Friday, June 27, 2003

Why Xanga?

Now considering that this is my first post in Xanga let me say why I am here?

I have been a blogger for the past few months on Blogger(Where Else) but was always not confortable with the amount of HTML I have to use. For one I was a non-geek and wanted to make the full of use of the weblog.

I have always admired the other websites and how they have designed them. For me I am a design loving person - aeasthetically, fuctionally. And Xanga proved to be cool enough to do all that.

I wanted to have comments, which I have got from Enetation and had to struggle to get it there (i.e. on my weblog). Then beliveing that weblog would be a great Knowledge Management system I wanted categorization. For this I tried to look at Radio but anyway could not pay for it nor use it. Then did the same with other free stuff and at last found an Indian website Rediff Blogs which incidently is learning fast and provided comments, RSS and categorization.

This made me to jump for that. But I was thinking that I had made my site popular (very little surely) but now Xanga made me jump and I am jumping.

And thanks to Robin Good's Weblog I found this site.

Need to explore more and a next post will provide the rest of the reviews.

So I am going to Xanga.

And for all those who have taken pains to reach this please reach my new site Suhit's Green Log.


Friday, June 20, 2003

31 Favors of Blog and 31 different people

Source: Roland Tanglao's Weblog

This 31 Flavors of Blog article looks at various blogs themselves and from then defines what they are.

What is a blog? What role do blogs play on this ever-changing, ever-expanding stage we call the Web? Will blogs forever alter the way we communicate or merely fade into oblivion?

31 Flavors of Blog examines thirty-one distinctly different blogs and displays the diverse and innovative ways blogs are being used to communicate, educate and entertain. Each "flavor" provides a sampling of the incredible variety of blogs on the Web.

The Interesting part of this is that I got a chance to look at many blogs which are vastly different in character and their target audience and many had a very specific personal goal for themselves. There was a wide variety - cookery,Iraq,Porno,news etc but the ones I liked are two personal goals which were put on the Blog and how they are going about attaining them.

The first one Making a Restaurant Blog is about two guys decide to start a restaurant in 5 to 10 years. Inspired by some "very good" meals in Chicago they decide to start a blog to keep track of their ideas. The blog provides the traditional elements: comments, links and personal experiences mixed with a bit of humor.

The really cool thing about a site like this is you can see the idea begin to take shape and solidify into something real and hopefully profitable. This can serve as inspiration for others who are hesitant to start their own restaurant or any other business for that matter. Will it succeed? Will it fail?

This is such a cool idea and considering that the idea is to execute in 5-10 years. The blog itself is detailed with marketing ideas, views on other restaurants, chefs etc. I would love to start something similar when I start from new Entrepreneurial venture.

The second blog is
Hollie The Marathon Blogger . This is all about her goal of training for a marathon and she is very specific about her training including aily reports on her diet, workouts, equipment, and even body measurements. It shows the focus of the person and her commitment to it. A must read for inspiration and learning to focus and if you want to know what it takes to run a marathon.

Abundance Mentality

Just read this post about the right mental attitude required for Blogging for a person and for a company in WIndley's Enterprise Computing Weblog.

She says:

Brent makes a good point. Blogging requires what is called an "abundance mentality." If you don't approach it with the mental attitude that there's plenty to go around, you're less likely to share, which is at the heart of blogging. The cynical side of me wonders if this might not be blogging's fatal flaw: it requires a fair amount of altruistic behavior.

And the next one on Enterprise Blogging

On the other hand, I've observed that having an abundance mentality is crucial to a high performance organization. Leaders don't need to cultivate an abundance mentality to promote blogging, they need to promote an abundance mentality because that how you create an organization that works. The lack of an abundance mentality leads to an organization that doesn't communicate, doesn't act like a team, and eventually doesn't accomplish very much.

And at the end she has some more interesting links to more articles on "Abundance Mentality".

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The Future of the BPO industry - People Problem - 2

The Human resource management will be the key to the future success of the BPO industry. For the problems highlighted in my previous article lets look at some of the solutions.

Raman Roy- called the father of the BPO industry - had this to say in a recent Knowledge @ Wharton article

A second aspect is handling the Indian work force, which has its own idiosyncrasies. Indians who work in such jobs are well qualified, highly educated people. They are not a transient workforce marking time while waiting for other things to happen. For them, BPO is a full-time career and they expect some serious thinking on the part of the employers vis-à-vis career paths for them. They also believe that holding on to a job is important, and therefore, what they ask for in a job and in a working environment is very different from the expectations and needs of workers doing similar work in other markets.

So how do we make these highly educated work force to take this as a career. I think this is the right process of thinking. These are not just Jobs - how do we make them a career.

First lets look at the difference between the two:

Some have jobs, others pursue careers.

If you say you have a career, that implies that you have conscientiously chosen this field of work and that each job you take helps you advance to higher and higher levels. Careers involve long-range planning.

And what else goes into making a Job a Career

  • Satisfaction and Passion

  • Environment

  • Growth

  • Lets assume that we need only 30% of the workforce to stay with the company in the long-term and the rest can leave the company in 1-3 years. This is safe to assumen since most of these jobs are preferred by young fresh graduates who want a stop-gap arrangement before they go on to further education (hopefully) or other avenues. And also the company cannnot sustain all the workforce to stay and accomodate the growth for everybody.

    How do we address this 30% workforce and how do we deal with the 70% workforce?

    For both these kind of employees (long-range & short-range/career & job) there are some aspects of the job which will be common. We need to provide these common aspects for everybody and then think of the separate needs of each.

    Lets start addressing the problems common to both.

  • Nigh-Shift and Stress
  • Prevention and Care. The company need to provide specific medical guidance to prevent known problems from occuring and helping to cure health problems (professional hazard) of employees through insurance, medical expenses subsidy, leave provision etc.

  • Job classification
  • The BPO jobs need to be considered more like manufacturing jobs rather than software jobs. Since most of the software companies are moving into BPO they tend to treat the performance and requirements startdard nearer to a software job rather than a manufacturing job. This change of perception will create HR policies like Overtime, productivity based bonus, appropriate quality techniques, recruiting policies, training programs etc.

    Now lets look at how we can make these jobs more attractive and also make a career out of them.

  • Training and Knowledge Enhancement - Satisfaction
  • The best example for this is the process followed in the Toyota production System in making the plant workers trained in various job roles (thus removing monotony and increasing job rotation and also helping in managing absenteism), providing responsibilities in changing and suggesting improvements in process (thus helping themselves and the company), training in various domain and technical programs for knowledge enhancement.

  • Environment
  • The goal should be client satisfaction but provide a lot of fun loving and casual atmosphere. This will match with the young just-out-of-college crowd and also help in overcoming the stress of the job. Good infrastructure which most of the companies do provide. And confident and good leadership expecially in the middle management level.

  • Growth
  • This should be achieved through professional growth in responsibilities in terms of promotion accompanying authority and also knowledge growth via training, and for the "career" employees funding distance/part-time courses like MBA,CFA etc which should also help the company when these employees can become managers rather than importing from outside.

    This is an important aspect as the the people who have grown through the ranks (similar to manufacturing) are more effective leaders than MBA imports.

    These are some of the areas to look at. More importantly I have tried to suggest perception changes which I believe should take care of correct HR and Management policies.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2003

    Knowing-Doing Gap?

    I have always been thinking about the gap between idea generation and actually implementing something. I believe that one of the main things in my life has been the ability to think but never going ahead and actually starting something.

    One of the main reasons for this has been my earlier belief that something 'big' (and I have always wanted to do something big) can only be achieved by a big idea. And I was always wary about these big ideas and how to start and always evaluating about the problems related to this. But, as I have strated to know and read about various successful people and companies - everybody whatever their vision have never strated anything big - but have grown big - and very few people or companies have actually stayed with their original business vision/idea but have tweaked with it and worked on changing the things as and when we go ahead.

    Now the 'big' idea is this - Execution. Do something - whatever - however. But do something. I want to now start something and work on it and do it. Does not matter what that is and how big or small it is. I am not trying to understand at the starting phase if I can do it or not nor evaluating the pros and cons of it much through analysis.

    I want to make the initial decision on some important factors - not bale to verbalise these now - and then once I commit myself to it go through an initial phase of effort and then go to the next growth phase. Also, once I have decided to be an Entrepreneur I have started working on understanding and reading the relavant literature on this subject - especially the personality of the person. And I have encountered this concept of "effectuation" which says " I will learn and do it as I go forward" rather than able to know and understand everything at the starting phase.

    I have already started to do this in the "Kalam" thing and what I thought was tough - like translation and voice over - I have already the contacts to make it happen. I need to now go about selecting the people and actually negotiate the contracts. (An area of immense learning for me).

    So coming back to Execution - I think starting something especially small will give me a chance to learn and grow and make mistakes ( I fear that, I need to go over that) and learn from them and go forward.

    So this making and doing stuff will be the concentration for me for this year. On the professional and personal from too.

    Rural Marketing

    The goal in this area is to understand the Indian 'rural' customer and his personality.

    The way of life in villages,
    the aspirations,
    the business cycles (agriculture in particular),
    distribution channels,
    advertisement mediums (like video vans, jeeps with microphones etc),
    understanding the way the districts, mandals, villages etc are structured,
    the important people/decision influencers in these areas,
    the cost realities.

    The Future of the BPO industry - 1

    The Business Process Outsourcing industry - considered the next growth engine for India - is the point of discussion in many places around the country. I will try to analyze the industry and look at problem areas and possible solutions.

    The 5 things important to this industry is

    Organizational Expertise
    Domain knowledge and Project execution capabilities
    People – Expertise building and Human Resource Management.
    Client Management - Building relationships
    Service delivery - Meeting and exceeding accepted measurements and delivery standards.

    One of the aspects of this Industry is that India does not have any experience in working with long-term(5-10 years) and super longterm (>10 yrs) kind of projects. Say, we have never had any manufacturing bases or service industry to support other countries over an extended period and supporting other countries in their work. This kind of experience is very valuable.

    The BPO projects in the country are of this nature. They are people and labour intensive but they are also long-term(5-10 years) and super longterm (>10 yrs) kind of projects. Also, most of these projects are indispensable for the organization which has outsourced the project. The implications of this is something which needs to be thought off.

    The other important aspect of these projects is the real-time processing and completing aspects of the job. The service delivery standards are around 15 min - 4 hours and not 2 weeks to 5 months and more in relation to software projects. This is important to understand in terms of the project management skills and training required for the personnel.

    The third aspect is "night shift". This has a tremondous impact on the people who work on these projects and for how long. What does these mean to the growth of the Industry?

    I will first look at the "People" problem.

    The kind of people who work on these projects in the US are mostly X or XII standard pass/fail people with team/projects lead undergrads or graduates. In India the most common qualification is undergraduation and post-graduation going to MBAs etc. Due to the longevity of the projects - some of the projects have been in the US for 40 yrs before they were outsourced to India - the personnel working in the project need to work longterm to stabilise the project. Due to the mismatch in the qualifications and job profiles this cannot be expected to happen in India.

    These projects are also cyclical - the business volume is not the same all through the year - this was solved in the US through the "temp" worker. This concept is alien to the Indian BPO and IT business community and for graduates this proposition cannot be accepted.

    Now comes the stress of the job - repetitive, transaction based, on computer jobs - with small turnaround time and high quality expectations. This will create a stress job role which is not possible to continue for long. Add to this the "night shift" aspect with its own set of related problems and you have a major people problem.

    You can also add poaching by other companies, high turnover rates, salary pressures inturn margin pressure etc.

    Considering this scenario what shold be the possible HR efforts required?

    To be Continued

    Monday, June 02, 2003

    Leadership for the Entrepreneur

    The Inc! article on Leadership is very interesting. It is especially geared towards understanding the concept of Leadership style for the entrepreneur, and this questioning itself is novel beacuse you have leadership styles for various leaders and companies like what Ken Blanchard says.

    And now the author Michael S. Hopkins concentrates on what is called "charismatic" leadership and debunks the idea and provides some good explanation (well known though and most famously brought to light by the research efforts of Jim "Built to Last" Collins in his latest book Good to Great). But then he gets more interesting. I expected this to be a extension of non-charismatic leadership style but I was wrong.

    He says:
    But that's what charismatic leadership does in private businesses. It eats its young. It demands of leaders far more than it gives back. For entrepreneurs, it's toxic.

    Then he concentrates on a question I have never seen asked before -- What's good for the leader?. To understand this question better he provides example of Pringle who was the co-founder and charismatic leader of a successful Atlanta ad agency in the '90s. He says "The question is different because, in the case of a private company, the needs and aims of the leader are different, as are the requirements made of him or her." and provides an example like "For one thing, the point of most new businesses is to foster the life the founder wants.".

    He continues

    For another thing, it can be argued that in a private company what's best for the founder/leader turns out to be what's best for the organization as a whole. In such companies the founder, after all, is almost always the organization's key asset and contributor, the most indispensable piece of the puzzle; why wouldn't an organization want to do everything it could to nurture, protect, and maintain its most valuable asset? Plus, unlike elected leaders with their circumscribed terms and Fortune 500 CEOs with their ever-shrinking job tenures, entrepreneurs typically hope to stick around. They hope to achieve and enjoy the imagined life they set out to make real and to reap the recurring rewards (psychic, material, logistical, social) they set out to earn. Entrepreneurs hope to last, and they need a leadership style that enables them to do so. They need a leadership style that feeds them. And their organizations need a style that feeds them, too.

    He now comes to the answer to this question in what he calles the "antiheroic" leadership.

    The idea of "antiheroic" leadership has emerged in parts, by accretion, over recent years -- each aspect the product of some entrepreneur's or theorist's small response to requirements and desires that charismatic leadership didn't meet. As a whole the idea is still taking form. For now, though, the best way to describe what antiheroic leadership is -- and how to practice it -- is to describe the four rules that guide leaders putting it to use:

    Antihero's Rule No. 1:
    Ask why you're here. Know what you want. Don't apologize.

    "The sole reason for your company to exist is to meet your needs," says Lanny Goodman, the country's best thinker on this aspect of leadership.Goodman recommends that business owners ask -- and act on the answers to -- four basic questions: What do I need and want out of life? How can my company help me accomplish that? What would such a company look like? And how do we get it to look like that?.

    The antiheroic way of leading has nothing to do with being infallible or superhuman or invulnerable or dauntless. It has to do with being true, the root of trust.

    Unembarrassed honesty about one's own personal needs, wants, and -- as we'll see -- capabilities is the bedrock that antiheroic leadership is built on. It promotes in its practitioner three surprising and powerful qualities: authenticity, generosity, and a nascent potential for creating a sense of meaning.

    Antihero's Rule No. 2:
    Don't ask "How?" Ask "Who?" Assume you're not the answer.

    So the second rule is to put the right people in the right palces with the right skills rather that DIY kind of thinking and as if everybody else is just supporting cast.

    He provides a good example by Jim "Built to Last" Collins:

    Management analyst Jim Collins (author of Built to Last and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't) approaches the idea slightly differently. Likening the leader of an organization to the driver of a bus, Collins says that the bus driver's job is not to decide where the bus should go or how to drive it there, but to get the right people on the bus in the first place -- as well as to get the wrong people off the bus, and ultimately to get the right people into the right seats. The right people then will help the leader figure out where to drive and how to drive there. What's more, the right people will attract other right people and inspire them to stick around, diminishing the burden and anxiety felt by leaders who are in the position of having to beguile their flock by themselves.

    Antihero's Rule No. 3:
    Embrace the difference between "I am my company" and "I have a company."

    What this rule amounts to is: Make room. In order for the who-not-how discipline to work, and for the earned authenticity of Rule No. 1 to have its effect, an organization has to have space for others. Even though a company must first satisfy the needs of its owner, an antiheroic leader never behaves as though he or she is the company's face, voice, or embodiment.

    Instead of the parent-child relationship that exists between charismatic leaders and their followers, the antiheroic leader ends up with an organization of adults.

    Antihero's Rule No. 4:
    Forget superman. Be a part of something.

    And finally, here's the command to resist emotional temptation -- because the adulation that comes with leading charismatically is seductive. And when you stop building a charismatic/heroic organization, what you will lose is easy to see: You don't get to be a hero anymore. You'll lose something else, too, though. You'll lose your isolation.

    "Forget the hero stuff," Mellinger said. "I don't want a hero mentality anywhere in our business -- anywhere in my life. Everybody thinks you have to be a hero to build something. Bull. Do it together. Ask the right questions. Stuff doesn't have to be so hard."

    If what you lose is obvious, then so is what you gain: Give up being a hero and, suddenly, you don't always have to perform like one anymore. Not only don't you have to supply all the momentum, all the know-how, all the emotion, you also don't have to fear that if you stop, so will everything else. When it's all about you -- the cult of the charismatic CEO -- you're separated from others. Being a hero is lonely. As an antihero, you get to be a part of what you've created. You get to be fed. At a time in American life when it may be what people crave as much as anything, you get to be part of a community.