The Economic Gloom and Doom and the Confused Employee.

Let’s accept it, that, not every intelligent or educated person understands how the world and national economy works. Result: It leaves a lot of people confused when economist and experts, start waring us about a immenient recession.

However most wise people understand how the economics works for them – you have to earn more than your spend and save a little for the rainy day. If you don’t do that then you will soon be wet in the rain. Some simple and hardworking people just know that, they have to work hard every day, earn enough to put the bread on the table and rest their government will take care.

One of my concerned colleagues recently asked me a series of questions, why is the inflation high? why are experts warning us about a recession? why are the stock markets down? why is the real estate market up? is it being caused by the Russia-Ukraine war? Is it the after effect of the Pandemic? Is it due to high rates of attrition across the globe? And what does this mean for us? – Well these are all very serious questions and though they were at the back of my mind, his asking them all together, made me think about it very seriously.

I answered him saying, yes they are all connected to each other. However, inflation (rising consumer prices) and recession (if it was to hit us) is a result a lag factor. The lead factors are the Pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, increasing prices of core input materials like oil, gas, steel, etc. as they increase the cost of goods and services being produced. Since the consumer goods and services prices are going up the governments are trying to tighten the fiscal measures such as lending rates and flow of money to bring the inflation under control.

Then in simple terms, I said to him that we as people have to do as follows:

1) Make sure that we all work hard and improve productivity and efficiency at work. Control costs of our business operations and try and mitigate as much of the rising input material and services costs by enhancing our productivity and efficiency. That will help us not increase prices for our customers.

2) Remember, inflation is a hidden tax that we all pay when ever we consume goods and services. Hence, make sure that the wise Asian principle of earning more than you spend and saving a bit for the future is followed more strictly. Asians by nature and habit do not believe much in living off credit to land up in big debts.

3) If you are in a job and you depend on a salary for supporting yourself and your family – this may not be the time to take un-calculated risks. Of course, unless it’s calculated or necessary, just sit tight.

4) Do not give up or reduce consumption of necessary goods and services that you can afford. Spend wisely.

5) Stay away from investing in a declining stock market or a inflated real estate market. Invest if you have to, when it’s corrected and then ride the gains when it starts to bounce back.

6) Try and enhance your knowledge on how macro and micro economic factors work in your country, industry and globally. Loads of easy and free learning material available digitally. Make sure they are from a credible source.

7) Trust your organisation and leaders to do the right thing as they respond to these economic challenges. All good companies and leaders have skills and capabilities of dealing with it. Your positive attitude, extra effort and support will go a long way in dealing with any crisis that your organisation faces. Communicate openly with your family and team members and solicit their understanding and support.

Myths and Facts about the Eagel re-birth story.

Photo: @yashwantmahadik

I see many well intentioned posts and articles giving an Eagle’s analogy. Propogating that, an Eagle does this and that and let’s learn from it. Of course there is so much to learn from an eagle or any other bird and nature and it’s truly magical and beautiful.

One of the myths that people share about an Eagle (without checking the facts and the truth) is that to extend and renew its life. An Eagel does the following:

When it’s Beak, Talons and Feathers get weak, the eagle takes refuge and isolates itself somewhere in the cliffs and knocks off its beak, talons, feathers and waits for it to grow back and that’s how an eagle renews its life to live up to 70 years. Well this is untrue and a myth. The fact is as follows:

The average life span of an eagle is approximately 30 years. The eagle, like many other living organisms, does not have the luxury of making the decision to extend their life cycle far beyond what is normal for its species. Eagles would not typically “lose” their beak or talons, unless it was the result of a traumatic injury. The talons and beak are two of the three best defining features of what makes these birds of prey “raptors”. Without the sharp talons for catching prey and the strong, sharp beak for tearing food, the raptor would certainly die of starvation. An eagle hatches with both a beak and talons and these will continue to grow throughout the bird’s life. The beak and talons are composed of hard keratin and are somewhat similar to human fingernails. The talons of the eagle are not flexible as the story claims. New layers of keratin growth build onto the old layers ensuring a strong structure for the raptor. The raptor keeps the beak in good condition naturally in the wild by eating tough prey and rubbing the beak clean on stones or other hard surfaces (feaking) after eating. Like all birds, Eagles also sheds feathers and grows new ones but that happens slowly and naturally without going bald. In captivity, an eagle may live beyond what the average life expectancy is, because it receives both regular and nutritious meals, has access to veterinary care and can be sheltered from the harsh elements by housing provided by the facility caring for the bird. Even then, the life span is in no way extended as far as this myth is suggesting.

There is speculation as to the origin of this myth, but be assured that none of it is true. Even Times of India, printed this myth in a story a few years ago. People keep picking up the myths from media, and consider them as facts. Just coz it’s printed and shared on the internet and paper doesn’t mean it’s a fact or the truth. Do your own due-diligence before you propogate anything as knowledge for others. 😊

#eagel #birdofprey #myths #facts #duedeligence #fakenews #learning #nature #authenticity source: https://lnkd.in/dVviSuBy

Getting a Good Job is Easier than Making a Great Career

Me cooking in a team build session in Amsterdam

A bright, early-in-career professional sought some career advise from me about 2.5 years ago. I much appreciated the brilliant academic background, clarity of expression and the well mannered demeanour of this person.

At the time of our conversation, In 5.5 years of beginning her career, she had changed 3 companies already. That’s an average of 1.8 years per company, one of them was a tenure of just 8 months. When I asked for reasons behind these change decisions – quick came a witty reply, “Rolling Stones don’t gather moss”. To which I responded by asking a question – well do you want to be a rolling stone or a rising star? After a bit of thinking, came the reply, a rising star.

The gist of our discussion was as follows:

1) The main reason/strategy of this person to change jobs at this frequency was to enhance her earnings and with every change she got an average 20% increase. So she thinks that, her strategy is working. I asked her if – with every change she also gained/earned: new learning’s, better role and or a company with better branding and culture? Well this question took the smirk off her face. She very honestly replied by saying, “No” and also added that she has been doing the same role in three different companies with no new learning’s and she wants to leave this company coz the culture in this company isn’t good. I think she started to think and realise that her strategy wasn’t working, was infact derailing her career.

2) When she went into a deep listening mode. I shared these perespectives with her:

a) Average time span of a career is 35 years. So don’t approach it like running a set of 350 – 100 meter sprints or like a 35 km long marathon. May be 3 to 7 mini marathons and some sprints within those marathon’s. Even on an agile basis, It take 2-3 years to learn and establish a track record of success in a job and a role.
b) Golden rule of making a career, don’t chase money. Chase and seek a great company with a solid brand, culture and leaders. Seek new and challenging assignments and roles within the same company or elsewhere that will test and develop you. Money and wealth will follow.
c) After circa 5 years of completing your career – recruiters and companies, while considering you and your CV will focus more on your experience, track record of success, value’s and capabilities. So make sure you focus on it from day-1 of your career.

I advised her to quit her existing job as she wasn’t happy with the company and it’s culture was inferior, compared to where she was going. I told her that, no amount of money is worth staying in a company with bad culture, reputation or leaders.

This morning she called to tell me that, after two and half years of joining the company where she works, she has been promoted to another challenging role with more money. As a tribute to her, I thought of sharing this story with you 😊

#career #jobs #experience #success #learning #branding #culture #strategy #change #leaders

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

Pic Courtesy: @India.in.pixels

While reading and learning today, I came across this amazing set of research and empirical data. This amazing study by the Union of Concerned Scientists proves that since 1750 and until 2019 (projection until 2022). #India & #Africa GDP growth since 1750 is not only impressive but most environment friendly. Hope we stay the course.

As per the worlds only and most ancient Indian texts known as the Upanishads which, is one of the four sections of each Veda had concluded and suggested the concept of वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam means the entire earth is one family. Still not too late to pay attention and follow the ancient wisdom.

SanatanaDharma #Upanishad #Veda #vasudhaivakutumbakam

Data Source: Union of Concerned Scientists. https://www.ucsusa.org/

https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions

Happy International Women’s Day 2022

I aspire for a inclusive and gender equal world. A world free of discrimination, stereotypes and biases. A world where we all strive for inclusiveness, equality and diversity in all walks of life, especially in and at work places. I am committed to playing my part in making it happen, are you?

Our women and LGBT colleagues don’t need any help or charity, especially from us the men folks. All they expect is a culture and environment of fairness, respect, equality & inclusiveness without any biases. Let’s take pride in seeing people of all genders thrive and realise their full potential and live and work happily. I take immense pride in working for a company that believes in this and lives it everyday.

Together we can all #breakthebias and let’s do it. Wishing everyone a happy International Women’s Day 2022

#diversity #work #culture #people #gender #respect #environment #genderequality #inclusion #iwd2022 #internationalwomensday

Life has to be balanced, not controlled.

One of my inspiring Bosses, Carole Wamuyu Wainaina (she was my manager during my stint with Philips in Amsterdam) once said to me, that, “her endeavour in life is to buy and collect experiences and not material things”. Amongst many other things that I learnt from her, I learnt that, It’s the rich experiences and memories that one collects – defines the wealth of a human being. It’s the key difference between being wealthy and monied.

She also used to tell me that, the ability to balance one’s competing priorities in life is what makes one successful – professionally and personally. It’s not about working more or spending more time with the family – it’s about finding and striking the right balance. Also we used to discuss how important it is for a person to have quality “me time”, time for yourself, where you are absorbed in some hobby, sport or a creative interest outside of work. That’s when I again took up photography and pursued the genre of Wildlife and Nature, with total passion and enthusiasm. I must say since then I have become a richer person, with wealth of experiences 😊.

The greatest privilege of my life and career has been to work with exceptionally talented and bright people world over and live in geographies such as Asia, Europe, UK, USA. Carole was then the Global CHRO of Philips and then went on to become The Under-Sectetary General of UN working for Ban Ki-moon at the UN. I was the Global Chief Learning Officer of Philips and was tasked by her to build the first Digital Philips University, aimed at transforming talent management at Philips.

Keep finding people that inspire you and engage with them in rich conversations, learn from them and chart an exciting course for your life. What do you say?

#worklifehobby #work #career #digital #quality #europe #people #learning #creative #photography #university #talentmanagement #worklifebalance #metime

Organisational Culture a Formidable Enabler of Success

Authored by: Yash Mahadik, Mallika Galani and Sameer Kumar Agrawal


Organization culture is a formidable enabler of innovation, change and success in most organisations. Over the years culture has become a great coffee table discussion among leaders across industries. It’s formidable because its a sustainable competitive advantage that cannot be easily copied by competitors. Today culture as competitive advantage is helping companies attract and retain talent, drive innovation, remain cost competitive, etc. Last week, I was involved in one such HR leadership forum discussion organized by SpencerStuart. The discussion centered around ‘Harnessing the power of organizational culture’. It was my privilege and honor to chair the forum consisting of large company CHROs and other HR Leaders representing a diverse mix of organizations. SpencerStuart have a well articulated culture alignment framework of their own. It’s based on research and they have been validating it with many organisations as they consult with them. At the beginning of the session, Sahiba Singh from SpencerStuart explained the framework and model in detail. The details of the framework can be accessed via this link: Org Culture SpencerStuart

“Culture can become a ‘secret weapon’ that makes extraordinary things happen.”  – Jon Katzenbach, Booz&Co

In our collective and diverse experience, we observed that, culture is experienced and felt even in the absence of a well-articulated manifesto. Employees can clearly sense and feel the elements of their organisational culture, elements such as; how ethical and value based is the leadership in their organisation, what are they genuinely valued for, are their ideas welcomed, are their capabilities and contributions reflected fairly in their career growth and learning opportunities, etc, etc. Tone at the top and behaviour exhibited by senior leaders on a day to day basis especially during the crucial moments within an organisation shapes the culture. Little can a company achieve with a politically correct and well articulated statement hanging on the wall without the Leaders behaviour and attitude backing it up. So how does an organization create a culture that affirms the aspirations of its individual members while also inspiring the collective to add significant value towards the business?

Rohit Thakur, Head Human Resource, Accenture India, whilst sharing his perspective, said that, ‘the responsibility for setting the tone – the culture – rests with the leader of the organization’. We have often witnessed change in leadership manifesting a change in culture. Hence it’s imperative for a company or a team to be led by someone who places high importance on performance and results, acts with integrity and expects others to do the same. These leadership qualities engender a highly spirited organization and magic happens when leaders create the conditions for employees to contribute meaningfully. One of the key examples of this is the humility and integrity being the key cultural element at Sun Pharma and in this case it cascades from these traits being exhibited by the promoter and founder of the organization.

Rohit Kumar, HR Head Kelloggs India added to this by saying that culture at times is not organizational, rather its more functional or business unit led and this can be attributed to the unique leadership style existing in these silos.

Leena Wakankar, HR Leader, ASK Group, brought in a different flavour to the discussion by talking about ‘Aha Moments!!’ She referred to a popular quote “Every leader has his or her leadership moments and every organization has its culture moments”.During an organizations life cycle there come a few occasions when its fundamentals are tested and existential questions asked, and in such situations, only the organizations who are able to hold on to their basic cultural elements stand strong. 

Mona Hakeem, Head HR Emerging Markets and Talent Acquisition COE at Sun Pharma (Ex-GE employee), shared her perspective on a very interesting fact about the three most influential group cultures in the US, which are supposed to be that of the US Army, Kindergarden and GE. That’s GE’s proud culture moment right there! GE is well known for creating and sustaining a culture of performance, which in turn develops and provides top-notch world class leaders for GE and other industries. It’s well known how this culture emanates from their CEO and top leaders.

Organisational culture building endeavour becomes challenging at every life cycle stage of a company, such as, during the start up phase, during the scale up phase or during its perpetuity. However the biggest challenge is posed when two companies are merging as a result of an merger or acquisition. Assimilating two distinct organisational cultures is more complex as compared to building and nurturing one culture. During most post-merger phases, the harder aspects related to business and financial systems such as; portfolio & footprint rationalization/integration, financial system integration usually get addressed right at the onset and with relative smoothness as compared to some of the softer aspects related to people and culture. Our experience and research suggests that companies are able to create more value by integrating the harder aspects and the softer aspects with equal attention and urgency. 

We are very proud about how we are successfully integrating yet evolving the cultural aspects of two giant organizations – SunPharma and Ranbaxy by understanding and retaining the DNA and strengths of both the organizations. We (the authors of this blog) conducted a test exercise of deploying the culture model of SpencerStuart to run a diagnostic to understand the cultural orientation of the two legacy organizations (SunPharma & Ranbaxy) and to chart out the cultural needs and parameters of the unified entity (SunPharma). We have been able to identify three focal pillars on which we build the culture of our company. One of them being the relentless drive and focus on results. Second critical parameter is caring for one and all, be it our own employees or our patients and partners. Thirdly we shall continue to focus on holistic learning and development to ensure that we stay competent and grow stronger with every passing day.

R. Mahalakshmi, Head Director Human Resources, India, Mondelez added to this by sharing her experiences of being a part of two very interesting mergers, first one being that of Ernst & Young and Anderson wherein the two firms varied a lot in their consulting approach, clientele and employee base and the second that of Cadbury and Kraft and now Mondelez where in there has been a key shift from a definitive focus on being a caring organization to one being extremely focussed on results. 

Nathan S V, Chief Human Resources Officer, Deloitte India, also shared his valuable perspectives and gave a very good example of Deloitte. Deloitte is globally composed of 70+ different entities and the way they have managed to amalgamate the cultural aspects of each of these and yet maintain a distinctive Deloitte way of doing things. The way they go about doing this is by focusing on investing in learning. Learning for Deloitte is a major culture building anchor. How leaders as teachers focus on creating a learning culture and example of the Deloitte University and its role in building a organisational culture were terrific examples.

There is much discussion happening on the importance of building, renewing and evolving organisational culture and its direct correlation to business results. There is now a growing realization that culture is one of the biggest differentiators between organizations and almost as critical for attracting and retaining the right talent as their products or services are for winning customers. The question that we pose to our readers is, ‘how and when will we be able to understand the science and art behind organisational culture and make it a part of our strategic HR agenda and more importantly a business priority?”

In conclusion, we say that, “Free food, getting pets to work, casual dressing, working from home etc are often seen by many as important symbols of an organisations culture and its attractiveness. In our opinion its the icing and not the cake. The culture cake consists of solid fundamentals such as ethical and value based leadership, transparency and fairness, equal oppurtunities, socially responsible thinking/values/behaviors, environmentally sustainable actions and above all respect for human beings without discrimination. Once the cake is baked nice and solid the icing will make it even more attractive.”


“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

Leadership is “The” Lead Factor” Rest are all Lag Factors

Narisho & Nashipae.jpg

Pic Details: Copyright @YashMahadikPhotography. Two Lionesses, Nashipae and Narisho of the Enokoyani pride emerging from the bush after their afternoon rest. Nashipae means attractive and a beautiful lady and Narisho means a skilled and ferocious huntress. Their names are given to them coz that’s what they are. These two were were protecting their seven cubs from a lion war that was on in Maasai Mara for their Pride and territory take over and hence had broken away from their pride. This image was created on 24th August, 2016 at 4.31 pm local time. Shot with my #Canon1DXMarkII Lens Canon f2.8 70-200mm @110mm f5.6, ISO 400, WB – Auto, 1/400s, Handheld shot, Zone cluster focus on AI Servo mode. For more details and images from the wild visit @yashmahadikphotography

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in the wild observing, understanding and photographing wildlife. I have learnt many valuable lessons from mother nature. One for example is about Lions. The Lion may be “The King of The Jungle” but it’s the Lioness who is “the True Leader”. The Lion is big, masculine, roars loudly and plays a very important role in protecting its pride and its territory and is called the King of the jungle. However, the Lioness plays even a more important role which includes hunting for the pride to feed it, raise the cubs successfully (especially with very high mortality rate for lion cubs in the wild), methodically coach and train the future lions and make them adept for staying at the top of the food chain. Lioness are the ones who keep and grow the pride and ensure its perpetuity. Hence it’s not just the Lion who is the King or is more important, but it’s the Lioness who is equally if not more important to its pride. I give this analogy of Lions not because of its gender traits but to tell a story of hierarchy and its relative importance to leadership.

Similarly in an organisation it’s just not the CEO but it’s the CXOs and leaders at the middle of the pyramid that are crucial and important to organisations success and perpetuity. 

If engagement, performance, culture, values pertaining to an organisation and it’s workforce are an outcome (also known as lag factors) then leadership is the most important lead factor. There is a lot of wisdom shared on how to develop and grow leadership in large enterprises and many inspiring examples come from the armed forces too. In my perspective and experience the essentials of leadership to become an effective lead factor within an organisation are as follows:

1) Define:

As an organisation clearly define your leadership framework. Framework consisting of – Values, Competencies and Behaviours that you expect you leaders to imbibe, role model and develop themselves and in others.

2) Assess and Build:

First help leaders assess their capabilities and styles and identify gaps. Use validated assessment techniques and experts – avoid a home-made and untested remedy when it comes to leadership assessments.

Then, start to shape, influence, build and develop leadership competencies and capabilities from the top. CEO and CXO group should be totally aligned and committed to role-modelling and living them.

I would emphasise more on “shaping” and “influencing” by ways of coaching as compared to the traditional class room training methods to build leadership competencies and capabilities. Please remember, people are cast into unique and diverse moulds depending on the background of their upbringing and that’s mostly reflected in their style preferences. Never try to break and re-mould people, instead shape, influence and help them understand the effect of their behaviour on others. Educate them on how they should  best flex their style depending on the situation. Remember diversity of leadership traits and styles can be a strength. Don’t allow the CEO to start cloning people to match or look like his DNA.

3) Cascade Leadership building:

Most organisations in my opinion make the mistake of focussing their development effort only at CEO, CXO and their direct reports level (the top of the pyramid). Some call it their “top 100″ and other ‘top 300” depending on the size of their organisation. I have said it in point no.1 that top down approach is important but don’t restrict your leadership development to the top of the pyramid.

When it comes to leadership, “the fortune is at the middle of the pyramid” and I say this, coz of two main reasons:

a) Leaders at the middle level of an organisation have the maxim performance and productivity impact on people whom they lead and influence.

b) Middle level leaders are the pipeline of the future leaders of any organisation and they need to be disproportionately invested into.

In addition to the above, other important things to consider whilst you build leadership to be the powerful lead factor include as follows:

  1. Make sure the performance and rewards in your organisation are equally balanced on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the results. Many organisation recognise and reward their people on parameter that are more biased towards the what (High Sales numbers, low-cost of operations, brand ratings, etc) and nothing wrong in that. But giving equal weightage to how these results were delivered (compliance to standards and laws, by being ethical and honest, by coaching and developing people) is very important. Top-notch organisation always focus equally on the “What” and “How” the results were delivered.
  2. Lessons on leadership from armed forces are valuable and inspiring and there is a lot to learn from them. But, remember that the context and rules of the game in the Army and a Corporate organisation are very different and hence not every leadership capability and its context can be applied as it is. May be a separate blog later on this topic!!
  3. Dont overwhelm early in career leaders by expecting them to act and deliver like highly evolved senior leaders. Let them make mistakes, learn and evolve as leaders with their original style.
  4. Coaching and creating a culture of learning for leaders by action-learning is key. Traditional classroom training doesn’t teach corporate leaders much. The slum-dog millionnaire learning style is crucial.
  5. Attitude, character and thinking ability differentiates good leaders from others. Skills and capabilities as a business manager become threshold. After a point skills and capabilites do not differentiate leaders to be effective. Its attitude and charachter of the leader which comprises of many things such as honesty, ethics, sensitivity to people and cultures, ability to develop and grow more leaders, to be a life long learner, etc, etc.

We assess, hire and develop leaders based on their experience, skills and capabilities with such little focus on knowing their attitude, character and thinking ability. Hope there is better balance in every organisation on this front.

True Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders – J Sakiya Sandfifer

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

Windmills

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

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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational_culture

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 http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/05/what-is-organizational-culture/

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 http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/05/six-components-of-culture/

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 http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/01/three-steps-to-a-high-performa/

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 http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/12/what-great-companies-know-abou/

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 http://t.co/5wkbbaou2G

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 http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/06/culture-cycle-the-unseen-force/