Love, hate and the economics of meetings

‘I wish I did not have to come here next week again’, I murmured as I went through the door. It was the biggest meeting room we had in our office building. Yet, it was filled to the last square inch with attendees, some active and the remaining, fence sitters.

It just dawned on me that this weekly meeting was perhaps like one of those affairs I wish I never had. It inflicted pain, often deep, every time I met her and I walked in through this door.

Meetings, a lot like our relationships, offer themselves in all shapes and sizes. A few are short and sweet while most go on as repeated, cyclic affairs until we give in to their motions. We wish we never had some and we crave for others. We cling on to a few meaningless ones, as we fear losing all that we have already invested in those. Some give us that cherished sense of being “all important” and we love them. Like relationships, we can never get rid of these endless series of getting together, huddling up and often feeling good about being productive.

Yet, there are other times where I am more critical. I look for the value produced in those countless hours of ranting and analyse their cost to the last penny. Being in the business setting of the corporate headquarters, I expect everything to be efficient, rational and result oriented. The truth is, our organizations are inefficient by nature and are far from being rational bodies.

Too many meetings often indicate that we are not organized efficiently. Our resources are in the hands of wrong decision makers and the jobs are sitting in irrelevant departments. We meet for days, months and sometimes years, trying to overcome such impediments instead of consolidating the resources and jobs. Some meetings are held with the sole purpose of sharing information, because we are yet to figure out a tool to share information efficiently and near real-time.

There are still other meetings which are in the pretext of “delegating” work and later tracking how the delegation has worked. In all probabilities, non-performers, in the pretext of these meetings are enjoying their free rides!

These meetings are there to make up for the inefficiencies inherent in an organization. They are like subsidies our governments keep pumping in to keep an inefficient system ticking, a socialist way of doing things. Perhaps we set wrong expectations with ourselves by craving for fair competition and wanting information and resources to flow seamlessly to where it produces the greatest value. After all, organizations, like us, are social entities functioning in the backdrop of human societies – inherently inefficient and irrational.

Inspired by the book “The Efficient Executive” by Peter H. Drucker

Advertisements

Rewards and risks – and how they drive my behavior at work

It was midnight and I had a long day at work. The pangs of sleep were coming down heavy on me as I tried to finalize my next annual targets for my reporting authorities.
What was my challenge ? I created two versions of goals.
1. The first one was a set of conservative targets. I was fairly confident of meeting and exceeding them. But I knew that this was not the true me, inherently a risk taker and a lover of challenges  where I am equally poised for success and failure.
2. The second draft represented me more closely as a professional. It was big, hairy and audacious!
As I constantly pondered on which was the right set of goals, my mind wavered. I started thinking about the performance discussion for the last financial year. If any of my easy targets had ten percent of my variable pay tied to it, I received the entire amount for meeting or exceeding it. I lost points on those I missed, because I committed and missed. The only catch – the ones I missed were really difficult ones and we were anonymous about that during the performance review.
It didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter if we agree that the targets were not easy, we know we do not get rewarded for trying.We get paid for delivering, right ?
Wrong.
I believe we should get rewarded for even trying and partially achieving really difficult targets, let alone being penalized for missing the last five or ten percent. Because if I don’t, I am operating in my comfort zone; and in all probabilities, not doing the best I can for the business.
In a flash, I knew what my next set of goals are. And I think you know too, dear reader.
Mr. HR, your benefits policy will let me sleep like a baby, not only this night but every night for the rest of the year! I knew I will meet or exceed my targets.

Our society and the culture of ‘Thank You’

You must have read the article already:

HBR| How to give a meaningful Thank You

We have been thinking about it for last couple of months, and every time the logic is boiling down to the following

Behavior
Human Beings [Social Beings [Professionals [White Collar/ Blue Collar: Hierarchy]]]
So if you devise any policy/ rule or create a corporate DNA or do behavioral development etc, keeping the above Ideal logic in mind; this will ensure that things automatically fall in place..
Let me explain the Ideal logic:
First, we are human beings – Humanity needs to be there in behavior/ policy/ law/ action/ etc etc
Second, we are social beings (remember, we are human beings first, and then the social beings) – Social customs/ norms should get the required respect in every event
Third, we are professional (remember, we are social being first, and then the professionals) – Nothing to explain, maintain professionalism
Fourth is self explanatory
Point here is, we/ companies/ institutions etc follow the reverse order –
Generally Observed (and flawed):
People are first treated on the bases of their “Collar” or their “Hierarchical Position” in the organization. Accordingly, the respect is given and behavior is shown. Then, everyone gets the treatment as a professional; social stuff is considered irrelevant for the job…think deeply it is very important to satisfy the social needs. Anyhow, then the social treatment is received by human beings (I would say social constraints are received)…A human being wants to enjoy his favorite food, but it is impressed upon him that he follows the table manner…don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you don’t follow the table manners, but sometimes Desired is given preference over Required….surely, everybody needs to be with in the control points…..
The irony is, apparently the least important thing in the entire generally observed behavioral paradigm, is Human Beings getting treated as human beings!
So… how will you run your organization? Will you, like everyone else, give lip service to respect for co-employees? Remember this though: If you cannot be human to your co-workers, they will only respect your seat / your position, and never you.

The ‘Right’ price for your shovel, (or) what has ethics got to do with it?

Remember this old post where we had written about The right price for your products?

Taking it forward from there, we would like to bring to you this post from HBR.

After a Blizzard, what’s a fair price for a shovel?

We discussed, and what follows was the quick post one of us wrote, and in fact insisted upon over email.

Haha..simple, pricing objective needs to be clear….it is not just about one season profit.

Also if we are assuming that the shopkeeper will gather inventory before the start of winter, then why won’t the consumers do the necessary preparation for the season and buy shovels and other necessities?

….now, there could be some lazy bones like me who will start digging a well when they are thirsty…also, there could be some instance where shovels will break…now, if a shopkeeper wants to squeeze money from those cases in point, it is absolutely fine, if the pricing objective is being met.

i.e if my business (my shop’s sales) is unpredictable and I am not sure about sustainability till/ during next season, and I am really in a cash crunch situation, I would milk the cow by increasing the price……think if I don’t have this unpredictable  cash crunch situation, but I increase the price, what will happen if rest of the season (even next year season) is normal winter – I will lose customer loyalty………………………………..

NOW, OF COURSE if it is not about me, but we all lobby and increase the price at once (and there is not a game theory defaulter), enjoy the profits (you may never enjoy this in future, as consumers would be extra cautious (prepared in advance) from next time onward – But not all; humans are humans) 

Training vs Development (Why Leadership Devp. Training fails – from Forbes)

From Forbes.com

Why do the plethora of leadership development training programs fail? – Click here to get to the main article.

Very interesting point. Many of us have been subjected to Leadership Development programs. Did you gain anything?

For the matter I guess all of us have been subjected to multitudes of soft-skills development programs. did you ever gain anything out of them? Speaking for myself (Shom), I gained all of the soft skills (which I claim to have) by observation, and a good part of my subject-matter skills through training.

So there. Taking a stand. You?

(PS: No, this blog is not changing track. There will be many more articles on strategy, pricing, proposal management etc…. i.e. the original posts. But along with those, moving forward, we will sometimes put in links to some of the interesting articles we read, along with our observations, on this blog)

‘God Syndrome’ and how it affects your organization

One banana skin for the Entrepreneur and Senior Executive is the “God Syndrome” as I call it.

Let me explain. Have you ever played computer games? Amongst many modes in which a user / player can play a game is in the ‘God’ mode. Wikipedia defines this as “In health-based video games, god mode, infinite health or infinite life, is a game mechanic or cheat that prevents a playing character from being harmed, sustaining damage, and ultimately, dying. By contrast, invincibility or invulnerability is a usually temporary instance of this effect, obtainable in games with it as a power-up.” In other words, you are infallible. You cannot make mistakes.

Now converting this to a corporate scenario, the “God Syndrome” is a malaise, mostly from the entrepreneur or a very senior / knowledgeable resource, where (s)he gets stuck in the “I cannot be wrong” vortex. Now you’d say, this can be a good thing; conviction is a positive trait. Right?

Let’s just step back a little. Conviction and the God Syndrome are not the same thing, though an extreme sense of conviction, allied with the power to implement what ‘you’ feel is right, can lead to this sense of infallibility. Especially for an entrepreneur.

You are the visionary, you have the idea, you have got the funding, have built up the organization from scratch… this breeds arrogance. This diminishes, and in time completely erodes the ability to listen. To learn, too. And as we know, the organization that has stopped learning, is the organization that has stopped growing.

Also, this demotivates other innovative people, who one day were attracted to your vision and flocked to work for you…. If you are always right, the only ones in your organization who will live and prosper will be order-takers. The disruptives, the game-changers will either get demotivated, or move out. For the creative and the innovative, a job done well is not enough of a stimulant. Salary, big bonuses are not enough of a stimulant. You, the leader, would absolutely require to let them think on the job, and allow them a platform where their ideas are heard. Heard for the quality of the idea, rather than other factors… rank etc.

Entrepreneurs should be wary of this. At times, all that others in your firm want is to be listened, and to be given their due importance. Listening does not demean the leader, listening makes a leader a better leader. Also remember, most importantly, listening is not the same as buying in. John P Kotter, in his book ‘Buy-In’ speaks about passive agreement, which sometimes is worse than disagreement. You can see disagreement, therefore you can work on it. Passive agreement is a malaise you cannot see. And you, as an entrepreneur would rather have disagreeing voices than passive agreements.