Monday, August 27, 2007

Leadership and Value Creation - do we need Policing?

There are two kinds of organizations – the ‘daily wagers organization’, lets call them DWOs and the ‘value creators’ who we can call as VCs.

DWOs focus on clocking a fixed number of hours a day and get paid for the same. The clients of these organizations primarily seek drudgery and negotiate hard on numbers of hours put in versus rate per hour and similar outputs.

On the other side are the VCs, who work on the input – output concept. Their forte is to take a series of inputs; a mix of structured and unstructured, volunteered and extracted and so on; and give an output that cannot be measured simply by number of people X number of hours. That is, the output is a transformed version of the series of inputs.

There is a visible difference between what clients are willing to pay for services of DWOs and VCs. The likeliness to a painter vs. an interior decorator ( who ultimately might be using the same painter) is very high.

The challenge for all leaders is to convert their organizations from DWOs or perceived DWOs to VCs.

One key element that I observe which reinforces the DWO mentality in employees is ‘Policing’.

Clock in, clock out. A minimum fixed number of hours a day. Unconsciously the employee associates herself or himself to a number of hours a day at the office as against being accountable for specific outputs.

No doubt there are noble intentions of organizations to enforce the clock-in clock-out which is to capture time spent or time-sheet to invoice the end client and also ensure that employees spend time at the office. It is a different matter what happens between the clock-in and clock-out.

Compare to the scenario where a VC makes employees accountable for Output. Hey, suddenly all or any of the 24 hours of the day can be working hours!

Combine tangible deliverable or output to a deadline as a measure and you will see the difference it makes.

Employees will start to see themselves in a different light altogether; they will now be accountable for their output as against merely spending time in rote work.

Read a book called ‘The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life’ by Robert K Cooper ( . Robert builds on the concept that we use only about 10% of the potential of our brain. The other 90% lies vastly untapped and we can do wonders if we learn how to harness it.

In my opinion, DWOs lower the usage from 10% .

My advice to leaders is to explore ways & means to convert these into VCs – it will be worth it.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Independence - The Struggle and Leadership Lessons!!!

India celebrates 60 years of Independence!!! August 15, 1947 to August 15, 2007

Think Indepencence, think the almost a century long Indian struggle for freedom, and Leadership should come to mind automatically.

There are names and names of leaders that come to mind, the icons -Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and many more, there were leaders of national stature, of regional stature and then there were innumerable leaders in each district, city, town village.

Each with their own individual leadership style and leadership approach.

It is surprising that I have not seen any management book that attempts to map or capture these great personalities leadership approach, leadership qualities and skills and present for practicing.

We are all to happy to lap up books written by and on successful business leaders and how they turned their companies around and so easily pander to their "oh how great i am so please learn from me and by the way purchase my book and so i get some royalty".

While all these small leaders of Indian freedon struggle did was to redefine the world itself.

I wonder what would happen if any famous CEO turned author or leading B-school prof turned author writes on the "Management and Leadership Styles of Leaders of Indian Freedom Struggle, and its relevance for today's Business" etc.

Would the book sell? Will people want to read and learn. Is the context at all relevant?

i.e. is there something really worth learning from these great personalities?

The answer is a resounding and thumping YES!!

Of course there are Management Skiils to be learnt. How many leaders do you know who can turn a multitude of "Chalta Hai" ( translates as "what do i care") into a charged up force who would readily give their lives for a cause?

I might attempt to take a swing at the leadership styles of these Great and Eminent personalities and attempt to draw some inferences relevant to today's business context.

All for this post.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Of Consultants and Templates

Reams have been written about challenges faced by CIOs to manage their IT Infrastructure, to justify IT expenditure to end users, to enable increased responsiveness, availability, effectiveness of their IT Infrastructure.

IT serves, as its customer, internal users and external world including clients, suppliers, and investors among others. The CIO and her team responsible for uptime and performance of their IT infrastructure needs to meet service levels for all these stakeholders.

The expectations of the CIO from organizations providing IT services include a mix of enabling meeting operational goals leading to operational excellence and the service provider being able to add value by advising on industry best practices, technology investments, future roadmaps, automation among others.

The CIO looks at a balanced offering, value for spend and of course demonstrated technology leadership from the service provider.

More often than not, the service providers read CIOs wrong, that their decision to partner is determined solely by price for meeting SLAs. Service providers are also often biased by their own strengths and experience in providing service to other organizations.

It is a well known fact that no two organizations are the same; yes they might be similar, in that they would be structured similarly, would have similar service level requirements. But all organizations differ from a culture standpoint, and how that culture affects their internal processes. if this were not the case, all organizations which have certified to standards should have been identical. Two organization which would have implemented say ITIL or ISO900(1 or 2), producing identical goods, serving identical end client markets should be therefore identical. How many identical twins have we seen in the enterprise world?

Service providers are often lead to believe, erroneously, that their template driven approach, best practices for an industry can be retrofitted exactly to different organizations in the same industry, and even sometimes across industries or verticals. This is not true.

The needs of each organization has to be assessed afresh, a value proposition prepared afresh and solutions, best practices, tools, templates aligned afresh.
Yes, it is critical to have an understanding of the vertical market and domain that the client operates in, to be able to undertake the right assessment, to be able to ask the right questions and processes to analyze. But even with deep domain understanding, each organization has to be viewed as a fresh case.

Templates and checklists are all tools which assist thinking but should not direct thinking and analysis.

Experts in IT service companies easily fall into the template trap and attempt to bake each fresh engagement using their cookie cutters. This is especially true when a service provider wants to maximize its consultants’ bill time by taking on a larger number of assignments across the year. They come in with their tried and tested checklists and tables, meet a few representatives from the IT organization, a few users, interview the CIO, and then spend a lot of time force fitting their observations into pre-defined templates. Something akin to squeezing yourself in your old tight jeans, even if you are pouring out at places. IT service companies need to take a custom tailoring approach.

They seldom use the concept of ‘voice of the customer’ so effectively used by Japanese automotive companies where they ‘listen’ to their customers views and observations and then analyze them to come up with requirements.

In several IT services providers’ template driven world, requirements are available on the template and symptoms are searched to match the requirements, observed symptom A, tick in box row 3 column 1 of the excel spreadsheet!

Seldom do consultants let CIOs or users express what they exactly need, what are their expectations and then deduce or analyze. Most Q&A sessions are close ended, which is good from speed and turnaround perspective but not great from effectiveness point of view.

One reason is also that CIOs and clients want quick results, their next appraisal is due – either by their CEO or of the quarterly appraisal of the organization by the wall street!

If realistic needs had been captured in the first place, there was no need for clients to engage consultants afresh after every few years. At least the needs would be captured and clear, a roadmap drawn and base-lined which could then be delivered by one or more IT service providers. Technology and tools could evolve to more efficiently deliver to meet the needs and could be refreshed or implemented over several years, but the plan at least would have been there.

Conclusion: Consultants need to be flexible, listen, use templates but not be exclusively dependent on them!

More in my next post.

© Copyright 2007