Sunday, February 26, 2012

The caste systems in organizations…

Have you observed the cast system in organizations? No, I don’t mean the caste based on the birth of the person, but the cast based on certain assumptions. The organizations sometimes have an informal, "shadow" structure based on certain aspects of educational, social or professional status.  Everybody in organizations knows about the same but still they avoid talking about.

The caste system in the organization is evolved due to the dominant impact of some specific function or strata of the function. In some cases, senior management intentionally or unintentionally develops the system. They ignore the contribution of other people and tend to be influenced by the dominating groups. When the leader is from specific function, he is more inclined to give more weightage to the particular function.    

Sometimes it is just the group of people who are very effective and organizations are relied more on them. For example in hospitals you will observe very rigid caste systems, where doctors are at the top of the heap, nurses in the next lower caste, and non-medical people toward the bottom. I was working in one Media Company; where journalists would have been in more dominant position. They are supposed to be treated at the upper caste level; and they were. But when organization went through business restructuring, advertising, sales and marketing people bagged the position. Leadership was more focus on business development. Here the leaders also plays important role. In automobile industries, manufacturing and R&D create the upper hand and in sales driven organizations, sales and marketing gets the premium.       

These castes never appear on the organization chart, but they dominate collective behavior every day. Caste categories usually set up de facto boundaries, promote factionalism, and tempt the in-group members to serve their own social and political needs at the expense of the organization and to the detriment of the lower castes.

This may lead to the organizational dysfunction. The lower caste treated people actually do not connect with the organization and they work only for the sake of working.  It also facilitates the political game in the organization. This avoids the top potentials in other functions and organizations are likely to loose good leaders from other functions or other lower caste system. Sometimes it has the serious business impact.

These informal structures should be identified time to time and corrective actions needs to be taken to aligned all the employees. The people should be treated as per the functional contribution and their overall importance in the organization.

Do you frequently revisit such structures and make your plan to get the involvement of others? If not, please do….

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Calculated risk which I took…

When they selected me as a “Management Trainee” through campus, they told me that I would handle recruitment and training. They used to hire diploma engineers from campus working in assembly department. These trainee engineers would actually work on machine and doing assembly jobs. That was a big task. Mass recruitment, walk-in was common.

When I joined the company, I saw a clear conflict between management and workmen. Most of the workmen were members of dominated left outfit.  After joining of 15 days, the conflict went terribly wrong and union started agitations. They started exhibiting their militant behavior and forced workmen to stop the work. The Personnel Manager sent the letter to Directors (who were located at Mumbai) that he was unable to attend the office due to the threat of workmen. We, (trainees) were asked to seat at home. Union office bearers “Gheraoed” the Works Manager one day. They cut the telephone wires from his table. When I came in the plant, I came to know the incident. We all were out side the plant. There were very less chances to break the deadlock. The other team members who were actually responsible for Industrial Relations were just discussing what to do. They were not allowed to go inside the plant by union members.  

By evening, I decided to do something. I thought, anyway the situation is worst. Anyhow, I had to find another job in different company, but that was a time to act and take some risk. The working telephone was at the security gate only. Workmen were settling around away from the security gate. I managed to go inside and reach in the cabin of Works Manager. He was on the verge of being fainted. I went towards the senior union office bearer and shouted, “There is a call at security gate from Directors from Mumbai for Mr. Narke (Works Manager) and he told me to request you people to allow him to speak with him to resolve the issue. From his language, it seems that he wants to break the deadlock, hence please allow him at least to understand the views of Director.” My “confident voice” might have some impact and they somehow allowed to the Works Manager to go out from the cabin. As he stood, I whispered in his ear outside the cabin, “Sir, there is no any such call, better let’s run over the fence and disappeared from the venue.”

We both did the same thing and ran from the “venue”. We stop the taxi and disappeared from the spot.  The went his home and sent the fax to directors at Mumbai that he was also not in a position to attend the office as there was a threat to his life. Next day, company declared the “lock out”.

After 2-3 months, some-how conflicts started to resolve. The union office bearers were suspended. Workmen were convinced to form the internal union and normalcy was restored.

Works Manager was so happy with me that he confirmed me within 6 months.  Apart from recruitment and training, the responsibility of Industrial Relations was also given to me.

When I look back, I surprise the risk which I took that time. There were 50-50 chances of wining. Perhaps, they could beat me if they would have suspected that I was just saving the Works Manager. But it was calculated risk. I decided to act in evening where the energy of union members and workmen was low. Though all workmen were with union, I knew that there were internal issues and most of the workmen wanted normalcy. I was not responsible for Industrial Relations, but I was worried about the Works Manager on humanity ground. I just acted.

After that I took lot of risks in my personal and professional life, but all were weighted and calculated….

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Positive influence…

I have seen some people who always are worried. They face all the problems in the world. They do not get any support from their colleagues. Their children fell ill frequently. The tyre of their vehicle goes flat and so on. Why all the misfortune happens with them only? If you observe these people closely, you will find common thing among all this misfortunate people and that is their negative attitude and people around them. The evil is in their mind.

People are unhappy for material things which they don’t have. They are not happy for what they have. Like minded people come together. Their whole world becomes negative. They pay higher price for not being positive.  The problem is we choose the life which we don’t want and don’t choose the life which we want! Being happy is the choice. I don’t say that being happy will avoid your flat tyres or illness of your child, but you will find more energy to deal with it. You will have not to pay anything extra for being positive.

We should learn to choose the reality. This will help to design the life. This world is very big and there are all types of realities are happening simultaneously. Positive and negative happenings are also the reality of life, but the effect of the negativity on your life will make you unhappy. Positivity plays important role to neutralize the negativity.

One of the friends was not confident to take the higher position. He denied lot of opportunities saying that he was not ready to take the higher position. After few years he was far away from the competition. He had to struggle.

For many, it's not so much a search to find values and a purpose to base their lives on as a search for an identity, an image, with a heavy emphasis on individuality. This individuality is built on positive thinking. To change negativity into positive energy, just reverse the belief you want to change and say it to yourself over and over again, using all your enthusiasm and excitement.

We should ask the question, what we want to be known and remembered for the negative attitude or positive influence we have on others.   

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Four Ear Dimensions of Communication…PART III

3. How to focus on “Self Disclosure” dimension?

Speak in the first person
A discussion partner seems more believable, when he expresses his beliefs and emotions. It is particularly import in conflict situations, to admit one’s feelings and discuss them openly.

Personal statements can be recognised since
Ø      They are in the first person (“I’m annoyed every time that you’re late.” “I don’t dare consult the director about this matter.”)
Ø      Formulations in the second or third person are omitted. (“You can never be on time!”)
Ø      One leaves out “one” formulations. (“One cannot talk to the director about such a matter!”) At work the focus is on concrete decisions and individuals, not general pearls of wisdom
Ø      Observations and wishes are expressed directly and in a timely manner (not: “I could imagine you taking over this task...”, but: “I want you to take over this task”).

State one’s own opinion
Every supervisor has his own opinion; some, however, believe they should not state it (e.g. at evaluations) or that they have to align themselves with the authorities (their supervisors or experts). Supervisors are often recommended that they should withhold their opinion.

However, it helps their credibility and the teamwork, when the supervisor
Ø      Has the courage not to shy away from unpleasant messages and personal statements;
Ø      Develops a sense for when his opinion is needed or wanted, and when not;
Ø      Doesn’t present his opinion as scientific truth, but lets people recognise the subjectivity (“In my opinion …”, “My experience tells me …”)

Clarify intentions and goals
Meetings can be shorter and more concentrated when the chair states his intentions and goals clearly.

For this he should
Ø      State his personal ideas and goals
Ø      Pay attention to the ambiguity of goals; they can have human, technical, financial and organisational aspects
Ø      Discuss conflicting goals (between people or different aspects) openly

4. How to focus on “Appeal” dimension?

Peruse and be assertive
The persuasiveness of an argument is increased when it connects with the listener’s ideas, frame of reference and motives.

The following approach brings someone to the required consequences:
Ø      Set goals
Ø      Take expectations and experience of staff into account
Ø      Analyse approaches
Ø      Take positive and negative consequences into account
Ø      Determine concrete measures

Ask questions
Questions mark the “royal path” through a discussion. Who asks questions, forces his listener to answer. So that someone cannot avoid answering, you should not ask several questions at the same time.
One can distinguish between closed, open, direct and indirect questions:
Ø      Closed questions can only be answered with “yes, “no” or with facts (“Have you finished the experiment?”)
Ø      Open questions allow the person questioned to give his view (“How far are you with the experiment?”)
Ø      Direct questions explore what the questioner wants to know (“What do you think about Smith’s suggestion?”)
Ø      Indirect questions follow a particular strategy (leading or ambiguous questions) (“Do you not think Smith’s suggestion is too expensive?”)

Be fair
The other person must be able to recognise what you intend and have a chance to propose an alternative.

The following behaviours differ from manipulative techniques in that they are open and transparent:
Ø      Define and formulate issues: Where are we? What’s it about?
Ø      Propose the method for resolving the issue: a scheme for analysing the problem, meeting minutes, facilitation, set a time limit etc.
Ø      Make suggestions and ask others to also.
Ø      Make statements concrete: request, clarify, refer to the topic
Ø      Ask for and give information
Ø      Summarise statements occasionally, and draw conclusions
Ø      Bring about a decision and make it binding.

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