Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Fall of Icarus - Ovid

Ovid, the Roman poet (Publius Ovidius Naso), tells the story of the Fall of Icarus. Icarus is the son of Daedalus, the master craftsman who created the labyrinth on the orders of King Minos to hide his son the Minotaur borne of an affair that his wife had (the long sentence was just to set the pace!). The minotaur is half man, half monster and King Minos wishes him to be hidden; but he also commands Daedalus not to leave. Daedalus however has other plans and designs wings with feathers and wax for him and his son Icarus, and they are to fly away to freedom. But Icarus does not heed his father's advice to neither fly too high nor too low and perishes as he flies too high and the wax on the wings melts and he falls to his death.

That takes care of the fall of Icarus, who dies mainly due to hubris and flies too close to the sun. But prior to that we have the story of Minos fighting Nisus,who has, in his white hair strands of purple hair that protect his kingdom from all harm. But Nisus is betrayed by his own daughter who falls in love with Minos and hands him over a strand of the purple hair. Minos takes the victory but not the girl whom he despises for her conduct. On his return he discovers the deeds of his wife and the Minotaur son. After Icarus dies we chance upon many young men or gods, Theseus being one of them, as they embark on an adventure to kill a destructive boar sent by goddess Diana. The boar kills many of the young warriors but is finally vanquished by the group - the first of the wounds having been made by the lone female warrior Atalanta. Meleager, the leader of the expedition offers her the prize, but his decision is hotly contest by the others and in the melee Meleager kills two brothers thereby earning the wrath of their sister.

And on and on the story goes, twisting and turning in the 50 pages with the most fascinating of characters - including that of Hunger who is asked to prey upon a man who offends the gods. Greek mythology is as fascinating as Indian mythology with its tales of gods and wars. love and betrayal. Fascinating stuff.. 

Singing in the Rain - Movie Review

Another classic off the list. It's easy to see why this movie was a classic. Crackling dialogue, strong characters, simple and straight-forward story that you will never forget and absolutely amazing dancing. Gene Kelly is a revelation in the song 'Singing in the Rain'. His friend Cosmo Brown is equally good - or better.

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a movie star and is paired with a famous but manipulative and difficult actress Lina Lamont. In the meanwhile he meets a young girl, an aspiring theatre actor cum show dancer, Kathy, with whom he falls in love with. The movies are changing from the silent era to talkies and the studio and the stars realise they could become the laughing stock with their first attempt at making a talkie if they do not remedy the movie they have made. They come up with an idea - to have Kathy dub for Lina and make the movie into a musical. The idea and the movie works too. Lina tries her best to suppress Kathy and her relationship with Don but all's well and it ends well in the end.

Awesome dancing, simple storyline. You can't forget stories and emotions like that easily.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows - Rudyard Kipling

The first of Rudyard Kipling for me, though I have 'Kim' sitting on my shelf for a long time. It's so Indian and from that British era of dances, shikaars, hookahs etc and hence instantly identifiable so I enjoyed reading his selection of short stories - all very Indian British.

'Thrown Away' deals with a sensitive boy who is brought up at home in England without much exposure to the outside world. When he grows up he is sent to India and suddenly exposed to a cruel world. He finds some insensitive remarks - one by a lady and another by his officer - too harsh and he kills himself. Kipling and the Colonel find him and spin a yarn of him dying of cholera. Kipling makes a case for how too much protection is not a great idea.

'In False Dawn' Saumarez proposes to the wrong sister of the two sisters, his sight blinded by the sand storm and it takes a lot of work to set things right. One is happy and the other is not.

'In the House of Sudhoo' we have a charlatan who makes money out of gullible people under the guise of black magic to drive spirits away but then everyone in the room who knows he is cheating a good man out of his money is silent about it because they all have a reason to stay silent.

'In the Bisara of Pooree' we come across the small ruby studded box which will cause whoever to fall in love with you - provided you steal it from its owner and better till - shed some blood. Interestingly Kipling mentions in passing that the only other one of its kind is in Toopran near Hyderabad.

'The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows' is a house where opium is sold and it is a  tale told by someone else to Kipling. I got a great visual of the place, its Chinese owner, but nothing more beyond it. If there was a twist I missed it.

'In the Story of Muhammad Din' he introduces us to Muhammad, son of his servant. Muhammad is a young child of eight who has these architectural tendencies to build small palaces. Enthusiastic, full of life, Muhammad Din, dies of a fever suddenly.

Stories that stay with you. Of an India we can only imagine.

And some more stories

There is an article that talks of how brahmins are today's dalits. There is an article about the conditions where the boys on the UoH campus have come from. There is a viewpoint about how discrimination that is social, structural and econmic is being legalised.

It appears that the key to social and economic growth is knowledge, or access to education. Knowledge is the lever, the multiplier.

Who has access? What kind of access? How can they leverage this access? These are all questions

Educational institutions should strive to provide that multiplier to all.

Equal opportunity is a word. Between the word and the spirit there is a vast gulf that exists. Perhaps we should accept that gulf. It is an unequal world anyway.

But the underlying principle there is this - it will be ruled by the fittest.

Anjali - The Art of Feedback

Anjali was telling me how her class had improved a lot in the way they speak English.
'Earlier they would say 'buyed' for 'bought' or 'back of you' for 'behind you'. But now they are all speaking good English. Some pronunciations are not right still but a lot of improvement.'

I asked her how it happened.

'Chandana aunty said that we must all correct one another when someone makes a mistake that we can correct. So all of us keep correcting each other. I think that's why we are not making the same mistakes like before.'


That's such an elegant way to use social knowledge to quickly empower everyone. Learn from everyone and every source. And it's such a nice way for Chandana aunty to empower each child  to correct the other. Nothing like instant feedback. And see the results!

I do exercises like that in corporate houses and I find it so difficult to get the idea across. We have to couch it in corporate jargon and call it culture setting or strengthening when it is all simply a way we ought to be living. All we have to do is call out when someone is making an error (and when they are doing things right too) and the entire community has a wonderful culture that is a self-correcting mechanism.

The key is the feedback of course. Good for you Chandana aunty for enabling that and for really making school such a learning experience.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Some Stories That Are Never Told

Some stories that must be told. Of people trying to find identity, equality through education. Often as in cases of gender bias where a lecherous look or a sneer can violate (and women put up with it day and night, at home and outside, with young and old), social exclusion can leave a deep mark on the psyche.

The Atheist's Mass - Honore de Balzac

A first Balzac. 'The Atheist's Mass' is a classic.

It is about a self-professed atheist with strong and scientific views on the subject. He is a doctor with a wide following for his kind and humanitarian ways and upright behavior. But one day his colleague catches him enter a church, and again and again. Four times a year the good doctor, the atheist, goes to mass. It seems to indicate falsehood. When confronted, the good doctor explains how, when he was struggling as a student, he met his devoutly religious man who looked after him like a father and mother and put him through college. For him, he has funded a mass and for him, he goes four times a year to attend the Mass. The classic difference between a deeply religious man who has no feelings for any other person and that of an atheist who is sensitive to humanity and perhaps god's ways are beautifully worded by Balzac. The world is full of such subtle differences!

'The Conscript' is a tragic tale of a Countess who has fallen upon hard times. She has good company, all the nobles of the town visit her and partake of her hospitality. But her love for her son, who is in the army puts her in a bit of a spot. The son wishes to meet her before he goes out to the front to battle. Despite all their plans, their meeting fails to materialise. Disappointed and heart broken, she kills herself. Balzac, cruelly (or perhaps kindly) kills off the boy in war at precisely the same time. It ends in deep despair.

Considered as the founder of realism in literature in France Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) wrote deeply layered themes and developed complex characters. He has had an interesting life - trying his hand at many careers - always dissatisfied with what he had it appears. He was known for his punishing and intense writing schedules too apparently. But fine, fine writing on human ways. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Talvar - Movie Review

It's disappointing after the book but in its defence, the movie is not made based on the book. While Avirook Sen had the luxury of writing about the case as he saw it unfold in the court, the movie keeps it loosely based on the real story but fictionalises it, at least as far as names go, but stays close to the story as other facts go. I have no idea about the personal life of Ashwin Kumar or the Investigating Officer Paul and whether he actually conducted an investigation with a child around him but from whatever we have seen or heard, anything is possible.

I felt the movie somehow passes the main issues by at a slightly superficial level. Or maybe I felt that because I am biased towards the book which gives far more detail. Of course the filmmaker has to make it entertaining and still tell the story and can tell only so much coherently. But still I felt something missing.

There were new angles in the movie though - the interplay in the CBI, the early retirement of Ashwin Kumar and some other angles. The cops apathy and inefficiency was brought out brilliantly. More than anything it gave visual constructs for me. But it never told the parents story effectively. The moment they were tainted without any basis, they were pre-judged by everyone on the side of the law and then it became easy to first arrive at the sleazy culprits, then build the story and look for matching evidence (and discard contrary evidence like when two people are killed in the same room how can someone wipe out the blood of only one person?) On such processes and evidence are people sometimes convicted. The entire chain in this case - from investigation to the judgement - needs to be examined again as a case of how things should not be done.

Irrfan Khan and Konkona are good as always. The supporting cast was good as well. I liked the performances of Prakash Belawadi as CBI Chief Ramashankar Pillai and Gajraj Rao as the paan chewing and mobile phone wielding cop Dhaniram.

Narrow Margin - Movie Review

A 1990 movie starring the redoubtable Gene Hackman, 'Narrow Margin' is edge of the seat stuff. It starts with a bang - what looks like a harmless blind date develops into a cold blooded murder by the mob. The girl has witnessed the crime and has gone into hiding.

The police quickly find her finger prints and track her down thanks to an old college time minor offense. But when they put two and two together and find she is missing from the day of the murder they know she was there (confirmed by a loudmouth friend of hers). So Gene Hackman, who is investigating the case and is trying to nab the mafia boss, is desperate to find her and bring her back before someone bumps her off. He flies to a desolate cabin in Canada where she is hiding to bring her back. The mob starts attacking them from that point on. Hackman and the girl board a train and its a battle of wits after that.

Racy stuff. And the 1990s brings back memories of college days with those hairstyles and clothes. 

Mrs. Funnybones - Twinkle Khanna

Breezy is the word as we sail through Twinkle Khanna's life in her debut book "Mrs. Funnybones". When Raja gave me the book I was certain i'd read it - I do enjoy reading funny books. And this one got good reviews too! Twinkle Khanna takes her day-to-day life and sees the lighter side of things in it. She pokes fun at herself and her family which takes something to do (and which I think any sensitive humour writer does). While doing that she somehow retains a balance which hurts no one, gives everyone respect and yet points out the issues that are funny and exasperating. Mostly she never drops names and prefers to be another anonymous writer for the reader who does not know her as an actress, daughter of a superstar actor and actress, married to a top actor. And she is honest and intelligent.

The first thing you realise is that she is having the same problems as most. Kids, growing older, mother, mother-in-law, husband, weight, insensitive neighbours etc. Then she drops a couple of interesting things - like an 'illeist' which is a new word I learned from the book (someone who talks in third person) - and that she was certified with an IQ of 145. She is equally comfortable writing about being the fattest girl in class or being a reluctant cook. More interestingly, every once in a  while she slips in a ponderous note effortlessly as she writes about things she feels about - student suicides, growing older, and one fine bit - that memory of hers in Goa as a youngster which she describes very well indeed.

Twinkle Khanna can write. Since this book was more of a collection of columns that she wrote for a newspaper, it is still tentative writing in my opinion. In my opinion humour writing is one of the most difficult writing. It needs intelligence, a sensitive world view that can see through the farce and an ability to be starkly honest. I love all the funny men and the funny women in the world - where would we be without them.

But then I believe she can write serious stuff even better than her humour (which is pretty good as it is). There is an element of honesty in her writing and a certain courage that stays with you after the book is put down that runs deeper than the content in this book. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy - Richard Rumelt

Richard Rumelt is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers on strategy and management in the world. This book written by him is about "creating and implementing powerful, action-oriented strategy that gets results". In a nutshell Rumelt says that the heart of good strategy is insight into the hidden power in a situation. To get to good strategy requires hard work and a deep desire to find that solution that gives you an advantage with the least effort. He emphatically says strategy is not goal setting or any of those things that most people confuse it with.

What is good strategy?
He deconstructs good strategy which has a logical structure. He calls it the kernel comprising of 1) diagnosis 2) guiding policy (which acts as a signpost) and 3) coherent action. Since strategy is important we must demand it from our leaders - even more than charisma and vision.

What does it bestow you with?
At a basic level strategy is the application of strength against weakness. Today strengths can be defined as advantages of the first mover, scale, scope, network effects, reputation, patents, brands etc. To gain advantage in a situation with the least effort should be what one should aim to do.

"A good strategy coordinates policies and actions. It does not merely rely on existing strength - it creates strength through coherence of its design. It also creates new strengths through subtle shifts of viewpoint. A good strategy has coherence, coordinating action, policies and resources so as to achieve an important end."

Good strategy requires leaders who will say no to a bunch of actions. It is about what an organisation does not do as much as about what it does.

"The second natural advantage of good strategy comes from insight into new sources of strength and weaknesses. One must learn to uncover the hidden power in situations and use relative advantages to impose out-of-proportion costs on the opposition and complicate his problem of competing with you."

What is bad strategy?
Bad strategy is about 1) Fluff 2)Failure to recognise and define challenges (and thereby face it) 3) Mistaking goals for strategy and 4) Setting bad strategic objectives (which is primarily failure to address critical issues).

Somewhere there Rumelt says something I completely identify with - "True expertise is making a complex subject understandable. Mediocrity and bad strategy is unnecessary complexity."

As with many books that are of exceedingly high value on content I will refrain from using my mind but quote certain lines which will convey best what they mean.

"A strategy is a way through difficulty, a response to a challenge. A strategic objective should address a specific purpose or accomplishment."

"The job of the leader is to create conditions that will make a strategy worthy of the effort. He must decide general goals and design sub goals."

"Good strategy focuses energy and resources on one or few pivotal objectives that lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.Good strategy defines the challenge and builds the bridge between challenge and action."

"Bad strategy floats above analysis, logic and choice, rests on hope and not on mastering fundamentals. It is active avoidance of good strategy - of hard work. Of leaders unwilling to make choices. of following a template-style strategy."

"Strategy involves focus - and thereby choice. The essential difficulty in creating strategy is not logical - its the choice. Coherent analysis pushes resources towards one end and away from another."

"Change in strategy will make some people worse off."

"Strategy is the craft of figuring out which purposes are worth pursuing and capable of being accomplished."

"Change requires painful adjustments. Good leadership helps people feel more positively about making those adjustments."

Rumelt spends some time on how many companies go by the formula of Vision/ Mission. Value and Strategies without ever truly understanding what they mean. He emphasises the importance of shared vision.

Understanding good strategy - Kernel
Diagnosis - It simplifies the complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical
Guiding policy - It is the overall approach to cope with or overcome obstacles identified in the diagnosis. A good guiding policy tackles obstacles identified in the diagnosis. Without a good guiding policy there is no principle of action to follow.
Coherent action - It is designed to carry out the guiding policy. Strategy is about action. To have punch, actions should coordinate focusing organisation energy.

"Coordination can be a huge source of advantage. But coordination comes with a cost. To coordinate actions, specify proximate objectives. Seek coordinated policies where gains are very large."

Rumelt emphasises how strategically important coordination can be. However it comes with a cost. To achieve the same, set proximate objectives.

Sources of Power
"A good strategy harnesses power and applies it where it has the greatest effect."

Using leverage
"Good strategy draws from focusing mind, energy and action. The focus channelled in the right moment onto a pivotal objective can produce a cascade of favorable outcomes."

"Leverage arises from a mixture of anticipation, insight into what is most pivotal or critical or situation and making a concentrated application of effort."

"Anticipation in most circumstances means considering habits, performances and policies of others as well as inertia and constraints as always."

"Gain insight into pivot points that magnify the effects of focused energy and resources. Pivot points magnify effect of effort. It's a natural or created imbalance in a situation, a place where a relatively small adjustment can unleash much larger pent up forces."

"It is focusing effort on fewer objectives that generate larger payoffs. Threshold effect when there is a critical level of effort necessary to effect the system."

Proximate objectives
"One of the leaders' most powerful tools is the creation of a good proximate objective - close enough and feasible."

More dynamic the situation the closer you must look. More uncertain the future, the more you should take a 'strong position and create options'. Strong position within a field of options that provides future actions. Proximate objectives cascade down hierarchies and time.

"To concentrate on an objective - to make it a priority - necessarily assumes that many other important things will be taken care of."

"Skills of coordination are like rungs on a ladder."

Chain link systems
In chain link systems remember that it is only as strong as the weakest link. It is limited by that weak link. There is a problem of quality matching. Don't strengthen a few links in such cases. Instead identify bottlenecks and take personal responsibility to gradually strengthen the chain. (quality, sales and cost)

However, excellence achieved by a well managed chain link system is difficult to replicate.

Using design
Design is about premeditation, anticipation of others behavior and purposeful design of coordinated action. It's about mutual adjustment
A good strategy coordinates policies to focus competitive punch. Performance is the outcome of capability and clever design.

"Denotes coordination of policies that produce extra power through their interacting and overlapping effects and application of power to the right target."

"Healthy growth is the outcome of growing demand for special capabilities or of expanded capabilities. It is an outcome of superior products or skills."

Using advantages
"Understand your advantages. Press when you have them and sidestep when you don't.
For sustainable advantage you must possess an 'isolating mechanism' - a patent, reputation, network effects, scale, tacit knowledge and skill gained through experience."

"Interesting" - to alter advantages it gives

To increase value 1) deepen advantage 2) broaden extent of advantage 3) create higher demand for advantaged products 4) strengthen isolating mechanisms that block easy replications and imitations

Using Dynamics
Gain high ground through 1) innovation 2) grab high ground by exploiting a wave of change

To know how a wave will play question experts
Guideposts to waves of change
1) Escalating fixed costs 2) Deregulation 3) Predictable biases in forecasting 4) Incumbent response to change 5) Attractor state

Inertia and Entropy
Inertia is the unwillingness of or inability to adapt to change
Entropy is degree of disorder. It requires leaders to constantly push purpose, form and methods, on his people.

Inertia -
1) of routine (standard routines)
2) of culture (culture is social behavior (which normally resists change). As a 1st step simplify, eliminate complex routines, processes and hidden bargains
Fragment operating units
Look at the triage of units that can be closed, that can be repaired and those that form the nucleus of new structure
Changing culture, changing work norms and work related values
Norms established are held and enforced by small special groups that are taken care from the top
A challenging goal speeds this up.

3) of proxy
Customer inertia

Thinking like a strategist
To think like a strategist look at other viewpoints. A common mistake people make is by confusing intention with thought.

Science of strategy
"Good strategy is built on functional knowledge about what works, what doesn't and why. Available functional knowledge is essential. Proprietary knowledge is precious."

"Good strategy must have an entrepreneurial component. It must embody some ideas into new combinations for dealing with new risks and opportunities."

Do not approach strategy by thinking that all is known. All is not known - that's when you innovate
Strategy is an educated prediction of how the world works.

Using your head
"Being strategic is about being less myopic than others, than your own undeliberative self."

"Work with your feet on the ground, not with vague outlines."

"To create strategies in any area requires a great deal of knowledge about the specifics. Knowledge is necessary but not sufficient."

Keeping your head
"Good strategy grows out of an independent and careful assessment of the situation, harnessing individual insights to carefully crafted purpose."

Errors of human judgement 1) engineering overreach 2) smooth sailing fallacy 3) risk seeking incentives 4) social herding 5) inside view

Though some of the quotes and phrases and lines may not make too much sense in isolation (without the luxury of reading the book) they do say enough about what good strategy is about. Good strategy should identify or create an advantage that when applied at some pivotal points, provides great results with cascading effects over hierarchies and time, with the least effort. It is an elegant intervention brought out of deep study of the issue at hand, an understanding of the specifics and how things work, of outcomes desired and possible, and then using it. It means choosing among several alternatives and choosing the few that work best. Most times this ability to choose and to enforce this choice comes in the way of good strategy. It is about design, premeditation and careful choosing the point to focus resources and energy, guided by a clear objective that is long term. Good strategy bears fruit when we understand the pivot points, set proximate objectives and enforce a process for change. It is not an easy subject and needs much work to gain the level of expertise Rumelt has but certainly it is to do with clarity, outcome and the will to achieve outcomes elegantly.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Paradoxes of Our Lives - To Succeed Be Prepared to Fail, To Fail Be Fixed On Success

Two words can define an entire lifetime - success and failure. Two sides of a coin. A coin that's flippable and not stuck on one side forever.

The paradox then.
To succeed one must be prepared to fail.
This is the learning mindset where one grows slowly and steadily, working meticulously to gain a larger understanding and acting on it. Every action will bring with it new learnings - or in other words failures - that can be improvised and practiced until we move on to the next. That's the only way to grow, to move ahead, to succeed, to enjoy life, to be in the moment, to experience life.

To fail ofcourse, the easiest way is to be fixed on success and to hold on to it. The idea of success, of knowing, of looking smart, of doing it right everytime or all the time, will keep one rooted in a limited space. It will not allow free flow of thought, it is based on fear of losing, it is built on maintaining what is. Growth is stagnated and it is the end of life.

To gain, be prepared to lose. To lose, hold on tightly to your gain.

Anjali - Don't Tell Us To Do It If You Cannot Do It

My sister and I were talking about role models and how children and even junior executives blindly copy the actions of the leaders or their role models.

Anjali, who was nearby, overheard us and piped in.

'Teacher tells us not to talk when we are eating. But she always talks to akka when she is eating lunch. It's not fair. How is it that she can talk when she is eating and we cannot?'

Yes. How is it?

'Maybe,' I tried. 'She is discussing important things with akka?'
'No,' said Anjali emphatically. 'She is not discussing important things. We can hear her. She discusses normal things just like we do.'

What we think we do and what we do are two different things it seems. We may feel that we behave in a particular way but we may only be talking about it - not practicing it.

Especially when we are in a position where we tell others how to behave, it makes a lot of sense for us to observe how they (the wards) behave. If their behavior is not to our satisfaction it means that we are only talking about it but not behaving accordingly.

Time to make adjustments.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rohith Vemula - Death of a Scholar (not a Dalit scholar)

"I have no role to play." "The Central government has role to play in Central Universities." "We are not responsible." "It is not a caste issue." "The previous government is responsible." "His suicide note does not mention any university or MP."

Then what are you responsible for? What is your official position about? Sending out letters?

But yet a scholar died. Rohith Vemula, a scholar committed suicide. Notice how different it sounds when we say 'scholar' as against 'Dalit scholar'.  The link below gives the content of his suicide note.

He blames no one. He recalls his favorite dreams, his hopes and his fast fading belief in a just and equal world. He exhorts the authorities not to bother his friends and enemies. It reflects his state of mind. He gave up. He surrendered and said - I give up. Now don't bother my friends which I know you will do, for the inconvenience my death might cause you. And don't bother even my enemies.

But you're clutching at straws when you do that. The authorities are not emotional, conscientious, humanitarians. They have obligations, images, elections. They will do what is good for them - not what is good for you, even if you surrender. Rohith, you should have stayed and ensured that you got the justice you wanted.

Anyway everyone is absolved. Everyone can sleep easy. Thanks to you. You could have named the nation and its keepers in your letter and you would have been fully justified, but you did not. Instead you took all the blame on yourself. How terribly sad is that.

It's incredibly sad when people take their own lives. More so when young people kill themselves. One can only imagine that they see no other way. It's appalling that in the middle of our urban society a bright, educated young man finds himself so alienated that he has to kill himself in hopelessness. To say he has not felt the pressure of being alienated on the basis of what he was and who he represented would be being incredibly foolish or naive. Or in all likelihood, plain mischievous and insensitive.

All the measures the university of the government have in place do not seem to be adequate to provide a fair and just environment. To be able to deal with students and their problems. They have a counsellor. "Rohith did not approach the counsellor. 20 students did." As if that was a fatal mistake too. The idea again, is to lay blame. Not take responsibility. Somebody take responsibility for gods sake.

Simply because positions of power come with responsibility. Not merely to take credit and backslap one another. Even more importantly responsibility lies in delivering justice and fairness to the ones who are often denied it. I would like to see my leaders stepping forward to claim their responsibility when things go wrong. How can a Ministry absolve itself? Why did it write letters to a VC who is answerable to it? How can it say it was routine? How can a Minister say he forwarded a memorandum with a few choice adjectives - from a student wing of his party against a fledgling party of the downtrodden - and call them casteist, anti national? What kind of responsibility are you taking? If this be the lessons that our leaders teach, it only reflects on the society.

What are we teaching our children?

Instead of coming forward to find out why I have always been amazed at how shamelessly institutions and agencies try to ward off blame. How can those who wanted the action to be taken now back off and say they are not responsible? Of course they are responsible. If you use the letterhead of a powerful office against someone who is from the weakest link in the chain, you cannot absolve yourself of responsibility. You are guilty of actively perpetrating the consequences when you should in fact have been finding a fair and just solution.

Yet, they can all sleep easy having washed off their hands by laying the blame elsewhere.

We can now look forward to our glorious future riding on digital India, startup India, Shining India. An India led by the intelligent and meritorious with a small role for the not-so-intelligent lower castes. A small role they will get if they keep quiet. If they voice an opinion, their small allowances in their already meagre lives will be cut off. All you have to do is look at this case and you know who will get the stick first. Who is most expendable. Who will get support from the high and mighty.

When the weakest is affected, the highest office must take responsibility for it. What does the highest power in the land have to say about this?

The tag of 'Dalit scholar' brings a different connotation to the mind than a mere 'Scholar'. I don't need to say it. You felt it as you read it. It is exactly that difference which you experienced that the Dalit scholar feels. Everyday. That sense of discrimination - not on merit but on birth. It is that same feeling people feel when they are ridiculed for being what they are - genders, colours, abilities, physical disabilities, sexuality. But this Dalit tag goes deeper - it is almost as if someone is being tolerated. You are here and we will tolerate you but we will not accept you fully. So you can stay but not speak up too much. Else...

I have heard learned professors speak derisively of the 'lack of quality' (never about lack of equality). I have seen faces screw up distastefully at the mention of 'reservations'. I have heard acid dripping out of those who feel they have been nudged out by an 'undeserving class'. I have seen how some classes and communities cosy up to each other to preserve territories. To see these kind of attitudes in universities and colleges of high learning, to witness to such narrow thinking from people of high learning and high positions, to see such intolerance or even active hatred, makes one wonder what it is that they are teaching.

The blame game will continue. The muck is already being brought out. New stories will come. After all everyone knows it is a matter of days before the media moves on.

On one point I will agree with the Minister - with a different intent though. That the tag of caste be removed from this issue. Not many in his peers could have matched what Rohith expressed in his note. Many see it as a literary work - extracts are already quoted in many articles by poets and writers already. He needs no crutch and stands where he wanted to - as a unique, passionate and meritorious mind. One wonders what he could have achieved.

If there is one thing I would like to remember Rohith as, it would be as a bright, young scholar with wonderful dreams and great stories and aspirations. (For those who might want some more relief, the Times of India reported that Rohith's admission was under general merit quota though he chose to retain his SC status.)

Not as a Dalit scholar.

Not as an apology. Simply because there is nothing to apologise for. If there have to be any apologies, it is the other way round.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Boys on the Hood, Alvin and the Chipmunks Road Chip - Movie Review

I'd promised Anjali 'The Young Dinosaur' and horror of horrors, the movie went off the theatres the very day we were to go. Much trauma later I convinced her to go to 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' who are a reliable bunch with their songs and dances and mischief.

So the Chippettes are going away to judge American Idol. Alvin throws a crazy party without Dave's knowledge (and rubs Dave the wrong side again). Dave introduces the chipmunks to his new love - and her bullying son - and grounds the chipmunks from going to Miami where he has to attend his new celebrity client's event. Worse he leaves them in company with his fiance's bullying son Miles. Between them and their new adversary, they figure out that having Dave marry the woman and get the bully for a brother was a bad idea and decide to scuttle the proposal plans. Plane rides, road rides, run ins with air marshals, New Orleans, performances and finally happy endings.

Anjali had a good time dancing away in her seat. I enjoyed it too.

Anjali - A Lesson in Manners

We had enlisted the support of Niveditha, Anjali's painting teacher (and friend) for Anjali's project. Niveditha kindly agreed to help.

I was ticking off things that the project work needed.
'Okay,' I told Anjali at the end. 'Let's tell aunty that we have all these. And then we can ask her what else she wants.'
Anjali was pensive.

'What?' I asked.

She pointed out gently.
'Maybe we could say 'what else do we need?' instead of asking her 'what else do you want?'' she said. 'It would be more kind and polite. It's our work.'

I got the subtle difference. I also did feel something like shame wash over me.
'Yes indeed,' I agreed and handed her my phone. 'Could you send her the message please?'
She typed in a clear, polite message in line with her thinking.

It's been a while since I felt like this. Last I remember was sometime in school. But I also wonder how much we take others for granted, and how much it reflects in our words and thoughts and surely actions.

Thanks Anjali for making me more aware.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Anjali - Two Ways to Get Things Done

I was cribbing about someone not doing their job or something like that when I heard Anjali.
'Nanna, there are two types of people,' she said seriously.
'What types?' I asked.

'One type you have to shout at them and scold them and only then will they work. Another type is the type with whom you can be kind and they will work.'
I was pretty impressed. I didn't figure that out until I read Mike Brearley's 'Art of Captaincy' a few years ago.

'Ok. The first sort I know. They will take advantage of your kindness and not do any work. So you have to shout at them. But what about the second type. How can I get them to work?'

She seemed to know this - mostly from experience at the receiving end I guess.
'You must make them feel secure,' she said. 'With kind words. Then they will understand and do the work. If you shout at them they will not work.'

She seemed to have got that pretty firmly. I got a feeling that it was also about her experiences with me. So I decided to get some feedback.
'I know some people shout and some listen. What type am I?'

Surprising, because I thought the answer was easy. I am the listening, kind type!

I prodded more gently.
'Say out of 10 times, am I shouting more times or listening more times.'
'50-50,' was the answer.

Hmmm. Needs work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

High Five - Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

'High Five' is a book about the magic of working together. In this book, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, take a high performing executive Alan Foster, who gets fired for not being a team man and gets a job as a coach of a poorly performing ice hockey school team, the Riverbend Warriors. How Alan learns all about team work through his experiences with the boys and his coaching team and with the feisty old coach Ms. Weatherby is what High Five all about. Alan also finally understands that a superstar is measured by how much more productive he has made his team and not just himself.
The book is longer than the usual Ken Blanchard ones and detours into sports territory. It does appear to be the handiwork of several people as you read it - and as a result - its not as compact as the other books and some characters hang loosely. But as usual it does have a lot of good content. Like the acronym they create out of PUCK - Providing clear purpose and shared values, Unleashing and developing skills, Creating team power and Keeping the accent on the positive. If there is one thing you learn from Ken its to keep the accent on the positive to get people to fulfill their potential.

It's interesting how Ken and his associates weave the story along a team which has a star who is the only one who can play well (they drop him), a mediocre player with great team value (gets hurt and becomes the driving inspiration for the team to set a high goal), redirecting the energy of a player who does not pass the puck as a rule. Alan brings the old ice hockey coach Ms. Weatherby out of a retirement home and benefits from her advise on repeated reward and recognition (she still has the medal she received in her third grade!).

In short -
"Providing a clear purpose and values" is about creating a compelling reason for being. One must create a challenge worthy of the team that commits and motivates people to work together, set clear and compelling goals and strategies for individual and team, be clear on shared values and create a team charter that formalises commitments to each other and clearly states what the team wants to accomplish, why it is important, and how the team will work together to achieve results.

As in the doctor's case - she conveys how it was all about team work and she just did her part. There are no prima donnas in the team. Everyone has a part in a compelling purpose - saving lives. One of Alan's big learnings is that to get everyone to buy in, he needed each one to commit to the rest of the team - get social pressure to sustain the effort. Team chants and mutually agreed goals have great benefits on how much people commit.

Unleashing and developing skills is about starting with basics, building individual skills that bolster team skills, providing feedback to build skills, confidence and accountability, learning each others roles, building a sense of personal and collective power by using individual and collective skills to achieve extraordinary results. One wonderful point he makes is that 'what looks like a skill problem is actually something else.' The process of watch, praise and build confidence is demonstrated well. Performance goals must be written down.

Creating Team Power - None of us is as smart of all of us. Building synergistic harmony and bringing a flexibility and agility in the approach. Build a game plan for the team and stick to it, share leadership, reward team work, rotate positions to build flexibility, introduce change, build mental and physical skills, turn individual skills into team skills. It's about building bench strength and increasing competition within the team so no one slacks off. In fact the energy has to be taut. High Fives are all about energy.

Keeping the accent on the positive - by using repeated reward and recognition. Look for behaviors that reflect the purpose and values, skill development and team work, and reward, those behaviors. Catch people doing things right or approximately right. Link all recognition and reward back to purpose and goals. Awards like Most Valuable Player, Rewards, Feedback - all act as powerful motivators to perform as a team. The idea is to have high performers who are also team players. Individual skills then translate into team skills.

One of the things Ms. Weatherby brings up is how much the ego plays a part in these relationships - when I lay down my ego, I can recognise the divine connection and then it is easy to place others first.

A failing school ice hockey team, a down and out executive who is sacked for not being a team man, a challenge that grows everyone, a learning mindset, a coach who grows as much or more than the students - this book can be made into a movie. I loved the way Weatherby proves that none of us is smarter than all of us with that maths trick. As always Ken Blanchard makes a lot of sense and provides stuff that can be easily implemented.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Cricket Lessons - Keep the Upper Body Aligned and Close For Best Results

One of the difficult things about getting side on into the bowling action, looking over the left shoulder and getting the upper body into the act is how we load the action. I was handed a semi new ball today and I started off stiffly trying to get it to move away from the batsman.

Looking over the shoulder was prime on my thoughts, release and giving the ball some reverse spin at release, releasing the ball high, focusing on the spot to bowl on and finishing the action fully were closely behind. Things were happening a bit, couple of edges etc until I suddenly hit upon a key which shifted the outcome into a different zone.

Instead of keeping my arms loose and at abdomen level as I moved into the action, I noticed that the times when I held the arm, forearm - close to the chest - basically keeping the body close as a unit and not splayed all over - I could get the body into a side on position and put the upper body behind the delivery more effectively. It seemed to the one key to many problems - just as keeping our eyes on the ball until the ball hits the bat - is to batting issues. I remember talking about this quality of keeping the body close, to my friend Suresh - how Messi keeps his body close together as a unit and thereby seems to have so much more control on the outcome.

The more I started doing this - hands close to the chest as I loaded - the ball started doing a lot more. The pace and movement picked up and after many years I felt like I had the measure of the batsman fully. The edges happened thick and fast - at least a dozen genuine edges flew into the slip zone which is huge. Its been a long long time since this happened.

I like the philosophy behind the bio mechanics aspect - keep the body close and aligned and going in one direction. Everything has to go in the same direction - some parts cannot be going here and there - it would be counter productive and less efficient.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Hyderabad Literary Festival 2016 - Workshop for School Children on 'Lessons from Cricket'

There is an old tree in the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet,under which this workshop was scheduled. Young cricketers from Silver Oaks School and Sadhu Vaswani School were waiting at the venue patiently. Two boys from HPS Begumpet joined in. We waited till 11 am and began.

First lesson was on discipline and they congratulated themselves on being before time. I told them of the famous quote 'If you're on time you're late; if you're ten minutes early you are on time. If you are late, then go home.' The boys were glad they started on the right note.

We then spoke about the many lessons that cricket teaches us. We discussed Courage - and how batsmen face fast bowlers by getting into the line of the ball. Similarly we could, as cricketers handle tricky situations by not running away from problems and facing them head on.

We discussed the art of doing things more efficiently by using less effort - as in timing. The boys shared their experiences with timing and how one achieves that. The art of waiting for the ball and treating it well yields far better results than by beating it up. Works in life too.

Then we got down to the crux of the matter. What is our main concern with our cricketing careers? The boys looked pensive. Will I perform? Will I succeed?

In other words, am I good enough?

I spoke about the process on becoming 'good enough' to them. How one must start with a clear goal and not some vague goal and hope things happen. Break down the big goal with timelines right down to the immediate goal. It must be clear and objective - X runs or Y wickets in this tournament. Now that we have an immediate goal, we need to prepare.


Practice said the boys. We spoke about it and finally decided that a coach's guidance would help improve performance by making us practice right. Perfect practice makes perfect - we agreed. To do this however, we also decided on the route or approach to take.

We discussed the mindsets. Fixed and Learning mindsets. How in our desire to cover up our mistakes  or by trying to look smart, we fail to ask and address the main issue which could be a simple correction. By not asking about how to improve, we set ourselves up for failure, and then we blame everyone else. In the learning mindset one is free of any restrictions as one is only interested in learning and taking up new challenges. If their preparation is good, they will certainly perform.

There is no luck. Only preparation, we decided.

The way to perform is to prepare on skill, physical and mental. The boys agreed that by asking questions about the areas they do not know well, and not acting like they know everything when they do not, they will certainly improve. With right practice and more hours, they will improve performance.

We also discussed that good players do 10% more at preparation and 10% more at the end. Watch the ball early - and then - into your hand. The 80% in between is good but the extra 20% in the beginning and the end separates the top and the rest.

There were some questions and we packed up.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Hyderabad Literary Festival 2016 - Moderating a Panel on Writing Cricket

We had discussed the idea of a sports writing panel earlier - Vijay Kumar and me. Finally, this year we did put together a cricket writing panel comprising of V. Ramnarayan and Vijay Lokapally. Vijay L had to call off finally due to some other engagements but we found some support from my old team mate Vjay Mohanraj who gamely stepped in to be part of the panel at the last moment. We three old cricketers from Hyderabad discussed cricket and writing for an hour.

To introduce my panelists.
V. Ramnarayan – first class cricketer, leads the list of those who ought to have played for India but never did. He is an off spinner who ranked on par with Prasanna and Venkatraghavan, was a banker, is a writer, winner of writing awards, editor of the only magazine in India on performing arts, teacher at the Asian College of Journalism, writer of his latest book ‘Third Man’ and much more. 

Vijay Mohanraj -  debonair and ever reliable professional whom we affectionately call Tony (I never asked him why) with whom I spent the few years of playing first class cricket. He is the MD of Uniglobe Sameera Travels and a big name in the travel industry today as President of SKOL. Tony was  one of the pillars on whose great efforts Hyderabad won the Ranji Trophy in 1987, when he closed out Delhi in the final with a typically gutsy inning of 211 not out. He is a man I seek for good cricketing insights (he is mentioned in 50 Not Out) and advise and someone who thinks and writes about the game. He has been on the winning side more often than not – he was in winning teams for Mumbai and Hyderabad. Sometime during the discussion I would love to talk about the Mumbai style of cricket.

We started off by speaking about what makes good cricket writing. Ram said it should be able to report it as it is without adding unnecessary fiction to it (he recounted a time when he was abused by a media person for a role in match he never played!). Vijay in his usual forthright fashion said it should be about the truth. 

Then we wondered about how much a writer needs to understand the game to write well about it. Ram said people can pick up the nuances but it is necessary to have played it at some level. Vijay agreed with him and said that there is a lot of complexity in the game and it was not easy for the layman to do justice to the writing. On the Kohli incident (he said that those who have not played at the highest level do not have the expertise to comment about it) - both said it was an immature comment and that one should accept criticism. One has to learn to be thick skinned and not get drawn into every provocation said Vijay. He mentioned how he was also maligned when he batted well and got a hundred but he learned how to absorb all that and not let it affect him.

Ram spoke about how difficult a subject cricket was to understand and know its finer points.He recounted the M.L. Jaisimha benefit match and how the great Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz gave a demonstration of reverse swing. It is difficult to understand many finer points of the game even for seasoned cricketers.

We looked at the various types of cricket writing – journalistic writing, biographies/autobiographies, non-fiction, self-help, fiction and film writing. Between us we pretty much covered most of it in some form or another. When asked which was the most difficult according to them - Ram voted for autobiographies and rued the fact that he may not have been as honest as he could have been in his autobiography. Vijay also mentioned how the progression of the game has changed how it is being written about with the advent of television and Internet. 

I asked them if they thought cricket writing had any effect on the craft or how a player plays. Ram said it certainly would shape the way a player develops and thinks. Vijay also added emphatically that reading, which is not much of a habit with players now, really allows them to reflect and think about the game from other perspectives. Ram however added that he felt that Indian cricket writing was comparable to the best in the world.

In conclusion both felt that our writing needs to also be about the not so nice aspects of the game, and be more honest.  I asked them, both champions who played when Hyderabad was at its top, what was going wrong. They felt that the money and the commercialisation was one part and that the administrators were not willing to listen to constructive feedback. In fact they were muzzling all progressive thoughts by offering them posts and keeping them quiet.

There were a few questions - one by Santosh of Eenadu, who asked about the changes in cricket writing, one by Sanjay Gadhalay who wanted to know if IPL was the real villain and a couple more including one by a young lady who asked Ram how to write on cricket. Ram told her to join the course he teaches on sports jounalism in the Asian College of Journalism. It was nice to see Jayesh Ranjan, Chair of the HLF in the audience, old friends Madhavi Puranam, Prakash, Santosh, Sanjay Gadhalay, Sreenath and others.

Pure Gold for Spinners - An Interview with Prasanna and Ian Chappell by Ramnarayan

Fantastic stuff. For a spinner or a cricketer - pure gold.
Great interview Ramnarayan.

My highlights
Of most interest to me were discussions on how some spinners seem to have a 'string attached to the ball' or manage to impart the 'fizz'. The spinners deception is described as 'a flighted juicy half volley that never keeps its appointment'. Then, discussion turned into the blind spot of batsmen.

Prasanna talked about bowling into the breeze, the fish effect, and bowling when the breeze is at a 40 degree angle. Then come his views on how he allowed the ball to float in the air, the extra RPMs on the ball and their effect. The importance of arm speed was discussed - the arm is high and the ball always leaves the hand at the highest point.

Prasanna talks of how he always wanted batsmen to mistime - he aimed to hit the bat high or too low - never in the right spot.

As far as bowler's timing is concerned - transfer weight at the release of the ball, at the highest point. The key - your weight has to go into the ball!

Intuitively one must know where to bowl - if one wants to bowl at the off stump, the intent has to be there. Prasanna mentions how an off spinner must aim to bowl at the 4th stump.

Prasanna feels that the objective is to see that no batsmen middles the ball. He talks about how psychology goes into the game - make the batsman uncomfortable.

Prasanna always wanted to get the batsmen clean bowled - that was his intent. Prasanna also speaks of how the shoulder and the arm goes into the spin bowling. If the shoulder points one way, the ball will go that way. The shoulder is the guiding force.

He talks of how cricket is a side on game. How he swivelled as if he stubbed out a cigarette.

On the run up, he spoke of how one must gather pace, use the left foot for direction, pivot on the left toe and the force must drag you into the follow through.

Ian Chappell spoke of how he always played to win and how a good captain must understand the bowler's mind. To play spin he says, use feet, take singles.

Whoever thought cricket was an easy game to understand must read this. Superb stuff. Read it all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How They Do It in America - A Lesson

So I found this new establishment - Shah Ghouse restaurant on the Mehdipatnam-Gachibowli road. This Shah Ghouse restaurant is apparently one of the hot shot biryani joints in Hyderabad (it's number one now!) and I learned about it from an outsider. Anyway I heard that the restaurant was selling so many biryanis at their Charminar place that it now expanded to Toli Chowki (near Four Seasons). I was zooming on to try this biryani with Satish when suddenly Satish pointed out - Shah Ghouse.

This was a new place they opened up.

We were early. It was 11. One shutter was open for chai. It was nice. How do they make it so?

The biryani parts opened later. They were cleaning up the place. I went and stood at the counter - being the first there. After a while another gentleman landed up. All this while Mr. Cashier and Token Giver sat counting his notes. And then he looked at us apathetically.

Satish and I wondered what the original owner who began this venture would think of such apathy. He would surely remember days when he would dream of customers standing in queues for his biryani. He would have been so grateful. And then we have this gentleman at the counter uncaring about the queues waiting for his biryani.

I proferred the note in my hand to the cashier. In a flash an old man with a loud voice rushed past me and said - two jumbo biryani - or something and shoved his money ahead. The cashier took his money and gave him the tokens. I let him, though visibly irritated.

At the counter where we have to collect our parcels, we were all struggling to find a place. A bit like a darshan in a temple. Into that small hole, on the delivery side, came another apathetic gent. He started to write on a small piece of paper a code - ICB (I Chicken biryani). Why he was behaving like he was writing some complicated code I did not understand. Anyway, he was an irritable chap who gave us complex codes and even more complicated methods to collect our biryanis. For example my MB would come separately from the CB but I should raise my hand whenever he says MB along with all other MBs. Else he will get mad. Must have worked in the government sometime.

Anyway, next to me was the old gent who had pushed past me at the counter. He was not having he same success here.

'In America they will not stand like this,' he told me looking at all the people crowding us. 'They are very particular about queues and will even miss a flight but won't break the line.' He genuinely felt he was in the right. I did not have the heart to remind him of how he broke the queue a while ago.

For some reason, he told me all about himself, his family, his mother, deceased father, 4000 sq yard plot in Jubilee Hills, sons in America, friends abroad, house in Manikonda, Shah Ghouse in Toli Chowki, Americans and delivery systems, drive ins at McDonalds, quality of biryani - all within 10 minutes. Except for his name, bank balance and blood group, I have a lot of information about him

Why do such people pick on me?

Anjali - A Master Class in Coaching

The toy superman flies in the air if you pull at a string. If you do it right he flies nice and high. Else he does not take off or goes all over.

Anjali was teaching her Mythily atta how to do it right. Her aunt was being too gentle with it and as a result the toy would not fly. In fact it would not even eject from the base. Classic situation - a ward who was not delivering. Now is it a skill issue or a will issue?

I watched Anjali as she went about her coaching job with her aunt. She quickly addressed the skill part.
'Hold this in this direction,' she said pointing at the base. 'Then it will go in the direction you want it to.'
To her credit she did not do it herself - but let her ward do it.

The skill part taken care of, she urged her aunt to go at it again. This time the toy man flew slightly but fell far short of expectations.

Another, man management issue.

Anjali was patient. She actually came by and laughed and put her aunt at ease.
'Do it again,' she said. 'Try to touch this line. Ok. Go.'

This time her aunt managed to touch that line.
A round of genuine and instant appreciation came from the young coach.
'Very good,' she said fetching the toy in obvious delight. 'Now this time you must hit the door.'

Soon her aunt did hit the door.

It's a fine lesson in man management. Unlike adults who are constantly looking for what is wrong, children seem to have no problem accepting what is wrong. Her focus was only on how to get it right - not to somehow prove that she was more right. If we have this coaching attitude, dealing with people should be a lot simpler.

So Anjali corrected her aunt's skill issue, gave her a clear target, did not get upset when her aunt failed, redirected her aunt's energies to the target gently, encouraged her when she hit the target and gently increased the target again. Once her aunt figures out the way to do things and gains a decent level of confidence, she need not bother her again.

Good coaching, young coach.

Anjali - Give Up My Subsidy

We were driving to the airport a couple of days ago when eight year old Anjali spotted a hoarding that said - Give up your LPG subsidy.

'What is subsidy Nanna?' she asked.

I explained what LPG was and why it is subsidised by the government and what the government wants us to do by giving it up. I don't know how much of it she understood but she got one thing bang on - we were part of the people who could afford it and were still claiming the subsidy.

'Let us give up our subsidy Nanna,' she said in that urgent manner of hers. 'Today.'
I asked her why.
'So the poor can benefit. We can do out bit for them. We can afford it.'
She was very animated by now.

I gave her an alternative. 'What if I gave you that subsidy amount to spend on the poor the way you want it?'
'No,' she said firmly. 'Let us give up the subsidy.'

I don't know how and when she noticed it but she also saw that there was a She asked me to go there and give it up. Currently she is checking with me everyday whether I have given up. A proper activist.

I am surprised at how she caught on and how persistent she is. LPG, subsidy, government, poor - where does she understand this? But she seems to know the essence of that plea. That we can and someone cannot.. And by giving up, someone may benefit.

My thought process is - let the government handle it's own hassles. they can give up many more things and become much more efficient. And by doing that it can save a lot more for the nation. I am not thinking of what I can do from a larger perspective. I am thinking so transactionally. So narrowly.

What with all this activism, I am now inclined to give up my subsidy. It does seem like the right thing to do. For now I am glad for that hoarding, that idea of whoever to seek public participation and that it caught the eye of a child who was driving past a hoarding. Sometimes that is all change requires - an honest effort. It can connect anywhere, anytime.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Gung Ho! - Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

The book is about how to motivate people in any organisation. I like Ken Blanchard's take on people and what motivates them. The book could not have come at a better time since I have a similar challenge like the one the book deals with on my hands. In fact my friend Yogesh Patgaonkar suggested I read this book before I engage with my client.

As always Blanchard tells it through a story - this time a real life one. How Peggy Sinclair of Walton No 2 changes things around in a unit that is almost about to shut down. However she finds that one division, the finishing division, is doing great with highly motivated people who are planning to turn out their best performance ever on the last day, if ever. The leader of that division is Andy, a native American. Andy shares his wisdom with Peggy.

He says in most organisations the spirit dies at the door (aren't we all familiar with that - mine died many times!). Companies treat raw material better than people. To beat that dying spirits syndrome Andy follows his grandpa's wisdom. The methods to motivate people can be observed in the Spirit of the Squirrel, Way of the Beaver and Gift of the Goose.

Spirit of the squirrel - Why do they work so hard?
It is about the why. Why do they work so hard and so much?
Squirrels are highly motivated - because they want to put away food, else they die. They are motivated because they know they are doing worthwhile work (they know the impact of doing or not doing work). Work that affects them and their survival. But to do worthwhile work, Blanchard and Bowles say, one has to make sure that 1) work has to be understood as important 2) it should be a well understood and shared goal 3) values should guide all plans, decisions and actions

The way to look at an organisation's purpose is - what are we doing to contribute to the well-being of mankind? Look for human impact at the end of the line (conversely, I think, we could also look a scenario of what if we take what we are doing out of the picture?). Look at an attitude of units produced versus great work done. The key is to make everyone understand what they are doing in the big picture. They must be proud of both the goal and how they can get there. The team must commit to goals. The top 2-3 critical ones must be set by the top management.

Goals must be result goals and value goals. Value goals are about impact. Values are important because they sustain the effort. Values are the boss. They guide behavior. Values guide plans, actions and decisions. Values have to hold up in tough times. Values are now, Goals are for later.

Worthwhile work makes the world a better place. Everyone works towards a shared goal.

Values could be - Trust. Support. Telling the truth. Honesty. Team is most important. Customers. No holding information.

Way of the beaver - Ownership
In this each beaver decides to be in control. You are your own boss. You achieve the goal because you want to. By doing that you meet - Individual needs. Social needs.

In this part, it is about the individual taking control because he understands that it benefits him and the larger picture if he decides to take ownership and make things happen at 10x. The biggest block in such cases is the organisation. Organisations must allow them to take ownership and help and support them to achieve the 10 x goals. Organisations need to value them as persons

The idea is to Stretch People. To do that, give them work that demands their best and allows them to learn and move ahead into uncharted territory. However, we are talking about work that's possible not beyond the stretch.

In the way of the beaver, you stay in control of achieving the goal. You have a playing field with clearly marked territories. Thoughts, feelings, needs and decisions are respected, listened to and acted upon. You are able, but challenged. As the Dept Head - decide what and how to do it.

This sums up the way of the beaver or a person who has taken up ownership - TRUE - Timely, Responsive, Unconditional, Enthusiastic.

There is Pride in the work. There is a common enemy perhaps. All change is about dropping old habits, but also adopting new ones.

In this - information sharing is important. Feedback must be constant and positive.

Gift of the goose - Cheering each other on
The gift of the goose is to cheer each other on. Nothing like this to keep the spirit of the team high. Build the team on the basis of the following:

Telling the truth
Building self-esteem
Rewarding people who didn't yank the lever
Rewarding those who shared information
Setting, stretching, goals
Living our values
Training, training, training
Cheering, cheering

Blanchard stresses on the importance of training and of cheering. One requires - Patience. Action. Now.

The Gung Ho tale is one of patience and persistence. It is of belief in people and their capability to change. The change agents could be a connection to the higher picture, knowing their part in it, owning it because they feel they can own and do great work and finally believing that the team benefits if every one gives feedback and cheers each other on. It does look like a workable route and certainly one that could be tried.

Whatever happens, human behavior remains pretty much the same. Thanks Yogesh and Ken and Sheldon. Now, who's ready to change the culture of the team?

Anjali's Book Review - Geronimo Stilton: The Super Chef Contest

Anjali beat me to a book review this year. Here's her take on Geronimo Stilton.

Basically, Geronimo is a rodent. These series are awesome to carry at travel. Bedtime or morning I love Geronimo.

So , in this tale he goes for MASTERCHEF CONTEST. To win the great golden fork. He is a reader and writer nothing more and The worst sports mouse.
His cousin Trap  cheats by telling his aunt Sweetfur
To cook for a party but uses it for a show.
Trap is injured and replaces Geronimo. Now, Geronimo can cook but not for the finale! He cooks an original but delicious dish. Taking help from an organic farmer.

Do read these fiction stories.

2015 - What I Did

Writing - Wrote 421 blogs as against 427 last year. Published third book '50 Not Out'.

Places - This year was a big let down. Bangalore, Pune, Chennai. Orvakallu. Heritage Walks in Hyderabad.

Books - Read 54 books as against 50 last year. Cheated a bit with the Penguin Classics which are really small volumes.

Movies - Fell sharply from 91 last year to 70 movies this year. Not happy with the lot either. Would like to be more choosy next year.

Workshops - 2 leadership workshops at the end of the year that gave me much needed satisfaction, 4 cricket workshops, 1 for the MBAs at VJIM and at SMS, UoH. Talks at L&T Tech Services, Infosys, NHRD, VJIM.

Interviews - Dr. Madhuri Pai on Sujok which is a wonderful alternative treatment, Indian cricket team fielding coach R. Sridhar on cricket, Turab Lakdawala of Tempest on advertising and Rohini Hattangadi on acting. The last one is much cherished.

Music concerts - Ghulam Ali

Gifts - Books, Learnings, Affection

Workshops attended - Dancing with the dark by Shobha. Powerful. Passions again by Shobha.

Events - 50 Not Out events at Hyderabad and Bangalore, panelist at the non-fiction festival in Mumbai and Business Books festival at Bangalore.

Teaching - Arts Management to students of the Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad. Highly satisfactory.

Nice Link - 7 Boldest Risks Directors Took in Cinema

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 - Year in Movies

The year ended at a tally of 70 movies. Some nice ones. But some that I remember nothing about at all. Were they really bad, am I getting forgetful or was I switched off.

The list goes like this.

1. Seabiscuit
2. Gulliver's Travels
3. PK
4.Happy New Year
5.G Force
6.Terms of Endearment
7.Dick Tracy
10.The International
11.Flirting with Disaster
12.All the King's Men
14.Being There
15.Someone to watch over me
16.Love in the afternoon
17.Still Alice
18.Theory of Everything
19. Shamitabh
20.Margarita with a straw
21.Being John Malkovich
22.Tanu weds Manu
23.A Single man
24.Bed and board
25.Tanu weds Manu Returns
27.Dil Dhadakne Do
29.Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na
30.The Following
31.Act of Valor
33.Little Manhattan
34.Inside out
35.Chak De
36.Donnie Brasco
37.Two Jakes
38.Pulp Fiction
39.Calrlito's Way
42.House of Flying Daggers
47.Bajranji Bhaijaan
49.American Sniper
52.Children of Heaven
53.Mission Impossible
54.Ricki and Flash
56.Love Punch
57.Bad words
58.Angriest man in Brooklyn
59.Chupke Chupke
61.The Imitation Game
62.Mee Nathuram Godese Boltoi
63.Thanu Nenu
65.The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
66.Eyes Wide Shut
67.Bajirao Mastani
68. Skyfall
69. Starwars 7
70. The Walk

I watched many reruns with Anjali and enjoyed them all over again. But among the ones that made me sit up were - The Walk, Masaan, Bajirao Mastani, House of Flying Daggers, Pulp Fiction, Little Manhattan, Piku, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Whiplash and Fargo. Piku is right up there - DVD bought and all for the cold, cosy day. I think I will chose my movies better this year.