John reached the office at 8 am itself. John is the ‘Manager – Marketing’ in the Automotive ancillary company. Normally he comes to office at 8.45 am as the office time is 9 am. But, he is very enthu about coming to office on every Monday as he has his Learning hour today. He can access the Learning programs from his home. But, he loves to sit at his desk and complete the Learning for the week undisturbed. His son has grown up. But, still there is some time to go to School. While at home, John loves to play with his son. He was worried his son will disturb him at his ‘most favorite work’.
John logged on to the ‘Learning Management System’ of the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ (whom the company of John appointed a few months back to manage all the learning of the employees). There were Two Micro Learning modules waiting for John. John also took out the Work book that reached him the Friday evening. The ‘Work book’ helps him to write down a few learnings and also do a few exercises.
John started going thru the E-Learning video about ‘Dos and Don’ts while designing the Social media promotion’. These are John’s company’s own Check list of what can be done and what cannot be done while designing the Social media campaigns. This week John has meeting with his vendor for Social media campaign. John is working out the agenda with them so that the Vendor company can go on for the Quarter.
John also has another Learning module about ‘Preparing Marketing Plan using 7Ps of Marketing’. This is slightly longer module. It goes on for 20 minutes. John has to initiate his team to prepare the Marketing plan for the next year. This is a refresher course for John. This module teaches John about ‘Their company’s way of preparing Market plan’. John goes thru this module every year before he starts the Market plan work. It helps him to refresh his knowledge about Market plan preparation. It helps him to guide his team very well.
John could see on his home screen of LMS that he has a few more modules coming up for the next week and the week after. Each week he has to spend about an hour on learning. This practice has started in his company three months back. The E-Learning videos given by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ are quite interesting to go thru. They always build a situation around the learning and render the learning thru an animated video. It is quite fun to go thru the video and learn the concept.
At the same time, the Production Manager of the Company, Vijay was passing through Marketing department. He saw John and stopped for a chat. ‘Hey John I see that you are starting the week with your Learning agenda for the week. Great way to start the week’. John agreed with him ‘Yes Vijay this is my most favorite part of the week’. This month I am expecting to complete my Learning agenda for the Quarter and I will get a Certificate from our ‘Training and Certification Partner’’.
Vijay was happy to hear that ‘Yes John, that is great. I have completed two Micro Modules at home yesterday Sunday. It took me an hour to complete both of them and take the test too. Now I can peacefully attend to the Customer visit today’.
Vijay also has a Weekly learning agenda for himself. He can remember how they had some problem in getting used to this ‘Weekly Learning Agenda’ introduced by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ along with the HR & Operations Head. But, those initial troubles settled down in the first month itself. The Learning was made fun and everyone waited to go thru the Learning modules.
Learning @ the Speed of Business
Exwhyzed Limited, the company of John and Vijay adapted modern learning methods using technology 3 months back. They outsourced the whole Learning agenda in the Company to an outside Partner who are experts in Manufacturing and Learning Methods. This company consists of Manufacturing Professionals who are good at Learning methods. They understand all Business aspects unlike many IT companies who are only ‘techies’.
The new way of learning meant the following to the Company:
- The Training and Certification Company identified the Skills that are needed for every employee. This constituted Functional and Behavioral skills.
- On the basis of the Business agenda for the Year / Quarter / Month, they identified the Learning priorities of the Company’s employees in different functions for the year.
- These Learning Priorities were something that would help employees immediately in handling their Business agenda. They learn and they use the skills immediately.
- The Partner company developed Interesting E-Learning Videos on the specific topics.
- Wherever some very BIG topics are there like Lean Manufacturing, there was some face to face training was there too at the beginning of the year.
- The Partner company set up a ‘Learning Centre’ for the company that had physical facilities for training as well as a few Work stations for company’s employees to take E-Learning Lessons. Whoever wanted to use this facility could come to the Learning Centre. It is like ‘Library’ in the Company. Silent and inviting.
- The Partner company interacts with the HODs and HR every month to understand the Learning agenda for each employee in the Company. Then they populate those Videos in the Learning Management System. They give access to the employees as needed.
- The Partner company’s employees follow up with employees who are lagging on completing the Learning modules and motivate them to complete the courses. There are hardly any laggards as the Learning has become priority for everyone.
- HR has already announced that ‘Skills Certification’ will be mandatory from the next Quarter for every employee.
- The employees can access the Learning modules from their Smart phones too. This made it convenient for the employees to complete their weekly learning agenda. Usually the Weekly Learning agenda does not cross about an Hour.
- The Partner company along with Operations Head monitor the Target achievement of the employees on a monthly basis. The Learning agenda of employees is Fine-tuned on the basis of their performance.
This methodology started working very well in the last three months. This way each employee would Learn for 6-8 days in every year. This is quite healthy to start with. The best thing is, this learning is directly linked to the Results that the employees are producing.
Revolution in the Learning methods
The above scenario may very well exist in many Companies World Wide in next few years.
Today the technology that is available to all of us enables us to do this. The Learning has to become ‘Contextual’ and it has to be given at the ‘Point of need’. This would make the Learning very effective.
The Learning Modules that the company develops would be a one time investment. But, they would be available to the company forever. I suggest an external Partner as this would be a very big change that a company would be implementing, and a Partner initially can help in a big way.
Even today, when an employee is forced to learn about something because he does not know that topic, he takes to ‘Google’. He will try to learn that topic by hook or crook. So, the willingness to learn is there.
Unfortunately, there are somethings that he can not learn from Google. These are typically Company specific Product knowledge, Process knowledge etc.
We only have to create our own resource bank for the employee. Employees are willing to learn on the go using their smart phones or tablets and so on.
This is a very important aspect of Digitalization that a company has to go thru. If you are able to activate your employees and make them more effective at work, the results can surprise you!!
When are you starting off?
In many companies, the cost of White-Collar Staff is very significant. By international standards, the number of staff that Indian Companies hire is significantly high. The Productivity of the Staff in a company seems to be very low. We seem to be throwing ‘Warm Bodies’ at work and problems! More Problems, more ‘Warm Bodies’..
The Indian Companies have been waking up to the higher costs of employees in the past Decade or so. The profits are under pressure. Top line is not growing as aggressively as one may want.
In this situation too, many companies have been addressing the Blue-Collar cost. Companies have been trying to hire cheaper and cheaper labor. I know many companies who try to run the whole Manufacturing Plant with temporary and low-cost labor. Genuine attempts to improve Productivity have not been many. Indian Companies have a long way to go in improving the Blue Collar Productivity.
By Comparison, the White Collar Productivity had been an unexplored area for most of the Companies.
No Standards for work!!
Most of the Companies do not have a Standard for the work of the White Collar Employees. What is the work each Position should be doing and what is the Standard time and effort that each of the work is supposed to take?
Resultantly there is no measure for the work of the White-Collar Employees. When something is not getting done, more employees are recruited. Sometimes having more people will result in more confusion and more inefficiency.
The other side of this continuum is that some companies simply refuse to recruit White Collar Employees or fire who is there. Even this act will not have any rationale. Usually it is the ‘feel’ of the Boss who may just ‘feel’ there are too many people and they are ‘wasting’ their time!
Direct and Indirect Cost of White-Collar Employees and their work
The White-Collar employees are tasked in every company with very important tasks. They decide what Raw Materials have to be purchased, at what cost, how much inventory to keep, what price to sell a product, how to market the products and many other crucial decisions.
So, the money that the Companies spend on the Salaries of the White-Collar employees is only a small proportion of the Total cost. The Cost that this group of Employees can inflict on a Company is huge. They and the work that they do can either make or break the Profits of a Company.
Hence, this category of employees deserve a much higher Quality attention! It is not enough to just focus on Blue collar and drive their productivity !
What needs to be addressed?
Companies need to consider addressing two elements of this category of employees.
01. The numbers in this category. How many people you have and how you can optimize this number? This ensures you spend as little as possible on this category of costly employees. This addresses the Direct cost of White-collar employees.
02. The Quality of the work and decisions of this category of employees. Companies need to pay attention to this as they can inflict a very high cost on the company due to the quality of the decisions that they may take.
Let us address these issues in two or three articles.
Addressing the Direct Cost of the White-Collar Employees
This again can be addressed at two levels. You can improve the Productivity of White-collar Employees in two phases.
a) Multiply the Productivity by applying the Lean Principles.
b) Go to a new level of Productivity and way of working by adapting Technology tools that are available today.
Multiply the Productivity using Lean Principles
I would suggest a methodology to address this area.
While many companies may have KPIs for their Employees and may be some of them are using them well, the Productivity at Task level may still be suffering.
Have a Target: When you start improving the White-Collar Productivity, it is important to have a CLEAR target. I would suggest the target as ‘Avoid recruitment for next one/two years’. Do not start with a target of ‘Cutting 25% of Staff’. This would be like cutting the foot to fit the shoe. While this is so basic and everyone should be knowing, I see many companies just firing Staff to reduce costs!! A Good team is what the Management should be looking to build. They would reduce costs and improve profits!
Log your time: Encourage the employees to log their time and find out what are they actually spending their time on. You can give them Log sheets and ask them to capture what they are doing and to what KPI is it really related to. This effort may give you a long list of activities. Pick the Pareto items for improvement. You need to do this for each Position in the company.
Time Study: Study the specific Tasks on which you are spending significant part of your time. By capturing the micro details of the Task, you can examine the various losses that you have in doing that particular task. Usually you would have very BIG losses.
Identify Kaizens: Identify the improvements that you can do to reduce the time that the task takes. The improvements may involve changing the Work flows, changing the authorizations, improving the ERP features and many other activities.
Carry out the Kaizens: Here, the company has to move with some great purpose. One should not be stuck with some Kaizens that are difficult to implement. It may involve modifying your ERP and modifying your methods. Good amount of ‘Change Management’ is needed here.
Multiply the Productivity
One should aim at improving Productivity by 2-3 times with this methodology. A lesser target will not justify the effort and possibilities that are there in every organization.
Wherever IMA handled this type of Project, the improvement in Productivity was at least twice.
What is critical: Try out in one model area. Take the help of outsiders in this project. An outsider can bring a fresh perspective for this work. But, you should develop an internal team that would focus on Productivity of People forever.
Next Article: We will examine how an Organization can transit in to a New Way of working at the next level of improvement.
In my interactions with about 100+ Companies as part of my Consultancy and Job experience, I have seen many problems related to Lack of Knowledge on the part of Employees in companies. Every company struggles with this problem. Some have identified that this is the problem. Some struggle the consequences without understanding the Root cause. Let us examine a few of them.
Customer facing teams not having the knowledge of Product and Company: Today, we are all losing the people in Sales, Service and Marketing teams quite often. New people keep coming in almost every month! But, my observation is that Companies do not have any tool for teaching these new people or some companies have very ineffective tools. Very few companies (may be 2%) have good systems for teaching them in a systematic manner. Result is that we have loose Cannons going to Customers and promising the sky, moon and the Galaxy whereas the company is here on earth! This is perhaps the most dangerous of all the problems related to knowledge.
R&D Teams working with low / no knowledge of product: The R&D teams also are losing many people every month in most of the companies. Again when the new people come, companies do not teach them about their product or they say they don’t have time to teach them !! Result is that the R&D Engineers are designing the products / parts without understanding the Big picture. This creates more iterations at the best and companies lose big opportunities for optimization of their new products at the worst.
Operators on the Shop floor manufacturing the product without knowing the process: I am sure all of you are suffering with the problem of losing Operators on the Shop floor every month in a big number. Still, very few companies have good teaching methods for the new operators. Some companies have Training schools. But, use very ineffective processes to teach them about the Manufacturing Processes. Result is that the Company loses a lot of People Productivity as new people do not produce at standard rate for quite some time. The Company also loses in a big way in Quality. I have seen many companies who are living with this problem for years without addressing it !! They not only lose money, they lose customer confidence and they lose Top Line !
Manufacturing Team not exposed to Lean: Most of the Indian Companies have Manufacturing Teams who are not conversant with Lean Principles. This problem is there at senior levels as well as junior levels. This results in companies working in a very inefficient way. They use resources at least 2X than what is required. Many companies feel very happy if they can meet 100% of the Customer Schedule. They are not focusing on working efficiently and saving some big money.
The same type of problems are there in Procurement where the teams do not have knowledge of Best Procurement practices, Engineering teams not conversant with Value Engineering principles, HR Teams not knowing about better Training practices, Stores teams not having knowledge of Kanban, Inventory Management.. the list can be long.
Indian Companies are working with lot of inefficiency! We can improve our Bottom line and Top line in a big way if only we can address this problem of Employee Knowledge in respective areas.
Today we have Technology Solutions
Today there is enough technology available for companies to leverage and develop Learning Solutions for the employees.
E-Learning: Using E-Learning, the Knowledge required can be taught to the employees in a systematic and uniform manner. The advantages of this technology are as follows:
a) Make the learning interesting.
b) Make it uniform for all employees.
c) Test the knowledge and certify the employees.
d) Repeat all this at no extra cost throughout the year and beyond.
Virtual Reality: Using 3D and VR, one can teach about Product and Technology. The 3D Videos can help you to give a unique experience to the employees to look at the Products In a Virtual manner, look at them from all angles and understand the small details very well. This technology can be applied using the VR Goggles. This technology can be used in Product technology and it can also be used to convey an Induction program that will take a remote employee right in to the Factory using 360 Degree Video. There can be many more applications to this technology. Augmented Reality is another related technology that is available in this area.
Gaming:Gaming has multiple approaches in Companies. Especially in Manufacturing. Using this, the knowledge can be conveyed in an innovative manner. Gaming can also be used to expose the Employees to different Business Problems in a fun or serious manner. Serious Gaming can be quite useful to companies to enhance Learning.
How can you apply these Technologies?
Develop Solutions: A Company needs to get the Learning Solutions developed as a one-time affair. This is going to take some time for companies to do it. All the Knowledge that is needed for a company may not be available in a documented manner. The Knowledge has to be documented and it has to be used along with the Technology to develop innovative solutions.
Proficiency Levels: The Proficiency levels have to be defined in a Company for Employees at various levels in each type of Knowledge. Product knowledge is needed for an R&D Engineer at the highest level. But, for a HR Executive this may be required at a much lower level.
Learning Management: The Courses to convey the knowledge have to be made available to the employees for learning and certification. This data base has to be maintained using a Learning Management System.
Learning Centers: Learning Centers can be developed with a combination of Physical work benches and E-Learning Videos that help the employees to learn the process theoretically and then apply it on the work bench. One can aim at bringing the new employees to the required Productivity and Quality in the Learning Centers before allowing them to the Shop floors.
Organizational push: While all this can be done, the Employees also have to take responsibility to learn. To ensure this, the Companies can think of making Learning and Certification of employees a mandatory affair. Unless the Employees are Certified, they may not be eligible for participating in the Annual Performance evaluation. This will ensure there is a Pull from Employees for the Learning and Certification.
A Company can revolutionize learning and get tangible results with this approach. I believe Companies should take help from outside to do this. I personally would prefer People with good application knowledge than those who are expert IT People. In this area what is required is the innovative application ability.
Are you ready to take your Learning to a new level ?
What is Critical: To understand the Technology and applying it in a Model area is important to realize the power of this approach.
Today, India is becoming more and more prominent on the world stage. Whether it is the Business arena or Political arena or Health, Art & Culture, the world is looking at India with higher expectations. Indian Leaders are playing a prominent role on the World Stage. Whether it is the Sundar Pichaiah (Google), Sathya Nadella (Microsoft), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe) or Dr.Soumya Swamnithan (WHO), many more Indians are in prominent roles world wide. Indian Businesses are going out to the World. Acquisitions by Indian Companies are increasing.
Indian Leaders to prepare themselves !
There are several Leadership Models that are available in the world including several with the Corporates. Many of these models are having ‘Self-Management’ as one element of the Leadership. But, they are all predominantly ‘outgoing’. They talk about what the Leader has to do out in the world. In Sanskrit these are called ‘Paraak’ (Outgoing). But, for a Leader to be effective, he has to be a master of his ‘self’. He has to undertake a journey in to his ‘self’. This is called ‘Pratyak’ (Inward).
India is having more than 5000 years of History in this Science as recorded in the Vedanta and Upanishads. This is the Science of ‘Self’. While I have read some of the Upanishads as explained by Swami Ranganathananda ji (EX-President of Ramakrishna Mutt), I am not an expert on this subject by any yard stick.
But, I strongly feel we as Indians can adapt a Leadership Model that is focused on ‘Self’. Whatever the Leader may want to get done in the outside world, whoever he may be dreaming of influencing, he has to start with himself. He has to manage his ‘self’ and develop his ‘self’ to inspire others.
A well evolved Leader can project a New and Dynamic world around him/her.
The Indian philosophy of Leadership is that you have all that takes to become a fantastic leader in your ‘self’. It is already there. You have to only unlearn your old habits and take off the dust on the ‘mirror’. Once you take the ‘dust’ (old habits), your ‘self’ will shine through.
On the basis of this philosophy:
We can adapt a Leadership model that centers around ‘Wellness of the Leader’ through maximizing the Four Energies that all of us have and Inspiring a Wonderful Change all around us.
If a Leader can Manage and Maximize his four Energies and use them well, he can have a wonderful effect on the world around him. He / She will be able to inspire the people around them and help them achieve something Superlative.
Physical Energy: A Leader has to manage his Physical energy very well. My observation is that only a small proportion of the Leaders who are actively managing high responsibilities take care of their Physical energies. A Leader may maximize his/her Physical energy by Physical exercises / Walking / Zumba/ Yoga or any other means. Those of you who regularly exercise will agree with me that a good Work out actually lifts your energy and not consume it.
Emotional Energy: A Leader has to manage his/her emotions and maximize Positive emotional energy and minimize Negative Emotional Energy. You would have noticed that Positive Emotions would propel you to do more than what you would have thought possible and Negative Emotions would kill your day on an otherwise wonderful day at office. A Leader can use the energy from the Positive Emotions while avoid becoming an Emotional Person.
Mental Energy: A Mind that is focused can work like a Laser beam. Today, we have several threats to our Focus in the shape of several Electronic Instruments around us. ‘Multitasking’ is becoming the order of the day. Multitasking simply does not work. You cannot be efficient while handling several things at a time. You would have experienced a wonderful efficiency when you simply shut out everything and focused on one task. You would have also experienced a situation where you were trying to do several things and not able to do anything properly.
Spiritual Energy: This perhaps is the most powerful energy that all of us have. But, many of us would not have tapped in to it as yet. This is the energy that we can access when we keep a higher goal for ourselves that is beyond our selfish interests. One of my friend participated in helping the Chennai Flood victims a few years back. He worked for 20 days every day about 16-18 hours travelling all around Chennai. He says he was totally drained of his physical energy. But, was able to carry on as he felt he is doing something wonderful to the fellow human beings. After this experience, he has become a Believer in working for something higher ! Now, he has a higher goal in his life to help people around him while he is working and earning for his family which is a basic need.
If a Leader is having a higher goal of doing something beyond his selfish requirements, he will tap in to this energy. He will do a larger good and he will also achieve his/her own personal goals too.
An Entrepreneur may have the goal of achieving Rs 1000 Crores , he may also redefine the goal as ‘Giving employment to 2000 employees’. If he redefines it as the second one, he may go beyond his own selfish requirements. By defining it in the second way, he need not sacrifice his first goal.
You would have noticed that Big companies like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Tata Steel have their Goal that look beyond themselves. The Social Goal becomes the bigger goal. Their own Financial goals become a sub set of the larger goal.
How to Develop ourselves as per this model?
India has the resources to help us develop ourselves as per this Leadership Model. We have several Spiritual Leaders who are propagating these methods. These are Yoga, Meditation and several other tools. I am not sitting in judgement of how good the Spiritual Leaders are individually. But, the methodology that all of them are using is something that can work for us. Take what is good from them.
As I know, this Leadership Model and this methodology to develop ourselves has nothing to do with any Religion. It has got everything to do with Human Beings. As such all Human Beings can use it!
What is Critical: One needs to learn about the ‘Indian methods’ that are available in India. We need to explore more in to the concepts to decide how it can help us!!
For those of you who have been on your own for some time, I do not have to convince you about the fact that your Energy levels may be much higher when you are on your own as compared to the time when you worked in a Job. This is not to blame the job or Boss or anyone else. This is just a fact.
One can realise the highest level of Energy if you are not just chasing higher money and you are chasing your dream in terms of the higher achievement in your life / Career. When you are on your own, there is no difference between your life and your career.
I have been on my own for the past 6 years and more. I could clarify to myself that the higher goal for my life is to ‘Help others to grow’. I need to earn money to take care of basics for life. But, my philosophy is to ‘Help others to grow’. So, I am not looking for money in everything. I am able to enjoy my work more when I free myself from this necessity to ‘look for money in everything’. If you are progressing towards your higher goal, then your lower goals would be met. Have no doubt!
What are the Energy Blockers in Job?
There are certain Energy Blockers when you are in Job. These Energy Blockers may not be there in equal proportions in all companies. There may be some companies who may be able to enable the energies of the Stake holders to flow freely and achieve higher goals. These companies typically have their Mission also in the higher terms. For example, the Mission of Mitsubishi is to ‘Move the World Forward’ with its’ prime movers Engines / Motors and so on. The mission of Toyota is to ‘Further the Mobility on the Planet’.
Tata Steel’s tag line is ‘We also make tomorrow’ highlighting their intention to contribute to the tomorrow of everyone. I remember a few years back Tata Steel used to talk about ‘We also make Steel’ to highlight the fact that they are ready to contribute to much more than just Steel.
These companies do not look at furthering their own agenda and ignore the people involved. If the companies are guided only by the Annual / Quarterly results, then these companies will not be good places to work. The companies that I spoke about earlier do take care of the Annual / Quarterly results by not being obsessed by it.
Let us look at couple of Energy Blockersthat may be there in a Job:
01. You may not be doing the work that you like: A higher percentage of today’s youngsters are trying to do what they like and are trying not to get in to whatever is available. But, still majority of the Job seekers at all ages are just getting in to whatever is available. So, you may not be doing what you really like. But, you need to reflect whether you know ‘What you really like’. My observation is that many of us need to ‘unearth’ our Passion. It may not be very apparent. Whatever you may think is your ‘Passion’ may not live long. Try ‘unearthing’ what your Passion is..You need to really reflect to do this.
02. Your Organization and you may not be aligning: You may think you like what you are doing. Infact, some people may think they are ‘really enjoying’ what they are doing. One agenda is to ‘unearth’ what your real passion is. But, your Energy may not be flowing fully as it is very difficult for everything in your organization to align with your thinking. You may not agree on the Ends or Means to achieve the Ends.There can be several reasons for the non-alignment.
What are the Perks of being on your own?
01. You can create your story: When you are on your own, you can be the creator of your Story. You can plan your Career / Business and ensure progress on it. This is the most obvious perk that you can have.
02. You can build up your Story as you like: While you may start with what you like, you can develop it and make it flower the way you want. You may build several steps towards your Life / Career Mission.
03. You can do what you always wanted to do in addition to your Business: For example, If you always wanted to contribute to a Social cause in addition to your work, now you have a wonderful chance to just do that.
01. You can be in touch with your ‘Real You’: When you are an Entrepreneur, the need to be in harmony with the world around you will ensure that you keep your ego aside and deal with everyone around you. This is a huge opportunity for you to be in touch with your ‘Real You’. Of course once you are successful, you may go back to your ‘old being’. But, you have the opportunity to choose the ‘Real you’.
02. You may earn much more than what you would earn in a job: You normally start off with this goal. But, you may have to wait for some time before you can achieve this. You may earn much more than what you would earn in a job over a period of time.
03. You may create something that is lasting: Every Entrepreneur has this chance to create something that is lasting beyond himself. You have a chance to create a great value for the Society.
There are so many benefits that if you use this opportunity well, you can learn much more in life than what you would do if you work in a Job!
Critical factor: If you are on your own, I feel the most important thing is to have higher Goal and really enjoy what you are doing. All other Commercial Goals will be achieved if you are progressing towards this higher Goal. All the Very Best !!
In the last few years, we can see a very good Start up culture across the Country. We can see Youngsters and Older people alike getting in to some Business or the other. Industries across India are in a ‘Correction mode’ where they have stopped recruiting as they used to and are in the phase of improving People Productivity. So, the Jobs are not available in plenty. This is also pushing some people to go on their own.
I consider this as a highly positive development. People of India have the choice of going on their own. Many Professions are gaining the respectability that they deserve. Some years back, selling food on the Road side may not have been preferred by Educated youngsters. But, now the Food Trucks are well respected and you can see well educated youngsters getting in to it. This is how a Society develops. More Capable people enter in to every area and generally there will be an upliftment of the work concerned with Customers getting better Quality for lesser price.
You can see this happening in Politics too. More Educated people are getting in to Politics. You can see some good examples like Nandan Nilekani who are prepared to throw their hat in to serve in a field. I am sure this will lift the arena of Politics and Politicians. We need more to happen in this area.
Job or Business ?
I notice that there are atleast Four types of People around us.
01. Early adapters: These people may be second Generation in a Business Family or they may be first generation Businessmen / Women who chose to go on their own immediately after Education. I personally like this category very much as I feel they have chosen their Mission early on.
02. Planned adapters: I see a lot of people coming in to Business this way. They earn some money and experience before they make up their mind to do what they want to.
03. Better Late than never adapters: These are the Professionals who would have put in 15-25 years in the Industry and then decided to leverage their long experience to do something on their own.
04. Second Innings: These are perhaps people who start doing something after gaining lot of experience and saving some money.
I belong to the third category above. I personally feel there is nothing wrong with any of the above categories. We are all what we are ! Each of us have our own Priorities and Compulsions in our lives.
Why do we want to go on our own ?
It is perfectly okay to Work in a Job or Be on your own. We need to understand what drives us as individuals.
Some of us are quite happy working in a 9 – 5 Job. We get adjusted to the demands of the Job. We find our peace in it. We build our lives around the Companies that we are working for. Some of us may not be working in a single company. We may shift our jobs. But, we are quite fine with working in a job. We build our homes, educate our children and we keep progressing in our lives. This is perfect as long as you enjoy what you are doing.
There are some of us who are not happy doing the 9-5 job. You always have this burning desire to do something more and something what you always wanted to. This person also has the same needs as the person discussed in the previous para. But, this person is motivated by something more. Initially, this person may not have his Goal clearly spelt out. This person may be unhappy many times at the job. There may be nothing wrong with the job. But, what is causing the struggle in his/her mind is his/her own ‘nature’. He wants to do something on his own and Create something in a different manner.
Put your finger on it..
I request those ‘Own Types’ to recognize this desire in them. It requires some amount of reflection and soul searching to find this. There is no point in blaming the job you are in or your colleagues and your Boss. What is causing the discomfort is ‘your own nature’. Recognize this and take steps to fulfill this in a nice manner. For all you know, you may be able to do something for the Company that you have been working for.
What to look out for?
Having been on my own for the past 6 years, I have gone through the metamorphosis of being in ‘Senior Positions’ to being ‘on my own’. I would like to share my experiences on being on my own and what you can look out for:
01. Leave your ‘I am Boss’ feeling in your last job: When you work in a fairly Senior Position in your Company, you would have gotten used to being pampered by your team. You get a lot of respect whether you deserve it or not. That comes with the Position you were working for. When you come on your own, you have to EARN this with every single person that you meet. Your ‘Past’ can get you somewhere. But, not everywhere. So, clearly ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’ !
02. Learn to do small things on your own: When you work in a Company, you would have gotten used to getting things done by your Team. There would be a Battery of people to do several small things like booking an air ticket, booking a taxi, preparing a presentation and so on. When you come on your own, you need to learn to do these things very quickly.
03. That ‘Secure’ feeling: When you are in a Job, without you realizing it you feel very secure in several situations. You know the Company would take care if you fall sick or if any of your family members fall sick. You may have a Mediclaim when you get on your own. But, still the ‘Secure’ feeling will be missing. You would have been getting the support of the Company in several areas without you realizing it. Like a quick word from the MD for admission of your Kid in to a good school / college or the help of your Colleague to get appointment in a Busy hospital and so on. These are all small things. But, your family would have gotten used to all these. Now, you will not have this ‘warm blanket’ around you when you get on to your own.
04. Have you really ‘been there and done that’: Many of us may not realise that the Big wins that we had in our career would have been contributed largely by the team that was working with us. You would have been a good aggregator working at the top end ! If you did not get in to the Shop floor and implemented the practices yourself, then suddenly you may find that you cannot really help a client or yourself when you get in to the Shop floor to repeat it when you are on your own!! This is a serious problem. You have to measure yourself on this scale even before quitting your job !
05. Can you Slow down and empathize with others: When you are trying to help others as a Consultant or trying to get something done with your team in your own Venture, you have to be able to Slow down and get down to the speed of others. You should be able to measure progress on their scale and not on your scale. This ability decides how far you can help your own team or your clients.
06. Can you Cross Pollinate: You would have experience in certain industries and certain situations. You would not have covered the whole gambit. If you have selected to do something in a field you have been working all your life, then you are relatively safe. But, if you have to get in to other Industries and help them, then your ability to transfer your learnings in to another set up and make them work is very important. For example, Can you bring your learnings from dealing with a Dealer network in Capital Equipment industry, modify them to dealing with Dealer Network in an FMCG environment?
07. Do you like Bungy Jumping: When you leave your job and go on your own, you may not know whether you would be successful. You may not know whether you can be successful consistently. If you are consulting like I have been doing, you would not be sure of ‘Good billing’ every month consistently. If you have set up a Restaurant, you would not know when you would get pushed off the perch by a competitor across the road. So, there is more adrenalin involved in being on your own. You will get used to it over a period of time and you may start enjoying it. I equate it to Bungy Jumping. Only difference is you do not know whether the rope is tied properly or not!!
08. Can you really build a team: Those of us who worked for a longer time in a job have to be aware of one more basic skill that we need. We need to attract a team and retain them for a reasonable period. When you were in job, you would have done it day in and day out. But, at that time the BIG COMPANY was behind you. Now, you are the BIG COMPANY. You need to change yourself to succeed here. You can’t be saying ‘IF this guy leaves, HR will get one more’ !! You are the HR !!
These are some of the ‘Look outs’ for those of you wanting to get on to your own. I will share more on the perks of being on your own in next article.
Critical: If you are continuously being unhappy at job, recognize that it is not about your Job/Boss/Colleagues. It is about you wanting to do something more!! Respect that feeling. Analyze it. See if you are ready to take that plunge! Otherwise, it may explode in your face sometime!!
I can help you if you need help. What are friends for?? JJ
I have seen many Leaders who thrive only on their Authority and not really display Leadership Qualities. These Leaders typically want to be the author of every success around them. Somehow they would feel insecure when someone from their team comes up with a suggestion that is not thought out by themselves.
The characteristics of these Leaders are:
- They have a misconception that as Leaders they have to bear the responsibility for every success of their team and only they have to do it.
- These Leaders feel they are losing out when their team members are actually stepping up and starting to flower.
- As they feel they have to come up with the Best ideas, they do not think any idea of their team member is a good one.
- They try to look for ways to appropriate the credit for the good work of their team members as they feel as Leaders, only they should be coming up with all great ideas.
- They would like to get rid of all those who are not ‘falling in line’ with their thinking as they feel these team members are disturbing the ‘team work’.
- These Leaders typically complain that their Team members are not stepping up and they are passing on everything to the Leader..
The effects of this type of Leadership are:
- Team members will be endorsing every idea of the Leader.
- Those Team members who feel uncomfortable will leave the team.
- The progress of this company gets limited by its’ y leader. Over a period of time, only those who are better than the Leader, leave the Company. Even those who stay ‘learn’ how to not mess with the Leader.
A good proportion of the Leaders that I see fall in to this category. This is generally a ‘Disabling Leadership’. There are very few leaders who can scale up / scale down their own Leadership based on the situation on the ground.
I heard one definition of Leadership from my ex- Boss which stuck to my mind. ‘A Leader should be like a missing piece in a puzzle. Any piece can be missing at a given point of time. A Leader has to constantly modify himself to become that missing piece of puzzle’. So that the team always succeeds.
A Leader needs guts to adapt this Leadership Style.
This Leadership Style is defined by the following:
01. Longer Term Objectives: This Leader is not worried about the short-term results and he is always looking to achieve the longer-term objective. This Leader is not worried about his own contribution. He wants whatever is required to achieve the longer- term objectives to be done. He looks at himself as an enabler of these actions and not necessarily as a person who has to do everything. This is a higher point of view.
02. Tolerance to Diversity: This Leader is tolerant to diverse opinions. His only Objective is to ensure progress towards goals. He is so Goal focused that he can ignore himself in the process. He gets alerted when he hears drastically different ideas. He looks at them as opportunities to find new ways to the goals of the organisation.
03. Confidence in own abilities: This Leader is absolutely confident of his own abilities. He knows he can raise over anything to give a good direction to his team. He knows he can transform himself in to that missing puzzle piece to complete the puzzle.
04. Ability to learn on his feet: One very important quality of this type of Leader is that he can learn very actively on his feet. He is capable of Learning continuously towards the Goals of the Company.
05. Basic trust in Human ability: This type of Leader adapts a Growth Mindset. He believes that People around him are capable and if they do not know something they can learn. He enables them to learn and succeed. As he believes in their abilities, they deliver with their abilities.
I call this an ‘Enabling Leadership’ style. Leaders need to raise up to this Leadership Style. Leaders normally evolve in to this type of Leadership Style over a period of time.
For the journey to begin, one has to know and accept that this higher plane of Leadership that exists. Then the creative tension may set in.
Ram is the Head – Sales & Marketing for the company and he is in the Weekly review with Manufacturing head. The other functional heads are also there in the meeting. Ram is struggling to get the commitment from Manufacturing head for the deliveries that need to happen in the next week.
Individual Problems and Collective Suffering
The Problems of the Manufacturing Head seems to be unending. There are several Part shortages on a daily basis as the Customer demand is going up without notice. There are Quality problems in the New Products introduced and the Process is not yet stabilized for a big number of Products introduced in to the Manufacturing in the past 6 months. The Machines are having higher break down hours as the Preventive Maintenance is not happening regularly. The list is long.
The Quality Head, Materials Head, Engineering Head spoke about their own problems. All the Problems sound genuine. No one seems to have a good solution with some time lines to implement. The Weekly meeting ended with a few arguments, blaming each other and without a proper solution to the problems on hand.
This is a very common situation in many Manufacturing Companies that I have seen. These weekly meetings go on without end and normally gives the same output as explained above.
What is the solution?
How to ensure a good team work happens in the company and the Customer is serviced much better?
I think the Root cause lies in the way the Manufacturing Companies are Operating. We seem to be pushing the Functional teams away from each other and this is resulting in lack of team work and lack of respect to the internal Customers and bad service to the external customers.
There are five essentials to ensuring good Customer orientation in the company and promote Team work in the company.
01. Stabilize the Routine: If the Routine is well defined and stable, the teams will have less flash points. The Routine in each function has to be defined in terms of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This is a continuous journey for Indian Companies as the growth is higher in our companies and things keep changing on the ground every day. A Company should recognize this need and put effort on stabilizing the routine.
02. CFT Culture: The Cross functional Team culture has to be promoted in the Company. Some critical elements in the CFT Culture :
a. Goal deployment: Goals that have to be achieved together have to be deployed to ALL the relevant team members across the functions.
b. Working methodology: The CFTs should have a strong Work ethic and methodology. The methodology should promote a systematic achievement of Goals.
c. Peer assessment: The team members have to be assessed by the Peers in addition to the Bosses. Peer assessment is very powerful and a Group assessment technique has to be used for this purpose.
d. Internal Customer rating: The company can promote the culture of rating by Internal Customers for all the Internal suppliers. This way the Internal Suppliers will get periodic feedback from the Internal Customers and they will have to act upon it.
e. Process based teams: It would be good to seat the teams as per the Process. For example, the team that fulfills the orders of the Customers can sit together in one place. This team may consist of members from Sales, Purchase , Stores, Dispatch etc. This will ensure that the team understands each other and gets formed as a ‘real team’.
03. Functional orientation of Senior Leaders: The Senior Leaders are one of the main reasons why the Silos gets built up in the Companies. The attachment of the Senior Leaders to their teams and to their own Functional Points of view is a big issue. Functional point of view is important. But, the administrative point of view is a daily issue in any company without which the result will not happen. The role of the Senior leaders is to build Functional Competence in the Company. They should allow their team members to work along with the other Functional team members freely. The Senior Leaders should play a subtle role at the back ground to build the Functional excellence. The teams are more than capable of achieving the goals of the Company. If they play their teams too close to their chest, they would be doing a disservice to the company.
The Leaders of the Company have to build this work culture in the Company. The Senior Leaders may need some help in this aspect.
04. Training as teams: If the Cross Functional Teams have to stick together and work together, they have to be treated as teams in every sense. They have to be trained in Leadership skills together as a team. While they may learn Functional skills individually, they have to be brought together as a team for teaching Leadership Skills. This would help in building them as a team. The Training should encourage talking about the working methodology of the team.
05. Assessment and Rewards: The Cross Functional Teams should get assessed as Teams and a good part of the reward has to be given as a team. This would push the team members together. They earn as a team or lose as a team.
A company has to learn the art of getting results from their teams. They can speed up their learning if they go about it in a systematic manner as explained.
Whenever I hear the term ‘Time management’, it comes to my mind that we cannot Manage time. It keeps slipping away whether we do something or not. We can only Manage our work better. But, let us keep with this popular term for this article.
Time Management is a serious problem for almost ALL Managers in the Indian Industry. Some would have realized it and many others may not even realize that they are not using their time well. The Managers that I have come across come in to the following few categories.
Firefighters: These are the Managers who are forever putting off some fire. You can find many of them in Automotive industry. These Managers come early and go late (if they go home). Their Children see them rarely as they go to company even on a Sunday as they can ‘work peacefully’ on a Sunday. Many of them have got addicted to it. They keep telling whoever can listen that they are working for 18 hours a day and so on. The Firefighters do not even worry about Time Management. They have given up long back and now they just go with the wind. In most of the cases, their companies also have given up that ‘some Managers have to be dedicated to the fire fighting’. There is no fight back at all.
Minimalists: These are the Managers who may be in Discrete Manufacturing Companies. These Minimalists do not believe in taking up too much agenda on to their plate. Whatever is put on their plate by their Bosses will be handled forever. They are in no hurry to finish anything. They do not see any need for Time Management as they do not want to ‘hurry’ anything. Their Companies also have come to believe that nothing should be ‘hurried’. Whenever I took up this issue with these Managers, I have seen that their Managing Director defends them !! The belief that they should not ‘hurry’ is quite deep !!
Trouble Shooters: These are the guys who love the adrenalin rush. Whenever there is trouble, these people are called. They are handling an emergency forever! If one emergency is over, they look for the next one. They feel Time Management is not for their type of work.
Boss Pleaser: This Manager will do only things that are asked by the Boss. He will never take up any agenda without Boss asking him to do. They will complete it as the Boss asks them to. They are not managing their Time. Their Boss may be managing it, if at all.
Timid Manager: These are pushed around by just about everyone in the company. They are the people who would be going around with an expression of ‘carrying the world’. Always hunched and always under strain. They just don’t have time to manage time!
There may be a very small percentage of Managers who are trying to manage their time and push a particular agenda of their own. I find this type of Managers to be a very small minority in the Industry.
What are the effects of not managing your time wisely?
When there is no concept of managing your work and managing time, only the Urgent and Important gets done. If you look at the Time Matrix, the First quadrant is the one that you would give attention to. By default you would wait for everything to come to First Quadrant to attend to it.
So, there is no proactive approach. You would become thoroughly reactive. You would be acting in the last minute for everything. If you are still keeping your Customers happy, then you would be spending disproportionate resources to keep your Customers happy. While the Business would be growing, your profit will become lesser and lesser as you are becoming more and more inefficient.
An organization can loose Top line opportunities / Bottom line in this situation. But, very often there will be no awareness of this and many Indian Companies are accepting that this is a ‘normal Business situation’. This is more worrying factor !!
What can be done?
Bad Time Management and Bad Work Management Is a Symptom and this is not the root cause. The Root cause lies in the way the Business Is run. The way the employees manage their Work.
01. Work Management System: Create an environment of Employees taking responsibility and are made accountable. When every Employee takes responsibility for his/her work, then the environment would be amenable for better Work Management / Time Management. This can be achieved by introducing a Work Management System (WMS) where the Organizational Goals would be deployed to the entire organization in a systematic manner and reviews are done in a systematic manner. Every employee is expected to take responsibility for his/her KPIs and they are expected to take Corrective and Preventive actions when they don’t meet targets.
Addressing this overall environment issue is very much essential to ensure your team is managing their work diligently. Without addressing this Root cause, you can not solve the problem.
02. Promote Planning: Once the goals are clearly given to the employees, the Company needs to promote Planning in the company. There have to be Annual Planning for achieving the goals. There has to be Quarterly Planning to make Annual Plan a reality. The Quarterly plans have to be translated in to Monthly / Weekly plans. Each week every Manager has to spend some time to review his last week and plan for the next week on a daily basis. There may be something that comes to everyone without planning. There will be Quadrant 1 activity. ‘Urgent and Important’. But, as you keep up with your Planning, the Quadrant 1 will reduce and Quadrant 2 will increase. The Planning should help us keep the focus on ‘what needs to be done’. Initially our success may be small. But, an Organization has to persist to help their Managers to get a hold on the Work Management / Time Management.
03. Measure your Time usage: To improve something, you need to measure it. You can measure your Time usage with two Metrics:
a. Proportion of time that you are able to plan: If you are at the work for 8 hours, are you able to plan for full 8 hours? I would recommend that you should try to plan as much proportion of your time as possible. If you want to keep yourself open to helping your colleagues, you don’t want to plan for sometime, then don’t push yourself to achieve 100%. But, try to take control of 100% of your time.
b. Success rate in sticking to the plan: You may be able to plan for 100% of your time. But, you may not be able to work as per plan. When you just start off the improvement effort, your success rate would be small. But, you have to persist to ensure you improve your Success rate.
Every Manager should review these two Metrics every week. Every Boss should spend some time with his Team reviewing this and helping them to take more control of their work.
Indian Companies are losing a lot of opportunities to improve their top line and bottom line as their Managers do not have control of their work/time.
The first step to regaining control is to put a ‘Work Management System’ in place.
Vithal is sitting near the table of his younger colleague Shyam for last half hour waiting for Shyam to finish the Power Point that Vithal would be presenting in the Monthly review. Vithal never managed to learn Power Point very well. He says he had been trying for the past few years. But, somehow not able to learn all the nuances needed to put out a good presentation. The frustrated Boss of Vithal put him on to Shyam- a youngster so that Vithal will not be an odd man out in the monthly review. Vithal had been in the company for the past 22 years.
You would have seen people like Vithal and with some similar qualities in your companies. People who had been there in the company for long long time and somehow fell behind in skill improvement and a few other areas.
The Stagnant Water
Majority of ‘Vithals’ in the industry would have become ancient and stuck at a particular level in the organization without further promotions. Every year when the Performance appraisal comes in, the ‘Vithals’ are wonderful staple for the ‘Solid citizens / Meets Expectations’ category. Sometimes a frustrated Manager may push them to the ‘Below Expectations’ category too. But, somehow with their ‘connections’ in the company they will survive without being pushed out.
It is not uncommon to see some of these ‘Vithals’ being asked to go too.
Many a times, the young Managers who come in to the Company find it very difficult to manage the ‘Vithals’. The age is a factor. Then, the ‘Vithals’ feel they have been in the company for a long time and the young Managers are ‘Bachas’ (Children) who don’t know what is what.
Very often the ‘Vithals’ hold on to their knowledge, do not share it and use it as a weapon to proclaim their relevance in the organization. The Young Managers may find it difficult to fight them. So, very often they succumb to them and carry them on their shoulders. There may also be cases where the Young Managers struggle with them for some time and then manage to push them to another department and get rid of the trouble!
Should we purge the ‘Old Timers’ ?
Should organizations get rid of the Old Timers? Should we prescribe a time limit for the people to stay in the organization?
As I am talking about the Manufacturing Organizations right now, I feel it is very unwise to put a Time limit for people to stay in the organization or purge the old timers.
The strength of a Manufacturing Organization is its’ people. People who had been in the organization for longer time would have accumulated a lot of experience in the organization and they are priceless if used properly. The Organizational experience in manufacturing the Products is invaluable. Companies become much better at their products with experience. They build great relationships with Customers over years. They give wonderful after sales service with the help of the experience. All this experience in most cases reside in the people in the Organization.
How can we get rid of these people who are repositories of knowledge?
If we say these people have become outdated / worthless and a burden for the organization, then it reflects on the Organization. Not so much on the people who are products of the Organization.
Developing the Old Timers
How do we prevent this from happening? How do we help the Old timers / Long Timers in the company to continually develop themselves?
A few essentials:
01. Formulate Systems and don’t depend on the people: Periodically the Companies should formulate systems in each function and don’t just depend on the knowledge of the people in the function. This may sound counter to the argument that we should preserve the old timers. We should never let people get stuck in one area. Water should flow continuously. You know what happens when water does not flow and gets stagnated. It stinks!! Same thing happens to people who are stuck in one place for long time. When the organization is not dependent on the people, they will look to learning something new. Otherwise the Organization becomes comfortable in same people doing the same thing as they don’t have to teach anyone else. People become comfortable as they don’t have to learn anything new. Then, it starts stinking. Downloading the knowledge of people and making them in to systems periodically helps both the organization and the individual.
02. Rotate People periodically: Rotate the people in to different functions periodically after you build the Systems in each of the functions. If you do it without having strong systems, then the organization will get in to trouble as the new person will start doing things in his / her own way.
03. Grow the People in to new roles: How many companies have a strong system for growing people? Growth is a two way street. Employees should participate actively. But, I would put the onus on the organization to make this happen. There should be Developmental initiatives to grow people. I have not seen many companies focused on this. Some wonderful exceptions are there who focus on medium term development of people.
04. Expose the people to companies outside:You can do this by periodic visit to other Bench mark companies. You can take people to companies on a paid tour that are arranged by companies across the world. You can visit companies in Japan/ USA / Europe to show how World class companies work. Nothing better than actually looking at things working.
05. Have a growth agenda in the company:A company that is not having energy within and not having an agenda for Growth will not be having people who are energetic! A Company should always have Growth Agenda and should create some energy in the Organization.
A Company needs to have higher expectations from itself, from its’ people and enable Growth of the Company and the People. If People are becoming worthless by staying long in the Company, then it reflects on the Company and its’ Leadership !
While a Company can manage its ’Old timers’, how can the Young Managers manage the ‘Old Timers’ who are not highly skilled and who have become ‘heavy’ for them to carry them?
The Old Timers have to be moved to start Learning something new. That is our objective. ‘A moving stream of water’ is our objective. We don’t want water to stagnate and stink.
01. Look for what is good:When people stay in a company for a long time, they will accumulate something good. There may be something that you don’t like. But, what do the Old timers have that is good? Recognize it , Use it and appreciate it. Only then you gain a right to point out to something that is not there. Many a times the old timers have good knowledge of the Products / Processes in the Company. You can ‘Down load’ it from them and make them in to ‘E-Learning’ Lessons that can be useful for the whole organization. The Old Timers can be the center piece for the Knowledge Management System in a company.
02. Give genuine respect:Experience is traditionally respected in our culture. We bow to people who are aged and experienced. Honor this tradition in your company genuinely. These are principles and should be followed strictly.
03. Expose them to new areas:The Old Timers can get a ‘New Comer’ feeling if they are put in an unfamiliar territory within the Organization. But, this should be tried only after you use their experience. Otherwise they would get a feeling that they are worthless and being shunted around. We want people around to feel good about themselves. We don’t want them to feel they are worthless. A Mature Leader would agree with this approach.
04. Give them higher responsibility:Let them handle a few areas by themselves as they are experienced. They may fail. But ,that is the way to make them move. By putting your trust in them, you would be showing your good will. If they fail, they will ‘feel’ about it. A Creative tension would start within them to ‘Grow’. Put your Trust in the ‘human nature’.
05. Earn their respect:The Young Manager should not look to bossing over the Old timer due to his/her designation only. The Young Manager should earn the respect of people around him/her with his/her work culture that may be biased towards action.
06. Team feedback:It would be good to let the team give the feedback to each other. If there are 10 people in a team, each person should get a feedback from the other 9 on Commitment, Coordination and Cooperation. Peer feedback is very powerful. If the person feels that only his/her boss is not happy with him/her, the Corrective action may not be strong. But, if he/she knows that 7 out of 9 people are asking him/her to change, then you have a better chance.
07. Don’t make it ‘we vs them’:Unknowingly ,the Managers may push the Old Timers in to one group making it more difficult to themselves. Partner with the Old Timers genuinely and as you may do with anyone else. Do not create groups in the organization with your actions.
I feel the Old Timers in a Manufacturing Company are very valuable and every Company should manage them actively.