ramya bhaava chaitanyam

December 27, 2012

Inversion of ‘clueless’: Expectations of future indian politicians and bureaucrats

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 2:53 pm

Yes, I have hope. I indeed have faith that we shall overcome some day soon, through democratic means, political parties steeped in feudalism and bureaucracy steeped in colonial-era practices. It is very heart warming to find so many ordinary people come out and participate in big numbers to back the causes of janlokpal and women safety. All across India, common people now understand better what they need and want from institutions of governance in this age and time.

I’m sure politicians and bureaucrats caught in this time of change with out-dated beliefs and practices, are bewildered wondering why all of a sudden their authority and modus operandi are being questioned; they still think we are all examples of ‘clueless’ minority :-) What’s increasingly becoming clear is that they are the ones who are showing up as ‘clueless’.

  • Prime minister Manmohan Singh doesn’t get why he should publicly show up, empathize with the outrage of masses over the lack of safety for women in the nation’s capital and outline a clear and decisive action plan that will make a difference on the ground. Instead, he shows up very late in the entire sequence of events, almost as if he’s doing it because others have asked him to, delivers a ritualistic speech, reading from a script and asks Theek hai? to check if the recording went ok at the end of it all - showing zero emotion, empathy and personal involvement.
  • Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling coalition, “demands action”, forgetting that she and her party are in power and are responsible for delivering not demanding action.
  • Shinde, India’s home minister, asked protestors to go home because, “Putin is coming, we don’t want to give a bad impression of India to him” :-) I don’t have say more, do I?
  • Delhi police commissioner justifies attacks on peaceful protestors as just “collateral damage” we should expect and accept.
  • Renuka Chowdary, spokesperson of the party in power, whose only retort to every criticism of her party is scorn, sits in a tv show hearing outraegous story after story of injustice from women hunted by rapists in power, and doesn’t have the sense of duty to intervene on their behalf in an impactful way.
  • President’s son who happens to be a MP, state congress chief in Andhra Pradesh, and many others shoot their mouth off preaching to women and then hastily take their words back under duress, probably with zero idea still of why their opinion was such as no-no.

Anyway, instead of focusing on the sad buffoonery of those who have shown themselves to be too clueless to be retained in positions of power, why not focus on what we really want to say to a future generation of leaders.

  1. If you are in power, you are accountable. You cannot plead helplessness, you cannot demand that someone else should solve for you world’s problems, and you cannot sit still or mouth platitudes when someone tells you or the world about something that’s clearly wrong in your constituency.
  2. You will not condescend or patronize. Just because you got elected once, doesn’t mean you know what’s right for everyone, especially women. You will respect everyone’s opinion and free speech. You will not shout and sneer at others in tv debates. And, btw, you will not have the right to arrest someone just because they tweeted against you or your son.
  3. You are not more equal than others. What’s illegal for everyone is also illegal for you. You cannot justify illegal actions of your party men by citing past instances of other parties also doing the same. You cannot beat up or threaten anyone who dares to disobey you. You cannot call a bandh, you cannot make comments that pit one segment against another and of course, you cannot move with a convoy of goons. You cannot stop traffic, you cannot delay an aircraft and no, you won’t get free tickets for cricket matches.
  4. No slavery to your party: No, you are not bonded voting labour to your party’s bosses. You have an independent mind and you will vote based on your conscience.
  5. You will be responsive and organized. You will know how to set up systems, processes and hold beaureaucracy accountable on their effectiveness and responsiveness. You will also know how to deploy technology but most importantly, you will know about human suffering and how to pro-actively and swiftly work towards eliminating and avoiding suffering.

April 27, 2012

Circular reference between process performance and data quality

Filed under: Software Technology, Business Management — prasad @ 7:57 am

At work, the team I work with focuses on Business Transformation enabled by better Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and modern applications. One of the key insights we developed working with our customers over the years is the inter-dependence between business process performance and data quality.

  1. Poor data results in poor process performance. If you have outdated customer information, likelihood of dealing with the customer in the most appropriate manner is low, isn’t it?
  2. But what caused poor data in the first place? Poor processes, isn’t it! If your customer on-boarding process is broken, you are guaranteed to end up with poor customer data.

So, there is a circular reference. You cannot improve process performance without improving data quality and you cannot improve data quality without improving process performance. And hence, you should analyze and fix both process and information domains together – not separately.

Like in any other circular reference problem, if you update just one of the two, the other is immediately broken. You need to update both at the same time, as one transaction! I’m sure there are better texts that explain how to deal with circular references correctly, but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_reference is a quick one to check for an interesting overview.

Happy weekend :-)

March 31, 2012

“Treat people like people” mantra to retaining reliable high performers

Filed under: Business Management — prasad @ 3:21 am

I never knew until a colleague of mine cited in one of her recent e-mails that the word TEAM can be expanded as an acronym into, “Together, everyone achieves more”. But we all know it is not easy to create a TEAM and more importantly, sustain it. Came across a Henry Ford quote today: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success”. How true! What may start off as a highly cohesive and successful TEAM can over a period of time lose its cohesion and effectiveness due to growth, attrition and ennui. How do we counteract these forces? Wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about the same.

Question I am taking about is how we make sure we don’t kill the golden geese in our teams! It seems to be (not explicitly) the topic of a blog on HBR yesterday. What the blog explains is that:

  1. It’s very natural to promote reliable high performers (“conscientious”) into managerial positions.
  2. But is that what everyone of the reliable high performers want? What if they are motivated by something else, like technology/process excellence, for instance?

Despite 2, I feel 1 is a good idea.

  • Power needs to reside in the hands of the most conscientious and talented individuals. Only then, it’ll be guided by the right end goals and value systems. In the hands of mediocre and insecure, power becomes a self-serving instrument with which organizations are routinely weakened and killed.
  • It’s also good for reliable high performers to get managerial powers. It’ll help them flower, by replicating their talents, values and skills among their team members. Hopefully, each one of them will all achieve much more for themselves and the organization, than what they could individually achieve by themselves. In other words, force multiplication will happen.

Still, what about 2? It’s here that we need to recognize that employment is voluntary from both sides. When you interview a potential employee, it’s always a 2-way interview. Candidates are also choosing the place they want to work. Similarly, when discussing role for an employee, it’s always a 2-way negotiation. Every manager needs to listen and provide team members with at least some responsibility that the team member loves to bear because of a higher calling the team member experiences. Remember, the conscientious high performer became one not because he/she was paid a huge incentive, but because he/she experienced what truly motivates people in non-trivial pursuits.

What truly motivates people? As the hugely popular RSA animation explained, high-performers in non-trivial pursuits are motivated not by monetary incentives but by

  • A higher purpose
  • Natural human need to master anything that’s not easy
  • Autonomy needed to self-direct what is done and how it is done

So, we need to find a way to give each reliable high performer a way to pursue his/her personal interest, in addition to what you want them to manage. Do not box them into just the role you want; make it a negotiation and see the magic unfold. This may lead to more complex organizational structures but what the heck, the magic you will experience is worth the cost!

October 1, 2011

What to make of crime stories from wall street?

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 2:42 am

Thirteen years ago, when the internet boom was on, almost every acquaintance of mine told me I was a fool not to invest in tech IPOs that were a rage back then. I kept responding that I don’t like gambling in wall street. When the bubble burst around 2000, I was relieved that I didn’t have to look back and agree that I was indeed a fool :) . At the same time, I was sad seeing how some of my friends and relatives lost huge chunks of their investments overnight.

Not that I was not invested in the stock market at all. In my first job at Kodak, a couple of years before the internet boom, I was educated on long-term investing when I enrolled in their 401(K) plan. I subscribed to ideas like:

  1. Historically, equities have always over-performed other investment classes and are likely to do so even though history provides no guarantee of future
  2. Timing the market is a crazy idea. If you are not invested for just 7 days out of 365 in a year, your returns may be dramatically different from the overall market’s.

I continue to invest even now with a long-term outlook. And I believe, well regulated financial markets are necessary to pool capital, encourage innovation and build wealth for the globe.

But from the material I came across in the last few days, seems like today’s financial markets are a law unto themselves that are seriously in collusion with governments or even independent regulators (lokpals of the financial world), causing serious harm to the short and medium term destinies of people across the globe. When I read in http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-people-vs-goldman-sachs-20110511 how a senate investigation uncovered deliberate actions on the part of an investment bank to

  • Bet against its own products that were sold at a premium to its customers
  • Re-classify lower grade investment products and sell them at higher prices as premium grade products

I wonder if it is safe to even go near the wall street. I wonder why the regulators and governments are not cracking down on such malpractices and saving the globe from self-inflicted misery.

Worse! I realize that myself and almost everyone on this planet who are dependent on the well-being of our economies to lead a comfortable and fruitful life are endangered if a few ultra powerful institutions are allowed to play criminal greed games.

As an employee of a corporation that provides jobs to a very large number of people, I am sensitized to the importance of good corporate management. Lack of discipline in financial management and business strategy puts at risk the livelihood of those employed by a corporation. I also understand the need for financial markets to mercilessly de-value companies that are inefficient and destined to fail.

But what I fail to understand is why governments and regulators don’t seem to be preventing artificial inflation and deflation of the value of a company, possible through speculation stoked by what should be illegal trading. When I read http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/wall-streets-naked-swindle-20100405, it just doesn’t make sense to not sit up and take notice of how everyone’s hard-earned wealth is being played with in a poorly regulated game.

So when I come across a movement like #occupywallstreet, I can understand the meaning of that movement. Just like Janlokpal movement resonated in India, I can understand if that movement resonates in the US and the world over, in every economy where the regulators were lax enough to allow criminal misconduct in markets, endangering existence of businesses and wealth of common investors.

I’m no expert in these matters and hence, I may not be exposed to the counter arguments or fallacies in the stories I am going by. I’ll be relieved to be proven wrong!

August 28, 2011

On Arundhati Roy’s criticism of Janlokpal movement

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 1:34 am

Knowing that I’m also a fan of Arundhati Roy, a friend of mine asked me my opinion on her criticism of Janlokpal movement.

  1. Firstly, she did Team Anna a big favor as most journalists and common ppl who have no time to read and understand AR’s position think of her as “traitor” :-) . Had AR come out in support, pundits would have gone on and on citing her support as one more evidence of Team Anna being a bunch of extremists.
  2. AR is bitter that media does not give the same kind of support to more focused causes bcos they r not addressing urban middle-class pain points. Her point is true but then I believe causes like janlokpal, if taken care of, will bring more accountability into the system and that will eventually benefit AR’s constituency as well
  3. See that Medha Patkar, whom AR supported in Narmada andolan, is now part of Team Anna
  4. AR is also critical of Team Anna for using nationalistic slogans but then (a) If that helps them succeed, why not use nationalist fervor; why do they have to be purists ideologically and (b) while AR is right in thinking of nationalism as an out-dated concept, she is also ahead of her times compared to common people

Why pundits are wrongly afraid of public’s adulation for Anna

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 1:29 am

Logic and reason have a place and time. This is a time to celebrate the fantastic movement that common people incl. house wives, college students, working professionals joined voluntarily.
Pundits are underestimating the judgement capability of Anna’s followers. They are not blind followers like most political party members; they do not necessarily subscribe to all of Anna’s beliefs and causes. They backed him in the case of Janlokpal bcos Anna backed a draft that was put together by a seasoned team of Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde.
While it is true that political movements need a good foundation, they really need lot more of pragmatism, mass support, operational support and media savvy to succeed spectacularly. Team Anna had a good foundation in the draft created by a respectable team listed above. Anna brought popularity to the cause with his gandhian methods and reputation. Good aides advised them on how to work with the media. Volunteers clearly did a tremendous job with operations. That’s why this movement succeeded. Bottom line is that none of the pundits who criticise Anna can claim credit for making a mass movement succeed as spectacularly as Team Anna did.
Team Anna doesn’t believe either that Janlokpal is the beginning and end of all battles against corruption. They have as large an agenda as any one else speaking on the topic (incl. all pundits, Nandan Nilekani and Rahul Gandhi). They are wise to start somewhere and try to take one step at a time instead of waiting for all pieces to get ready. [Btw, public funding of elections will not clean up elections unless we first force political parties to publish and audit their accounts].
Team Anna displayed a maximalist attitude to resolution and I believe that was needed to get at least the resolution they got at the end. They knew what they were doing and did not give a signal that they were willing to back down not because they are unreasonable individuals but because that’s the way they needed to play to get the system to listen and act.
For those who fear others will also try to blackmail the system adopting Team Anna’s style, I don’t believe cheap imitators will get the same public support and hence, I don’t have the same fear.

In other words, I feel pundits are jumping the gun. They need to hold their horses and trust that other people are as wise as them, if not wiser.

November 14, 2009

Thanks Sachin!

Filed under: Sports — prasad @ 2:14 pm

I’ve never been a die-hard fan of Sachin - e.g., I never walked away from TV when Sachin got out - my love was for the game of cricket and Sachin’s a part of that, and not the whole. Sachin’s significance for me was very different. As Sachin’s just one year younger than me, I’ve seen him as the representative of my generation of indians when he started playing for the country and succeeded. As a song in a popular telugu movie of 1993 said - “mana kannaa chinna vaallu, tendulkar manjrekarlu, lErA manak-example-u!”

In the initial years, it was inevitably Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar who would rescue india with a wonderful partnership after the top collapsed. Of course, manjrekar is no longer on the scene; nor is vinod kambli. A lot have come and gone from the game but not Sachin. He has been the one constant.

Why am I thanking Sachin? For much more than cricket actually.

Firstly, for being such a wonderful example of successful people can and should stay humble and hungry. Most importantly though, for standing up tall yesterday and saying to the thugs of Raj Thackeray that “Mumbai belongs to all Indians. I am a Maharashtrian and am extremely proud of that. But I am an Indian first.” This is the first time I’ve seen Sachin make a comment connected to politics. He has in general stayed very clear of politics. But the fact that he has put his hand up and spoken against none other than the biggest goons in maharashtra politics today is really worth thanking. Thank you Sachin, for everything and this comment in particular!

October 3, 2009

India Today’s “State of States”: Fantastic journalism

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 10:36 am

It’s very important to recognize and appreciate good work so that we strengthen the hands of those few who eschew the easy but mediocre path and put in the hard work needed to do a good job. I’ve seen many friends complain about the state of journalism, esp. TV journalism in India. In that context, I would like to recognize India Today’s analysis of “State of States” as an example of how data-based approach to journalism (a la balanced scorecard approach in businesses) can throw the right light on state of affairs. TV news teams everywhere need to practice such methodology and eschew the broad generalizations in argumentative and shallow opinion based shows.

Coming to India Today’s analysis, I was pleasantly surprised to read the success stories from Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh. I’ve never been to both places - I would love to go to both these places. It was interesting to see that southern states such as Karnataka and Andhra where IT has created an economic boom are not really the leading lights when measured on a broad basis with objective criteria.

More than any thing else, I hope that this kind of analysis becomes main stream enough for politicians and bureaucrats to start measuring their performance in an objective way.

September 26, 2009

Management and planning in government

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 5:27 am

Found three interesting examples of management/planning (or the lack of them) in yesterday’s and today’s telugu newspaper (eenaadu):

July 25, 2009

This is why I left America

Filed under: Society, Politics, Economics and Law — prasad @ 2:03 pm

When Obama asserted, “Yes, we can”, I wrote - I really hope “He can” and “They can”. I’m really sad that both Obama and america failed their first litmus test since then and showed once again that “they still cannot”.

Look at the latest incident of a very respected african-american Harvard professor arrested just because a white police officer felt he was offended by the tone of the professor’s voice. More shocking is the approval that police officer got from many americans, calling the police offer as some one just doing his job. What really sucks is the way Obama felt pressured and backtracked saying:

I actually just had a conversation with Sgt. Jim Crowley, the officer involved. And I have to tell you that, as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was a outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation. And I told him that.

What nonsense! Come on president Obama! Please show some backbone in defense of justice. Why do you have to bow to the “we can never do any wrong” police in US? Why can’t you say,

“I think it’s worse than stupid,” said Mr. Medley, 65, the retired Chicago professor. “I think it was mean-spirited and ill-intended.”

America has a long, long way to go. I was and continue to be scared by their self-righteous attitude and belief that they can never be wrong in their judgment. Here are some quotes from the news stories related to this incident. I’m devastated reading such quotes.

“It seems to me that Dr. Gates was simply arrested for being upset, and he was arrested for being upset because he’s a black man,” said Wayne Martin, 25, an official at the Atlanta Housing Authority, who is also black.

“Wayne Martin is wondering when it became illegal to be angry at a law enforcement official.”

Mr. Vivian, 47, said that he had been unfairly stopped by the police in the past, but that he lived by “an unwritten code” for dealing with these incidents. And Dr. Gates certainly did not obey the code, he said.

Quiet politeness is Rule No. 1 in surviving an incident of racial profiling, he said. So is the frequent use of the word “sir.”

“People used to say, ‘Look, there’s a Colin Powell. There’s an Oprah Winfrey.’ Now they say, ‘There’s a black president.’ I say, I’m happy to see the exceptions. There’s always an exception. But I’m interested in how society treats the average person.”

Avenel prisonPostscript 1: There used to be a prison near my home in avenel. I used to drive past it every day. The picture here doesn’t tell you how imposing it was. I used to dread being taken in there some day because of some stupid police officer’s mistaken logic. Thankfully, I’m now out of that police state!

Postscript 2: If you haven’t seen Crash (2004), you should.

It shows a white villainous police officer who molests a black woman right before the eyes of her husband in one scene become a genuine hero in a second scene, endangering his own life to save the life of the same lady he molested, and a helpless guy in the third, pleading with a black insurance agent to help pay for his dad’s health care. It shows how a well-meaning police officer ends up murdering an innocent black man because he is afraid that the latter may harm him. It shows with many may more examples how people have lost control over their own fate because of the way systems operate in america.

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