Organizations

The Elphinstone Stampede – Getting back on our feet

On 29th September 2017, an overcrowded foot over bridge at Elphinstone railway station, Mumbai witnessed a horrific stampede. 23 people died. What can we, as a society of organizations, do in the aftermath of the Elphinstone stampede? Let us explore the way forward using systems thinking. It might be a good idea to start with a description of the mental model we carry in our collective consciousness. Mental models are the very foundation, the source of how we create our own social reality. Mental Models Here is an articulation of the current mental models as I perceive them. ” Mumbai is the city of dreams. The financial capital. The corporate hub. Everything worth striving for is in Mumbai. We must go to work where the offices and establishments are. The best way to travel? The Mumbai locals – hands down. Cheaper & faster than anything else. Sure, it’s risky. Rush-hour.Packed trains, people falling off, getting run over. Part of the deal. We have made peace with it. Brave everything you encounter because there is a job to be done and food to…

Why clarifying stakeholder expectations matters to HR

Every organization talks about people being its most important asset. If they walk their talk, the HR ( Human Resources) function would also be the most important function. Why? because everybody assumes, HR -as the name suggests – is all about people. The reality is that HR is nowhere secure about it’s presence in the scheme of things. Clarifying stakeholder expectations is a good way to plot HR on the map. Here is a Q&A format exploration of the same. Have taken HR in the public sector as an example – with three primary stakeholders – employees, officers and unions. HR in A Public Sector Undertaking What is the Fundamental expectation of all stakeholders? Answer: Make it easy for us to perform our core task & validate the very reason why we exist. Why do the stakeholders expect this from HR? Answer: Human beings are the life-giving element of any enterprise. All capital,equipment & resources are deadwood unless human beings engineer sparks of performance by working together. HR as a function begins its work on this premise. This helps HR…

Thoughts on the TATA Group challenge

As a teenager, 23 years ago, I remember being struck by something unsual in the newspapers one day. All of them were carrying one single news story on their front page. It was the obituary of JRD Tata. And on the rest of the page, there were vignettes or anecdotes from JRD’s life. Usually, political icons got such coverage. Why such a coverage for an industrialist then, I asked myself.  As I read and devoured everything in multiple papers and magazines, I got my answer. JRD was so much more than an industrialist & a business leader. JRD showed how much a business can contribute to a nation and society if it is driven by values & enlightened leadership. In your teens, you are moved more by ideas of justice and equality than by those of making money. To know that a business can reconcile such values & make money was a revelation to me. Reading about JRD made such a huge impact then. As I read about what is happening at the TATA group now, I am not dismayed…

Leadership this month : Taking time-out

The volatile Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte was asked about his response in an anticipated meeting; should Barack Obama, the US president, talk about rampant human rights violations and extra-judicial killings under his regime. In his native tongue, he said he would call Obama, ‘son of a bitch’. Obama’s response? All he said was that given the less likelihood of a productive and constructive conversation, he would call off the meeting. Which he did. No grand riposte. No grand-standing as the President of the United States of America. The Srilankan cricket team won their Test cricket series against the mighty australians 3-0, a whitewash. In the process, Australia lost their Test no.1 ranking. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith was sent back to Australia during the one-day series on the grounds of rest and preparation for the upcoming South African series at home. Of course, the decision was criticised as a sign of weak leadership. How can the captain of a beleaguered team go home like that? Well, he did. Under new captain, David Warner, the Australians won the one-day series…

Leadership This Month : Missed Opportunities

Institutional Leaders with a historical legacy are faltering in the present. The International Olympic Association (IOC) & the Republican party establishment in the United States, in particular. The International Olympic Association (IOC) Russia, a sporting superpower was recently indicted in an independent anti-doping enquiry for establishment-backed doping by Russian athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Imagine hosting the Oympics and playing dirty on the side to help your country athletes win. This goes against the very spirit of everything that the Olympics stands for. With the Rio Olympics so near, the IOC had to respond and act fast. What did it do? The bare minimum was to bar Russian track and field athletes from Rio 2016. And that it did, though even here, there is a provision to get them in. But the IOC did not impose a blanket ban on all Russian participation in Rio. A blanket ban would have sent a very strong, but much needed message to all member nations and their sports-establishments that the IOC is uncompromisingly committed in its fight against doping and any other…

Why Feedback falters

“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker As a trainer, as you grow older, you may not become wiser. But you begin to think and wonder if you ever thought about things before! What was I thinking of when I asked people to use ‘sandwich technique’ for feedback years ago?! Praise first, Criticise again, End with Praise. Who was I kidding when I asked people to not focus on the person, but focus on the behaviour. That keeps it specific and makes a person less defensive, I said. Both are specific suggestions, much lauded. Both reduce things to a formula. And formulas and human interaction; never have the twain met! What is wrong with the ‘sandwich technique’?  As a feedback recipient, do you consider yourself a thinking person, someone who observes, learns and predicts? If you do, you know soon enough that here is a practiced technique on its way. Mechanical, contrived, and utterly predictable. And once you know what’s coming, you stop listening. I can very well…

Values & Culture v/s System & Process : Which one is more important?

As a part of a Whatsapp group, I was privy to this question : What is more important – values and culture or system and process? The drift of the conversation was towards most people feeling that values turned into behaviour that are embedded in a culture is a positive state of affairs than a system and process holding sway in an organization. This set me thinking on how they relate to each other. And here are my thoughts.  If you find people in an organization very empathetic/supportive & step out of the organization, you won’t find a concentration of people exhibiting the same behaviours across the street. The dichotomy of values/culture v/s system/process is conceptual, not real. In creating a new set-up, we can make a cognitive beginning with one or the other. In an existing concern, it becomes a chicken & egg story as both values/culture & system/processes end up getting transmuted into each other all the time. The empathetic/supportive behaviour in an established organization is a systemic attribute, not depending on specific individuals. It is a good thing…

Spotlight on ‘Spotlight’ – The ‘Best Picture’ Oscar winner

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King Jr A newspaper deals in stories. Are there stories and matters that an entire community becomes silent about- newspaper included? Yes, there are. Spotlight, based on actual events, is one such story. The story envelops the very city and community that the newspaper marks out as its own turf by calling itself ‘ The Boston Globe.’ And it goes on to reveal how we inflict the conspiracy of silence on ourselves – as an organization and as a community. The conspiracy of silence & cover-up In the summer of 2001,a new editor at the Boston Globe leans on its four-member investigative report team, known as ‘Spotlight’ to dig deeper into a story written by an in-house columnist. A lawyer has charged that the Archbishop of Boston knew a priest was sexually abusing children but did nothing about it. As the Spotlight team starts investigating, they realize that this one case is just the tip of the iceberg. An expanding probe uncovers acts of wrong-doing and non-doing by institutions like the church and…

What Disruption means for HR : Summary of a learning Session for marketing professionals

The Young & their interests We put ‘The Young’ as a customer category and spelled out what interests them. When time came to identify the industry/sector, we found that we had to scratch our heads a bit. This is significant. KEY POINT – The boundaries between industries and sectors are disappearing or getting blurred. Certain industries or product/service categories are fighting for survival itself examples – music industry, mobile service providers, movie halls, publishing industry, retail shops. This is because of disruption caused by technology. Disruption – Examples Netflix/ rentals ; Internet movies/  theatre screenings ; Uber/ rental cars &  ownership itself ; Amazon/book stores ; itunes/Spotify / Rhythm house ; Kindle/ Printed books; Mobile apps/ television viewing ; Online booking/ travel agencies ; Paytm/ card-swiping. Bottomline is that a company can move into an entirely different product line or service category. is the most famous example. If watching television via app catches on, ‘television’ as a product category gets wiped out. Hotels will struggle big time if one house in every street decides to become an Air B&B partner. E-commerce…

Followers leading the way

  Followers can now force the establishment to back down. Liverpool football club decided to jack up the highest stadium ticket prices for next season.  In a synchronized move, 10,000 fans exited the ground during a premier league match featuring liverpool. The message went out loud and clear. The club owners scrapped their plan. The Energy & Resources Institute ( TERI) in India decided to elevate R.K.Pachauri to the newly created post of executive vice-chariman. Mr. Pachauri, a feted environmentalist, had earlier been accused of sexual harrasment and a case was on. In a co-ordinated move, 20 students wrote to the Vice-Chancellor and said they would not accept their convocation degrees from a person involved in a sexual harrasment case. Pachauri was on a long leave before due to this case. He decided to not attend the convocation and is reportedly going on leave again. Why he was elevated inspite of his situation defies understanding. Facebook decided to make use of its overwhelming captive followership among Indian citizens and lobbied hard for Indian followers to support its Freebasics initiative. Amazon has…