Numbers never lie but Liars use numbers

As my friend Chandroo says ” Numbers never lie but liars use numbers”. This is what present media does, wanting us readers to form an opinion based on what they want to write or sell – they all have a bias and they present adequate data to validate the bias. They will never report the other side that does NOT sell. Unfortunate to see us always getting opinionated just reading one side of any story.

Unfortunately, it is the same formula that works in corporate world as well – the guy or gal who presents his or her agenda and backs it up with biased data to support it usually gets to fulfill the agenda. (s)He will not expand too much on the downside but tries selling the upside. Great if it benefits, but bad if it derails the organization.

Biases always drains one’s emotion and makes one look bad as enough homework is not done to see both sides of the story. Politicians play on those emotions, stock trading relies on these emotions, not on actual data.

Ability to Performance

Sridharan Madhusudhanan (Joint Secretary, MEA, Govt of India) said: “Performance and capacity are two different things. It is fair others judge our performance and not capacity. But we make the mistake of taking that performance judgement as a judgement of our capacity. As a result, we stagnate, deteriorate, and sometimes, we give up.  Capacity can be nurtured, developed, and turned into performance”

     Here he has tried to make some relationship between the two words – capacity and performance. I wanted to elaborate on this by adding three more words and first offering their meaning and then try to find some meaningful relationship between them.

Ability: “Possession of the means or skill to do something, or natural talent or acquired skill or proficiency in a particular area”

Capability: “Power or ability to do something, in short ,capacity”

(Human) Capacity: “Your ability to do something, or the amount of it that you are able to do, in short, your capability”

Potential: “Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future”

Performance: “A series of behaviour to accomplish specific results or objectives, or the ability to perform consistently at our best in the environment within which we are operating at that moment’”

     You would have heard the corporate term MBO – ‘Management by Objectives’. How many of you are privileged to have a documented set of objectives before you start a quarter or a year to clearly understand and accept that you are supposed to achieve for your team or group or company?  Also, an acronym called KRI – “Key Results Indicator”, have you been given your KRIs before to start a time period of work?  Mostly the CEOs are given targets to achieve and are supported and reviewed by the board of directors.   If the objectives are SMART and KRIs clear and bought off by both parties (you and company), then you can be assessed on your performance against it.  Only Performance can be measured through metrics, your ability can be evaluated by tests or other means, but your capacity or capability cannot be either evaluated or measured. Your capability should manifest itself in your performance. You are always judged by impact, not by the intent by which you do things.

     For a CEO, the Board of Directors of any profit-making organization would not say (usually, unless there has been a recession year) maintain the same revenue or profits – they would give a target (ex. 20% year over year – YoY) to achieve. Meaning you are not evaluated next year by what you are doing this year – you are usually pushed to the next level, they know you have the “potential” and you have “greater capability” and hence they can expect more from you. This is how promotions in an ideal world should be given as well, the performer (employee) should be performing at his next career level over a period of time consistently for him to be elevated to the next level. For a CEO to perform well YoY, he needs to have a highly-performing team with him- he needs to select his team well to achieve his goals.  Same way sprinters like Usain Bolt always are looking at pushing themselves to gain that microsecond to perform better because they believe (and we believe) they have the potential to do so. One cannot sit on your laurels for a long time- one should be constantly improving by getting the right opportunities and performing well in it.   As your performance increases, the expectation also increases – either by the company or by the spectators of any game. This is a vicious cycle – once your curve goes from a linear or an exponential rising one to a flat one, it is time to quit.

     Almost all government establishments have a stupid criterion of AGE for job promotions which is ridiculous (Time in Job, I have seen many private companies also have this criterion) – by spending an amount of time in a particular job, you are automatically destined for promotion to the next level – whether you even achieved or “able” to perform at the present level is irrelevant.

   When you are selected for something (be it a job or a sport), it is already determined by the selectors that you have the required ‘ability’ – this is the basic minimum needed to get your foot in. Just because you have the ability, does not mean you have the capability to do something – meaning, the skills are there, but not being used properly to achieve something useful. There could be many reasons for the same – your boss, your team, your surroundings, your work ethics, changes in family equations etc.   You are seen to perform in different environments equally well.  Great engineers do not automatically become good leaders. Great batters or bowlers do not become good coaches. This is why we see lots of domestic talent in cricket being wasted when they start playing at the international level – they simply cannot perform.    IPL wonder kids become international laughing matter. By constant training, capability or human capacity can be developed and extended – that is why pacers go to MRF foundation to get better, to increase their capability and the NCA for improving their fitness levels.

   So, the basic acceptance criterion is your ability. Once in, you need to constantly and consistently improve your capacity to perform better and better, and with that the expectations of you also increases and your potential value also increases, thus pushing you to increase your capability to deliver results.

COVID the 2nd wave 2021

“Soaring April to a Souring May”

The second wave of the deadly COVID looms
As the medical infrastructure is in a state of gloom

Our doctors and nurses are days together stuck to their hospital rooms
To even help the morons without masks who would be admitted soon

This time the annual quota is not filled in Heaven it seems
As every household there is a big loss with lots of screams

Scary enough to see our near and close ones become less
As we ponder, we being the root cause for this bad mess

Antigens, RTPCR, CT Thorax and ambulances are all what we hear
As we see this pandemic growing in leaps taking away our dear

No government globally were planned in any corner of this sphere
As we saw many a professional career disappear

Many were affected very severe to be finally packed in a gear
As this virus year has made Nature give us a reminding souvenir

Henceforth let us be sincere to the environment and revere
As we all need to collectively persevere in here

Three types of BUSY people

In your professional life (and many a times in your personal life) you would meet three sets of people:
(i) Really Busy: These are the folks who thing attending every meeting is important although his or her inputs cares for less, their ego is high and correlates with power they think they have, zero time management skills, cannot prioritize properly, do not spend time even with team members, mostly operate on control and direct basis etc.
(ii) Acting Busy: These are the most insecure folks who think that if you do not act busy, you are considered unimportant. So, they would pull all excuses to not have time with you – very hollow thinkers, very jealous of colleagues, just exist because they are there at that place.. unfortunately, I would say 75% of the folks you see would belong here
(iii) Busy but..: These are the best folks you need to work with. A boss or colleague who spends time with you, gives priority to you and the team, remembers your name or face and what you do and what you did, very secure in their position and collaborative, their expertise irreplaceable, excellent in working with people and guiding them. and able to prioritize the right work. These are the folks who gets mentioned in separate posts by Individuals as a role model. Very rare but they do exist.

How to give a professional reference?

Giving a professional reference to anyone whom you worked with should be identical to giving an eulogy for someone dead – it must be heaped with praises and specific events to highlight the best thing the person has done. Same rule applies for the retirement speech for anyone as well. Never give a reference to anyone whom you have not worked with long enough to highlight their strength and achievements and be very specific about what you say. Keep the language simple (not verbose) and talk about impact. Be good on what you write and keep it crisp and short.

Lack of success is not failure

Recently read: “Lack of success is NOT Failure. But lack of trying is.”
Nadal, Djokovic, Federer are all Tennis greats – they play to win and compete well, but they do not win every time they play. Messi and Ronaldo are again soccer greats – they play mesmerizing football but they do not win all the time. IN 18+ years, Tom Brady won the NFL 6 times(SuperBowl titles) for Patriots – not every time, and he got them almost all the time to the Division title. Not every ball that Glenn Mcgrath bowled got a wicket nor did Sachin score of every ball he faced- but they keep at it. That is when they become LEGENDS. Be in an individual or a team, it about attitude and diligence to play the game and work harder – keep on trying and persistence pays dividends. Let not success get to your head. 

Gather stakeholders before you fight

” Never engage in a fight you are sure to lose. Bide your time and strike back only when you are in a position of strength” Stieg Larsson.
Almost all businesses operate this way. While biding time , they get powerful stakeholders to gather strength. If you are alone and believe in yourself, then collaborate and compete. If your ego is the only one guiding you, then start praying.

Are Aggregators just living the moment?

    It is the Uber and Ola that have come to influence us getting a cab nowadays. Or a Grofers to put the nearby grocery store together and offer you delivery at some minimal discount. Or a Zomato or Foodpanda who have their collection of restaurants that you can order from.  Or a Redbus to help us choose from various operators for travelling by bus.   Even some e-tailers are just marketplaces!

    Who are these folks?  Do they have any assets at all?  These are the new breed in business circle called “Aggregators”.  Putting it simply, they put everything in one umbrella for the customer to search and order but they do not own any of the assets, be it the cab or the restaurant or the grocery store. In old times, not very long ago, we called them “Brokers” who operates on a commission or the Middleman to facilitates trade – unfortunately  however you call them, they do operate on commissions and being in their nascent stages of business, they throw away the venture capitalist’s money in terms of discount to acquire more customers like you and me.   And overall this is similar to the ‘bazaar’ concept where many traders are lined up to offer their goods to customers like us.  At this point, they are not held responsible for the quality products being offered by them, be it a rude driver, or a bad bag of rice or food poisoning. So add ‘no responsibility’ as well. What a way to do business  – no assets, not answerable for quality(in a way), no products of their own except an app, no engineering development in them except for some web developers (which they can outsource) and purely only a marketing organization.

    This is all great for the customers now(personally, I am smiling) , but in the long run, once they get into some sort of monopolistic mode, they do have the power to increase price and take us for a ride (literally, yeah, with Ola and Uber).  Possibly.  But my own feeling is they cannot.  Gone are those days that any company can last that long and not morph quickly through acquisitions or other growth areas, because the technology is growing so fast they either have to adapt or perish.  Some other new guy with a newer business model would eat their lunch shortly… stay tuned.

     Who is monitoring the driver if he had not got his required sleep of 8 hours – what happens if a tired driver is at fault? Who is monitoring the time it takes to deliver food for you or its quality?  Who is tracking the part if the nearby grocer is getting rid of old stock (but not expired yet)?  The Answer is No One.  You can say “reviews”, but we all know how the reviews are done.  If you happen to pay the ‘premium service’ to these aggregators, your reviews is always above 4 out of 5.  If not, you are finished. It is somewhat like media – they chase after TRP and not deliver the news without bias.

       They say an Ola cab driver makes about a grand a day in India.  He would be making the same amount even if he had not opted for Ola but he has joined Ola which would keep him busier. 

     Why cannot the Uber and Ola have a stricter licensing law for the drivers – give them a stringent test both on the road and on road rules, and only if they exceed the standards, they are allowed to continue.  Pay their insurance premiums for comprehensive and third party liability to ensure protection of the customers. And check the condition of the car every six months and ensure they go through proper maintenance process.  These are some of the value adds these aggregators have to do to differentiate from others – they do not seem to want to do this.  So, sustaining this business model is going to be hard especially if you are living on venture capitalist money and not making any profits for years together.  And the differentiation between like companies is none – there is no USP that they can boast – if someone adds a new feature, immediately the next guy follows with something better.  The same situation exists even for e-commerce players here.  Certainly all these companies would not be Buffet’s babies!   But keep these coming, as we are ready for the RIDE as long as it lasts, LITERALLY.

The Author is a business and strategy consultant and a corporate trainer based out of Bengaluru, India.

Companies are accountable for transportation of their employees

Even if companies outsource meals & transportation, they would be held ACCOUNTABLE for anything that goes wrong in them, they cannot escape the noose. The vendors would be held RESPONSIBLE but still accountability belongs to the companies who outsourced. Remember that, there is a legal angle to it – responsibility vs accountability.
Having said that , I see lots of IT and manufacturing folks who enjoy the transportation facility not correcting their drivers for errant and rash driving – they seem to be unconcerned about the same. As long as they do not bother about traffic, they are fine – this is the sad attitude of the travelers. As a CSR initiative, ensure all the drivers have a proper license that is readily available for passengers, and reinforce proper driver habits regularly. If your driver is wrong and caused an accident, accept it – do not enlist the support of the passengers for your wrong doing.
Constant monitoring by health inspectors of the cafeterias should be done independently, and disclosed in public as a certificate every month or quarter for hygiene reasons.
Get accountable , companies – try not to escape from them. Do not turn a blind eye to bad food, unhygienic cafeterias and to rash and negligent driving. #CSR #accountability