Wednesday, 28 December 2016

From the Notes of Yesteryears 4 - Ten Commandments for an Enthu Team

Background: Over the years I have taken notes from seminars attended, books read or even from articles in a newspaper. I share them here for the benefit of readers...

Ten Commandments for an Enthusiastic Team : -

  • Team members help each other to do things right.
  • They look for ways to make ideas work.
  • If in doubt about the intention or behaviour of a member,they check it out with him/her and don't make negative assumptions about each other.
  • Team members help each other win and take pride in each other's victories.
  • They speak positively about each other and about organization at each opportunity.
  • They maintain a positive attitude no matter what the circumstances are.
  •  Each member acts with initiative and courage as if "all depends on you."
  • Team members do everything with enthusiasm- It's contagious.
  • They give that which they expect to receive from other members-eg. Respect.
  • The team never loses hope; never give up.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck- Book Review

Seeing the title of the book, readers may wonder as to  how and why such a book is being featured or reviewed in a blog dedicated to HR matters in a corporate or business scenario.I myself entertained similar thoughts about its contents  when I ventured to read the book written by Ashwin Sanghi who has made a name for himself as a  writer of three best seller fiction books ( one of them a crime thriller coauthored with James Patterson). This is his first non fiction book As I went past the initial pages, I realized that there was quite a  bit in this book that is not merely 'wishful thinking' and that corporates can gainfully put into practice some of the ideas for achieving success.

In the beginning of the book itself Ashwin relates a conversation he had while socializing with a senior citizen and  family friend. "In life 99% is about good luck. just remember that son" he had told him. When asked what was the remaining 1%, he replied "The final 1% is called bloody good luck." It's all about having the ability to catch the opportunities that fall as a rainfall. The rainfall is available to everyone but only a few use it as an  opportunity to harvest the rain.The rest of us simply keep complaining about the the lack  of water but do nothing about it.

Our good luck is related to our ability to increase opportunities that come our way, recognize the valuable ones among them and respond effectively to the identified opportunities.What this means is to apply the 3R s by (1) raising the number of opportunities (2) recognizing them better and (3) responding better to the recognized or identified opportunities.Attitude and approach are important tools for applying the 3R s.

In this connection the author has given 13 suggestions or focus areas for raising, recognizing and responding to luck.

  • Lucky people grow and strengthen their network. Luck hates loneliness.Network can be built on the principle of six degrees of separation. Today with social media opportunities,sky is the limit. Lucky people not only strengthen their existing networks but also grow new ones.
  • Intuition: Lucky people listen to their intuition and develop it.The key is to listen to the whisper of the inner wizard and ignore the messages of the inner critic.
  • Lucky people are willing to try new things.They go to great lengths to induct variety in to their routines- do new things, meet new people or travel to new places. They are willing to work outside their comfort zones.
  • Risks- Lucky people take calculated risks, cut losses and learn from mistakes. They have developed the ability to distinguish between a dip and a dead end. A good example of this is Mr Ratan Tata taking a calculated risk in setting up Nano car plant in Singur, West bengal, then cutting his losses by exiting Singur, learning from his mistakes and not repeating it on moving to Sanand,Gujarat.
  • Positivity: Lucky people stay positive , persevere and cultivate a thick skin.They are not easily influenced either by applause or criticism.
  • Alertness: Lucky people find ways to remain calm and thus alert even in trying circumstances. Often it is the alertness that allows us to spot opportunities when they arise or come in disguise.
  • Situations: Lucky people make the best of bad situations such as unexpected loss in business, natural calamity, key people leaving your company en bloc, or a death of loved one. In this connection, one of the stories the author has shared is that of of  Ms  Anu Aga former chairperson of Thermax Ltd, who  restructured and  turned around the company(to an  annual revenue of around 50 Billion Rupees serving 75 countries)  at a time when she was facing grave personal tragedies.   
  • Confidence: Lucky people overcome their fears, develop their confidence and communicate appropriately. They open up to the flow of opportunities.By overcoming fear and shyness, we become much more capable of seizing opportunities.
  • Information: Lucky people stay informed and absorb new ideas. Opportunities flow when we are  aware of what is happening around us, listen to informed individuals, keep track of the news and read books.
  • Goodness: Lucky people understand the power of goodness. Mr JRD Tata used to say that "It's nice to be important but it is more important to be nice." Lucky individuals who are nice, polite, humble and considerate understand that the greater the positive  deeds they put out in the universe, the better the chances of their attracting good luck. 
  • Passion: Lucky people find ways to be paid for doing what they are passionate about.The only thing that money gives you is the freedom of not having to worry about money.Try balancing Lakshmi and Saraswati in your life.
  • Unlearn: Lucky people unlearn old attitudes and approaches.John Grisham a lawyer became a successful crime fiction writer which was made possible by his willingness not to be tied down to the profession he was trained for.To repaint a building with new paint, the old paint has to be got rid of first.Stripping off old paint and plaster is 70% of the job.Repainting is only 30%. 
  • Leverage: Lucky people leverage preparation,planning and potential."Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" said Seneca, Roman philosopher. When we are adequately prepared for an event, meeting or interaction, we are able to respond to an opportunity quickly or effectively enough to attract the luck.
The book has been written in the style of self help books with a number of anecdotes and stories of achievers from all over the world, including that of  the author's own life experiences.The book redefines the word "Luck"in the sense it is not used in the casual , simplistic and fatalistic manner that we tend to generally understand it. It is therefore relevant and interesting for application in organizations and in  one's personal life.

The readers, by now,would have accurately gauged my opinion of the book. I would not like to give a number but would certainly give it a big  thumbs up sign for its relevance and the excellent tips it offers for attracting luck. The bottom line is that you don't  get lucky just by sitting pretty, doing nothing but earning it through some intelligent attitude, approach and action!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Meeting the 'Real needs'of Customers by HR

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This article written by me in 2001, was published in the Management section – “Avenues” of the reputed Deccan Herald newspaper published from Bangalore  . Allowance may kindly be given for the time warp… For one you will see the word “Personnel “also used along with “HR” to refer to the function.

As I go down the memory lane, an incident in the early eighties comes to mind. I was then a young personnel officer.It was around 3 PM in the afternoon. I was accompanying my colleague who was few years senior to me in age and experience, on a visit to the shop floor. Even as we were passing through some shops of the factory, my colleague kept dishing out  his comments- "These shop floor fellows are all crooks. They don't want us to come here since all their shortcomings will be exposed.These engineers generate a lot of scrap and wastage which they don't want us to see." For my part, I was feeling very uncomfortable. I was hoping to myself that he at least speaks softly. What if someone heard us? What would he think? I was still fresh from college and was not aware of the "they"and "us"mindset.

Later on I realized that the engineers and technical personnel reciprocated similar feelings. They see the personnel guys as problem creators rather than problem solvers; people who are to be avoided and feared rather than to be looked up to for help. At best they can be useful for passing on some HR or disciplinary problem. To cite an example, here is an incident that happened during an  evening class in October 1989 when the students at Max Muller Bhavan including me, were taking a tea break in between German lessons. One of the participants asked me the company I was working for and the functional area. The moment I answered "HR", she became visibly hostile and agitated. This person who was working in a manufacturing company, it appears  had had an unpleasant experience with the personnel department. On hearing the commotion, some others who were mostly working in software firms intervened.They could not understand what the fuss was all about.To them HR guys were quite nice and certainly not obnoxious or harmful.

The functional approach to management, over the years has defeated the very essence and  purpose of service departments. They tend to forget the big holistic  picture of the total organization. HR, finance and other staff functions were envisaged to provide service to those engaged in core activities such as that  employees are free in the mind to totally concentrate on their work , ensuring the standards of quantity and quality. Unfortunately the "Service" departments got bogged down in establishing their importance by insisting on rigid rules and interpreting them  as they deemed fit at different points of time.  

Such interpretations were more to establish their supremacy and not necessarily in the overall interests of the organization or the employee.If some money is due to an employee as arrears, the accounts department does not pay it automatically but expects him to approach them eagerly and make a formal request in writing. Given the attitude and approach of the service departments it is no wonder that an employee expends a good deal of time worrying about correctly getting his salary/ fringe benefits and fairly his promotion/ placements etc. These worries and distractions mean that the performance of the employee is adversely affected.

Marketing employees working directly in the field know the importance of taking care of the customers. They can immediately see the impact of any complacency reflected in loss of orders/business. Yet the question arises as to how the end product given to the customer can be excellent if all the processes in between do not maintain a standard of excellence? Here the concept of internal customer becomes very important. It is only when the maintenance department provides a thorough and prompt service to its customer namely production that the commitment to the external customer in terms of prompt delivery and quality can be ensured. The same is the case with all areas including staff functions whose quality of service impacts the end product.

It is clear that  HRDians will have to devote more time to understanding the business of their companies and focus on the actual needs as perceived by their internal customers.According to Ms Annie Fisher, a New York based management thinker, the HR personnel need to sit down and figure out the 'real work' and see how they could make themselves essential to its execution.The 'real work'may include addressing company's travails in the market place, deadlines that must be be met,and competitions that must be bested. In this regard, instead of reeling out words like change management, diversity, team work,, learning organization etc.Ms Fisher stresses that the focus should be on what those engineers/ internal customers are concerned about ( absenteeism? high turnover? attracting talented employees?) and coming out with concrete ways to help.

Conscious effort to get the entire team tuned to serving "internal customers"is the need of the hour.The mindset that "things should be done the way we have always done" is a major obstacle to a shift in approach.Yet as Eric Hoffer, author says "In times of massive change it is the learner who will inherit the earth, while the learned stay elegantly tied to a world that no longer exists." HRDians would do well to introspect on the "Nine sins of HRD managers"enumerated by professor T.V.Rao namely (1) Not knowing enough about the business of the company (2) Not knowing much about the customers of the company (3) spending 10 percent more on recruitment and visiting campuses for it (4) not spending enough time on performance review and feedback of subordinates in HR departments (5) not visiting employees at their work places (6) undue efforts to furnish HRD department and make it look distinctive and attractive (7) influencing rewards and promotion decisions (8) playing "Yes sir" to CEO (9) overemphasizing only one HR system like performance appraisal or training.

Addressing the above points would to a large extent contribute to the basic theme of this article viz healthy relationship between the customer and the supplier for mutual benefit and benefit of the organization.For what place does mistrust have in a partnership or in a customer- supplier relationship? There cannot be any doubt that mistrust has to be removed.It has to be replaced by mutual respect and concern.If there is a tiff in a marital relationship, it may be a point of debate as to who, whether the husband or the wife should take the first step at reconciliation.

However, there can be no such doubts when the relationship involved is between a supplier and his internal customer. HRDians who are the suppliers will have to take the first step to gain the confidence of their customers- articulate that they really care about them and can contribute meaningfully towards accomplishing the 'real work' as perceived by the customers.Having gained the confidence of the customer that his basic concern and that of HR is the same , the supplier and customer can together take bigger steps for building a healthy, harmonious and charged work environment. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Webinar- Transition from Founder to CXO

Grey tip Software Pvt Ltd is a software solutions company in the HR domain that seeks to provide relevant and cost effective solutions to corporates worldwide. The areas covered include employee information management, leave and attendance management, training, appraisals, compensation etc. As a part of value addition and customer engagement, the company organizes "expert webinar series"  periodically on topics of interest and of benefit to their customers.There are many customers who are start ups with few years of existence. Hence the relevance of doing a webinar on the subject , which happened on 28th Sept'16. 

The expert who interacted with the participants was Mr. Rakesh Mishra, Co-founder & CEO, Excubator India whose company has been helping start-up companies to set up high-performance incubators.  I got to attend this webinar on the invitation of a friend Mr Sayeed Anjum, Co-founder & CTO, Grey tip, I am happy I accepted the invite since it turned out to be a very informative and insightful session. The webinar kicked off with Mr Dinesh Babu, Application Trainer, Grey tip, introducing the speaker and the subject . He said that the top challenges for young companies in the 21st century are having a mission and vision, raising funds, hiring the right employees and managing them

Mr Rakesh Mishra began the session underscoring the fact that the role of the founder changes as the company grows and many new challenges are confronted by him/ her.The company moves from the seed phase to the stabilization phase and then to the growth and evolution phases. In the initial stages passion and dedication could primarily be the driving force that propels the creation of the company. At the stabilization phase however, you realize that you need to start focusing on a vision and that a different kind of leadership which  is more structured becomes essential. The transition calls for changes in aspects such as core attitudes, skills & competencies,  growth as an entrepreneur and sharpening of role design in terms of what you do and how you operate..

The founder needs to introspect and get clarity for himself  as to what role he is now playing- CEO? CFO? COO? It is essential  to acknowledge that some founders may not necessarily fit in to the role of a CXO. It is this clarity that would lead to role design sharpening and facilitate the founder to contribute effectively in the present times as well. Managing the transition from the seed phase to the stabilization phase and beyond  would involve the following:

Managing the business effectively  

An important aspect here would be moving from doing to leading. It is necessary to recognize one's limitations, protect quality and control economics as you scale. It also means facing what doesn't work and maturing functional processes in terms of  financial, hiring, procurement etc.Proper processes need to be in place as you grow bigger, as reputation issues become more important.

Building the organization

At this stage building the organizational culture, developing leaders,selling the vision, communicating and drawing up responsibility matrix etc is very important. One has to guard against the tendency to become disconnected on moving to senior positions. One relevant question that needs to be asked is "What do I have in my organization in terms of culture in various areas like collaboration, growth prospects,ability of employees to move to the next role, delegating and developing leaders? " If this is not done, the founder will end up doing everything himself.The staff would still be depending too much on him. The founder would do well to hire and groom someone   better than him.

Selling vision and communicating

The vision of the company needs to be developed and communicated widely throughout the organization to ensure that everyone is on the same page.There should a clearly defined responsibility matrix with everyone being clear about their roles.

Building growth horizon

From the stage of a start up, as the company matures, it needs to have growth horizons short term and long term ranging  from 3 years to 5 years  and 10 years. Horizon 1 would be focusing on defending the existing core in terms of existing markets and existing solutions. Expanding the core would be the Horizon 2 wherein new  markets and solutions get attention. The focus in   Horizon 3 would be Transformative growth when questions of the amount of investment in R&D  , leadership talent that would be available  after a time span of say10 years etc get priority attention.

Building  growth horizon would involve seeding new markets for products and services, providing cross functional innovation support system, arresting activities of  silo functioning  and encouraging a team working culture.

Managing corporate governance

As the transition happens from a young company to a mature company the processes in place for a transparent corporate governance is very significant.This will need to address the following effectively:

-    Develop policy infrastructure:   Proper documentation and processes in areas such as procurement, compensation etc.

-    Manage the Board of Directors:  More external members get inducted in to the board as the company grows.Alignment with them becomes a crucial requirement.

-   Manage investor expectations :  The bigger the company, the more engagement would it have with its investors. IPOs etc are  likely to be issued and hence more transparency about projections and focus on meeting investor's'expectations.

- Manage Compliance : When  a small company, compliance of all kinds  may be viewed as a necessary evil. For a bigger company its credibility and reputation is at stake and therefore it is necessary to manage in a more thorough fashion for ensuring strict compliance.

Work and life discipline  

The speaker Mr Rakesh Mishra explained how there is a lot of passion at the founding stage.Later the passion tends to get dissipated and one may feel exhausted. Looking at the next ten years can be challenging. Every human being has to pay attention to his family and his health also while focusing on his career.
The CXO is not a settling down role and  the incumbent  is required to continuously focus on the Growth and long term vision. In the process, the family or one's health may get ignored. Small activities addressing these needs are to be done; "collective wellness" is the key and not just the business.Your own 'machine' should be strong and powerful enough to meet the challenges in all fronts.

In the question- answer time, the question posed was "How do you solve the problem of  managers behaving like CXOs and stifling the juniors from expressing themselves and being visible to the senior level?"
The solution suggested was  informal meetings over lunch or tea where juniors can interact with the senior executive  without the presence of their immediate managers or supervisors.It was suggested that  HR can facilitate such meetings.    

Note: CXO is a short way to refer, collectively, to corporate executives at what is sometimes called the C-level, whose job titles typically start with "Chief" and end with "Officer."
  Officers who hold C-level positions are typically considered the most powerful and influential members of an organization; consequently, they make higher-stakes decisions, their workload is more demanding, and they have relatively high salaries.

CXO titles include CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

CIO (Chief Information Officer), CCO (Chief Compliance Officer), CSO (Chief Security Officer)

Sunday, 30 October 2016

What does Future hold for the Training/ Learning and Development Function in India?.

Attending a professional evening meeting on the subject "The Challenges of  workforce training & Development- Are there any Lessons India can learn?" is reward and motivation  enough for any Training/ HR professional to mark his or her presence. The additional bonuses for me  on 26th October, when I attended the program of the Indian Society for Training and Development (ISTD), Bangalore Chapter, was the opportunity to witness two historic events - namely release of the first E newsletter and unveiling of  the Logo of  of one of the oldest chapters of the society in the country.

The auspicious event started with the lighting of the lamp. On the dais were the speaker of the day, Dr Moorthy Uppiluri, CEO,Randstad India, Prof J.Philip, President of XIME ,Ms Meera Venkat, Chairperson of ISTD, Bangalore Chapter, Mr Atul Sharma, Southern regional council member, ISTD and Mr Renukeshwar,CPM, Bangalore Metro transport corporation in whose premises the event was held. The honours of releasing the E newsletter and unveiling the Logo were done by Dr Moorthy and Prof Philips respectively which was followed by the discussion on the topic of the day.- "The Challenges of  workforce training & Development- Are there any Lessons India can learn?"

Right at  the beginning of his talk the speaker Dr Moorthy called attention to the changing scenario and  approach to learning. He predicted that in future there would be less of class room learning and that  the focus would shift to E learning and webinar modes, He opined that this would be more so as there is an attention deficit in today's Gen Y students who would prefer learning at their pace through online courses. The learning courses of top universities are now available through Coursera and other online sites.According to Dr Moorthy  instead of a general syllabus, the future would see students learning in a manner that meets their unique needs. Student  gets to choose his professors and decide the  basket of subjects he would like to learn.

The speaker underscored the importance of customization in the modern times which is likely to become even more in the days to come. He gave the the example of the Starbucks coffee. Customer  who pays Rs 15/ for a cup of coffee is prepared to pay Rs 100/ for Starbucks because of the customization and value creation. He is open to differentiated pricing if he gets to decide whether the milk used is non fat or otherwise, sugar free or the exact number of sugar cubes he likes.  With regard to education however, Dr Moorthy felt that in India, the ability to consume the content is a challenge for the students and this would actually become opportunities for ISTD and other such forums to prepare them for digesting such content .

Dr Moorthy then discussed the problem of skill gap between the expectations of the employers and the actual skill sets of students who pass out from colleges. The corporates find that they are required to spend a lot of time and effort to orient freshers from campuses  to the real work place. At the same time the students are equally frustrated to realize that after having acquired professional degrees, they are still not held competent to have a go at the job straight away. The speaker felt that something needs to be done immediately to address this problem. He suggested that industries adopt community colleges in their area. This would enable them to provide inputs as to the actual requirements of the industry and the students can also be given opportunities to visit and see for themselves how work happens in real time. This would be a Win- Win proposition as students / interns are assured of  ready employment and the employer can look forward to better retention.

My own experience and observation  on the level of appreciation and co operation between industries and educational institutions can at best be termed  as 'dismal'. Educational institutions do not make the effort to find out from customers as to what their 'real needs' are, when drawing up the syllabus nor do they have a  mechanism for continuing interaction with the industry. Professionals are hardly ever  invited to share live experiences with students nor are people with industrial experience preferred as faculty. The stand taken by educationalists is that those from industry do not have a PhD degree and therefore do not 'create knowledge', little appreciating the fact that a few from such a background would give a more realistic and holistic touch to the  knowledge, skill and attitude imparted.

Similarly, executives working in industries  feel that they are 'too busy' to spend time with students who have come to do projects with them. The exercise is seen more as a favour supporting the students in the part fulfillment requirement of their course. The students are not seen as future employees who need to be equipped with practical aspects so that they can contribute effectively on the job later on . Interestingly,  in view of being too busy some line managers decline requests to be members of the campus selection team. Yet, they later complain about the inadequate  competencies of those recruited. I have discussed this  irony in a poem titled "Interview". ( ). Adopting of community colleges by industries, as  suggesed  by the speaker could be a step in the right direction. Yet what is basic and most important is that educational institutions and industries see mutual benefit in promoting closer ties and interaction with each other.

Dr Moorthy stated that work as we know it is likely to change in dramatic ways. The jobs in the market place may not exist in the same way. All repetitive jobs may be  assigned to robots and people would not be  going to designated places to work but work would  come to where they are stationed. Known opportunities could disappear with many new unknown ones emerging. Lot of horizontal movement could  happen with production guys moving into service and those in service getting into production. In such a scenario opportunities would open up for training establishments.   

The speaker next turned to the subject of managers being outdated in their approach( two or three generations behind according to him). Today, they are required to deal with a generation of employees who have a mind of their own and may not be enthused to work merely on instructions being given to them. 'Standardization', while dealing with employees is no longer valid. Each person has to be dealt with as individuals. To highlight the fact that the present generation is different, he gave the example of his own son who in spite of having  option to work for branded companies  prefers to work for start ups. It is cutting edge and innovation than the Gen Y seeks over stability. Under the circumstances managers require training to unlearn and relearn management approaches to cope with the new scenario. This  is a challenge as there would be resistance in view of the fact they have become successful thus far with existing skill sets.

Training/ Learning and development needs to shift focus to customization and branding. It would not do to offer your standard training package for everyone. Customization for specific teams and individuals would be the key. As a lot of relearning is involved, reskilling 45 million people working  in the organized sector in India  is a big opportunity for the training organizations/ service providers. Dr Moorthy cited the example of the Apple smart phone to draw attention to the importance of branding. people are prepared to pay Rs 60 to 70 thousand every three months to get hold of the higher version simply because of the brand name.

The speaker said that Learning and Development needs to be flexible like trapeze artists in the circus  to contribute to a  work scenario in which the  way people learn are changing drastically. This would mean not only using more of E learning platforms like Coursera and planet Ganges but coming out with more local solutions, relevant to the country. As of now Indians have been very good in adapting Western solutions effectively; more of customized solutions addressing local needs is the need of the hour. He gave the example of Alibaba in China, a home grown initiative that has given global companies like Amazon a run for their money.

Elaborating further, Dr Moorthy stated that indigenisation  and changing  the outlook of people towards innovation (as against just execution), is what will make an  economic impact.Innovative ideas, would enable  access to a wide range of solutions for the same problem. The learning & Development function can contribute to developing learning platforms and help corporates move from knowledge retention to  knowledge creation . Rules of learning has changed and this needs to be highlighted. In the classrooms students giving a wrong answer or asking a 'silly'question is no longer punished. similarly in the industries, a climate where mistakes can be made without fear of punishment needs to be created, This would facilitate innovation. The speaker pointed out that those playing video games today do not give up on losing.They are motivated to treat it as a challenge and  try again and again until they win.

Dr Moorthy concluded his thought provoking and engaging discussion with the following observation. The challenges and priorities of work force training would no longer be limited to enhancing skill sets but would  also include  aspects of cultural fit and style fit to the organization.

After the talk by Dr Moorthy, prof Philip briefly shared his own thoughts on the subject. He said that in a university education students get inputs on three areas namely knowing, doing and being. While online courses can satisfy the requirements in respect of knowing, they would fall short in the areas of doing and being. These days students engage in a number of activities other than academic to develop their personality. Prof  Philip said that Harvard University  after 100 years of its existence had undertaken a study on this subject and came to the above  conclusion .

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, attending this program was for me a very memorable and rewarding experience. Apart from listening to the speakers I got to exchange notes with members including  Mr Prakhar, who was honoured on the occasion as  the architect of the E News letter. After moving from Chennai to Bangalore, this was the first meeting of ISTD  that I was attending . While  In Chennai I had the privilege and  pleasure of speaking to  ISTD  members on the subject "Palace of Possibilities",participation in Bangalore had somehow eluded me. When I finally did, it was like a triple blast before the Deepavali festival !

Note: Deepavali is a festival of lights celebrated in India and fireworks are an important part of the celebration. Dhamaka is the sound or blast that emanates from the fire cracker.     

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Leadership in Action

This article written by me in 2001, was published in the Deccan Herald, a leading newspaper from Bangalore. Please give allowance for the time gap in case readers experience  flavour of an earlier period...

Leadership is a matter of priority and concern for everyone, be it top management schools, corporates or training organizations. It attracts full  attention of reputed institutions like ASCI and IIM as also individual consultants.It is professed with vigour by senior  corporate executives from  public platforms or while  addressing employees. There are no two opinions that leadership is a key single factor that influences effectiveness of organizations.

Yet, the fact remains that in reality little of what is vociferously advocated is translated into demonstrative behaviour in day to day aspects of work. You often hear complaints of leaders (bosses) who prefer to pass the buck, are unwilling to own  responsibility or stand by their juniors when things go wrong and are unwilling to take the initiative to develop those reporting to  them. According to Mr Jimmy Walker, "Indecision is fatal. I would rather make a wrong decision, many of them than build up a habit of indecision.I have known men who build successful careers in spite of many wrong decisions; but never one built on indecision."

Yet we come across many individuals  in leadership positions who more often than not opt for the easier alternative of indecision.Leadership in the real sense is "leadership in action."It is not what we say but what we do that constitutes real leadership.In a career span of many years, employees seldom come across many "real leaders". But the few such leaders, who can be counted on the fingers, could make an everlasting impact on their lives.

During the early part of my career I was working at Bhadigund Limestone mines of  Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Ltd ( VISL)  as welfare officer, in charge of all personnel and welfare matters at the mine . All of us officers reported to the Mines manager who was the head of the project. He was known for his clarity of thought and clear instructions.From the headquarters at Bhadravathi, the monitoring was done by the Deputy General Manager (Mines), through frequent telephone calls and occasional visits.He was known to lambast officers over the telephone and had a vicarious pleasure in fault finding.

Once, during one of his visits, while we were seated in the Mine's manager's office, the DGM, started attacking me for some action taken by me. Immediately, my boss the Mines manager intervened and said "Sir, he has only carried out my instructions. The mistake is mine.I assure you it will not happen again." Thus, very early in my career I had learnt an important lesson that of "owning responsibility." The DGM who felt powerless before such an officer was heard to lament "What do you do with such a guy? He immediately accepts the lapse and assures that it will not happen again."

It was the year 1989, the year VISL was taken over by SAIL. During the initial stages of the take over, the full SAIL team of the chairman and directors were to visit VISL for the first time. While elaborate arrangements were being made on all fronts, the chief (P&A) picked me to play the role of what he called "Officer in waiting" to the Director (Personnel), according to which I was to accompany the director to all the places he goes during the visit, answer all his queries and be available to make things easy for him in a new environment.Although I did not consider myself cut out for such an assignment, I immediately agreed since this was the first major responsibility that the new chief had assigned. "Follow him like a shadow and be available at arms length" he instructed. Being an important responsibility, I was keen to literally follow the instructions of the leader.

On the evening of the arrival of the Director, Chief (P&A) introduced me briefly and I was asked to report sharply at 8 AM to the guest house the next day. However, when I arrived at 8 AM. I found to my dismay that the chairman and directors had already moved to the dining hall and were seated at the table for breakfast. Since I was to be the shadow of the Director (Personnel), it was important that I also finish my breakfast on time. I therefore went to the corner of the table and sat down uncomfortably. From the strange looks I received from those seated at the table, I felt something was amiss. While there seemed to be annoyance with a trace of anger on the face of the executive director and CEO of our VISL plant,the face of the Director ( Corporate Planning) registered amusement. Around this time my leader, the Chief (P&A) entered the room, looked at me for a moment and hastily went away.

I soon forgot the incident and got fully involved in the activities of the day. I enjoyed myself thoroughly as I accompanied the director and  participated in all the activities that included plant visits, meeting with union leaders, meeting with personnel executives and an evening function organized by the Officers'association. I surprised my colleagues and myself with the energy and enthusiasm in my participation and involvement. Many came and commented on it days afterwards.At night a cross section of the officers was invited to dinner with the top Management team of SAIL.

Towards the end of the dinner, my leader gently took me aside and reminded that in the morning during breakfast, I had sat at the same table with directors."They discuss their personal matters during such interaction"he said.The enormity of the faux pas hit me only then.I felt deep regret at the amount of embarrassment I had caused him.I told him how I was totally new to the role and "had to learn things the hard way."

As I was returning home after a tight, incident packed, exciting day, a flood of emotions passed through me.I was overwhelmed by the gesture of my leader.He had chosen to wait and give the feedback at the end of the day. Had he done it at 10 AM instead of at 10 PM and in a harsh manner, my whole day would have been ruined and I would have gone through the motions as a zombie or robot. Once again, I had witnessed demonstrative leadership worthy of learning and emulation.

Much later in my career, I came across another leader who in spite of reaching the level of  Director (HR), in terms of status, did not allow that to come in the way of always treating junior colleagues with respect. He gave a lot of priority and importance  to learning and personally  accompanied our training team for selecting suitable management books for the library maintained by the department.. A lesser person would have held the activity too trivial to demand the attention and priority of a director. This leader belonged to a class of a rare few whose primary focus and interest was in "doing something"rather than "being something" ( Title/ Designation)

Leadership is a key factor that contributes to the effectiveness of organizations. But it will have to be taken out of the text books and from speeches in seminars and applied in day to day situations. Leadership in real terms is "Leadership in action."

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Celebration With a Difference

When the Dean of ISBR (Indian School of Business & Research), Electronics city Bangalore, Dr C. Manohar invited me to their 26th Foundation day celebrations, I readily accepted. It is always a pleasure to be in the midst of those engaged in learning. You get to listen to some eminent speakers and pick up some insights,  here and there. The invitation had indicated that there would be some felicitation of teachers as part of the celebrations. However, what happened live during the function was way beyond expectations and took my breath away. The chief guest of the function was the minister of Higher education, government of Karnataka, Mr Basavaraj Rayareddy.

 In his address the minister said that he was happy to be part of the foundation day celebrations of a reputed business school. He reminded the audience that economics and management education is not new to India and that  we have imparted, Kautilya’s Arthasasthra ( Science of wealth) in the ancient university of Thakshasila, to students from all over the world,
The striking feature of the function  was that the Gurus or teachers who were honoured were not only from ISBR or from the discipline of management alone, but  included personalities from other institutions; from all walks of life and from all regions of the State of Karnataka. The awards were wide ranging and touched all aspects of education right from founding/ fostering of education to its administration and actual roll out on the field. The award categories included Edu Poshaka, Edu Ratna, Sarthaka Jeevana award, institutional award, Motivational Guru, Acharya Purusha award, Teacher Extraordinaire, Uthkrushta Pradhyapaka and best teacher awards.

Some of the awardees were Shri K.C.Ramamurthy , President CMR Group and MP Rajya Sabha, Dr Vishweswar Bhat, Founder editor Vishwavani, Shri Premraj Jain, Adarsh Group of institutions, Dr Abdul Qadeer, Founder secretary Shaheen Group of institutions Bidar, Mr Balachandran Natarajan President of NHRD Bangalore Chapter,  Mridanga Vidwan Shri C, Cheluvaraj, Dr Anantharaman Professor ISBR, Dr MIM. Nehruzi , Chairman Gems Business school, Dr Sr Elizabeth C. S, principal Jyothi Nivas college, Dr B.G. Sathyaprasad ,Director, GT Institute of management, Dr T.V.Raju of RV Institute of Management , Dr RavindranathNayak, Director school of Business, Manipal university  Prof  V. Sashikala Principal,  RJS Institute of management, Dr K. Gupta, founder, KSG Centre for L&D, Prof ShivrajGoudapanour, Karnataka college Bidar, Mrs Ratna Cheramma  Coorg School, prof Sharmila Mallick Chouddhuri, Royal Concorde international school.

It was heartening to see a galaxy of talent in the field of education on one stage representing various age groups,stages of teaching (Professional,  degree, undergraduate and schools), and urban- rural areas. So much so a Mridangam vidwan (teacher of music) rubbed shoulders with teachers of management and those teaching in schools. They represented various geographical areas of the state-  Bangalore, Bidar. Manipal , Coorg and Mysore. The glow and excitement on the faces of the awardees was for all to see! This was certainly a wonderful and novel way to celebrate the foundation day.

The speeches, were apt and befitting the occasion. The address by Dr Vishweswar Bhat, Founder editor Vishwavani, while humourous and entertaining, underscored the importance of monitoring the quality of higher education in the state. He complemented the minister Mr Basavaraj Rayareddy for speaking out strongly on the performance of vice chancellors. He hoped that this will be followed by some tough action on the ground for enhancing the quality of higher education in the state.
In fact, all the speakers who spoke opined that the appointment of Mr Rayareddy is the best thing that could have happened to Karnataka. They felt that he had a progressive outlook and that they expect a lot to be achieved during his tenure.

 While many may consider it normal to praise the chief guest, it was obvious to anyone in the audience that Mr Rayareddy was clearly different from the general crop of VIPs or politicians. Normally, the chief guest of a function in our country tends to leave soon after giving his speech. It was refreshing to see the presence of  the minister right from the beginning till the end of the function. He participated enthusiastically in the process of honouring the awardees.

The young and dynamic MD of ISBR Mr Manish Kothari, in a presentation shared the following top 10 rules for success articulated by Jack Ma, the founder of  the Chinese E commerce company,Alibaba.  
  1. Get used to rejection
  2.  Keep your dreams alive
  3. Focus on culture
  4. Ignore the jibe “Little man!”
  5. Get inspired
  6. Stay focused
  7. Have a good name
  8. Customers are # 1
  9. Don’t complain. Look for opportunities
  10. Have a passion
  11. (  ) .This presentation by Mr Kothari was like the icing on the cake - of a unique, well organized function.

 As I  thanked and took leave of  the dean Dr C Manohar; I had the satisfaction of having  enjoyed every moment spent at the campus, right from the warm traditional welcome at the entrance, to the unique and lively function and a sumptuous quality lunch at the end.

 Yes, this was truly a foundation day celebration with a difference- A  celebration of education and learning with the entire learning fraternity!


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Evening Interaction with a Chairman from Hotel Industry

The monthly meeting of NIPM for the month of August was held in Hotel Ramanashree. Richmond Circle, Bangalore and the speaker was the Chairman of the Ramanashree group of hotels, Mr Shadakshari. In a way it was an interesting proposition as it is not often that we get to listen to leaders from the hotel industry.The challenges and priorities of the said industry could be totally different from that of manufacturing or for that matter, IT. Even as he started out, the speaker made it clear that all that he would be doing is share experiences from his life. "Do not expect theories from my talk, that is something you are already familiar with, being professionals in the industry". 

The first Ramanashree hotel was started on 28th January 1991 and presently there are four hotels in the Group. Mr Shadakshari stated that one thing that came out clearly from his experience was that it is not easy to predict human nature.As for example you cannot predict that a person from a poor economic background is likely to be dishonest or that a more educated person is likely to be honest.He shared real life experiences to drive home the point.

About a decade back, an employee, let's call him Ram,working as a house keeper in the Group's Mysore Road hotel, requested for a loan of Rs 25000/to meet expenses of his mother's treatment.The company policy at that time did not allow it. The employee was earning only Rs 3500/ per month.The amount requested was too many times more than his earnings.After deliberations, he was offered Rs 10000/ which he refused.

A week later there was a call from the GM of the hotel. He informed Mr Shadakshari that a guest who was a foreigner had left his wallet containing over a Lakh of Rupees, passport and other important documents in the hotel room and forgotten to take them while checking out. Ram had  promptly deposited everything to the hotel authorities for returning to the customer.The customer was overjoyed and wanted to reward Ram with Rs 25000/ but he was refusing to accept it. Based on the discussions over the phone, initially Ram was advised to accept the money as it was given willingly from a place of gratitude, straight from the heart. But Ram was clear in his mind- "No one can purchase my honesty" he said. "If it was for money, I could have kept the entire one lakh of rupees..". The GM advised the customer to give the amount to Ram as a loan which was not acceptable to him. Finally, the customer was convinced to give the amount as a loan to Ram.This time the offer was accepted and the loan repaid with interest.

Now, the other incident when the son of a manager working in Bangalore was diagnosed with a hole in his heart.The child underwent an operation at Jayadeva institute of cardiovascular sciences and research, a reputed Government funded hospital in Bangalore.Post operation, the patient was required to take medicines worth Rs 2000/ per month.In this connection a meeting was held to see if any assistance could be given and it was decided to pay the sum of Rs 2000/ additionally to the employee for a period of 18 months to tide over the crisis. Months later, management received a letter informing that the child of the manager had expired a year ago but  he was continuing to draw the additional sum towards treatment. When confronted, the manager admitted that his son had expired but felt that it was okay to to continue to receive the additional sum in view of his loyal service for many years.When he was asked to pay back the excess amount drawn, he resigned from the company.   

 Mr Shadakshari then revealed that he enjoyed visiting and talking to young children in schools. The one question that he regularly asked them was "What do you want to become in life?". At a Government school in Yelahanka, when this question was asked, he got the usual answers that could come from young innocent minds.A boy said he would like to be a 'Bus conductor'- He can travel everyday to the city and have a bag full of money on his shoulders.( He believed that the money is for him to take!). Other responses included wanting to become a police inspector or a cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar. One girl however, said she wanted to become a doctor. When asked "Why?" she replied, "I want to cure cancer. My father a mason, died of cancer last year and recently my mother also died of the same disease and I am now in an orphanage. I don't want any child to be an orphan."

Cut to a few years later in 2011, when the speaker was visiting the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, he was in conversation with a lively young woman. After some time she said "Sir, do you remember you visited our school many years ago and asked questions on our dreams in life? Today, I am working here as a research assistant and doing research on breast cancer, something close to my heart."   Mr Shadakshari said that he was stunned and yet happy to hear this. He underscored the importance of dreams and actively pursuing them for success in life.

The speaker also related an incident that had occurred during his visit to JC College of Engineering, Mysore to participate in a three day program on "Software for Success." During the program as is his wont, Mr Shadakshari had mentioned his favourite quote- “Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. “At the end of the program a girl came up to him and said “Sir, by your talk today you have touched my life in a big way and forever. All through, I have been a rank student, recently I failed in a subject. I was witness to seeing my brother committing suicide; saw his hanging body. I have been so depressed that I had decided to go his way. But today listening to your talk, I have changed my mind and decided to face life squarely. The speaker said that it is moments like these that give a real meaning to one’s life when you are able to make a positive influence on another.

Mr Shadakshari finally shared an anecdote involving our former President and scientist Dr Abdul Kalam. The speaker was present at a function in which Dr Kalam interacted with medical students. We all know that Dr Kalam has adorned many roles including that of a teacher. One  of the students asked a question “Sir, if you were to be reborn, who would you wish to be reborn as? “. The speaker threw the question to us and asked us to speculate as to what could have been the answer of the people’s President. None of us were anywhere near what Dr Kalam had replied to the student. He had said “I would like to be a good human being. If I am a good human being, I will be a good whatever other role.” All our efforts throughout life are for becoming a good human being. 

Continuing on a similar vein, he discussed the conversation between a husband and wife to highlight the importance of appreciation and living life in the present:

Husband:  If I were to die tomorrow what kind of funeral would you arrange for me?

Wife       : Dear, I would arrange for a rosewood coffin, especially designed epitaph, beautiful wreaths and the best preacher to speak about your good qualities...

Husband  : You are prepared to do  all this and spend around Rs 8 lakhs when I am gone. Why not give me a rose bud when I am alive?

The speaker  then turned to the student members in the audience and asked them "On how many occasions or days have you told your mother "Amma today the food was superb? He asked the other  members whether they told their spouses frequently  "I love you dear? " We tend to take those close to us for granted and fail to acknowledge and appreciate their contribution.

In the question and answer session that followed Mr Shadakshari was asked what prompted him to venture in to the business? He replied "I like hotel food but hate paying bills.As the owner I can eat to my heart's content without the problem of bill." Approaching the question more seriously, the speaker said that he was an electrical engineer working for Bajaj Electricals. His  frequent  visits to the Delhi office on Mansingh road,  drew his attention to the building next door that of  The Taj Mansingh Hotel.The seed was put in the mind and heart around that time to be owner of a quality hotel. Later an opportunity came for acquiring a property in Bangalore and start the hotel. It takes about 5 to 6 years to stabilize and earn profits.

To another question as to the challenges of dealing with people with reference to the hotel industry, the speaker said  it was important for you to meet your customers directly. The employees have to be treated as  human beings  with love and respect . They are the ones directly connected to the guests and their approach can be crucial for the success of your organization.

The entire talk of Mr Shadakshari was laced with humour, often leaving the audience in splits and it was a treat to listen to him.  


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Assertiveness Vs Playing Safe

As children life can be carefree. Even if incidents occur that are seemingly harsh, a child does not recognize it as such and goes about life, accepting it as it comes. It is much later as he or she moves in to adulthood that the problems of taking decisions are encountered. The choice is often between taking unpleasant decisions and closing your eyes to a problem and pretending it does not exist.

The acid test is bound to come your way when you start working in a corporate or for that matter, in  any organization. I started my career as a management trainee in the oldest steel plant in the country located at Bhadravati, a small town 250 Kms from Bangalore.After about six months of general shop floor exposure, we were posted for 'on the job' training. I was posted to labour welfare department to take care of accident compensation and rehabilitation of employees meeting with accidents. The big umbrella of Labour welfare was huge with canteen, company run schools, sports etc also coming under the department.

One of the employees attached to the department was Ramesha ( not his real name ) whose designated job was "Messenger". The job requirement was supposedly  distribution of mail from the department to other departments spread over a few acres and bringing  back the correspondence addressed to our department. However, in real terms he hardly did any work in the public sector scenario, having acquired for himself a reputation of being  a 'Dada' or goon.He was in to politics and was active in the youth Congress.

Few days in to my joining the department, Ramesha came and told me that the 'Yuvaka Sangha', an association of youngsters in the township was organizing Ganesha celebrations in a big way and sought my contribution to the collection fund. He said I should give atleast Rs 500/ (Converted to today's rates) and after some hesitation I agreed. Later when we were having lunch in the canteen I casually mentioned to friends about the Ganesha celebrations. They asked me how much I had given and when I told them the amount committed by me, they laughed and said that I had been taken for a ride. "A contribution of Rs 50/ would have been more than enough. Anyway, he is a toughie and has talked you in to this. Now you have no other go" they said.

I had agreed to give the money and it was my own decision. But listening to the comments of friends, I began to feel uneasy - "What if this person demanded similar amounts on many occasions in the future and see me as a 'soft target' ?". I decided that at the time of giving the money to Ramesha, I would tell him that this was a one off case and that I would not be able to give such sums in future." Although my friends warned me that by doing so, I would be playing with fire, I decided to go ahead with my decision to talk to him. 

However, when I spoke to Ramesha, I realized that I had taken on more than I had bargained for. He threw the currency note at me "Who do you think you are? You think we are beggars? You are living in the executive hostel, isn't it? Let us see... ". For the next two to three weeks, life was kind of a hell as Ramesha would abuse me in the open office in the local language (I was not conversant in Kannada at that point of time). He would say loudly not to me directly but as if to others in general "You know this 'fatty', hardly few months old in the company,  had the insolence to talk to me insultingly. He .........  " I thanked God that I did not understand most of his rant but one thing that was loud and clear was that I was being abused.

When it was about three days to go before the Ganesha evening function, I took courage and approached Ramesha. I told him that that I had no intention of hurting his feelings and that since I had on my own decided to give him the money, I wanted him to have it. He grudgingly accepted the contribution and a day later gave me an invitation to the Ganesh Utsav function.On the card, the name 'Abid Hussain' was written which was struck out and my name written. I took the card and told him that I would certainly participate.

On the evening of the D day, I visited the township to see the stage and surroundings lit up magnificently with very good sound systems.It was impressive considering that this was the year 1982 and we were in a small town of Bhadravati. When Ramesha saw me there was surprise on his face.He clearly had not expected me to come. The programs of the evening were very entertaining and satisfying. The next day when I met Ramesha, I told him that I was impressed with the arrangements and the quality of the program. He was very happy to hear that and his face lit up. After that I did not have any problem with Ramesha throughout my career in the company. It is another matter that a few years later he overreached himself, physically assaulted a manager in the township and had to pay for it with loss of his job. 

There are other instances; but in view of the need to keep the blog crisp, I am restricting the sharing to this experience. Every day, as professionals we face many situations where we have to take decisions and exhibit assertiveness if necessary. But often we are content to compromise, make peace with bullies ( who could be bosses, subordinates, peers, external contacts) and allow them to take advantage. Those who see us as weak, come back again and again to  persuade us to break rules ,make compromises or please them against our interests or interests of the organization. Hence the importance of choosing wisely  between assertiveness and playing safe each time, every time.. ...      

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Best HR Practices: The 3M Story

Recent times have been a bonanza of sorts as both NIPM and NHRD, professional bodies of HR, in their monthly evening meetings have been arranging talks on “best practices”. The pleasure for me has been twofold in the sense, I not only get to attend and become aware of the best practices but also have the pleasure of writing about them in my blog for the benefit of readers. After the “best practice” stories from Ingersoll and GE, I was eagerly looking forward to listen to the 3M story on 14th July (the first meeting organized by the new team of NIPM under the chairmanship of Mr T. Ashoka) at the Chancery Pavilion, Bangalore. The D day finally arrived and the speaker was Mr Maclean.S. Raphael, Executive Director, Human Resources, 3M India and Srilanka.

The speaker started his talk giving an outline about 3M as a global company. While many of us know about the ‘Post it’ sticky notes, it was a revelation that 3M has over 55,000 products and still counting. It has five businesses that include industrial consumables, health care, safety & graphics, electronics & energy and operates from over 70 countries and employs more than 88,000 employees.

It was clear right from the initial stage of the presentation that 3M attaches a lot of importance to R&D. It invests 5.5% of its sales every year for R&D and has 46 technology platforms at present. The innovation focus includes product, technology, culture, market spaces and HR innovation. At the outset Maclean clarified that the best practices in his company is not so much about the “What” but more on the “How”. In other words, the focus is more on the manner it is executed than the idea itself which many may feel that they already have in some form in their companies. He said that if a more than a century old, company has managed to remain current and robust, it is on account of the principles laid down by one of the earliest leaders Mr William. McKnight who was Chairman of the company from 1949 to 1966 and continued as honorary chairman of the board until 1972. His cardinal yet simple principles for day to day working included the following:

  • · Mistakes will be made; don’t condemn bona fide mistakes
  •     Do not micro manage
  •     Delegate

3M has been operating in India since 27 years with the corporate office in UB city, Bangalore, five manufacturing units and R&D centres at Electronic city, Bangalore and in Gurgaon. There are car care centres all over the country. The ‘Best HR practices” touch all aspects of an employee's life viz. Joining, communication, engagement/ retention, ER/IR, development, recognition and career.
The speaker touched upon and shared information on the following practices during the course of his talk
1) Campus Connect Program- INF Challenge (Young Innovators Challenge award) 2016

This program was introduced in India in collaboration with CII on the lines of 3 M’s global Young Scientist Challenge aimed at enhancing scientific exploration, innovation and communication across the country. Students of top-notch educational institutions such as XLRI, IIM, IIFT, TAPMI, SP Jain, NMIMS and BIM, Trichy participated. The students interested in the challenge are required to prepare 3 minute videos showcasing their ideas and initiative. Maclean informed that over 3000 students participated in the challenge which in itself played a big role in projecting the image of the company as a preferred employer. The contestants were initially shortlisted to 16 for the India challenge and 2 were selected for the international challenge held in St.Paul Minnesota. One of them from XLRI was eventually selected as the Winner in St.Paul !  

The speaker said that the stupendous success of the program has given them the confidence to leverage this initiative in future for a stronger campus connect and hiring program.

2)    Communication

Many companies have communication exercises; what sets 3M apart, is the way it is implemented. To begin with 3M also has Open House forums through the year which are attended by all employees. This was however found to be losing its effectiveness. Hence a project team was formed to work on the subject. The team spoke to a large cross section of employees and came up with a proposal incorporating various suggestions. The proposal was presented to the leadership team who gave the nod although they were initially apprehensive about increasing the duration of the exercise from 45 minutes to one and half hours.
While in the previous format, hardly one or two persons spoke after the formal presentation, the new initiative was structured in a manner that encouraged informality, which increased participation tremendously and became a very interactive and engaging session, which employees looked forward to.

3)    “Between Us” box 
This box is similar to the traditional ‘Suggestion box’. However, what makes the difference is that the company shares the questions and responds back with their clarifications, actions etc in an extremely transparent manner which has captured the attention of the employees.

4) Connecting with Stories

Stories are powerful; they have better recalls and help build values, competencies and attitude. Stories connected with the company, both internal and external are shared with the employees. In this regard, Maclean related an inspiring story involving a 3M’s Relationship Manager for the Bajaj account.

One day, early in the morning a frantic call was received from the factory of the customer informing that they had received two batches of the right decals, instead of a left and right decal batch. Due to this despatch error from 3M ‘s Plant in Electronic City, Bangalore, the production of 1600 bikes would come to a standstill. This Key A/c Manager used his presence of mind and resourceful nature to come with a plan wherein through  some engineering creativity he culled out the left decal from a right decal. This helped 3M tide over and avert a major crisis. The outcome of this initiative was that the Customer was so delighted with the Play to win response from 3M’s Key A/c Manager, that their share on the Bajaj account eventually increased from around 60% to 100%. Such stories told and retold can inspire many more employees to be enthused and take initiative.

5)   HRUDAY- Connect with internal customers of HR
The speaker then spoke of an  initiative- HRUDAY; a half day connect which  I found very interesting and innovative. Under this activity, employees working in other departments are exposed to the HR processes through fun and games. There is an informal atmosphere with food stalls and other fun activities. At the end of the program, the participants are able to explain all HR processes easily and effortlessly.

6)   HR Outreach
There is a general grouse amongst out station employees that the Corporate office employees get a larger share of the various training and mind space of the HR team.  ‘HR outreach’ came as a response to such feedback under which once in a quarter, HR representatives visit various locations and interact with the employees there, providing them an opportunity to exchange ideas and vent their grievances if any.

7)   HR Business Acceleration

The HR role in general in India has metamorphosed from Welfare Officer a few decades ago to HR Business Partner today. The aspirations of those in the field also soared from becoming a business partner to contributing as member of the board of directors.

At 3M, the focus has been on accelerating the role of HR as a business partner. Towards this objective, best HR practices are not only developed but the same is showcased as an achievement to garner business. This also involves handholding other companies to imbibe and assimilate the ‘best HR practices’. Recently, HR participated in the 3M Tech Day organized by Anand group and highlighted the strength of 3M through  its people policies and practices to the Business leaders of the Anand group. Maclean revealed that as part of the HR Business Acceleration process, he also participates in the account receivables process from delinquent Customers, by using his negotiation skills effectively.  

8High Potential Employees Development Initiative – “XChange”

        A very interesting and novel idea for developing HiPo employees was shared by the speaker wherein a collaborative initiative, that included apart from 3M, other prominent corporates like SAP, Bosch, CafĂ© Coffee Day, Titan, Mind Tree, Biocon and Amazon. They have formed a training consortium and have pooled in domain experts from the participating companies, along with Industry and Academic experts as faculty. Participants include HiPos with 10-15 years of experience across Business & functions.
Five competencies are identified and each Company owns/ co owns a competency for delivery with two days of learning every month for a 4 to 5 month period. Two batches have completed their training and the Participants unanimously have stated that “this is the best learning experience” that they have ever had in their careers.

9)  Leadership Edge- A mentoring & Coaching Initiative

Maclean shared the background and the trigger for developing this program. Basically, this was an initiative to help the Company give back to high performing / succession candidate employees and support them in their careers through  an intense, focused, external Coaching program. 

The feedback received from the coaches after the successful completion of the program was very interesting and revealing: -

(i)  Most organizations are not proactive; in fact, they come to us at the last minute
(ii) The participants are simply referred to us. We do not get the opportunity to interact with the HR  Head and Senior management team before the program, as was done in the 3M program
(iii) Usually, the participants come in to the program with a negative mindset since they feel they have been sent to the program as they are 'not good enough'.
(iv) The fact that 3M had already identified the areas of improvement, helped the process of coaching and enhanced its effectiveness.
( You may like to read my experience of total delight and excitement when such support is given to a trainer while rolling out training programs effectively- )

10) Retention of Critical Employees

The speaker explained that 'Heat map action' is utilized for identifying the critical employees. All the employees are put through the filter. ( A heat map is a two dimensional representation of data in which values are represented by colours. A simple heat map provides an immediate visual summary of information. More elaborate heat maps allow the viewer to understand complex data sets). Once the critical employees are identified, various programs are organized for them.

11)  ER & IR 

3M India Ltd has five manufacturing units in the country with the corporate office in UB city, Bangalore. The five units include the two units located at Pondy and Pimpri that were acquired by the company, meaning there are differences in culture, structures and compensation between the units.

To address the issues pertaining to employee relations, the ER climate survey is taken as an important tool. All the employee life cycle touch points right from 'hiring' (tabs drilled down to micro detail) are identified. They are fleshed to ensure total coverage in that area. The survey by an international 3M Assessor helped identify the gaps and action plan is drawn up and implemented. The needle in terms of efficacy of People practices and programs  has moved considerably in the last six years. 

Based on the ER assessment survey, all grievances are mapped, tracked and resolved. The plant engagement calendar monitors the activities that need to happen month on month. Meetings are also organized systematically that include daily tier meeting, supervisor-crew and other meetings. The employee development programs include Kaizan projects, open house, 5 S, rewards & recognition programs.

To a question during the question time, the speaker explained the multi nodal CSR activities undertaken by the company. This was in the areas of ‘Recognising and encouraging Young Innovators”, Women Skill enhancement”, Science education for underprivileged children” and “Leadership development through CSR projects for Diversity employees 

 At the beginning of his talk, Maclean had modestly declared that there may not be a lot of 'newness' in the "Best Practices" of his company and that the distinguishing factor was the seriousness and the manner of its implementation. Yet, as I left the venue I felt happy and satisfied that I came to know of quite a few innovative initiatives, that other companies would do well to imbibe and emulate for success and harmony in an increasingly competitive business environment.