Month: February 2012

Peter’s principle – rising to the level of incompetency – does it apply to organisations as well?

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Anyone who has studied management would have heard/read about the “peter’s principle”. Simplisitically speaking, it states that “everyone rises to their level of incompetence”. Let me explain – in most organisations employees are promoted and given additional responsibility till they reach a position where they are (atleast fairly) incompetent. Obviously that’s (their level of incompetence is) the highest they rise in that organisation. It is one of the few management principles that are based on the harsh realities of everyday life and can be seen in many organizations across geographies and industries. Actually it applies in non-corporate settings as well – for example a female (say rakhi sawant) who sizzles in a item number is at times given a lead role in a movie – a level of incompetency – and the result is a movie like “budha marr gaya” (let me just say that it was disasterous, pls don’t watch it if you want to maintain your sanity).
Anyways, what I am trying to figure out today is – does the peter’s principle apply to organizations as well. My answer is that yes it does. Obviously given the size and scale of organisations it is less perceptible. Also when it happens we give the failure/ incompetence more jazzy names – lack of planning, execution failure etc. But sometimes if we were to look closely it is a clear case of peter’s principle. Let me elaborate.
Just like employees start at lower levels in a job that they are trained/ have skills to do, organizations also start by developing products for the markets that they broadly understand and have the products and servicers to cater to. As long as the emplyee and the organisation work hard they tend to be fairly successful in their endeavors. The tricky part comes when the employee or organisation decide to take up responsibilities that they are not fully equiped to handle. My argument is that after the early success, complacency tends to creep into organisations (just like it happens in the case of employees and their managers). Organisations also refuse to consider their skillset and capabilities and decide to take on challenges that they are not well equiped to handle. Their belief is that they’ll manage to continue doing well just because they had done well earlier. They do not consider the changes in the situations or if they possess the right set of skills to meet the new set of challenges. This is analogous to the situation of employee who rises to its level of incompetency. Remember the rakhi sawant example that I mentioned earlier.

How do organisations deal with the peter’s principle situation? Unlike individuals, organisations – by virtue of their size and resources- are better placed to handle with this situation. The first response of most organisations faced with this type of situation is to try and push their existing management and employees to acquire additional skills to meet new set of challenges. The tricky bit is that sometimes acquiring these additional skills/competencies would significantly change the entire cultural fabric/style of working of the organisation. Which leads to its own set of complexities for the organisation to manage. In many situations it implies that the organisation not only fails in meeting the new set of challenges but also starts to struggle in the markets where it was quite successful. When viewed externally, thus whole phenomenon of initial success followed by a struggle is sometimes mis-interpreted as “beginners luck”, but on closer inspection, in many instances, it is very simply a result of the organisation’s desire to grow too fast, too soon.

Another response to the peter’s principle situation for an organisation could also be that it admits that it is not prepared for the new set of challenges and it backtracks. This is obviously easier set than done and requires a very strong management team to admit to this. The organisation can then work on its core competencies and strengthen its position in the markets that it is well equiped to serve. Once the organisation sufficiently grows and becomes a market leader in those markets, it can go in for strategic acquisitions to expand into newer markets. The advantage with this approach is that old departments of the organisation can continue to focus on the work that they have been doing and the newly acquired unit can start working on meeting the new set of challenges. The older departments and new unit must work independently to ensure that they’re focused on their respective tasks. Now this approach ensures that regardless of the success or failure in the new markets, the organisation atleast continues to prosper in their estabhlished markets.

Many organisations the world over have started adopting the second approach for their growth. I can’t say for sure (in absence of adequate research/literature) but I believe that many organisations would have first burnt their hands by following the first approach and then ultimately (sometimes a bit grudgingly) realised that the second approach is the much better way of going about things. So going back to the application of peter’s principle on organisation, my belief is that just like individuals it also applies to the organisations. THis situation is tricky for small organisations but many large organisations are able to recover by following the second approach discussed above to avoid disasters like rakhi sawant starrer “buddha marr gaya” 😉

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saif ali khan beats up iqbal sharma at wasabi restaurant … or did he???

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The truth is out. Saif has not really beaten up a guy called iqbal sharma and a senior citizen who identifies himself as “patel”. Actually the video footage of the restaurant clearly shows that it was not saif but kareena and amrita arora who had beaten up the chaps.

Courtesy modern technology, commonly used by media people to catch unsuspecting politicians and shady boyfriends who like to record their girlfriends, we now know what had actually transpired in the hotel. It’s all very simple really. The two chaps were enjoying their dinner and discussing the new avenues of collaboration between south africa and india. Things were going on quite well really – they had more or less finalized the plans to get richard levi to sell (oops donate) his fastest century in international T20 to sachin tendulkar so that poor sachin gets to his 100th hundred, before he turns hundred. Anyways, after their successful discussion with levi, they turned to arts and music and the discussion turned to the recent super hit -why this kolavari di?

That was the fateful point that turned the “family movie” to “action thriller”. So that’s when the chaps realized saif and kareena getting cozy and the the logical question came out of their mouth – why this patao di??? – what they really meant was that was it really a saif(safe) choice on kareena’s part?

Kareena apparantly heard this and swung her arm just like bhajji did in front of symmo. Now kareena is no longer a size zero and her dhai kilo ka haath turned out to be quite devastating. Also, it was unfortunate that these chaps were bigger fans of malaika (who was also present there), they made it clear that if they were to be beaten up (read spanked) for their impoliteness, it should be done by malaika. Imagine they would have gone to south africa and sang that “munni badnaam huyi humein spank karr kay”. But alas, kareena was not willing to listen and she swung her hand just like sehwag swung his bat on the wide 2nd ball of the recent ODI. And just like sehwag was caught at the third man by cola shakira (or was it a chap called kulasekara), heavy ole kareena was caught by the camera.

Not to be undone, saif did what he does best – he excelled in this multi starrer action drama. He did an Omkara and decided to take full responsibility of beating up folks – to kareena he said that he’s just protecting her (as if she needs any protection!), to the chaps he siad that its better for their reputation that they were to say that they were atleast beaten up by him. And ofcourse for him, it all sounded just perfect – srk has anyways set a trend for heros to beat up other “supposedly high profile, but actually unknown” folks. Plus saif needs to prove to his critics that he can deliver a “solo hit” before “agent vinod” is released.

But alas, the hidden camera has let out a secret, saif needs to wait for his solo hit, just like sachin is waiting for his 100th hundred. Life is indeed tough for the dearies … Boo hoo…

Angry young men (and women)!!!

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What’s the deal with folks (myself included to some extent) these days, why the hell are we so angry? – look I am already angry thinking about why are folks so angry. How ironic!

Thinking about our lives and times, everything (well, almost everything) seems to be getting shorter – our attention spans, our relationships, our anger control fuse, our ability to tolerate others and I would argue that even our thoughts. Coming to think of it even the movies are getting shorter. It almost seems as if we want it all fattafat. Now we want instant gratification – eat fast food, listen to rap music, want quick recognition/promotions – everything we want jaldi jaldi. As if the deadline for everything was yesterday!!!

So what if we want everything fast fast, someone might argue, what’s the problem? We want more out of our lives and we want to achieve and do in the shortest time possible. Well according to me the problem is that we have started doing more things and enjoying less. We want to travel 5 countries in 3 days – take 100 pictures and upload them all to facebook to show others look how good our life is / look what all we have done or seen. It is almost like we have a long checklist of “to dos” and we’re ticking off stuff of it. It’s almost becoming mechanical I think. This urge to achieve more and more and to show that we’re better than others is really not taking us anywhere. Reminds me of a conversation with a dear friend where I was explaining her the same thing and telling her than I shall compete with anybody else on my own terms. Maybe money or job designation is not a priority for me, so why should I compete on those things. Anyways I digress. Let me come back to the point. Why do we want to do more and more with less enjoyment, won’t it be better if we did less but enjoyed more. This need to do/achieve more in less time is manifesting itself in the short temper of folks. We are becoming intolerant of folks if they are stopping us mildly hindering our way. Like today a guy started shouting just because he was dropped 50 meters from where he wanted to get down…

But isn’t it ironic that the mankind (and ofcourse womenkind 😉 ) is running around madly even though we have come a long way since the cave man (and women) days. Now we have the technology to anyways do more in less time – so technically we should have had more time for leisure. The economist in me tells me that this should be the case unless ofcourse rate of technological advances is slower than the depletion of resources trying to feed the ever increasing population. Obviously if we feel that we only have enough resources to meet few folks’ requirements then everyone would be hyper competitive and aim to be among those few elite folks. But is it really the case, I am not sure but I don’t really think so.
I think we’re all brought up with the saying that “doing nothing” is a waste of time. I think it’s about time we stop promoting this rubbish. It’s about time that we start living our lives not like machines but like evolved humans and allow technology to make our life easier and give us more leisure time. Its about time we start observing and appreciating the beauty and diversity of nature and humans around us. It’s only possible if we remove ourselves from the mad rush of the world and become calmer human beings. Coming to think about it, we must be foolish to think that others have time to see that we are doing better than them. They don’t have time for themselves, let alone for anybody else. So what’s the point of winning the rat race anyways – who cares!!!.

So let’s slow down a bit and live life on our own terms. And appreciate everything around us. For me the first step is to stop blogging/fb ing/tweeting while travelling in an auto 😉

But for god’s sake let’s relax a bit and be less angry. It’ll be good for all concerned.

Jerky Boys come out to play

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Match becomes fun when jerky boys come out to play
All the players say “Let’s see how long they stay”
Through every play, their foolishness shines out bright as a sunny day
The big boys sit back and laugh night and day

Jumping and panicking dear ole jerky boys, don’t you know
Even the big boys are not crystal clear as snow
Realizing that you need to be sensible and polite is just basic, as you should have known
Key to play the game is to first understand the existing dynamics, weren’t you told
You may not think we’re solid gold but you should have known that we’re silver for sure 😉

Reforming indian (and global) education system … do our kids need to study everything that they’re taught in schools and colleges

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Today a small incident made me think about our education system (and I am sure the analysis can be extended to education systems of other countries as well!). I happen to overhear a discussion between a girl and a guy who I believe are studying in one of the top business schools of india (if not the world). The girl, a fairly attractive looking female, was asking the guy how much she needs to get in a subject to raise her cgpa to a particular level. Fairly innocent question, but somehow my reaction was that if she can’t calculate that herself than the chances of her reaching her target cgpa are fairly remote (unless ofcourse she gets some smart people in her group and piggybacks on them to get a high cgpa – anybody who’s studied in a bschool will understand what I am saying. For others – bschool teaches you to be a good politician/teamworker. Like in life, there are ways to excel in bschool, by being friends with the right people at the right time).

So my initial reaction was to bemoan the state of affairs at bschools and the falling standards of education. But then it also got me thinking about the overall education and the purpose it serves in our current lives. And I actually reached a conclusion that if we were to think objectively we don’t really need to study for so many years – many some people need to, but clearly not most of us. Imagine if the education ministry realizes it (if they read this humble blog – which I very much doubt, even my friends and family don’t read it!!!) then it could have significant implications on everyone’s life.

My proposal is that everybody must be taught basic things – how to read, write, do basic maths – all of those things I think everybody needs in their lives. But even with that we need to be flexible. In the world of autocorrect/spell check option in MS word, we need not be that strict about spellings. Even grammer can be relaxed a bit given the way we communicate over messengers/chat/facebook/twitter. Mathematics should be made more user friendly – what’s the need of remembering tables, formulas etc – in the world of MS excel and sophesticated calculaters, do we really need those. Reminds me of a discussion I had with a lady, this woman works in “knowledge” sector as a manager, however she did not even know how to calculate compound interest/ cagr. Her logic was that ofcourse she would not remember anything she studied over a decade ago!!!. She did/is doing very well without knowing even basic mathematics, even when the job requires atleast so much knowledge. If she can do well, I see no reason that kids with atleast understanding of basic formulas won’t do alright in life (mind you they need to know how to calculate compound interest – that’s basic as per my definition. Never mind that female!!!).

Now I am just being a realist when I say all of this. I was brought up in a very conservative education system and personally speaking I detest change, but now when I objectively think about it, there is atleast some merit these arguments. Why do non engineers need to understand advanced geometry or trignometry. Understanding the broad and basic principles of science is necessary I think, same goes for social studies – history, civics, geography and economics. Beyond the basics, the kids must learn only the stuff that they require in their future jobs or what they are really interested in learning (my assumption is that in most cases, what kids like to learn will determine their profession and hence they’ll anyways learn what they require in their jobs).

I have not done any detailed calculations but I believe that if we remove all the unnecessary bits from our syllabus, we can cut down on the hours spent on education by half. What are the implications –

1. Kids get more time to internalize stuff, they are not mindlessly taking in stuff and vomiting it out in exams. Hopefully they’ll learn, understand and remember the stuff that’ll be useful for them in life.
2. Kids get time to do other useful things – play outdoor games, read books, read poetry, sing, dance, play musical instruments, draw, paint, watch classic movies … – whatever they like to do. I am not saying that we’ll churn out musicians /artists / sportspersons as a result of it (we may if we focus on other things like training and infrastructure as well), but the least that we’ll achieve is that the next generation will have, as they say, “a well rounded personality” (no puns intended).
3. With the same infrastructure (teachers/schools/colleges) we should be educate more kids, now that we are only teaching relevant stuff. If not that, atleast the teachers should be able to devote much more time with the students. If we want, both of the above are probably possible.

So it does make sense to reform the education system to make it more realistic and much less demanding for the kids. The tricky part is that who’ll bell the cat. Most people in decision making authority are unlikely to implement such drastic and radical measures.

I’ll end this where I started – I think its a disgrace that students of some of our best bschools can’t do elementary maths. As someone told me recently, this “top” bschools also likes to admit sometimes not the smartest in the name of student diversity. Maybe it’s that and a one-off case or maybe it’s the stress of studying so many subjects. However, the conservative person in me felt that it was very poor on the part of this female, the schools that she’s studied in (including this bschool) and her teachers that she is incapable of doing simple maths. What a shame!!!

Promise Day Pledge – Thousands of IT Professionals promise to work hard

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In a shocking development, hundreds of thousands of indian IT professionals “promised” to work going forward on the “Promise Day”. The IT industry has always been well known for employees sitting on “bench” (it’s not a wooden bench, but being on bench means getting paid for being there rather than doing any work; a bit like actresses getting paid for attending a opening of a luxury brand store). But now on the sacred “promise day” it is learnt that the IT professionals got together and promised that they’ll work hard going forward. There are different theories going around for this shocking behavior.

The initial reaction of people who heard about this promise was that the chaps are drunk. Afterall it’s a saturday and after a late night party on friday, people can act nutty / started speaking rubbish. So it should not be taken seriously. But some eye witnesses sais that there were definitely some IT professionals who seemed to be in their senses and so this promise must be respected and taken seriously.

Some HR managers believe that this promise is just a fake promise before the appraisals. IT professionals are worried that like last few years, their managers and HR will cite tough economic conditions in western countries and will not give hikes or promotions. So they’ve decided to show their dedication and promise to work hard in return of good hikes. When a IT professional was told this point of view, he just laughed and became poetic and said –

Kehte hain try karte raho,har raste par hope hai,
aakhen aaj bhi uss kamine ko dhundtii hain, jisne kaha thaa IT mein aa jao jabardast scope hai

So clearly the lust for money is not behind this promise.

The managers in the industry are really worried because they clearly don’t have enough work to give. Plus their own workload will increase as now they’ll have to manage so many “working employees”. It’s definitely not the best time to be IT project manager!!!

The news has also reached the US and has caused significant tension to Mark Zuckerberg. He’s worried that this new development will significantly affect the valuation of facebook – a social networking website that had been growing largely due to “joblessness” of working IT professionals. An analytics firm has analyzed that 90 percent of all facebook posts originated from 2 categories of users –
1. Self obsessed girls who post their photos and silly status updates on the website.
2. IT professionals posting random thoughts/photos and poems

Plus 85% of all logins and likes were attributed to the IT professionals who like to stalk females who they never dared to talk to in real life. So with IT professionals, not being so jobless anymore, it is believed that facebook valuation could drop by 60 percent. Mark zuckerberg, however, has assured all investors not to worry. Some insiders mention that people in the company have already started work on a project called “workbook”.

With so much tension all over due to this promise, yours truely decided to find the inside story behind this promise. Based on some quite in-depth discussions (read friendly grilling) with some friends in the industry, I found out the following – as correctly pointed out the IT professionals are not driven by the lust for money. It might surprise many that they are actually more evolved beings who have progressed beyond basic needs of living organisms. The IT professionals are actually chasing love. It took 5-6 patiala pegs before which they confessed that for years they have been ignored by the attractive opposite sex. So with valentine’s day round they corner they decided to show their seriousness with a promise that no one expected, hoping that this will allow them to get a kiss on the upcoming kiss day and a date on the valentine’s day. They have even bribed shiv sena and RSS workers so that they are able to celebrate valentine’s day for the first time in their life.

So chaps that’s the truth, the poor (pun intended) IT professionals don’t want to make anybody’s life difficult. But as they say desperate times call for desperate measures, so they’ve decided to sacrifice their chill lifestyle for “love”.

TO any females reading this – please date the poor IT professionals, even if it is during this valentine’s day week…

Mandira Bedi – Next indian Prime minister?

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A day after Mr hassan became the president of maldives, there are rumors that Mandira bedi could become the next prime minister of india. For the uninformed, mr Hassan was the first tv anchor of maldives. Similarly, Ms bedi has also revolutionised the profession of anchoring in india. She was perhaps the first (atleast glamorous) female sports anchor in india. Now that counts for a lot doesn’t it. Who can forget the times when folks would pay more attention to the pre-match, lunch time / change of innings and post match shows than the match itself. Everybody felt happy (but not gay) regardless of whether india won or lost the match, such was her charm and screen presence.

Political parties are already worried about this phenomenon of tv anchors ruling the country. The situation is already quite bad for the poor netas who are invited for tv discussions and debates but are not allowed to complete a sentence. Not that completing a sentence matters to the politicians, but still, they are worried that soon the public will think that anchors’ lectures and speeches would make people believe that they can easily double up as politicians. Anyways tv anchors in india are a fair bit like politicians – they don’t have fixed opinions – one day they will say dhoni is the best thing to happen in indian cricket & a youth icon and in a few months they’ll say dhoni should be sacked. Tv anchors also uphold democratic process – decisions for even the most complicated issues are taken based on a democratic system – sms voting, Nice eh! So fundamentally they have all the qualifications to be our leaders and Mandira bedi has the charms to secure votes of men (they love her), women (they admire and immitate her, jealousy may be a factor with women but I am sure that can be managed) and children (err, sorry children don’t have much to do with her – but anyways they can’t vote, so they don’t matter much anyways!).

Actually the ruling party – the congress is quite worried about this development. There are also rumors that navjot singh sidhu will join mandira and together this team of jodi breakers will break the champion jodi of sonia and manmohan. I mean think about it – which jodi is louder? which jodi can crack shady jokes? which jodi is prettier? – I am sure that mandira – sidhu jodi can even win a election in the US, india is just a piece of cake for them.

Mandira’s prime ministership will also be important for international relations of india. Everybody knows that these days pretty women are doing very well in international politics – Hina rabbani, carla bruni (she’s not a politician but is not far from being one 😉 ), orly levy (from israel, photo below) or yingluck shinawala. I think its about time that india should get one pretty prime minister as well – no hard feelings manmohan singh, you’ve done a great job, but I hope you understand!!! It’s will be for the best of our country.

We can’t wait for a pretty lady from neighboring country to come again and again to visit us or a pretty women from neighborhood to be guest of honor at our republic day parade. Its about time that we get one of our own.

I think the omens are right and the winds of change are blowing. And the situation is ripe for mandira bedi to become the next prime minister of india. Leaving you all with a couple of pictures of mandira in a saree with india national colors and another with all the flags of different countries (apt for wearing to the united nations eh!)- after looking at these how can you vote for anyone else to become our next PM.