Saturday, March 22, 2008

Incremental Vs Breakthorough Thinking

It's just amazing how some groups are driven by incremental improvements when there is enough capacity and opportunity for breakthrough thinking!

For those of you still confused, let me explain.

In personal life and in business, constantly we are confronted with challenges. Increased targets, raising the the bar continuously. Day by day due to all sorts of productivity requirements we constantly work on this aspect. Except for those who fail, others somehow hit the required targets thereby ensuring continuous growth. Now that's good compared to most who fail to "hit" the numbers anyway.

BUT, those who achieve incremental improvements tend to be very comfortable with what they achieve. The incremental syndrome can be very alarming for individuals and companies and in general for society at large. It's a question of what is possible? The actual potential. After all it is those breakthrough ideas which become runaway winners which brings in more money to the companies and greater rewards and satisfaction to the individual better way of life for people in general.

In technical terms it requires paradigm shift in thinking. You need to change the rules of the game. Same playing field with same rules give same results. Those who play the game in a different ground will achieve breakthrough thinking.

What are the symptoms.

- Companies and people need to sit back and should take a stock of the situation when they achieve numbers or goals/objectives year on year when the bar is raised. (On periodic basis and not necessarily YOY). Whilst it might be a great thing that they do hit their numbers, it should bother them that they're setting for a particular pattern.

- Alternatively in process improvements and business improvement exercises we tend to focus on incremental improvements. We must be conscious that while we are going on incremental basis, some competitor somewhere must be working on a breakthrough idea. They just might change the landscape of the whole ball game after all. Music players were improved by many on incremental basis until Apple came up with the iMac.
- When you are on a role with incremental mentality there is a great momentum built around it. Leaders must be conscious about this fact. The momentum tend to crush any kind of questioning on what has been already successful. (Even though such questioning might lead to incremental breakthroughs!).
- Some of the typical silent voices will never be heard! The leadership in the group should make a conscious effort to get people to listen to others. It's very tough when you are doing something right. Almost all the time we do have time bound pressure looming large to meet the deadlines.
I have seen enough and more groups who does this in test scenarios and in real lives. Some of them become super efficient at incremental improvements they simply refuse to accept the fact that there might be another option which exist!
So next time a around when you continuously "hit" your numbers, pause for a while and think, "Is there a breakthrough option available?"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Management : It's not about you!

The argument continues, Are the managers born? or Is it a skill that is learnt? To me it's a bit of both. I'd fall to the latter. You can teach people almost anything. Management certainly falls within that realm.

But when someone puts lot of effort to do something, many think they were born with it. Such is the power of practice!

Different people have different styles of management. However what is the fundamental purpose of being a manager? It's an attitude game where the right attitude prevails.

Are you the right management material? According to management expert David Maister answer this very simple question

"Can you get satisfaction by making other people succeed?"

(or do you have the need to score all the goals yourself?)

Key is, it is not about your ego, your name etc. You should be able to build something and allow others to win contracts, businesses, achieve things etc.

Management is very similar to coaching. Every successful team has a great coach. From individual greats such as Pete Sampras and Tiger Woods to great teams such as All Blacks, Australian cricket team there had been a great coach who had been performing behind the seen.

Those who reach the management status should keep this in mind. They need to have "parental instinct", ability achieve satisfaction from seeing the growth of the others.

I've come across many managers who are mostly self centered. They have survived the test of time so to speak. But that's because those who appointed them and those who are above them have all got it wrong!

When star performers are made managers they need to understand that they need to shift gears. You are itched to do things your way, by you. Trust me I know the feeling. BUT that's exactly what you should avoid. One might save sometime in the short term by performing things on their own. Remember it's detrimental in the long run.

If you fall on to the category of people who would want to do things on your own, "to be a rainmaker" all the time, it's not bad at all. You need doers as much as you need managers in this world. There's nothing to manage without doing anything!

Doers are very much part of the success. Just that doers might not always be the best management material.

Good luck and get your act together as a manager.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Interview Jitteriness - Simple mistakes candidates make

Today I interviewed six candidates for call centre jobs. These were their final round of interviews and as expected they were young, brash and bit jittery.

Following are some of the things which I thought they should have paid more emphasis at the interviews.

- Most come up with a standard set of answers for questions. For example they tell you all the right things (in their opinion) that you want to hear. That's no good. Any interviewer is quick to pick these up. I was blunt, I told them that I know that they are programmed. I think people should act natural and answer the questions on their merits rather than being pre-programmed.

- Relaxing seems to be the biggest problem for most. That's of course understandable considering their age and this being one of their first interviews. But people these days are much more matured than say what I was 10 years back. Surely they could put up a better show!

- Interviewers ask probing questions and unless and otherwise you are very good at bluffing you should not say anything which is contradicting. Haven't seen many finding their way out on that. Experienced interviewers pounce on these types of people. Be honest, they'll appreciate that! I do. And most often they give valuable advice.

- Career aspirations? My favourite question! Most get it wrong by practising this. Most think they need to align something in line with the job. Well, not always! For instance in this call centre jobs, I know these guys are not going to stay more than 18 months. That's like the maximum. But almost all tried to impress with all the right things they thought about call centre jobs. Again I was blunt.

- Sometimes attitude could make you a looser. One girl did today. She was ok material and I would have hired her for sure If not for her attitude! She was more like tit for tat! That cost her the job.

- Most didn't have proper dress sense except one boy. At entry level and specially for call centre that is not all that important to me. However first impressions do matter. Good interviewers are cautious about that. BTW I did confirm the smartly dressed guy. He was good. Good overall material.