2023 closes out in a few hours. I wish one and all to Be the Best at what you do.
Why? What prompted this?
Reflection and Enlightenment. A string of thankful experiences. One such at work, and a couple more ensued during the holiday break.
At work, my passion, we experienced a strange and exhausting situation with us failing to close an expected and committed large business. 100s of man hours, expended over the final 3 weeks, applying all the coverage, textbook and experience rules of engagement. Decades of collective leadership experience applied. Yet, it was not to be. Why?
We may yet have a few lessons to learn. And so for even the most resilient, dogged rainmakers. Not the best, yet.
During the holiday break and at a small town, with a population of about 40,000, I am out and about looking for a pair of footwear. All advise, literally half a dozen unanimous voices led to a particular store. A couple of probing questions, and out came over 2 dozen pairs for me to try. Open style, closed style, leather, resin, rubber and so on and so forth. I selected a pair, and reflected on why he was the best business in town.
Range /variety and the way of uncovering one’s need. The buyer, on occasions and circumstances and persona wise maybe unsure of his need. A process of discovery. I hardly ever see 2 or 3 pairs placed before me, and mostly after I have identified a specific model or two. In Singapore that’s definitely the case!
The next one is about a fruit seller. Two roadside vendors , a few strides apart. A one-way street from left to the right. I am advised to buy from the one on the right, factoring religious sentiments and whilst doing good for a community. So I go there first, yet I was curious to see why not the one on the left. He certainly looked to have much more on display. In weighing both options, I bought from the one on the left , and so contrary to the advise given.
His passion for the trade, options with pricing and quality outweighed those from the other guy. He took his trade seriously, and spoke with pride. The other guy had God’s pictures around, and had no drive.
Towards being the best, yet:
Many Clients may not know what they truly need. It’s your role as a provider, to unearth that need, and in using judgment thru your process/steps to get there. To be the best yet, helping uncover needs is a basic role and the process to get to the end point could mean different strokes for different folks.
Love what you do. This applies to any trade. Selling footwear as a profession is looked down upon amongst the larger population here. Yet, everyone needs footwear! It doesn’t take much for the one who loves his trade to do it with such pride, and be the best yet!
Hyper Focus. Growth Mindset. Dedication, passionate and focussed work that provides the joy of learning and always improving. Allowing room for recognising mistakes, room for improvement.
Best Wishes to one and all. May 2024 be the best year yet, and may you strive to be the best, yet!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Structure of the team / organisation should clearly lay out the roles and responsibility and delegation of authority.
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!
Clearly defined “Management Points” and “Check points” generally called as MP & CP in TQM parlance. An interesting topic in itself.
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)” ?
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.
Learn and improve from past project through PDCA. Doing the same mistake cost a lot.
“ 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.
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 :-
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 !
Communicate all appreciation with pictures to the teams functional members, and functional heads – making it public. People are social and have a herd mentality.
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.
Take the team outfor lunch once a month.
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”
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.
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.