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October 13, 2014

Transformation Challenges .....................India way

Like most of the World and business organisations India is undergoing significant transformation and offers some very interesting insights into Leading and managing change.

Lot has been written about Anna Hazare and anti corruption movement. Images plastered all over news papers, television and  websites; of youngsters (most of them aged between 16-25 years) riding bikes with pillion riders standing behind them, sometimes as much as four people on one bike, in violation of traffic and safety rules continue to disturb me both as a person and as professional. Unfortunately this is a common scene in all political, religious and social rallies as well as day to day traffic on roads.

Sounds trivial? Why is this important? Here is context data:

Across India, every ten days over 4000 people die in road accidents, majority of them are on two wheeler and are under 35 years of age. This is more than all people lost in Kargil War. India loses more people in six months in road accidents than has lost to wars and terrorism since Independence.

Ask any communication and branding expert and they will verify the blunder. Not to forget, tendency to break rules and laws is root cause of corruption (bribery). So how can people leading anti corruption movement and demanding accountability in public service themselves be tolerant of such behaviors? It’s like a corporate leader supporting processes and people responsible for malfunction of most promising products.

As a person looking to invest in India, will be genuinely concerned. When I see Urban/ Semi Urban, educated, with means (owners of bikes, vehicles etc) who are most likely to be part of work force being hired behaving so irresponsibly.

I am reminded of a story told by Pramod Bhasin (ex CEO & Chairman, Genpact / Leader - GE Capital India). He was at Chinese airport on a rainy day. A group of maintenance workers were walking in a line towards Aircraft; there was puddle of water and first one jumped to cross over. Entire crew followed him without breaking line. If this was in India, we would have someone jumping over it, another few deciding to take a detour from right, some from left and so on. Bottom line, in general Indians don’t demonstrate discipline, more so self discipline.

Businesses need predictability, consistency and respect for law & rules to thrive.

Similarly, at launch of Clean India campaign, after Prime Minister and crowd departed, venue was littered with pamphlets distributed by organizers (Govt of India). If your goal is to clean than you can’t be adding to waste generation. To manage waste we have to start by managing and curbing waste generating behavior and leaders must lead by example, for campaign to succeed, root causes have to be dealt with. It’s not only about littering but total waste of national resources (read organisational resources in context of businesses). Allocating huge resources, fancy ad campaigns etc will have no impact unless underlying attitudes and processes change. For example, using technology and connecting with people, similar to Prime Minister’s address to school children on 5th September, would have been a much more effective approach.

Last year, I was reading results of a study by an international agency. According to this study approximately 175 mm Indian families (of 4 people) earn less than $1350 p.a. translating into 700 mm people or roughly 10% of humanity having less than 1 $ per day to live. In this back drop providing for skill development, education and employment (schemes like MGNREGA) is understandably any government’s priority. With current controversy in media over increased allocation of fund for material the MGNREGA is once again in focus. One is reminded of Cliché – definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)

These programs continue to repeat mistakes of past 67 years since independence. Every year instead of reducing people’s dependence on such programs and reservations in jobs/admissions we have agitations and lobbying to include more people.

Make in India, Clean India, Making FDI norms easy, MGNREGA, Reservations etc are means to end, but we continue treating them as goal itself. Effective business organizations start with customer to set their goals and work backwards to change/create processes to meet their goals. Similarly, India has to start focusing on improving life of its 1250 mm people and integrate various initiatives to make them successful.

Here are some examples of creating people (customer) centric solutions, instead trying to force fit, subsidies and fund people in systems which do not serve their purpose.

Select youngsters in age group of 12-15 years from these families. Create a three year program comprising of two blocks of 6 hours each. It’s possible to provide education equivalent to six academic years (roughly 180 to 200 days) in 6 hours X 1080 days. Use second block to provide technical and vocational training for three years providing them employment on completion of three years. During this time pay these youngsters $ 3 per day from MGNREGA and provide meals from Mid Day meal scheme. This will create far more valuable assets and set these families truly free.  With collaboration and involvement of industry this can create pipeline of employable young talent for industries, services, Armed forces, Para-military forces, healthcare services, police etc.

Provide government and community land (village panchayat, temples etc) on lease (instead of transferring ownership) to build cold storage, large retail stores etc. Include solar power generation firms by providing roof tops to set up plants and ask them to fund construction in lieu of rent/cost of land. Unlike conventional power generation, solar power can be generated through clusters of small units catering to local communities resulting in lower costs and T&D losses. Similarly funds can be used from MGNREGA, health and education budgets to construct schools, healthcare facilities in collaboration with solar energy firms. This is all possible by creating enabling regulatory framework.

Organised retail is need of hour. We continue to debate corporate versus local shop owners, domestic companies versus foreign companies etc. Why not promote cooperative model, exiting small shop owners can form cooperatives and nationwide network of such local cooperatives can provide benefits to consumers and opportunities businesses. We have extremely successful example in dairy sector - Amul to learn from. Once again funds from schemes like MGNREGA should be used to promote such enterprises at village level.
It’s simple, to be efficient; dispose what is not required, figure out what is important and hold on tight to what you want most!

I am reminded of a presentation in circulation few years back about difference in developed and developing/under developed nations. Difference between Developed and under developed nations is attitude of people, framed over the years by education and culture.
It’s time to stop rhetoric like India is Great (Mera Bharat Mahan) and change to let’s make India Better.

Warm Regards,

October 4, 2014

Best way to make a line smaller is by drawing bigger one?

I am often reminded of a puzzle form my early years in school. Teacher drew a line on blackboard and asked the class, do you know how to make it small without touching it? (B in picture here). None of us could figure out answer. She drew bigger line (A) parallel to B and asked which one is smaller. All of us answered B. She went on to concept of hard work and being positive. Best way to win is to put in more effort and produce better results, avoid indulging in negative behaviors like cheating, jealousy and so on.
This example keeps coming back, – “best way to make a line smaller is by drawing bigger one”, in talks, interviews, training etc. Key challenges in this message are –
  1. Control remains with competition; your success is measured and quantified by achievements of someone else.
  2. Supports comparison, root cause of negative and dysfunctional behaviors
  3. Message is counter intuitive to multiplicity of ideas and pluralism. 
Let me take a pause and quote from my earlier posts.
In 1990s when Coke, decided to re-enter Indian market post liberalization Pepsi was well established in Indian market with head start of almost 7-8 years.  Senior Coke executive was visiting India and a journalist asked about how they plan to grow and gain market share from rivals mainly Pepsi. Coke executive responded that their target market was not only consumers of carbonated drinks but everyone who drank water or lemon drink to quench thrust. In one statement, the person redefined entire market and possible opportunities for Coke. This illustrates power of taking control while facing adversity. (Surviving Adversity)

Once we start seeing competitors as inspiration instead of enemies. Our communication, expected behaviors rewards and recognition strategy undergoes a complete change for positive. The rhetorical statements, over zealousness and unnecessary aggression give way to desire for continuous improvement, sense of fulfillment and enjoyment. We spend so much time and resources in improving processes to remove non value added activities but we spend so little on improving human processes and take out non value adding emotions from people’ life. (HOW: Retaining Leadership).

Message of exercise remains well intended and noble. Taking a selfish perspective, it still is worthwhile to continue working on your line instead of trying to sabotage other line. For example, B’s line represents current net worth of $ 1 mm and A’s line $ 1.2 mm. If B tries to sabotage and bring down A to 900K, in absolute terms he still is at $ 1 mm. Instead if B spends his resources (energy, time, effort, money etc) only on extending his line to $1.1 mm, and during same period A extends her line to $ 1.5 mm, in absolute terms B is still much better off.

In the picture, four lines started parallel to B ending up as A, Leaf, flower and a boat. A was driven by making B smaller, she can carry this line far but it will be always X of B and there lies the limitation of this method.  Whereas leaf, flower and boat created there own vision and took their respective paths. They worked on extending their lines. Further, to color and target a totally different audience. Freeing them from having to compete and be compared with A&B.

Never define yourself as a product and, in fact, I would augment it; never define yourself by your competition, either. If you live and define yourself by your product or competition, you will loose sight of who your customer is. - Ginni Rometty Chairman, President and CEO—IBM.

Benchmarking, understanding competition, trying to win in market place, setting ambitious targets and goals are good. Even cliché “Whatever it takes” isn’t unwanted. Challenge is in understanding associated cliché - “end doesn’t justify means”. It’s a combo deal. We keep thinking that our challenge is second cliché, in reality challenges and failures come from first part “whatever it takes” and life time of conditioning with - “best way to make a line smaller is by drawing bigger one”.

"Live in accordance with how one thinks. Be yourself and don't try to impose your criteria on the rest. I don't expect others to live like me. I want to respect people's freedom, but I defend my freedom. And that comes with the courage to say what you think, even if sometimes others don't share those views." - José "Pepe" Mujica, President of Uruguay

Warm Regards,