Organization – Whom do we serve ?

customer_shareholder

Whom does an organization serve ?

Or

Whom should they serve ?

Or

In other words why do they exist ?

In my view , leaving out esoteric things like society, planet, GOD and other fancy stuff it could be boiled down to four principal players

They are

cust_share_1

Customers

I do not think this needs elaboration. I cannot fathom a business without customers. In a very convoluted sense they pay my bills.

Shareholders

This lot are a group of people who have invested their time and money in forming and growing the organization. They play a significant role in continually shaping the organization.

Managers

A special breed of people who act as a buffer between customers, shareholders and employees. In most cases they bear silently the misplaced brunt of other stakeholders.

Employees

The work horses. They are the artists who work tirelessly to make stuff happen.

So, my question boils down to

Is there a hierarchy in serving the stakeholders ?

Should there be a hierarchy ?

In my experience, there are two different kinds of hierarchy and I have spent significant time in both of them.

The ‘Customer Centric’ Hierarchy

cust_share_2

In this the customers come first, followed by employees, followed by managers and then shareholders.

The ‘Shareholder Centric’ Hierarchy

cust_share_3

In this the shareholders come first, followed by customers, followed by managers and then employees.

Which is better ?

Honestly, I do not have an answer and I feel the best answer is the classic retreat of ‘It Depends’.

However, I feel the Customer Centric works for small to medium sized organizations and the shareholder centric one works for medium to large size companies.

I also feel customer centric are more owner driven and shareholder centric are driven by professionals at the helm.

What do you think ?

Does your workplace fall in the above model ?

Which would you prefer ?

Is there a different pyramid other than the above ?

Are there more stakeholders ?

Can there ever be a one size fits all model ?

Ponder over.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Here is a link that talks about shareholder maximization.  It was just a coincidence that I found it and I am not taking a position.

Motivation – Increasing my vocabulary

motivation_vocabulary

Congratulations, a new personal record for walking

Farthest Distance
11.10 km

Longest Duration
1:43:16

Most Calories Burned
1040 cal

Largest Elevation Climb
110 m

Congratulations, a new personal record for walking

Fastest Average Pace
8:27 min / km

Congratulations, a new personal record for walking

Farthest Distance in a Week
16.28 km

Congratulations, a new personal record for walking

Most Calories Burned in a Week
1656 cal

Farthest Distance
9.11 km

Congratulations, a new personal record for walking

Most Calories Burned
861 cal

Largest Elevation Climb
85 m

Longest Duration

1:29:40

Apart from these as well

  • 33rd Fastest (5-7 KM) -02.36 from best
  • 2nd fastest (8-14 KM) -00.21 from best
  • 5th fastest (13-23 KM) -04.55 from best
  • 4th fastest (0-1 KM) -03.20 from best

 

Hold. Hold. Hold.  Before you write me off, allow me to explain.

The above are just snapshots from my daily app that I use RunKeeper for recording, tracking and reminding about my daily walks. You could me as a follower of the movement called Personal Quantified Self. (PQS).

As you would realize the statistics above is mind blowing in some way.

Not because of the statistics themselves, but for its ability to point something unique in my daily walk.

Even if I had crawled that day, it would say that you crawled the fastest between the 1st and 2nd second of the crawl!.

I get this momentary thrill every day seeing that the app does deliver some insight that motivates me and announces the congratulations for the day.

It brings me a smile for two reasons. One is that it tells me that I have notionally achieved something different and also I wonder what would have been the specification to the developer who did this. ‘Find some damned insight in anything that the person does for the day and congratulate them for it’ .

I have to agree that the developer has done a fascinating job.

I am extremely conservative in my appreciation towards anything or anybody including appreciating my own self (Not that I have done anything that warrants appreciation!).

I am looking at this whole insights from the machine with a new lens. I do not believe in this temporal machine driven insight as the results are very well in the mirror for me to see.

However, there seem to be two schools of thought. One is find something to appreciate everything and the other is the slightly old school of appreciate only when it is earned.

I am confused on this and also a bit divided on this, but I think this app has given me a new tool to increase my motivational or appreciation vocabulary in my day to day life.

As an example, this is a typical scenario at my home.

“My wife gives me tea and goes back to start cutting vegetables for breakfast. Typically, even before I start to sip the tea, she would need a feedback on the tea and she comes back with the knife with one hand(Slightly raised and pointed at me) and demands to know how the tea was”

I think I have found answers to what used to be Hobson’s choice.

My answers would be inspired from my PQS app

I will now have the option of saying

“Congratulations. A new record in making tea.”

The tea leaves were boiled 11 degree greater than yesterday.” and possibly zillion other daily insights that I can get.”

The knife rests back on the vegetable.

Live another day.

Have Fun (Enjoy Maadi)

Zunder

The Undoing Project

undoing_project

Why did I pick this book ?

The tagline of the book is “A friendship that changed the world”. To be frank, I got carried away by the tagline.  Also one of the author’s book was made into a movie ‘Moneyball’ which even a casual student of mathematics would have enjoyed. The other reason I am a continuous but lousy student of wanting to understand how people base their decisions and the science behind it.

What do I like about the book ?

This book gives a perspective about the intricacies behind the relationship between two professors of pscyhology Daniel Kahneman and Amos Trovsky. Despite being individually brilliant and different, it traces how they used their complementary skills to create a difference in every field ranging from defence to medicine. A very interesting example is the changing of the standard psychology test in the entry to Israeli defences forces. to predict which kind of unit the person should be assigned to from the beginning! Also the book talks about the undercurrents that happen when two equally brilliant people  colloborate.

What is one interesting idea that I learnt ?

The many motivations behind adapting psychology into economics and the implications for it. Some of the concepts like ‘loss aversion’ gave me an insight into my own decision making.

Also, The motivation behind choice architecture. You can see in gmail, when you type the word attachment and forgot to attach anything, it would ask ‘Did you forgot to attach’ or something like that.

How long it would take ?

It classifies as a heavy but fast read and would take anywhere between 18-24 hours.

Paras or Quotes that I liked

A part of good science is to see what everyone else can see but think no one else has ever said.

Have Fun (Enjoy Maadi)

Zunder

Mid-Career Blues – Part II

mid_career_blues

Last week we saw how an individual can work through the famous Mid-Career Blues. I would like to re-emphasize the buck stops with the individual navigating the blues.

However, it can be argued you are in the context of an organization for a mutually rewarding long term relationship and not everything is within your control.

I would have to say that is a fair point.

In the concluding part of this article, I look at what organizations can do. Also for the purpose of this article, when I say organization, I will refer to the Manager with whom you are making. I am making the assumption that this manager is reasonably empowered by the organization. If they are not then it would be mid-organization blues and that is beyond the scope of this article. When I say team in the context of the manager, it refers to the individuals in the team which could be you.

Manager.

At the outset, let me be fair to this creature. They have been brought to this fancy designation with little or zero clue about managing. In most cases , they are fine engineers who somehow fall in love with that designation. I also liked it and I do not know about most of you , but after I got this designation only, my parents decided I was an eligible bachelor and started hunting. Sorry to digress, but different story for a different day!

One thing the organizations can definitely do. If someone has extreme passion for engineering or equivalent aspiration for conquering a domain, kindly let them be that way. For heaven’s sake, do not turn them into managers.

Also , this is the lot that takes a lot of heat from everyone in the organization and have the need to maintain their overall composure. They tend to lose themselves working for everything around them and forget their own roots in the process.

However, are they completely helpless as I portray them to be. No they are not and they are in a position to shift the status quo a lot.

So how can a Manager ensure that his team someone does not get into the state of Mid-Career Blues and stay there as a zombie.

Here are a few things that I can think of which are useful.

Set an example

It may sound like a cliché, but no amount of arm chair philosophy is going to work. You got to do the work and in that sense be worthy of the role that you have been given.  People may forget what you said, but they will always remember what you did.  Also if they notice a congruent relationship between what you say and what you do, then you are in safe territory. If you call for a meeting at 10 AM and turn up at 10:30 , expecting your team to be understanding of you, they would be for once or twice , but if you make that a habit, then you are sowing the initial seeds of disillusion in your team. In short, if you say something, mean it.

Invest Time

Please do not think you do not have time to spend quality time with your folks. If not for them, you do not exist. Get to know them beyond work. Know what their interests are, what energizes them, what puts them off and possibly many other soft factors apart from work. Do not look at them as a means to an end. Make a genuine attempt to see them beyond their contribution margin. When you do this as a practice, you will know which one of your team member is going through the blues and effectively address it. You will have to work to earn their confidence and if you are just looking at them so as to complete an immediate transaction, they are going to see through it in due course of time.

Practice Pygmalion

Never lower the bar. Do what it takes to elevate the individual’s expectation of their own selves. Remember , you are not there to please them, but to get the best out of them. These days I am also realizing that it does not pay to be overtly critical, but do not soft pedal. Kindly hold them accountable to a higher standards than what they possibly can imagine. Their immediate reaction is that they might curse you, but in the longer run they would be thankful for what you did to them.

Continuous Learning

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

― Alvin Toffler

What have you done consciously to do the improve the learning of the individual over a period 3,6,9 and 12 months. What has been your contribution to the growth of the individual ?

If you think, it is important for you to nurture and grow them in every way. Your growth is directly proportional to their growth. You have grown, when you think you have become redundant in your role and that can happen only if you have grown a team that can function effectively in your absence. This is not going to happen if you are not worried about the learning aspirations of each individual and put them on to a path of continuous learning

Weeds have to go

Non performance has to be shunted out early and regularly.

A lesson , I learnt too late in life and possibly never effectively deployed, as I believed in Swami Vivekananda saying of ‘Each human being is potentially divine’. I still believe in that, but at times divinity does not show up. So you have to take action. By not doing you are sowing seeds for a non performing culture. I am not saying , lose your humanity, but find a path for those whose divinity does not show up despite repeated attempts and also make sure you confront this non-performance directly.  Do not outsource this.

I will stop with five and as you would all know, there is yet another often repeated study which says that ‘People do not leave organizations. They leave their bosses’.

I am not getting into an argument of if the above study is right or wrong, but by some strange design of fate, if you have the dreaded designation of ‘Manager’ responsible for some group of people, then ‘People are your number one business’. There is nothing more important than them in the scheme of your job description. If that does not sound like your favourite music to your ears, please go back , give back the designation and do what you love to do.

If I have to summarize on how to keep the blues away from your team and if there is only one thing you have to do, then start seeing them as individuals with aspirations, individuals who have a greater purpose than logging their weekly timesheets and then work relentlessly to ensure to meet their aspirations.

If I have to make a bad attempt at forming twitter like summary expression, here it goes.

‘Engage to transform. Not to transact”.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Decoding Two Minutes – A simpler alternative to the Turing Test.

two_minutes

To the uninitiated Turing Test is defined as follows (Courtesy TechTarget)

In artificial intelligence (AI), the Turing Test is a method for determining whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human. The test is named after Alan Turing, an English mathematician who pioneered artificial intelligence during the 1940s and 1950s, and who is credited with devising the original version of the test. According to this kind of test, a computer is deemed to have artificial intelligence if it can mimic human responses under specific conditions. In Turing’s test, if the human being conducting the test is unable to consistently determine whether an answer has been given by a computer or by another human being, then the computer is considered to have “passed” the test.

While there are different views on if the Turing Test has been really cracked , my version of the Turing Test is much more simple and slightly twisted.

Given a relationship between two persons and the word ‘Two Minutes’ uttered by one person, I want the computer to predict the actual time it will take with a + or – 5% accuracy. If the computer can predict that , then I will find a classifier term such as ‘Beyond AI and Machine Learning’  and possibly call it as Contextual Cognitive Intelligence or possibly more fancy term.

To give you some examples of the problem statement,

Here relationship is between two individuals for example

  • Manager and Employee
  • Mentor and Mentee
  • Vendor and Customer
  • Husband and Wife
  • Two Close Friends
  • Boy and Girl who are possibly dating each other or something like that
  • Two Colleagues
  • …..

Assume any such combinations

All I want to know is the following

If my boss says to wait for  two minutes, how much time I have to wait.

If my wife says two minutes she will be ready, what is the reasonable scale I have to apply so that my endurance does not break

If my friend says two minutes he will be at an appointed place, what time he will actually turn up

and the list can go on ………….

I think about it a bit and I do not think it falls into the category of ‘Parametric Model of Machine Learning Algorithm’ or in other words the parameters to determine the actual time are not fixed or the classic definition is as follows

“A learning model that summarizes data with a set of parameters of fixed size (independent of the number of training examples) is called a parametric model. No matter how much data you throw at a parametric model, it won’t change its mind about how many parameters it needs.”

(Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, page 737)”

In contrast, I do not think it fits the non-parametric model as well because there is some need to arrive at a pattern for unseen data.

Two Examples might clarify

When my boss states two minutes

It depends on

  • What state of mind they began the day with
  • What are the hundred complications for the day they faced
  • Did I mess their day in some sub-conscious way
  • Do they have to leave for an emergency
  • Are they in a frame of mind
  • Personal relationship we share
  • Their perceived importance of what I possibly want to discuss
  • Have they received some irate calls on the professional or personal front
  • …..

When my wife states two minutes

It depends on

  • Who initiated the outing
  • Who we are meeting (if we are meeting)
  • Where we are going
  • How we are going
  • With whom we are going
  • Who are all coming (Total population)
  • What is the past history of association
  • Is it a good time of the day
  • What colour dress I am wearing
  • Whether it is the Uttarayana or the dakshinayana
  • Pedigree of people coming
  • What type of food
  • Do we have to take any gift
  • What is the budget for the gift
  • Should we take umbrella
  • Should we take water bottle
  • Should we take short eats
  • Have we fought in the last 4 / 8 / 16 /32/64/256 hours or minutes

I can add more, but for the sake or brevity I will limit myself

To be fair to my wife and to be safe, the reverse possibly is true  as well.

So if you take these to other relationships, it will be possibly the same

It might also depend on the culture, time zone, power equation between the person who is waiting and the person who is saying ‘Two Minutes’, relationship asymmetry and possibly many other indefinite parameters.

I may be exaggerating, but I have not been able to successfully find an answer or a near accurate estimate when someone has said me ‘Two Minutes’ and I continue to hear it. That is the reason I am struggling.

In my view it is a NP-Hard problem and may be IBM Watson can claim to solve this sometime in future.

Hinduism defines something called Yugas and may be one reasonable question which might get me closer to an answer when someone tells me ‘Two Minutes’ is to follow up with a question of which Yuga they are referring to and map it to the current Kali Yuga.

I wish some researcher comes up with an effective predictive model for this and offer this as a foundation level Turing Test !

Till that time, I shall pray GOD to give me the endurance to enjoy the stochastic nature of responses to ‘Decoding Two Minutes’.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

WOODEN – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

wooden

Why did I pick this book ?

While generally researching about many things I came across this quote that stuck me

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are”.

The quote was uttered by the Legendary Basketball Coach of UCLA John Wooden , who lead them to 88 straight wins and whose ideas pervade throughout this book. He was also named ‘Coach of the Century’ by ESPN.

Also his ted talk was very impressive.

What do I like about the book ?

Things that look like common sense, but which we continue to ignore are clearly elucidated. Goes about to articulate nicely on what it takes to be successful in all aspects of life

What is one interesting idea that I learnt ?

“Do the work”. “Effort, Effort and Effort”. Nothing shall escape that.

Paras or Quotes that I liked

There is a section called “Is winning the only thing” ? which is reproduced below. I liked it.

Mr Vince Lombardi is supposed to have said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. Well, if he said that, I disagree. I believe making the total effort is everything. And that’s all I ever wanted and all I ever asked from myself or my players.

It’s all you should ever ask for or expect. Understand that you won’t actually ever become the best of which you are capable. That’s perfection. We can’t obtain perfection as i understand it. But we can work, and work hard, toward obtaining it. If you do that, you will never lose, in sports or in life.”

How long it would take ?

3 -4 hours

Parting Words

Couple of months back, I covered a book snippet about ‘Leading’ by Sir Alex Ferguson the legendary football coach.

Two different sports. Two different people. Many things are similar in what they both said and one thing which stands out is what possibly our teachers taught us in the moral science class in days where moral science used to be a subject in our high school.

It boils down to this one single line which both take great pains to repeatedly affirm

“THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO HARD WORK”

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

The Anatomy of two Classical Inspirational Songs

I wonder sometimes what makes a song classical.

In my definition, what makes a song classical is that it can give you Goosebumps when you listen to it even after decades.

What makes the difference ?

  • The Singer
  • The Music
  • The Lyrics
  • The Artist
  • The Cinematography
  • … ????

Two songs from the Tamil movie ‘Nizhalgal’ continues to be a source of inspiration to me even after three and half decades.

They are

Idhu oru Ponmalai

Madai Thirandhu

I can go back to these songs any day or in any state to lift up my mood

In some ways the above two songs marked the arrival of a generation and possibly laid the foundations for the transformation of a generation that was possibly rooted in traditions.

Also, the first song cemented the place for  Vairamuthu (Incidentally this was his first song as a lyricist), who cemented his place as one of the gifted poets for the people of Tamil Nadu

The second song in my view marked the transformation of Vaali, a established veteran by that time, who adapted himself to match the generational shifts happening around that time.

It is next to impossible to separate out any of the five elements mentioned above to dissect what stays with me. However , remove the artist and the cinematography( I think they have been captured pretty well), the song stays with me.

Now comes the tough part. It is impossible to remove the singer (by SPB), the Music  (The Maestro) and still enjoy the song.

However, what makes me go back to the song are the following immortal lines

Isaikkena isaigindra rasigargal raajjiyam enakke dhaan (இசைக்கென இசைக்கின்ற ரசிகர்கள் ராஜ்ஜியம் எனக்கே தான்) from Madai thirandhu

The above lines, for me the underlying philosophy is ‘Enjoy What you Do’

and

Vaanam Enakkoru Bothi Maram
Naalum Enakkathu Saethi Tharum
Oru Naal Ulagham Neethi Perum

(வானம் எனக்கொரு போதி மரம்

நாளும் எனக்கது சேதி தரும் ஒரு நாள் உலகம் நீதி பெரும்) from Idhu Oru Ponmalai

The above lines, for me the underlying philosophy is ‘Eternal Hope’.

In both cases, I have to say it is the lyrics which makes these songs immortal and I bow down to both the poets for having the power to lift a soul. SPB and The Maestro also are inspiring, but here I feel it is the words.

That is my view.

I do not think it is fair to separate out the singer, lyricist, composer, but I thought I will take a chance and share what brings me back to these songs and my verdict in this case is the lyrics.

What do you think ?

 

Zunder