Thursday, 12 September 2019

Applying Vedic Wisdom to Drive Corporate Success

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Prof P.R.Mukund, professor of electrical engineering at Rochester institute of technology, Newyork, CEO of a successful startup company and founder president of the Foundation for the preservation of knowledge was the speaker during the monthly meeting (May month) of NHRD Bangalore chapter. He is a keen student and teacher of the vedic way of life and therefore the ideal person to talk to us about the manner in which  the wisdom from the vedas can be applied in the corporates. Prof Mukund said that the vedas (Indian scriptures) have a collection of truths from a period of over 6000 years. They touched upon various subjects like mathematics, science, astronomy, medicine etc. The essence of the vedic thought is balance and equal prioritization for all areas of life with the aim to benefit maximum number of people. Thus,  there should be a balance between Dharma (Right behaviour & social order) and Artha (Resources which includes money, time and energy)- As a human being,"I should be forwarding energy to others, not sucking up energy from all quarters."

Prof Mukund said that based on the vedic thought, he has developed a ten pronged approach for success called "The DecaTrait approach to success". After discussing the same during the evening he gave away few copies of his booklet on 'DecaTrait' to the audience on "first come first served" basis and I was fortunate to get a copy. The ten traits are (1) Knowledge (2) Passion (3) Attachment and detachment (4) Awareness of the self (5) Absorbtion (6) Confidence (7) Conviction (8) Balance (9) Vitality and (10) Strength.

1) Knowledge:-  The speaker said that knowledge can be classified into three-  (a) resourceful knowledge (b) incorrect knowledge and  (c) antiknowledge. Resourceful knowledge takes us upwards towards our goals. Incorrect knowledge takes us around horizontally in circles. But antiknowledge takes us downwards and away from our goal. As all knowledge stems from information, it has to be distilled through questioning/ logic so that all irrelevant and incorrect information is eliminated and only useful information remains. The best approach is to verify and confirm that the conclusions are in synchronization with the spoken or written words of those with vast experience.

In this connection Prof Mukund shared his own experience in the initial days as a young reasearcher - " I collected a lot of information, confused this for knowledge and started writing proposals. My proposals were based on what I was told by research office staff on how to write "Winning proposals". This was incorrect knowledge as funding agencies did not have the time to read all the proposals they got and their knowing  the candidate was an important factor.

Further, the discussion with the research office staff was not very useful as they were reapeating what was available in the public domain and were not experienced researchers themselves. The speaker said that he found out that his discussions with reasearchers at other institutions were actually harming him . One  person with whom he had shared his idea, poked holes in it but later used the same idea himself to get  funded for a three year project. After that incident, Prof Mukund started keeping his ideas to himself.

In later years, this learniing of relying only on  resourcceful knowledge was effectively used  when Prof Mukund started a company to market a new technology developed by his team. Although information was collected from academics, entrepreneurship 'experts', accountants. lawyers, potential customers and successful entrepreneurs, it was examined carefully including for motives if any of those giving information and unwanted information was removed.This enabled the company to survive through a difficult economic scenario and succeed in winning business.

2) Passion: A strong passion for a desired goal is a very powerful driving force for success. The common thread of passion is love; reverence for the objective is an essential ingriedient. The voluntary feeling  of passion in us is recognized by others and it attracts very useful partnerships.Turn your goal into something special which will provide great motivation and immense pleasure. Prof Mukund said that he has known many capable  people give up easily and accept defeat on encountering obstacles. In his own case, although he received reject letters to his research proposals, the passion never went away. It was kept alive by the mere belief that the chance of success no matter how small, when it came would not be just personal achievement but bring opportunities to  the larger community especially young students. Similarly, while floating the startup company, the passion was for creating jobs, more than anything else.

3) Attachment and Detachment: It is all about the attachment to the effort and detachment from the outcome. One cannot hold the successful outcome a prerequisite for the effort to be put in for accomplishing a goal. Once the fear of the outcome is detached from the effort, we can be attached to the effort with passion. The journey itself becomes enjoyable. Most startup companies fail because they plan at the very beginning to only create something that looks attractive to others, encash this and exit as a strategy ( sell to a bigger company or go public).

 On the other hand , if the goal is to constantly strive for growth, any company can succeed. If the aim is to build the company,create products & services and create opportunities for others, why exit? similarly if companies follow this maxim of 'detached attachment',  they  would  allow employees  to work with freedom without being tied down by hierarchical relationships. This creates  ownership in innovation and creativity. The productivity is also far greater when everything is not controled by one manager.

4) Awareness of the self:  It is important to be aware of our true self. Often we have a distorted picture of ourselves that is based on past conditioning or opinions of those around us. We then try to change others' opinion about us to feel good and reassured.It is always better to know the reality as it is. In case there are shortcomings, we can work towards compensating for them . This saves time and energy trying to influence other's opinion and also reduces stress levels. To know your true self it is necessary to introspect and engage in deep thinking shutting down external senses,the mind, intelect and look wihin.

Prof Mukund shared his own story as a youngster when he was a kind of a rebel unwilling to blindly take down notes, memorize facts and engage in late night study, all of which he found boring. His teachers were not impressed with this attitude and told him frequently that he was stupid.and he had begun to believe them. It was only when he realized that he had been relying too much on others' opinion and figured out who he really was that he began to taste success in another country(US).

The 'stupid' boy of yesterday has today become a professor , reasearcher and an entreprenuer. The speaker said that he faced a similar challenge when he decided to enter the business scene venturing to start a company. Many were patronizing in their interaction wondering what a professor is doing in business? But this time he was not willing to buy into other people;s opinion and was confident that he could analyze actions and consequences, avoid pitfalls and be successful. It was not blind arrogance but self awareness based on reality. However, genuine feedback and well meaning criticisms should be carefully examined and calibrated for self improvement when it makes sense.

5) Absorbtion: In order to be successful. one needs to complement  one's own experiences with observance of others' experiences. Pay attention to not only the words of others but also their body language and gain insight into their real experiences. Focus and concentration is vital. Often, we hear but do not listen, see but do not observe and touch but do not feel. Spend more time on observation and less on real time analysis. Important data can be lost while the mind is distracted by the analysis. Digesting the data from either direct experience or by keen observation of someone else,happens over time. We need to delve into it when there is ample time and separate it into three parts: useful matter,useful energy and unwanted part.

The speaker shared an instance from his research experience.He noticed that many researchers looked to others for inspiration and did more reasearch on problems already identified and worked on by them. They tried to come up with better solutions to these problems. They lagged behind successful reasearchers in understanding the current problems and this inability to visualize potential problems became an obstacle to their progress. On the other hand Prof Mukund found that whenever he visualized potential problems and articulated them in his proposals, people started coming to him for solutions.

The speaker gave another example of absorbtion from his experience as an entreprenuer. He had a good product which was reasonably priced but people were not buying resulting in disappointment and stress. He then observed  a successful business person in a sales booth at a conference. He noticed that this gentleman seldom talked about his products but on topics such as the weather, sports etc and the potential customers would walk away carrying his brochure. Prof Mukund said that after this happened several times, he realized that what the business person  was doing was building relationships which is what brings real business, when one has a good product in the first place. This learning was absorbed and used successfully by the speaker. 

6) Confidence: It is not uncommon for people to invest a lot of emotion, energy, time and money in an enterprise but back out at the last minute due to lack of confidence. This could be due to lack of self confidence or a lack of confidence in the world around around them. We need confidence not only in our own capabilities but confidence and trust in the Universal Inteliligence that maintains balance in the universe. It is said that it takes three forms of energy for anything to happen. The first is a strong desire and will power. The second  is knowledge. The last is creative energy provided only by the Universal Intelligence. If we are humble and accept our dependence,   we get connected to the Universal Intelligence that has no bounds. If one can have the self confidence to be most optimistic when things are really in bad shape and most pessimistic when things are really great, one can see the outside world reacting to it, and the cycle continues.

7) Conviction: Conviction is the ability to stay on track without doubt, distraction or fear. It becomes possible when there is  a firm and strong belief in your goal. Doubt and uncertainity has no place once a path has been carefully chosen.Having faith in the path chosen, you can seek guidance from one who has already trodden that path after satisfying yourself of the guide's credentials. Another aspect to be vigilant of are of the distractions from the many wonderful sights and sounds on the way  that can make one forget one's goals. Here, it is necessary to remind oneself that our lives have only so many years and every year passing by is an year less for pursuing our goal,

Conviction is about the retaining of the same level and intensity of belief till the goal is reached. Prof Mukund related of instances when people came up and flattered him in international conferences. This made him feel good but also had the effect of making him feel that he was better than others. He found himself chatting up with these people in the hallway and skipping presentations. It was later that the speaker realized that such activities were detrimental to his basic goal. Some reasearchers, after they taste success spend little or no time with students. They tend to travel to exotic locations all over the world , basking in their glory. All these distractions will have to be kept in check for achieving long term success.

8) Balance: In yoga a balance is sought to be attained in the body by physical stretching exercises and in the mind through meditation. Similar balance is necessary to handle opposing circumstances or events such as success and failure, profit and loss. Multiple interests can expand the horizon of the mind and make it stronger. Yet, they have to be balanced as in a wheel for the the centre of gravity to remain at the centre even as the mind is pulled in many directions such as family,work or finance. This balance enables you to effectively deal with setbacks and sudden wins/success.

Prof Mukund said that the very nature of research is the exploration of unchartered waters. However, a balance in all activities associated with it contributes to success -  (a) acknowledging when a particular solution is not the right one (b) funding,lab equipment,good students, (c) good ideas,  good proposal writing abilities and (d) good contacts. A good balance in respect of all these activities is the key. Similarly, success in running a company or small business requires a balance in leadership, management, financial acumen, ability to negotiate, networking, dedicated employees etc. In his own experience the speaker found initially too much focus was given to bringing in the revenue and not enough on the other aspects. This was corrected subsequently with appropriate time management.

9) Vitality: Everything has a life- ideas, events and actions all have a life of their own. At the beginning, the idea needs to be protected and nurtured so that others do not kill it in its infancy. Like human beings, ideas also need a pollution free environment to survive and grow. Constant questioning and discussions on the idea could lead to pollution in the form of unwanted or incorrect responses to it by others. Therefore keep the idea to yourself  and breathe life into it by clear thinking

Finally, accept that even the best ideas have a life. When the idea has served its purpose, let it end in peace. It may reappear in a new form later and the cycle repeats itself. Feeding money and people to an organization that has passed its prime is as futile as looking for the fountain of youth, which is a myth.

10) Strength: In an ideal situation, we would be seeking to be strong in all three domains viz the body, the mind and the spirit. Strong body can be assured by good nutrition, proper rest and an active lifestyle.  Tending to the mind and the spirit is the bigger challenge and it may seem daunting with feelings of confusion, weakness, frustration and depression at different points of time. However, proper understanding and application of the nine traits discussed earlier would give strength to the mind. The attaining of a strong mind can be experienced in the form of a general sense of peace, ability to focus, a determination to succeed and optimism about the future.

A strong mind resides in a strong spirit.When the spirit is strong , the storms tend to subside and there is tranquility inside. The strong spirit is free, unbound and for ever expanding its horizons. It is an incubator of flashes of brilliance .It brings instant good feelings to all who come into contact with it. It has the will to succed and cannot but succed. " Success feeds success" concluded Prof Mukund bringing down the curtain on a very interesting, enlightening and engaging evening! What stood out in this talk were the number of personal experiences that he shared from the research and business scenario. 

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Organization Culture and its Importance

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The July monthly meeting of NHRD Bangalore chapter discussed the subject of 'Organization culture and its importance'.Mr Saurav Mukherji, Professor of Organization behaviour, IIM Bangalore was the speaker of the day. He started of by stating that there has been a lot of discussion on 'Strategy' and "Culture' and as to what should take precedence. It is not a question of 'either, 'or' but both are equally important and essential for success. "I have this culture in this organization because I want to achieve this outcome." Culture is to be seen in conjunction with the strategy of the organization. Culture is difficult to define; it is beyond rules, processes and structure that an organization may have.

Prof Mukherji said that organizations have principal- agent problems at all levels. This is to be accepted as natural and it doesn't matter whether or not  there is a hundred percent convergence between their objectives. A partial convergence between the goals of the principal and agent is good enough so long as the objective of the organization is served. The lack of convergence  can be responded to in ways such as (1) Live with it (2) Give incentives and punishment  /  Carrot and stick.  The speaker said  that the organization culture is meant to control people's behaviour towards achieving organizational goals; It is not like a social club.

An increase in the goal congruence in an organization becomes possible with teamwork and collaboration. An organization is likely to have multiple cultures considering the fact that large number of people with various cultural backgrounds and motivations work in it. However, every organization has a dominant culture. We can say that we have the 'Right' culture if it is helping to achieve our goals. The culture has to be consistent with what you are seeking to do. The three big questions to be asked pertaining to culture are: 

(1) What culture does the organization have?
(2) Is it suitable for the organization's strategic objectives?
(3) If "Yes" how to nurture and sustain it? 
If "No' there is a need to deliberate on what changes are required and how they are to be made.

The speaker said that a lot more study and documentation needs to be done on the subject of 'Culture' in Indian organizations. However,in the west also,the focus and attention on 'culture' has reduced with accent now being more on organizational 'identity' (a set of statements that organization members perceive to be central, distinctive, and enduring to their organization(Albert & Whetten,1985. It is influential to behaviors of both leaders and members in many aspects within an organization).

Talking of the dimensions of organization culture, the speaker discussed the Competing Values Framework (CVF)  of Quinn, Rohrbaugh  developed initially from research conducted on the major indicators of effective organizations. The premise of the CVF is that there are four basic competing values within every enterprise: Collaborate, Create, Compete and Control. These values compete in a very real sense for a corporation's limited resources (funding, time, and people).

Thus companies now have to decide on the appropriate focus and culture for their organization- Flexibility and adaptability Vs stability/control/ continuity; internal focus and consistency Vs external focus. Another combination (followed by GE) could be external focus & stability with accent on the customer and competition. Here business is what matters and there is no attachment to products, customers or employees. The speaker reiterated that none of the cultural types are superior and that "What works for you is what matters." Prof Mukherji concluded by stating that creating and sustaining culture involves making difficult trade offs ( a  compromise - achieving a balance  between two desirable but incompatible features). 

The evening talk was for me a revelation; hitting at the very core of my own understanding of organization culture, formed over an entire work life spanning over three decades. I became aware that it is not  necessary for  culture to  be uniform, valid, true and dear across the board, to everyone  in the organization. The speaker had made it clear that the organization culture is merely a tool "meant to control people's behaviour towards achieving organizational goals"

 I guess this position is in tune with the times we are presently living in where winning is the 'be all and end all' of all activities and everything else are merely instruments to be used and dispensed with, when no longer useful to the strategic objectives of the organization. After all, today the entire world follows the western approach to life, the western business model, and western form of education in all  business schools including the IIMs, premier institutes of management education in India.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Looking Back: Life and Times of a Woman of Essence (Her Professional and personal Journey)

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I first came to know about Dr Usha Sridhar in her avatar/ role as a poet when she joined the India poetry circle, a whats App group of poets writing in English in India, of which I am also a member.  However as I got to meet and interact with her, I realized that poetry was just one of her interests and that Usha is a multifaceted personality, a successful career woman with varied interests and a beater of the dreaded disease of cancer. It was a pleasure to do an interview and delve into the life and times of an achiever in every sense of the term. 

Rajeev Moothedath (RM):  Warm greetings to you Usha! It is my pleasure and privilege to do an interview with you. 

Usha Sridhar (US): Thank you. I am very happy to share my life journey with you, Rajeev.

RM:  Could you tell us something about your early life as a child? 

US: Well, my early childhood was about moving to different locations/ schools such as Chennai (where I was born), Vizag and Ernakulum as my dad worked in a transferrable job with Hindustan Petroleum (then called ESSO). I only have vague recollection of that period.

 It was only when we finally moved to Hyderabad on a permanent basis and I was admitted to the reputed private school, St Ann’s, that I began to come into my own. The school had the right ambience with supportive teachers and classmates. Apart from academics, I got exposure to sports, English classics, drama and music. 

RM: So the school played a big role in moulding your personality. 

US: Yes, you could say that a foundation for my thinking and behavior got shaped there. I developed a scientific temper and a strong secular attitude that has made me what I am today.   We were taught to be fearless, independent, humane and proud to be women.

RM: Which course did you take up after schooling? 

US: Those days under the ISC syllabus, after the 11th class,we could directly join a graduation course. I was planning to do graduation in science. Then an unexpected incident changed the course of my life.  I was visiting a friend’s house where I met a guest and friend of her father, who was an economist. He casually struck up conversation with me and asked me what I would like to pursue further.

As we talked, I was mesmerized by the world of economics. For the first time in my life, I was listening to terms like: economy, inflation, money market, economic growth etc.Later, to the surprise of my parents. I opted for Economics for my graduation. I have not regretted that decision.  Subsequently I got a scholarship to pursue M.A. in Economics and Econometrics at Osmania University.

RM:  Around that time, you also got seriously interested in sports? 

US: That was soon after my school. I became interested in sports and dreamt of becoming a sports woman. I used to play lawn tennis, baseball and cricket. 

 I took the initiative to start a women’s cricket team in Hyderabad. Our coach was impressed with my batting and fielding skills. He would take us to the Lalbahadur Sastri stadium to practice cricket and to watch the professional cricketers play; they would give us tips to better our game. 

RM: Then what happened? Why did you not pursue cricket? 

US:  All of a sudden, I developed pain in my leg. I was admitted to a hospital, I had a lumbar puncture. I was bedridden for weeks and was advised against playing. Looking back, this was a blessing in disguise as it enabled me to pursue scholastic achievements.

RM: Tell us about your journey after the post-graduation in Economics and Econometrics :-

US: Equipped with skills in economics and a strong desire to put it to use, after I graduated, I did a couple of projects to gain some experience, for a short period – like a year or so. Subsequently I joined the prestigious IISc Bangalore. Initially I joined the electrical engineering department to work with a multi-disciplinary group on a renewable energy project. 

  I got exposed to the various energy sources like mini hydel, solar energy, biogas, wind energy- that were good alternatives to the traditional way of power generation.  We did practical studies by actually going to villages to do the techno- economic feasibility studies. I got a chance to rub shoulders with scientists from the engineering field, during the duration of the project. 

RM: Having branched away from the study of science after school to pursue economics, why did you once again go back to studying electrical engineering and doing science projects? 

US: I did not pursue a course but was part of a research team in the Electrical Engineering department. They wanted an economist to assist in the economic studies of the various energy sources. 

RM: Your life has seen some interesting twists and turns. I understand that before completing the energy project, you moved on once again to do PhD in the Management studies department of IISc. 

US: This happened at the fag end of the project. Doing a PhD in an interesting field was too good an opportunity to miss. I enjoyed the process of deciding on a research topic, developing theories, mathematical models and software. I presented papers in conferences / journals, in India and abroad.It was an exhilarating experience. I got the gold medal for the best thesis (using Economics and Operations Research), at IISc.

RM: Where did your journey take you after your PhD? 

US: For the next two decades I worked in research labs in academia and industry including C-DAC (Pune and Bangalore), Institute of Systems Science – Singapore, and IBM-USA. I was exposed to new and different work cultures (in US / Singapore) and got an opportunity to do research in artificial intelligence and data mining. I focused on applying various types of quantitative methods to solve problems in the areas of financial engineering, marketing and production planning.

RM:  Yet, you decided to return to India? 

US: Suddenly an entrepreneurial bug bit me when I was in USA.  I wanted to try out what I had learnt till then, in India. My husband Sridhar and I returned to India and setup a small startup, which we named as Analytix Systems. We provided consulting and did projects in: a) mathematical modeling, analytics and b) software; with support from a bunch of talented persons who had joined the company. After running it for close to 9 years, we sold our company and Intellectual Property (IP) to another IT company.  Sridhar and I joined that company as Executive Vice Presidents (EVP).

RM: When and how did you know of your illness?   

US: Around the time we sold the company, my health had started deteriorating. After a checkup up, it was diagnosed that I had cancer.  It was the year 2008 and I was 50 years old.I was asked to undergo surgery immediately. I didn’t have any time to think or act. I quit my job and prepared myself for the worst. I decided to be positive, no matter what! I had a surgery to remove the malignant tumor and underwent a long spell of radiation.

RM: After the treatment, what did you to do to return to a normal life?

US:  It was my approach to the dreaded illness that saved me from falling apart. I was able to resume my life seamlessly, after my encounter with the ailment. I brought about changes in my life style to help cope better. I thought it was my ‘holy’ duty to sensitize people on the need for constant health checkups so that preventive measures could be taken, if essential. I read and wrote extensively, after my recovery. I found time to pursue my hobbies too.

.With respect to work, since I had resigned from the company prior to hospitalization, I went back to my first love of doing theoretical research in Economics. Presently I work in the area of Network Science, with the primary focus of applying economics and graph theory to analyzing group behavior when individuals cooperate or compete amongst themselves. Sridhar and I have published over 20 papers in international conferences and journals in this area in the past 10 years. 

RM: How did you get interested in literary activities? 

US: Oh, that happened purely by chance.  One day, not being able to solve a technical problem I was working on, out of sheer frustration,   I wrote a short story and uploaded it online. To my surprise, I got a warm response to it from the readers. Encouraged, I wrote a few more and was thrilled to find they were well received too.
Subsequently, I responded to a poetry festival notification inviting poems from aspiring poets and my poem was accepted.  I started reading out my poems in my friends’ circle meets whenever I jotted down a few lines. Later, I joined a WhatsApp group of Indian poets writing in English (IPC) where I met many talented poets who supported each other in honing one’s poetry writing skills. 

RM: I understand that today you are a published author and poet.

US: Yes, I have published three books of poetry titled: "Life Matters"; "Drenched in Reverie" & "Heightened Senses" and two collections of short stories titled "Women’s Corner", and "Shades in Shadows" in a short span since I started literary writing. I continue to take part in poetry festivals. Today, I pursue my professional and literary interests with vigor and passion. For me, they are two sides of the same coin.

RM: Your exposure and interests we have discussed so far, is amazing Usha, Are there any other interests you have? 

US: Well, I am very passionate about bird watching and photography. So much so, I bought a telephoto lens so that I could capture birds from a distance without disturbing them.  It gives me immense satisfaction when I go on bird watching trips and come back with a rich haul of photos. 

Travelling is an integral part of me. I love to travel around the world to learn how people in the other parts of the globe live.  I am very interested in understanding the culture, thinking, socio-economic and political milieu of various countries. When we lived in Singapore and USA, in between hectic schedules, we travelled extensively. Whether it was the snow capped mountains in Switzerland, the rich artistic culture of Italy or Greece, the jungles of Sri Lanka for birding; I liked them all.  What is a camera for- if not to capture the sights and smells of the wonderful lands? 

RM: Finally, tell us about your life partner Sridhar. It is clear from the interview that he has been shoulder to shoulder with you in this journey.

US: Yes, Sridhar has been my soulmate. We met at IISc in the early eighties when I joined the institute for higher studies. We subsequently married and have experienced life together with its many highs and lows, with a smile. He has been a strong support to me in all my major decisions after marriage.

RM: It is indeed wonderful interviewing a person who has left a mark in so many diverse areas and have also overcome adversity with grit and determination. Thank you so much Usha for talking to me. I am sure many women would be inspired to follow your example! 

US: Thank you Rajeev, I enjoyed this conversation with you. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Glimpses from the Conference- "New Trends in HR and Training Industry- Part 2

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Kaushik Mahapatra, leadership coach, Indian leadership academy spoke on the subject "NLP and accelerated learning". Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) enables the process of 'figuring out things for ourselves'. Rather than helping or seeking help from another it enables people to 'empower each other'. It has now been scientifically acknowledged that a lot of things get done through the power of the subconscious mind. It is important to make our power of observation strong.This can be achieved by practising awareness i.e. by being in the present.

The three words comprising NLP are Neuro ( five senses through which we perceive the world, Linguistic( the language we use, the way we communicate with self and others) and programming (that happens as a result of the combination of language and neurons). We can grow by enhancing the power of observation and our lingo. Excellence happens when you effectively integrate neuro and the language. Indian Leadership Academy offers courses and training programs on NLP and other self growth, performance improvement subjects.   

Dr Anita from Shatayu Ayurveda Retreat, spoke on the subject "Wellness at Work place". She said that a big challenge today is balancing of personal and professional lives, particularly in the cities. Five out of ten employees have some illness or the other, with the ailments commonly observed being eye syndrome, back ache, head ache, diabetes, hyper tension, joint pains and heart issues. These problems are encountered today even before people reach 50 years of age. It is important to focus on appropriate food, adequate exercise and sleep. One should aim for the perfect mind, body and spirit.

Shatayu has fifteen outlets in Bangalore.that cater to patient's need for detoxification and rejuvenation. Diet therapy, physio therapy. yoga, naturopathy, mud therapy, acupuncture. and the maintenance procedures such as Panchakarma in Ayurveda are adopted to suit  the individual and unique needs of patients.

The next session was on "Psycho metric testing" by Dr Manjunath.S.A. representing Dynaminds consulting pvt Ltd & Allevare academy pvt Ltd. The speaker started out by saying that everyone of us are designed to succeed. Yet, not everyone do. We tend to continue interpreting our life on the basis of or influenced by our prejudices. Psychometric testing is a tool that helps you to go back to the empty state in which you have been designed to succeed.It gives you insights into your strengths and also 'red flags' on which you can work for improvement.

 However, a psychometric test is not an end in itself. It is a guideline that needs to be followed up with training programs. A battery of programs that touch critical life stages for a solution to life challenges is the key.. Dr manjunath said that his organization Dynaminds consulting offers opportunities to understand the art and science of psychometric testing and also for getting trained in it. They also support those interested, to set up their own coaching practice. 

Mr Ramkumar Seshu, Founder Born to Win, a company in the  learning and development space said "It doesn't matter where you come from in life for moving and getting ahead in life."  One Lakh corporate employees and two Lakh school students have benefited from the training interventions of the company that is in operation since 2003. Born to Win  supports clients to make gain in areas such as Productivity, Time Management, Team Building, Goal Clarity and Effective Communication. 
The speaker said that HRDians have a bounden duty to help in making people ready for jobs in the next 5 to 10 years.One thing one cannot buy is motivated employees. Therefore the pessimistic predictions apart, "We, the HR people will be in demand in the next 10 years" he concluded.  

We then had a panel discussion on the topic  "HR in 2030".It was predicted during the discussion that the three driving forces in the future would be (1) Crucial conversations between you and your employees (2) Possessing the skill and the will to engage everyone in the organization given a climate of diversity and BOTS having a much bigger role (3) Retaining our humaneness with a willingness and ability to exhibit empathy. More of analytics as an enabler would be the game changer with employees in  HR  performing high end roles. There would be more happiness coaches,and executive coaches to assist in taking decisions based on numbers. There would be multi generational and multi racial workforce.  

Ms Pham Kim Ngari Founder,MPEEC Group,Vietnam  shared her journey and insights from opening a start up learning center in a small way and steadily growing to a group of centers.She said while starting a venture, it is not important how big you are but how quick you are in responding to the demands of the situation and needs of the customer which will determine success. While other centers had classes only in Vietnamese, she introduced Chinese and English as well in her center adopting a three language formula. This enhanced the appeal of the center. Further, opportunities were provided in the center to develop soft skills. 

Ms Pham said the next step that she took was identifying suitable franchisees with whom she could collaborate in a Win-Win manner. The speaker said she used the internet extensively to zero in on the the suitable prospects. The collaborators were given books worth $5000 and also provided assistance for legally registering their enterprise for imparting education.The speaker reiterated in her concluding remarks that "Speed is of the essence" as many have now copied the model and entered the field. The start advantage that she had gained in the beginning keeps her ahead in the race. 

(Part 1 of the article can be accessed here:  )

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Glimpses from the Conference- "New Trends in HR and Training Industry- Part 1

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In April 2019, I attended a conference organized by Mr M.V.Narasimhan, Founder, National Human Resource Welfare Association (NHRWA) and Mr Kaushik Mahapatra, Founder, Indian Leadership academy at  East West Institute of Technology, Bangalore . The conference attempted to include large number of speakers with short duration talks.A wide range of speakers across industries and countries like Malasia and Vietnam  participated. It was an opportunity for the speakers to showcase their expertise and also throw light on their business.

I  propose to write about this conference in two parts (posts) given the volume of the material discussed and the large number of speakers.  Ms sweta Pundir, Head Talent & acquisition of  United breweries Ltd said that managing one's emotions and understanding other's feelings & emotions is vital in the present times. Human beings are not to be treated as just another resource but dealt with humanely. Your EQ (Emotional intelligence), the ability to perceive your feelings visavis other's feelings is reflected in the way you treat people, right from the time interviews are scheduled. One should be able to understand situations and treat others with respect. A person with high EQ is able to perceive what is going on in the heads of those with whom they interact.

A fresh, bright start to the day is very helpful. Instead of focusing on production or sales figures first thing in the morning, the team can discuss matters such  as ." What is going on in the industry? what are the current priorities of the business partners/ internal customers? HR should take the initiative to develop the EQ of the business partners and colleagues. They should work towards ensuring bigger smiles at work and fewer attrition in the company Getting employees to cultivate a happy demeanor during work should be a priority.

Ms Visitra Amirthalingam from Malaysia  spoke about the challenges of HR and training in her country which is multi racial and multicultural in nature. she highlighted this fact quoting the tourism tag line of the country-  "Malaysia Truly Asia".   Malaysia is also noted as a 'Food Paradise' where you can taste a diversity of delectable food at reasonable prices . The speaker introduced us to some common words associated with food.- A food hang out is called"Mamak" Lepak is chilling time/ pass time when food  naturally occupies prime place and the good old tea is called " Tehtarik". 

Ms Visitra spoke about the various HR professional bodies contributing to the development of human resources in the country such as MIHRM (Malaysian Institute Of Human Resource Management),
HRDF (Human Resources Development Fund), MICG( Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance) and  MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation).. Between them they focus on monitoring training programs provided through registered training providers, being vigilant against economic crashes, studying the current trends of HR all over the world and upskilling talent for the digital economy. Presently around 96% of employees use technology in their roles and there is a fear of robots stealing their jobs in future. In a survey 55% of the respondents said they are working at attaining additional skills in technology. 75% of them said they believe that they are likely to be replaced.

Ms Visitra said that the companies in Malaysia are looking to maximize team performance by paying attention to trust, commitment, process, results and communication with the leader being the fulcrum to make it all happen. Instagram videos are increasingly being used to communicate and keep team members updated. For purposes of learning, questions are posed and answered through What's app. A new question will not be entertained until the earlier questions have been satisfactorily answered. Attention is being paid to the processes to make it foolproof right from allocation of work to its completion. There is also a lot of emphasis on leadership development in the country. Towards this end, opportunities are created for wider exchange of ideas and seeking new ideas in an era of globalization.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Choosing Calling with Care, Pursuing it with Passion

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The annual day of the National institute of personnel management (NIPM), Karnataka Chapter, is an occasion for members to unwind - to meet, greet and interact in an informal atmosphere along with their  family members. The children of members are felicitated on the occasion for scholastic achievements at the school and college level. The program begins with experience sharing by an invited guest who has made a mark in his/her chosen field or contributed to society at large, and ends with  dinner.

The chief guest for the 59th Annual day celebrations on 22nd June 2019 was Ms D. Roopa Moudgil.IPS, presently, IGP Railways Bangalore. Although she has been in service for around 19 years, I heard about her only recently, when she made news as the DG prisons who stopped special privileges (such as access to private meeting room with a revolving chair and daily visitors) illegally enjoyed by a prisoner Ms Shashikala at the the Parappana Agrahara prison, Bangalore. Ms Roopa also submitted a detailed report with visual evidence to the Government highlighting the issue. 

 It was  when the chief guest's resume was read out during the introduction that I came to know that this 'assertiveness' was second nature to Ms Roopa  and that she has demonstrated it a number of times in her career. In 2004, as Superintendent of Police, Dharwad, she flew in with her team to Bhopal and arrested Ms Uma Bharti, the then CM of  Madhya Pradesh  in connection with a 10-year-old non-bailable criminal case . Ms Uma Bharti was accused of hoisting the national flag at Dharwad’s communally sensitive, Idgah Maidan on Independence day.

 In 2013, as deputy commissioner of police of the City Armed Reserve in Bangalore, she withdrew the unauthorized additional orderlies (115 gunmen from 82 politicians) and escort vehicles deployed for MLAs and MPs, and the former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. While working in Bidar, she included the name of a ruling party MLA in the  FIR, accusing him of instigating a mob to desecrate an Ambedkar statue for political gains. 

Ms Roopa started her talk with a story. The Japanese love to eat their fish fresh. They were not satisfied with dead fish brought from the deep sea. The traders tried many solutions like use of ice containers, but the customers were not satisfied. Finally they came up with an idea of putting sharks along with the fish that was freshly caught from the sea. It was found that the fish remained alive long after reaching the shores. The speaker left it to the audience to derive suitable moral to the story. One of them could be the value of innovating until the solution /goal is  achieved. Another learning could be "those whom we perceive as enemies, may be unwittingly helping us to be alert,  enabling us to update ourselves and achieve success". Therefore, the speaker advised " Don't be bogged down by competitors or enemies in your life."

In Ms Roopa's own life, in view of her unconventional approach to life and work, she has faced many obstacles such as threats and defamation notices. She has been transferred as many times in a career spanning nineteen years. In her posting as DG Prisons, she survived for barely 17 working days ( transferred within 5 days of her submitting the report on the Parappana Agrahara prison). Here, one is reminded of Mr Ashok Khemka, IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, who has been transferred 52 times in a 27 year career. He shot into limelight when he cancelled the mutation of a land deal between Congress leader Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra's company, Skylight Hospitality and major real estate developer DLF.  Officers like these are not afraid to act because they neither hanker after cushy postings nor are they afraid of transfers. During her talk Ms Roopa reiterated "When we are in a position to take action we should, irrespective of what others think or whether support is there from others." 

As there were family members comprising of students also in the audience, Ms Roopa spoke about her journey since childhood and  how she chose  police service as her vocation. She said that she was active in the NCC (National cadet corps) during the student days and had also gone to Delhi to participate in the Republic day parade. Thus  there was this pull  and natural attraction for uniform and the civil services. However, the journey was not easy. When you are good in many fields, the challenge is all the more to take appropriate decision with respect to your future. People around try to influence you to pursue the traditional courses such as medicine and engineering.

Ms Roopa was a state rank holder in Class X and XII board examinations. Therefore,  relatives and family friends were shocked when she chose arts for graduation. Clear in her mind, she worked hard to achieve her goal of becoming a civil servant and serving society. Subsequently, after she passed the civil services exam, she was advised to choose IAS over IPS as IPS was held not suitable for women. However, Ms Roopa  was very clear about what she wanted. She opted for the police services and has never looked back. 

It is not as if doubts and setbacks do not come up. As for example,  during the journey,while others seemed set in their lives having chosen professional courses, there was an element of uncertainty in the path  chosen by the speaker. After all. at that point of time, one cannot be hundred percent sure of being selected for the  civil services . At such times, trust in the universe and  confidence in self comes to one's aid. The speaker said that courage is the key for  doing new things and making a mark. Therefore one should not be  bothered about the discouraging people .

 Choose your field with care and clarity and go about it with passion. What can be done, should be done "Now"and not on a later day,when the climate is favourable or you have gained sufficient years of experience. She exhorted the audience to focus on what you have "Now" and make the most of it. As a  parting remark, Ms Roopa had some  advice specifically for the students- "Don't be addicted to the social media. Learning should be like a Tapas (Penance). Work hard and achieve success!"  

The audience had come to experience a relaxed evening. But they got a lot more from a speaker who can be described as a role model for those in leadership positions, to do one's duty without fear or favour. Indeed, here was an evening to cherish for the children and adults alike!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Managing Mind in a Competitive World

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The topic for the evening meeting discussion of NIPM, Karnataka Chapter on 17th April 2019 was on the interesting and relevant subject of managing the  mind  particularly in the  turbulent times that we presently live in. The speaker was Swami Bodhananda, Chairman of the Sambodh Society operating in India, North America and Europe. The objective of the foundation is spiritual revival of humankind. It seeks to inculcate values such as respect for all religions, respect for the individual and his/her fundamental rights, respect for nature and harmonious living with a scientific temper.

At the outset, the Speaker said that  India has got a lot to give to the world in the spiritual realm. It does not mean that we have the monopoly of all wisdom in the world. We will teach and we will learn as well, accepting the best practices from anywhere. Today, we are living in a global village with the way of  life in any part of the world, influencing lives in other parts of the world. Managing the mind has become most essential for being effective in any life situation. He gave the example of Lord Vishnu,  the "CEO of the universe". Although he is sleeping on a serpent ( a fearful prospect for ordinary mortals) and responsible for the well being of the entire universe, he is always in a calm, cool and collected, demeanour.

One can manage better when the mind is relaxed. When tensed, you tend to lose grip over the situation. Therefore, being relaxed is the most important lesson. Being relaxed even  under provocation is the key. The provocation these days come from various quarters- work place, family situations, traffic on the road, teenage children, ill health etc. The management task is to be calm and relaxed in all stressful situations. In this connection, we have to learn to not blame self or others. Like Lord Ayyappa riding a tiger with a smile, a leader should have the quality of calmly managing all circumstances without complaining. After all, a leader has been positioned to handle uncertainties and make things happen without giving excuses. Taking new challenges and promptly responding to situations, becomes possible when the mind is calm and quiet. Today, AI may be available in a big way for gathering data but the ultimate decision will have to be made by the human mind.

The traffic of the mind involves processing a thought or sensation, applying the individual's own values and responding to it. How you respond to something depends on this process. As for example, one person, based on his belief system, would accept the Ganga Jal ( Water of river Ganga)) as sacred and consume it with devotion for attaining Moksha, while another may look at it as polluted water ."You are nothing but your mind." Yet,deep down, we are all pure consciousness. In the work situation, for effectively motivating people, the key is to make people aware of this fact. When this is done, work is not merely a means of earning one's bread but something that is pivotal to one's very being.

When the employee is made aware that "he is the field of infinite possibilities" and that he is a spirit deep down and not just the body/ mind/emotions or a pair of hands, the idea of ownership and belongingness automatically happens. When the employee is thus engaged, although the company benefits, the bigger benefit is for the individual himself. Thus it is not salary raise and other benefits alone  that motivate employees.The time and effort spent in explaining to the employee the vital role of  work in his happiness and well being is very important. 

Three major problems faced by human beings today are stress, anxiety and anger. In view of the  inability to handle stress, everybody seems to be afflicted by the passion of anger. Pollution, adulterated food etc are also causes of stress. The process of battling the big three has resulted in strained relationships. " You don't understand me" says the wife to husband while husband says the same to her. Nobody is prepared to listen patiently. They are preoccupied with themselves. Operating in a very complex, data driven world with people having become more aspirational has added to the problem.  The dysfunction of the mind which is the instrument for dealing with the world has been the biggest problem.

In the modern times we also have to grapple with situations such as jobless growth and carbon intensive growth. In  the situation of  jobless growth, unemployment remains stubbornly high even as the economy grows. This happens when a relatively large number of people have lost their jobs, and the ensuing recovery is insufficient to absorb the unemployed, under-employed, and those entering the work force for the first time.Problem of carbon intensive growth is encountered when Economic growth leads to greatly increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resultant impact on the global climate.

For managing the mind in a competitive world, the employees need to be told that "We are all fields of infinite possibilities. We are responsible for our own happiness and success." This message is in stark contrast to the general tendency of people to blame others for all their problems. Taking responsibility for one's own well being, is cardinal. We come across many disruptions in life, some of which are not under our control. However, when the mind is relaxed we are able to deal with them -  able to go deep into oneself and come out with solutions. In this connection, HR needs to think 'outside the box' and guide people about managing the complexity by calmness.

Swami Bodhananda suggested changes in life style including in the food that we eat, change in the breathing style ( breathing from the abdomen instead of chest) and giving a break after every three hours to the employees during which time they can engage in relaxation, deep breathing and prayers. It would be good if they have a big picture of the company and life rather than worry about the small stuff. Working together as a team is another important requirement and also a challenge. Humility is very important to be able to work in a team.

One should be able to respect another, irrespective of his competence on the job. The speaker concluded that "Real HR" is contributing to all these aspects. The focus of HR  should be on implementing native Indian concepts, for the effectiveness of our native work force. Listening to the speaker, I was reminded of the practices in Ace Manufacturing Systems Bangalore that I had shared in my blog " Quiet Best Practices". Readers may like to read about it  here.( ).

One cannot dispute the core of what the Swamiji discussed viz. about the need to be calm and relaxed when approaching a problem or taking decisions. His suggestion to delve into the Eastern thought for solutions instead of blindly aping Western models makes sense.Yet, the fact remains that the industry does not have the time or inclination to consider this option busy as people are, doing "Business at the speed of thought." Everything has to be done in haste so as to appear efficient and it is the person who appears very busy, seemingly working long hours who is held 'valuable' to the organization. The management education in the country is based on the Western model and concepts. 

There is hardly any literature about the "How" of implementing the Eastern thought in an industry. Now and then we listen to a Swamiji or a speaker who quotes from the Gita, Ramayana or Mahabharata, nod our heads in agreement and go back to practising the Western approach in which most of us are trained in the first place. How many Allopathic doctors are willing to acknowledge that Ayurveda also has its place in healing? (one objection would be that it is not backed by scientific research). How many CEO s of Indian companies believe that a calm, relaxed mind is paramount and that focusing on this will automatically take care of bottom line, top line or Ebitda?   

At one time, I was excited by the prospect of introducing Eastern thought in management. I had procured two books published by the Allahabad management association one each based on Ramayana and Mahabharata. I also went to listen to talks of Mr Subhash Sharma in the late nineties ( subsequently he published the book "Management in New Age:Western Windows Eastern Doors" in 2006) in which he talked about using more of Eastern thought assimilating it with the Western. The problem with these exercises is that they focus on the 'what', providing theoretical models rather than on 'How' in practical terms.Perhaps this can be worked out only by the practitioners in the industry themselves. 
To my mind, we have had plenty of Gyan (Knowledge) from various quarters.Time has come for us HRDians to work out for ourselves as to how to implement the knowledge. First of all, we need to ask ourselves "Do we really believe this is important?" If so, what practical steps can we take to implement it. While having tea before the meeting, I met a gentleman Mr sadasivam who said that a topic like this is very important and that a discussion on it requires at least half a day. He also opined that that on a week day, it is difficult for members working in the outskirts of the city to make it to the venue and therefore the meeting should be on a Saturday.
I feel that half a day may not be required for normal meetings. However, NIPM and NHRD (HR Professional bodies) would do well to organize brain storming sessions of half day duration on a Saturday dedicated to eliciting  simple, straight forward, actionable points, on matters important to the profession and develop a model for implementation. It could be on the topic we have discussed above or other matters such as " What can be done to enhance the esteem of the  HR role in the company, particularly with reference to our internal customers?", "Practical ways for enhancing work place wellness" etc. Till such time we  discuss  practical implementation aspects and implement some of them , we will continue to applaud " the great ideas" in a meeting and go back to doing what "we have always done".

When we continue to do the same things,we will continue to get the same results!