Monce Abraham

Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Taking a brief hiatus from Social Media.

In Management on January 1, 2017 at 08:30

Taking a brief hiatus from Social Media.

Take care, & keep shining… !

Hey – Share my Dabba, will you?!

In Branding, Building Culture, Buzz Marketing, CSR, Management, Marketing, Purpose, Strategy on May 11, 2013 at 21:59

 

Back in 2010, seemingly bored with lack of things to like on Facebook (no sarcasm there!) and with restless energy abound, I used to volunteer with non-profits on the weekends. More than a feel-good feeling, there was this sense of working on real problems within constraints and trying to come up with effective solutions which could help make us some headway, regardless of the constraints.

Restlessness was such that one time even when I was working full time with an NGO back in 2010, India Sponsor Foundation (ISF) – a Mother NGO funding grassroot NGOs, I also got ‘volunteering’ (Saturdays) with 1 of the 7 Partner organizations we were then funding. Now when I look back at it, it was like 5 days of work which I was committed to do, and then volunteering to put in a few more hours on the weekend with the 1 organization where I saw greater potential for change (compared to the other NGOs whom we were funding) – Thankfully they worked on Saturdays too and were able to accommodate me.

 

Later when I moved on from the NGO, I moved on from volunteering at the partner organization too.
Back on Facebook and spending countless productive hours surfing the pages (no sarcasm again!), I was introduced to an initiative where a group of young guys would gather together at one place, get good fresh food in bulk from one of the nearby Dhabas and then share the food with the less privileged. This sounded cool, and I decided to join in for the same.

Given the initiative aimed to share food including Khamiri Roti and Mutton Korma, it was sure to be the ‘One great meal’ of the week for the guys whom the initiative aimed to provide for. The initiative was not targeting the same people again and again, and was open to anyone (kids, women, men – young/old/differently abled) who did not have access to such food, but happened to be in the vicinity on that day.

We did this for a few weeks, and later when I happened to meet Mrs. Lekha Srivastava, Exec Director, ISF around that time, I mentioned that there was this initiative being undertaken by a few guys where we bought food in bulk and then gave it away. The first question she asked me was “Why are you paying for this? You should be tying up with the eateries so that you can help route/ distribute the excess food which remains, to the needy!”

 

For some reason, the question stayed with me, and the point came up repeatedly if and when I would be catching up with someone in the Hospitality industry, and the topic of excess food came up. Some of the points which came up from such discussions:
 

  1.  A single day’s leftover food from one five star hotel in a Metro is sufficient enough to feed at least 300 people – This was a statement from someone who was in the Hospitality industry and working with 5 star hotels!
  2. No hotel ever gives away leftover food for charity because of hygiene and safety being a major issue. It is straight away incinerated or dumped at common dumping places.
  3. When thinking across different food categories (Milk products are best avoided given out) and exploring possibilities wherein whether it was possible for the hotels have a partnership/ tie-up with other social organizations to take care of this, and wherein this network could then ensure that food reaches them in the right condition; the feedback was that it was not easy at all to keep this quantity of food safe till midnight or the next day.
  4. There are concerns around the food being delivered in the right condition, state and time. There was very much a possibility that it could make the hungry kids sick.
  5. There was the concern that some people might misuse this, and also look at it as a means to make money. So hotels try and play safe by not giving anyone a chance to say anything which might go against them.
  6. The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), which is into a lot of charitable deeds and events could help take such ideas forward – it all had to be coordinated though.

 

Now, from a consumer point of view, we have all had instances wherein we have consumed stuff over a couple of days (provided we keep them simply refrigerated until further use), and lived to tell the tale.

All said and done, every once in a while this would pop into my mind when I would be sitting in Cafe’s looking at the processed food, and wondering to self how much more time there was before one would have to dispose them off. Trying to think from putting yourself into the shoes of an entrepreneur who might be in the Hospitality Sector didn’t help things much either! This was until yesterday, when I tripped on this interesting video which seems to be going viral all over Social Media.

 

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Surviving the End of the World… and other adventures in 2012… !

In Education, Life Lessons, Management, Purpose, Self Awareness on January 4, 2013 at 07:57

 
Way past 21 Dec 2012, and we are all still here – Well, I guess this post is a timely one!
2012 has been one hellova crazy year for me personally; & I hope the past days, weeks and months have treated you just as well.

As we got into the rewind and review mode during the last few days of the year and as this New Year unfolds; I can’t help but feel grateful for the experiences and learning that the past year had to offer me.

2o12 – Well, it’s been the year I went from saying Hi to our Former President while wearing pyjamas and a tee shirt, to dozing off in between a meeting with the Founder & CEO of the current venture I am involved with; getting to speak with and learn from some of the most outstanding Indian thought leaders, to taking on 8km runs once a week. In between I also learnt to drive a car (well, had to do it someday), and got chased on an empty stretch by 3 miscreants on a motorbike, morning 2 AM.

Inside I feel good as to how the year treated me (caught up on a few good movies too – ‘Dark Knight Rises’ included); this whilst I can’t wait to take on, and experience what 2013 has to offer.

 
The Dark Knight Rises

Picture Credit: The Dark Knight Rises official website

 

Over to the Details…

 
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Our Strength is not for Hurting

In Building Culture, Education, Life Lessons, Purpose, Self Awareness on December 30, 2012 at 09:41

 

Though the year 2o12 had a lot to offer me personally, I can’t help but not go back to some not so happy personal incident(s); plus of course the plight of the 23 year old woman who was subjected to gangrape and subsequent inhuman torture at the hands of 6 individuals recently in the Capital. What happened afterwards in terms of protests, and the way the protest were handled by the government also threw up some unpleasant questions which needed answers, and which needed them fast.

Be you a student, entrepreneur, activist or leader (corporate/ government) who might happen to read this post;  I sincerely believe that we all as individuals, and a country, are capable of achieving much greater things. As we all condemn the act, and seek justice and fairness for such untoward incidents, let us also take a look inside and try to understand what makes individuals, who are not so much different from us in flesh and bone, commit such acts – and therein try to nip the issue at the bud.

A solution that might work in the long run (not saying it’s the fastest way to bring about change) is to create the right environment at the family level wherein we consciously seed out patriarchal/ matriarchal traits which differentiate between a boy and a girl  (one which gives privileges to one child more than the other, at different levels/ instances/ ages etc); treating the children equally in terms of love and care, and enabling both to find and pursue their greatness in thoughts, words and deeds – By doing this, we might, perhaps, be able to achieve an environment wherein more men respect women and look at them as fabulous individuals, just like themselves. In such an environment, more men should, and will, understand that when it comes from a woman – a ‘no’ means ‘NO’. (Below is a campaign which I had come across sometime back, and which shows how powerful the idea is in such an environment).

 

Men Can Stop Rape

Picture credit: My Strength Campaign (http://www.mystrength.org/)

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Broken Windows Theory – Taking a drive through Delhi, night 2 AM…

In Management, Self Awareness on November 23, 2012 at 06:04

 

If you happen to be one of those late night creatures on my FaceBook network who find it hard to sleep before 2/ 3 AM, chances are you would have tripped on the below post from me on 16th November morning 2:36 AM:

 

Click on image to enlarge

 

Well, it was a serious incident, but we were able to take care of it as a family. Given how our minds respond in a very limited fashion under such circumstances, all four of us were able to focus on four different activities and managed to arrive at our place unharmed whilst taking care of the needful.

Once home, we informed the district police on ‘1oo’ and also corresponded with a couple of officials from the district police station on phone. We also made it a point to reach out to the Police officials at more responsible positions (on mail), to ensure that those guys were caught and so that others would not have go through this kind of ordeal at their hands. Having waited for a few days, finally got the following mail from the Delhi Police Commissioner’s cell today morning:

 

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Jumping off Cliffs and Building your Wings on the Way Down

In Life Lessons, Management, Purpose, Self Awareness on August 1, 2012 at 10:57

Today somehow reminds me of my first para-sailing experience at the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Camp at Air Force Station, Tambaram (Tamil Nadu, India).

Back then, I was this 18 year old ‘kid’ who had decided to enroll with the NCC simply because they had told us that, as NCC cadets, we would get to do crazy adventurous stuff like rifle shooting, skeet shooting, parasailing, etc.  – Enough ammunition to get the pulse of any guy racing!

What they did not tell us – We would be put through a gruelling self-discipline learning over the next couple of years which included attending NCC training on weekends and annual camps where we would learn to march (or walk smartly, as they put it), run 7 laps of a ground 3 times the average football ground (at 5 in the morning!), and also do a whole lot of other stuff which would, ahem, build our character.

Running on the Runway - Extreme Right (strange how I actually looked lean back then!)

Why do I speak of this – Because I loved every moment of it! Strangely when I look back, I now realize that we were doing all the not-so-fun-disciplinary-stuff for the major part or almost 80% of our time spent in NCC activities but which made us able and up-to-task to take up the next 20% of mind-blowing experience that the annual camps had to offer us.

I remember, in particular, my first para-sailing experience – Our batch from college had assembled that evening at the grounds for the parasailing drill (the entire drill was to be on ground, and not water), and all of us were asked to strap on the harness one by one… and wait.

For most of us who had no idea how to go about the para-sailing, this meant that we had to keep running behind a jeep which held us by a thick rope, this with a para-sail strapped to our back, lift off to stay in the air for some 3 minutes, and then land on the ground from a height of 25 – 30 feet at the end of it.

Though I was ‘a bit’ enthusiastic about the entire experience, I did feel a bit unnerved at the thought of ‘plummeting to death’ on my way down, and managed to delay the experience by asking others to go ahead all evening – this till I was the only one left for the exercise! Having seen a few guys get bruised from the effort (or lack of it!) of not keeping on running before they were lifted off – in which case one is dragged by the jeep for a few seconds, and suffers bruises and cuts; I just strapped on my frail helmet while being assisted with knee pads (the knee pads hardly looked as if they could support my weight and save my knees should I ever be gloriously dragged on the runway, or on cheese for that matter!) and started to focus on what would help me survive the entire drill.

The instructions were simple:

  1. Run with the jeep.
  2. Once you are lifted off the ground, focus on keeping up with the peddling action up to a height of 10 feet, so that even if you were to get back on ground because of not strong enough winds, you would be in running motion and will not get dragged around by the jeep (very much a possibility given my generous built!)
  3. Once you have crossed 15 – 20 feet and reach a stable height, signal whether you are comfortable: (a) If Comfortable – Release grip from harness and stretch hands wide open once, then get back to hold the harness, (b) If Uncomfortable – Cross and open legs a couple of times.
  4. On your way down when being lowered, ensure you bring together your body such that your line of sight is in aligment with your knees and forefoot.
  5. Land gently while keeping balance.

SOUNDS EASY, RIGHT!

Up, up... and...

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The curious case of Outliers & the Pursuit of Excellence – II

In Education, Life Lessons, Management, Purpose on February 7, 2012 at 17:33

 

“School ke liye fees thodi lagti hain, uniform lagta hain… uniform… !”

– Aamir Khan, in the movie ‘3 Idiots’ (2009)

 
If you happened to be in India in the year 2oo9 and like to watch movies that do not require you to switch your brains off, chances are that you might have watched the movie ‘3 Idiots’. One of the best things that I liked about the movie was the idea about how education ought to be – all learning that is in sync with your passion, the rest being details.

As mentioned earlier, when reading a book like Outliers, one starts to wonder whether the same principles that are applicable for individuals to reach Point B from Point A, are also applicable to organizations including businesses, schools and colleges at large.

Just recently, one of my former teachers from school, Ms. Diana Charles (fellow Columbans would fondly remember her as the person who inducted us into the Spelling Bee) shared a link on her FaceBook wall: What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, which speaks about how the Finnish schools are achieving excellence in schools. Though the article focuses on 2-3 few key points, the one idea that really caught my imagination was  the point that the Finnish schools were achieving great results by focusing on ‘equality’ more than excellence.
 

 
It was with a similar idea in mind that I had met up the co-founders of a social organization in early 2010. The team was working on the education of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, and were doing this on the weekends from within St. Columba’s School (SCS), the classrooms being provided for free by the school towards this. The idea discussed was a simple one – to make efficient use of the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act‘, bearing in mind that just making the ‘right’ compulsory was not going to solve the problems. If you think about it, there is more to making the ‘right’ work than putting a child in a great school and hoping that we have solved the education problem. The usual hindrances being how the transition works out for the kid, and as to how he/ she adjusts to the new setup.
 
Factors that need to be taken into account
 
Factors include – the books, school bag, lunch (‘Stanley ka Dabba’ anyone?) , stationary, and last but not the least – the uniform*. Easier said than done though, because the list adds up to minimum INR 1,000, for a family whose monthly income would be in the range of INR 2200 – 3000 (or less).

(The uniform, in my opinion, is amongst the greatest levellers out there. It brings everyone under one roof, fosters a sense of brotherhood, takes out most diversity issues and gives all kids a level playing field – for all you know: kids, teachers and even your school canteen guy thin slices students on a daily basis, but most are not aware of it at a conscious level).

Whilst I toyed with a few ideas as to how the school could leverage and lend support to this initiative by spending least money and effort, I also got teaching the kids at the social org on weekends  (standards 2 to 5) during my free time to get an idea about their potential. My observations, in brief, were as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

The Curious Case of ‘Outliers’ & the Pursuit of Excellence – I

In Building Culture, Management, Marketing, People Management, Self Awareness, Strategy on January 16, 2012 at 22:23

 
Having your flight delayed by a couple of hours can ‘sometimes’ truly be a blessing in disguise. A couple of weeks ago, on my way back home after vacations and when faced with this predicament, I did what I usually don’t do to counter these kind of situations – buy a book!

Those of you who know me are well aware that I usually do not buy books, for the simple reason that most of the times it’s just skim reading, going through the book (fiction/ non-fiction/ other classifications out there in the universe) and taking away 2-3 key concepts that stay with me. I might return to revisit a few concepts now and then, but am not exactly in love with the idea of ‘rereading’ books.

To cut a long-story short, I managed my way into the inhouse (or is it in-airport?!) bookstore, and the first book that caught my eye also happened to be the one I bought – The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  It had been recommended a few times on some LinkedIn forums and by some of my peers; plus having read Malcolm’s earlier work ‘The Tipping Point’ in 2011, it seemed like a good enough choice.

The brilliant book that Outliers is, when one starts thinking of the theories given therein,  it opens up a world of possibilities in terms of their applications to the real world. Taking forward some of the learning, in this post I intend to share what most people know works beautifully in teams, but never knew why – Having a flat organization structure and the payoffs of being approachable.

The Power Distance Index (PDI)

 
So what would your reaction be if Malcolm Gladwell told you that there was a ‘direct’ correlation between the number of plane crashes and the place from where the pilots belonged. Sounds crazy right? Wrong. Read more on this by clicking here.

A section of Outliers builds on the concept of the ‘Power Distance Index’ (PDI) which is an interesting theory (amongst the 6 Dimensions of national culture) put forth by Geert Hofstede, and which looks at how much a culture values hierarchical relationships and how individuals within that culture interact with authority. The implications of PDI when applied to plane crashes are powerful enough to make you stop reading midway and think as to how this augurs for the different businesses across the globe.

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Getting the best from others: Where does one start? – II (The Workforce ‘Three Quadrant Quandary’)

In Building Culture, Management, People Management, Strategy on January 3, 2012 at 22:15

 
Almost a year back I had written a post on “Getting the best from your team: Where does one start? – I” where I had explored a couple of ideas that a startup had applied towards building a great motivated team.

The year 2011 has been a great one in terms of meeting different people and getting to learn a lot via interaction as well as via plain ol’ observation. Just a couple of weeks back, whilst I had the fabulous opportunity to interact with Tan Yinglan, and we all were in Bengaluru along with a colleague’s friends from the city, the banter drifted to the topic of performance appraisals at a well known global IT firm – easier said than done!

During the 5 minutes or so that the group was discussing the general concerns of people & performance in huge organizations, my mind drifted back to something I had learned during the first 6 months of my work life, and which I have now fondly named “The Workforce ‘Three Quadrant Quandary’.”
 

The Workforce ‘Three Quadrant Quandary’

 
This started out as a funny concept which I observed whilst I had just started working right out of college, but one which has started making more and more sense over the years. Whilst it is ‘relatively easier’ to gauge and manage people strengths and weaknesses when working in smaller organizations, it becomes more and more complex as the organization scales up; more so when we start thinking of organizations where we have 500-1000+ employees (we have a good number of firms flaunting these kind of numbers in their workforce).

In an organization, people can generally be classified under the following quadrants:

The Workforce ‘Three Quadrant Quandary’
For ease of understanding, +1 indicates a positive display of the characteristic (Knowhow/ Showhow) whereas 0 denotes a lack of the same.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Quad I: +1 Knowhow, +1 Showhow

These are the visible S.T.A.R.S. in your organization. They know the work, and (a) they are smart enough to let others know about their genuine efforts or (b) they are lucky enough to be recognized for their genuine efforts.

These are the ones who will keep taking your organization to the next level(s) as long as you keep providing them with right opportunities that help them grow, and which gives them a sense of achievement. Work on them, groom them for the next level (as they become intrapreneurs)… and needless to say, please make it a point to make sure you put in your efforts to retain them!

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Atlas Shrugged – Answers to Questions you never knew existed, deep inside your being – II

In Branding, Building Culture, Management, Self Awareness on December 20, 2011 at 10:06

 

“In the old days, it used to be said that the Twentieth Century Motor trademark was as good as the karat mark on gold. I don’t know what it was that the Starnes heirs thought, if they thought at all, but I suppose that like all social planners and like savages, they thought that this trademark was a magic stamp which did the trick by some sort of voodoo power and that it would keep them rich, as it had kept their father. Well, when our customers began to see that we never delivered an order on time and never put out a motor that didn’t have something wrong with it – the magic stamp began to work the other way around: people wouldn’t take a motor as a gift, if it was marked Twentieth Century. And it came to where our only customers were men who never paid and never meant to pay their bills. But Gerald Starnes, doped by his own publicity, got huffy and went around, with an air of moral superiority, demanding that businessmen place orders with us, not because our motors were good, but because we needed the orders so badly.”


Having published the first of the two sections from Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) that inspired me, it was only appropriate that my next post be about the second section from this epic of a book, that has left such a deep impression on me.

To be honest, it was very difficult for me to go through this part of the book the first time around; for the sole reason that the time spent reading this section was one where I was totally repulsed by the description given in the pages.

Now one might say that ‘repulse’ is too strong a word to be used in the context of a particular section of a book. Alas, that was the exact emotion that I experienced while going deeper into the pages. When one starts imagining the kind of transition that envelopes an organization, where people outdo each other to do the worst they can, hiding their own ability and… staking their claim on other’s; the plot leaves a huge lump in one’s throat which stays there, much to his/ her discomfort. Any system that rewards non-performers at the cost of performers is bound to fail, or develop cracks from within, sooner or later; should we consider a time period of 5 yrs, or one which spans 50. 

Not to take anything away from the books and articles that I have read (and learnt from) over the years, but, this section taught me more about the essence of people management and understanding and managing (the right kind of) people’s expectations in the 2 days that were spent reading this section, than all the time I had spent reading about Reward, Recognition and Training (Winning anyone?!) and rest all jazz that HBR and other fabulous (albeit random!) sources line up in my mailbox every day around noon or later.

Of all the things that I am grateful for, the one thing that this section helped me with most, was to learn to Let Go…  of learning (laying to rest parts of myself – perceivably good or harmful, that do not serve me in the long run), situations and people.

Trust you too will find something relevant to take back from this section, each and every time you read this. 

p.s.: Feel free to bookmark, for all those times you may wish to revisit this.

Cheers, Monce

(An answer that still eludes me: How did Ayn Rand know all that she did? And what experiences did she undergo to learn the same? )
 

 

The Story of The Twentieth Century Motor Company from ‘Atlas Shrugged’

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