Saturday, July 30, 2016

Winning Teams

The complex organization structure is the composition of small entities called ‘Teams’.  An organization’s success is directly related to the effectiveness of these teams. These team make up the culture of the organization and their health is the reflection of the organization’s culture health. To realize the high performance results, we have to understand the heath of the team to make it highly collaborative. Winning teams come out from the winning culture. The culture of the team emerges out from the individual’s contribution to the culture.

Collective high morale of the team is the greatest contributor to the habits of winning. Any team can’t think of wining without the collective readiness for the winning. Creating great teamwork is a challenging process. Referring to a collection of people as a team doesn’t make any team winning. A group is typically a collection of people who are collected headed by the leader where member works on their own most of the time with little or no dependence on other member of the group. But the team shares the leadership, people in the team are interdependent, they have collective sense of responsibility not just ‘My Work or Your Work’. The goal of the team is more prominent than their individual goals. Individualism is the prime character of a group whereas a team plays on collaborations.

It is easier to decide on change than to get people to change. People and teams are creature of habits and changing habits are much harder than changing structures and systems. Whose responsibility is it to create a good team; the leader or individuals? A leader is seen as the owner a team but in this age of quick and exhaustive information, leaders can’t only be considered as the full source of information to lead the team. Though, there is a leader of each team but situational leadership is required where each individual has to lead in different situations.

Positive team spirit and sportsmanship attitude are required. A robust culture is the result of nurturing individual and team spirit. There are numerous absolutes of team building but a few are indispensable, they not only build the team spirit but also integrate the individuals to pursue for a common goal. Some of the TeamSpiritBuilders are as follows.

TeamSpiritBuilder #1,  Seamless Communication

Communication is the blood of any team, it carries the information and ideas to be shared with the team. Communication is not limited to mastering any language and usage of contemporary phrases and expressions, it is an intention to let your ideas flow. Good communication is all about inner readiness to share what you think. The main objective of communication to put everyone of same page. Honest and transparent mind-set allows good communication to happen. Aim toward two-way interaction, exchange of ideas, and developing new insights in regular communication.

TeamSpiritBuilder #2, Togetherness

All corporations, big or small, are running many events in their organizations to promote inclusion at all levels. It main objective is ‘Togetherness’. When people come together in an informal arena their bonding grows, their understanding about each other grows, truth strengthens and stress bursts. Create times for people to laugh together and loosen up. This will also stimulate creativity. Consider some of these ideas: start a meeting with a relevant joke or funny story, show a clip of a comedy video tape that pertains to a current challenge. But, on the other side when people do not participate with their wish and are forced to participate, it works in other direction. This has to be ‘Very Intentional’. But what if individuals are not ready to come for these activities? then we are picking the wrong chord first. We need to fix another chord.

TeamSpiritBuilder #3, Empower for Ownership

Ownership provides confidence among individuals. Control-obsessed culture often broods escapism. Giving ownership does not means throwing the responsibilities to the individuals but it should be supplemented by resources. Encourage opinions on important decisions affecting the business. Give a voice to each individual so that everyone shares the context that they are able to contribute to the success of the team. When people feel like they’re being heard, it will go a long way toward enriching relationships, fostering collaboration, and heightening engagement.  No team can grow when people are afraid of taking the responsibility.

TeamSpiritBuilder #4, Higher Mood State

The mood elevator; the higher mood state or lower mood state determines the morale of the team. The higher mood states are; curious, flexible, sense of humour, understanding, appreciative, optimistic resourceful, creative, insightful and grateful. On the other hand, the lower mood states are; impatient, irritated, worried, defensive, judgmental, burned-out, angry and depressed. The feelings on mood elevator are nothing more than product of our thinking. Inability to cope up with stress leads to lower mood states. Stressed team cannot be a winner team. The leader should have a sense to measure the stress of the team and take steps to de-stress the team. This should be the first step in the journey to be a great team. In an atmosphere of high expectation from the customer it is next to impossible to stop the stress from the source but individuals should be made capable of managing the stress. And this has to be taught. How? This can’t be done by repeatedly saying that ‘ you should learn stress management’ but provide training to fight the situating. They should learn how to prioritize, how to organize, how to seek help and most importantly, how to negotiate. Healthy state of mind creates healthy culture.

TeamSpiritBuilder #5, Trust

Trust is the foundation of healthy team and trust builds in an environment of transparency. Trust helps in accepting deepening relationships and removes politics and silos from the work place, creating an organization within which people feel safe. A team without trust isn't really a team; they may not share information, they might battle over rights and responsibilities, and they may not cooperate with one another. It doesn't matter how capable or talented people are, they may never reach their full potential if trust isn't present in the culture of the team.  How to build trust? Trust can’t be built by preaching about trust, that many organization does. Open communication is essential for building trust. Everyone in the team should be talking to one another in an honest, meaningful way. And that can be done when everybody is clear about what he/she is doing and how it is contributing to the common goal. Know each other by meet regularly, share personal stories or experiences and respect differences.

TeamSpiritBuilder #6, Learning, not just preaching

Fast changing dynamics of businesses requires people to learn things quickly and implement them into the job. The success of the team largely depends on how responsive the team is towards change and readiness to learn. Leaders who only inflicts fear find it difficult to motivate the team. Leader are facing a lot of problems when they assume people should understand by themselves. Even the smallest issue may require training. Training is about learning the new way of doing any job. Corporate trainings are of two types; technical trainings and soft-skills trainings. It is easy to get the people work on any new tool but often difficulty to convince that their email response time is more than expected. Simplify the process.  Don’t exhaust employees through complexity and buzz-words.  People seek direction that is too the point. People are inspired when given the opportunity to learn how to do new things.

TeamSpiritBuilder #7, Encourage Networking

Ability to network with people outside the team means to expand our orbit of resources. Not a single process or skill can be excelled in isolation, we are required to work in collaborations. To be comfortable among ‘not friends’ forces you to learn a lot of new social skills. Networking is about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. Each team members should understand the need of healthy networking.

TeamSpiritBuilder #8, Measure performance

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Prepare team profile on the basis of above seven TeamSpiritBuilders and rate your team from 1-10. Set realistic goals weeks by weeks. Prioritize needs. Focus, where you require more development for ex. if your team is poor in communicating ideas then it should be given top priority. Communicate the performance result to the team and ask their suggestions for improvement for the next cycle. Involve team in goal-setting and planning. Two-way communication get the individuals connect with the requirement.

Winning culture creates winning teams. Culture is defined and created from the top down, but it comes to life from the bottom up. You really can’t change the culture without changing the behaviour of the individuals in that culture.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Revew: “The Third Curve” – by Mansoor Khan

If you are below 40 years of age then you are likely to face this monstrous problem in your lifetime. If not, no less than certainty our children will surely see the day-with-no-oil.

Daily, we hear thousands of statements about this phenomenon called ‘Growth’. We are now conditioned to believe that growth is a natural reaction of society. When growth becomes our religion, we choose governments, ideas and all notions that support the concept of ‘never-ending growth' then the author shakes our consciousness to portray the sustainability of the concept.
If ‘never-ending-growth’ concept is seen as sustainable the question arises, for how long? Mr Mansoor Khan has tried to provide us the lens to understand the inversion of economic reality. It identifies the root cause of the malady by reminding us of forgotten relationships between money and energy, capital and resources and reality.

Though ‘Oil-Peak’ has been discussed here with great extent but the foundation of this book is laid on the ‘Unsustainable-Concept’ of exponential growth with exhausting natural resources. In spite of using heavy graphs and big numbers, Mr Khan, very aptly used an analogy to understand and realize the depth of the problem.

Part-1 states the story of ‘The Coach and the Runner’. The coach has a concept which he claims can make you the runner, run at the speed of sound in just 18 months.
‘How is that possible’, you wonder.
He explains, ‘Can you run at 10km/hr?”
‘Yes, of course, that is slightly faster than walking’.
The logic game goes further. ‘Then you can run 7% faster at 10.7 km/hr, right?’
‘Sure’, you agree.
‘After three weeks, you can run 7% faster at 12.25 km/hr?’

The coach promises that you can run 7% faster than last week every week. In this way, it will take 18 months to break the spead of sound. Awesome!

The coach approached the sponsors and display encouraging charts, supported by descent logic. Picture is rosy so sponsors are ready to pay money and training starts. In phase 1, you ran 7% faster, sponsors are happy, and all is going well as per the plan.

In phase 2, you fail to run faster at same growth then your coach puts you on steroids and you are able to run little faster, say 3% or 4%. Bur in phase 3, you collapse.

Here comes the explanations of the first two curves; the first curve is the exponential curve, that is desired speed (goes to infinity) and second curve is bell-shaped curve which is actual speed (body). The concept (mind and desires) i.e exponential curve goes to infinity, the same way we think about economic growth. We are convinced that our current concept of infinite economic growth will keep the growth as it is. The reality (body and resources) can be seen in bell-shaped curve which has start, rise, peak, downfall and end. All natural resources including oil follow the bell-shaped curve; we started using, increased production, reaches peak, slow down production and finally finishes.

 Our demands from the nature follows the exponential curve, isn’t it?. Can we afford to live without the idea of growth? A big question for all of us.

We are positive people, sorry extremely positive people filled with creativity so we find the alternatives, we think. ‘Oil Peak’ has always been the burning issue since early 90's but the truth of the matter is oil production follow bell-shaped curve. Ever if the peak is shifted, the decline is inevitable. Many of us or our children will face the consequences of oil-depletion.

‘The third Curve’ nicely explains the fragile financial system which sits on the idea of greed and desire of ever-increasing economic growth. When historic money data is blended with oil data then it clearly shows the exponential curve of money that all the governments are producing. The historic oil data follows the half bell-shaped curve. Experts say that we are at the Oil Peak and oil will be produced lesser and lesser in the coming future.

Just because to protect this economic growth the current human generation has compromised everything; Natural Capital (natural resources), Ecological Capital (forests, rivers and animal kingdom), Social Capital (bond of family), Cultural Capital, Spiritual Capital (honesty, trust and peace).

The third part of book check the sustainability of the alternative sources of energy. Here alternative sources are seen as ‘A Mirage of Hope’ which is elaborately explained with graphs and ideas. All alternative sources (like wind, solar or nuclear) and ideas (like technological advancement and energy conservation) have to be viewed in the perspective that it is going to replace the oil, which is the backbone of the current economic model. Alternates have to be very strong to take that place, merely presenting the rosy picture of alternate ideas in some conferences do not serve the purpose.

For the same, the author tested all the ‘Hot Alternatives’ on five technical parameters which are called Energy Rules. These are; Rule #1 Net Energy, Rule #2 Oil Dependency, Rule #3 Energy Density, Rule #4 Scalability and Rule #5 Oil-by-Product.

Unfortunately none of the alternative sources passed the test to replace oil. Let us understand with an example, if we take Wind Energy, it fails Rule#2,4 and 5. Wind energy is intermittent, low density, expensive, oil dependent, has limits of scalability and generates only electricity. It is sorely dependent on Government subsidies for viability. It can never keep the Modern Industrial World running the way it is on oil. Same is with Nuclear energy, it fails Rule# 2 and 5.

There is no escape unless we change the concept of growth. This has been explained in the fourth part of the book which is ‘The Third Curve’. The third curve is called ‘The Eternal Rhythm of the Universe’. It synchronizes with the nature and its resources. It is not a question of how much energy we can find and burn in an illusion of success and progress, but is a question of how much we should.

The third curve of a living earth faithfully follows the rhythm of our primary energy provider, the Sun. Reliably it rises, peaks and ebbs only to rise again. Nothing going to the sky and nothing going to the zero. We are reluctant to accept the truth, the author says that we have two paths; denial or acceptance of Peak Oil.

The part through denial can certainly extend our moment at the top but a chaotic collapse is certain. The path through acceptance can immediately start a soother, longer and managed energy descent, which involves re-alignment of our economic paradigm.

Last and fifth part of the book focuses on ‘Rebuilding a post oil world’. In this modern industrial civilization, the collective belief so far has been ‘big is beautiful, more is good, individualism is prime etc.’ All this led to a particular kind of social structure and lifestyle.

Author urges that we now have to believe personally that ‘small is beautiful, less is good, local is important, community is strength and diversity is paramount.’ This amounts to a huge shift in our cultural perspective. Not easy but then we are not talking about ease, we are talking about what is likely to work in an energy declining world.

The book is very inspiring and captivating. You can certainly digest the heavy stuff with ease as author left no stone unturned to keep its presentation precise. Coloured graphs, clear diagrams and good quality pictures are augmenting the effect of the high quality research work of Mansoor Khan.

By the way, Mansoor Khan is an alumni of IIT Madras, Cornell University, and MIT, Boston. He started his career as film-maker and made his directorial debut with Hindi film ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ in 1988. His other famous films are ‘Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar’, ‘Josh’ and ‘Akale Hum Akele Tum’. Hope you will enjoy reading this book.

Key Words: False Money, Pseudo-Assets, Financial Jugglary and Proliferation effect.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My 10-days in Vipassana Meditation Center

We do claim to know many things, in fact everything, in our life. Though, we know a lot many things we do not realize them. For example, you can hear an advice on ‘how to invest in stocks’ form the one who never invested a penny in stock market. Our most problems starts when we convince ourselves that we know but in reality we don’t know, we never realize. One such thing is meditation. There comes a time in everybody’s life when we want to move forward from knowing and understanding to experiencing and realizing. ‘Focused-mind can solve your problems of life and you can focus your mind through meditation’, I learned from many masters in their fields. Motivated by some you-tube guided meditation techniques, I decided to learn this art from Vipassana Meditation Center, which is also called ‘Dhamma Khetta’. Best things in this world are free or at very less cost. You can register online and ten days stay is absolutely free including food.

On the way to the center, I asked an old uncle the way to Dhamma Center, he guided by giving directions and said ‘You are going to a great place and All The Best’. Great place I am going, I knew that but why he said ‘All the Best’. Did not bother. Reached the place, after registration, all are supposed to be interviewed by the teacher. He asked me some simple questions like what I do, medical history and all. ‘Do you have the will power to stay here for ten days’ he continued asking. ‘Of course’, I said. ‘I came here after taking ten days leave from my company; I dedicated these days to meditate to live a peaceful life’, I thought. ‘All the best’, said the teacher and I move to my 8 feet by 10 feet room which I had to share with one person.


It was as your life was moving like high-speed train suddenly stopped at rest. There were certain rules we had to follow. You are not allowed to bring you phones, tabs, laptops, reading or writing material with you in the room. You have to stay inside the boundaries where it is written ‘practitioners are not allowed to move out of this boundary’. You cannot speak with anyone, only on a rare occasion you can speak with the supporting staff, called ‘Sevaks’. No hand shakings, no greetings and you cannot look into anybody’s eyes. They do all this to maintain ‘Arya Maun’, which means ‘complete silence’; outside and inside environment.

They serve breakfast at 6:30AM, lunch at 11:30AM and guess what would be the timings for the dinner. There will be no dinner. Only evening tea with pop-corns will be served at 5:00PM.

Sudden restrictions on the way I was living created a feeling of anxiety. The statement ‘All the best’ flashed in my mind. This was the first realization. On the name of freedom we become too dependent on the amenities of life. The way we discuss peace and meditation in cozy environment is very different from the reality.

All Is In The Mind

Doors are closed now, I can’t go outside, can’t share anything with anyone, can’t read or write. It was first day and my mind was clouded with all the negative thoughts. ‘What will happen if I fell ill, will they provide medicine, how can I live without dinner, food is the basic necessity, they should provide dinner, how will my family members contact with me if they have any problem, Oh my god! my interview call is scheduled next week and I did not intimate them…’.

Suddenly we were called for evening tea. I walked fast to be first in the queue to get my share. As it was first day they decided to provide Upma which made me very happy. I ate double the quantity I normally eat as there would not be any dinner. Many times our body compensates for the stupid and anxious thought of our mind, so did my body. I had stomach upset that whole night.

We got the schedule for the following days where we need to meditate for ten hours per day for next nine days without fail. I need to get up 4 o’clock in the morning, meditate in different stretches whole day until 9 o’clock in the night.

With stomach upset and anxious feeling, I thought if I did mistake coming here? I could bear many things but ‘no-dinner’ was highly un-nerving thought which I never practiced earlier. I had no option but to go with this.

On day 2, there was only tea and pop-corn in the evening but I did not eat much taking experience from the previous day. That night was relaxing. On day 3, eating food in small quantity was normal to me. I had no anxiety of not getting anything to eat at night. That was second realization, ‘Everything is in the mind’. The same ‘me’ two days back was feeling all the troubles of the world and the same ‘me’ in same conditions is calm now. Not sure what worked on me but I felt, when all doors of alternatives are closed and you have only one option, your mind will get convinced; you become peaceful.

Adhishtana – The Practice to Increase Will-Power

All are required to meditate for 10-hours per day but my favourite practice session was ‘Adhisthana’ , the practice to increase will power. You need to sit in a position, without any movement, for an-hour. Though you can sit for some-time without movement but when you are told that you have to sit still, your mind starts to struggle against your will. Even 15-minutes of a sitting becomes difficult. Our mind does not want to be controlled; it revolts when you ask him to work as per your will. Enormous back pain, stopped blood circulation, itching everywhere in body, headache etc. are some of the symptoms of inner revolt. That was most difficult exercise throughout the course.
But you have no option, your teacher is observing, you have to sit. All mental revolts come to an end when we persist with single objective of the mind. There I realized the importance of teacher. If you have somebody to teach and observe your activities you can master anything.

Everyone was able to perform this activity by the end of course. It would not have been possible if there was no teacher to observe. Forced-discipline is required for sufficient time before the mind is ready to be ‘self-disciplined’.

My Pajamas was missing

A funny and very insightful incidence happened on the fifth day. If you are not washing your clothes by yourself you can give it to washer man who returns them on the following day. But that morning I could not find my pajamas at the place where we are supposed to get our clothes. There was no one to ask. I searched it everywhere but could not find. I was angry. ‘How can they do this, this is irresponsibility from their part, they should have told to bring one extra pair… blah..blah..blah..’. My mind was constructing thoughts at the highest speed possible. All inner-silence is gone now. The most urgent task for my mind was to get my pajamas and find someone who I can make responsible for this missing.

After an hour of effort, I moved a step back and asked myself ‘has this been so important that took all my peace’. Many times we give all our mental energy to the least important thing in our life. The more you try to forget the more it comes back. That is the favourite play of mind, ‘brooding the disturbing thought’. And the solution is ‘to observe’. The thought ‘my pajamas is missing’ kept coming whole that day but I started observing rather that reacting. I kept asking myself ‘Pajamas or Peace’. The thought became feeble at night. It was a day of great learning and realization. How deeply we are attached with petty thing in our life and we are ready to give all our energy to get them.

The Last Day

We were allowed to speak on the tenth day. There were people from all walks of life; students, bureaucrats, professionals, executives, entrepreneurs etc. Also, I found there were a few people who quit during the course, not sure why. I cannot explain their teachings and philosophy but I can say that I learned some hard lessons which would not have been possible in normal course of life.