In Search of Excellence & Scale.

Ramki , “Ram” , “RK” as he is fondly called. Ramkrishna Bhat through his passion and extreme leadership, has thus far touched the lives of upto 4 million  people who own Tata cars. Being in the automobile industry, spanning 23 years across  Engineering, Vendor development, Kaizen promotion, Cost management and  Project management, he now heads Product Development (Car Platforms) at Tata Motors

We periodically connect on leadership topics like “Drive for Results” & “People Leadership”.   On one of our learning exchanges, he wowed me with his leadership approach. He consented to share his views, which I am sure will benefit many a budding leader. His experience in a diverse, competitive and consumer industry, brings tried and tested perspectives towards people engagement and ability to continually excel and scale. Over to Ramki.  …Page2.


Having led and delivered many projects and successful initiatives, over the years, I always see any activity or project delivery in 5 simple steps. To be successful, this is like a fuelling system as each one acts as a fuel to the next one. In addition, without fuel you can’t move forward, even with lot of “push” from the ecosystem, you will only inch a bit.


1 .Target & Purpose

Ignition key.  Start/Stop button. Among the first things you look for in the driver’s seat.  A simple thing yet a “first experience”. This is a target as well. This needs as much attention to detail, backed by holistic passion and commitment from the team.

Once the Target is understood, the purpose may be clearly aligned with all on the team. Is the user outcome and experience clear? It’s like the “Covid” lockdown. If people do not understand the purpose and outcomes, it will not work. Structured communications across the organisation and the ecosystem, is necessary to achieve the end goal – The Customer. I would say “Communication at all levels”.  

Teams maybe categorised as “Core”, which comprises of resources dedicated to the project, and “Shared” where resources work on multiple projects. Both to be well integrated.   

I start with  “Unleashing the Power of Us” and a  “Yes we will” mantra before the start of each program.  This in essence is the thread of my thoughts through this blog. 

When Rajesh and I chatted on of one of our exchange moments, he inspired me to share this for the larger good of people and as a learning moment. 

Challenged with “shared resources” being fully committed ? 

Ratan Tata is a prominent Indian industrialist, philanthropist and former Chairman of Tata Group and Sons. The Tata Nano was his dream project.  The  purpose was to provide a  family of 4, travelling on a two wheeler, straight to the comfort of a car. A purpose should be well established across teams. The targets were many times tougher, yet the team went ahead to execute the vision, the dream. 

Leadership Lessons from the man who Created the TATA NANO

The Making of Tata Nano – NatGeo

The Making of Tata Nano


I am now more humbled than ever, not because of the success of the Nano project but with what we started back in 2009, fits well with what India is striving hard to do today – Atma Nirbhar. This means self -reliant. A mantra screams “Vocal for Local” to help develop local manufacturing and businesses. The purpose is clearly understood by the masses. 

With the importance of understanding need and purpose of anything we do, be it the car and the start/stop or ignition button, I introduce a generic, virtuos cycle that maybe applied to any project or program.



The Virtuos Cycle of Engagement & Scale


2. Structure :

A structure must be clearly defined. This provides clarity and the path, on  how we will go on the journey in managing the project.  

  1. Structure of the team / organisation should clearly lay out the roles and responsibility and delegation of authority.
  2. Project Gateways and milestones clearly defined. Over the journey of my career and learning moments, I have seen this evolve from having only a few gateways, to now having Gateways, Milestones , Activities and thousands of sub-activities, be it for something as simple as a Start/Stop button! 
  3. Clearly defined “Management Points” and “Check points” generally called as MP & CP in TQM parlance.  An interesting topic in itself.
  4. Structure for meeting cadence at various levels committed to the cause. Have cadence established upfront. No ambiguity.  “Daily work management (DWM)”  or “Daily Weekly Monthly (DWM)” ?
  5. Have a simple structure. A simple structure is easier to follow and improves the chance of success – “It is easy to make things difficult” &” difficulty to make things easy”.  Introspect if the structure defined has worked well and identify any potential glitches.
  6. Learn and improve from past project through PDCA. Doing the same mistake cost a lot.

3. Review: 

“ What gets reviewed, gets done”. A clearly defined review structure and cadence at all levels is important.   I have seen projects and initiatives fail because they were not reviewed, with reviews being missed or just not being in place. Teams have achieved 5X improved results year on year. This just with improvements  in rigour right upto the MD & CEO.  People look for the seriousness and commitment from senior management and leaders towards the  purpose and target.  This has to be done in a very disciplined manner. Missing  planned reviews and people will be perceived the wrong way.


4. Results :

Achieving the overall result is an outcome of results being effectively cascaded at all level.  I have seen this happening successfully where the Managing points (MPs) and Check points (CPs) are clearly defined.  Managing Point is my own target on what one needs to be done. Check point are the ones – what I need to check.  Eg. For  achieving one activity target if 5 sub activities need to be done by someone else, these 5 sub-activities need to become the Managing Point in their score card.  And this applies at all levels.  Example “Achieving Market share”  is a very high level MP for the CEO  & MD and would have clearly defined MPs and CPs across the function from HR, Engineering, Sales, Marketing, Production etc. as everyone needs to contribute in one way or another to make this possible.

Check this Daily Work Management  (DWM) approach that outline MPs and CPs.




5. Recognition & Engagement :

And lastly in the virtuos cycle, Appreciation is one of the most important motivating factors for people to sustain and do more.  Instills energy and enthusiasm in the team.  A structure for recognition needs to be embedded into the cycle  and process.  For example: Starting a project head weekly meeting with an appreciation to members who have done something good,  shared a new idea, completed an activity etc., is a good practice.  Many a time, Managers shy from doling out appreciation. Why ? Maybe they are shy and they themselves may not have experienced it. Or, they just don’t believe in it lest the team or member gets complacent. Such thinking has no place in any organisation that wants to scale . The recognition as a workstream is all levels and in meetings right through to the MD and CEO. Build it into the culture, the very fabric that defines behaviors.  

When people know that they will be appreciated,  they come forth and share ideas and get jobs and tasks done ahead of time.   On the other hand, if this is an occasional affair,  it is left to chance. 

There are many ways of appreciation and engagement.  Some I follow :-

  1. Start a meeting appreciating the team.  Project managers may be nominated from various cross functions. This way they would be engaged and motivated, and be the superspreaders in the organisation – Scale ! 
  2. Communicate all appreciation with pictures to the teams functional members, and functional heads – making it public. People are social and have a herd mentality. 
  3. Have non work related discussion as part of your schedule to connect better with the team.  I generally have  a “Friday Hour”, where we discuss various subjects. Subjects ranging from hobbies of each member to how each one is handling the lockdown, and other like a  quiz on childhood photo identification,  sharing of everyone’s dreams, session on how to make money with emerging emerging opportunities etc. This has become quite a hit with the team.
  4. Take the team out for lunch once a month.

I personally find the book FISH, very interesting. Many a lessons to learn from here.  

I have not mentioned any “Reward”  word here as this is not sustainable.  Recognition needs no money. They are different things.

“If one of your projects has not taken off well,  or is failing just do an hygiene check on which of the 5 steps is missing. You are sure to find your answer”



  1. A moment to spare? Please subscribe to : My Daily Motivation
  2. Credits: Cover Image from Freepik
  3. Disclaimer: My (Ramki’s) views and experiences are my own and generic in nature.

It’s D. Not the G. Elementary my dear Watson.

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July 2016, a first glimpse of “reality” on a device. Pokemon Go. It fascinated the masses, like never before. Niantic, gathered quadrillions of data points and patterns on how people moved, be it on walks, bikes, cars, planes and even boats, and brought a sniff of augmented reality (AR) to the user. It showed us a window to the possibilities ahead of us. And, back then 4G was still not mature.   5G is coming soon.

About 6 month’s ago a friend asked:   

“ What is the business case for 5G?  Why would or should Operators spend as much money changing networks for downloading movies faster, flying drones?  Why is there a need for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality? People prefer holidays and face-face sessions? “  

The covid situation, gave me deeper recognition of the huge gap between what the human mind and body can experience and judge today and all along in history, vs what devices, tools, processes provide for today. Two factors why this huge gap comes about.

  • Do things faster, cheaper and better for productivity gains, is one factor. These cannot be humanly possible. 24 hours a day is the only constant.  And for this very reason comes the second factor. 
  • Reality that we seek without having to travel as much, be it holiday, shopping or work.  We seek what the human mind and body can experience and judge today, on a digital interface. 

Take the current Covid era. A plethora of video calls, be it on Zoom video, House Party, Teams etc., Yet these lack the realism of a face-face meeting. Inability or impracticality for mass clapping, for recognizing visual cues, side chats and many more.  As these applications gain speed to bring more “realism”, and I have no doubt they will, the networks need to support the huge volumes of data and transactions. Apply the same case for holidays and having to take days and weeks off, and travel around the world on an airplane, a ship? What if you could fairly experience this in bite sized chunks, from your living room, or a kiosk near home.  Telemedicine, Automation, Production are some more examples where benefits come into play. Yet, they all have the same factors – productivity gains vs the reality we experience today. 

In the covid era, we’ve learnt to adapt and adopt. Other than the mask, adoption of contact tracing, quarantine tracking and embracing digital technology such as AI have played a big part.  On my phone, I check the crowd size at various malls and plan my trip to get essentials. At the store, I scan the QR Code on the contact tracing app. Apple and Google are coming together to embed contact tracing application in their operating systems. The 2 main hospitals in Singapore, NUH and TTSH are using a clinical chat assistant app, provided by Singapore AI start-up Bot MD. Healthcare people get access to clinical information. Several other AI powered apps and tools in use in Singapore. Over 1.5bn students across the globe are learning remotely today. Epidemiologists are networking and using low cost gene sequencing technologies and AI powered platforms, expediting vaccine development.  

The silver lining in this pandemic, is the opportunity to experiment with technologies that leads to a sustainable living environment. 3D printed face shields, contactless drone deliveries, remote learning and conferencing, AI infused remote health and medical services. Many CEOs/CIOs have already pledged that upto 50% of their staff will work from home by 2025. The new normalcy is taking shape.

How soon will we embrace technology to build an innovative yet sustainable work life ahead of us? It’s not a question of “if”, but “when”. The business case lies in what the human mind and body experiences today in 3D, 4D and many D’s. Reality, and reality at our convenience, at a time and place we choose. Pokemon Go came out in 2016. 4G has been around. Adoption by the device and application makers is slow.

G is not the problem, it’s the D that’s the end game. Add the R – Reality

References:

  1. Tapping AI to battle Covid-19. A good read on various AI applications deployed and developed in Singapore.
  2. Why coronavirus will accelerate the fourth industrial revolution. Some great study of various references to make the case for technology and advancement of AI.

Acknowledgment: Photos and resources from Samsung Advertisements, Freepik, clipart and flaticon.

Crisis spawns Necessity. Necessity fuels Innovation.

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Richard Turere woke up to find the only bull they had was dead. Not just dead, but a gross sight with much of the body eaten up. It was a regular affair in the community, with livestock being eaten up by lions, as they lived next to Nairobi National Park.  He finally had to do something about this, so he invented the famous Lion Lights. A solar panel to charge a battery from an old car. The battery supplies power to an indicator box from a motorcycle, which thru a switch, flashes lights on and off.  This scared the lions away. This solution was patented and used as a common setup across Kenya. Read more about this real life story – Lion Lights.

A crisis threatened the food and existence of the tribe, got solved by technology. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

Iceland, since 2008, the deaths of pedestrians in traffic has increased 41%. That is a mini crisis. Among other things, unsafe road crossings was a major factor. They got creative, with painting the zebra crossing to give a 3D illusion.  This innovative design gave foot travelers the feeling of walking on air, thus slowing down and concentrating on the crosswalk. As for the drivers, it gave a feeling of floating zebra stripes and they too slowed down.  

Give me a turbulent world as opposed to a quiet world and I’ll take the turbulent one. Only the paranoid survive.

By Andy Grove, ex CEO Intel

I experienced a moment of truth on a recent visit out of Singapore. The dynamic covid-19 pandemic situation challenges jobs which involve meeting clients across borders. The government of the country where I was visiting, said no visitors were allowed a day later. With potential impact on flights, I excused myself from the final meeting and headed back a day earlier. The client in understanding the situation, agreed to keep our meeting schedule over the phone. During in-room meetings, we read body language, bring empathy and emotional intelligence to bear. While largely true, these factors at times overshadow other objectives. On the phone these EQ factors were less bearing, and we got to some of the tougher discussions, some amazing insights and alignment! As data networks get more robust and resilient, video conferencing and e-meetings will take a more prominent part of business engagements.  The work from home culture will gain speed and become a way of life even after this pandemic eases out. Those companies that enable and embrace this will be growth engines of the economy. 

Close to a 100 years ago, the single largest profession was farming. The more members in the family the better, better for farm output. Over the years, thanks to technology, automated farming solutions came about. These drastically improved farm output, replacing the need for large families and allowing people the choice of newer professions.  Imagine a world today, if mankind had stayed with bullocks, sickles, hoes and rakes and more hands.  

Fast forward 80 years from now, year 2100. Machines and Humans co-exist in a highly interconnected world. Remote robotic assisted surgeries a common practice. Chip body implants make handphones disappear and make 24×7 health monitoring common. Personal mobility vehicles that can transcend between land and air.  Drones for everything, from delivering packages to law enforcement to emergency services. Today’s cars that run on petrol and horsepower and the workings of a carburetor will be laughed at, and feature in history museums and become collector’s items, as dear as a Picasso edition.   Joy rides to outer space themed around carnivals, weddings, honeymoons and many others. These would be affordable to many, and then maybe a colony on the moon. 

Generation Alpha and gen Beta will experience this. A generation that “owns less”, grows up on their own, while parents globe trot for jobs. The education model changes dramatically, and paces alongside other activities. New avenues for learning will emerge, outside of the traditional classroom styled campus learning. 

Take a peek at what’s happening now, with business practices, that are a window into the future. Subscription model is the new mantra. Software applications like Adobe have long adopted this model, and allow usage when needed. Ride sharing, Car clubs that provide you the flexibility to drive different cars every week or month, vacation rentals are some examples.  Owning a house is not a priority, owning a car or bicycle and even clothes is fading out. Everything shared, subscribed for specific periods. This is the sharing (peer-peer) economy that has started, and will transform over the years. This will drive innovative business practices and ideas, to cater to a generation who will be highly transformative.  Humanity of things lost in the ubiquity of innovation, fueling a seamless society of machines and humans.

Image credits: Pixabay 

Art, Artist and Aura. Beyond Music.

A hot Saturday evening plus the invisible pins and needles on our legs, neck and hands from the mosquitoes. Reena and I were there for the promise, rather love of music. One that  was to be seen and  heard in front  of the majestic world heritage 8thcentury Prambanan temple complex in JogJakarta, Indonesia.  From outside the gates we could see the majesty of the temples standing like some carved menhirs waiting to sway to Yanni the musician, maybe Yanni the Obelix, carrying the Prambanan with him. All that was to be, yet now right here, we were frustrated with our confused and dazed attendant, who had all but lost our tickets, which was booked online and to be collected locally.

 

After an hour of emotional roller coaster, we got our tickets and hustled our way thru the gates, thinking we were running late for the show thought to start at 6 pm. As we made our way around, it dawned on us that a Jazz festival was being hosted inside the complex. People seated on the lawns, several stalls and budding artists staging themselves. A music festival we had only seen on TV or read about.  We came to the entrance of our section and were then asked to wait in line until the entry to the stands would be opened. We were glad to make it on time, so we thought, only to go through another and even bigger emotional roller coaster. After 2 and hours of standing on our iron clad legs, counting eternal time, hungry, almost giving up to go back, we were finally seated. We also learnt that we had paid 3 times more for the lowest cost section as we had booked it 3 months earlier, and back then other sections were sold out. Only to see on location, tickets being sold for the forward sections.

After all that bokeh of brain fog, we were in total awe and amazement of the monumental temple structures. Maybe 5 or 6 were visibly lit from the 11  we counted later. The cold yet pristine white light lit bathed the structures which formed a backdrop for the performance stage.  They stood out like something from an Avataar movie scene. Yanni and his team bobbed in and the crowds went crazy.  The music was over the top, the aura, the experience, the emotions that evening rained high. Here are some takeaways from that evening.

And, before you read on, have a look and listen here – Yanni @ Prambanan

 

  • Create an Aura. The Magnanimity of a dream. The tallest of the temple structures is 47 meters.  Lit up like giant luminescent hand crafted candles (sounds  better than menhirs) in the wind, standing tall, standing pretty and eerily majestic in form.  Music is for people to visualize, to take the mind to distant places, to explore the unknown and dream the impossible. This scene here was in that league. It definitely was the setting that won half our souls over. This was unique to Yanni. He knew the art of staging, the art of bringing the dream to the forefront like none others. That’s what music is supposed to do with our minds. And now we see it. Master craftsman with a master stroke. He teases the audience with this.

 

  • Your Team. Your People.Throughout the evening, he took care to create and blend much of his music around each of his star musicians. Showcasing each of their talent in a single blend that had perfection of an orchestra, but laced with the distinct spice of a single musician who broke the barrier of sound, elated and egged on by Yanni. He called their name out, turned and pointed towards the chosen one and almost seemed to have an invisible control on their instrument, on their mind. We later learnt from one his prominent musicians, who was on our flight back to Singapore, that most of his crew have been with him for 30-40 years!That’s the hallmark of a leader. Retaining talent, earning loyalty and to bring the best in an individual, yet blend their talent into a team output.

 

  • The Audience.I have seen many musicians, singers who urge the audience to clap, pump up the audience. Yanni was different. Here’s what he said or to that effect .

 

Last year, two of my fans took a picture in front of the Prambanan, and sent me a message for my speedy recovery and that they believed in me. This is when I was very sick and had to cancel my concert here. That picture gave me the belief to recover  , belief in myself and today I am here to complete the circle of my healing. People in Indonesia are friendly and have that look in their eyes , always smiling that’s unique.

 

Indonesia, it’s people and settings, to me is easily a top favorite among all countries I have been to. So I could relate to what was said.

 

 

Few days later, I reflected on how that whole evening had unfolded. From the anxiety of getting the tickets and the agony from waiting in a line for close to 3 hours, and the awe and inspiration of the lit Prambanan temple, and the familiar soul stirring music, and meeting the musicians on our plane …. Many a high and low moments stitched by the majesty of “and”, is what made this a landmark experience.

 

I did not want to mix business in here, but just could not refrain from doing so, when I chanced upon this snippet – “ The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen “ .

 

 

 

 

Ref: Image thanks to Jogjatourtransport.com