It takes a village to raise a child!


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It takes a village to raise a child, they say.

Whether on a job, running a business, when in school or even when raising a family, any pursuit demands constant self-analysis in comparison to the environment around to assess where and how you fit in, to make the most effective impact on what you have set out to do. I have come across many that pay more attention to what they do not know or aren’t the best at than what they do and rock at.

For instance, those with strong technical skills question the business acumen they possess while those with a strong business background, question their technical knowledge. Financial whiz’s’ are uneasy with specific business domain knowledge they work in. Operations stalwarts tone down when it comes to business development.

This is something that I have seen to be very dominant in our times. Being aware of your shortcomings is wise and essential. But, to fret over it is not. Not everyone can be a star at everything they do. What is important is that they make an effort to know about things the best they possibly can so they are, in the least informed, when it comes to understanding how that fits in the big picture and this gives them the ability to make good decisions, many a time in their own work realm.

When you know your preferences, likes and strengths, focus on being the best at them. Do not worry about the rest. In fact, find the best possible help you can get on things that you are not very good at. It’s smart to surround yourself with people who are better than you so that you have that part of what you want to do covered. Now, you can focus on what you are excel at and trust others to focus on what they are good at so, all around, you come out successful. Remember, everything in life is a team effort; no one person did it all!

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Making Things Work…..


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In the most trying of times, those that come out, probably tired, exhausted and even with a few chinks in their armor but definitely, triumphant are the ones that work together as a team.

After all, we have all heard that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

In business or personal life, working together is inevitable. After all, no monumental accomplishment was due to a single person’s effort. Working together can mean tremendous pressure, but if the pressure is faced and the energy channelized to build on the effort, it can mean great experiences, stronger bonds and finally impressive accomplishments for those involved.

With generations to come, and the need for instant gratification, there is less patience in those that interact. Just a tad bit of perseverance; restraint and focus can make things work through interaction, than personal gripes and would mean so much more for everyone together and individually.

Yet, this is hardly understood in colleagues working together or families working on their relationships. Personal egos get the better of everyone and as a result, everyone collectively and individually suffers whether they acknowledge the latter or not.

No matter who you are and what your role, the end goal has to be upheld over personal goals. And eventually, success in togetherness reflects on individual success as well.

So, teams out there that are working on projects 24×7 because, that’s what they demand to get accomplished, work together with complete trust of each other. There will be a time to reflect, work things out between colleagues and gather lessons to improve the next interaction. For now, focus on resolving tasks at hand to accomplish the end goal.

Families and friends, the relationships you cherish are a blessing. Happiness is in giving. Give of your time and attention to nourish and strengthen these relationships. All those tasks that you pile up to get done and seem so urgent vying for your attention can wait a tad bit. You will always have the time in the world to get them done. What you will not is the time to interact with your family and friends. Put them before your chores. Better yet, spend quality time on doing stuff together. You will enjoy such time and tasks get accomplished before you know of the effort put in.

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Quality Assurance – An Impediment or a Necessary Evil


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There is a famous tenet that applies to any project, be it tech or otherwise, although it has mostly been heard in the tech corridors for a while now.

If you want a speedy delivery, quality may not be optimal.

But, if the delivery needs to be stellar as well, costs will shoot up.

If you want to save on cost, it may take longer to deliver.

Basically, however you look at it, something’s got to give between cost, time and quality. Apparently, you can’t have all the three.

I beg to differ. It’s an old adage and many a project has been delivered and continues to be delivered in its guise.

I believe projects can and need to be delivered in earnest. In fact that’s the current market ask and if you do not respond to it, what you get to the market may be a tad bit too late to create any demand, for the market expectations have moved on a lot further due to the competition taking over.

Now, does speed really mean more cost? Not necessarily! It’s not about how complex the work at hand is, how enormous a job it is or how many resources will it consume. It’s about how well planned is execution, what kind of strategy and preparation have gone into the plan itself and what options are tapped to execute in an agile mode.

Also, does speed mean less optimal quality? And in order to ensure great quality, do you need to spend more money and need more time? I think that’s just regressive thinking.

Here’s a popular saying in the project management world, “Every birth takes nine months. Similarly, every project needs the time it deserves. You can’t deliver what takes nine months within a month just by adding more resources.”

I agree to the above to a certain extent. Throwing more resources at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve it. However, there is a threshold after which certain changes can be brought about, either by induction of the right resources, parallel processing where possible or taking productivity to a higher level by managing the team mechanics to deliver.

Speed to market or deliver doesn’t mean less optimal quality or more cost at all. When it comes to quality, how that’s perceived within the team at work and how it’s executed upon become very crucial. If there is a professional quality assurance team in place to handle that function for a project, then, it’s only viable if the scale of the project demands it. In such situations, it’s important to ensure that the whole project team clearly understands the precise objectives of the quality assurance team. From requirements gathering to the architecture design, every function has to be focused on simplicity and speedy delivery. Developers have to be on top of their game to ensure cutting edge code is going out and the quality is checked within their realm, before it goes out the door. QA should be more focused on functional review to meet market needs and push the envelope for a speedy delivery. If the team works in this fashion, orchestrating in high productivity modes, miracles are possible where costs are kept under control, and a high quality product reaches the market on time.

However, the truth of the matter is that, in more cases than not, the quality assurance team ends up being a gatekeeper for the work churned out by the development team and that’s where the issue rests. A top-notch development team should not need a quality assurance team behind its heels cross-checking each line of code being churned out. The development team should be accountable for what they deliver and should be proud of the job they do sans the quality team. The quality team, as I said before should be just focused on ensuring the market gets what it demands. In fact, their work should be non-existent.

And the day, we get there with minimalistic or non-existent quality teams, would be the day where cost and time also do not have as much bearing on projects and what gets delivered to the market. The best part, neither the creator nor the consumer would have any apprehension as to the product that has been put out in the market.

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#IfIWere22 – Wouldn’t Change a Thing


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One thing I have noticed is that as you grow up, I mean as you age, life seems to pass by faster. I am not sure if that is, because of the number of pursuits you setup for your self and are so engaged in them that life just seems to fly by. It definitely was much slower when I was younger, perhaps because things were new to me to learn, experiment and enjoy my leisure. I also do not know how it will be when I get to my 60s. But, that’s for another day to talk about.

My 20s were a great time in life. When I was 22, I was in grad school working on getting my dual masters. Life was great as I was working and playing hard. I was like a sponge just soaking in whatever I came across, studying at a coveted university while living in a new city. It was time for exploration, in life, at school and trying to strike it out on your own.

It was in my 2nd year at grad school, when working on getting my MBA that I chose to go down the less trodden path. While my friends pursued studies diligently, I decided to explore new avenues at the same time while studying. I took up a direct sales job at an MNC that had just established in India and was expanding across the country introducing direct sales of consumer durables. The commission was handsome and I would be able to earn enough to be self-sufficient. But, I didn’t join for the money. I joined for the promise of a brighter future. It was a pyramid concept where you built a team, trained them and consistently generated enough sales for a certain period before you struck it out on your own. Then, you proliferated your network and made residual income on other locations you opened up. I must tell you, it was enticing enough to make me work full time when I had started, assuming it would be a good part time gig. I was always a good student and hence, my studies didn’t suffer.

I remember the very first day I went out by myself to make some sales. I picked up a heavy bag and went door to door for about 4 hours until noon. I must have knocked about 100 doors, not a single sale! I had experienced people who closed the door on your face, frustrated people who shooed you away and not so pleasant smirks from un-obliging customers. That was it! I was broken and returned to the office dragging my bag behind.

My trainer, whom I had shadowed the last three days came over and listened patiently to me, venting. I was angry, unhappy and just didn’t want to do this anymore. I thought I deserved better. My trainer explained the law of averages to me and said that in order to get 30 yes’s, you need to learn to go through 300 knocks and 270 no’s. He taught me how to take in each “No”, and make your pitch a little better with it, your demeanor a bit more pleasant and your resolve, stronger. After that he gave me two choices. He said that I could either walk away from all this and he would consider me history or I could go out there and work it one more time and put into action what he said. At the most, I would be a tired guy by the end of the day but the law of averages had to work.

I mulled over this for several moments, had a glass of water and stepped out to try, one last time. I went back to the area I was working. I was curious to try the law of averages and worked through that neighborhood for the next 4 hours. I kept knocking doors, became thick-skinned to all the negatives and just kept going. By the end of that day, I had sold 10 pieces! That changed my entire outlook toward struggle and achievement!

I went on to build my team, open my own location, start my own direct marketing company and open up about 12 locations in a year!

I wouldn’t change a thing about when I was 22! And my advice to you, seek your own adventure and blaze your own path to triumph. One piece of advice, never ever give up. It may come to you late, but it will!

#IfIWere22

The power of “I”


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“I will _________________.”

“I deserve _____________.”

“ I need _______________.”

“I want ________________.”

“I can _________________.”

“I am going to __________.”

“I demand _____________.”

“I” is a very powerful word. Yet, it is not encouraged & celebrated as much. Infact, it is a word that has been associated with a certain negative connotation. In environments that we congregate in, at school or at work, it is teams that are encouraged and one being a contributing member is looked upon in order for the team and everyone associated with it to succeed.

I have seen and heard so much about being humble, not tooting your own horn and no matter how successful you are, never let it get to your head. Not all, but some of it is great advise. But when it comes to the use of “I”, the general treatment of what it represents has been misunderstood. It doesn’t necessarily stand for ego, pride and glaring self-centeredness in all cases. “I” has the power to elevate you to your super self. It represents and promotes self confidence in who you are, what you do, reflects your aspirations and helps reaffirm that assuredness, showing you are thinking and doing what you deem right.

Here’s a small exercise I would like to propose that you try out to test the immense power of “I”. Every morning, before you begin your day, stand straight with your head held high in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye & say the following out loud so you can hear your own voice clearly.

“I will have a great day today.”

“I will be successful today.”

“I deserve __________.”

“I will ______________.”

For the last two sentences, you can fill in what you aspire for. Do this for a week and see the change in your attitude, your confidence, your interactions with others and the results thereby. What the repetition ensures is your belief in your own aspirations which leads down  the path of you making them happen.

You will also see a positive change in how you deal with your day to day activities. You will be more vocal of your needs, aspirations, thoughts and opinions. Your realization of what matters to you is infectious and ensures that those around you believe as well. As a result, you get more out of your life.

Go out there, be confident and fear not to use the word “I”. After all, you deserve every bit of success and fulfillment that you aspire for.

Who’s Got Your Back?


You got my back and I got yours!

Individuals, Teams & Organizations the world over seem to have taken this adage to heart as they strike deals and alliances, a few in writing, more in word & much more as an untold principle while they work feverishly to be successful. In order to embrace this principle, you do not necessarily have to be on the same side; rivals are known to have leveraged this undercurrent as well. 

Glance at the world of business and politics around you. You will find examples galore. It is just that those who are outside such an alliance are not too pleased. Well, if you are the one left out of a party, how would you feel? 

In every realm of society, be it corporate, social or political, forming such alliances and moving forward has become a norm. I don’t have anything against them. In order to progress and make better, it is important to have, know and work toward these unpublished agendas. But, on the contrary, as we have often seen, these alliances can be exploited to get more than a fairly deserved share. But, that’s another discussion for a different day. 

Today, let’s look at the positivity of these totally present, some visible but mostly invisible relationships. Together, as a team, one can grow and help others in the team grow as well. There are so many corporate examples of executives & their teams built over years of working together, and the end result, all of them growing together. You can see that kind of symbiotic relationship in government as well. Further, there are several family businesses that have grown and flourished so long as the family remained united and stood together. Once they break up and try growing their individual shares, they have discovered how difficult and slow a process it can be. Besides, the vultures waiting to nibble away at their pie take flight and there are none but just them guarding their pie. 

There is an interesting observation that comes to mind. Frogs in a well; when one of them tries to climb up, the others pull the one down by moving from beneath him. In the case of ants, in order to reach up to anything, they form a chain and help each other by walking over other ants. That’s the spirit of winning as a team first, and then as individuals of the team. 

As an old saying goes, “Unity is Strength”. As an individual, there is only so much you can do to influence your own progress. Find people who can complement your skills, find true partners and well-wishers in your friends, peers and mentors and form your team. Work together, work with and work through them to reach your goals and at the same time help them reach theirs. It could be an active partnership or one of those in principle, where you have their back and they have yours. Together, you form a formidable team and will succeed beyond your wildest imagination.

Would you rather lead from the front or follow through?

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Leaders and Followers are both vital to the fabric of any organization. As much as you need leaders to set the path and motivate others to follow through, you also need productive followers who are willing to listen, learn and execute on the plan set before them. No organization can do without one or the other.

The world is mostly made up of followers and a subset of leaders. Of course, leadership is a learned trait and most of us play both roles within certain limits.

Leadership is about:

  • Developing a vision, sharing it and building support around it.
  • Strategizing and planning execution to realize the vision.
  • Leading execution of the strategy while overseeing the completion of planned goals.

These tenets are universal to any organization and are mostly measured through fiscal success, I mean EBIDTA, profits, market share, stock value etc.

But, true leadership has other dimensions as well; corporate social responsibility and emotionally intelligent people management being two of these.

An organization that aspires for success ensures that every associate in the organization knows and lives the true reason of its existence. In order for this to happen, every leader in the organization, from the CEO to line management needs to imbibe and practice the principles of valuing the people assets of the organization. Customers and those that serve them are equally important to the organization. Motivating associates to perform to their potential by managing their individual hot buttons and then, channeling this work to meet the needs of the clients is the salient execution principle of any successful organization. This ultimately leads to the realization of organizational goals, the yardstick it measures its success by.

At all levels of management, a prime factor of success is optimal people management. The amount of effort put into strategizing and planning an organization’s path also has to be put into managing and growing the people assets who are instrumental in realizing the plan. With leaders that share in the vision and willing followers, any organization is destined to meet its set goals!

Finally, an organization has to think and act beyond itself.  Making an impact in the community it thrives in and standing up to be a pillar of the community’s progress enhance the perpetuity of the organization and take it beyond the plans it was conceived with. That, in sum is the true culmination of its existence and success.

Now, ask yourself some key questions to understand where you are and how you need to fine-tune your work style to get where you want to be;

  • What do you do for work? Do you believe in the vision set forth by your organization?
  • Are you a leader or follower?
  • As a leader,
    • How much do you value your team? Do you take time to listen to them or are you just giving instructions most of the time expecting follow through?
    • Do you treat your team with the same respect that you expect of them?
    • Is your team totally sold on your idea of execution so that it will be a success?
    • Do you know your team members’ hot buttons so you can work on keeping them motivated and provide direction and help in the realization of their goals?
    • Do you exhibit enough appreciation for what your team does?
  • As a follower,
    • Do you truly believe in the vision and plan set forth by your leadership? If not, do you question and make suggestions?
    • Do you listen and follow through per expectations? Do you go beyond?
    • Do you feel a valued member of your team? If not, do you express concern and work with your leader to ensure mutual transparency and work to build a plan to help get there?
    • Do you offer suggestions and new ways of doing things?
    • Can you be the best lieutenant your leader can ever find?

Find your answers, make your course corrections and let me assure you, the journey towards your goals will be as fulfilling as attaining them!

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Work Smart, not hard…


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Every time I strike up a conversation with someone, either in a professional environment or in a social setting, the conversation invariably moves towards how it’s been on the work front. Most of the time, what I hear is, “It’s been busy!” Then, the conversation meanders into how there is no time to even catch a breath, so on and so forth. Sound familiar?

And, I invariably start thinking that this has become an unconscious reaction of almost anyone, whether they are truly swamped or not. After all, work is such an integral part of anyone’s life. But, in the modern world as we know it, is any work truly “hard”. Well, most of it is not and whatever is, there are several innovations in place to make it easier to perform.

Today, it is not as much about working hard as it is about working smart. We live in a time where it’s your resourcefulness and acumen that plays a vital part in your success than sheer hard toil.

For every aspect of work where true muscle power is needed, machinery and computers have proven their mettle. When it comes to true productivity, burning themidnightoil has shown to be futile. The most productive contribution from a human is limited to about 8-9 hours a day. After that, a change in scene is required to ensure that you do not burn yourself out. There is a need to recharge and replenish for continuing your productive pursuit the next day.

It also helps to pause a moment and relook at the task ahead with a fresh perspective. Often times, you will see a different light on some other end of the dark tunnel. The modern workforce is distributed across the globe, some working virtually and some enjoying flexible schedules. These allowances have actually brought down stress levels and increased productivity. Imagine being tied to your desk working on a task while worrying about how your kids will be picked up at daycare if you can’t go. Who wins in this situation? Now, if you were able to take off for an hour to get your kids home and come back to work or if you were to take off early, get your kids home and then, continue to work from home, isn’t that a true win-win situation all around.

Coming back to the 8-9 hours you have available on a daily basis to tackle work, I think that is plenty of time to be truly productive without complaining about being swamped. It boils down to planning your work and then, working the plan. It also builds upon being accountable for what you do and showing responsibility. This will actually rub off on those that you work with. If you plan right and perform right, you should never be truly swamped or overwhelmed by work.

Today’s economy has created unique situations where many employees have taken on more than their due at work and are thankful to be employed. But, this also creates situations where they may be overwhelmed causing burnout. By nature, we try to pack as much as possible in a day. Working smart is prioritizing based on importance and urgency, planning workable chunks, setting yourself up to succeed, being flexible to accommodate your work/life balance without losing focus on either.

Now, take a moment and reflect on your own situation….

Are you working hard…..or working smart?

Do you support smart work within your team/your organization?