Monce Abraham

Archive for the ‘Building Culture’ Category

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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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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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.

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

In Branding, Building Culture, Management, Self Awareness on December 4, 2011 at 22:40

 

“Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade – with reason, not force, as their final arbiter – it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability – and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. “

It’s crazy when I look back and realize that it has been almost a year since I read this book that has made such a remarkable impact on my life, and altogether altered my expectations from the books I have read over the years – ‘Atlas Shrugged’ for you!

Newton’s 3rd law (The easiest one to remember whilst back in school!) reads:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction“.

Whilst this is one of the earliest theories in action we are taught as small kids, as we grow older, we hear the world preaching ‘work hard’, ‘love unconditionally’, ‘do X’, ‘do Y’ and ‘yes, please make it a point to do Z too’, but Don’t Expect Anything In Return!

Going back to the experience of learning from those 2-3 months that were spent reading and soaking in the epic that Ayn Rand penned; I find that there were 2 sections from the book in particular which held me in trance, and which made me lose sense of time, hunger and sleep whilst I was busy trying to understand what the pages conveyed, and then some more.

Having finally found some time to revisit my blog, I reproduce below the first of the 2 sections from ‘Atlas Shrugged’ that will hopefully resonate with your being too if you have read and tried to understand all that this book stands for.

May nothing stop you, and may the Force be with you… guiding and enriching you as you find your purpose… and as you keep learning… and growing.

All said and done: Work hard, Be crazy in Love, ‘Do’ all that you are born to do… but with an end goal in sight and a purpose.

For what you bring to the world’s table… You deserve all that the world has to offer, and then some more.

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? )
 

 

Francisco’s Money Speech from ‘Atlas Shrugged’

 
Rearden heard Bertram Scudder, outside the group, say to a girl who made some sound of indignation, “Don’t let him disturb you. You know, money is the root of all evil – and he’s the typical product of money.”

Rearden did not think that Francisco could have heard it, but he saw Francisco turning to them with a gravely courteous smile.

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Aconia.

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Inclusiveness: Doing well while doing Good

In Branding, Building Culture, CSR, Management on December 8, 2010 at 23:44

 
Happened to watch this video sometime back. (One of the few good things in favour of spending long hours, days… and months on FaceBook!)

 
It got me worked up enough to tweet about this the entire day that followed, ‘tweeting’ way beyond human limits!

At last count, I had managed to pull some 400+ odd tweets; and spread the video on FaceBook (FB) like fire.

Result: Some 15+ odd friends in my FB network shared it within the next day,  with approx 4-5 comments on an average, and quite a few likes on the shared link.  I could not track beyond that, but I did get this gut feeling that the message would make its way through my 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections (refer Human Web) within that week itself.

Almost a year back, I remember logging onto the ‘Zen Garden’ section by Subroto Bagchi,and reading this interview: In Conversation with Patu Keswani (Founder, Lemon Tree Hotels) – Forbes India Felt good to know about the 4% guys he had figured into his scheme of things for Lemon Tree.

If you read the article closely: “Guiding Principles: It’s very simple equation — my job is to take care of the employees, the employees’ job is to take care of the guests and guests would then take care of the returns” makes for good business sense. But does the same apply when you factor in Inclusiveness, with people with special needs forming part of your team?

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IIT to remove ceiling fans to curb suicides!!

In Building Culture, Management, People Management on November 30, 2010 at 21:27

Tripped on this article today morning: IIT to remove ceiling fans to curb suicides… and yes, it got me thinking for all the wrong reasons!The prominent thought on my mind was not about the proposed solution but whether the ‘right’ issue was being addressed at all?

Curb the cause, not just the how!

I believe that they should think of nipping the problem right at the roots.

Treat the causes of depression by building more approachable counselling points – helpful senior students who can be reached etc. (Counsellors, Faculty might come across as a bit intimidating).
Build myths, legends of alumni/ current senior students who scored low at first, but went on to do well later in studies and in life; Positive reinforcements that they were good enough to crack the damn entrance exam etc.

Spreading such stories can be done at the College Canteens, Mess, Other joints; where the ‘Cooler’ Faculty & Students hang out.

I have always observed that when you make something a life-and-death issue, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the pressure increases… and yes, the reverse holds just as true!

A major part boils down to creating an environment where there might be issues, but not grave enough to give suicide a thought.
* and having read ‘ The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell’ about suicides… it might be even counter-productive to focus on suicides than working on how to create a less stressful environment… ! *
p.s.: Not really important at the end of it all, but if am not wrong, pedestal fans cost more than the ceiling fans… !

Cheers, Monce

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