Diversity in spirit

I am proud to be an Indian and love its diversity. I have travelled around the world for my work as well as for fun. Every visit to a new country so far has only reinforced my belief that diversity energises life and living. I have visited more than 25 countries in life so far but yet to see the diversity which India has. We have 29 states. Each state speaks a different language and we have many dialects for each language.

We are a multi religious country and we have the freedom to follow any religion of our choice. Our culture and traditions are the rich heritage of the state we belong to and this interestingly many a time cuts across religions. We follow and celebrate festivals across the country irrespective of which religion we belong to because we think its our festival. The spirit of India is to be experienced to be believed.

I have lived in the south, east, north, central and west of India. I have never felt I have lived in a different culture or a different country in spite of the fact that each state in India is almost like a different country with its uniqueness in culture, language, food habits and so on. The fabric of India is it multi-ethnicity. You experience the benefits of multiple countries just by moving from one state to another. Many of the Indian states are bigger in size and population to many of the European countries.

Today it is common in many organisations to talk of diversity and inclusion. This is not only taken as an organisation wide initiative but also promoted in a big way especially in multinational corporations. Interestingly India as a state that has practised diversity and inclusion in letter and spirit right through its existence. We have no bias or discrimination against any religion, caste or ethnicity for any job. On the contrary the Indian Constitution has protected the rights of certain sections of society based on the principle of positive discrimination to provide them equal opportunity with the rest of the society to catch up in life.

In my view, diversity is much more than gender, ethnicity, nationality, caste or any such factors. It is the ability to think in multiple perspectives without any bias. It is our ability to proactively promote multiple view points on any subject. It is our ability to listen and speak up in society. As a citizen in the world’s largest democracy, I can proudly state that we have the freedom to do all this and guaranteed by the state through our constitution.

It may be unfair to state that this freedom is absolute. Nothing is absolute in life. Every right has an equal responsibility. So sometimes citizen and at other times the state administrators misuse their rights or responsibilities in this sphere. However, we have the balance of the executive, judiciary and the legislature to protect the rights of the citizens. When either or all of them fail, we still have a free media to be the conscience keeper.

It is this spirit we need to bring into organizations of tomorrow. We need to start laying the foundation in smaller social units of family and communities. It then spreads to society and then becomes easier for organizations to imbibe it. We all know that organizations are a mirror image of the societies in which they exist in terms of their culture. We cannot have the diversity spirit in a proletarian state.

Diversity is the confluence of ideas from all sources to evolve the best one like the colourful diversity of Mother Nature in the photo above.

Lets learn from the Indian spirit.

S Ramesh Shankar

CHRO 2.0

How the world is changing and the role of HR along with it ?  We have more questions than answers to this question.  The rate of change is more evident than the change itself.  How does it impact HR ? What are the capabilities of the future CHRO ?

A.  Simplify complexity :  In my view, the first and foremost capability for HR is our ability to simplify a complex world.  Today everything is complex.  It is tending to get more complex and ambiguous as time passes.  In this ever changing world, how do we as HR simplify things and focus on the basics will be a good quality to possess.

B.  Be human :  The advent of technology has made human beings mechanistic.  We tend to react like computers without any emotions.  We fix processes and systems and automate everything.  While automation will help efficiency, it may not always result in effectiveness.  Hence, it is critical for HR folks to be in touch with employees and apply their mind.

C. Be the change :  HR has to lead the change in the organisation.  While in the past, we may have been happy to support change and facilitate change, it is necessary to lead it in the future.  We have to be the change we want to see in the organisation.  This strategic mindset of change is critical for future success.

In all of the of the above, we have to be the conscience keeper of the organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dependance versus Independance

When one organism lives on and depends on another living organism, we may call it a parasite. The other day I was going on a nature trek and noticed a small organism living on a leaf and it struck me about our life as parasites. Do we live as dependants more than necessary ? May be it is true and worth thinking about. We all are born in a family as kids and are fully dependant on our parents. We continue to stay with them till we complete our education through school and college. If given a chance, we like

to continue with them for the rest of our lives. We depend on them more than they depending on us.

As life progresses, we get married and sometimes are compelled to move away from our homes due to the employment of our spouse or otherwise. We start living on our own. Life becomes more independent and we miss the umbrella of protection of our parents. One of the interesting learning in life is that we vie with each other to learn the western society almost in every aspect of our life. We want to be modern in our outlook and physically comfortable in our material life. This is the positive part of our aping the western traditions. However, we conveniently do not copy things which does not suit us.

In the developed world, children move out of their homes when they are teenagers and start living on their own. They do errands and live life on backpacks. They fund their own education and do not depend on their parents for their livelihood. This is worth copying from the west. This phenomenon makes you independent in the true sense of the word. Further, it helps you realise the value of money earned at an early stage of your life. It helps you get grounded and find your way up the hard way in life.

In the Indian context, since we continue to stay with our parents, we are fully dependant on them. As we grow up and get married and move out of home in quest of our career we realise the value of independence and the hard work and toil one has to put into to earn it. Another interesting insight is that once we move out of our parents homes we believe our duties and responsibilities are over. We take care of our spouse and kids. We take care of our parents or in laws only as a courtesy and leave it to them to take care of themselves. Sometimes we also believe that supporting them financially is our way of taking care of them.

In my view, this is where we need to learn from our rich Indian heritage. We have to consider it our privilege to be able to take care of our parents and parents in law during their old age. No amount of financial support to them can repay our non financial debt to them. They have sacrificed their lives and comforts to make us what we are today and the least we can do is to take care of them financially and more importantly emotionally. It is at this juncture, we need to introspect and not ape the traditions from other cultures.

Dependance and independence is a vicious circle in our lives. We start with dependance and then become independent and end our lives as dependants again. What we do to others comes back to us. Let us serve our elders unconditionally without expecting anything in return. This will reflect our true spirit of independence. It is worth emulating from our rich Indian traditions and showcasing to the world as well.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Competencies for tomorrow ?

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I was recently in a business school attending a business conference. The theme was – “Metamorphisis – Reshape, recreate and transform. While I was speaking of the speed and rate of change in the environment around us, I did highlight the impact of Digitalization and its impact on human resources. This then led me to speak of three key competencies, which students need to evolve to be successful in the business of tomorrow.

The first competency is “Mindset”. Today organisations recruit for mindset and not for skills. The belief is that skills can be developed but mindset is very difficult to change in any adult. Hence, it is critical to have the right attitude and mindset for change. We need to believe that the world is full of possibilities and we are there to make things happen. If we are able to evolve this mindset in ourselves, we are likely to be a winner in any environment.

A positive attitude to work and life not only make you a winner, it enables you to inspire your team as well. I have been privileged to work with leaders and teams, who have always believed in possibilities. This is indeed infectious. This has led me to be an optimist in life always. I have never believed anything is impossible. It is only a factor of time and the efforts we put in to achieve our goal.

The second competency in my view is “Adaptability & flexibility”. A simple example could be our concept of job mobility. We should be willing to pack up our bags and work in any part of the world for any type of industry. Many of us are mobile but conditionally. We would say we are willing to be posted in metros in India or in the USA or Europe. When asked if we are open to be posted in the north east of India for example or for that matter in the African continent we may have excuses like ageing parents or kids in school etc. Unconditional mobility will take you places in your career and that would be flexibility and adaptability in our career.

Many of us disappointed when we do not get a posting in a place of our choice. We start complaining from day one. I would recommend that we consider it an opportunity to work in a new place rather than crib about not getting one’s preference. I was recently reading an article, where the author was saying that she renamed her daily “To-do list” to “Possibilities for the day”. This name change itself makes it flexible and possible. As otherwise, many of us would make to do lists every day and it will remain the same for days with us.

The third competency would be a “Learning” attitude. We need to be learning for life. There is no subject or field in the world which has a first and a last chapter. We can never imagine ourselves to be master of any field. Hence, it is critical for us to update ourselves everyday and keep in tune with the real world. For example if we take social media, the youth of today are not in Facebook anymore. They have moved to Twitter or Instagram. Class room training is not the only or the best way to learn anymore. We have hundreds of ways to keep learning every day.

I have met people who are constantly learning languages, new skills and concepts all the time. Age, vocation or location is never a constraint. It is our mindset and adaptability which would evolve us as a life long learner. We can learn from everyone around us. We can even learn from every object around us. Nature has its unique ways of teaching us every day. It is up to us to inculcate the learning attitude in life.

So for me it is clear – Mindset, Adaptability/flexibility & Learning attitude is the key to future leaders.

Why not reset and start today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

31st August 2017

Learning management from kids

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I have always been a great fan of kids. I have felt energised in their company and learn from them in every interaction. Of course, they do test our patience at times but so do we. I was wondering if it is a good idea to translate today’s management concepts to what we could learn from the behaviour of kids. We may not have realised it during the incident but if we look back, it is interesting and provides great insights.

Mission : I remember an incident from my childhood when I ran for miles behind a gas balloon which had flown away from my hand. While looking back and logically it may look foolish. But the kids have high levels of perseverance and never give up to achieve their mission in life.

Strategy : I am reminded of many incidents where my son has strategised and accomplished what he wanted to get in his life. Once my son wanted to go with his classmates in college for an educational tour. He had made up his mind and had evolved a foolproof strategy to achieve his goal. He first tried with me and then with his mother. He then pursued the same with his teacher and made his teacher convince us of how useful it would be to send him. Thus, although initially we had not approved his tour, he did make it finally.

Conflict resolution : While kids may end up fighting at the drop of a hat, I have seen them resolving conflicts much easier than adults. What I have noticed in them is that they are ready to move on in life. They are willing to forgive and forget. As adults, we tend to carry the grudge for our lifetime. Our egos prevent us from forgiving others and we are worried as to who has to first ring the bell for peace.

Listening : Do we remember how our kids listened to stories at night ? Even today when I see my grandson who is 7 years old listen to my wife I am stunned at his level of concentration. When he is listening to a story, he is in rapt attention. He does not fiddle around a mobile phone or watch TV and also listen. This is what most of us do. Hence, kids can take a class for us on attentive listening, which is critical for success as a leader.

Communication : While behavioural scientists have established that more than seventy percent of behaviour is non verbal, we do not use it effectively in our day to day communication. We need to learn from kids. A child may communicate effectively even without uttering a word. The expressions on their face , the laughter, the cry and et all can speak more than a thousand words.

Interpersonal skills : I have seen kids mingle even with strangers without any bias. Why do adults find it difficult to work in a team even with people known to them ? One of the factors I have noticed in kids is that they do not have any conscious or unconscious bias towards others. They are willing to let go. They take the initiative to interact and are willing to accommodate others in the group. As adults, we seem to have erased these qualities as we grow up.

Perseverance : I have seen kids go up and down the slide multiple times till they succeed. I have never seen them give up in life on anything. Why do we as adults tend to give up even before we give things a try ? Kids have the patience and the perseverance, which we need to learn. As we grow up our patience fades and so does our perseverance. We end up making simple things complicated and thus give up even without a try.

It may be worthwhile to observe the kids around us and learn management from them. The lessons are practical and real life. We can refresh our knowledge, skills and attitude to life. What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Class is classic 

Class means different things to different people. As a student of sociology, class refers to the social status in society. It is referred to as social class. It is like the caste system, which creates a hierarchy in society. Class could be based on income, caste, profession etc. An act of high quality is also referred to as class. For eg, in the cricket world, we normally refer to batsmen who are outstanding as class. An oft quoted saying is ” Form is temporary but Class is permanent.”

So, let us understand why form is temporary but class is permanent. It is believed the best in class player in any form of sports is classic although she or he may not be in form on a particular day. We can think of the best soccer players going goalless in a match. The best batsmen getting out for a duck and so on. However, their consistency and quality of the game is unimaginable. Hence, we could easily state that “Class is classic”.

If we move to the social class, there is an interesting theory in sociology called “Sanskritization”. This means people who are in the lower caste do everything in their domain to move to the higher caste hierarchy. This is simple aspiration in life. Who on earth would not like to grow ? However sociologists have studied this phenomenon and called it “Sanskritization”. Today it may look obvious that every one of us aspires to learn and grow in every aspect of life.

Another interesting determinant of class is forwardness or backwardness of a community. This is determined by developmental indicators, educational levels, per capita income and so on. So, when communities are behind their contemporaries in the same society due to clear developmental factors, they are referred to as backward communities. On the other hand, when communities move forward in the same factors they are called forward class.

Another interesting classification of society in the past has also been done based on the professional vocation of a group. This segregation then refers to a community as potters , agriculturists and so on. The profession adopted by the majority of a village or a community gives credence to the name of that community or village as a potters village and so on.

Whatever be the definition of class, I would state that “Class is classic”. In order to attain class in anything we do, we have to be the best in class. This means that in a group of artisans if we are the best, we are referred to as class. This has an important meaning for us in life. If we are the best in whatever we do in life, we will be a class apart and nobody can ignore us. On the contrary, class is respected always.

If I link it to the organisational context, most of us waste our time and efforts by comparing ourselves with our colleagues at work in terms of our performance. It would be wiser to compare oneself to self and be the best in class. If we are the best in whatever we do in the organization, nobody can afford to ignore us, least of all our manager. Hence, it is critical to remember that the best in class will always beat their own standards and records and not bother about others.

Why should we waste our time by comparing ourselves with others if we can be the best ? Our competitors should waste their time comparing themselves with us rather than the other way around. Let us excel in whatever work we do and be always better than the best. The best is class and may not be easy to replicate. We have to outshine everyone around us by our class and not by caste or position or power.

As in the photo above, Taj Mahal is class and hence no new architecture of the world has been able to beat its beauty.

Let us learn to outshine ourselves every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

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