Sunday, March 20, 2011

Corporate Jungle Strategies

A few corporate truths that will help you survive the big bad jungle of corporate life.

  • You wont win as the lone ranger. There are no lone rangers. The ones who think they are lone rangers are stupid or incompetent. This may seem contrarian, but if you are a person who cannot take people along either through your ideas or other qualities, then you wont survive for long. You can try your luck elsewhere, but ultimately the answer is the same, sooner or later. Being a lone ranger is good in the movies, but bad in business,
  •  Second related truth. Your team wont win as the lone ranger either. Nothing can get done as one person or one team. Different people, different strengths, different skills - all come together to create a team. Unless you have a great team with you or you put in conscious effort to create a great team, not only will you not win, your team will lose too. The effort spent in creating a team and calibrating their strengths and allocating work as per their strengths is worth it.
  • The jungle is all about thriving - not survival. This might seem obvious or counterintuitive depending on whom you ask. But if you focus on survival, your strategies will be limiting, close minded and even detrimental to the company. The moment you think of thriving - you will open your mind, take risks and think about the good of the company overall. Think about it - you head a new team that might get shut down - it is well known. Think how you will go about it in a survival mode or a thriving mode. Yes, the latter has more risk. But without risk, can you get anywhere? 
  •  Which brings us to the next related truth. Take Risk. Because, not everybody can. Or wants to. Everybody out there is busy playing the survival game, playing by the rules, kissing up, pleasing people. Get out, take risk. Be that square peg in the round hole - bend the rules, stretch the boundaries, but don't break the rules or scale the boundary. There is a lot of space there, I assure you.
  •  Your work wont talk for itself - not in the way you expect to - unless it fits in with the objectives of the firm. Your work is required for you to showcase your manager. Your managers work will showcase for his manager and so on. Each of you better add "deltas" to the others output so that the final product is impressive, but every persons effort has to be a segue into the next persons effort. If you are working in different directions, it is diffused effort and wont get you anywhere. But everything you do gets noticed. Everything you don't do gets noticed. Every work you do is a stamp of you at work - it may not be a Michaelangelo sculpture, but it will bears your stamp. And if your work is anywhere as collectible as his sculptures, it better have that stamp.
  •  Reputation travels fast. Real fast. But if you focus on building a reputation it wont work. Whichever way your work heads, success or failure, one thing it will keep adding to is your reputation. Reputation is a byproduct of the work you do. Each piece of work you do, builds your reputation or takes a brick down from it. Either way, it will, in general, be relflective of those patterns we spoke about in a recent column.
  • That other thing is Perception. Reputation and Perception are what gets created out of your work. Your Perception and Reputation can go hand in hand if you are lucky, but it can be at loggerheads to each other too. For instance, you reputation may be that of a tough task master, but people may perceive you as being pushy. How will it work? You will find resistance while working with people and they may not share their best output with you.
  •  Play to your strengths - not to someone elses strengths. Figure out what your strengths are and build them. A stronger strength is always more useful than a patched up weakness.
  •  Unlike the real jungle, you can make mistakes. You are allowed to make mistakes. Provided you don't repeat the same mistake. And admit it right away and put in processes to ensure that it doesn't happen again. If you lucky to be in a place where you get a second chance to succeed, then take it with both hands and give it all you have.
  •  Last but not the least, stick to your values. This might seem obvious, but you will realize that many of us don't know what our values are and if at all we have any. Whatever are those values, stick to your values and they will stick to you. And expect your team to stick only to those values they see you enact - not preach. Hopefully you wont have to preach - nobody likes it anyway. Walk the talk or better still, walk the walk. Whatever else you do, don't do, mistakes or no mistakes - your values are what you will be known by. 
  • Finally, burn a few bridges if you want to, but don't burn all of them. No man is an island and you will need bridges to take you where you want to be.
(Published in Advancedge March 2011, slightly edited)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The six blinding men in Hindoostan

This is really a redux of the Six blind men of Hindoostan, a poem by John Godfrey Saxe - a poem most of us know either by rote or are definitely familiar with. In the poem, 6 blind men argue about how the elephant is something else, depending on what part of the elephant they touch etc etc.

Today, the elephant is a scam  and heres how the six blinding actors help the "thieves" hide the elephant in the room. They shine the light in all the wrong places, including their audiences eyes so that they miss the elephant in the room, unless it belongs to the BJP.

First blinding man is the media. First it denies that the elephant exists and then when confronted states that it knew that the elephant was in the room all along and they were telling you this.While this is happening, another channel calls it vile propoganda. And if there is somebody in the media who is hell bent on unearthing the truth, they just ignore it while focusing solely on wardrobe malfunctions and such like.

Second blinding man is the government itself. First they get extremely verbose old men into the room to state their argument aided and abetted by the first blinding man above where they agree vociferously and vehemently that this entire elephant is a notional elephant.

Here is where the third actors come in. They are useful idiots - mostly not star journalists turned CEOs - but genuinely good writers, who by virtue of various qualifications or with the necessity of impressing the powers that be come to the aid of one and two by writing Op-eds and what not to further cloud reality.

While all this happening, the fourth actor - the Chamcha Bureau of Investigation - also known as the School of Magic, aids in the disappearance of files, peoples and on occasion - entire histories. Sometimes, they bare their fangs and get incredibly efficient, including getting courts to open on holidays and rapidly arrest office bearers - mostly from enemy territory within the country.

While the four bright lights are shining in one direction, the fifth, a so called honest integrated puppet actor known for minor roles in the Bureaucracywood swings into action clouding perfectly organized loots as error of judgement, coalition drama (I meant, Dharma), claims amnesia and manages to get into the front pages of newspapers.

That leaves the honest citizen wondering if he should vote an alternative government - for which the media provides us mug shots of the most charismatic person ever born who shall ever remain youthful at middle age and reminds us of the bad things 4 years of non Congress rule did for us while conveniently ignoring the 60 years of the millstone around our neck. There are other reminders of frequently repeated speeches on the dual sided nature of the country.

And here is where the last actor comes in. Time. In the great country that is India, anybody can have the watches, but the scamsters have the time. The elephant is neatly sliced into smallish pieces while all the above 5 actors are at work. The elephant is divided across generations, ferried across countries, into cold storages to accumulate interest so that the generations ahead can enjoy the fruits of hard labour...

First draft - will clean this up a little more...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dont know if the EC (Seshan) mandated rules against graffiti apply or are being followed in Kerala. Spotted a bunch of these signs all over - mostly CPI booked. The election in Kerala is due sometime in April 2011.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A tree

Spotted at Kannur (or Cannanore), a tree in memory of some of our Kargil martyrs. I spotted a circle at Trichy too in memory of a local martyr there. While our politicians get countless stadiums, bridges and what not named after them, our martyrs get a few isolated things named after them.

And I still dont know if Kargil is counted in official records as a war or as a peacetime negotiation that happened to involve guns.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pulpy Arabian Grape juice

For those in Bangalore, stalls advertising "Puply Arabian Grape Juice" are a common sight. They are either stalls or boards on existing shops where they advertise that such a product is available. This made me curious. For one, I did not know that grapes grew in Saudi Arabia - and second, even more surprising that India imported grapes from Saudi Arabia. That got me thinking about whether it is really feasible for someone to import grapes from Saudi and sell it in so many stores at a common mans level.

So, like a true internet fan, I googled for "grapes cultivation in Saudi Arabia" and sure enough I found an FAO link - this one. I was surprised to see that grapes did grow in KSA - apart from the obvious dates, figs and such like. So, my first myth was demolished.

Here is a wikipedia entry on Grapes - India is among the top 10 producers of grapes.

Now the question was how much did India produce. I found an FAO link again which detailed Grapes cultivation in India.

The difference is 467 percent - about 6000 ha in SA and 34000 ha in India - it is presumably a little different now since those pages are slightly older. So, my question is a very simple. Why and how are we importing grapes into India from KSA - especially considering that as per FAO data in the second link, we consume nearly 85% fresh within the country itself? Are we really importing or is this a marketing gimmick?

Seems to be the latter - since a 2009 report shows that India does import grapes - one importer imported about a 100 odd tonnes of grapes (production is about 10,000 tonnes) which is a drop in the ocean of grapes here and those grapes came from California and not KSA. And if we indeed import grapes, clearly, these are super premium grapes the likes of which cannot be pulped and sold on the streets of Bangalore. In a gourmet setting, I can understand.

Therefore, I think that the said Arabian pulpy grape juice is Indian pulpy grape juice. Either way, grapes are good, but dont let people charge you a premium with a phoren name tag and lots of local sugar.