Friday, April 30, 2010

Shut up! Cost Control initiatives are in progress.

I visited at the company where my friend works in Pimpri, Pune area to understand the cost control initiatives they have implemented in the organization.

All lights & Air conditioners were off. People were working very silently putting their head in either some registers or on screen of computer. The climate was so silent. I asked my friend, “It seems that there is power shutdown, but you must have generator back up” He replied back,”We have taken the target of energy saving. From 8.30 am to 1.00 pm & 3.30 pm onwards, air conditioners are not allowed.”

I went in wash room. I struggle to get the switch to light. You must be aware about the fish like soap normally used in washrooms. Only the head of the fish was tied. I asked the officeboy why only the head of fish soap is tied. “Sir, this is cost cutting, boss told us to cut the soap in two part and use. Cost control sir!”

Officeboy brought snacks to eat. He brought it in piece of newspaper. “What is this?” I asked.

“Sir Pohe, “

“Poha? On newspaper?”

Friend smiled, “We have decided not to use plates as it required washing and also unnecessary manpower, water and detergent.”

“Then why not paper dishes?” I asked.

“We are not increasing unnecessary overheads; hence we decided to use newspaper or used drawing papers for this purpose. We have strict policy for paper usage, accordingly to the policy any paper should be used at least five times.”

“What will you do with these oily newspapers afterwards?” I sarcastically asked.

“Office boy collects it. Once in a day, all the collected papers are put in boiler for burning for heating water. The water is supplied to canteen for washing their utensils.” This can be best example of environmental aspects in EMS certification. What a great use of sources? Great contributions!!

I decided to spend some more time to understand the terrific cost saving ideas. When I was interacting with the friend, one customer came. He had a discussion with vendor development guy seating just behind us. He wrote minutes of meeting. As meeting completed, my friend ask me to follow them. I went. The customer was so happy to know that the officer was accompanying him to see off. Vendor development officer gave the minutes copy to the customer and pointed towards photocopying shop in front of the gate of the company. I asked my friend, “What he did?”

“We do not take Xerox in our company. We get it from customer.” He replied.

“Why? don‎‎’t you not have Xerox machines?” I asked.

“We have the Xerox machine, but taking one Xerox is an altogether different project. Lot of approvals is required. There are two machines. One is in the cabin of our HR head and another is in plant in plant in-charge cabin. If we ask to take the Xerox in morning to the office boy, he brings it in afternoon. Not his fault.”

“I will introduce you to our internal audit officer, who checks all the bills, vouchers and without his recommendations nobody gets money.” Friend

He introduced me with internal audit officer. The big maps of Pune, Maharashtra were put on the wall behind him. He had also the scale for measurement.

I asked him how he supports the cost control initiatives.

“When somebody claims local conveyance expenses, I just check the distance in map, from his home to the visited customer or company. I measure the distance on map, converts to km and pay as per the KM.” He explained me.

“What’s about lodging and boarding?” I asked.

“We have a policy, if somebody goes out for official purpose in and around Pune; lunch allowance is Rs. 15 per person. Outside is Rs. 30/-. In fact we are trying to reduce it. For lodging we encourage people to stay at their family or friends house.”

“Your efforts for controlling costs are fantastic.” I smiled and commented.

“After my recommendations all the vouchers goes to MD for sanction.” He told.

“Does he object on the amount recommended by you?” I again sarcastically asked.

“Sometime.” He innocently replied.

After meeting this great internal audit officer, I thought that there is no point to see another cost control measures.

“Vinod, I will forward my CV, please check if you have something for me in your organizations or references.” My friend told me.

“Why? Are you looking for a change?” I asked, “

“Yes, Management may go for downsizing and I do not know what will happen to me.” He replied back.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is the culture of your organization?

Have you seen the organization where you find teams or employees that exhibit following traits?

• They set challenging but realistic goals, establish plans to reach them and pursue them with enthusiasm.
• They enjoy their work, develop themselves and take on new and interesting activities
• They support each other, they are constructive and open to influence in their dealings with one another.
• They are friendly, cooperative and sensitive to the satisfaction of their work group and of other work groups elsewhere in the organization.

You must have also seen teams and people that exhibit following traits.

• They agree with, gain the approval of and are liked by others.
• They conform, follow the rules and make a good impression.
• They do what they’re told and clear all decisions with superiors.

And you must have also seen teams and people which exhibit following unique traits.

• They shift responsibilities to others and avoid any possibility of being blamed for a mistake.
• They are critical, oppose the ideas of others and make safe decisions.
• They take charge, control subordinates and yield to the demands of superiors.
• They work in a win-lose framework and work against their peers.
• People avoid mistakes, keep track of everything and work long hours to attain narrowly defined objectives that may further their individual performance, but not contribute to the over all goals.

Based on above exhibited traits can we classify the culture? Yes we can….

Constructive: The behaviors in this group help people meet satisfaction needs - the kind of satisfaction derived, for instance, from reaching one’s potential. People balance expectations for thinking independently and taking initiative with expectations to work consensually and share power. They regularly voice unique perspectives and concerns while working toward agreement.

Constructive cultures are evident in environments that value (and reward) quality over quantity and creativity over conformity. Cooperation is believed to lead to better results than competition. Effectiveness is judged at the overall level, not just at a unit or department level.

In constructive organizations, levels of satisfaction, teamwork, service quality and sales growth tend to be high. They tend to have a dual focus – on financial success today and on developing people, strategy and market share to ensure more success in the future.

Employees (both staff and management) at a variety of industries identify the constructive culture as the “ideal” for their organizations. It is not uncommon for senior management to have a constructive culture, but for those values and behaviors not to have permeated the rest of the organization.

Passive/Defensive: The behaviors in this group play to a need for security and low risk. People do what it takes to please others and avoid interpersonal conflict. Rules, procedures and orders are followed without question. In this highly directed environment, jobs are narrowly defined and supervision is intense. Managers rarely catch employees doing things right, but never miss when they do things wrong. Unresolved conflict and turnover are common in such organizations, as well as low satisfaction and motivation.

While these cultures were successful in the past in producing consistent, reliable products and services because of relatively stable competitive and technological environments, today they work against responding to quickly changing customer needs, competition, and technological advances.

Passive/Defensive cultures are often found in “protected” organizations, such as government agencies, organizations that are closely regulated by government or ones that operate as monopolies or even typical owner driven companies. Lack of competition and a belief that the customer base will remain constant often leads these organizations to preserve the status quo rather than look for major opportunities and improvements.

Aggressive/Defensive: The need for security is also a strong driver of behavior in this type of culture. But whereas the dynamic in a passive/defensive culture is more person oriented

People approach tasks forcefully, not to further the overall goals of the organization as much as to protect their status, security and “turf.”

These cultures encourage people to appear competent and superior, even if the underlying skills and experiences are lacking. Those who admit shortcomings or ask for help are seen as weak. There is an emphasis on confrontation, competition and criticism. An unrelenting pressure to appear perfect and expert mitigates against customer service, admission of errors, trying new and perhaps risky things and teamwork. It can also depress motivation and health.

Although professing otherwise, management tends to put its own interests before those of its key constituents – customers, employees and stockholders. Often they are able to appear effective (although not indefinitely) because of the past successes of the organization. But this sort of culture prevents organizations from adapting to changes in their environment and will ultimately affect financial performance.

This culture is found in fast-paced organizations, where people have to think and take action quickly on a regular basis. Examples would be the computer and telecommunications sectors, with a high level of competition and short product cycles; the military; and emergency services where fast, physical, logistical movement is essential. It is also found in organizations that suddenly and unexpectedly experience huge sales growth (such as biotech and e-commerce firms.)

The nature of such environments leads many companies to falsely conclude that to be aggressive and compete externally they need to mirror those qualities internally. But internally aggressive cultures do not produce the best results. Quality is often sacrificed for quantity and coordination is bypassed in favor of immediate personal success.

This culture is also found in organizations that have gone through downsizing or who emphasize traditional methods of quality control (for instance, putting quality responsibility at the supervisor level).

So what does it mean? Which is a good culture or bad culture?

So is the implicit message –

Constructive = Good?
Aggressive/Defensive = Bad?
Passive/Aggressive = Worst?

Each organization has to decide whether the current operating culture aligns with where it wants to be and if it provides what the company needs to accomplish its goals. It has been well proven, in empirical studies of the last 10-15 years across a broad swath of organizations, that strength of culture is not enough to ensure continued success.

Further, cultures that serve organizations well at one stage of their life may be counterproductive in a later stage. For instance, aggressive entrepreneurial organizations may find that the culture that “worked” during start-up becomes, as they grow, a liability if aggressive-defensive norms dominate their internal ways of working.

People may downplay the capabilities of new competitors, or enter new markets that are inconsistent with competencies, or emphasize internal competition over the gains to be realized by working with some interdependency.

Sometimes, those responsible for the successes of their organizations misattribute their accomplishments to the organization’s culture that evolved – and may have been useful –in another era. Yet, it is equally likely that the paper’s success was in spite of the culture.

It may have been due to other powerful factors such as market conditions, timing, location, and availability of resources or technological expertise. There is a strong body of research that shows organizations that sustain excellent performance in changing environments are those that have behaviors and values that support adaptiveness. In today’s environment and going forward, constructive cultures are the most desirable because they allow for greater adaptability.

And this is the reason why the change agenda is on top priority of every organization.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I am always followed by culture. In fact culture is the part of my education. I did B. Sc. in microbiology. Bacteria are grown on different media and grown bacteria on the media are known as bacterial culture. Specific bacteria can’t grow on specific media. They need specilised media.

After taking admission for management, I studied organizational behaviour. Again culture came to bother me. The organizational culture, how the culture is developed etc etc.

Now for last 12 years, I am part of the culture, i.e organizational culture. As an employee, I am part of the culture and as a HR Professional; I am made responsible for creating, developing or changing culture.

Family culture, social culture, institutional culture and organizational culture have the major influence on our personalities. Mainly creating, establishing or influencing the culture is depend upon the parents, adults in family and society, Seniors in organizations. As a kid we are not responsible for the culture, however by learning, educating, we can be aware about the culture.

The customs, code of conduct and way of interaction, behaviour form the culture.

I along with my wife and son was seating in principal office during the admission procedure for my son. There was another couple seating there. The mother asked the principal, “What is the appropriate age for starting education? We want to admit our son in this school.”

If you are talking about admission, you are on time, but if you are talking about education, you are late. Education starts from the birth of child. It is not only the responsibility of school and teachers. You, parents are first teacher of child.” She replied.

The principal put the valid point which we always ignore. We actually force child to tuitions, classes thinking that our children will get good education and they will be successful citizens. What about culture and value education. In schools, teachers will teach value education, but in real sense family members, parents and adults are role models for their children. We have learnt everything but forgot our values.

In organizations it is the responsibility of seniors. Management recognizes the right culture and culture change, but they don‎’t know sometimes what they really want. They almost forget that they are the responsible for the culture change. Sometimes consultants are hired for some projects like BPR, Process mapping or restructuring. During the implementing phase management feels that with traditional thinking the projects will not be successful. They brand culture programmes. The way management treats its employees, the way of behaviour, the management style, the response employees give constitute culture.

Sometime new employee in traditional culture is not comfortable in transparent or open organization or vice versa because of habit. Almost every organization drives the culture change initiatives. These drives can be successful only when the top management is committed to and the said can be cascaded down the line in line managers.

Values, norms, climate and organization support are the basic elements of culture. This all give the choice of behavior. It is the management or top people who decide all above. In a wider sense, low level employee also can be role model in certain behaviour. However nobody cares his behaviour. Hence he comes in office, wears a mask and tries to adjust in the organizational culture. Most of the Indian auto-component companies have aggressive work culture where individual respect is always at stake. Employees either adapt to that or leave the organization.

Organizations can only grow when the culture exhibits values of organization and practiced by employees. It is same like bacteria which grow on specific cultures.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

You! Arrogant HR!

“Your friend is terrific; he doesn’t have the courtesy and doesn’t know how to speak with employees.” I had a new employee who was referring my old friend in HR, working in one automobile industry.

“She never speaks right, deviates the subject and very arrogant. Her nature is threatening.” Another person was telling his impression about his earlier HR colleague.

There are certain HR professionals who give the bad impression about the profession. Why HR professionals fail to earn respect? Somebody may say that the HR profession is thankless. We are perceived differently by the employees. Employees take convenient stand. If something goes against the employee, he will curse the HR. At one side, we have to enforce the policies, rules and regulations, at another side we are expected to be good with employees, how it is possible?

Valid reason. But still, as the HR professional I am not convinced.

People misinterpret aggressiveness for assertiveness. Every professional should be assertive & not necessary aggressive. Some people say that in sales you need to be aggressive. Imagine if you are aggressive with the customer, will he tolerate you? Customer is the king and as a customer one can not tolerate arrogance. Your assertiveness will help you put your points.

Assertiveness and Aggressiveness are not similar words. You should be assertive and not necessarily aggressive. Aggressive itself defines arrogance; however assertiveness is perquisite for any profession. Most of the times, these two words are considered same.

“Earlier General Manager was replaced because MD thought that he was not enough aggressive.” I heard this statement from senior level employee, “He was good and very through professional.” It happens in owner driven companies. In fact I have seen some HR professionals who are very impolite and arrogant. They behave in such a way that they know everything in the world and they claim that they are the people who manage the show in the organization. God knows what they do?

Most of the times, candidates are the victims of such behaviour. Just check with your HR person who is coordinating recruitment. She doesn’t understand that talent attraction is very difficult, but she can make the mess just because she has the privilege for screening somebody.

“For now, avoid HR like the plague. They are not your friends, and can be your worst enemy, and, most of the time, they are.” I heard this while one senior level marketing professional was telling his friend.

“Most HR professionals are trained only to screen people out. This is fine for a fork-lift driver or clerk. Do they know how to assess a candidate?” this is one of the perceptions among other professionals.

“HR loves to have power. The HR departments in most companies are trying hard to grab more and more power. This department is concerned with the safe, the tried and true, and the stodgy. These are, of course, the very things that keep a company from actually rising above the competition and getting noticed.” One another myth, but mere perception.

“HR is not trained to evaluate executives. HR people are trained to read job descriptions, not people. Their track record for selecting the right people is not likely to be very stellar. They can choose people who, on paper, are qualified, but not necessarily the best person for the job. They also don’t understand the duties of executive level personnel, nor technical personnel”. I heard this during networking session in one conference. This can be true because he must have shared his own experience. HR likes to obstruct and take lots of time.

Somebody may say that this all is applicable to all professionals in their respective area. Why to blame HR only. I believe that HR has the major role to play. All professionals should be on right track and should not exhibit the traits which I explained.

“Vinod, Every line manager is a HR manager now a day; hence HR should play the role of godfather.” Mr. Sharad Phadake, the then GM, Igatpuri plant of M&M advised me.

“We, HR professionals are from different school of thoughts. They claim that they have the expertise in People Management and hence it is their responsibility (and also accountability) to exhibits the same in day to day interactions. HR should play the role of coach, mentor to these professionals.

The competencies like interpersonal skills, communication skills, team skills, change management is not only for other professional. HR also needs this. Values like respect for people, Empathy, credibility, customer orientation are necessary for every employee, and every include HR also.

And believe me; it is possible to earn the respect for HR. In spite of different paradoxes, you can earn the respect provided you are open to change; you are open to new ideas.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good boss, bad boss

I worked with different bosses in my career, good, bad, professional and unprofessional. Some bosses were very good and exhibited themselves as role models. Some bosses were terrific and I always surprised, why they were bosses? Who made them bosses?

There is a saying, “You can’t choose your father, but you can choose your father- in -law.” Like this, you can’t choose your boss also. Even you can’t also choose your subordinate sometimes. (If they are not doing well as per your expectations, then you have the choice to make their life miserable and find the replacement.)

I learned a lot from professional bosses. They exhibited real qualities of leader and they proved it in their professional lives. I also learned from unprofessional bosses that how the boss should not be. Good or bad, but all contributed a lot in my professional life.

There were bosses who always were speaking about the professionalism, but their behaviour was totally unprofessional. One of my bosses was TISS alumni, expert HR professional, but was very poor in interpersonal skills. He was treating subordinates as slaves. His day started with shouting on the people in office like on street. Not only on juniors but on seniors including his peers. Due to which he had high blood pressure. His kidneys failed. He was seriously ill due to his habits.

Another boss, (I never accepted him as a boss though) was very insecure in the organization. He was working in the organization for 20 years. His attitude was purely head clerk attitude. Typical example of the manager, mentioned by Sharu Rangnekar in his book “In the wonderland of Indian Managers”. He made a mess by putting his people, cheerleaders, on critical positions.

Ultimately organization got the major setback. Management decided to keep him aside and he was to force to take early retirement. I heard that when he was out of the organization, people in the organization celebrated his exit.

Professionalism is always a subjective term. For one person the definition of professionalism is different, however another person can perceive the professionalism differently. Good bosses understand the basics of professionalism. Nobody is perfect in this world. Shouting on subordinate is not unprofessional according to the boss, but if subordinate asks valid reasons, it is not professional for him. Paying dirty politics is not unprofessional for the boss, but if subordinate express his frustration, it is unprofessional according to the boss.

There is learning from good bosses, how we should be and also from bad bosses how we should not be.

Lot of material is available on how the boss should be. Hence I am putting some qualities of bad boss.

Some qualities of bad boss:

1)Skipping the managers and calling managers’ subordinates very frequently creating suspicious environment.
2)Creating the perception among the employees that management has given them unlimited powers. If authority is giving abusing the same.
3)Encouraging the cheerleaders.
4)Keeping the distance from employees and behaving as the king in the organization.
5)Expecting from the employees to call him frequently and communicate everything.
6)Encouraging backbiting.
7)Creating the fear among the employees about top management and not allowing the employees to have the access to them.
8)Creating the image that “I am the only person in the organization who can make your life easy.”
9)Creating rigid policies, rules and regulations so that there is very less scope for the creativity.
10)Encouraging bureaucracy.
11)Making favours. Deviating policies for specific people. Discriminating. Using the word case to case, (actually means face to face).
12)Less focus on talent and recruiting average people so that they can not challenge him in future.
13)Creating the policies in such a way that he gets all the benefits from company. Stay in five star hotel, using company car and driver, flying by business class and asking employees to follow cost cutting measures.
14)Using the word “I” and never giving the due credit to other people.
15)If somebody goes with good idea, then saying, “you should first study the history of organization; your idea can not work here.”
16)Spoiling the career of employees, sometimes forcing the exit of good talent by playing dirty tricks.
17)Focusing more on papers and not on results.
18)And many more. Please add your list how the boss should not be…..

Sometimes later, we will discuss about good bosses because I have enough to tell about them.

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