What is organisational culture?

Many times I come across statements like “hire someone who will fit our organizational culture”, “this will not work on our organizational culture”, “the culture in this organization is different, and you need to adapt to…”…. What’s the organizational culture?

If it means anything, culture should describe the day-to-day experience of the ordinary worker. Culture is what makes the experience working at one company different from doing the same work at another company offering similar services or products.

The culture mostly gets developed in something “below the surface” organization. Remember the iceberg, that we have been shown in multiple management presentations, imagine that, and the tip of the iceberg is “the apparent organization” and the one which is not visible but heavily impacting the “culture” is “the below the surface” organization.

Small tip of iceberg is an”apparent organisation” rest of below it.

The hidden “below the surface” organization is what impacts most of us at workplace and our experience around it. This informal organization has its unofficial leaders, even rules to join or get a membership, they have their communication channel (some time more effective than formal organization). The informal organization makes decisions that affect whether or how well the official decisions are implemented.

The higher one is in an organization is, it’s less likely to know or understand what the everyday workplace experience is for an ordinary employee. Even one who rose through the ranks is unlikely to get it. Therefore, managers and leaders are the least likely to understand the culture of their organization though, ironically they are the ones most likely to talk about it.

The culture I think is a three dimensional thing, with following three axis

  • How do I feel about my job (High-Low)
  • How do I feel about my workgroup (High-Low)
  • How do I feel about my company? Valued? Included? Proud? (High-Low)
It’s complex, but once you know what it is, you will find a way to influence the culture and align it.

Giving meaning, purpose, direction and focus to work is the quintessential leadership role, leader need to understand the culture from ordinary employee’s point of view and support the organisation environment to make “culture” more inclusive and supportive to make it a success.

Coaching and Mentoring… Thought and a Goodread

Many a time we use this word quite interchangeably; however, a practitioner knows the Subtle difference between coaching and mentoring.

Mentoring is more personal, it’s one looking into the long future, focusing on improving one from a long-term perspective. A Mentor needs not to be a subject-matter expert, he needs life experience, which he will be sharing with us, and helping us with those life challenges. He for sure needs to share the same interests as the mentee, to be able to connect with the mentee and guide him for his success.

Coaching, on the other hand, is short term, focused on an immediate goal, highly domain oriented and the coach is a professional who helps coachee to identify the goal, and way to achieve it. A coach helps coachee to identify goals, develop plans to achieve them and helps them mitigate the risk with their domain knowledge.

Typically, a business needs more coaching at the operation level, and Mentoring at the management level. No rule, but an experience. I see myself using coaching as a constant tool to help make my team more effective and make them deliver the result, to boost their moral but also help them align to achieve long – term professional goals.

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

This book is really a compact and focused book toward making a more effective coach. It’s basically a focus on asking effective questions.

These powerful questions not only help get more insights on the problem which coaches want (or May want to, as he may not be clear what he wants), but it also helps him to explore more, be more aware of various opportunities to meet the expectations. Wonderful book, highly recommended read.

  1. The AWE Question >And What Else?
  2. The Focus Question > What’s the real challenge here for you?
  3. The Foundation Question > What Do You Want?
  4. The Lazy Question > How Can I Help?
  5. The Strategic Question >If You’re Saying Yes to This, What Are You Saying No To?
  6. The Learning Question >What Was Most Useful for You?
Book Summary

Book Review : Catalyst: The Ultimate Strategies on How to Win at Work 

Do we learn from our experience? What differentiates an experience with a learning experience? How to ensure we learn from experience and be aware of experience as it’s happening and use it to build the knowledge base? That’s this book is all about “Catalyst”

Really a #GoodRead , Catalyst by Chandramouli.
The author, who has a 30+ year track record in Indian industry across sectors, shares his insights and experiences on how to leverage various catalysts that can accelerate your growth and performance. Some of the catalysts he discusses are: learning opportunities, experience algorithm, good bosses and mentors, first half and second half of career, and knowing when to quit. The book is written in an engaging and easy-to-follow style, with real-life examples and anecdotes.

What makes up experience different than learning? The TMRR model!

This book explains how to convert your time and activity into experience by using the TMRR model, which stands for Target, Measure, Review and Reflect.

So we have so many experiences thru out life, but how many times we learn out of it? Example we are part of so many cross functional teams, lead or part of so many projects, how much we learn apart from learning from “burning fingers”.

This TMRR model is one way to deliberately capture those learning from routine experiences.

The book also emphasizes the importance of learning opportunities, which are situations that challenge you and help you grow. It suggests that you should seek out learning opportunities, such as new projects, roles, assignments or geographies, and use the TMRR model to maximize your learning from them

Compact book full of real examples and guiding on how to navigate those challenges.

Some highlights during my book reading

that project leadership is different from thought leadership. As mentioned, major learning cycles more often than not also happen to be important initiatives and projects for organizations

How much experience you extract out of the learning cycle will be driven by how well you applied the TMRR process on the learning cycle!

“Converting time into experience is the very bedrock of real individual growth. An effective TMRR model is the key to converting the time you are spending at work into an experience algorithm that will drive your success in the future”

“Applying the TMRR algorithm on major learning cycles is an exponential way to drive real individual growth.”

“Just building the experience algorithm is not enough. You have to parallelly grow your productivity. Productivity is the means through which you can convert the experience algorithm into results. The key to growing productivity is to focus on the circle of influence and to make sure you allocate your time to the rocks and not the sand”

Day One! Amazing Philosophy of Amazon

blue printer paper
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Recently completed reading a #goodread “Amazon Unbound”, a book written by Brad Stone that chronicles Amazon’s journey from its inception until now. The book details how Jeff Bezos studied market trends and innovation while focusing on long-term strategies. It helps us uncover the secret of Amazon’s vitality and understand Bezos’ thought processes.

Day One is one of the most prominent philosophy, that Bezos drive till date, in-fact their head quarter is called Day-One! Its a principle, which like to keep organization dynamic, keeping the same anxiety as day one of launching the stat-up, make everyone super agile to face the challeges, which will be coming during day one on launch.

Any day in a business needs to be treated as Day 1, same excitement and same preparation to face any challenges out of Day1 execution.

Be dynamic, don’t take things for granted, and always look for new experience and learning in the process. Bezos insist to have a start-up mentality. Never get used to uncertainty, never undermine by red tapes, and always work toward end game.

Some examples of use of this principle by Bezos really gives its insight and application. When face a new challenge in existing project e.g Alexa project or Amazon India, they treated these initiatives like a Day-1, Focus on results and not process.

For example, assistance like Siri and Google, who are having huge data from users, for many years, Amazon could develop Alexa withing three years ground up, and which is now performing better than its competitors. Also, Amazon was late entrant in India, and wanted to buy FlipKart to enter in India, however the deal could not go through, rather limiting themselves, they launched the website in six months, and the whole team was working to make it better by each passing day. Such agility in one of the largest corporate in the world, is amazing.

Rather than taking long in aiming and shooting, he want people to keep on shooting and improve the aiming, which then will become consistent by following this regularly!

“The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind”—Jeff Bezos

Task Vs. Project

Task without Projects?

What qualifies as Task? And what as Project?

“I see many people juggling with their pocket diary, todo list and many other reports, breaking down each activity as task, and ending day with a longer list than seeing few getting crossed off.”

Its depressing and deflating to see the to-do list growing, and no respite to already busy schedule.

the whole reason to maintain a todo list is making us more productive! right?

yes, in essence, its right, but its all depends on how we are making this list. and one of the key differentiation is identifying which items qualifies for being in task list and items which can be part of a project

So what is TASK : a task is something, which you can get it done in one seating, in one go, no follow-up to complete the task

and PROJECT : any thing, which has concrete outcome and a specified timelines. a Project will have many task (> 1 task)

Make a tea for spouse can be a Task if you go in kitchen and make tea in one go, but if you want to make that special Aasam tea, which needs some shopping list and some over night preparation, it qualifies for a Project with multiple tasks, e.g go out and get the special tea, get some special herbs, prepare overnight the water for that wonderful aroma etc…

I know, once we say Project, the fear of getting is complex crips in. But don’t worry, Project is only helping us to have them special focus, that it. It helps us declutter the great big to-do list. It make us see logical structure behind the reason of getting things done.

Once you are done with this, focus on how to make your todo more impactful.

While making a todo list there are many ways to make it light and compact, few of them are making [[Important and Imperative]] list, following [[Urgent and Important]] list

some good reads

Do This Now! List of Imperative Verbs – INK (inkforall.com)
The Eisenhower Matrix: Introduction & 3-Minute Video Tutorial

The Code Breaker – Book Review

“The discoveries are what endure. We are just passing on this planet for a short time. We do our job, and then we leave, and others pick up the work.” – Emmanuelle Charpentier, co-creator with Doudna

The code breaker another #goodreads from Walter Isaacson, its a Biography of Jennifer Doudna, but reading the book, its also a biography of most powerful gene editing tool CRISPR. Typically to develop a vaccine, it takes somewhere between 8-10 years, however during COVID years, we could get effective vaccine within 8-10 months. Thanks to collaboration across board, but as well as due to availability of gene editing tool CRISPR, which helped build RNA based vaccine. The book traces the history and science of genetic editing, from Darwin to COVID-19.

As they say, with power comes responsibility, the gene editing tool can also modify human DNA permanently, leading to change in germline. i.e. we can make custom babies, have smart solders etc, which is off-course one of the few ethical dilemma discussed in this book.
Got wonderful insights on the journey of getting to this power full tools, as well as advantage of such tools, not only limited to vaccines, but also tools against Cancer, Sickle Cell syndrome etc..
Scientific community are aware of the power of such tools, which can be very well misused by governments, organization and capitalist, nevertheless rather banning the research all together, they like to bring safe-guards as well, which is right approach.
One more insight, people with very less know-how can edit genes in their back yard garage, and one can buy all the needed instruments and equipment to edit gene freely on Amazon! in fact few of such enthusiast developed their own COVID vaccines and tested on their own. (Democratizing gene editing using DIY tools!)

What will happen if this tool becomes available to all? it will be a tip toe effect, suppose you are standing last in a crowded room, and to have a good view, you raise your toe, and stand on tips of the toe, helping you get better view. Now imagine, everyone also stands on tip toe, all are risen by 1~2″, making difficult for all to see the what’s happening, except guys standing in first row (elite)

With some fair reasoning behind how CRISPR can change our lives vs how if not controlled, will lead to a dystopian society.

Highly recommending this book to know the history, present and possible insights in the future.

Some References and good reads –

GTD – Someday List, a thought

I’m fan of GTD, in its spirit. GTD stands for getting things done.

GTD way of working ask to put some task in “Someday/ May be” list. The Someday/Maybe list is a big creative resource that can provide big adventures to your life and work. This list gives you permission to write down anything you can think of, without any kind of restrictions. Later you will have enough time to analyze what you have captured and eliminate it if it doesn’t make too much sense.

I had Someday list for quite a while. With day to day focus on actual ToDo with deadlines, this list is the one which I never opened. 👎

And reading some books on GTD, it’s seems something without any deadline goes to the back hole.

“Someday” is a curse to your dreams, because you’ll take your dreams to the grave.

Life is about moving and getting things done. We live in a giant rock with water and dirt, and we walk around like bags of meat and bone. What is really life about?
Leaving a legacy behind. Being remembered. But to achieve this we must work, work , work.
For that reason, don’t postpone something just because the timing isn’t right, if it is important to you and you want to do it eventually just go it and correct the course along the way of any obstacles if you find.

Take away: Deadlines are important to make sure your dreams are not dead 😊 !

Even if it’s not immediate, try to put some deadline.
black pencil on white printerpaper

Strategic Planning – an Oxymoron?

Nothing against strategy planning, many companies do, many entrepreneurs do it, and seems part of lingo for business consultants. But as I think more on this word ‘Strategic Planning’, the word it-self start making me more confused. Typically under strategic planning, is something organization takes as a list of activities, e.g. improve customer’s engagement, start new talent development program or launch a new product! off course good intention, but hardly meeting the end goal, as its mostly made without a strategy!

Strategy is how much value we create in first place,

  • value for customer,
  • for employee and
  • for supplier.

Strategy is what one come up with to over cum VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). Strategy is an set of choices, that position us in our chosen playing field in a way, that we will win. Strategy is a theory, it tells us why we should be in this playing field, and how we can do better on this playing field, and how we can be better on this playing field to better meet and exceed customer’s expectation. The strategy should be coherent and doable, and it should be easily translate to action!

Planning is what typically we do, set of doable activities, list of todos. The plan need not be coherent, its really works in silos, its difficult to make a plan which encompasses company’s goal.

One thing to note, Strategy’s end game is external customer’s satisfaction (to take on market), however Planning’s end game is internal customer’s satisfaction, mostly the guys who make plan, and will be happy to make it success, invariably tweaking plan on its way to make it work somehow.

As planning is completely with internal set of resources and cost, which organization owes, its easy to control, and get it done, e.g how many people to hire? how much we should expand? how many product to launch etc..? Here, we are the one to decide ‘how much’ based on our control over cost and resource, hence a favourite tools for leaders.

Strategy is for external customer, which we can’t control, we can’t control the revenue or the outcome. Its not possible to tweak customer’s need to get the end result match our expectation. And hence its a difficult activity to pursue. Its very easy to say for example, I’ll launch a new product, however its not easy to say ‘customer will end up liking my product over my competitor. While we are working on planning to make customer happy, chances are alteast on competitor we will find out about this plan and figure out how to win.

Lets take example of budget flight operator e.g. Indigo or Southwest vs premium operators American airways, Lufthansa and ex Air India. When these people are busy in planning and optimizing their routes to make business more profitable, in journey missing most important aspect ‘customer’s satisfaction’, Indigo and Southwest moved away from hub and spoke design to point to point design, ensuring customer across 2nd tire cities now get easy access to destinations, the strategy here was ‘Substitute for local bus service, and prices are substantially lower prices than premium carriers, and focus on one air craft, and be specialize in short haul service’.

Sotthwest Airlines airplane on sky
Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

As a manager and leader, we taught to do thing, of which success we can prove in advance, to minimize the risk of failing. However in new business, a new strategy demands ambiguity, and old experience may not help build a strategy, to which we can’t prove the success in advance. We should be clear about our theory, if theory is right, this will put us in the playing filed which will put us in excellent place to exceed expectations from customer. We need to accept the fact that we can’t be sure the Strategy will work in advance, or we will succeed. By accepting this fact, we also accept the angst and anxiety to make it work, which is a good thing.

Not knowing for sure,

isn’t bad Management,

it’s a great Leadership.

To make Strategy to work, few suggestions

  • Layout the logic behind strategy clearly
  • Strategy is a journey, with clear logic, its easy to make changes, if logics are not matching with real word scenario. As we know why and which logic is failing, we can tweak strategy to adapt to new and more relevant logic.
  • Keep the Strategy simple. One pager -> where we are choosing to play, How ware choosing to win, The capabilities we need to have in place, and org structure to support this.
  • Accept the worry and angst during the journey .

Some good reads:

The LEGO Story

The LEGO Story

What I learned new about LEGO

⁃ Danish company

⁃ Started in 1930s

⁃ It started with wood furniture business

⁃ Ole Kirk took the decision to make simple toys for kids

⁃ Cars, YoYo become its key product

First Price list!

⁃ Largely driven by family values and under influence of Word war 1 and 2

⁃ Very early on tried to involve girls as one of the end consumers, but till date, its products are mostly used by boys.

Early on always questioning use of arms in toys, nevertheless the fist famous product was a wooden toy gun with moving items, portraits as “peace pistol” with ammunition!

⁃ Founder always took risk, gone for more investments in new technologies.

⁃ Founder also went to exhibitions and tried to get more insights on trends, helped him to “copy” LEGO idea.

⁃ Also worked with education community, to press use of toys for intellectual development rather than using it just as a toy. This helped LEGO long term

⁃ Second generation, founder early on got insight to decide which sibling will be taking lead post him.

⁃ Conflict between generation gaps are nicely put forward by second generation (Godtfred k and Kjed K, both mentioned their struggles with their father, unlike Goftfred 2nd generation, it’s more with Kjed, 3rd generation)

⁃ 3rd Generation decided to bring more new management, younger and western philosophy.

⁃ Nicely told story about the cultural shift in the management style, also inclusivity of women in upper management.

Key insights

  • Focus on technology and keep key theme intact during growth.
  • Diversification not only on portfolio but also on approach (physical toys to movies and theme parks)
  • How to ensure the family inheritance to continue and ensure success of LEGO, creation of “LEGO Idea Paper”, set of guidelines helping future generations to get clear vision.
  • LEGO is not the first in “self locking block”, it was Kiddicraft’s self locking block.
  • LEGO’s change in focus from toys to system. Rather creating individual toys, LEGO brought a “system” of creating anything out of blocks.
  • LEGO’s translation from “make anything from blocks” to product which are now coming with “manual” to create complex toys.
  • In 1958, the modern LEGO brick was patented, featuring tubes and studs.

LEGO, then and now!

Cars was one of the first famous toys from LEGO
The Peace Pistol!
Girls are missing LEGO
LEGO Patent
prosthetic arm on blue background

Reboot Engineering….

Post 1 of many 🙂

Idea in WIP

Something I wanted to do for long, building something by my hand! Building machine from scratch.

End of mansoon brought some ideas and inspiration, which I thought will lead me to fulfilling my etch of doing some engineering. Yes, I’m full time engineer, but now a days expertise lies in mentoring engineer and inspiring them with new ideas. The skill of doing a project like this one from scratch was long un touched. And I think its time to sharpen that axe.

Let me keep posting here, my journey toward completing this small project, and capturing learnings on the way. Follow along this story with tag #reboot