Day 44 – Liquor’s Dichotomy – #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown

Allow liquor sale; illicit trade burden on exchequer: CIABC to 10 ...
(Image Courtesy – https://www.indiatoday.in/business/story/allow-liquor-sale-illicit-trade-burden-on-exchequer-ciabc-to-10-states-1664333-2020-04-07)

The Liquor’s Dichotomy

I come from those factories where the chimneys are blowing loud and hot,
My death usually happens from a can, glass or a shot.

The love for me is every growing,
Some say its their lives that I am ruining.

I come in many brands, flavors and colors,
People love me whether it is a cold winter or its bright summers.

I have some companions in cold ice,
You can have the better of me when you mix me with my cousins and add some spice.

Singers and bards have dedicated a lot of their work to me,
Love for me is natural whether its from they, he or she.

In movies, I am regular companion to show class,
I am available to all whether its the celebrities or the general mass.

My age is also a strange conundrum,
In some cases I last few months, in some cases years,
But as I age more, people are ready to pay a heavy sum.

They say that I am a bad influence on people,
I cause addiction,
I break families,
And many a times I am the spoiler in a ritual.

They vilify me and want me banned,
Some people earn their livings from me by taking an adverse stand.

But tell me something,
Did I invite you to meet me?
Remember you come searching for me,
From land, mountains and the sea.
And pay a heavy price as I seldom come free.

You may curse my makers and my marketeers for the tricks they play,
They are the bad guys, you can punish them or even slay.

Today we are in uncertain times,
I have been waiting in my shelf while you stand in lines.

I know your love for me and you know my love for you,
This shall also pass, together we will see it through.

I am the savior of economies as they claim,
If you have a problem, regulate my consumption,
Why punish me with all the blame?

I feel happy when I see that the love from many towards me is so true,
I usually want only adults to like me,
Unfortunately now there are more youngsters, earlier they were few.

But I do save the day as I help governments earn more,
Corona or anything else, together we will settle the score.

Sometimes I get scared with the obsession I see,
As if it was not enough already, you named a virus after me?

As I am the curse that you may have not realized,
If not controlled, I will destroy you, even if its death you have defied.

So, lets not complain and make a promise
You will not be greedy for me whatever is the premise.

We will fight and sustain together in these times changing,
Lets sit together buddy as if there is no tomorrow again and today is the ending!

Day 40 – #Expensive #Crashes – #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown

USB Ports Not Working? Here's How to Diagnose and Fix It

The current pandemic and associated lock down situation has led to multiple strange paradigms for people – some hypothetical and some real.

Just few days back, I was discussing the wonderful weather and how it makes for the perfect recipe of an outdoor picnic, that is not to be due to the lock down.

The beautiful rain and associated lightning made me humming about some of my favorite songs from the yesteryears. Most of them are still refreshing.

That also took me years back into some of the wonderful lyrical renditions backed with strong guitar strums and excellent percussion of the late 90s when grunge rock was at its peak. Along with the greats of Nirvana and Chris Cornell, was another great band called ‘Live’. Of all its songs, Live’s song ‘Lightning Crashes’ is one of the best songs that gives you happiness then sorrow and then happiness to conclude. Hear it at your convenience here.

 

 It also made me wonder what are the things that may qualify as an ‘expensive crash’ in the current situation, if it were to happen. Other than the utilities like electricity, water and now (convincingly true) internet, I also wondered what would make one useless even when these utilities are available.

After a lot of thinking and by application of ‘Method of Elimination’, my quest ended with ‘Laptop’.

I had concluded that laptop is the most expensive crash one can have in the current situation if it were to happen.

Following are the five reasons for this –

  1. You need laptop to do something meaningful and productive – for office or otherwise.
  2. Its your excuse to hide away from other household work.
  3. While staring at it, you can still seem busy.
  4. It opens up new world of learning – even if you are not executing it, but even if you are exploring it.
  5. Its your buddy in this time of isolation.

Just as these thoughts were passing through my mind, I decided to move to a different location in my office (basically from my home office table to the bed) with my favorite laptop (a Dell 7280) in my hand.

And as I placed it on my lap, my dear buddy went dead.

Just like that, it stopped responding… nothing. It stopped detecting the power cable as well. The power button was also gone.

In soccer we call this as sudden death. The play goes on till either team gives up and concedes a goal. In my case it was the quest between the man and the machine. The machine gave up.

I have to admit. At that moment I had the strangest feeling that I could have ever got. Suddenly thoughts of wastefulness, helplessness, sorrow, irritation, repentance (for changing my work location in my house), confusion,  disappointment and tension of not meeting my commitments for the day crossed my mind. Surprisingly, an equal opposing current of joy, liberty, playfulness, relaxation, ability to make valid excuses, vacationing, relief and ‘no worries’ rushed through my brain.

A combination of these feelings made me light, really light in head but heavy at heart. I felt that there was a loss in my family but at the same time I felt unshackled.

Within 30 seconds of this mental interplay of opposing feelings, I recovered to the present tense. I quickly reached out to our office help desk. Still in early hours of the day, they just gave me an automated reply saying that they will get back.

I swung into action and pulled out my stone age personal laptop to carry with the day.

In the next hour or so, I was back on the saddle with my personal laptop but only 50% productive for several reasons, primary being lack of familiarity with my personal machine after years of its ignorance.

Anyway, my employer’s IT support staff were very swift in their process. In less than 48 hours of this episode,  I had a spare machine with me. It not as great as my original allotted machine but it does 90% of the job smoothly. So no regrets.

My Salute, Saludo and Saluto to our support staff from IT to admin who made this arrangement in record time. I have great respect for their contribution.

This episode surprisingly times with the announcement from some IT service providers that they would shrink their office working staff to 25% in next few years and bring more ‘Work from home’ policies.

I also started thinking of the factors that one would need to consider to make this model work –

  • Connectivity to main hubs – Rural and semi-rural areas will pose a greater challenge in shipping and installing the devices required for one’s productive work
  • The old school of thought believes in reading access card logs to identify the attendance of the employee. This would need to change to a new set of metrics.
  • There are some managers who take pride in their ‘aisle walks’. They need to change their ways of working.
  • Problem solving would need to be more technology based than close interaction based.
  • How would field forces operate in such scenarios?

Its a deeper subject than the scope of this blog. However, a well-thought through process and system would make this new way of working a reality. This is here to stay. The virus though should go away.

What are your thoughts on this?

Day 30 – 30 Things in 30 Days – #Lockdown #COVID-19

Brown Cave Great Outdoors Month Facebook PostWhile we wait for the situation to normalize after the extended lock down due to the COVID-19 situation, we recently completed the 30 days of quarantine.

If nothing else, everyone went through a life changing experience in ways of working or in the ways of connecting with people.

The following are the 30 things that I have experienced or mulled over in the last 30 days of the lock down.

Some of these could be a repeat from a similar earlier post for 7 days or so. However, it is still worth enlisting the current thirty we have.

  1. Freedom to move is a big freedom. We should preserve it without taking it for granted to be with us always.
  2. Man made problems are closer than we think they are.
  3. Technology cannot solve all our problems but can definitely make it easier for us to live with it.
  4. There is no substitute to good home made food.
  5. More time with family is the best stress buster one can have in their lives.
  6. Internet is definitely an essential utility and we should perhaps have a ‘Right to internet’.
  7. An essential service that is not counted as one is barbershops and saloons. Well-being requires good hair cut and well-being of hair as well.
  8. Content on Netflix is the best if you are interested in international content and not just local language/national programs.
  9. One should try something new. I am experimenting with multiple things at the same time. Succeeding in few and failing in some.
  10. You should learn the side effects of performance hacks that you try or they can be counter productive. One must take proper precaution before trying them as well.
  11. I tried the performance hack of increasing your grey cells by taking shower in ice cold water. As I didnt put a warm jacket after the shower, I fell sick with fever for two days. So read the fine print, surrounding notes and foot notes properly before trying anything new.
  12. One should definitely take up writing as an important part of their everyday life. it improves your control over your thinking significantly.
  13. The best first task of the day is to make your own bed when you wake up. It gives a huge feeling of accomplishment.
  14. Regular news channel have the potential to make your thoughts toxic.
  15. Whatsapp and FB are still full of filth and spoil your ability to think clearly.
  16. One can achieve a regular schedule with little effort.
  17. I took up Yoga and have been practicing it for last 15 days now. Its an excellent exercise to start your day.
  18. Breathing as I learned in Yoga helps in multiple ways such as regulating your blood flow, reducing stress, helping you calm your minds.
  19. Human needs are much simpler than what we usually exercise. We survived without a mall visit for the last 35 days. Isnt that strange?
  20. Technology detox is required and essential. Best way is to take breaks in between your work to ensure that you are in your best performing shape.
  21. Participating in household work is a great foundation for team play.
  22. Mankind is far off from preserving itself from itself. A whole lot of inventions are required to achieve a state of steady preservation.
  23. Many people dont understand that risk taking works both ways, as was seen with recent six scheme bust of Franklin Templeton.
  24. Indian startups are yet to come to main stage with essential inventions. Fact that still most of the users hook up to tools like Zoom etc for conferencing shows the lack of local innovation in large countries like India.
  25. We should have many new chefs by the end of the lock down. So there could be a glut in the market of household cooks for hire.
  26. Majority of world population does not know what their priorities. In advanced countries like US people are protesting in name of freedom while in lesser advanced countries like India, people are crowding in some places to grab essentials for their survival.
  27. Virtual communication is here to stay and will change the way we operate in the world.
  28. The obvious impact of 27 should come on commercial real estate. So, one should stay away from it.
  29. Social interaction is a definite grease one requires to smoothly control their overall well-being.
  30. There is no better way than engaging in some fun activities with your families and kids. The video below is the proof of the same.

Day 22 – The Jumper Problem – #Lockdown #COVID-19

The Jumper Problem for the economy is taking more time to come to any shape as compared to what I initially thought.

Here is the first part of ‘The Jumper Problem’, just in case you are one of the uninitiated.

The lock down extension to May 3, 2020 has increased the economic impact of this pandemic and clearly is becoming a use case for generations to study.

While scurrying through multiple ideas and literature around it, it dawned to me that I should reach out to the sensible and smart readers of this blog to help me with the ideas as well.

A combination of my thoughts, my readings from the experts around us and of course the readers will help me build stronger content for this vast topic.

I have put together a very simple survey.

I sincerely request you to kindly take 5 mins of your time and fill it up. This will help in enriching this very thought.

I also request you to circulate it in your circles so that I can get more and more ideas from as many walks of life as possible. Appreciate your help here.

This will be open till Sunday afternoon (April 19, 2020) so that I can publish the findings on Sunday evening or Monday morning tops.

Thank you.

Here is the direct link for the survey OR you can fill below.

Day 18 – The Jumper Problem – #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown21

How to Use Jumper Cables | HowStuffWorks

Ever since COVID-19 has created havoc in the world, there are different kind of intelligence that is visible, largely on social media. This group is very much interested in different kind of capacity problems and do a great favour in quelling some irrelevant myths floating around.

Here are few things that this group of intellects has highlighted –

  • In the initial days, while the world was still coming to terms with the reality of COVID-19 and its impact on our everyday lives. The group compared India against a skewed data set and concluded that India is faltering in its ‘capacity’ of testing.
  • Some went on to question the entire selective testing strategy citing that this was purposefully being done by the government.
  • The image below is from March 17 HT.

  • Right or wrong the strategy to have selective testing seems to have worked in India’s favor so far. Besides, proximity to China had put severe risks to South Korea as compared to India.
  • Anyway, the second capacity problem that the intellects grappled with is whether the clapping and utensils banging going to eradicate COVID-19?
  • No one made any such claims but the intellects helped in quelling any doubt being circulated about this on whatsapp or other social media.
  • Next came the real test of capacity planning when PM Modi announced that on April 5, 2020 at 9 p.m. people should shut down the lights at their houses for 9 months and light diyas, candles and mobile phone torch lights instead.
  • The intellects immediately jumped in with their varied level of expertise in Electrical Engineering to cite grid failure.
  • The national Power Grid custodian had to issue a clarification to all the warriors that this is not an unusual activity.
  • Everything went smoothly on April 5, 2020 and there was no grid failure or power tripping or any kind of voltage fluctuation or low ampere current.

The new-enlightened me understands the line of thought and the typical analysis that goes behind this type of cold calling on the capacity problems.

With this new found logic, I think there would be two unique but similar type of problems that will happen in the country.

Both are the ‘Jumper Capacity’ Problem.

  • Taking the multiple logical conclusions given above, one can hypothesize that the day lock down gets over, we would run short of car jumpers.
  • Car jumpers are specialized external probes that help in triggering a car battery, after prolonged period of non-ignition.
  • So, its fair to assume that there would be a disproportionate demand of car jumpers and more so for the ones that come with a battery.
  • The regular car jumpers may not be able to solve the problem alone as we would not have another car to kick start the chemical reaction.
  • This to me is the next horizon for our Whatsapp knowledge factory champions.

The other and the more serious ‘Jumper Capacity’ problem is the one required for the Indian and world economy. With stalled consumption, no factories running, credit lending frozen, no tourism etc, we have a serious problem in hand.

In my blog coming soon, I shall try to put some thoughts on the more serious ‘Jumper Capacity ‘ problem i.e. the one required for the economy.

Till we meet next, keep reading 🙂

Day 17 – The Lock down Reader Part 2- #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown21

Study Session Email Header

(Seems like there was an error in my counting somewhere so I have fixed the number of days in the post title now)

This is the concluding part of this 2-part series on Ram Charan’s The Amazon Management System. As was earlier mentioned, its an easy read and gives a good insight on the working of the company that is pioneering in many ways.

Amazon continues to amaze the management consultants worldwide. Like all management writing, the book keeps mixing Amazon with Bezos’ personality as is the case with every first gen entrepreneur’s successful venture.

Ram Charan’s book is no different. He dissects the entire mantra of Amazon’s success and consolidates them into six building blocks. They are detailed below –

  1. Building Block 1 – Customer Obsessed Business model: The book emphasizes that over the years Amazon has built a strong culture of customer orientation. For everything, customer is kept as the center of Amazon’s universe. Bezos believes that companies that stay focused on customer are always going to be relevant. So, he has driven this culture in the company. That is visible in almost all businesses that Amazon runs. However, the book does not tell why did this strategy not work in the multiple cases where the company failed.
  2. Building Block 2 – Continuous Bar-Raising Talent Pool: Ram Charan emphasizes that Amazon and Bezos invest a lot in hiring the best talent in the market. The system shown by Ram Charan highlights the concept of ‘bar-raiser’ in the interview panel. The purpose of the bar raiser is to try to assess whether the new hire is going to raise the talent bar in the company or not. An interesting concept that the book explores is that of ‘Builder vs Owners’ to provide an insight into the environment that is stitched around this talent pool.
  3. Building Block 3 – AI powered Data And Metrics System: The book dedicates a very significant portion to the various metrics that help in deciding the every aspect of decision making and day to day working of the organization. The key thing is that these metrics are ultra-detailed. In one example, the metrics run into 25 pages, scaled down from 70 pages. Topped with almost real-time delivery, this makes it easy to make instant decision, rather than making monthly or quarterly decisions. This one aspect differentiates Amazon in many ways from others. The mere access to information with very thin hierarchy makes it easy for teams to make decisions. Another aspect covered is the empowerment done at the right levels. For example, the book reflects upon the significance of having the front line staff to make decisions on product listing etc or even removal. This is not routine in many places. But is commonplace in Amazon. Perhaps due to the large size of catalogue.
  4. Building Block 4 – Ground-Breaking Invention Machine: What is really clear is the fact that Amazon is an radical innovation and ground-breaking invention machine. As compared to many other companies that have one big invention and then years of complacency, Amazon has only increased its bouquet of radical inventions. This is emphasized in the book with the invention process instilled in the culture of the company –
    1. Thinking really big
    2. Use of a Press Release kind of deep dive document
    3. Acceptance of failure as a pillar for success, not just in words
    4. Immense appetite and patience for things to shape up
  5. Building Block 5 – High-velocity and High-Quality Decision Making: The book further goes to identify decision making as a key to the high velocity that the company has achieved in execution. Once an idea has been successfully agreed upon then execution requires very quick decision making. Bezos practices (and so does Amazon), the principle of ‘Disagree and commit’. The decision making has a tiered view, as per the book , – reversible and irreversible decisions. Reversible are highly decentralized as there is a state of return in case of a failure. Irreversible ones are the ones where decision making is more centralised and so involves the top leaders from the company. However, speed is kept as the essential element of overall decision making irrespective of the nature of the decision.
  6. Building Block 6 – Forever Day-1 culture: Lastly, Ram Charan highlights the fabled ‘Day 1 culture’ imbibed in the organization. The best way to summarize is the excerpt from the book where it quotes Bezos –

‘Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by Death. And that is what it is always Day 1.”

The book further emphasizes on the 14 Amazon leadership principles of –

  1. Customer Obsession
  2. Ownership
  3. Invent and Simplify
  4. Are Right, a Lot
  5. Learn and Be Curious
  6. Hire and Develop the Best
  7. Insist on Highest Standards
  8. Think Big
  9. Bias for Action
  10. Frugality
  11. Earn Trust
  12. Dive Deep
  13. Have backbone; Disagree and Commit
  14. Deliver Results

You can read through from their careers site here.

The book is a good and easy read as  I already mentioned. However, there are many things it doesnt answer.

  1. What external factors helped in Amazon’s success?
  2. Why were the stock pile of failures is so high if the building blocks are so strong?
  3. The book is silent on all the articles that were published about the working culture within the company.
  4. Aspects like marketing that propelled the organisation.
  5. And many more…

Below are my lessons from the book.

  1. Amazon has a very deep market research thinking in its DNA – One of the key findings that I saw in the book was the emphasis on data-driven decision making. The Building Block 3 gives a broader view of the AI implementation and the metrics based organisational thinking. This also means Amazon is tracking much more data that we imagine we are knowingly providing it. Here is an article that tells you what all Amazon tracks. Its amateurish in writing but takes the point home.
  2. Amazon has strong execution orientation with rigor coming from the top i.e. with Bezos himself – Quite often I come across a lot of talented people who soon in their career decide that they do not want to ‘get their hands dirty’ and are more interested in managing others or for ‘strategic’ work. What the book clearly demonstrates is the ability of Amazon to build execution focus at scale with ‘no exceptions’. I think this is a very important lesson that people at various stages of their career can learn from the book.
  3. Engineers have a unique ability to simplify management work – Old saying says managers create work. I also see it happening in multiple realms of life – at work, in conversations with my friends etc. However, with the different books I have studied (this is fifth after Steve Jobs, From Zero to One, Losing my Virginity and How Google Works), my conclusion is that engineers tend to simplify things. This one aspect makes them better at managing things at scale.
  4. Amazon may have a succession problem in the post Bezos era whenever it starts – The book is heavily shadowed by the Bezos personality. One can literally see the page after page where you feel that Ram Charan has cross border from the company to the founder. This to me is a problem. As it tells that Amazon may have a succession problem. There is hardly any discussion about any leader other than Bezos. While it would be naive to assume that there is no succession planning, it is important to explore, whether they would be able to continue this upward swing or not? This only time will tell.

The first part of this blog is here.

Stay tuned for more content in coming days… Stay safe and stay healthy!