Not from XLRI or TISS, What does that mean for a career in HR? 

One of my HR colleagues asked me a question: How do you rise whist making a career in HR (in India) especially if you are not from XLRI or TISS?

I began my reply by quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Then I realized that my first reaction was rather harsh and let me not try and fit a wise quote unwisely to the discussion. Instead let me put forth my perspectives based on my own experience.

I found the question very intriguing and despite not being from any of those institutes it never passed my mind in all these 26 years of my career. My perspectives are as follows:

XLRI and TISS are institutions of great repute and are big brands when it comes to producing and supplying talent for the HR / Social Sciences stream (in case of XLRI also in other streams). I know hundreds if not thousands of colleagues and friends from these institutions. I have recruited many talented people from there and have/had the privilege of working with them. 3 out of 5 (my early-in-career) bosses were from there, I have engaged with and consulted many professors from these institutes over the years, I have visited their campuses on countless occasions. Like most, I only have respect for these two institutions. Having said that, let me share some of my thoughts arising out of this question.

I asked myself a leading question to try and have a wise discussion, I asked, “is it any different for a graduate from these institutions to make a career in HR as compared to talented people from other institutes”? Short answer is No, because….

All educational institutions play a vital role in developing its pupil and that’s undebatable, but just attending a institution of repute doesn’t guarantee anyone of being well equipped or best suited for future success. Not everyone from Harvard succeeds and many from lesser known institutes become the benchmark of success. Therefore, I have observed and have come to believe that it depends a lot on the person and less on the institute.

Graduating from an Ivy League does give you certain advantages. But to me those advantages are few and limited. For example your chances of landing a good internship and then a terrific job with a top employer are much higher as compared to others. The power networks you could possibly build and have access to (mostly alumni) is one of the major advantages. Of course last but not the least, access to high quality education should have made you learn better and wiser – but that’s an assumption. Each one of us is most detrimental to our own learning and development. No one learns more, better or less as compared to the other coz of the institute alone. Remember the “Slum Dog Millionaire Learning Style”

Most important; real life begins in the real world which, is when you are out of your institute. The ability to perform consistently and create value for self and others. Your attitude, values and capabilities are tested everyday and then begins the process of distinguishing the real talent from the rest. No one asks you or remembers your qualifications on a daily basis and most importantly your family, friends and colleagues don’t care about it as much as they care for your behavior.

A career generally spreads over a long period of time. For some it’s almost their entire life and for most of us in the corporate world it’s circa half of our active life. 2-3 years spent in an institution can have a significant impact and influence on your career but it doesn’t define, make or break it – you do!

Lastly, on the perception that coteries exist in the corporate world where people seem to have a bias for people from their institutions: well in my experience it’s not true. I was hired, developed and grown by people from these institutions and that too at a stage in my career when I wasn’t even a postgraduate (initial years of my career, I was just a graduate). When you embark on an international career and move out of India this perception even fades further as many in the other parts of the world don’t even know about or recognize XLRI or TISS as Ivy League (sorry my friends from there). The definition of Ivy League in US or Europe is something else. In my experience successful leaders have a bias for competence and diversity more than anything else. Hence no need to feel insecure about coteries and personal likes and dislikes of leaders.

Must say that, I have seen a few people who carry a chip on their shoulder about the institutes they graduated from and I don’t sweat about it as I know those chips shall soon fall and reality will bite sooner than later.

It’s said that nothing succeeds like success. I will build upon that and say, “your capabilities, values and attitude – sets you up for success and not the branding of your institute”. Learn, work hard and live a life of integrity and you shall achieve/realize your own definition of success.

I dedicate this blog to all my team members and colleagues who have made a tremendous difference at work coz of what they are not coz of the institutes that they graduated from.

A Picture of Harmony and Respect. This is real India.

I saw the picture on my Facebook timline today (Shared by friends and courtesy Siddharth Vaidya). His post says “Due to shortage of space in Masjid, the Eid namaz was offered in Ganapati Pandal today…. Colaba, Mumbai…..Proud to be an Indian”

This picture and its story – gives me immense joy. The smile continues to linger and refuseses to dissolve today :)

The richness and joy of diversity emanates from co-existence of differing faiths, cultures, ethnicities, thoughts, genders, etc, etc. From my perspective, the two basic requirements for peaceful co-existence and harmony are tolerance and respect (towards things that differ from our established beliefs) – especially involving faith, culture and thoughts. 

The ability and maturity of individuals and society – to tolerate and respect diversity in or around their world – defines or marks the level of civility.

India is fortunate to be the most diverse county in this world and we should boisterously celebrate it. It’s about time we seek and get joy and strength from it and not pain and tears. Let’s set standards of civility that others shall aspire for. 

As a photographer, how I wish, I clicked this picture. As an Indian I am happy that, someone clicked it and shared it with me.  

Eid Mubarak and Jai Hind!

I am Moving to Sun Pharma

After a very rewarding career of 5 years with Royal Philips, today I am joining Sun Pharma ( as their Executive Vice President and Global CHRO. 

I have relocated to Mumbai, India from Amsterdam, Netherlands.

I look forward to leading the Human Resource function and the global HR team of this fast growing healthcare and pharma company. 


Yash Mahadik

Is clicking Selfies a mental disorder? Did you participate in a Selfie Initative at Work?

In March 2014, the news about the American Paychiatric Association declaring selfie obsession as mental disorder went viral. Thanks to the advent of social media, there were millions if not zillions of shares, comments and discussions threads on and of this news. Those who didn’t believe in selfies seemed over joyed and felt a strong sense of endorsement for their thinking and feeling by the APA. Those who love clicking and sharing selfies were taken aback and probably some of them might have seriously doubted their style of expression, whilst  some must have just shrugged of the news as sheer nonsense, but for sure it must have made a lot of people think, debate and discuss this.

Then very soon or very late (by Apri/May 2014) it was revealed that the news quoting APA was a hoax, it was a fictional spoof by Adobo Chronicles (A parody website). And bang! The said debate and discussion becomes even more interesting.

I am a enthusiastic photographer and though I Iove taking pictures of others vs of myself, I must confess that, I do take selfies, not to the level of self obsession (atleast in my own assessment). Having said that, The Photographer and the Human Reaource Professional (in me) made me very curious about the psychology behind this behavior of people. I don’t claim to have conducted a stastically significant survey with a proper methodology etc. but I qualitatively discussed this with many people (already 200 plus now) and I chose to seek views and opinions of my colleagues, friends, connections on Facebook and Twitter. I carefully chose to seek views of people cutting across gender and age groups. I also researched and read a lot of blogs and articles on this subject. All this considered, here is my perspective:

I observed that people of younger age group (below 30) found this news to be bizzare if not absurd and most of them accepted that they click and share selfies and also own a selfie stick, which is their travel companion. People in the middle age group (30 to 45) were on the fence, most accepted the fact that they click and share selfies but also qualified that they take more group selfies vs individual selfies. People in the age group of 45 and above (my age group) were most cynical and sarcastic about the selfie phenomena, however some people were absolutely okay with group selfies and felt as long as it isn’t an obsession and just pictures of oneself, selfies are okay. One person also said that he takes selfies only when he doesn’t find someone else to click his or his mates pictures. When asked to define obsession, most people defined it as overdoing it (high volume shares). Also when asked to define a selfie, almost everyone said that a group selfie (more than two) isn’t really a selfie. They define selfie as a picture taken by self of oneself or two people together – the definition is almost correct. Selfie is best defined as a Self Portrait clicked by self using your own mobile phone camera.

This made me wonder if the thinking, feelings and opinions on the subject are based on age or generational diversity? Does it have to do more with access to and proficiency in technology (use of phone cameras and social media)? I didn’t find anything that suggests that that there is any gender sensitivity in this subject.
Most blogs and articles (that I read) about the psychology behind this, suggest that clicking selfies and sharing them on social media is an individual or personal style and choice of expression. Its similar to fashion (kind of clothes you choose to wear), hairstyle, blogging, movies you watch or books you read, etc.

I think the debate on selfie obsession (overdoing it) will continue and the jury is still out on this one. Some say that it’s the new form of narcissism, to me it’s a new style of expression using the new tech platforms of good phone cameras and the advent of the social media. 

The article on this subject in the Forbes also suggest that human beings by nature seek recognition and positive strokes. Some may seek it more as opposed to others. The style and way they seek it is a matter of individual’s choice and need.

Am attaching a few links to related articles, they helped me understand the psychology behind the selfie phenomena and of course, I will always refrain from passing any kind of value judgement, such as, its an obsession or an disorder – each to his own and all respect for the choices people make about expressing themselves.

My two cents worth – to all leaders and people managers out their, try and understand the psychology and reasons behind people behaviour and once you understand and respect them, you will be able to shape, guide, engage and leverage them. If you participated or started a selfie sharing initiative in your company, as long as it is not a mere self portrait, is more inclusive and is aimed at recognising people and allows freedom of expression, its not a mental disorder. 

Origins or the news
Article in Forbes
Blog on FirstPost.Com
Don’t worry it’s not a disorder
What we can learn from the Hoax
Narcissus takes a selfie 

Thou Shall Win and Not the Trolls

How sad and terrifying…Death threats, ‘swatting’ attacks and a flooded basement: How online trolls destroyed this family’s offline life
#MyPerspective, Trolls or Nouveau-Terrorist/Criminals: I have often said, these trolls can not only steal your peace, health and happiness but can make you quit your presence and life on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.

As the new way of life (on social media) and it’s meaning and understanding evolves, so shall evolve methods to deal with the uneasiness and discomfort caused by trolls, but what does one do until then?

I say, do the following, three things:

1) First don’t be a troll, means – don’t rumor monger, pass value judgements, make hateful comments, do mud-slinging, etc. Before getting aggressive, prank-full, offensive or angry with someone – do the self/family test. The test is to imagine and answer a simple question; if someone else said or did that to you or your family, how would you feel?

“This world is full of scoundrel’s, If you decide not to be one, then, you can count one scoundrel less”. ~ Unkown

2) Don’t quit the social media platforms, coz you will give up your own right and compromise your freedom and they will win. I know – easier said that done. May be, suspend your presence or take a break from the platform, but don’t quit and come back to your choice or life.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~ MKG

3) There are many anti-trolling communities and help groups out their, the best one is “your personal network” – let them take on the trolls along-with you and you shall gather a critical mass and finally win. But, remember help begins with self-help.

Thou shall win and not the Trolls ~Yashwant Mahadik

What I learnt about learning.

Transforming something that’s already good is indeed a huge challenge and it needs a very different mindset and very competent set of people (as your team) who are highly skilled in making major transformations happen. I have observed that business and functional transformation has fast evolved as a center of expertise in many organizations and in some organizations it is also evolving as a permanent function. The landscape of learning (What, Why, How, When and Where of Learning) has changed significantly over the last one decade and some of the major paradigm shifts have happened due to the following:

1. There have been new research outcomes and suggestions in the area of neuro science and human learning that has helped us understand how people learn and hence it has compelled many to re-think their learning interventions and designs.

2. The advent of technology and disruption caused by the digital and social media has turned the concept of training and classroom learning upside down. Today, the technology of Learning Management Systems (LMS) has beautifully evolved from systems of record to platforms of sharing, networking, knowledge management and hence learning. The LMS functionality and its apps have made them a superior platform for learning on the go. Smooth dovetailing of the LMS with the HR ERP is helping connect the learning function with the overall competency-based HR processes of the company.

3. The unique needs, styles and aspirations of the millennials and younger generational workforce members have compelled many organizations to re-think their learning function and its offerings. The whole shift from traditional classroom-based training to mixed models of learning such as on-the-job, coaching and mentoring, open source learning platforms on the internet is picking up rather fast and every company needs to have a clear strategy, plan and a technology platform that can cater to this.

4. Sustained economic uncertainty has compelled organizations to become more efficient with the learning and capability building investment. Theoretically speaking, learning is still a discretional spending. However, many have learnt that not having the right capabilities, skills, competencies and knowledge makes today’s knowledge workforce inefficient and unproductive and that severely affects the organizations’ performance and perpetuity.

It is important that the learning function takes advantage of the fast evolving digital and social tech platforms. You better be continuously innovating and learning or you will soon become irrelevant to your audience and learners. For instance, 20 years ago not many would have imagined that high-street banking will die and all those beautiful bank buildings on the high street will become cafes, bars or boutique shops. Because of the shift towards online banking, the banks with the best online banking products, solutions and service and security will survive and win. Similarly, not many imagined that you would not have to buy a newspaper or watch television at home to keep pace with the world and its news. Today, I don’t buy a newspaper and watch television for news!! Look at what’s happening to the retail sector. I had never imagined shopping suits or shoes online, but today I do and it works well. Hence, make sure you have team members who are tech savvy and have the necessary skills and competencies for leveraging the best in class technology and social networking/learning platforms.

Moving from Instructional Design (ID) to Learning Experience Design (LED)

Companies and vendors still talk about instructional design (ID) as the core of learning content development. ID was at the core when the dominant medium and channel of learning was the classroom, where the belief was that the instructor or teacher is detrimental to one’s learning. Charles Jennings, my good friend and the father of 70:20:10 learning principle and framework helped me understand and learn how important and fundamental this learning principle and framework is. 70 +20 = 90% of your LED should be on the job with leader led support and just 10% should be formal (Classroom + E-learning). E-learning modules, even if they are available on the mobile, are categorized as formal learning offerings. One of my biggest learning was in the area of designing action learning offerings for people to learn on-the-job. The difficult part in doing this is designing and ensuring a standardized way for the leaders to coach and support their employees whilst they are in action learning mode. I must say that I continue to learn in this area every day. Another important learning for me was that the company has to make some clear strategic choices about what they will do themselves versus what they should buy from vendors especially in the area of learning content development. We built a small but a powerful content development organization in Pune for the Philips University and they are more a COE, where they do develop some of the learning content for Philips University but their primary role is to ensure quality of learning design and content for all learning offerings of our company and develop strategic vendors for the bulk of learning offerings. It works very well and I am blessed to have a fantastic team of highly competent and skilled people who are making a huge difference.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

I had once blogged on this topic and in my opinion it’s important when it comes to learning too. You can create the entire infrastructure and build all the technology platforms, but if you don’t work on creating a learning culture, culture where learning is sought, supported and celebrated – you will fail in achieving the desired impact of learning in any organization. Leader led learning is a very strong trait of any organization’s culture. It’s when leaders of the organization own, support and drive learning versus the Learning COE. Learning COE should be the enabler and the value creator and not the owner of learning. Building a learning culture is by far the most difficult thing when you are transforming learning and one my learnings is that it takes time to build the culture. It’s a journey – but you have to be at it.

1. Don’t confuse learning with leadership development. Learning is a sum of many parts, while leadership development, talent management, culture building, capability building, leveraging technology are some of the important parts. If you don’t embed leadership development under learning and treat and manage it separately – you might end up confusing the organization and there might be duplication of efforts.

2. Run your learning like a business. Most progressive companies invest significantly in learning and as the Chief Learning Officer you are managing significant budgets. Business acumen, the ability to manage P&L and be operationally excellent are pre-requisites for any CLO. Fortunately, I had done line roles in the past and had the experience of managing P&Ls and large budgets, but I learnt how to run learning like a business, which creates value for its stakeholders and measure its impact on the organization and its eco-system. The five practices of excellence—Project Management, Process Management, Change Management, Performance Management and Continuous Improvement—are fundamental in managing a large scale learning transformation program. Make sure you have the best-in-class people owning and leading each of the above-mentioned practice and apply lean and design thinking as you build the ‘Learning Machine’ for your company and run it like a business.

In conclusion, learning is indeed a very specialized subject and it has some very specific technical nuances, which one needs to learn. However, it’s not rocket science if you have a strategic mindset, are operationally savvy and have the will and wherewithal to learn and innovate. It takes time to transform learning and create a learning culture and in my experience it takes about two to three years to manage a project well. The transformation journey has its moments and every moment and experience over the past two to three years has been learning for me. If I was asked to do it all over again, I would say a BIG YES and will be able to do it more smartly because of my learning about learning.

I am re-blogging this article, which was carried by People Matters, a leading HR Magazine and learning resource for Human Resource Professionals. The original article can be accessed at 

What’s going on in the windmills of your mind?


In the windmills of your mind…. this iconic song from the Thomas Crown Affair movie (1968, Steve McQueen & Faye Dunaway) was originally sung by Noel Harrison. As often found common with other rare melodies, this one has a touch of Mozart (The opening is borrowed from his work) is composed by legendary French music composer Michel Legrand, English lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. In the re-make of the movie (1999, Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo) it is sung by Sting. This song has been on the playlist of almost every well-known chamber, symphony or philharmonic Orchestra. Other celebrity singers such as Barbara Streisand, Tina Arena, All Angels, Eva Mendes, Neil Diamond, Petula Clark, etc, have sung and recorded this song in various versions and languages (Lyrics and tune remain the same). It’s an epic!!!

When I like a song and if it stays on my playlist for years, it’s often coz of its terrific composition and seamless blending of superb lyrics, music, vocals, tune, harmony and the overall rhythm of that melody!! And this one has it all. In the movie the song is playing in the background and shows how the protagonist is dealing with his own thoughts and emotions, Thomas Crown is a rich and accomplished person who is seemingly bored with his life and for thrills sake he plans and executes heists and does it in style and challenges himself in order to challenge others who are in the pursuit of catching him. A smart mind leaning towards or flirting with the dark side and yet isn’t dark!!  One thing you wished is, if you found out and knew what and how other people think, especially the ones with whom you have little or no communication. Having communication with a person isn’t a guarantee to accurately know how he or she thinks!!!

This song is very poetic and allows us to interpret it – in our own unique way. This song is a classic depiction of how a human mind deals with its own motivations and temptations. Motivation and Temptation are two things (and not just words) that most people need to be aware of and deal carefully with. Motivation is generally understood as “the basic reasons that drive our acts and behaviors”, whilst Temptation is generally understood as “Inclination towards a sin”. The core meaning of both is very close if not similar.

One cannot, at least yet explain how the human mind works. There has been massive scientific research and now there is a reasonable understanding about the human mind but they are merely suggestions and there isn’t yet any conclusive explanation or finding. Hence as they say, Human mind is a very complex organ and as David Rock says, every brain thinks like a map yet it thinks very differently. Many are or have tried to study and interpret the human mind by observing and understanding human behavior and feelings and then they extrapolate or correlate those to how they must emanate from a thinking process of an organ know as mind (brain). Of course what seems to be clearly established is that, the way you think affects the way you feel and the way you feel affects the way you act and behave. The Think – Feel – Act & Behave chain of links and process.

I like the work done and presented by Stephen Covey, in which he clearly explains the way you can change and influence your and others behavior by influencing their thinking. If you want to change a behavior or a habit then change the way you think and the behavior will in-itself change.

What’s goes on in the windmills of the mind of senior leaders and employees of a corporation or an organization can impact the culture, performance, value system, existence and perpetuity of that organization. Yet we are so focused on assessing, evaluating, rewarding behaviours and the results (which we term as How and What of Performance Management). In fact the fountain head of How (Behavior) and What (Results) is the mind. Thinking is what happens in the windmills of the mind of every person. Organizations that focus, work and believe in shaping the thinking of the employees via using cognitive learning techniques are likely to prosper as opposed to others.

So, listen, feel and know what’s happening in the windmills of your mind… and live and enjoy the song and music of life.

A song that beats the “Windmills of your mind…” the one for me is, “Tusi Na Cosa Grande Pa Me…” have you heard it, if not, do listen to it :)

Image Above is Courtesy: A Pic of the Video Clip on YouTube by Petula Clark – Windmills of Your Mind

Get off that dead horse….

I was well aware of the idiom; “Beating or Flogging a dead horse”. Which means wasting time persevering with something that’s foreclosed, concluded, decided or dead.  While ago, I saw a viral email (source unknown), which shared the wisdom and notion of the dead horse theory, which is probably based on the same idiom. The viral email and its contents were as follows:


The tribal wisdom of the Plains Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that:

“When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

However, many leaders and organizations relent and persevere with the dead horse and more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course…

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

I found the above satirical viral email (source unknown) rather interesting and thought provoking. Attempting to put the above in context, let me begin my post in which I will present some of my perspectives and opinions on  how the corporate world keeps beating some of the dead horses instead of dismounting them.

In the corporate world the dead horse theory is often seen at play in many areas but some of the prominent areas in my observation are; Strategy, Policy, Processes, Technology and People.

How often have you seen a dead and an irrelevant strategy being defended and persevered, dead strategies which aren’t delivering results or are making the desired impact. I have seen it a few times and I have confronted and challenged it as much as I can. Must say that, if not always, I have often succeeded in convincing people to stop beating the dead horse (persevering with the dead strategy) and instead mount a new one. About a decade ago when I used to work for a top company in the Asia Pacific region as their HR Business partner, I remember challenging my talent acqusition team on the old and irrelevant strategies of attracting talent from Engineering and MBA Schools. The old strategy included focussing on pre-recruitment season talks at the campuses, recruiting a few interns and some graduates. The war for talent had intensfied and if we had persevered with our old strategies then we would have lost the plot. The new strategy was not about just recruiting talent, it was all about building a employer brand which was valued internally and externally by the talent, it was about engaging with the talent in campuses throughout their academic period and not just before the recruiting season. Mounting a new horse did pay off as we were successful and managed to attract and retain very good talent. I often find many companies complaining about the war for talent and how the talent shortage is affecting their business. I say, look at your strategies and if they are a dead horse then  dismount and ride a new horse. Complaining and persevering with your old strategies is like beating a dead horse and it won’t help.

POLICIES and PROCESSES is another area, where we keep beating the dead horses. We often criticize our governments for its lack of sensitivity towards the needs of its people and how slow and beuracratic they are when it comes to changing policies and processes that are irrelevant. Now think about your organisation, do you see policies and processes that are dead and how long do we take before we revise or change them and make them relevant? Google as a company is a case in point where they have become a Top Employer in such a short time and it’s coz of their culture, ethos, people related polices and processes – they are very relevant to the needs of today’s top talent and hence they are able to attract and retain top talent. It’s more than just the free gourmet food that they serve to their employees, be it their paternity leave policy or their process of making work more meaningful, it’s a whole range of things. They fortunately don’t have a plethora of legacy polices and processes and hence what they have and ride are new horses in the area of their people related practices. It will be interesting to see how they stay ahead and don’t get caught up with their own legacy as they grow, mature and age. But this is one company which is a true benchmark. Read this blog on what makes Google a top employer as assessed and declared by Glassdoor in their annual list of “50 Best Places to Work,”

TECHNOLOGY is another classic area where we live with and flog irrelevant and dead technologies and coz of various reasons we don’t upgrade the technology or the skills required to upgrade it. This causes serious efficiency and productivity issues as compared to competition and sets many companies back. Enterprise-wide, integrated, efficient, secured and standard technology platforms across the company is every corporations goal. But the pace at which the technology is changing and evolving, it’s rather hard to decide when you dismount the dying tech platform horse and mount a new one. And the horse of technology comes at a cost, which is difficult to capatilisze coz of its shorter life cycle even when compared to fashion. In my observation as compared to the cost of technology the bigger issue is the know how and competence of the leaders about the changes, evolution and real benefits of newer technologies. Hence most are often beating a dead horse of a technology platform, thinking it’s alive.

When it comes to PEOPLE – how and when to consider them a dead horse. The corporate world’s leaders and their beliefs, thinking, philosophy and ethos is basically divided in three categories. 1) There are leaders and organizations with a harder view and approach and as per them when people reach their level of incompetence (Peter Principle then those people (“Dead Wood”) should to be separated and exited from the organisation – either on grounds of non-performance or in a wave of restructuring and downsizing. 2) Then there are those who have a more softer and socialistic view and approach and they believe that people can never be termed as “Dead Wood” or Dead Horse – until they retire or literally die. 3) Then there are those who have a blended view and approach of the earlier two explained, they are neither too hard nor too soft and socialistic.

In my perspective PEOPLE whom we term as HUMAN RESOURCES are the most valuable resources of any organisation and it’s the responsibility of any good organisation and its leaders to invest in developing and growing their people and keep them employable. However, the responsibility of the PEOPLE towards themselves and their organisation is to ensure that they take a lead and co-ownership of their development (Knowledge, skills, values and attitude) and ensure their own employability.

In my opinion a person can be termed as a dead horse in an organisation when they are consistent non-performers and makes no effort or shows no willingness to improve their performance and skills. People who are dis-engaged and are uncapable of engaging others and creating value for their organisation are like horses that are about to die. Last but not the least, people with lack of integrity and or unacceptable standards of ethics are serious dead horses. Organizations and leaders should definitely dismount these type of dead horses and find and mount good ones.

Would love to hear your views, opinions and perspectives on this.


Can Culture Eat Strategy for Breakfast?

I came across this statement which said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It resonated with me and I thought of writing a blog post based on my experience and learning’s on how organization’s go about identifying, building, measuring and communicating their culture.

We have learnt a lot about strategy and there is a lot of experience, academic research and content around it. However, in relative comparison to strategy, culture as a subject needs to be understood a lot better. From my experience and learning, I would suggest that “Culture is an Organizational Capability” There are four big buckets of organizational capabilities and most organizations have traditionally focused on the three big buckets; “People”, “Processes” and “Technology” the fourth bucket “Culture” is probably yet not focused upon much. Most progressive organizations and their capability building models that I have seen (whilst working for some top companies and of other benchmark companies practices) have figured out well how to identify, build and measure capabilities in the first three buckets and not so much yet in the “Culture” bucket.

To begin with it helps tremendously if you first agree within your organization that next to People, Processes and Technology the fourth bucket of Capabilities is “Culture” Once you agree then your capability building framework will require you to look at “Culture Building” in a holistic manner. Some may argue and say that “Culture” is a sub-bucket of “People”, as people are the ones who construct, live, represent and communicate an organization’s culture. It’s not an invalid argument, but from my perspective culture goes beyond just people (Behaviors and Style), for example it involves the ways of working, physical environment and design of the workplace, social mechanisms and rituals of an organization, stories that are discussed etc. Hence it may be immensely helpful to look at “Culture” as something beyond just people capabilities (knowledge, skills, competencies, behaviors and attitudes).

Culture is a modern history concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator Cicero “cultura animi” (cultivation of the soul).

However, one of the many definitions of organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. And now you can see the rationale why some argue that Culture is all about just people.

Anyway my perspective is a bit different, but it strongly builds on this traditional definition.

How to go about building a strong organization culture, which, despite the sustained uncertainty of the economic and social environment and the ever changing strategy – can become a major pillar of strength. My 10 recommended practical steps for leaders and organisations are as follows: 

1)    The first step should be to assess and identify what your current organizational culture is. It takes finding out what your culture is and how you culture is perceived by internal (employees) external people (customers, talent, investors etc). There are various tools and methodologies that are there to identify your culture. One of the most powerful techniques is facilitated focus group discussions, which are similar to identifying the brand identity of the company. Also you need to asses if your culture is something that’s kept in mind by people when designing strategies, processes, systems, workplaces, policies etc

2)    Ensure that there is a clear articulation and shared understanding of the organizations vision, mission and values. Then compare the “Current Culture” and clearly articulate the “Required Culture” for achieving your vision and living the values. Do a proper gap analysis and planning of “FROM” – “TO” This is most effectively done via the process of LSIP – Large Scale Interaction Process. If this is done in isolation and only at the top of the organisation or just by the HR function it well could be a false start.

3)    Avoid evolving complicated culture building frameworks, keep things simple, build on and align to existing capability building framework of the company, with clear alignment to the vision, mission and values of the company. Having a clear plan of initiatives and activities to build culture is more important than having just frameworks and models. Ensure the the main components of the culture you are building are well integrated into each and every strategy, process, system, practice, policy design of your company.

4)    Integrate culture building strongly with the company’s existing learning practice and function, design and detail initiatives and activities (learning offerings, coaching, mentoring etc) and make them leader led. Avoid too much of classroom and e-learning offerings around culture building – leverage the 70-20-10 learning principle. Don’t make culture building a separate and an isolated activity.

5)    Whilst designing and activating culture building interventions, don’t focus only on soft part – people and their behaviors and styles. Focus also on designing and changing the hard part – workplace design, policies, social mechanism’s (meetings and its structure, rewards and recognition platforms, etc), hierarchy (Org structure and its levels), rituals (how is success celebrated, how is news communicated, etc).

6)    Make Leaders lead the culture building, but make everyone responsible and accountable for it and celebrate reward and recognize success stories and role models. Don’t make the mistake of making just HR responsible for Culture building, its every leader’s responsibility. HR should facilitate the process.

7)    Have a clear measurement methodology, process, tools and techniques for knowing and understanding how progress is being made and what needs to be further improved. Custom designed surveys and NPS (Net Promoter Score) are two powerful methodologies.

8)    If your organization culture is your strength and a differentiator, then make sure you have a good communication plan (internal and external) to further strengthen and build on your employer branding.

9)    Use your culture building plan to profile, attract and develop talent which will help you strengthen and build the riht culture. Dovetailing your culture building plan with the talent assessment, development and acquisition strategy of the company is very important.

10) Last but not the least, culture building needs investing of some money and lots of leadership commitment and their personal time. Without this investment you will achieve little.

In my opinion and perspective, if you get the above 10 steps right, you will be able to create a culture in your organization, which will eat your competitors strategy for breakfast!!


Here is some content that, I have aggregated from my favorite HBR Blogs on Culture, I have learnt a lot from reading them and critiquing them in my own mind. Hope you enjoy reading them too:

Michael Watkins on “What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?” suggests that, If you want to provoke a vigorous debate, start a conversation on organizational culture. While there is universal agreement that (1) it exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations, there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is, never mind how it influences behavior and whether it is something leaders can change…. read on

John Coleman on “Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture” suggests that, what makes a culture? Each culture is unique and myriad factors go into creating one, but I’ve observed at least six common components of great cultures. Isolating those elements can be the first step to building a differentiated culture and a lasting organization….  read on

Carolyn Dewar and Scott Keller on “Three Steps to a High-Performance Culture” suggest that, senior executives tend to think about corporate culture as a topic that’s hard to measure and hard to change. As a result, many choose not to invest in it despite all the evidence that, when skillfully managed, culture can be a powerful and enduring source of competitive advantage…. read on

Deidre H. Campbell on “What Great Companies Know About Culture” suggests that, even in this unprecedented business environment, great leaders know they should invest in their people. Those companies who are committed to a strong workplace culture tend to perform well, and now they are featured prominently in a new ranking recently released by Great Place to Work Institute. Among the top performers on the 2011 World’s Best Multinational Companies list are culturally-strong technology companies such as Microsoft, NetApp, SAS, and Google….read on

Amy C. Edmondson on The Three Pillars of a Teaming Culture” suggests that, today’s leaders must build a culture where teaming is expected and begins to feel natural, and this starts with helping everyone to become curious, passionate, and empathic. She says, building the right culture in an era of fast-paced teaming, when people work on a shifting mix of projects with a shifting mix of partners, might sound challenging – if not impossible. But, in my experience, in the most innovative companies, teaming is the culture….read on

Jason Sylva on “The Culture Cycle” James L. Heskett‘s book The Culture Cycle describes how an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business. Heskett discusses how to calculate the economic value of culture through the “Four Rs” of referrals, retention, returns to labor, and relationships with customers… read on

Leading in times of turbulent change: @debjani_ghosh_ MD – SMG, Intel SA on #PhilipsHRtalks


#PhilipsHRtalks is a unique and innovative open source learning platform created by Philips India HR Team. Renowned and accomplished thought leaders are invited on this platform to share their ideas and knowledge and video recordings on their talk is posted on YouTube on the Philips India Channel.

Debjani Ghosh @debjani_ghosh_ was invited to speak on this platform and her pearls of wisdom are encapsulated in this video. Thank you Debjani!!