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Fresh MBA Hirability – A Practical Industry/College Solution

Published November 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

An article in The Hindustan Times today caught my eye –  Fewer than half of new MBA graduates getjobs as economy sputters, trend at 5-year low. The articles open with a hard punch to your gut : “Job offers for fresh management graduates in India are at a five-year low, official data show, a trend experts blame on a sluggish economy as well as a mismatch between the years-old curriculum and industry expectations…. In 2016-17, just 47% of Master of Business Administration (MBA)graduates got placed on the campus, a dip of 4% over the previous year, marking a five-year low. At 12%, the drop was far sharper for postgraduate diploma holders.
Image Source : from HT Article linked above


I said this on my blog nearly 4 years ago – there is a dire need to revisit the MBA Curriculum; but it isn’t the only aspect of this problem. I say this with authority, as I have seen both sides – having been a Visiting Faculty, as well as a current Industry Veteran. There is an issue with the MBA Course, but correcting it requires a will; it requires a combination of fresh talent in MBA Colleges – Industry Veterans who should team up with Academicians for solving this complex problem. At the same time, Industry needs to invest in training – which it doesnt; it needs to re-visit the entire Performance Management System, which is hopelessly obsolete, number oriented and simply fails to capture the modern reality of business; it also needs to set up realistic expectations from new recruits. Let us consider these two problems one-by-one in detail
THE MBA COURSE
The view that all in wrong in the MBA Course is inaccurate – for any number of reasons. First of all, the MBA Course is an introduction to Business & Management, and establishes the fundamentals in business – without which we are lost. In my experience – all the courses I have been associated with, do it admirably, at least in letter. The difficulty is the absence of proper teaching aids – and I don’t mean AV equipment. Frankly, they are enablers; we require content. And content is the real issue – there is a need to revisit the content of the books, and make them more relevant.
The content is woefully inadequate in terms of Indian Examples. As a Management Book Reviewer and avid reader of Management Research Books,

  • ü I have observed many-a-time that I am yet to read too many Indian Institutes & teachers coming out with real  case studies on the Indian Market and Brands, as also Management Thought. We aren’t creating intellectual property – which is the real issue. Simply making cosmetic changes to the course will not suffice.  
  • ü Add to this the Language and Affordability barrier – content and books are damned costly, and in English, which is a major barrier
  • ü You need to make the content richer in terms of relevance to Indian Markets, which will enable deeper learning and also provide a deeper connect with students as they can easily relate.
  • ü The course as such is just fine; there is little that is missing. It needs to be made more contemporary in these terms.
The MBA Course is supposed to give basics of Business, Marketing, Finance, etc to prospective employees for the corporate sector; this is what it does. 



  • ü What it doesn’t do is – give a connect with the realities of the Indian Market. That is why we need Indian Original Content, not copied Western thought.
  • ü In addition to this, there is a need for students to do more realistic projects on all subjects; the course is far too theoretical, and gives the students zero idea of the domestic realities. The marking system needs to incorporate genuine brain-work on realistic projects, not just exams. 


  • The way to do this is simple –
  • ü deeper Industry College interaction; and
  • ü lateral hires at Professor level for MBA College teaching options
  • ü Given the lesser stress, it will be easy to attract talent for the universities;
  • ü this will require a re-visit of the qualification norms, and the development of precise judgement criterion to ensure the lateral hires fit in, have knowledge of their domain, and can contribute positively.
  • ü The pitfalls of hiring only basis visible achievement is inaccurate, as designation is no guarantor of true ability and knowledge, which needs to be kept in mind.



CORPORATE INDIA

In the paragraph above, I stress deeper Industry-College interaction; this cannot happen unless Industry understands that it is a part of the problem. I stated in the opening that both the colleges and the companies are responsible for the glut; let me add a third factor here – the students. The industry grouse that the MBA expects too much and knows too little is grounded in reality, that much is sadly true. But with deeper interaction – this can be attended to, as the reality sinks into students. Before blaming the students, we need to accept that we are making no effort to educate them as well.
The key question is, how will this interaction happen? This can only happen in the Human Resources Function, and some other staff functions; for reasons I attend to later on in the article. 
  • ü One possible way is regular interaction of HR / Staff function managers with a selected bunch of colleges – in terms of lectures by managers – properly curated by the College in terms of content;
  • ü Co-hosting real-time tiny projects in real scenarios, which same to be designed to be of very short {daily projects}, short {week-fortnight} projects.
  • ü An example of a daily project could be market survey of all retail counters in a street – which will take only 2 hours; or checking documentation in back-office etc. This can be suitable added on by a thorough training intervention – which should be regular, not sporadic.
  • ü Even a child requires help to walk; and a fresh MBA is a Child in the Big Bad World of Corporates.
The other aspect that needs attending to – the toning down of expectation from new hires. That will not happen unless you re-design the entire PMS – which leaves no scope for learning, or real training. I understand we are in a hypercompetitive market; and that bottom and top lines need to be achieved; but chasing numbers mindlessly, without heed to basics is fraught with even higher risks – as many in my parent sector, Telecom, found much out to their chagrin. There needs to be a balance between pure numbers, and business basics – and at all levels. You need to judge strategic ability at all levels – and this is even more vital in a hypercompetitive market, where the cost of a strategic misjudgement and improper strategic implementation are the precise same – Business Closure.
The list of companies that have paid the price for the above is incalculable; we need to do both – hit our numbers while also ensuring long-term stability of the business as a running enterprise. This we have clearly failed to do in many cases. And once you shift focus to the nitty gritty of business – the nuts n bolts, the basics – the need for a strong fundamental and theoretical basis will emerge ever more strongly. You don’t need an MBA to just hit numbers, to be brutally frank; but you need a good thinking and  trained MBA to be able to judge the medium and long-term impact of your short-term tactics even at field level, and  modulate your responses in the field accordingly.

  • CONCLUSION – INDUSTRY
  • ü Industry expects immediate numbers;
  • ü industry expects top performance without any time for learning; 
  • ü industry expects a softened person, whose edges have been rubbed off.
  • ü All three require training and experience.
  • ü You need people – so why not associate with idenitified universities – in Tier B and C towns and colleges as well and step in in a win-win situation?
  • ü Second, as a line manager myself – I too feel at risk when I used to go for a fresher; the risk to me personally, or my team targets, as well as the complete absence of a support mechanism or space in operation deny me the space to create my own strategies. {That is one reason why I feel this initiative has to be owned by the staff functions}
  • ü This, in a nutshell, is the gist of the problem on the company side, which is complex mutli-layered problem with no easy solutions…
CONCLUSION – COLLEGES

  • ü On the education side – they also need to do the same as above; they need to open up and admit lateral hires, as well as be more open to partnerpships with companies.
  • ü Create Intellectual Property of your own… invest in Research, papers, books creation on the Indian Market, and make them publicly available. Don’t treat them as classified secrets!
  • ü Revise the course to make it more contemporary
  • ü Increase the practical work importance, content and relevance so that students are in touch with reality!

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Book Review – Make Success A Habit ; 50 Stories That Enlighten, Empower, Energise and Entertain

Published October 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

This current book under review is quite unlike any I have reviewed, with only one – Subir Chaudhury’s The Difference – making as much of a connect with me – as a professional. As a person, this book has connected with me big-time; but that is something I will reserve for a private conversation / communication with the Author, Mukul Deva. Almost every page of this book, taken seriously, is a learning and an experience. In light of the above preamble, let me depart from normal custom or style, and quote lines from an iconic Hindi song, one which came to my mind as I was reading one of the stories contained in this collection of 50 real life case studies.

इक दिन बिक जाएगा, माटी के मोल
जग में रह जाएंगे, प्यारे तेरे बोल
दूजे के होंठों को, देकर अपने गीत
कोई निशानी छोड़, फिर दुनिया से डोल
इक दिन बिक जायेगा   …
{Source : Lyricsindia.net}
We, in the daily humdrum of business, rarely give time to focus on the small, tiny and seemingly irrelevant, or unimportant, or lesser vital, or basic issues & habits that go into making us a professional and a person. So acute is our focus on ourselves, our KRAs, our lives, our desires, our ambitions  that we forget these rock-bottom basics. These are the bedrock of life; be it personal or be it professional. This exclusive focus tends to take us away from our maximum potential, rather than make us more effective in achieving our potential. That is why we need to re-train, re-charge, re-focus, and look for – introspect – analyse ourselves to make us better people and better professionals.

Mukul Deva

That, in a nutshell, is the lesson I have drawn from this book. Now the question in your mind ought to be, what is that song doing in between a perfectly reasonable business discussion? That brings me to the story number 45 in the book – my own sticky pad notes on it should be self-explanatory. I wrote : In this {story}, the lesson is that the basics of care, honour, decency, respect & importance should be provided with and to each person we speak to – professionally as well as personally. The lines above also says much the same – in an oblique fashion; if we can get others to sing our tune – we are done. They wont sing freely unless they like, understand & agree to it! The key here is that this is not a theory – this is told through a real life success & turnaround story.
All too often, we treat people roughly, or don’t listen to them, or half-listen, or insult, or ignore them – leading to long-term damage down the line. The impact of this behavour on business bottom and top lines, professional relationships etc  is amorphous in real life – in this book, a clear line has been drawn for us. And this is something that repeated in 50 case studies, all around small with vital aspects in Business or in life.
You have stories around communication, team handling, development and management – building scalability – sustainability – performance in teams / developing teams and members; personal development -goal setting, thought management; simple yet often ignored managerial processes, the importance of sticking to the basics and fundamentals in this ever-increasingly paced life, values & ethics, training self to inculcate process oriented thinking, leadership & leadership roles; and more.
This is a review – not a summary; therefore, I have to stop here. But, let me organize the above into some fashion of order. The stories contend around Leadership, Team Management, Team Development, Personal Development in broad categories. The various real life case studies together provide a multi-faceted look at different parameters of the above broad categories. Each story has names and details changed – but is a real story, from a Business perspective. Here you will learn the importance of the small, the basic, and the intangible things that separate good from great is the way I put it.  
That said, I do have a grouse; it was surprising to note top managers not having a connect with, or not giving importance to, some things that are clearly basic to any business : a shared  vision, values, ethics, basic decency, team development, empowerment etc are all fundamental requirements of a strong performing sustainable and scalable team. Without these, the team may return excellent performance over a short period – but will lack sustainability and scalability. A leader needs to, above all, ensure that teams and their performance are sustainable and scalable. That is precisely what goes wrong as sales go up, and resultant quality and customer experience goes down – leading to sales losses!  And this book also teaches us the way we can avoid that pitfall!

Now, all stories will not hold equal attraction for all – there may be some areas where you are doing fine. Thus, you have to pick and choose. Question is – how do you pick? The only way you can judge where you yourself are upto speed is do the small questions at the end of each case study – these questions are self-analytical, and provide insights as to where you need to work on. I used sticky notes to annotate my thoughts where I found relevance to me  to work on. But that is my style; you can do it any way you choose to.  All in all, rated 5 stars, must read book for businesses and professionals alike!

Lessons From The Humble Shaving Alum

Published October 16, 2017 by vishalvkale

I don’t really know why I purchased that shaving alum; I was at a medical store, I just spotted it in the shelf top glass display. I just asked for it on a whim, as in  “dekhein toh sahi” types; and took it home. Started using it, aside from my regular after shave lotion. After a period of time, say a week or so, I began to notice that my after shave lotion doesn’t burn as much; that my skin feels real soft as I run the alum over it, and feels nice and relaxed. I shrugged the thought off – I mean, it was after all, just a piece of alum and I was doing basically a relatively unimportant daily ritual. Not worth doing any brainstorming, or so I thought.


Until that day the alum ran out – what lives must die, the immutable law of nature. Well, I mean – it was just alum, wasn’t it? No big deal. I still had that Lotion, nice perfumy in a decorative bottle, one which cost one hell of a lot {that is what it seems like now}, and one that I was used to. My skin, who happens to be a most independent and self-centered chap, had most definite and other diametrically divergent ideas though. It would have none of it, and revolted. It began to miss the calming soothing caregiving touch of the Alum… and drove me to the medical store again, to buy… the humble Shaving Alum!
Now that set me thinking – about customer demand, what influences demand, the entire customer experience, the product benefits & features, the entire marketable package – and about human behaviour as well.


HUMAN BEHAVIOUR
Let me first look at the human aspect – I was aware that the Alum had many benefits; not just shaving benefits. Yet, I in my Upper Middle Class educated punch drunk stupor, never thought of actually trying it out. Why should this be so? The thought itself did not occur to me. And when it did, I was consciously telling the Pharmacist let me try it out. Why this needless clarification? My ego – and my perceptions, which dictated that Alum was downmarket! I thought myself to be superior, in other words – and that perception had a defined marketing benefit, recognized by most marketers as such. Had I gone along with my perceptive biases – I would have missed on a great experience every morning, and that is too high a price to pay for either ego or choice or perception!
There is another deeper level here – many times, very probably, we do not observe the real good qualities in people, objects and the world around us, as our self-placed perceptive biases do not allow these to permeate to our consciousness. This means that we allow our biases, perceptions, images, thoughts to cloud our realization – leading to incorrect assumptions as well as missing out on some great people, great experiences, and great opportunities. Thus, it is vital that we, each of us – self included, actively make an effort to recognize these perceptive biases that cloud our vision!
These biases and blockages of perception not only prevent us from a richer experience, but they could also be hampering our performance, our relationships, our outreach, our values and beliefs; as Mukul Deva says – my reality is as real as his or her reality {approximation}. We need to see the other reality as well as the hidden aspects – some of which may actually have deep resonance with yourself at an individual level as well – as the Humble Shaving Alum taught me. For example – you may not agree with someone’s views; , or you may have higher achievements… in that case, broaden your vision – move ahead even if he or she doesn’t, look beyond! See the larger perspective of the personality involved in front of you – and spot synergies. Once you do that – hidden benefits will certainly emerge!


MARKETING AND BUSINESS LESSONS
Look at this entire business transaction from a Channel Perspective before we move into theory in the next article: A customer of a premium product has discovered an alternative for a core function of the product – each product has core and additional features. Scent, form, packaging, psychographic & behavioural factors etc are also critical – note that I still use the original product, which I find to be quite excellent by the way. Yet, I cannot but miss that in my opinion, the Alum does a far better task of soothing my skin. This is a direct attack on a core product feature. {Not only that, it is also a big learning-  the power of observation, inquisition, and willingness to learn. But that is another story, for another dedicated article}
How did this happen, arise? I saw the cheaper alternative in a channel display in a premium shop, one which is not a standard solution for such cosmetics, namely a medical shop. You would ordinarily not associate Alum and Lotion as competitors, and yet – at least one customer of Lotion has gone in for Alum. Where is the guarantee that someone else might not, and that scale wont build up? Now this may never happen – the point is that what we can learn from this as managers.
First learning – the power of the channel, displays, good old retail marketing, involvement of the retailer, POP marketing etc. This is the basic and easily visible level. Let us go deeper from here onwards. This anecdotal evidence hides something deeper within its womb – the second learning, which is the dynamics of customer choice, the role of the first semester marketing lesson of early adopters, innovative customers, {There is a small  chance my write-up may cause someone else to buy Alum!} as well as the vital importance of keeping in touch with the market at the bottom levels.
At this second level, the bigger question arises that how do we measure, judge, compare, study these interactions which  take place daily at thousands of retail outlets? Marketing says Marketing Research – which is basis, at the core, a defined sample. That is one method – granted. You have another readily available source-  two of them. One – your own sales teams. Find a method to reach out to these, and identify a method whereby minute-by-minute market feedback can be captured in real time, not on your smartphone gadgets you give to the FOS but through deeper methods at slightly higher levels, that is SO / ASM / RSM levels, wherein you now have the requisite education, experience to be able to summarise these trends into actionable formats. This will improve performance in terms of range choice, channel decisions at RSM level as well! How – stay in touch with my blog as I develop my thoughts further.
Second method – India has a management college in every single district. These students by and large have zero practical experience, and summer placements don’t help. Reach out to these colleges and formulate a methodology whereby students get hands on projects to complete, either paid or unpaid projects – real market research to implement; have it incorporated into the marking system – and use this resource to identify market and consumer trends. This wont cost much, and will be accepted by colleges so long as the project is designed well enough; is devoid of illegal / unethical perceptions, and is sufficiently broad in in core objectives – giving a win-win scenario, allowing colleges to mount original research into trends, creating a pool of talent as well as knowledge.
CONCLUSION
We need to recognize perceptive biases in both our human societal sides as well as our professional sides. Personally, not recognizing common ground in the middle of an argument can lead to losing a valuable relationship – and is thus a win-win scenario. A perceptive bias does not mean you are wrong; it only means that you recognize there are other views as well, right or wrong, and that you cannot force your choice even if it is correct  on the other person. The other person may value Ego, or scent – higher than a functional product core benefit; that is his reality!
Professionally, identifying, recognizing, and sorting out perceptive biases is not something that we should be doing just for self-improvement; it ought to be a vital and constant parameter of self assessment, done in a positive light, so that we may be a better decision maker. Being from Sales, I presented the Sales and Marketing side with a channel example; the point of learning is that we ignore the strongest resource we have in our organisations – our internal teams, which regard Market Data as something to be collated with minimum intelligence and effort. We need to be far more vigorous in ensuring we reach out to and connect with these people. And we need to, most vitally, be inquisitive in every professional endeavor, constantly open to new ideasThis is just one example – how many other areas can we re-look at & introspect so as to eliminate perceptive bias and find new superior ways?
NOTE:

I would like to give credit to Mukul Deva, whose book gave me the final idea that allowed this observation to fall into place, and Debashish Biswas Sir, CEO of SILC, a discussion with whom also gave me deep introspection…

The Power Of Energy – A Business Tool Like No Other

Published October 13, 2017 by vishalvkale

The L&D Rendezvous on the 8th of October at the SILC Pune will remain etched in my memory for more reasons than one; in my previous article I highlighted one reason – Snehwan. But the event, and my overall experience being a part of the Core Team at L&D Global Pune Chapter, has had many learnings and ramifications for me as a professional. Being a Line Function Manager & all that comes with it – the good and the bad, meant that this experience was a truly defining one for me as I document in this write-up; this is despite me being a former Visiting Faculty in Brand & Advertising Management, and having handled training assignments in corporates as well as extensive cross-functional projects.
THE L&D Pune Chapter
My introduction to L&D Pune chapter was a direct outcome of my business blogging and non-fiction books blogging, which lead me to getting in touch with a variety of professionals outside my core function and specialty, {which is and remains Telecommunications / Technology / ECommerce and Channel Sales / Marketing / Business Management / Logistics} – including top Management thinkers / gurus and cross-functional exposure to a variety of domains, whose utility in broadening my horizons I cannot understate. This is not tooting my own horn; I am just underlining that I was not new to cross-functional teams, neither was I a frog-in-the-proverbial-well person.
This habit, or rather, this disconcerting habit {apparently, impression is sales persons don’t read} got me in contact with some LnD professionals, as well as Writers; leading to an association with a fast-upcoming Writers connect outreach, which I shall subsequently document once things are clearer. It was as a result of this that I got in touch with the L&D Global Team Pune Chapter, where I got associated more out of curiosity and without any real expectations, to be honest. Well, I was wrong. Period.


The Difference
The stunning openness, willingness to experiment, learn from juniors, seniors, and easy relaxed rapport impressed me; this was clearly a professional outfit. And yet,despite being hobbyists all, with no personal financial interest in the venture – if you can call it that – their level of commitment, and their thoroughly professional approach and planning floored me. This is difficult to master even in hierarchical teams, as all Line Managers are only too well and painfully aware. But beyond all this, was the transparent enthusiasm – and here I learnt perhaps my biggest corporate lesson.
THE L&D PUNE CHAPTER EVENT TEAM


For decades, Management Thinkers have waxed eloquent of the role of positivity, enthusiasm in Business execution in particular and Business in general. I have documented several management books on this blog itself, and a few also touch on this point. Like most Line Managers {Yup, gross generalization here, basis personal experience}; I remained leery and dismissive of this, for the perfectly  simple reason that I found, through self experience as well as discussions with my teams and peers, that finding or inculcating such a team was next to impossible in the real world. Here, in this team – devoid of documented controls, was the clear proof of the theories written in the books… the enthusiasm, commitment, energy levels, common association with objectives and the way it impacted overall team performance was and is an education. The way this team overcame level, status & achievement differences was exemplary. Stay connected with my blog as I progress further in my hunt for the truth, and how can we create such vibrant teams…
THE EVENT
The preamble above is, in my opinion, vital to understanding events; I have a habit of documenting each significant self-learning on my blog here insofaras it pertains to Business, Management or Indian History; and this preamble will enable my readers to get some vague idea of the energy and spirit of the people behind the event. It is the energy of the people planning and executing that gets translated into quality – be it a product or be it an event. We saw in my latest book review of Management Thought {The Difference: When Good Enough Isnt Enough – Subir Chaudhury} how small things can translate into big epochal business impact. Well, these small things did translate into  vibrant and alive event.
I have seen many events, planned and executed, helped in – many – CXO events, Sales Events; from that perspective I can honestly state this one I attended from LnD Global was among the top drawer events I have attended. We had some 63+ paying members in attendance – all professionals, making for a very targeted and interested audience, as well as alive with energy. They were here to learn and to contact; their interest was two-fold, and it showed.


The focus areas were two learning platforms – Power Negotiations, a panel discussion; and Leadership and Innovation Strategies, A Masterclass. The Power Negotiation Panel was suitable high-profile, fielding an IAS Officer at Director Level, two CEOs-MDs, and one Head of Learning & Development of a top Indian Firm. Given the subject of Power Negotiations, this enabled a wide-spectrum participative look at negotiation as a Business Skill


The keynote speaker was the CEO of Sakal International Learning Center, Mr Debashish Biswas, who took a Leadership and Masterclass Strategy session, which was the frontispiece of the event. One can write volumes on this subject; so I shall desist from describing it, or indeed the one above. My Take-away from this masterclass is my preferred focal point in this article : which was the relevance of staying updated, current – in the words of the keynote speaker – reinventing oneself. I am proud that I have done this throughout my career – but out of a pure play passion, a desire to learn, read, re-skill, try new tasks even in my job {Handling Port Stevedoring Operations for import, or training, or faculty}; I never thought of this as a powerful tool. Until the 8th of October, that is.
Conclusion

This was a paid event – was it worth it? Yes, it was; it cleared my brain, my mind; gave me a kick in the proverbial ***, {excuse my language please – cant put it any better}, and taught me a lot. But most importantly, it was infectious with positivity and free flowing energy, which has a tendency to rub off on others  as well. That, and the fact that it gave me confidence, ideas – rekindled my passion, as well as put me in touch with like-minded professionals made it one hell of an experience. Would I attend one again? Sure I would – spending from my own pocket. Why shouldn’t I? I stand to benefit! And the icing on the cake was I met someone like Mr Ashok Deshmane… to know more about him, click this link

My Bees and their Beehive

Published September 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

THE BEES COME TO ME…
I count myself lucky that I had a massive beehive right outside my living room window, on the window concrete sun-shade slab. For several months, the two of us- the harmful and dangerous human being, and those harmless gentle honey bees – co-existed without any trouble to each other. They didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them. But this period have me insights both into Honeybees as well as human behavioral aspects, insights that I shall carry with me my entire life. The images of this honey-beehive are given below, which can highlight its closeness to my habitat.
I first noticed them when a few came inside from the open window; I was at a loss as to what to do, till I figured out they were attracted by the light. Only then did I spot the Beehive, and nearly panicked & spoke to the society incharge for immediate redressal of this “grave” threat to my habitat and existence. The bees – they didn’t care too much for me, ignoring me as irrelevant, unimportant and useless, an observation I now agree with!



THE BEEHIVE
Note that-  both of us were close – very close, physically, to each other. And yet, I – the larger animal was scared, while they, the infamous stinging bees, were unconcerned. My existence was as much a danger to them; perhaps a greater danger – and yet they co-existed peacefully. We weren’t causing each other too much inconvenience; and yet the Human Being felt threatened. They didn’t sting me, or anyone in my certain knowledge – and yet, we felt threatened by them. Threatened enough by their mere closeness to us to have them removed forcibly. So who is the greater danger to whom? Humans to the bees or the bees to the Humans?



This interchange is emblematic of our overall interaction with the environment and the way we permanently reshape and alter it. While I don’t deny the presence of some risk, the chances of a stone hitting the Hive causing the bees to get irritated did exist, to be frank; the fact remains that the Bees, by themselves, had done nothing to harm or inconvenience us in any way. It only meant that we could keep the Jali windows open, that is all. Even if the bees came inside- they didn’t harm us humans at all. They committed suicide by getting pulled to the light. And yet, instead of finding ways of co-existence with the environment we seek to alter it, just so we can be slightly more convenient and comfortable.



Now move in a little closer – note the execution perfection of the hive, the complete and wonderful perfection displayed by the hexagonal cells and the way it all comes together. This has been achieved by over several hundred individuals working in tandem towards a common goal; I regretfully accept that as of now, I don’t see how we humans can achieve this incredible level of teamwork shown in these images above. And when the hive was broken – the perfection with which they removed the remains in a few short hours was simply breathtaking!


TEACHINGS BY THE BEES AND THE BEEHIVE
But above and beyond this – the Beehive taught me some other, pertinent and valuable lessons in management, human behaviour that left me speechless. Having observed them from so close for so long –  a distance of barely 2 feet from the 2 feet by 2.5 feet by 8 inches beehive gave me lessons that shall stay with me my whole life. Look at the images above now- and observe. Observe the stunning, nay – mesmerizing teamwork in the way these insects, which aren’t sentient beings, settle together on the hive; observe their focus and their commitment to the common good of the hive. And when disturbed – the speed with which they relocated and renewed taught me a lesson in execution in uncertain times.
This is something that is never found in us Humans – despite being sentient, highly intelligent, thinking, literate and in some rare cases – educated people. Despite this, Humans have rarely, if ever, displayed such commonality, speed and dedication as displayed by these bees. And whenever we have done so – either wonders or disaster has followed. The reason for that is our desires, ambitions play a major role in taking us away from the common purpose, and drive us towards individual achievements, thereby unmaking the good of teamwork. And this happens in almost every Human Endeavour.
Thus, while on the one hand, our higher intellect has made us capable of achieving wonders, our attendant desires have made us incapable of actually achieving those same wonders! Curiously, it is dreams / desires that aid in unlocking potential – unless you desire something, dream – you cannot figure out that such a thing exists -which is why bees will remain bees. But these same desires, when unhindered – binaa lagaam ke ghodaa,  a horse a without a rein – lead us astray, both on an individual level as well as collectively.
ANIMALS & INSECTS VS US
It is rather surprising and more than a little shameful if you think of it – animals and insects, operating without a high intellect, can pull off wonders with teamwork; and we Humans, with our high intellect, cannot do anything on a similar scale. When you consider that every Beehive, and many other animals / insects, do it universally, the Human folly of individualism – given to us by western civilization in some ways as well as  driven by our own nature & selfish desires – becomes all the more shameful. The thought of what we can achieve if we were to learn to work together for a common good is tantalizing, and highly attractive – but extremely hard to pull off in reality, considering the ground realities. At this point, take a close look again – you will find a few types of bees – all doing their own roles expertly.
THE POSITIVE POWER AND THE NEGATIVE PROBLEM OF OUR DESIRES
Human desires are our main strength – they drive innovation, and are indispensable. And Human activities are also hugely diverse; thus, the learning we can take from this above example is simple this: we have to find ways to marry the two – individual desires & individual abilities and weld the two into one powerful whole. Therein lies the gist of what leadership is truly about: it isn’t about getting those numbers, that bottom or topline, or whatever. It is about selecting, training and placing the right person for the right job to enable organizational performance and excellence. Each individual has strengths and desires – we just need to, as individuals and as leaders both, find the right sweet spot. In other words, we need to stop chasing the crowd, find what we are good at, choose from these what gels with our desires, control the both of them – and execute.
The above rarely, or rather, almost never happens. We go by rote, we follow the herd, be it education or be it jobs; we rarely analyse and understand either ourselves or our teams, or indeed the organization and the situation, and blindly ape the rest of the world : forgetting that it is the constant execution of the small tiny things that ensures excellence. Forgetting that control over desires, understanding innate talent and strengthening it is the way to succeed, not following the herd. Watching that Beehive gave me these powerful insights, insights that had laid dormant in me – as evidenced by my previous thoughts on this matter.
APPLICATION TO ORGANISED HUMAN ACTIVITY
This applies for organisations as well as individuals; I fact- all organized / individual activity – if you don’t have the right team to execute in a changed external atmosphere, or if your analysis is not as per ground realities – you are almost certain to fail over the long term. The difference between humans and bees can manifest here : a human beehive would probably not be built on the lintel of another species residence, as the inherent danger should be obvious to us. And yet, we always disregard, and build our beehives {individual lives / organisations etc}  the same way, unmindful of the long term risks posed by our approach and our strategy! As proof, we simple have to list the list of brand and company failures in the past…
SAYING BYE TO THE BEES AND THE BEEHIVE
But the worst part of this entire episode was that I had to, with great reluctance, let go of the Beehive as my colony and my society wouldn’t have it any other way. What is worse, neither would I; the long term risk of an irritated nest so close to home was too great. Yet, it is noteworthy that, left to their own devices, the Bees would not have troubled me at all. In fact, I had gotten used to them living a few feet away. The complete inability of our species to adjust for the environment, and how far we have gone away from it – is the saddest aspect of all.
I for one am very delighted that Parmatma chose me to see this wonder barely 2 feet away from  myself on a daily basis, with its rapturous perfection, teamwork, execution excellence and genius – and the superb beauty of the natural order of things… they have taught me the true meaning of leadership, the true purpose of a leader; they have taught me management; but more than that, above all – the Bees and the Beehive has taught me the power of the environment, and how it is we Humans that are a problem with our ever-increasing desires and selfishness, and lack of adjustment capability… 

Book Review : Good Works – Corporate Marketing Initiatives That Build A Better World And The Bottom Line

Published June 25, 2017 by vishalvkale

There is hardly an MBA, at least in India, who hasn’t heard of Philip Kotler. Without his book, one cannot imagine studying Marketing. Thus, on noticing a book co-authored by this Author, I didn’t have to think twice before buying it. The book in question is titled : “Good Works! Market And Corporate Initiatives That Build A Better World… And The Bottom Line”. It was the last few words that got my attention; CSR will likely remain an afterthought, a regulatory requirement, unless it is linked with the Bottom Line. That is the nature of the modern for-profit organization.


This book is a treatise full of case studies around Corporate Social Initiatives, bunched around 6 central themes :
*  Cause Promotion {Persuading Consumers To Join Your Company In A Good Cause}
*  Cause-Related Marketing {Making Contributions To Causes Based On Product Sales And Consumer Actions}
*  Corporate Social Marketing {Supporting Behaviour Change Campaigns}
*  Corporate Philanthropy {Making A Direct Contribution To A Cause}
*  Community Volunteering {Employees Donating Their Time And Talents}
*  Socially Responsible Business Practices {Changing How You Conduct Business To Achieve Social Outcomes}
I strongly recommend every marketer, corporate honcho and management eduationist in India should read this book; the theoretical framework it presents combined with the real life examples stated herein make for deep learning and give natural insights, as well as act as provocators of independent thought.
My mind, once again, goes to the same old conundrum : I can find a Western book, with few connects to India and Indian Realities, in an Indian Book Store. And I am yet to find a good book on Indian Case Studies – I am aware of a minimum of 6 excellent books of case studies of which I myself have studied 5 {Anisha Motwani, Prachi Garg – 2, Anuradha Goel, and a book on Positioning}, with a fifth in my purchase list already. Not one of these has made it to bookstores in India, at least not on a comparable scale. Why is this shocking pusillanimous and thoroughly repugnant fascination we have for the West still present? To management faculty, institutes and colleges – my blunt & straightforward question – ALL of these are Corporate Professionals. Why have you abandoned your core duty of documentation and research? Where are you in this list?
Take this book, for instance. I could not make a connect with any case study, save one or two, as the atmosphere was not Indian. I had no common point of reference, no connect with either the Brands or the Social Causes mentioned. This severely hindered my learning and my takeaway from the book. But perhaps the most stunning aspect is this book – an out and out Western book – contains an Indian reference as well. Just spare a thought on this repugnant thought : someone from outside India can identify an Indian example, but we Indians don’t have the time for it. Wow. I am frankly speechless.
Does this mean the book holds no value for us? Of course not – it holds tremendous value for us as a people, as a nation, and as professionals. As professionals, reading this book gives you ideas, learnings, as well as deep insights. The book is completely practical from start to finish. I could quote volumes on this, but as the examples aren’t Indian, they would be meaningless. That said, your mind will automatically identify Indian examples as you read the literature – for example, Tata Tea Jago Re, or the Re 1/- donation to give just two examples
Further, it will also give a deep and disquieting set of questions : that few Indian initiatives have been really cashed in on by the organisations; they haven’t managed to connect with consumers. Thus, it means that they are either doing it out of the goodness of their heart, or legal CSR requirements, or most likely both. They haven’t managed to connect these with Branding Power, Consumer connect by and large. A further deeper disquieting question also arises – maybe the consumer in India does not place an adequate value to such efforts, or it maybe that the consumer body is just too cynical…

This feasibility comes to the fore even more strongly as you read case after case after case after case of community, consumer, NGO, employee and Organisational involvement in various small, medium and national as well as international causes. This is repeated throughout the book, leaving one with questions and still more questions. Where are the Indian Examples on a comparable level of community, social, individual and organizational involvement? Just to take one example – where are the employee volunteers? Where are the community cases – I know some are present. But where are they in the public and company consciousness, and why aren’t they more prevalent? Why do we ignore these vital aspects? 

De-Stressing The Corporate Job While Retaining Competitive Ability – 1

Published June 18, 2017 by vishalvkale

One of the rising themes of management discussion is the concept of work-life balance, compounded by rising stress in corporate life in India; quite a lot has been written about how we need to lessen the stress. Another theme is the concept of how Indian Managers don’t take or get leave too often, or rising lifestyle disease incidence and about rising burnout cases and so  on. Most articles I have read emphasize on a lot of points as a solution – namely, advocating leaves / smaller working hours / de-stressing and so on… sadly, most of these don’t take the overall corporate atmosphere into account.
LITTLE ALTERNATIVE TO THE STATUS QUO
Let me take a divergent view – that there actually little alternative to what is taking place, at least as of now. And the reason for that is that the current realities highlighted above are actually the symptoms of a larger malaise, or rather problem. We need to examine the overall atmosphere in which a modern corporate operates, the external environment.  Any processes and policies, even on the personnel front, need to be in keeping with this external environment and its relevant factors.
FACTORS OF THE REALITY STATED ABOVE
And these factors are : High growth economy in comparison to the developed world, newly opened to external pressures, increasing competition both internally as well as externally, the current work culture in India, massive gap in demand and supply of jobs, rapid rise in information availability – the information revolution. These factors intertwine together to create a situation where no other approach, at least majorly, is feasible.
Taken together, these impose virtually crippling constraints on Corporations; and the cost of ignoring the brutal demands imposed by the market can at times be too huge, resulting even in shutting of companies – leaving thousands jobless. That is not an alternative that bears contemplation. However, it doesn’t stop at these factors, as the two most crippling factors that stifle innovation while also affecting work culture is something that isn’t limited to Corporate India  – our Chaltaa Hai Attitude & our penchant for selfishness and corruption. These two will be analysed fully in the next article on this theme; as their impact cuts across functions, industries and levels, seriously eroding both innovation  as well as competitive ability, dampening enthusiasm & hampering winning strategies & thoughts.
SUMMARY ANALYSIS OF THE IMPACT OF THESE FACTORS
You have an external atmosphere, a culture where people habitually work long hours, even Sundays; where the in-thing is to be seen to be working hard. Add to this, fast growing competition, information revolution, and demand-supply gaps everywhere – and you are looking at certain marketshare losses if you buck the trend; or a certain job loss for yourself – as the pressure on your manager will hit your relationship, or both. If your specific industry involves long hours, and you alone strike out on your own – you could be looking at serious losses unless the shift in work pattern is strategized carefully.
The source of stress & diseases, tiredness is not just time-  but pressure as well. And even in that, I see little alternative, for the current method is the way we in Corporate India have been conditioned to operate under. Given the huge Demand-Supply gap, fact is that any employee at any level can be easily replaced without any loss of operational efficiency. A high attrition rate has little discernible impact on the overall operative efficiency of an organization so long as it is not too far out of hand. Sure – it has massive strategic implications & damage – but the modern manager is not trained to think along strategic lines, neither do most HR processes allow for any room for strategy at the levels where it should matter.
MODERN LIFE IS A CAULDRON
Modern Life is a cauldron – make no mistake about that. I suspect that most career lines will have similar problems, given the overall interplay of the factors outlined above. In a highly competitive atmosphere – stress will rise. That is the nature of competition. The problem isn’t the stress, or the late hours, or such things; they are symptoms of something else – and that something else is what we need to look for in our quest to unlock potential, lessen disease incidence, and enable better stress-handling capabilities of our employees.
In this series of articles on corporate stress and rising disease incidence, I will attempt to look at these factors in detail, and specify what that something else is, before embarking on the hunt for a solution to these issues. For now, my advise to newcomers to this life – adjust to it, and as fast as possible. Find out at the earliest possible moment from the time you graduate as to what helps you de-stress, and then nurture that; it will prove invaluable to you in the long run.
THE REAL ISSUES AT HAND
Coming to the point of the article-  the “something else”, the core reason why stress, disease etc are rising in Corporate India. This is isn’t any one, definable aspect; but rather a jumble of many intertwined major challenge areas : namely, competitive ability & skills – on personal as well as organizational levels;  internal core organizational processes {Pay, R&R, JD, Line Processes, Decision Making support systems, ethics, complaint redressals, PMS} not keeping pace with the external environment; organizational structures {size, span, power matrix, power collusion} not developing fast enough to meet & match external threats; and the most critical failure of all – the total failure of most organizations in my personal knowledge to tap into available information, collate it,  and use it properly…

It is the delicate interplay of these complex factors operating at individual, group, team & organizational levels that collude to create the problems and challenges you see around you. The organizations that manage these in older industries succeed more often than not; while in new industries, the organisations that succeed in incrementally improving these slowly rise above the rest, and take a commanding control of the initiative in the market. This series will, over the next few months, take a look in detail at each parameter… stay connected!