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.

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.

From the streets to the cloud

17,000 BCE – The birth of trade, barter trade to be precise. Trade flourished as clans travelled the 7 seas to distant lands, carrying with them precious metals, stones, silk etc. to be exchanged for what them and their people needed; no monetary instruments. At best, and eventually more common above the exchange of goods, were precious metals (gold/silver) and stone as payment. Eventually governments formed and their regulation on trade birthed the currency we know today. As of today, we have caught a glimpse of what is to come with the rise of the unregulated (now) cryptocurrency – bitcoin, litecoin, ethereum… Not as many transactions, yet a promise.

Trade practices have always fascinated me, and travelling to various countries allows me to look, listen and learn more about it. Often, I find, one story is bound to another.

Continue Reading…

Lessons at Lunch. Age no bar.

A wisp of smoke curled thru the dense air outside a coffee shop on Orchard’s. I poked at it while listening to a friend of mine, a partner in a leading consulting firm. These sessions are invaluable for me. I usually come out validating some of my work thus pressing onwards, or realizing things need to change. He had rich experiences with M&A and enabling growth strategies.

Rajesh, we grow in any area – be it quality of life at home or business accomplishments or anything else, we listen and then learn what sticks…

those two words right there had my fingers snap at the smoke, planting a grin as wide as a cricket pitch. So, I probed and listened. Somewhere, maybe somewhere he read about the culture my team and I had birthed.

Continue Reading…

At Your Fingertips. Time the Essence.

“What stands out right now, in school?” I ask my 13-year-old daughter over lunch; she recently shifted institutions. “What strikes you the most?”

“Their teaching method.. The way they turn theory into practice. That makes it more enjoyable. My previous school did not do that.”.

“Which experience was the most interesting?” I prod on.

“Chemistry, Biology experiments and Mathematics…” she rambles off.

Every subject in this school has an interactive method, be it a lab or use of mobile phones to answer questions in class, polls , videos etc., something the previous institution severely lacked.

Now extend that connection to what’s happening in the wider society.

1. Every person, every business is productive because of technology. Adopt/harness it for it’s larger good. Don’t repel it for it’s ill effects.

2. More power to the user. The age of control through interactions at fingertips, mostly.

On these, I attempt to take you through a fascinating journey.

Continue Reading…