Thursday, September 13, 2012
My people, including myself, lack dignity & discipline. Not surprising, considering that we had a little too much of it growing up in India. And typical with age or even human frailty, one wishes for his childhood with the passage of time. I too, long for the simplicity and authority of an earlier time when the folk seemed more genteel and courteous but then realise that I rebelled against those very ideas when I faced them.
Our generations have undergone drastic and sudden change without the advantages of graduated absorption and accordingly, social interactions or transactions have acquired a different hue & colour in their applications or perspectives. This is not wrong in itself, but the world is surprisingly over-populated and the human race seems to have become a sprint rather than a marathon.
The New York Times claims that the average American sees 5000 advertisements a day from a variety of sources and acts accordingly. The average Indian sees at least 500 instances of corruption, rule violations, minor misdemeanours and social nuisances and also acts accordingly.
Corruption is endemic states our media most emphatically while breaking the same rules and regulations while in pursuit of such rule-breakers. Irony is definitely not a term to be found in their dictionaries and nor is hypocrisy. The virtues we espouse publicly are western in genesis and hence, privately we choose to ignore them whenever we think we’re not being observed. Such is our plight, the modern Indian.
The uncle who condemns the deplorable law & order situation is un-surprisingly the first to break lanes in traffic to get ahead. The cousins who spew fundamentalist and alarmingly socialist views in our drawing rooms are quite secular and capitalistically compromising in handling their due payments & not above paying off the “fragrant grease” (as the Chinese term it) for expediting their matters.
That I have not followed that principle is why I am being published in an online journal, perhaps but then, this is not a rant, merely an observation.
A favourite mentor once explained that in India, problems are never solved – they are resolved, absolved or best, DISSOLVED - preferably with scotch & soda. People do not wish for end-game solutions, lest they and their comfort-zones are antagonized or changed.
We Indians might make a hullabaloo about corruption and love to talk, rant or hear about it on mass & local media but we do not truly wish it gone. We fear that if we were to live in a truly corruption-free society, we would not be able to do what we have always done. Simple facts of life, pleasures even such as littering, over-speeding, drunk-driving, traffic abuse and all those simple truths of everyday existence for an Indian might disappear. Or worse, cost more than they do now – And we hate inflation, us Indians!
Charity begins at home, mercy is a taught quality – most of our “moral science” virtues are afforded by civilizations which do not have worry about empty bellies and desperate dreams, such as those owned by 1.3 billion Indians. Which is why, we see a negative connotation of Moses Abrahamovitz’s famous theory of convergence. We learnt how to leap-frog into western technology and while doing so, inadvertently picked up their social mores without the appending years of individualism, personal limitations and social tolerance.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.
Corruption essentially is an issue of self-pride or nation pride and even ego, if one takes it that way. It is a state of disconnected-ness which leads to insecurity or fear and thus fostering aspirations or even creation of desire or fear of normal fulfillment and hence adoption of other modes of acquiring one’s desires. In a way, it could be called a state of mind or being, subjected to an individual or a nation, in the throes of deprivation or desperation – in short, corruption is the reflection of a society or a people who are afraid of their future and wish to secure it at any cost.
Socialist India was far more structured and the division between the haves & have-not’s were not nearly as discriminatory or visible as they are today. Corruption like inflation was similarly controlled till the late 70’s, not that it was non-existent. The authority paradigm was stronger with social value systems in place to curb against extremism or blatant antagonism. Since 1992, rapid liberalization & globalization have caused a massive imbalance (of sorts) in the parent-child, teacher-student or the authority paradigm resulting in several generations who are disconnected, lacking identity or self-worth, seeking the price of everything without ascribing value to anything, they are truly Wilde(s) children.
Solving corruption therefore necessitates we recover the coming generations if we wish to hope for a society without corruption or one with structure & values which are not over-ridden by a mob-mentality. Demanding today’s generations to change and follow the westernized model of society as being self-realized and structured is like expecting a fish to become amphibious over-night, not to mention a land-dweller by the next day.
Education is obviously the key, but exactly what sort of education?
We need values and dignity – discipline essentially in almost all endeavours.
We need vigorous penalties and a systemic approach towards mal-functions or break-downs.
We need specific branding and visibility upon which to base our value systems.
India Shining is not a brand that benefits the society holistically. The numbers of visa applications to the west prove that we’re not happy with our own image or of our country. It doesn’t satisfy us to be Indians and till we resolve this crucial issue – from children’s bedrooms to schoolrooms, we will not escape the issues of corruption.
Blindly copying and emulating the west is not enough for the rest. We need self-realization and perhaps a dictator while we are at it. Not that I would know much about power paradigm shifts anyhow, but we Indians are still too naive and need guidance with firm control. Anything less is proving calamitous in every predictable future for our nation.
Incidents like the one in GS Road, at Guwahati happened and were dealt with monetarily and therefore significantly forgotten within the period of a few weeks. We would be incited and provoked into a social media circus in the belief of a rural octogenarian who has 17th century solutions for 21st century problems and less than a year later, it’s in the past and the new fight is about invasion of the lungi-clad religious fundamentalists led by a perfume merchant who preaches.
By the way, did you know what was the title/surname of the perfume merchants of Gujrat?
Someone return our dignity & discipline – we are lost.
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
issues of NE students like Dana Sangma, Richard Loitham and many more
un-named and forgotten victims, brings to mind a rather bitter joke I
had used with my british and yank cousins to explain why we are what or
how we are -
Indian movies (especially those of 70's, 80's
and 90's) often go above the top with violence, gore and melodrama,
because for the average indian of those times, cinema was
the only vicarious release for all the frustrations endured and
inabilities silenced. It was cathartic for the normal bloke to believe
that "justice" will prevail and "revenge" can be had - usually without a
backlash and preferably with a happily everafter ending. Fact is, even
today, the entire indian film & television industry exist on the
same ideals (perhaps with a touch more sophistry).... a fact that cannot
be understood by anyone who has not spent a satisfactory amount of time
in India as an adult.
And my cousins would smile and think I was "full of myself" and a "character"....
I smile at the attempts of the media,
the rabid flailings of the students, parents and well-wishers
and KNOW that in a while, they will all disperse... today, tomorrow, soon..
I smile at the media's castigation of criminals
because I KNOW what our judicial system is like
how they will slip past if they have the money & contacts.
I smile at all the hopefuls we have,
In India and elsewhere who dream of ideals and sentiments
and KNOW that if forced to choose for their own life & living or
everything else will take a back seat... just like any
And FINALLY, I smile
because cynics like me can do no more than smile
and KNOW that I'm part of the problem in itself..... :P
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Mention it in any sphere of corporate life and reactions are usually strong and possibly adverse. Most people face this word in everyday life and yet never realise what they are facing. Quite a shame, to be honest.
Attrition devolves from the Medieval Latin word, attricioun or attritio which originally meant sorrow for one’s sins that arises from a motive other than love of God. This definition also included the meaning of the act of wearing down or grinding down by friction and further the act of weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse of attack – also known as a war of attrition.
In modern usage and connotation, the word indicates the reduction of staff and employees in an organization through normal or abnormal means, such as retirements or resignations. Attrition could also mean the gradual reduction of a workforce by employee’s leaving and not being replaced rather than by their being laid off.
Under any circumstances, within the harsh strictures of corporate terminology, growth indicating success is an undeniable fact. Any organization losing people or “assets” is considered to be in trouble and hence the strong reactions to this word.
Regardless of the size, dimension or even profile of the company, in today’s world, it is becoming harder each day to retain the top performers – the best and the brightest for the duration of their productive lives. This is never more in sharper clarity than on the corporate battlefields of modern-day India. As a microsm of global business, the Indian corporate scenario makes some rather pertinent points, which should be considered by global market leaders or any entrepreneur worth their salt.
In recent business news, top IT companies like Yahoo, Microsoft etc expressed publicly the issues faced by them in relation to on-going attrition of their top resources. This phenomenon is not sustained or only faced by IT domain companies, but also larger conglomerates like GE, LG and Reliance.
Flat prices of stock post-recession (or is it still on?), vested options for top talent or even aggressive start-ups who are willing to take chances and push compensation market rates higher than actual valuations are causing much heart-burn, acidity and even the odd heart-attacks due to issues of retention.
There are a variety of plans, policies and ideas afoot to counteract such alarming market trends – but attrition has been around since roman times, or should that be Vedic times. We forget this to our disadvantage and complain bitterly about treacherous or un-loyal resources.
Are we a victim to our own plans, policies and ideas?
I believe we are… and here are my reasons;
Inane Rules & Regulations
One of the top issues of frustrated employees of any level or experience are inane rules & regulations. In theory or on fat reports, certain rules sound sensible and possibly even progressive. During day to day activities of a 10 hr average corporate working day, no one has time for inane rules, which don’t contribute to their specific tasks/activities or aid/assist them in fulfilment of the same. When the talent (whether management, marketing, operations, development or whatever teams) starts “complaining” or in worse case scenario’s, “simply following orders” – the organization is in trouble. Talent/resources/assets who do not question or raise voices in processes are hard workers, not smart workers – the smart workers are already packing their bags.
Motivation in Action
Motivation is a big word and another greatly misused word. Motivation does not come from merely sweet talk or pats on the shoulder. Motivation works in deeds not speech. By definition, corporates are organic bodies and having specific articulatory parts. Most of the best and brightest of an organization are never asked if they’re really interested in what they’re doing – everyone is on a deadline and there are too many deliverables. Top talent is never driven by money and power completely – the compensation is important but not a priority. But the greatest motivation is genuine interest & passion in what they do on an everyday basis. It’s the chance to be a part of something BIG, something that would possibly change the world (in whatever small way) or even something that they, the top talent, would feel proud about. It’s not enough to just say, “well done” but needs to be followed up with more chances to showcase skills, learn more and contribute positively.
Cursory Performance Reviews
Ineffective performance reviews, which are rushed and/or vague, usually due to pressing deliverables & deadlines leave impressions that the company just doesn’t care in long term futures with the organization. This leads to issues of the next point…
Career Development & Priorities
90% of employees have no long term career goals or even mid-term goals, leave aside personal development or even specific time-bound priorities. This case is especially so in India where once a student gets a job, the battle is half over. Less than 2% of junior employees and under 5% of middle ranking staff could give you a detailed plan for what they want to do in the next 5-10 years. But, everyone wants to know how much their salaries will increase in the same period! Some of the best people to work with undertake an annual review of focus for both employer and employee, which ensures that there is a cohesive and comprehensive discussion on succession planning and career development. In essence, if your people know that there is a path ahead of them, they are more likely to stick around and see what’s at the end of the suggested road.
Accountability & Responsibility
Delegation is a vast task and an extremely sensitive issue. To delegate work to someone would mean an engendering of trust, reliance upon another at cost to self. If the task is not done properly or not done at all, it’s your neck on the line hence most good resources/assets try to do everything themselves. What they need to be taught is not fear of missing deliverables and unbearable deadlines, but the freedom to mentor and monitor juniors, coordinate with colleagues for successful delegation. In this context, specific accountability and responsibility allotment are key – this is a rock solid answer to fears and a future anchor to successful retention of top assets/resources as they don’t feel over-worked and respect the trust of the organization in them. Avoid trying to tell them how to do their jobs once the expectations are explained.
A top worker or field man or developer will want to work with someone who is at least of their calibre if not someone who is better than themselves so that they can learn and add to their knowledge/skill base. Top talent are always smart workers and deliver best when competing with others of the same ilk. There is no sense in hiring and retaining people who don’t benefit others as well as themselves. Replacements for top assets should also be with top assets or else, a previously vigorous and effective team would lose momentum and morale. To keep our best & brightest, we need better and brighter people.
Openness and Vision
The smart workers always have ideas for improvement– and a desperate need to have them listened to! However, the majority of their ideas might go against the established corporate vision/strategy. This creates a lot of frustration and feelings of alienation for all such employees regardless of rank, designation etc. If the smart workers feel alienated at every turn and meeting, the organization will be left with a staff of Yes Men who agree to whatever is stated without any personal inputs of worth. There is a need to acknowledge the fact that others can have good ideas and incorporate the best parts of said innovations into over-all strategy. Sometimes the “boss” is not always right although they may be usually right.
New endeavours and approaches should be appreciated as long as they mesh with over-all company goals and targets, regardless of provenance. The challenge in setting up such “incubation schemes” is not in approving the same for the sake of superficial movement but specific commitment till results yield proof of failure. Cursory attempts towards new approaches and a clamped down authoritarian style results in bad situations – space/opportunity should always be afforded, with prudence & caution to try new ideas. If not anything, 1 failed idea with good support would ensure 20 official directives issued without any hassles. And if the idea works, everyone benefits.
It’s never a one-way street in the corporate world. If the employer pays a salary, the employee works for the organization. But, paying a salary is not the same as slavery or family relations – there is a symbiotic relationship at work here with trust, dependence, delegation and belief to be extended in either direction. Top resources/assets naturally have to assume a lot of responsibility for deliveries and deadlines on behalf of the employers – if this equation is not on an even keel, the situation will never be beneficial for either party. However, with the scarcity of “top talent” – which is bound to substantially decrease in relation to demand – the organization, which understands these reasons for attrition would stand a better chance of having people come to them, instead of going to the people.
Indian corporates are possibly the single most powerful engine of growth in our burgeoning economic advance and it’s a machine of frightful efficiency. Guess our mantra? We can deliver anything and with chutney on the side!
In an economy that is still shaking itself out of the shackles of Nehruvian economics and socialistic import substitution policies, our current generations picked themselves up in the wake of liberalization and globalization. We embraced technology, refused to be seduced by plastic credit and stayed liquid through the worst financial crisis of the decade.
We are brash, talk trash but have ready cash….
India is finding itself, or perhaps Indians are. We are a bunch of self-congratulatory, aggressive and very-much-full-of-ourselves people. We love to say “told ya so!!” and then charge to process a solution. Not much wonder why our corporates are hated, feared and possibly considered alien in structure, thought and processes.
As an expat, an 8 hour working day was laughably easy and overtime was silliness – but then who’s complaining? A boss who is abusive cannot be tolerated and deadlines are set after collective deliberation? This was not heaven, we told each other – it’s a holiday from the real world, OUR world. A world where 12 hour days without overtime are the basic norm and words like employee exploitation are matter of fact, amongst many other “things” that are par for the course.
Like many things that we have learnt from the fabled West, we have learnt how to ensure our profit margins stay healthy. Maximise profits, minimise costs, utilize resources optimally and do all this on a set time-frame, usually condensed and compromised by human frailty and faults – we don’t merely expect the impossible, we take it for granted.
And what of attrition, employee fall-outs and segmentation – for anyone unhappy with their job, there are 20 or even 200 others who would happily take that job. Pay 100 employees marginal wages and pay a manager top dollar to sustain the product is a very western concept that is losing prevalence in the country of its origin.
“Get off your chair, this is not the bloody governmental bureaucracy that you have inherited and get on with your job” We talk in lacs and crores and refuse refusals – nothing is impossible and haven’t you heard the cliché – I (a)M Possible??!
It is surprisingly easy to say that things have changed in our lives here in India. Much too easy but perhaps easy is as easy does for the possibilities are endless; the requirements still stay the same – the wish for security, substance and respect of labour. And despite everything that has happened in the past 100 years, a majority of our people, educated or not, employed or not, are still struggling for the very same even today.
Success is a state of mind, achievement is merely perspective. Shift your focus, I tell my students and often as not, to myself. The hardest test is the one you don’t know you’re being graded upon – and as I write these lines, I realize that we Indians refuse to grade ourselves. We refuse refusals and in the process refuse to acknowledge ownership. Sometimes it’s the lowly menial who refuses to accept ownership for his area of endeavours and sometimes the proprietor who would rather overlook ownership of his endeavours towards his employees – in both cases, out of baser instincts usually.
We have inherited responsibility from the bitter teachings of a restricted economy; accountability was imposed on our untrammelled spirits to ensure delivery and standards, but we are yet to embrace ownership. Ownership for actions and consequences of the same – especially when we do business or invoke the holy triumvirate of corporate policy, development and growth.
And in this process, how do we take ownership for our ideals and principles? Or do we give them a quick polish when it suits our needs or wants. Do we trot out our mission values and statements only when we showcase our code of business conduct paperwork for the next foreign contract or tender? Do we realize that our capitalistic excesses in making hay while the sun shines is self-destructive towards creating institutions rather than quick profits to retire upon?
But then, do we really BUILD for the future today or is that merely a hoary old phrase? Do we actually expect something to outlast our lifetimes and reach out to touch people we are yet to know or might never know. This internet age states that we can access information at the click or a keystroke – how much of it do we actually value and re-use?
A person’s life is similar to the growth cycle of a company – not merely envisaging the ups and downs of the market and the shifting vagaries of demand & supply economics. Building a company is similar to building a life, a sensible stage by stage progression of choices, none of which are wrong. And no theory ever devised by the ingenuous minds of facile imagination can ever comprehend fully the rich diversity of actuality or its causality. Except that of the person building the damned foundations for a structure to call their own and he/she definitely takes all the risks and definitely deserves a bigger slice of the cake. But, exactly HOW big a slice are we talking about here?
To blog is to basically stand on a soapbox and explain to yourself how elevated your thoughts are to the rest of humanity. It is perhaps a vain effort to stretch out to oneself in the ravaging clamour of an uncaring world, too busy blogging itself or variations thereof. My blog is to question how we find the balance between the raging inferno of our ambitions and the consequences of our actions. I apologize if I am unable to state more clearly or categorically as I am lost between the two.
*This piece was selected as a Winning Entry for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*