Where West meets East..

I love my country. India is the biggest and the most vibrant democracy in the world. We may not have the best physical infrastructure in the world but we have the best emotional quotient. We care for our people and we care for the world. “Vasudeva Kuthambakkam” is a old Sanskrit saying. It means the world is one family. We believe in this tenet and try our best to live it every day in our thought and behaviour.

The other day I was flying down from Mumbai to Chennai. It was from the west coast of India to the east coast. The state where I currently live and work is on the west coast. The place where I was born and bought up is on the east. The language they speak and the culture of the two states are completely different. The type of dress they wear and the customs and traditions are also quite varied. But, what is common is our emotional connect. We live and breathe as Indians.

Today the western civilisation has invaded us. We have got the best of technological advancement from the west. We have learnt the traditions from the East and have blended the west to the east to get the best. We need to be proud of our past and confident about our future. We need to learn the best from the west and leave the traditions of the east to continue to thrive in our country so that we get the best of both the worlds.

We have 29 states in India and each has its unique culture. We have hundreds of languages and dialects. While Hindi and English is spoken and understood across the country, we do not have any problem in living or dealing with each other wherever we live. The reason behind this in my view is because by heart we are an Indian. We are brought up with a tolerant attitude to life and living.

We need to continue to learn and grow this tolerance in us. No religion, caste, creed or community should create barriers between us. While vested interests in society may intrude into our culture, we have a responsibility to preserve it and promote it for the future generations. We cannot afford the evil forces of society to impinge on the fabric of our cultural society.

We have to be proud of the past, while we create a future of our choice. We have adapt and adopt the best of technological advancement without compromising on our values or ethics. We have to embed our culture in our younger generations. In my view culture is like the blood in the body. No foreign organism can destroy the blood as long it is pure and has the immunity to fight all external forces.

We need to remember the best traditions of the past while we embrace the best technology for the future. Both need to coexist. We need to remember that our culture is the bedrock of our society. It is the foundation of our democracy. It is the bloodline of our society. We should neither allow our culture to degrade nor dilute due to the invasion of technology.

We have a rich tradition of science in our country. We have to embrace science for the betterment of mankind. But we need not do that at the cost of traditions. In my view, culture and technology are like two our two eyes. While one may be enough for sight, the two eyes provide us the third dimension of sight, which is not replicable by any technology. No camera in the world has been able to better the vision of our eyes.

The sun rising in the east or setting in the west looks as gorgeous across the Indian coast line as in the photo above on the west coast.

Let us learn to embrace technology and imbibe culture. Let the West meet the East.

S Ramesh Shankar

The world is not perfect…

Our life starts with a dream. Whether at work or at home, we have a dream. We then try to realise our dream through our efforts. It is perfectly normal to dream and try our best to convert that dream into reality. Some of our dreams are realised, while others fade away in spite of our best efforts. There is nothing wrong about it. It is fair to expect that all that we dream about in life may not be realised in our life time.

This does not mean that we should stop dreaming. It is like every organization has a vision and then strategies to achieve that vision. What is in control of the organization is within it and there are many factors outside the control of an organization. This is true at the individual level too. We need to have a dream. We then need to evolve our strategy to achieve our personal vision in life. I firmly believe that through stint of hard work, most individuals may be able to attain their personal vision in life.

Some organisations do not achieve their vision in spite of their best efforts. This is not because they did not have the right intent to achieve it. On the contrary, it could be that inspite of their best efforts the environmental factors swayed against them and hence they could not achieve their vision. This is also true for individuals. We need to realise that sometimes our best intent and efforts may not take us where we want to go. We should not lose hope. I would stay we need to press the “Control+Alt+Del” button and reimagine our goals in life.

My lesson in life is that the world is not perfect. Just like we as human beings are not perfect. We need to learn to enjoy the imperfection in the world and in us. We need to learn to adapt and change. We need to learn to redefine our goals and move on. Most of us spend our time analysing why the world is imperfect ? It is like analysing why the formation of the clouds is different each day in the sky.

We have to believe that nature has created imperfections in the world to enable us to learn and change. We need to trust our capabilities rather then worry about the failure of a plan. We are human and the world is not perfect. Hence, the earlier we get used to this fact, the better it is for us. We will learn along the way and change. We have to accept the clouds in the sky as they are and appreciate that every day is a new formation and a wonderful creation of nature to admire.

Life is no different. It is neither perfect nor imperfect. Our ability to deal with life as it is rather as it we want it to be makes all the difference. We have to build the ability to change rather then wait for others or the world to change. We have to remember that it is easier to change thyself than to try to change others. Our success in life is directly correlated to our ability to change.

We need to be able to reconcile in life. We may set a vision for ourselves. We may even define the path to achieve the vision. However, as we go along, the path may change even if the vision remains intact. Sometimes, we may need to restate the vision as the environment around us has changed rapidly. It is frivolous to think that anything is constant in life. The ability to anticipate variability and deal with it effectively makes us a winner in life.

As in the photo above, the peak may be at a distance but we need to continue our journey facing all barriers on the way with focussed commitment to achieve our goal.

I have gone through my own ups and downs in life. Every time, I was about to lose hope, I rekindled my commitment to my goal. I learnt from my mistakes and was willing to redefine my goal and the path. This helped me to be in tune with the times. I realised along the way of life that it is not perfect. I have tried my best to do everything to the best of my ability but accepted imperfection as a way of life and living.

What is your take ?

S Ramesh Shankar

The Walking Encyclopaedia


We had a teacher in college by name Professor PK Vishveshvaran, whom we called the “Walking Encyclopaedia”. Anyone of the students had a query on any issue, she would go to this teacher and he always had an answer. If he did not know the answer, he would neither guess nor fake an answer but accept that he did not know. Further, he would commit to find the answer and get back to the student. It was in the early eighties, where computers and the internet was non existent.

Most of us were in awe of this professor. He was a simple, down to earth and a knowledgable professor, who had no pretensions. He was accessible to everyone and always willing to help. I have not yet met a teacher in my life, who is so endearing. He used to keep a radio in his room and listen to music and news from around the world. His room consisted of open shelves and he used to meticulously maintain reference materials in a very haphazard manner, which only he could retrieve. But the best part was that he could retrieve any information within minutes from a maze of shelves, registers, books and papers.

I have learnt a lot from this teacher in my life. He is like a role model for me in many ways. The first learning is that he led a very simple life and was always willing to share his knowledge with others. Hence, one could learn that simple living and high thinking is easy to admire but difficult to imbibe. Further, the belief that the more you share your knowledge with others, the more you learn and grow in life is something I learnt from this wonderful human being.

The second learning I got from this Guru was that he never aspired for any recognition. He was an absent minded professor in letter and spirit. He used to dress very casually and mingled very well with students and everyone else. One would never get impressed with his dress or his looks. His hairstyle would be strewn all over. He never dressed to impress. On the contrary, you will wonder whether he could be a master of his subject by the way he presented himself. However, the moment you interact with him for a few minutes, you realise what a reservoir of knowledge he was.

The third learning I had from this lecturer was that he was a life long learner. I have seen him from my college days till he lived.,I have always seen him curious and enthusiastic. He had the memory of an elephant and the inquisitiveness of a child. He always had questions to ask and did not hesitate a second to say – ‘he did not know” ? I have always been humbled by his presence and humility.

Sometime back I came to know that he was admitted to a ICU after a slip . His nervous system had been impacted. As soon as this information spread, students from all over the world prayed for him and were generously contributing to support him to recover. The prayers were answered by God within 24 hours and he became conscious and did recover. I did realise that a wonderful human being like him should never suffer from any disease or injury. God was kind to listen to the prayers but he did not survive for long.

I also recall that he attended every alumni meeting of the college and remembered me and my wife from our college days. He would recall the name of the place where I first started my career thirty six years ago and reminded me of the post cards he used to write to us. He took the three books written by my wife and promised to read them and send his feedback and review again through a post card. I recall he said – I will send a snail mail as I am not yet used to emails.

Unfortunately, he died last year. What a great human being he was ? I pray to God to help us learn from his humility and be s better human being.

S Ramesh Shankar

Never too late to resolve…

Another New year dawns on us. We wonder what new year resolution to make. I am no different. I sometimes wonder if it is too late in my life to make a resolution. But on reflection, I realised that it is never too late to resolve.

If we look back at our lives, we have so many imperfections embedded in us. We are not yet perfect in anything. Hence, the opportunities to makes resolutions to change and improve is endless.

Let me start with simple things in life. Am I good at making up my bed after I get up. I leave it to someone else to do it for me. So, may be the first resolution can be that I make my own bed everyday.

Then the next question to ask is “Can I make own coffee or tea ? If the answer is no, it is time to learn to do it yourself. So, the second resolution can be to make your own coffee or tea and may be make it for your partner or family members also.

Do we do some exercise every morning ? It could be a walk, a jog, cycling or playing any game. If the answer is no, which is most likely for most of us, that can be the third resolution. I commit to walk or do yoga every day.

Then we look for someone to help us with our clothes and office accessories. This could be our fourth resolution and we could learn to organise ourselves well so that we do not need someone’s assistance to pick our clothes or other office paraphernalia.

Most of us ride a bike or drive a car to work every day. We then blame the world for the increasing pollution around us. Our fifth resolution can be to take the public transport to work at least once in a week and there by contribute our bit to reducing pollution in the world.

Do we wish everyone with a smile at work ? We enter the workplace and find it difficult to wish the security guard. We do not think it is important to wish everyone around us at work and shake hands with them before we start our day. This could be the sixth resolution that we will start the day by wishing everyone around us with a smile.

At work, do we delegate things we can easily do ourselves ? If the answer is yes, then it is time to change. Delegation is a good management practise. However, we can do somethings ourselves, which when delegated may delay action and is not necessary. This could be our seventh resolution.

One thing which amuses me is that people do not return calls made to them. Yes, all of us are busy all day and night and we may not be in a position to pick up calls many a time. However, courtesy demands that we call back everyone who called us. It could be a junior colleague, family, friend or the CEO it does not matter. This could be our eighth resolution.

Our ninth resolution could be get back home on time. While working hard is a good idea, it does not add to productivity by sitting late at work every day. This neither improves our performance at work nor makes our family happy.

The tenth resolution may be to make at least one of the above nine resolutions and ensure we follow it through the year. My belief is that if we commit to do at least one thing and make it happen, it will be great.

Let me wish you, your family and friends a wonderful new year. So, here are my Ten Commandments to myself for the new year. I was reflecting on them sitting in front of the Buddha in my garden.

What are yours ?

S Ramesh Shankar

1st January 2019

People – the competitive advantage for an organisation

Every company in the world tries to identify what is its competitive advantage ? They look at what markets they operate in ? Who are their competitors ? What are their sources of competitive advantage ? This leads to factors like Cost, Quality, Reliability , Service, Innovation, Products etc. But, I do not subscribe to this theory of management. In my view, all competitors ultimately catch up to your sources of competitive advantage today or tomorrow. Hence, it is only “People” working with you, who are your only source of competitive advantage, which is not replicable.

Hence, if we believe that we have to make our organisation a great place to work – we have to realize that “Managing People” is not nice to have but must have factor for organisational success. If we take the simple example of the auto industry, we will get our answers. Today, the cars produced by different companies in the same segment is not very much differentiated. They have the similar technology, features, price etc. What really differentiates them is the service, which that company provides you before or after the sale of the car. Service is delivered by people and people are the key differentiator.

We have evolved the concept of “Ownership culture” in our organisation. What does this mean – this means that every manager owns her or his people in every possible way. A manager is the friend, guide and philosopher for his team. We need to build the people management skills in every manager so that they take care of their team members.

We launched the “People Matter” programme and the manager fitness certificate to support this philosophy in Siemens. This would help us strengthen the ownership culture by creating highly motivated teams. This would in turn enhance our customer experience. Like they say, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.

In this intervention, we partnered with Great Place to Work(GPTW). The reason why we selected GPTW is because we wanted a partner, who understand India and also helps us understand the best people practises in the world. They have helped us customise the programme to suit our context. They have benchmarked us with the best in the world and are supporting us to become the best.

This has been an exciting journey for me personally. I travel across the company and have visited almost all locations of Siemens. Everywhere I have been since the launch of the People Matter programme, employees have told me that they see the significant change in the behaviour of their managers. This is very heart warming. They tell me that their managers listen more and spend more time with them for their own development.

It is the people in the organization, who make a difference as illustrated in the photo above.

We would like to make this a way of life in Siemens. This is not a one of flavour of the season. We want every people manager to be the face of the employee in Siemens. We will empower them to take people decisions for all their team members. We will incorporate this in some way towards the “How” assessment in the PMP process. We will reward and recognise the best people managers periodically across the company.

We believe that it is “Customer first” but “Employee always” in Siemens.
 
S Ramesh Shankar
 

Why do I blame the world ?

We all have a tendency to blame everyone else in the world for almost everything. If things work for us, we take the credit and when something does not work, we blame others. This is the reality of the world. Lets start with ourselves and our lives. If I come first in the class we say it is all due to my hard work. If we fail in the class, it is due to teachers not doing their job or parents forcing me to take a subject I do not like and so on.

If we move to the work place, life is no different. If I do well on the job it is because of my hard work. If I do not do well, it is because of lack of support from my boss or from other colleagues at work. This again proves that everything going well at work is because of me and everyone else around me is responsible for anything going wrong.

If we move to society at large the situation is not very different. If the roads are flooded during the monsoon, we blame the government, municipalities or contractors. However, if the I choke the drains with plastic waste I am not responsible. If the city is not clean, the state has to be blamed. If I litter garbage around my house, we may blame the municipality for not having effective garbage collection system.

All this leads me to reflect as to why do I blame the world for everything that goes wrong in my life ? Why do I take the credit for all that I do well in my life ? Is this human psychology or our limitation and selfishness ? I would consider it human limitation and our selfishness. We as human beings always want to take the credit for everything positive in life and blame the world for all the negatives.

I was wondering how the world would change if we looked within ourselves and decide to reverse this trend. Imagine my giving all the credit to my teachers and parents for all my success in life. What would happen if I credit my boss and colleagues for my success at the work place ? How will society be different if I lead the change I want to see in my environs ?

I think it is time for us to lead this change and make a positive impact in society. I would like to take responsibility for all my actions. If things go right in my life I could give credit to the people who have made it possible. If I do something wrong I will take the responsibility and ensure that I own it up. This will ensure that the people who deserve the credit for my success in life get the due.

All this will also ensure that there is an attitudinal change in society. Change always begins with the individual. Like we say an organisation is not buildings or structures, it is a summation of people working in it. Similarly, change has to begin with the individual. Why blame the world for my sins ? If I smoke, I am responsible for it. How can I blame my friends or relatives and claim that they have got me into this habit ?

A selfie above is a good illustration that change begins with me.

We always tend to externalise a problem or an issue ? We want to blame the world for all our wrongdoings . We want to blame society for anything which happens to us. We want to blame the government for all inaction and evils in the community. It is time to reflect and change. It is time to introspect and act. It is time to look within oneself rather than outside ourself.

Change begins with me.

Let me start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Campus to Corporate…

All of us look forward to our first job in our life. We eagerly await the completion of our formal education in school/college to enter the corporate life. We want to stand on our own feet and live out our dreams in life.

While this journey is indeed exciting, we have to prepare ourselves to be successful in this phase of our life. What are the changes which one has to encounter when you leave the college premises and enter the corporate world?

A. Forget your pedigree at the compound wall of the corporate : While your pedigree may help you enter the corporate world, it will not make any impact after you are in there. What makes a difference is your performance and the value you bring to the table.

B. Unlearn, learn and re-learn : Unlike the academic world, the corporate sphere changes very fast. We need to learn to unlearn, learn and re-learn at a hectic pace not only to survive but to thrive in the corporate world.

C. Excel : Excellence is a journey and it is never ending in a corporate world. You have to be the best in whatever you do and then nobody can ignore you. Kindly remember that this world is much more competitive than the academic world and you may not always get a second chance.

D. Ambition : Dream big and you will be able to realize your dreams some day. It may not happen in the time frame you have set for yourself but if you do not give up, it will definitely materialise.

E. Morals : It is always a dilemma in your mind if ethics have any value in corporate life. You may have seen millionaires making money the wrong way. You may be tempted to take short cuts and realize your dreams. Just remember to listen to your conscience every single time and you will do no wrong. It is better to be happy and hold your head high rather than be rich and evade the taxman or the police all the time.

F. Stand alone : It is natural for you to compare your self with others working with you. You may wonder why you get paid less as compared to someone else working with you. You may think the other person is less qualified or has irrelevant experience. It is not worth comparing yourself with others and feeling bad about it. You need to learn to be like the pole star comparing yourself with yourself and shining so brightly that nobody on earth can ever miss your sight.

G. Commitment : One may get away by submitting your assignment late in college once in a while. However, in the organisational context, living up to your commitments is the key to success. Your relative value is always determined by your personal credibility.

H. Punctuality : Self discipline is expected in corporate life. Nobody will remind you to be on time. You set your standards by being on time all the time. Your reputation is determined by your punctuality. It is good to remember that your discipline is displayed when nobody watches you.

I. Mobility: In today’s globalised business environment, one need’s to be truly globally mobile to be successful. We should be willing to pack up our bags and go anywhere in the world to launch a global career in any organisation.

J. Team work : Unlike the college daya, where one could get away with individual excellence, team work is the key to success in organizations. One needs to learn to work in team and collaborate and cooperate to leverage on the strengths of each team member.

Now, let us look at the emotions and feelings we may experience as we enter the corporate world and how do we deal with them :

I. Happy and excited : The enthusiasm and joy has to be sustained and persevered. We may not always get what we want but by sheer hard work and determination we can lay our own career path in the organisation.

II. Fear : The lurking fear of not being good enough will confront us. Our ability to be humble, grounded and willingness to unlearn, learn and re learn will help us get over fear.

III. Unhappiness : Not getting the location of your choice may make you unhappy. But our ability to adapt and make the best use of every opportunity will help us excel.

IV. Anxiety : Everything appears new and unknown. How to ask and whom to ask is a constant question in our mind. Simply asking and being innocent will help you always find your way.

V. Intimidating : The induction programme may be intimidating and you may find your self lost in a big organisation. Kindly remember all of us joined some day and today it is your turn. There is nothing to worry as you will come to know of everything as days pass by.

VI. Nervousness: The fear of the unknown and the realisation that time will run out fast may make you restless. As long you realize that learning is a life long journey, please remember that everyone in the organisation will be keen to help you.

VII. Curiosity : You are not sure when to speak and when to listen. You are curious when to ask questions and whom to ask. There is no right or wrong answers. As long as you are authentic, you need not worry about anything or anybody in the organisation.

Some things to look forward to :

A. First salary : The thrill of getting your first salary in life is unbelievable

B. Own office desk: When you reach office on the first day and get your own desk to sit, it is a matter of pride.

C. Corporate credit card: On getting your corporate credit card, you feel as if you have arrived in life.

D. Colleagues / friends – It feels nice to have new friends and colleagues at work and learn from them

E. Visiting card : Your first visiting card gives you respect and credibility

F. Independence : As we stand on our own feet, we become self reliant

All in all, moving from campus to corporate is like transitioning from bachelorhood to married life. Unlike your spouse in married life, you will have colleagues in the organisation. It is our ability to adapt and learn from them, which will make us successful.

The nervousness of the student transitioning into the corporate world can be seen in the photo above.

Wish you all the best.

S Ramesh Shankar