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Thursday, December 31, 2015



“Lowe is Great at Retaining its People“
Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman & Creative Director, O&M India and South Asia
CLAIM TO FAME: Famous for his iconic work on brands like Fevicol, Asian Paints and Cadbury, Pandey is equally well known for being mentor to some of the industry's brightest minds and leaders
THE LESSON: Piyush Pandey's name is always on the list of people who have been most influential in shap ing the Indian advertising industry. Not just from the perspective of helping build some of the country's biggest brands but also from the lens of cultivating a culture and nurturing the advertising business's greatest asset: talent. It's no wonder then that Pandey considers a company -be it in the ad business or not -that can keep its best people happy and not inclined to defect to other pastures, an admirable competitor. “The biggest les sons to learn are from companies who have held on to their people. Lowe is great at keeping its key people. Not that we (Ogil vy) have a problem with that. But one must know what they do to keep them.“
He's also learnt a great deal from the Tata Group's Ratan Tata, for the way he handled succession planning in one of India's biggest conglomer ates and led the seamless transfer to the next generation of leaders.
(This statement comes with another disclaimer, considering the industry's and journalists' penchant for speculating on his retirement schedule. Pandey, how ever, is not ready yet.) “But,“ he tells us, “these issues are important.“
(Delshad Irani)


CAREER SPECIAL...... Stuck in the Career Comfort Zone? 4 Ways to Tell When It’s Time to Make a Job Jump

Stuck in the Career Comfort Zone? 4 Ways to Tell When It’s Time to Make a Job Jump
Jennifer Goff was fresh out of college when she landed a dream job at a thriving art gallery in San Francisco.
Before long, she climbed the ranks to become the director of PR and media. She loved it, but after three years in the role, she began to feel restless.
“I had adapted to the continuous deadlines, and had established smooth, efficient routines—yet I was less absorbed by the work,” says the 27-year-old Goff. “I no longer had moments when I felt ‘in over my head.’ And, oddly, I missed that.”
After reflecting on her situation, Goff realized that she wanted to expand her writing and marketing skills beyond what her current gig offered. So she made the difficult decision to move on, accepting a content marketing job at an Austin-based start-up.
“My team in San Francisco was extremely close-knit, so it was hard for me to say goodbye,” she admits. “But I looked ahead to the benefits that could come from exploring the unknown.”
In fact, Goff recalls a quote from Yahoo president and C.E.O. Marissa Mayer that really resonated for her when she was contemplating the career move: “When you have different options, you should choose the thing that looks like it will be more difficult, because that usually turns out to be the right choice.”
“At first, I felt disillusioned that my ‘dream job’ was no longer the right fit, but at the same time, admitting that was incredibly freeing,” Goff says. “For anyone facing similar feelings, the advice I’d give is: Embrace it. Jump into something new.”
Easier said than done, right?
This can be a particularly anxiety-provoking proposition if you’re one of the many people who lost a job during the recent recession—or if you’ve clung to a less-than-awesome gig out of fear of being unemployed.
“Most of us are wired to crave stability,” says career coach Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons in Bellevue, Wash. “The recession took away our sense of security, and now that it’s over, people are starting to take a deep breath and are happy to finally be in a place of relative calm.”
With this in mind, we’ve put together a four-step action plan that can help you assess whether it’s time to take that big career leap yourself.
Step #1: Figure Out If You’re Staying Simply for the Sake of Staying
It’s a no-brainer to leave a job because the hours are killing you, or your boss is a carbon copy of Miranda Priestly.
It’s another thing entirely if nothing is wrong, per se … except that you’re coasting instead of growing. So if you have a nagging sense that you’re running on autopilot, it’s probably time for a gut check.
“Ask yourself whether you’re too comfortable, and honestly analyze your feelings by talking it out with friends,” says Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach and author of “Coach Yourself to a New Career.”
She also recommends composing a pro-con list comparing the benefits and drawbacks of staying versus moving on. “This gives you objectivity so that you can make a fair assessment,” she explains.
It also pays to dip your toe into the job-hunting pool.
“People who’ve been out of the game for a while are often unaware of what opportunities are even available,” Brown-Volkman says, adding that this is especially true if the recession’s dearth of options intimidated you into staying put.
So check out job boards and LinkedIn, and also make an effort to reach out to people in your network. Sometimes sniffing around informally like this can be enough to get you over the initial fear of making a change.

Step #2: Get Real About What Really Matters to You
Just to be clear, feeling comfortable in a job isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you want to climb the ladder as high as you can, your path is going to look very different from someone who values a flexible schedule and plenty of vacation time.
To suss out your own priorities, you need to get really specific by “breaking things down into testable benefits,” Youngquist says.
She offers up this example of the kind of key questions you should ask yourself: If you crave better work-life balance, what would that look like exactly? Working from home once a week? Never staying late at the office? Moreover, how much would you give up for those perks? Would you be willing to take a pay cut?
This kind of seemingly simple career soul-searching can often lead to a clear answer.
Take the case of one of Youngquist’s clients—a rising star at Boeing who wished she were at a smaller start-up, where she could have more impact.
“When we sat down and looked at her current benefits and job stability, we realized that she would probably backtrack if she jumped ship,” Youngquist says.
As Youngquist explains, her client was shocked to learn that the average tenure at young tech companies was just two and a half years—never mind the long hours—whereas Boeing ranks in the top 3% of businesses in terms of longevity.
Since she had already put in so much time building a bulletproof career for herself at Boeing, she decided to play it safe and stay—with a newfound sense of appreciation for what she had.
Step #3: Research If a New Job Is Worth the Move
If you’ve found a job you’re really interested in, go ahead and apply—but be sure to do your homework along the way.
A good first stop is Glassdoor, where you can find employee reviews of a company’s internal environment. “If seven out of 10 people report that, for example, an organization doesn’t promote from within, that’s something to think about,” Youngquist says.
Next, do a LinkedIn search on the firm to find out if anyone in your extended network has worked there—or is connected to someone who has—and ask if you could have five minutes of their time to discuss a job opportunity you’re exploring.
Once you’re actively interviewing, Youngquist recommends carefully evaluating the culture to get a sense of how they treat employees. Were you jumping through hoops during the interview process? Did you get a good feeling from the staff you met?
And don’t be afraid to ask tough questions yourself: Where have previous employees in this position ended up? What are the biggest challenges involved in this job?
Think of it like dating. If you pay attention in the early stages—did your date text you back, or leave you hanging? are you always picking up the tab?—you can often determine what a long-term relationship would look like.
Brown-Volkman has another suggestion: Draft up a list, with your current position in one column and the new job in another. Then compare certain factors side-by-side, like benefits, salary, commute, schedule and responsibilities.
Step #4: Evaluate What It Would Cost You to Stay in Your Comfort Zone
One particular challenge facing “lifers” is that you lose marketability. After 10 years or so in the same job, recruiters start penalizing people for not being more ambitious, assuming your skills are stagnant and you lack motivation.
And while money isn’t everything, becoming a barnacle usually means you aren’t scoring the raises that occasional job-hopping can net.
“Periodically, it’s worth investigating what you’re worth in the marketplace—and if you’re underpaid—by going on interviews, talking to recruiters, and checking out websites like,” says Eleanor Blayney, a CFP® and consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner™ Board of Standards.
Blayney estimates that a 30-year-old currently earning $45,000, but who could be making about 10% more in a new position, potentially gives up $500,000-plus over their work life by staying put. This takes into account not only lost salary but also lost 401(k) matches and lower Social Security benefits.
On the flip side, that long tenure in your current job has likely earned you perks that can be hard to let go of, like ample vacation time or stock options. But there’s no reason why you can’t negotiate for similar benefits with a new employer.
Just try to keep your asks to a maximum of three, Youngquist says. “And remember that you already have a decent job, so you need a compelling reason to leave,” Brown-Volkman adds. “You have nothing to lose.”

WORKPLACE SPECIAL................ Compete `with' and not `against' colleagues

Compete `with' and not `against' colleagues


We live in a competitive dog-eat dog world, where everyone is struggling to be on top. And the workplace is no stranger to some staunch competition. Ideally , workplace competition is meant to be healthy , but on second thoughts, is it really so? Can competition ever be taken in a positive stride?
It is widely believed that competition at the workplace can be productive. But competitiveness can also hinder the culture if it becomes toxic think undermining, backstabbing, and a “me first“ mentality . Hence, organisations and employees both have to ensure that they bring out the positive aspect of competition at the workplace.
Rajesh Razdan, founder & CEO, mCarbon, shares, “Competition can often mean increased morale, motivation, and best of all, increased productivity . However, competition between employees is bound to lead to hard feelings, decreased morale, and decreased productivity . Think about it.You may have one winner. But, you also have losers focusing all their time and attention on that loss. Also, a competitive environment pushes you out of your comfort zone. But at the same time, constantly comparing yourself to others can fuel unhappiness.“
According to Debi Prasad Das, senior vice president, HR, CEAT Ltd, competition at workplace is healthy as long as it encourages higher productivity and creative and innovative thinking. “However, the means used to achieve results are important. For example, staying back in office for long hours just to be visible to senior bosses is unhealthy competition.Using unethical means to outperform others or being secretive and noncollaborative in an effort to be better, are symptoms of unhealthy competition,“ he explains. While competition can help team members excel, if not handled well, it may also lead to unhealthy rivalries in the workplace, which can vitiate the atmosphere, states Janet Gasper Chowdhury , chief people officer, Magma Fincorp Ltd. “However, we must remember that competition is inevitable at the workplace. An employer judges an employee on the basis of hisher performance in the organisation and the employee is always evaluated on the basis of their performance vs. other team members,“ she says.
Competition at the workplace has its pros and cons. The key is to find the right way to handle it, so it doesn't become toxic. Deodutta Kurane, group president, Human Capital Management, YES Bank Ltd, believes, “A competitive environment helps employees understand their areas of development and become conscious of their capabilities. “We realise our true potential only when we push ourselves to the limit. Competition makes us stretch ourselves to go that extra final mile. In the process, we also end up attaining many new skills and competencies. The winner always sets the best example and chasing himher only helps us improve ourselves.“
Yasmin Taj


BUSINESS SPECIAL .................10 Businessmen To Watch Out For

10 Businessmen To Watch Out For

2015 was supposed to be a banner year for corporates. It turned out to be largely forgettable. The economy is growing but companies are still nursing old grouses. That doesn't mean they were idle. Many companies have been reacting to the wheels of the economy turning. Those actions will become visible in 2016. Here is a list of corporate bosses whose attempts to take their companies to new heights will be momentous for their sectors

Mukesh Ambani's telecom company Jio is targetting one million subscribers a day in the first 100 days of a possible commercial launch in March-April 2016.Even if Jio meets half that target, it can cause serious damage to incumbents Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. The company made an `employee and friends only' debut earlier this week, issuing subscriptions to 1 lakh of its own people. Jio is said to have drawn lists of high average revenue customers.Incumbents say they remain unnerved by the threat Jio poses. But given that RIL's entry into telecom in 2002 turned the telecom sector on its head, they have much to worry about in 2016.

Anil Ambani runs marathons, which calls for running at a patient pace. But he seems to be running a 100 metre sprint in business, to lift his group from huge levels of indebtedness. Ambani is consolidating his telecom business through big mergers and strategic alliances like the one he has with elder brother Mukesh. He is also exiting cash-guzzling businesses -from telecom towers to cement and roads.Where he can -depending on regulatory ceilings -he is diluting equity in favour of foreign partners to further lighten his debt burden. Reliance Infrastructure, meanwhile, is aiming to become a key player in defence. Ambani has a busy year ahead. He will be restructuring his portfolio and consummating deals. He will hope his business is as lean as his waistline in 2016.

3 Vishal Sikka CEO, INFOSYS
Infosys under Sikka's watch has been a bustling company. It has been on an acquisition spree like never before, backed about half a dozen new-age startups (again unprecedented), effected a management reshuffle that saw the rise of new leaders, and perhaps most significantly, launched efforts to change the mindset of every average engineer in the company through the now well-documented `Design Thinking' movement. But 2016 will present Sikka's biggest test yet -bridging the widening gap with larger peers such as TCS and Cognizant. Success will hoist him into the big league and ensure that the inevitable comparisons with Infosys legends such as NR Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani are not out of place.

Gautam Adani, chairman of the $10-billion Adani Group, is poised to have an actionpacked 2016. In logistics, his group is due to commission the Ennore Port terminal and expand the container terminal in Mundra. It would press ahead with buying more port-related infrastructure, possibly on the eastern coast of India. In power, the commissioning of the 670 MW solar power project in Tamil Nadu would make it the largest such project in India. Adani will also begin work on a 1 GW solar park in Mundra. A power plant in Udupi will undergo expansion. The group will also eye a 1,000 mw plus thermal plant in central or western India. Next year might also see Adani try to secure all the clearances for its high-profile Australia mine and railway project and resume work. Adani also plans to rejuvenate his agro business with new variants of the cooking oil brand Fortune and other brands.

A year ago, SpiceJet was choking under the weight of a severe cash crunch and about to collapse. Today, the low-cost airline is on the road to a full recovery, even making profits. The difference between then and now: change of ownership. Soon after the crisis, SpiceJet changed hands with the Marans of Sun Group passing ownership to co-founder Ajay Singh, a Delhi-based businessman. Singh has big plans for SpiceJet in 2016.He says he is in talks with Boeing and Airbus to buy around 150 planes.A suitor too could be in the horizon once Singh is able to reduce the airline's liabilities and press ahead with the revival.From the looks of it, all the big action in Indian aviation would be centred on Singh and SpiceJet.

6 Nithin Kamath CEO, ZERODHA
Nithin Kamath gave a jolt to the broking industry when he waived off broking charges on cash market trades earlier this month.Zerodha's `zero brokerage' structure has upset the plans of traditional brokers who are trying to keep pace by lowering charges, allowing more trades at the same cost and offering algorithm trading options to their high-volume clients. The success of `zero brokerage' structure would be analysed threadbare by the broking industry over the next one year. Zerodha, on its part, intends to attract more clients. The discount broker has over 96,000 clients contributing to an average daily turnover of `8,000 crore. “We'll shift our focus from traders to investors now,“ says Kamath. Zerodha will also start its mutual fund distribution in January 2016. Kamath, 36, has his hands full in 2016.

Arun Kumar, founder and CEO of Bengaluru-based Strides Arcolab, has been quite active with pharma deals. His model of constantly buying and selling assets may leave investors confused, but in the last one year, Strides shares have given them a 42% return. This was made possible by the sale of its only profitable injectible business Agila to US-based Mylan for roughly $1.3 billion. The deal helped clear debts and inject liquidity, though it has run into controversy. Kumar has said his company will now focus on building the generic business in emerging markets, at a time when most Indian drugmakers are looking to the west for growth. Kumar backed his claim by buying a majority stake in Bafna Pharma and Shasun Chemicals. In 2016, Kumar will look to expand in the competitive domestic market and take on pharma powerhouses.

For nearly a decade, Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Ayurved was dismissed as a small-time ayurveda player. In 2015, it forced some of the biggest consumer goods companies to sit up and take notice.Patanjali Ayurved is now a bon-fide FMCG player, with over 350-plus products spanning noodles, biscuits, corn flakes and juices among other products. Ramdev has forecasted sales of `5,000 crore by 2015-16 from `2,000 crore this year.Operating from a 150-acre Food Park at Haridwar, Ramdev now intends to set up megamarts -exclusive retail hubs -to sell Patanjali products across cities. Sensing the potential of Patanjali, Future Group's Kishore Biyani partnered him in October.Biyani believes Patanjali could “bring in a revolution“. 2016 could be that year.

9 Vijay Shekhar Sharma FOUNDER, PAYTM
Paytm, the mobile wallet and mobile commerce company founded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma, has leapfrogged rivals, but it is yet to break into the big league of digital commerce. The year 2016 might see Sharma mounting moves in that direction. Sharma has a few things going for him. He has a moneybags investor in Alibaba, which has helped him expand in multiple fields -payments, wallet, m-commerce, grocery and more. Paytm is now the most used mobile wallet, with 100 million plus users. Sharma has also shown the smarts. In July, Paytm bagged sponsorship rights for BCCI cricket matches for four years. The next month, it bagged a payment bank licence from RBI. That allows Paytm to offer interest for money deposited from next fiscal and attract more users. In 2016, Sharma will hope the users of his five-year-old company will do more than just pay bills or transfer money and help him take on the big boys of e-commerce.

As Flipkart enters its ninth year in 2016, expectations are high that co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal will take their e-commerce giant public. The listing would unlock wealth for its 16 investors, including Tiger Global, Naspers and Yuri Milner's DST Global, and a few hundred of its 33,000 employees. Flipkart, which has about 44% of the market, has raised about $3 billion and is valued around $15 billion. In 2015, the company nixed speculation of going public anytime soon. But with the two founders holding just around 7% each of the company, it would be the investors rather than them that make that decision. Amazon, where the Bansals worked before starting Flipkart in 2007, went public within three years of launch. Deep discounts to attract shoppers and the resulting absence of profits have delayed a listing. Even so, could 2016 be the year of listing?


PERSONAL /IMPRESSION SPECIAL................ Don't Worry About Impressing Me

Don't Worry About Impressing Me

He had been strongly recommended. And so, when I got on the
phone with him, I was expecting a sharp, take-charge guy.
Instead, I got this:

"I've been involved in strategically important roles with
communications companies for 25 years. Throughout,
I've focused on my core competencies, building brand recognition
and interfaces with key personnel."

To which, I responded: "Huh?"

He went on ...

"It's been a personal paradigm of mine that quality control and 
dynamic leadership are essentials in today's globalized business
environment, and that's what I feel I can bring to any company
that I work for."

"So," I said, "what exactly have you been doing all these years?"

There was a pause during which I could almost hear
 his disappointment. He must have been thinking,
"What kind of dummy am I dealing with?" 

For my part, I had already come to an initial assessment of
him: The guy was a fraud.

Normally, I would have pretended to have been interrupted by
some sort of emergency and gotten off the phone. But because
a colleague had spoke so well of him, I suppressed my instinct
and kept the conversation going. And here's what I got for my

"Bringing in a bottom line and achieving optimal results are
goals that resonate with me."

"That's it," I thought. "I can't take any more."

"I'm really sorry to do this, but I have to jump off the phone to
handle an emergency. I did enjoy talking to you and I'll look at
your resume and get back to you if something comes up that makes
 sense for you."

And with that, I said goodbye to this man and his chances of ever
making money with me or any business I have a say in.

In their book "
Why Business People Speak Like Idiots", authors
Fugere, Hardaway, and Warshawsky say there are three reasons
we hear this kind of nonsense from too many people in the business

They focus on themselves, rather than their listeners. "When
obscurity pollutes someone's communications it's often because
the ... goal is to impress and not to inform."

They are afraid of concrete language. They realize that saying
exactly what they mean makes it hard for them to wiggle out of
commitments later on. "Liability scares us, so we add endless
phrases to qualify our views on a topic, acknowledging everything
from prevailing weather conditions to the 12 reasons we can't
make a decision now."

They like to romanticize what they do for a living. They are afraid
that their daily routines, and indeed their daily thoughts, are
common and thus vulgar.

Here's the bottom line on lies: It's a very 
poor success strategy.
It can work in the short run, and this is why so many shallow-minded businesspeople use it. But in the long run, what you do is what counts
You can get away with fooling people for a while, but only a little while.
 As I've said many times, in business only two things really matter:
what you know (your skill set) and who you are (your integrity).
Those qualities are demonstrated ultimately by your actions, not by your words.

You are, as our 
grammar school teachers used to tell us, only fooling
yourself by lying and making up stories. Eventually - usually much
 more quickly than you'd like to believe - people will find out who
you really are. At that point, no amount of verbal hyperbole is going
to save you.

Having been found out as a con artist, you have also been marked
as an impostor. You don't have the skills you've claimed and you've
 lost any hope of being thought of as a person with any integrity.

It's much better to be honest from the outset. And being honest
means being honest about who you are, how much you know,
and the qualities of your character.

None of us is perfect. And the good news is that we don't have to be.
You can be outrageously successful in business with just a handful
 of good qualities and a truckload of faults.

And anyway, nobody wants 
you to be perfect. What they want is
for you to be good. So the first rule of successfully selling yourself
 is to begin with the basics:

You must be good at something - really good.
That something must be useful to the success of the business
you are attempting to work for.
You must prove that you are good.
And then you must deliver.

 By Mark Ford

TECH SPECIAL ....................8 biggest technology shockers of the year

8 biggest technology shockers of the year

We were treated to plenty of tech surprises in 2015. Here's a roundup of the biggest shockers

The year 2015 rarely had a dull moment.Apple introduced a product Steve Jobs famously hated, Tesla Model S got a surprise auto-pilot update and Microsoft revealed that the next version of Windows would have an unexpected name -just to name a few that caught everyone off guard. These are the biggest shockers of the year.
Microsoft skips a number with Windows
Just three weeks into 2015, Microsoft made the surprise announcement that it was skipping Windows 9 and going straight to Windows 10 -and that the new operating system would be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users.
The Apple Watch's slow start
April saw the release of the long rumoured, long-awaited, muchhyped Apple Watch. But after some brutal reviews, the Apple Watch failed to make a serious dent, surprising Apple's fans and analysts alike. Amazon's Dash buttons When Amazon announced its `Dash' buttons on March 31, everyone assumed it an early April Fool's Day joke. But it's a very real way to literally order products with the push of a button.
Tesla brings auto-pilot to the masses
Tesla CEO Elon Musk dropped a bomb: thousands of Tesla Model S owners found that an overnight software update turned the high-end vehicle into a (mostly) self-driving car.
FCC supports net neutrality
In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, voted to regulate the internet as a public utility, supporting the concept of net neutrality.
Apple casts aside Steve Jobs's wisdom and releases an iPad stylus
Apple announced the iPad Pro, a gigantic tabletlaptop hybrid. But the really shocking part was the introduction of the $99 Apple Pencil stylus -a concept that Steve Jobs famously hated.
Google becomes Alphabet
The tech world exploded in August when Google announced a total corporate reorganisation of the company and the creation of its new parent company, Alphabet.
Apple supports ad blockers in iOS
An update to Apple's iOS mobile operating system caused a panic in the media and advertising industries by letting users install ad-blocking software on their iPhones and iPads.It didn't help that those ad blockers .shot up the sales charts when they were first released
businessinsider in


COMMUNICATION SPECIAL.... 16 Conversation Starters That Work 100 Percent of the Time

16 Conversation Starters That Work 100 Percent of the Time

It can be tough to start talking to a stranger. These sentences will help.

It's party season. After that comes conference season, and then summer workshop season, then another conference season, and then party season again. At all these events, as well as many occasions in-between, you're going to meet, or spy across the room, someone you really want to talk to. Only you won't be quite sure how to start the conversation. 
Starting a conversation with a stranger can be daunting, but it really isn't that hard. There are really only three rules: Be pleasant and upbeat; be open and straightforward; and say something the other person will want to hear. 
With that in mind, here's are some conversation starters guaranteed to get things rolling. After that, it's up to you.
1. "What nice (or awful, or wet, or unseasonable) weather we're having!" 
There's a reason weather always tops the list of safe conversation topics. We all experience it, and we usually all feel the same way about it.
2. "Isn't this a lovely room?" 
If it isn't, it still might be a nice hotel, or a convenient or pretty part of town. The point is to comment--approvingly--on your surroundings. If it's an ugly room, you don't want to say so because a positive comment makes a better first impression than a negative one, and besides, for all you know the person's sister is responsible for the decor.
3. "Is this your first time at this event?"
If it is, and you're an old hand, you can offer to share information or make introductions. On the other hand, if the other person's been around a while and you're the newbie, he or she may show you around.
4. "I really liked that thing you said." 
If your target has given a presentation at the event, then picking something in it to praise is a surefire way to get that person's attention and good will.
5. "I really loved your last blog post."
If your target has published any writing online that you've read, say so, and mention something you particularly liked. (This works on me all the time.)
6. "That's a beautiful thing you're wearing."
It could be the other person's shoes, a piece of jewelry, or even a necktie. If you admire someone's taste, that person is almost guaranteed to like you. Commenting on someone's clothing or accessories is usually a better idea than commenting on his or her hair or other physical attributes.
7. "Do you know anything about the next session?"
If she does, she can tell you all about it. If they don't, you can speculate together.
8. "Do you know where the next session is?"
Most people love to give directions.
9. "Can I help you with that?" 
If the person you want to meet is struggling to juggle a briefcase, overcoat, and cocktail, for example, you can win points by offering your assistance.
10. "Are you having a good event?"
Asking what someone thinks of the event you're both at, and whether it's useful or informative, will almost always start an interesting conversation.
11. "Do you know what's happening next?"
What's going on in the next time slot? If the other person doesn't know either, you can figure it out together.
13. "What do you recommend?"
This could apply to a choice of sessions to attend, or hors d'oeuvres to taste, or even a tray of cocktails. Whatever the case, everyone loves to be asked for an opinion.
14. "I've been to your home town."
If you know where the other person is from, and you've been to that place or have any connection with it, that's almost always a good conversation starter. It can also work just to ask what the place is like, or what it is like to live there. (If the person comes from a large city, you can ask what neighborhood and go from there.)
15. "Do you know...?"
This is a similar conversational gambit to the home-town one. If you know someone who works in this person's company, or in the same industry, etc., it's great to inquire whether you might have a mutual connection.
16. "I've been wanting to meet you."
Sometimes the direct approach is best. Stick out your hand, state your name, and then tell people why you've been interested in meeting him or her. Of course, you're not going to say anything like, "I've been wanting to meet you because your company could really benefit from my services--let me tell you in detail about them." 
As long as you're sensitive to the occasion, and to the other person's time, letting someone know you've been wanting to meet him or her in the hopes that you could do business together is perfectly fine. It might even increase curiosity about you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015



The Existing System is My Competition, the Lesson is to Frame an Alternative Policy“

Suresh Prabhu, Railway Minister
CLAIM TO FAME: A chartered accountant-turned politician who was first elected Member of Parliament in 1996, and who a year ago quit Shiv Sena to join BJP and become railway minister
THE LESSON: I don't look at any individual as my com petitor. But, very often, an existing system becomes your main competitor. The challenge does not come from any individual. The system itself becomes your competition.
In the Railways, I have studied the existing system and decided to move ahead with an alternative policy. It's like this: I pursue a path; someone else pursues another path.
That's why we are competitors. In economic parlance, the competition is all about acquiring market share.
Earlier in railways, every tender proposal was coming to the minister for clearance. And that's where (the rail way) minister drew his powers from. I have dispensed with that power completely. Now, no file regarding ten ders comes to my desk. My competition was centralised tendering. My answer to it is no tendering at the minis ter's level. The lesson I learnt was that I can't replicate the same system, but can choose an alternative.
Not just in tendering, there was centralisation in eve ry decision-making process earlier. I have del egated almost all decision-making pow ers to officers at the level of general managers. The lesson I learnt was that I would succeed if I decentralise the processes.
Earlier, one (the minister) dealt with personal issues such as trans fers, postings, promotions. I have decided not to handle any such matters. These are now addressed in a transparent process.
(As told to Shantanu Nandan Sharma)


MANAGEMENT SPECIAL.............The keys to organizational agility

The keys to organizational agility

The leaders behind McKinsey’s work on organization design explain the importance of agility and how established companies can become more dynamic.

Established companies often struggle to become more dynamic—but it’s not impossible. In these interviews, the leaders of organization design at McKinsey, principals Wouter Aghina and Aaron De Smet, explain what agility means and how organizations can evolve to thrive in an environment that demands constant change. Aghina was interviewed by Monica Murarka, a senior expert in organization design at McKinsey, while De Smet was interviewed by Luke Collins, an editor with McKinsey Publishing. An extended and edited transcript of Aghina’s and De Smet’s comments follows.
Interview transcript
Defining organizational agility
Aaron De Smet: Agility is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment. Agility is not incompatible with stability—quite the contrary. Agility requires stability for most companies.

Agility needs two things. One is a dynamic capability, the ability to move fast—speed, nimbleness, responsiveness. And agility requires stability, a stable foundation—a platform, if you will—of things that don’t change. It’s this stable backbone that becomes a springboard for the company, an anchor point that doesn’t change while a whole bunch of other things are changing constantly.
In really small start-ups, stability is typically embodied in the founder, and you have a few people around a founder. The start-up out of someone’s garage can be just fast and agile without a lot of stability. But as soon as you get any sense of size or scale, you cannot be agile without some sense of stability.
Wouter Aghina: What do we mean by agility? Let me answer that question indirectly. Consider things that are fragile. What’s fragile? Fragile is a crystal glass. When we put stress on it, when we exert force on it, it gets weaker or even breaks. So what’s the opposite of fragile? We immediately think of words like resilientstrongrobust, maybe even flexible, so that it bends and it gets back to the original condition. But is that really the opposite? Something that stays the same?
The opposite of fragile is something that gets stronger when I exert force or stress on it. In today’s environment—with enormous changes coming from both inside and outside of the organization—that’s what we think the aspiration should be. That’s what I call agility: when you thrive on change and get stronger and it becomes a source of real competitive advantage.
The agility challenge
Wouter Aghina: Agility has always been important for companies. Take the high-tech sector, where I’ve done most of my work. In that sector, you’re often only as good as your last product. That means you have to be agile. Now, having said that, you could think, “I’m not in the high-tech sector, so that’s less relevant for me.” But with today’s levels of uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility in the markets, and globalization, this is starting to be true for any company. It’s critical to be agile and quickly respond to change and actually benefit from change. And if you think that you’re still in a corner where this doesn’t hold true, wait for the disruption to come. Tomorrow it will be relevant for you.

But for big, successful companies—now or in the past—it’s very difficult to get agile. Those companies have a legacy. They have grown, and most of them have been successful by actually using what we call a managerial hierarchy—a classical way of managing from the top down, with jobs, with boxes and lines and structures and process descriptions, running and controlling the company from the top. And now, when they try and put some experiments in place to be more agile, to give more space to people, to allow them to be more flexible, what happens? Well, when you are a leader and for 20 years you have been in a managerial hierarchy, what do you do when you really get fearful and uncertain? You go back to what’s worked in the past. You exert control, add things, add rules, add processes, add structure.
What you should do is actually a real act of leadership: you have to take things away. You have to reduce the structure, the processes. But that’s really difficult. It’s much easier and more comfortable to add things because that gives you a, maybe false, sense of control.
Aaron De Smet: Imagine a spectrum: on one end, fast, nimble, agile; on the other end, stable, slow, efficient, more centralized. Many large companies try to find where they want to be on the spectrum. And that’s the wrong way to think about it. You need to be both. You need stability and this dynamic capability.
If you just move fast and you go away from stability—losing any sense of centralization or quality control or risk management or the ability to capture economics of scale—what you find are these $10 billion or $20 billion companies that are trying to act like a start-up. And it doesn’t work. They get into all kinds of problems. They don’t take advantage of their scale. They take unnecessary risks. Way too many decisions are decentralized. People are reinventing the wheel. Now, it could work if you’ve got 20 people in a garage, but, without that stability, it will not work on a global scale.
On the other hand, you have people who swing the pendulum the other way and they become very slow, very rigid, very bureaucratic. And they quickly get stuck because they can’t move fast enough to keep up with changes in their external environment.
The critical thing is to have an organization and, importantly, leaders who can think about that backbone of the organization—the few critical things that won’t change, at least not very much, not very quickly—that the company can use as stable foundation and springboard. A hardware and operating system, if you will.
The keys to greater agility
Aaron De Smet: There are lots of great, creative, cutting-edge high-tech companies that are agile. Most aren’t, but there are few. And those are always held up, and people say, “Well, we can’t be like Apple.” Well, you don’t need to be. The research we’ve done shows that there are lots of agile companies—large, medium, and small—in all industries, some of them very traditional. 
So, a few principles for how to be agile. The first is, set the company up in a way that acknowledges both stability and dynamic capability, including some things that we may not yet know that we need. And do that across three dimensions of how you set up the organization: be both stable and dynamic on structure, process, and people.
A lot of people, when they think of how they design the organization, immediately gravitate toward the management hierarchy—the lines and boxes. But that’s just one small element of how you set up the organization. Structure also includes governance and how you set up which committees can approve things and make which decisions and which authorities get delegated and what is contained in a role and what people get to decide. This is all part of the structure.
Processes are extremely important, which is: How does it work? What are the activities that, when you string them together in a particular way, add value? And what are the decisions that are made along that chain of activities? Who makes them? How do they get measured? This is one of the most important things.
When we develop metrics for an organization and set targets and objectives, we find that most organizations—if they think they do it well—the way they do it is they cascade it down the management hierarchy. That’s OK, but if that’s all you do, you will reinforce whatever silos you’ve set up in the structure. The structural silos will get worse because at lower levels everybody’s working on different objectives.
A better way to do it, or at least a way to complement that approach, is to make sure you’ve identified key metrics in a process and to make sure all the different functions or business units or geographies that are touching that decision or activity share the same metrics and targets. That helps immensely with collaboration.
It’s a simple thing to say; it’s not an easy thing to do. Most systems aren’t set up to do it. But if you can identify the key value-adding activities and decisions—end-to-end, all the way to the customer—line up decision processes separate from the management hierarchy, make sure those are measured in the right way and that whoever is participating in those activities and decisions share in the objectives and metrics, the problem of silos, which most companies struggle with, gets a lot easier.
And the last principle is around people. You have to think about what’s stable and what’s dynamic when it comes to people. Now, one of the things that can be very dynamic with people is reallocating resources—using flexible labor or temporary labor. There are lots of things you can do that are very fast. But there are a few things that are often very stable in how you set up your people.
One of them is culture. Culture takes a long time to change; it takes a long time to build up a healthy culture. And it requires a lot of thought. So an organization’s culture and some of the key competencies and capabilities that are sources of distinctiveness and competitive advantage are things that typically don’t change quickly. And when you see companies that are very agile, they typically have something very special about the people and the culture that they’ve built.
Wouter Aghina: A question on the mind of many is what they can do to become more agile. There are three domains in the operating model that we have found are very important for that: process, structure, and governance.

Governance, for us, is about decision making. We need speed in decision making, but why do we need stability? Well, we need stability to make good decisions but also to get fast decision making. What has to be stable, for instance, is that you have empowered the people lower down in your organization with a clear mandate that they can take the decisions that they should be taking close to the customer. That has to be clear and it has to be a stable element of your operating model.
Now, let’s have a look at structure. What we see agile companies do is they don’t change at all very much the main way they structure their company. Agile companies tend to keep the primary and secondary axis of their organization structure pretty constant so that people have a clear home—it’s clear to them where they belong, where they build up expertise. On top of that, they provide mechanisms for quickly assembling teams with the right talent to address the challenges and opportunities that are coming up.
They’ve found a way to very quickly reallocate their people while keeping the structure—the main structure—quite constant. So, again, it’s this combination of speed, flexibility, a dynamic model in a stable frame that actually gives you true agility.
About the authors
Wouter Aghina is a principal in McKinsey’s Amsterdam office, and Aaron De Smet is a principal in the Houston office. They colead the Organization Design service line within McKinsey’s Organization Practice. Monica Murarka is a senior expert in the Chicago office; Luke Collins is an editor with McKinsey Publishing and is based in the Stamford office.