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PMP: 3 Must-Haves to be a Great Project Manager

Great project managers are rare, but hey, they are there. And they are valued because they possess the right knowledge, perform efficiently, and marshal their troops  effectively showcasing superior personal skills.

Yes, if you can garner the right amount of the three must-haves listed above, no one can stop you from being a great project manager (PM).

The must-haves are summarised below:

Must haves to be a Great PM.png

 

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Business: BCG Growth Share Matrix Part I

In a world with unlimited resources, you would not have to worry about allocation of resources. Well, you would not have to worry about a lot of things – poverty, hunger, strife. War? We cannot say that for sure.

But as we are dealing with limited resources, we can only allot so much to the different priorities in our lives or businesses. And you would want to put money behind the ones that have earned the highest priorities by promising you the highest returns.

BCG Growth Share Matrix helps you make that decision – the decision about behind what endeavor you should allocate what percentage of your total resources. It uses two fairly intelligible dimensions to do that – Relative Market Share of the product which acts as a proxy for the amount of cash it generates for your overall business, and Market Growth Rate of the product which would tell you about the amount of cash the product requires (higher the growth rate, more is the cash required to sustain that growth). Fairly simple, right?

Also, understand this: if the relative market share of one of your products is high, you have earned a competitive advantage for yourself in that product line. Hence, relative market share acts as a proxy for competitive advantage too.

Likewise,  if the market growth rate for another of your product is very high, that means that the product line is attractive as an option to invest. Who doesn’t like growth! Thus, market growth rate acts as a proxy for industry attractiveness. 

Now Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting Group considered it wise to bring competitive advantage (proxy:  relative market share) and industry attractiveness (proxy: market growth rate) on the same sheet and provide us with valuable insights.

Lets look at the matrix now:

picture_bcg_matrix

Picture Credit: www.valuebasedmanagement.net

In the follow-up article, we would look in the various aspects of the matrix above – the cash flow, the earnings and the strategy you should take when dealing with cows, dogs, question marks and stars. Till then, we would be better off thinking about what other proxies can we use for both competitive advantage and industry attractiveness?

Post your suggestions in the comments section below!

Amartya Dey, India

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Bosses Type.001: The Kangaroo

The Kangaroo hops around. It looks marvelous as it hops around. Remarkable. Always with a trick hidden in its pouch, you never know what its going to surprise you with next.

kangaroo-hopping.jpg

The Kangaroo is good at networking because it does not stay hidden in its closet, you see. Well hopping around has its benefits and controlled well, it can take you places.

The Kangaroo is mostly a generalist, lacks expertise. Not that it stops the Kangaroo from sharing its expertise through expert comments. This is not the only way through which the Kangaroo may irritate you or impede you from working productively. The worst part is its lack of focus.

It would keep on shifting goals for you, hopping around. It can be a pain to work under the Kangaroo. That said, like every other boss, it can be managed too. Yaay!

How?

Now that is a big question. How! By staying calm. By being organized. By focusing and cutting all the noise. And considering that it might just be an opportunity to learn all the work because you would have to do all the work. Do not take it negatively.

Remember!

If you have managed the Kangaroo even once in your life, you can manage any client, any number of clients. No problem.

Amartya Dey, India

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Thought of the Day.007

wpid-calvins-mom-42

Comic Credit: www.calvinandhobbes.com

The virtues of saying “No” (especially in the Corporate environment) can never be over-emphasized.

Psst, I am on to my Boss too! 

Thought of the Day.005

215-strip-sunday

Comic Credit: dilbert.com

Apparently, outsourcing is the new normal. Ok.

Organization Meter: Policy & SOP

Policy is formalized practice.

Your organization has been doing something for so long that it becomes part of its identity. It formalizes it by taking approval of the management. Now, not one can go against a formalized practice. While one may not be penalized always if one dithers, there is no incentive to.

Policy is not just formalized practice. 

Policies are powerful tools to bring about change in an organization, to even go against a formalized practice. In these cases, going against the policy can result in penal actions.

The Objectives of Policy

It is to make the operations smoother, the delivery smarter. It is to eliminate ambiguity as much as possible and help decision-makers take decisions in a faster and more informed way. It is to make knowledge transfer simple and succession planning seamless.

policy

The Requirement of SOP

SOP, for the uninitiated, refers to Standard Operating Procedures. If your organization has wonderful policies, but yet the talent retention is not great, your employees complain against the bureaucratic nature of your organization, your delivery men are frustrated and power circles have evolved within your organizations, it is because your organization does not have enough SOPs.

Use this thumb rule:

For a great organization, Number of SOPs : Number of Policies >> 1. 

Much greater than 1 would reflect that the policy makers are aware of the ground realities and have painstakingly developed and curated their SOPs and/or, the policy makers constantly have an ear to the shop floor and listen to the difficulties faced by the customers (internal or external) as also the delivery men.

The Bottom Line: Writing and adopting policies are not enough. You need evolving SOPs to back them up. Then you might just be able to attain the objectives of policy-making. 

Amartya Dey, India

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Picture Credit:

The Curse of the Franchising System

The franchising system is taking roots everywhere. After major cities have become saturated breathing for space and lack of options, the franchising model is moving towards the smaller towns. Who knows we might have burgers in villages before the end of 2030. 

P.S.: The franchising system does not only revolve around food. But as food is something that we can all relate too and food franchisees are ubiquitous, so I would focus on them for now if that is alright with you! 

The franchising system can be a no-brainer for many:

  • You do not have to worry about building a brand. 
  • You do not have to worry about making a *mistake*.
  • Experience helps everywhere but it can be done without here as you just have to follow the professional rules which would be part of the agreement that binds the Franchisee to the Franchisee. 
  • No worries about quality control, staff training and staff management. Everything is built in the system. 

Picture Credit: francity.com

Now what does it do? 

  • It kills innovation. There is no incentive to innovate. You are already selling 20 different types of pizza and then there’s the *agreement*, remember?
  • It kills local culture. You forget about Litti-Chokha.We become part of the *One*. Local tastes and flavors are forgotten, and a *standardized* food becomes part of our *standardized* lives. 
  • As our choices get *commoditized*, the entrepreneur dies. She does not have big money to compete with the advertising budgets of the big brands. Maybe she would come up with a cheaper burger with a potato patty for our poorer cousins. That is all! 
  • *Quality* of food goes down. (Read the article on “McDonaldization” by clicking here.) As competition and advertising spending by major brands increase, the quality drops further more. They squeeze the operational line to get every piece of profit. You cannot blame them. Money matters. Profit, more so.

The solution?

A part of me tells me that there can be no solution. But the eternal hopeful in me screams out the following:

  • Marketing your culture: If you want to survive and sell, you need to advertise. But when was the last time that you saw your Government advertising your country’s food in their tourism promotion advertisement? They advertise some dances, some colours and monuments in India. What about food, dude? 
  • Awareness: In France and other developed nations, children actually spend an hour having good food during their lunch period. Lunch period can also be a learning period – learning about balanced diet and the importance of health! 
  • Incentive for entrepreneurs: Incentives need not be financial. Incentives can be given also through training about modern management systems and something as necessary as electricity 24 cross 7. 

These are three of the top-of-my-mind suggestions. What else do you think can be done? I am not against the franchising system but the singular colors are killing all the vibrancy which we should try to protect. Efficiency is necessary but we can stay efficient even while preserving all our colors. 

What do you think? 

Breaking Organizational Silos (Part I)

The Fundamental Truths 

To start with, the top leadership of any company has to accept two fundamental truths:

  1. Silos exist.
  2. Silos affect collective learning, growth and performance adversely.

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What are silos?

Silos are formed by people like us. Silos are formed by people having a common denominator. The worst common denominators that an organization might have to deal with include race, gender and geography affiliation, the ones which can be tackled more easily are departments or even groups within a department.

Why are silos formed in the same place?

We form bonds, create defined turfs and love to engage in power games. While forming bonds is necessary to perform and excel, turf creation and power games can hurt both the morale of the players involved and the bottom line of the company.

We must also understand that while silos can be formed actively, silos can also take shape themselves. These passive silos can take shape because of poor organizational structure or prevalent work culture. These may also take place of poor reward systems or something as basic as design of the workplace.

But as it happens with most causes, all of them are related in one way or the other. Let us start with the workplace design cause. (The effect being silo mentality!)

Workplace Design & Silos

If you have been to Government organizations, you would see one single department occupying an entire building. Say, that is the Finance department and you work for that department. Now because of some work, you need to visit the Contracts Department which is a 10 minutes walk. Maybe you are in the same building but you are in a different floor.

This space between the departments and the lead time required to get in touch with someone from some other department would determine the silo index measure of the organization you are working in. The greater the space and more the lead time required, higher is the silo index.

One would argue that this is a necessary evil – the space and the lead time. But that would be a lie. It is not necessary and can be tackled easily.

Suggestion 1: Group employees not department-wise but activity-wise. 

Why do we need to design the organization structure department-wise? Why cannot we design it activity-wise? Why cannot we have a bit of both?

Suggestion 2: Cut out the fat.

Many organizations already have the buildings in place. They can change the organization structure and all, but then one building would be put out of use. Stop falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy. Have an extra building? Sell it. Or, demolish it. Your organizational output in the future would more than make up for it.

Suggestion 3: Keep the files at a single place. 

In large organizations, all departments have their own file-space. This increases manpower requirement and there is seldom any standardized method of file-keeping across departments. This makes us inefficient and lethargic.

Suggestion 4: Digitize everything. 

Need to keep hard copy. Great! Keep it in the centralized repository. Just ensure that the human capital responsible for maintaining the files scan and digitize every scrap of paper and upload it in the cloud. (I hate hard disks!) 

This practice has multiple benefits. The top two are: first, it would be easier to group employees activity-wise. Secondly, if there is a fire and every file gets burnt down, you would still have access to the digitized files. (Although the best thing would be to just do away with files and process everything online. This is already being done in many organizations. And it would be done by every organization within the next 30 years.)

Suggestion 5: Rotate people around across teams. 

While research has shown that job-rotation increase the morale of the human capital involved, it would not only help develop leaders who have a fair idea about how the entire business operates, but also deal a death blow to silo mentality. Why build turfs when they would only be destroyed in couple of years?

To summarize!

Silos are present in almost every organization. And it is time that the thought leaders across businesses, geographies and organizations started focusing more on the challenges that silos present so that silos can be weeded out.

Picture Credit: in.pinterest.com

Author: Amartya Dey, India

The Last Country To Abolish Slavery

Slavery does not quite sound like an issue for the 21st century. When humankind is well on its way to start a colony in Mars, when technology has made education accessible and when globalization has brought people closer, who would think about slavery?

Have you seen a slave in your lifetime? But slaves do exist. Even around us.

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Mauritania | Picture Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

In fact, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981, passing a law to to prosecute slave owners only in 2007. While new, humane laws make one hopeful about changing a social situation that undermines human dignity, the picture post 2007 remains equally gloomy in Mauritania with a 2012 CNN report citing just one conviction while a 2016 Al Jazeera report showing how anti-slave activists are being imprisoned in the country.

This makes one question the utility of laws in bringing about structural changes in a society. Laws are necessary, no doubt. But laws alone are incapable in delivering desired change. The deviants would just find another way to exploit the exploited. They would engage not in slavery but in slavery-like practices.

The biggest challenge in any change management exercise is changing the attitude of the people involved – the exploiter’s as well as the exploited’s. Changing the latter’s is more tricky. As Ahmed Vall Ould Dine, media spokesman for the Mauritanian Human Rights Watch, explains:

“Slaves tend to develop very close relations with their masters; the freed ones, who are poor and have inherited nothing from their parents, chose to remain under the auspices of their ex-masters as they provide them with basic necessities of life.”

They don’t even know what it means to be free. They do not know about or understand human rights. (Also what would one do if one becomes free, if one does not have any other source of livelihood?) This reminds one of Plato’s allegory of the Cave.

In the allegory, we learn about some people who have been imprisoned in a cave since their childhood. They cannot move or see anything beyond what lies in front of them. There is a fire burning behind them and all they can see is the shadows of the puppets carried by other people. They can hear the voices of the people and attribute the sounds to the shadows they see. They even start identifying the shadows with time, naming them in the process.

Plato_-_Allegory_of_the_Cave.png

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave | Picture Credit: By Veldkamp, Gabriele and Maurer, Markus [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Now one of the tied prisoners is freed and led on outside. The light outside blinds the prisoner. And as the freed prisoner adjusts with the light outside and slowly comprehends the surroundings, he realizes that all he knew was farce and reality is much more beautiful and superior. He starts pitying the cave existence, his own past life and his cave companions.

Say, he returns to the cave to be chained again. He tells his companions all about the things he has seen and experienced. He tells them how the shadows are but a false reality.

How do you think his fellow inmates would treat him now?

Of course they would think that he has gone crazy. His views and opinions would be blasphemous. They would also notice that he cannot see the shadows as well as he used to. Thus, they would blame the outside experience for both the insanity of their fellow companion as well as his physical degradation. They would now resist any attempt to bring themselves outside. Even if they are freed, they would not get out.

What  good is reality when the present is known, when we have adjusted to it?

This is the exact thing that happens when we try to change a social situation in a country or a undertake a change management exercise in an organization. Why not try to change the social circumstances before passing a law? Why not discuss and promote the utilities before changing the circumstances? A branding exercise maybe in an attempt to communicate the usefulness to all the stakeholders involved?

These are not easy questions to answer but ones that definitely need to discussed if we are committed to change, if we really want to change our society, our organizations for the better.

Sources: 

 

Author: Amartya Dey, India