this requires inculcating in the habits of employees to not only display responsible behavior within the organization but also in their personal lives. The employees should be recognized for displaying a responsible behavior in every walk of life – this recognition can be in terms of any award or incentive. This is an ideal state where employees develop a conscience which intrinsically holds the employees responsible for displaying a behavior of responsibility.

Romance in Business !

Often in business schools and professional training we learn to be diplomatic with whoever we are dealing with, in our job role – be it employees for HR professionals, sub-ordinates for team leaders or customers for sales professional. It is good to be diplomatic but not with the side-effect of becoming heartless to the extent that we become so much accustomed to dealing with them diplomatically that growing more senior we only master the art of giving justifications for everything we come across. We play using our mind and forget to put our heart into our tasks and that is when we forget the art of touching heart i.e. romance.

It is not just academics or number of years of experience that help you excel in your career – if you focus in just these things then you may succeed in learning the art of keeping your chair hot but not the art of touching heart. For touching heart of your customers, employees, sub-ordinates etc.; you must learn to walk the talk, putting yourself in their shoes and feeling their pain.

Last but not the least, for a successful romance (don’t take in the other sense that your wife would start raising eye brows while seeing you reading this article) in business, keep in mind the golden words of Steve Jobs:

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Pricing: It is all about hitting the nail!

As it is said, strategy is not an exact science; there exist multiple possibilities and ways to reach the target goal post. For as long as you are moving in the right direction, you have to keep on figuring out ways to reach the goal post and do not in any way succumb to the pressure of scoring own goal (kidding :)). This holds true for strategies devised in various fields; be it war, sports, medical treatment, IT or business. Overall business strategy also encapsulates pricing strategy and there are certain areas which need to be kept in mind before deducing the final answer. It is tantamount to solving multiple equations with various variables, simultaneously. For others, it may seem just a simple answer as E=mc2 but deducing this conclusion involved playing with a list of variables. Few of the variables to be considered for deducing a meaningful price are mentioned below:

Products and services are made for generating value for customers

The ultimate purpose of any enterprise to exist is to generate value for its multiple stakeholders (not just shareholders). When products and services are formulated to deliver to customers, the ultimate aim should not be just profit making rather it should be delivering value to the customer. Say, a product which costs you $80, sold at a price of $100 should deliver value to the customer at $100+.This is cost plus pricing, an example can be an electrical component in a panel which may cost you $80 and you sell it to your customers at $100. But the true worth of that component is $100+ in the sense that if the component is not timely installed; it may result in a total shut down of the plant which may cost the customer millions of production loss.

Align product and service portfolio with market needs

Innovation is useless, if it cannot serve to enhance value for stakeholders. You have to understand the market and get a good grasp of what your target market really needs then align your portfolio of products and services with the market needs. Such analysis will assist in devising a better game plan and you can either adopt a market based pricing approach or economics driven (demand and supply based) pricing approach.

Understand your niche (target market)

To understand your niche, you need to have a good street smart mindset which would enable you to have first hand sense of the market. Based on that sense, you can develop a holistic approach for designing your product and services portfolio at an appropriate price. It is just like hitting the nail with a hammer.

Understand substitutes and competing products

If you do not have a good understanding of your competitors and substitutes, you would never be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You have to think what they think and how do they evaluate different options? From my personal experience, when I was leading the launch of Busway Systems in Pakistan for Siemens; I not only had to have good understanding of our competitors in busway system but also grasped a good understanding of substitute products i.e. cables. By doing so, I was in a better position to answer the concerns of persons sitting on the other side of the table.

Hope this helps you in framing a better strategy and spotting the right opportunities.