Work from home ?

“Work from home” ( WFH) has become a good option for organisations to combat the Covid crisis.  I am aware of many senior leaders, who always believed that work from home meant no work and no control over their teams.  They were not only sceptical of this concept but generally discouraged their team members opting for WFH.  Now with the Covid crisis, these leaders have not only accepted this concept whole heartedly but are willing to accept it as the new normal.

While  WFH is being lauded as the the way to go into the future, it has its own limitations.  We need to be fully aware of the pros and cons of working from home. Let us first look at the positives of this concept :

a. Flexibility :  It provides flexibility to the individual and the organisation in terms of time and place of work and also enables individuals to manage their day accordingly.

b. Time-saving : It saves a lot of time especially for employees working in the big metropolises of the world.  The commute time is generally waste of time and energy to say the least.  This option ensures that people do not waste their time in commute.

c. Family time :  Employees tend to spend more time with the family in this option as they are physically at home even during working hours and thereby can lend a helping hand to their spouses and family members

d. Cost saving :  It could be a potential cost saving measure for organisations in terms of infrastructure and real estate costs.  A part of this could be passed on to employees in terms of their salary and benefits.

e. Work-life balance :  It can promote better work life balance if we are able to manage it optimally at our end and managers are supportive of the same.

Now let us look at the negatives of this concept :

a. Over-working& Under-working :  Employees tend to work more and thereby get more exhausted mentally due to calls and video conferences.  With time zone differences, it could end up eating into personal time of employees. On the other hand, some employees may misuse this option and work less too.

b. Impact on relationships :  The WFH option could result in impacting workplace relationships as conflicts cannot be easily resolved through web chats, phone calls or video calls.  Face to face interactions help in resolving conflicts at the workplace.

c. Family relationships :  Over-working and mixed priorities of work and home could end up in avoidable family conflicts between spouses and other family members as well.  This could result in misunderstandings, which otherwise may not occur in reality.

d. Work life balance :  While most people would think that work life balance could be better, in reality it could be the other way around.  Family members may start believing that they were better off when you were going to the work place rather than working from home.

e. Team work :  Team work at the workplace could be unplanned causality of the WFH option.  When team members do not meet face to face or talk to each other, their productivity is likely to dip and conflicts may increase.

Having looked at the pros and cons of the WFH option, it may be prudent for organisations to take a balanced view of the same post the Covid crisis.  It is neither desirable to swing from one end of the pendulum to the other and make all employees work from home nor stop this as an option when we get back to our old ways of working.  It could be provided as a flexible option and gainfully utilised by employees and organisations to strike the right balance between employees’ needs and organisational priorities.

It may be useful to remember that “Work from Home”(WFH) should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th May 2020

Role of HR post Covid crisis

Work from anywhere

What could be the role of HR in the post Covid scenario ? This is a question, which may be lurking in the minds of many people. I would state that HR could evolve their “Ten Commandments” post the Covid crisis is over and employees gradually trickle back to the workplace.

1. Job Security : In the post Covid scenario, most employees would be worried about their jobs. This would mean a lurking fear that their organisations would have lost revenue for more than a few months and this could result in job losses for many. So, the first duty of HR could be to make the CEO communicate to all employees how they plan to get over this crisis and assure employees at all levels that they would not lose their jobs.

2. New Workplace : The new workplace will have a new normal. It will not be the same place of work like in the past. Apart from physical sanitisation of everything, there would be silence and loneliness at the workplace. There is need to make people adapt to this new work environment through effective communication and counselling by the managers and leaders at all levels.

3. Cost optimisation : While HR leaders should try their best to save jobs, they could be the champions of cost reduction efforts in the organisation. They could engage with employees at all levels and enable formation of teams so that cost reduction is in everybody’s radar and the organisations are able to make up for the losses incurred by this pandemic.

4. Employee engagement : In the post Covid scenario, employee engagement actions become all the more critical. It is important to make employees adapt to the new workplace and at the same time realise that we need to continue to serve our customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and all other stakeholders as we did before.

5. Work from anywhere : While the Covid crisis forced organisations and employees to adapt to the work from home option, it may be an opportunity for HR in organisations to enable employees to work from anywhere. This means no fixed workstations, laptops for everyone and they could work from any office or any place of their choice in the future.

6. Re-engineering processes : This is a great opportunity for HR to facilitate all the functions in the organisation to challenge all their existing processes and eliminate unwanted ones, simplify those needed and automate wherever possible. The shop-floor could also be digitised and automated so as to minimise human interface in routine operations and use employees for human value addition, which robots or machines cannot do like listening to and attending to customer grievances.

7. Rewrite the HR manual : Just like the Constitution of a nation gets amended from time to time based on the needs of the nation, this is a great opportunity in the history of the organisation to re-write its HR manual. It may be helpful to keep it simple, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and all paper work if possible.

8. Productivity : While many of us may not realise that India still has one of the lowest labour costs in the world but our productivity is not on par with the best in the world. This reset post Covid gives us an opportunity to rejig our productivity levels at the shop floor, in our offices and also in all our processes with suppliers and customers. For eg. is it possible for all employees to deal with all HR processes through their mobile phones and eliminate all paper work in the future.

9. Digitalisation : The ability to go digital in all aspects of work is a real possibility in the new workplace. Sales can happen online and service can be remotely handled. This means manufacturing can be digitilalised and automated and so can be all other processes. If banks can provide all their services through digital means so can all other organisations and this is the best time to transition and go digital, wherever feasible.

10. Employee Health & Safety : This crisis provides the best opportunity for organisations to rewrite its health and safety standards. It is not only physical health but mental and emotional health and wellness, which will get tested post this crisis. So , it is the best time for organisations to prepare for similar unknown crises in the future.

While I may not have listed down all possible things, which HR leaders could do post this crisis, I have focussed on the most important and called them the “Ten commandments for HR”.

Do let me know if I have missed out anything ? You can make your own “Ten commandments for HR” based on the needs of your own organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2020

The plight of decision makers in a crisis

Pond Heron

I have always wondered how difficult it would be for decision makers to make decisions in a crisis. The current Covid crisis is not an exception. Every country is trying to deal with the crisis in their best possible way. However the citizens are unhappy with the decisions being taken by their respective governments.

In a democracy, it is much more difficult to take decisions as compared to other forms of governments. Here, if you decide you are criticised and if you don’t, you are criticised. Either way, there will be people waiting for you to take a decision and then they are ready to pounce on you as to how bad a decision it was.

I sometimes wonder if these critiques ever put themselves in the shoes of those who decide. If there is a lockdown, they say livelihood is lost and if there isn’t one they say lives are lost. Those in governance are finding the right balance between protecting lives and saving livelihoods.

The beauty of a situation like this is that everyone becomes an expert on everything. We have common men and women advising us on how to deal with preventive health to deal with the virus. Whereas, even doctors and health workers are finding it difficult to deal with an unknown virus.

We have arm chair economists advising us on how to revive the economy and save livelihoods at the cost of lives. Some business honchos have even gone to the extent of saying that the economic downturn will result in more loss of lives than the Covid crisis.

The governments in the centre and the states are trying their best to decide what they think is in the best interest of its citizens. However, we all are restless and are ready to pounce on any decision taken by the state or the centre in our country. We do not realise that the people we have elected to take decisions supported by smart and knowledgable bureaucrats have more information than we have to decide on matters to deal with this crisis.

While we all have become public health experts, economists, administrators and futurologists, we forget our duties as citizens. We are the first to violate a guideline set by our local government on the pretext of being educated and knowing what we are doing. We go out to buy things which are not essential or demand for services from others risking their own lives for our comfort.

We do not realise how difficult it is for the urban and the rural poor. The situation is tough especially for the urban poor and most developed cities today run on the work of the migrant labourers. As citizens, we need to find ways to support these people during this crisis and not sit back and blame only the government in power for not doing anything. Are we capable of taking care of our security staff, our maids, our gardener’s, housekeeping staff and so on. If each of us commit to take care of people who touch our lives every day then the problem is simpler for the government to handle.

In a crisis, the most important factor to remember is that there is only one leader and all of us have to be diligent followers. Like in the Army they say, the word of the commander is their religion. So, we need to behave. We have elected governments at the centre and the states and we need to trust our people in power including politicians and bureaucrats to deal with this crisis effectively.

Let us learn to be trusted followers rather than quack experts in every field especially in a crisis. If I can put myself in the shoes of those in governance, I may realise how difficult it is to decide. I am an office bearer in our community association and can tell you that it is very difficult to deal with community decisions in a crisis like this. We have only 25 families living in my community. Imagine someone deciding on behalf of a billion people or even a few millions in a state.

As in the photo above, it is wiser to sit at home and admire the pond heron eating fish in your pond rather than sit in your arm chair and criticise the decision makers in a crisis.

Trust is key in a crisis. Follwership is our duty. Let us empathise and appreciate the difficult role of the decision makers by being self disciplined and following whatever guidelines are given to us.

Let us make a difference by being positive always and being enablers rather than detractors in a crisis situation.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd May 2020

How to reduce employee cost without reducing employee numbers ???

I have always wondered as to why organizations tend to focus on employee cost reduction at the first instance under any crisis situation! While employee cost in most organizations especially in manufacturing sector will be a negligible as compared to material cost, the tendency is to focus on how to reduce employees in order to tide over any crisis.

    I was reminded of the famous British management thinker Charles Handy.  He once spoke in Delhi for the Economic Times summit and shared a beautiful formula, which can be depicted as follows :

                                              Business Success = ½# x 2*x 3$

Note ; # reduce employees by half, * double your sales and $ profits will treble.

He explained that most CEOs believe that in any crisis situation if they are able to reduce employees by half, their sales will double and their profits will treble.  He further went to state that as long as CEO’s remember that they could also fall in the half of employees who are let go, they would take the right decisions for their organizations.  This is the bitter truth even today.

     The Covid crisis will impact businesses adversely.  Many CEOs would think of ways and means of cutting employee numbers so that they can tide over this business downturn.  While that may be an easy way out, CEO’s may have to realize that employees win customers and employee loyalty sustains organizations.  With this premise in mind, I thought I could share ideas of how employee cost could be optimized even without having to reduce employee numbers.

    In this article, I will attempt to share a few ideas of employee cost reduction without having to reduce manpower :

a.     Employee Salary reduction :  While many organizations may consider this a taboo, it is fine in a crisis situation to reduce salaries rather than people losing jobs.  It has to start from the CEO and go downwards and not the other way around.  If possible, we should spare the lowest level of employees in this exercise.  

b.     Salary structure review :  This could another way of linking salary more to performance than level or designation.  Further looking at fixed to variable pay, review increments, promotions linked to role, salary bands etc.  There are multiple ways to do this and can be done without employees losing jobs.

c.     Benefits Review :  There are various benefits which organizations evolve over a period of time.  This is the time to review the same and monetise wherever possible or eliminate them.  It could range from leave, holidays, copay in medical insurance and so on.  There are again varied ways of dealing with this without impacting employees in any direct way.

d.     Review Organization structure:  It is the right time to make the organization leaner and more effective.  Invariably, in most organizations, layers get added just to create positions for people to be promoted or someone’s ego to be satisfied.  Every part of the organization can be reviewed and all unnecessary levels can be eliminated.  This will make it more efficient and responsive to customers.

e.     Employee involvement & engagement :  This is the best time to harness the full potential of employees.  Those who do the work know best where we could improve and reduce cost.  So, if we are able to find ways and means of involving employees in idea generation and execution, cost reduction can easily be achieved in different aspects of work in all functions.  We need to suitably reward employees for the same linking it to the savings accrued and the benefits to the organization.

f.      Hidden subsidies :  Organizations tend to build a lot of hidden subsidies which are neither visible to the employees nor to the organization.  It may be time to review all of them and again monetise them or eliminate them if they don’t serve the purpose for which it is created.  This could include canteen, transport, concierge, travel allowances etc. 

g.     Review office spaces :  Real estate is one of the biggest cost amongst all overheads.  Now that even the sceptics have accepted “Work from Home” as an option, it may be worthwhile to review the need for large office spaces and reduce cost.  We could consider 50% of field sales and service staff to work from home and visit offices may be once a week to submit claims or follow up on issues.  We could review offices, factories, guest houses and the like and rationalize the same.  We could also eliminate fixed seats for employees and make flexible offices spaces as a way of life. 

Employee will not mind any of these changes provided we communicate effectively and authentically.  Any employee will appreciate that it is better to take a cut in salary or benefits rather than lose a job.  If employees are told that all these measures will ensure job security for all, it will be highly appreciated.  The success of all these measures will lie in effective planning, communication, execution and rigorous reviews.

I thought about all this with only one objective of saving jobs.  I will be happy to consult with any organization pro-bono to plan and execute any or all of the above ideas.  I can detail them out for you in consultation with your internal teams so as to customize it for your organization.

I need not be paid a single rupee for this service.  If the organization is able to save jobs, my mission is accomplished.  If the organization saves employee cost without reducing its number of employees and is able to quantify savings, I will be delighted.

At the end, if organizations achieve their goals, we can find ways and means of contributing to my social cause of “Eradicating preventable blindness amongst children” and I will be highly indebted to them always.

I have committed to find ways and means of giving back to society in the second innings of my life and saving employee jobs in a crisis could be one way of accomplishing my mission.

Critical eye

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I have met people in my life, who have a critical eye for everything around them. They will read the newspapers word by word and will always be in a position to point out a spelling mistake or language misuse. I am not one amongst them but I do admire them a lot. I have never been meticulous in my life. I am self-disciplined but live life leisurely and sometimes may slip up. I love the critical people around me as they add value to my life.

It is not fair to say whether critical people are good or bad. Each of us have our likes and dislikes in life and have a right to live life on our own terms. I love critical people as they can always point out areas for improvement in our life. They look at things from different angles than ourselves. They have the ability to see things you are not able to. For example if I write an article, I may not find any mistake in spelling or use of language. But they can read the same article and point out a couple of mistakes easily.

It is equally valuable in organisations. We need to have people of different thinking abilities in our teams. Some may think the same way as we do. We need others who think just the opposite way and some in between the two extremes. This not only adds variety to work but also challenges our limits. We are able to think on the same issue from multiple perspectives and this adds value to our work.

If we look at our family environment, it may be worthwhile to have members who think differently. A critical person is able to add value in the family too. It may help us improve ourselves and also our ability to take decisions in different circumstances. We may also sometimes not take wrong decisions because one valuable member of our family cautions us against it. On the contrary if everyone toes the line of the senior family members, we could end up in mistakes, which we could have avoided.

In a democracy, we need a critical opposition so that the government is on its toes. Unfortunately, we do not see this in our parliament nowadays. But one can recall outstanding speeches made by our own parliamentarians as opposition leaders. They have not only been critical of key government decisions but have enabled the ruling government to make mid course corrections.

Even in team sports, it may be worthwhile for captains and coaches to have critical team members in their teams. These members may help team strategise effectively in every situation. They may think differently or even question the team strategy. This may help the team to re craft their strategies or make mid course corrections. Sometimes, this may also help teams to renew themselves against tough opposition.

On the other side, it may not be easy to live with and deal with critical people in your life. One may feel irritated or defensive when one is questioned on everything every day. It may be easier to have like minded people in your family or team. Life is cosier and easy to navigate. We need to develop the magnanimity to encourage diverse thinking in our teams and appreciate the value of it. We need to learn to adapt to critiques.

As in the photo above, my wife Meena R Shankar has a critical eye and hence is my life long editor of all my writings. She is always capable of giving alternative perspectives.

Life may be boring if it is monotonous. Imagine watching a TV programme or movie in black and white all the time. Once in a way it may look interesting. However, we always like things to be colourful around us. The same is true in life. We need to have variety and spice to make life full. We need people thinking differently and diversely. We need to learn to respect them and deal with them effectively.

Life is fun with diversity.

S Ramesh Shankar

What others’ see, we don’t ?

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We need to continue to explore to see the unseen. A child may remind us of something in front of us, which we see every day but have not really observed. We sometimes miss the obvious and its not exclusive to us. All humans experience this phenomenon. This may be because we perceive things around us differently and hence tend to see what we perceive. After all perception is reality.

I have experienced this phenomena right through my life at all stages. As a kid, you tend to focus on things that interests you. You are oblivious of all other things around you. Then in the youth, we get influenced by your friends more than your family. This makes us look at things which excite us. As we move to adulthood, we tend to put a value to everything around us. We value things which we perceive as worthwhile to us.

It may be interesting to share some examples in this regard. We may be attempting to solve a puzzle for hours without any success. A kid may come in and crack it in a few seconds. We are perplexed. We wonder what we could not see which the child could do in seconds. As we grow up in life, logic takes over our lives. We forget our gut and our feelings. A child is more perceptible than an adult because they are always expressing themselves in emotions. They are not bothered how others are going to perceive them. We are worried how the stereo typed society will view us. Hence our behaviour is determined by the people around us rather than what we want to do.

It is sometimes interesting to note that a child can create multiple options within minutes. I was recently with my grand son who is 7 years old and he could pose in ten different ways within a matter of a few minutes. I might have struggled to even think of the possibilities before I could pose for similar photographs. I would have evaluated how others would perceive me when I am seen posing in such photos. That would have determined my behaviour. We are inhibited by our own limitations.

I have often seen that when I work with a group of young millennials at work, they can come up with multiple whacky options on any issue. The experienced employees tend to become prisoners of our past experience. We are worried that it did not work in the past and hence may not work in the future. We are bothered how are seniors will react to a crazy idea. A young employee is open, quick and spontaneous.

As in the photo above, the two langurs could spot a tiger nearby and cautioned us although we as tourists, who were looking for the elusive tiger could not spot it on our own. This happens in real life too. We do not see what others are able to see in every day life. It is either because of perceptions or because of conditioning of the mind. In a jungle, the langurs are the first to spot danger of a tiger and alerts all living being around them of a possible attack.

In reality, life is not different. We tend to see things which we want to see. It may be a good idea to challenge ourselves by the people around us. They can help us to see things, which we miss out in life. The time to explore the unseen is now. It is never too late to learn.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Intent versus Action

I was wondering what I need to reflect on for the new year. I was reminded of the famous saying that read – ” A slip between the cup and the lip”. In life, many a time, there is slip between what we intend and what are are actions portray.

Today we are in a state of flux. We are at the threshold of massive change. India is poised at the right inflection point and we have a lot to gain if we act fast and in the right direction. If sometimes our actions misfire, we need to reflect on our intent and change course so that we can move in the right direction always.

We need to reflect on this point as a country, as a state, as a community and more importantly as an individual. Many a time in life our intent may be noble but our actions may not be in sync with our intent. It is never too late to reflect on it and change course if our actions do not lead us to our goal.

It is as simple as driving a high end car on a freeway. You may be enjoying the drive and may be at good speed but if you realise that you have taken the wrong freeway, it may not lead you to your destination. So, in life, if we need to change course to realise our goals we should and not get stuck on anything we have zealously pursued.

Let me start as an individual. Most of us are adept at making new year resolutions. We aim at the moon and make sky high commitments to ourselves. However, we realise that most of our resolutions die even before the ink dries up on the paper on which we had written them. It may be a good idea to reflect and take one small thing at a time. For eg. this year, we could resolve that we will appreciate one person around us every day. This may bridge the gap between intent and action as it is simple and it will give us immense joy in doing it every day. Life is a journey and there would be commas and full stops midway. This does not mean the end of the road. It only means we need to start all over again.

As a community, we have a rich heritage and we need to learn from our culture. We have to live and let live. We need to be more tolerant and inclusive in our intent and actions. Today we see violence all over and this is not what our culture taught us. We always were proud of the quote – “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”- the world is one family. As individuals we have to realise our duties before we try to exercise our rights.

As a country, we need to focus on our basics. We still have a long way to go to ensure food, clothing and shelter for all. Our focus has to be on these fundamentals. The government has to collaborate with the public and all political parties to deliver this. Let us ensure that every individual has her or his basic human needs fulfilled. Today we are 129th on the Human development index in the world. We should be among the top ten in the next decade.

Political parties need to learn to work together to achieve this goal. We have attained a lot of milestones since independence. If all parties come together, there is nothing we cannot achieve as a nation. Sometimes, we may make mistakes and it is fine to accept and move on. Our actions should always lead us to our goal. If they don’t, we need to have the humility to accept the same and change tracks and move on.

We cannot afford to move backwards as a nation. No political party has a right to damage public property as a mark of protest. Violence has no place in a civilised society. If we have to protest against anything, let us do it in a legitimate way. Let us learn to debate without offending anyone or hurting someone’s feelings.

May be time to learn from Lord Krishna, the eternal coach as in the picture above.

People in governance have the responsibility to lead the nation. They need to take others along in this journey. People in the opposition have to realise their responsibilities too. Who governs today may be in opposition tomorrow and this cycle will always go on in a democracy. Let us lead this country to be amongst the most developed and the happiest in the world by learning to work together as individuals, communities and as a polity.

Proud to be an Indian now and always. Wish you and your near and dear ones the best of everything in the new year. I would urge you to resolve to appreciate one human being around you every day in the new year.

S Ramesh Shankar

31st December 2019.

Spaces

IMG_1649Each of us love our private space. At times, we like to be left alone. Nobody can define what is the right space we need at any time in our life. There are times in our lives, where we feel comfortable surrounded by friends or relatives. There are other times, when we want to be left all alone. Each of us define our space based on time and our personal needs. There is no right or wrong answer to define the space we need.

The interesting aspect of space is that sometimes we want people around us and at other times we do not want. This is true for individuals, communities, societies and nations. Every individual enjoys her or his personal space. Although, we cannot draw a circle and define our space, we tend to evolve it based on needs and moods. It could change with time, space and stage of our life and it is fine to be that way.

It is important to realise that while we enjoy our space, we need to respect the space of others too. We get irritated if someone intrudes into our space but are less concerned when we do the same. This is the lesson to learn in life. The territory of others is as valuable to them as it is to us. We realise the value of it only when our space is infringed by others. It may be useful to respect others’ s spaces without being reminded of the same.

Interestingly, this phenomenon is equally applicable across nations too. In a global conference, social scientists can interpret relationship between states by the distance they keep between them. It is important to realise that every sovereign country likes to protect its space. No country likes its space to be intruded by others. We can note that even in international boundaries, there is always a neutral zone between states. This is also to ensure that no country intrudes into the territory of others even by mistake.

Another dimension could be the space we occupy even in our offices. If we try to trespass into the space of our colleagues at work it is not appreciated. On the other hand, if we keep a distance from other team members they feel ignored . We need to strike the right balance between proximity and intrusion. The line is very thin and we may learn by experience. Different people and different organisations may view this differently.

Even in our neighbourhood, it is delicate balance to maintain the right distance. If we get too close to our neighbours, they may consider it as an intrusion. On the other hand, if we keep a safe distance, they may interpret it as aloofness on our part. What is the right distance to maintain is again not defined by laws of physics or sociology. It is learnt by experience and is also situational. In a crisis situation, neighbours would appreciate closeness and proximity. On the other hand, on some other occassion, they will prefer to be left alone.

Interestingly the concept of spaces could be experienced even within the family. What is right distance you need to maintain with your elders or with your children is difficult to define. If your ignore your parents, they will feel neglected. On the other hand, if you your start advising them every day on everything, they may feel suffocated. The same may be true for your children. When should you get close to them and when you should leave them alone to learn from their own deeds is a matter of judgement.

As in this photo, the distance between friends was not planned but happened as we sat across a table in a marriage reception. We all liked it and the conversations were cordial and friendly. I am not sure if this was caused by the space between us or in spite of the space. It may be just incidental and may not have any basis at all. Hence, it is not worth spending your life thinking and planning about spaces. But, it may be a good idea to learn from our mistakes.

Lets keep the right distance.

S Ramesh Shankar

Change is good

Change is the only constant in today’s world. The most interesting aspect is the rate of change. Earlier, we would be happy to anticipate a change once in a few years. This became months, days and now life changes almost every minute. One of the reasons could be technological breakthroughs in society. I remember in the eighties we would get an update of the world news on television only once a week. Today, we are updated every minute through news apps.

Organisations and individuals are constantly dealing with change every day. Let us first examine it from an organisation perspective. Every organisation is confronted with change at every stage of its evolution. If it is a startup, dealing with change is the foundation of its existence. After an organisation matures and becomes stable, change in the environment helps the organisation to shake itself out of slumber and learn and grow.

The story of change is no different for us as individuals. In the earlier years, we had the luxury of following age old practises without being challenged. Today the rate of change of the environment is faster than we can believe. It changes very rapidly and impacts us in multiple ways. Our success lies in anticipating the change, accepting it as our current reality and learning to adapt to the change to our best ability.

Our society is also dealing with change in every way. Nations, communities and societies are experiencing unprecedented change. The boundaries of nations get blurred with economic unions cutting across countries like the European Union. This makes change inevitable. Both suppliers and customers benefits from such changes. It also impacts regulations and taxes across countries.

The biggest challenge of change is our ability to accept it and adapt to it. If we resist change, then we get overwhelmed. I remember the first days of the computer and the email. Senior managers were wary of this change and felt powerless without their secretaries sorting out snail mails for them. They even resisted the use of computers for word processing and database management. Today the computer is gradually getting replaced by the mobile phone. Our office resides in the mobile phone and every activity can be done on it if we are willing to learn to do it.

I am aware of grand parents attending computer classes to learn to send emails and chat on video platforms with their grand children who live across the ocean in different continents. Age, sex, religion or nation will not matter to adapt to change. It is our mindset to unlearn, learn and relearn. It is important to remember that change is the only constant in an ever changing world around us.

The earlier we are able to anticipate this change and adapt to it, the more successful and happy we would be in life. Most of us spend time in denial. We then try to postpone an issue claiming that a particular change is not for me. It is this attitude we need to change. The moment we realise it, we become a winner. We are able to lead the change and reap the benefits from it much better than others.

Playing football in the pouring rain made me realise that change is good. If I could play in pouring rains, I could do better during normal weather.

It is important to realise that change does not wait for us. It encircles us and moves on. If we do not learn to change, we may get changed forcibly and that experience may not be good. It is better to master change then be engulfed by change. This is true as individuals, communities, societies, organisations or even nations. As someone nicely said, ” The future has a habit of suddenly and dramatically becoming the present.” If we learn to foresee this future, we lead the change.

Lets change today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Fashion is cyclic

Fashion is cyclic and so is life. I was once asked in my college viva as to why fashion is cyclic ? I did not know the answer and responded that it may be because the world is round. Later when I clarified with my professor, he said I was partly right. He said fashion is cyclic because the choices are always limited for everything in life. Once we reach the limit , we tend to follow a repeat cycle.

We can examine this hypothesis from different angles. Let us first look at fashion itself. If we take hairstyle, we have the option of having long hair, medium, short hair or no hair and then we revert to long hair. If we look at our pants. We had tight fitting pants, bell bottoms, parallels and then we may revert to tight pants. So, we notice that all aspects of fashion is cyclic.

If we examine this from HR practices in an organisation, the story is not very different. If we look at rewards and recognition practices, we had high level of differentiation and focus on individual rewards. We then moved to a hybrid model to balance individual and team rewards. Finally, we denounce individual differentiation and feel that the best way to go is team rewards. The story of the bell curve is testimony to this theory as well. Today the same organizations which kept bell curve as the way to differentiate performance assessment have started moving away from the same.

Now, let us look at life. As they say in common parlance, life has come a full circle. We go through bad times and after years of struggle, we feel we have got over the ridge and some good things start to happen. As we ride the crest, we again see the clouds of trouble approaching us. Life is never a straight road. It has a lots of twists and turns and it is up to us to develop the resilience to deal with the uncertainties of life.

Even nature teaches us the cycle of life. We have a great monsoon and a bumper crop for two years in a row. We feel the world is green and food and commodity prices drop. Then we have a severe drought and huge losses to farmers. This is followed by high inflation and escalating food prices. The following year again we have a normal monsoon and life seems to limp back to normalcy.

One of the lessons I have learnt in life is that it is unpredictable. You face a trough, when you expect a crest and vice versa. One has to develop our patience and perseverance to deal with ups and downs. Our ability to bounce back and deal with both with equanimity makes us a winner in life. We need to realize that there is always a sun rise after every sun set. Hence, there is no need to despair after a trough but be optimistic that a crest will soon follow.

Every thing in life goes round and round. We have to develop the ability to be comfortable with the circles in our life. It is a continuum and for every dark and cloudy day, there will be a bright and sunny day that follows. If we develop the ability to deal with the breaks in between, we become victorious in life. It may look that the dark and gloomy days never end for us. The sun looks to never shine for us. But, herein we need the patience and the gratitude that we are better off than millions of people around us in the world.

Life is a full circle like in the floral decoration of the photo above. Let us learn to deal with it.

S Ramesh Shankar