Sunday, October 14, 2007

We have no fear ..

Another translation. This one is the song "Achamillai Achamillai" by Subramanya Bharathy

We have no fear, We have no fear
We know not of that thing called fear

We might be against the whole world
We might be cast like dust and dismissed
We might be made to beg for food
We might be losing everything we cherish but

We have no fear, We have no fear
We know not of that thing called fear

The heavens above might crash
The heavens above might crash and
Crush us in all their fury but
We would still have no fear

We have no fear, We have no fear
We know not of that thing called fear!

The Band in the Titanic

I am sure you must have seen the movie or read about “The Titanic”. Did you notice the role of the music band in the titanic towards the end of the movie?

I lead a big Programme as part of my work. A programme consisting of multiple components but all working towards a common goal (atleast they are supposed to). Quite often I find my teams totally lost in day to day delivery pressures and myself struggling to bring them out of that. There is absolute chaos all over the place.

The major problem I face is that there is not enough collaboration between teams as required, people left to themselves are happy operating in individual silos and view the other teams as competitors. My major worry is that people are not ready to look at the bigger picture, pressurised by and used to traditional working models and are finally not focused on the value delivered collectively.

I am not blaming my team. I understand what they are going through and I myself am struggling to find out of ways of getting them to come out and focus on better things. I am trying to cut across barriers and send these messages day in and day out to the team with the hope that some of them will get inspired and step out of the well. It is not that I am fully satisfied with my approach. I am still refining it and learning every day. I myself am pressurised by mundane things so many time. It is my reflection on this and the strange thought of the band in the Titanic that I wanted to share.

I would fancy calling myself the captain of the ship but quite often I find myself in a strange situation. I liken myself to the band in the titanic, playing non stop when people are running all over the place, unmindful of whether anyone is hearing or not but with the hope that the music is helping someone somewhere in the crowd.

Whether I am the captain or the band it doesn’t matter as long as my ship doesn’t sink and it reaches the destination. I am sure it will.

New working model for the new age

I have found that I am at my creative best on Saturdays and Sundays. Now don’t ask me how creative I am. That is definitely a debatable topic and we can take that up sometime later. That is why I chose my words carefully.

I have observed over the past year or so that I get most of my new ideas during the weekends. I am talking about ideas related to my work. I take necessary action through emails immediately but I get lost in mundane affairs (thanks to official pressures) during the week and by the time I am reminded of my ideas I find myself in the next weekend again. Maybe it’s the relaxed and informal environment at home which helps unleash my creativity. I really feel that I do a lot more productive work from home over the weekends even if I spend a few hours compared to what I do in office in a whole week.

All enterprises today talk a lot about innovation and drive their employees to innovate but based on my experience I have never seen anything materialize. Is talking about innovation or setting targets related to innovation alone enough? I think we have had enough of this. Enterprises should focus on creating a conducive environment to foster innovation. Maybe the formal environments in today’s offices need a change.

Atleast on Monday mornings I find myself in the same situation as Swami in R.K. Narayan’s famous “Swami and Friends”. I find myself always reluctant to open my eyes and I shudder at the very thought of that dismal grey building in glass and steel called office. I am sure many of you find yourself in the same situation.

Working from home as a concept has never taken off atleast in India. I think that should be encouraged. Based on my experience that I have cited above I am sure it will be beneficial to both Organisations and the individuals. The new age is all about trust and collaboration. We don’t need the age old methods of running organizations anymore. We don’t need physical presence of people to catch them and beat them up when there is an issue.

I also feel that the collaboration mechanisms we have in place today are grossly inadequate. The major collaboration mechanism that we have at present is meetings (F2F or telecons), email and IM (to some extent). While IM is informal to extent, I have never seen people expressing themselves freely in these forums. Where there is fear, there can never be innovation. I think Enterprise should adopt the new wave of communication largely based on Open source like Blogging, Wikis and Social networking. I have a feeling that these bring the best out of people. These mechanisms might help people over come their reservations and cut across organisational barriers and unleash their creative energies!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Change is Good!

Hutch is now Vodafone! I am not sure if you have seen the ad. What a wonderful depiction of change! This is an ad that has been picturised beautifully.

The first ad that I remember announcing a change in name is that of Binaca becoming Cibaca. Most of you might not even know about Cibaca. I am not sure if the company or the toothpaste it used to sell exists today. It was a simple ad announcing a change in name but I still remember listening to it over a small Philips radio and seeing it in a black and white TV nearly two decades ago (as a small boy!). The ad did make an impact those days and there were many jokes and discussions around that.

We live in a technologically advanced age now and the Vodafone ad is definitely on a different plane. In short the new Vodafone ad is about a dog leaving its kennel briefly and coming back to see a new Kennel totally different in design and color, struggling to get in terms with the reality in front of it. I don’t know how they made the dog act so well.

Click the link to see the Video Hutch is now Vodafone

Change is something that happens very often in life. It is either your customer or a regulatory authority or your employer (or fate as some people call it) ,who is the reason. I don’t know about you, but I find myself quite often nowadays in a situation where my landscape has totally been changed by one of the above. A few years back, I used to struggle for months together to cope up with the change and then finally accept it. Nowadays I find that my turnaround time is quite less, mostly a week. Maybe I am getting old and becoming more mature or maybe I am staying young and keeping in touch with what is happening. What do you think?

I was talking about coping up with changes in professional life. I won’t blame the dog in the ad though. Imagine going for a walk and returning to find yourself in a new house painted red all over and more importantly having to live in it!

Anyway Change is definitely good. Interestingly that is what the Bhagavad Gita also says. "Whatever happens is always for the best!"

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A queer mixture of the East and West

“I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere” said Jawaharlal Nehru.

I find myself in a similar situation, atleast partly. Thanks to the Western culture that has crept in majorly into our country, a lot of questions arise in the name of scientific thinking! Nehru felt out of place 60 years back because he was ahead of time but today I think this is common and atleast I don’t feel out of place now.

My daughter participated in a Bhagavad Gita recital competition recently and this turned my attention towards the Bhagavad Gita. The most important thing is that she won a prize and it was a pleasure watching the gleam in her eyes when she shared this news with me. Coming back to the Bhagavad gita, after some struggle going through some translations on the net, I finally managed to come across a simple translation in Tamil by Subramanya Bharathi. I really wonder why translations of great works are so complicated, whether it is the Gita or a Psychiatrist’s essay on dreams? Or is it my bad luck that I come across complicated translations always?

I was particularly impressed by the chapter on Karma Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita. The key message that impressed me was the stress on the need for action, the need for action to fulfill ones duties. Though the Gita stresses the need for a spiritual background to this in the chapters other than the one on Karma Yoga, as I read through the other chapters there were several questions that came up within me for which I did not have an answer.

I feel that the chapter on Karma yoga is still pertinent though the country has gone through several transformations over centuries. The thought that one can achieve salvation by just doing his duties is a total paradigm shift given that we always picturise yogis or sanyasis as people who have given up everything in life and roam around mostly in forests or mountains. More later on specific verses of the Gita in this chapter that impressed me.

An interesting question which came to mind as I read chapter 1 was , how could someone narrate this work running up to 18 chapters in a battle field when both sides were lined up and war was about to begin? To me chapters beyond the Karma yoga don’t seem to have relevance in the battle field and Chapter 3 should have been enough to convince Arjuna and get the war started. I have a feeling that Arjuna’s question in the battlefield triggered chapters upto Karma yoga and the other chapters were finished sometime later for a completeness sake. I don’t know if I sound like a non believer to you but this is the point I was alluding to at the beginning.

I am a queer mixture of the East and West but I still feel at home back home :-)