Sunday, August 12, 2007

Life since ISB..

Life after ISB started with a lull. At ISB, there is so much action to life that you are used to living that kind of life and then suddenly that episode of your life ends.

I had few to-do for this "total free" period. I visited Ladakh. I had been planning for so long to do this and this was the best time to do as your life may not in your total control after that. Ladakh trip was one of my best expedition trip ever. It was just amazing to see places like Khardung -la, Nubra Valley, Chung-la, Pongong lake etc. Fortunately, I happened to get pre-joining bonus from my to be employer and I could buy digital SLR camera , NIKON D80,one I was thinking to get for some time. I could make full use of it on my Ladakh trip. The pics came just amazing.

I had also planned to go to Badrinath, kedarnath as I had one more month to go before my joining in July. I planned this trip for month of June, but then suddenly joining date got preponed and I joined the new job on 4th June.

Ever since I joined the job, the life got a full throttle. The very first week, I was staffed on an already running case, one going through severe resource crunch. So there was lots and lots of work to do, pressure to learn things very fast and deliver. This required lot of night-outs , extremely long days with no breaks and lot of fire-fighting. A tough phase I must say. Everyone has to go through this, that's important part of learning at consulting, one of the most amazing career option.

Life getting to some ease, but will not be same for long. Let's see.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Level 5 leadership

This is becoming very important. Lot of companies now look level 5 leaders and not just level 4 leaders. Before I talk more about this, let me briefly touch upon the leadership levels.

Level 1 is a Highly Capable Individual who "makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits.

Level 2 is a Contributing Team Member who "contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting."

In most professions, companies look for at least a good team players. In the business world, all tasks are done in teams. Its important for every team member to be an effective team player. Level 2 is basic hygiene level. I have seen cases where companies have rejected a person just because he just cannot work in teams, in spite of he being a genius.

Level 3 is the Competent Manager who "organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives."

Level 4 is an Effective Leader who "catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards."

I believe difference between Level 3 and 4 is that of difference between good manager and leader. Many of you would have heard this story of a jungle which very clearly differentiates a good leader from good manager. Let me quickly mention about even at the cost of repetitive. On a jungle cutting assignment aimed at making a road, a manager is a person who organizes people towards cutting the woods in the most efficient way in the least possible time. He will develop best practices, enforce best practices etc. But a good leader is one who will climb the tree tops to see whether they are heading in the right direction. He will steer the direction of the team. This is level 4 leader. Such people are visionary, they chart out the future course.

Level 5 is the Executive who "builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." Every one of the good-to-great companies has level 5 leaders in the critical transition phase. These leaders are described as being timid and ferocious, shy and fearless and modest with a fierce, unwavering commitment to high standards. Such people create leaders.

When a level 4 leaders leaves the company can start performing badly in the lack of leadership, but when a level 5 leader leaves, the company keep growing because he has create sufficient leaders in the organization to lead the organization.

Jack Welch is popularly referred to as Level 4 leader, who took GE to different heights. Darwin Smith, CEO at paper-product maker Kimberly-Clark from 1971 to 1999, epitomizes Level 5 leadership. Not many would have heard about him.

There is another interesting thing. L5 in not an incremental version of L4. There is no similarity in the traits of L4 and L5. They are completely different. A L4 leader will mostly remain that. He cannot move to L5 unless he realizes early in his career about this.


"God is dead"

No, I am not an atheist. Don't misunderstand me. This is a quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This is mentioned by Nietzsche in "Thus spoke Zarathustra" The quote was mentioned to arise the will of action in the common masses. This quote also signifies the philosophy opposite to that of destiny, where everything is believed to be pre-destined and a person is just a means to the end. The beginning and end are pre-decided. Man just works towards it. This was against contemporary belief of Christianity which Nietzsche proposed at that time.

The quote is not be meant in literary terms. It's the author's way of saying that God is no longer capable of acting as a source of moral code. Here death of God means the death of old moral codes and theology.

There is lot to it and an interesting read. Wikipedia is a good source to start if interested.

We had a discussion on this subject in our Leadership lessons through World Literature. Some other interesting quotes which stuck me are...

"Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me, some are born posthumously"

"Virtue of meek is important"

" Friends should be enemy"

"Good happens, evil has to happen"

This course's classes give a lot different and interesting perspective. It's hard for person who is not well read to get such perspective. Besides that one doesn't get to know about lot many literatures in such a small time through class settings.

I would certainly share some more of thoughts on this later...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Graduation day changes

Some chaos here at ISB because of sudden change in the graduation day ceremony. Earlier, the convocation was planned for the evening, now it’s been moved to morning session. I have invited my sister, bro-in-law and little niece besides my parents for the event. So my complete family is going to be here. With this change in convocation, I have spend my last two hours to redo all the flight bookings etc.

This was somewhat upsetting because now my sister with her infant baby will have to take a midnight flight to reach here. But had no choice except canceling their visit, which would have been very busy.

I should now get back to some pre-reading of the case. I will just take a glance for about 15 minutes. Can't do more. Its important to do at least that much because without that I wouldn't be able to make out anything in class and will feel extremely bore sitting there.

More later...

About 10X Change..

I just finished reading “Only the paranoid survive" by Andrew S. Grove. The book is an interesting piece of work where he talks about how to exploit the crisis points that can challenge every company and career.

He calls such challenges or adversities as the strategic inflexion points, the stage where old business rules have to give way to new rules. There are different from the changes business see happening normally. These are 10X changes occurring to some of the key driving forces of business. He identifies 6 such forces - Porter's 5 forces + complementers force. One can find enough examples of such instances in almost all industries. Entry of Wal-mart, changed entirely the retail landscape. Wal-mart was a 10X competitive force to existing retail market. In the entertainment industry, the use of sound takes over silent movies. Things changed when The Jazz Singer debuted on October 6, 1927. Some adapted to this change and were successful, most of the others failed. "Garbo speaks!!" reminds us of the instance when Greta Garbo, the queen of silent movies first spoke. Changes in regulations forced AT&T to adapt to a competitive world of consumer marketing from a monopolistic market. These are changes which take the industry to different platforms.

It's easy to talk about these changes in the hindsight, but it’s very difficult to identify such strategic inflexion points. Its difficult to filter out sound from noise. The only way is through process of clarification that comes from broad and intensive debate. Andrew stresses on the role of line managers, sales managers and other people who work on periphery of the business in identifying such changes as they are the people who see the things changing first. They are the people who pass on the information to the senior management. In order for a company to clearly know what's happening, it should provide that culture where people can freely share their ideas, debate with each other and questions senior management.

The process of identifying and then responding to the change involves chaos initially where intensive debate happens. But it needs to lead into a phase where leaders reign chaos. Clarity in direction which includes where to go and where not to go should emerge. This is important to know what strategic actions to take and become action oriented. Its very difficult to take people along on your mission to come out of the strategic inflexion point without knowing where to go. This is the point where lot of intitution, judgment, leadership, courage is required.

This holds true not only in the context of a company but also in life of a individual. A person faces several defining moments in his or her life. These are moments that require special abilities to pass through. One should be vigilant about what's happening around, enjoy the process of metamorphosis, be courageous and ready to face failures.

This is a must read for people who want to work in the area of strategy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Picking up on my hobbies

I am slowly picking up photography after hiatus of a year. I have hardly spent anytime since I joined ISB.

Feeling bad about that :( . The other day I was discussing with my friend about the same. As is human nature, I was trying to justify my not being able to do photography by saying that life at ISB was very busy. I used to hardly get any time to do this. There was always one thing or the other to do. But the same is going to be true all through the life. I, like everyone else, would always be busy. I will have lots of things to do. So what should I do? Can I really do anything or this is destined to doom? Would some discipline help in this case?

I don't have answers. I don't know how people go about it. Any suggestions are welcome.

I have some time now. I want to spend some time doing it. I currently have 35mm SLR camera (Minolta Dynax 5). The "per film role" transaction cost is high for film cameras, particularly when you are traveling. So I am thinking of buying a digital SLR.

Did some research last week. The two cameras that reached the last round were Canon EOS 400D or Rebel XTi and Nikon D80. There is a huge cost difference between the two. Nikon being around 50% more expensive. I am thinking of going with Nikon. Got some good review about it on dp reviews. There is a comparison of the two as well.

I am trying to find out if I can get it from US for me. It's lot cheaper there.
Let's see when it happens.

The beginning of the end ..

I have been getting mails from some of friends complaining about my irregularity in blogging. I don't think I was irregular. I never wrote anything :) Last time I blogged was 6 month back. This is not ir-regularity, its gross absence :)

I am thinking of starting back. Lots of free time these days that I can utilize in a better way. Its just 20 more days of MBA left. Then there will be lull for couple of months before I join B**.

This time will never come back. College days- stay with friends, etc- are always the most interesting times of one's life. Memories of these days will always bring smile and joy. So it would be good idea to document some of these days.

My attempt in next few days would be to blog about my experiences, the fun I had here etc. I will also try to talk about few books I have been reading these days and disperse some Gyan.

There will some sharing of the gossips going on campus these days as well.

So friends, keep reading.. I am keeping an eye on the readership counter...

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's exam time here

All of us here are deeply nose-dived into studies. Yes! its exam time. Next two days we have Term 3 end term exams. Tomorrow (It will be today once I wake up in the morning) its Managerial Accounting, in the morning followed by Operations Management in the post noon session. On Tuesday, we have corporate finance and Entrepreneurship. We are allowed to carry 1 page cheat sheet in all exams, but one (it being open book). So the night time is busy in arranging for cheat sheet. There are many cheat sheets roaming around. I am not interested in studying further, just waiting for accounting cheat sheet to come from one of my friend (altruistic soul, the official cheat sheet maker) . He said he will be sending near 1am.

I am leaving for back home for my term end break. I would be at my home. It’s party time back at my home. My father has got a long awaited promotion. Promotion is a big event in government jobs, unlike the private jobs, where promotions are common news.

Best of luck to all my batch mates!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Are marks in exam true representative of the knowledge one has ?

I don't know what's the answer to this question. But I am sure that it will not be right to say that they are the true representative. I have observed in many numbers of cases that people who know the subject well have scored less marks than the people who knew less. I am saying this after removing those occasional cases of silly mistakes. So what's the reason behind that? Are the exams are not designed to test the true knowledge? Isn't it possible to do that?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I will share what I think the reason is. Cracking an exam needs more than just knowledge. It requires the skill to solve the problem with the information provided by finding the correlation/pattern in the given information.

I need more thinking which I am unable to do at this hour of the day. Let me try to build on this some other time

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I want more sleep!!

I am in serious dearth of sleep. I want to sleep few more hours/ minutes/ seconds. I know this is little bit exaggeration. But I am on the receiving side in terms of lack of sleep. This term I have classes in post noon session only, but today we had Managerial accounting and decision making (MADM) class in the morning at 8:15am. This sudden shift was hard for many of us to manage. I could manage to just land up in the class but 30% of the class was missing. Its hard to suddenly change your body clock and wake up early when other days your are sleeping from 4am to 9am. I was physically present in the class but took many small naps during the class. So after finishing the class I quickly had my breakfast, came back to my quad, went through the Entrepreneurship case in < 20 minutes before sleep took over me. I had the next class at 1:45pm, so I still had 2.5 hours to go. I set my alarm for 1pm but I woke up only at 2:10pm, shocked to find that I overslept and was late for the class. I was in shock for 1 minutes as this doesn’t happen with me generally. I decided to make a sprint to the class as an important case was to be discussed today and I don't want to miss that.

The case TBD was "Mittal Steels" one . The discussion went well. Several good things like "Why and how was LNM so successful", “Why TISCO couldn't go the Mittal way", " "Difference between Infosys and TATA" etc. Got good insight!! Decent day !.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Interesting weekend .. but tough week ahead...

This weekend went quite well. I stayed mostly away from the books except spending some time today evening ( rather yesterday evening) on two assigments that have to be submitted by 8am tmorrow morning.

The weekend went very interesting with two key highlights - WTO workshop and talk by Mahesh Murthy of Pinstorm.

The WTO workshop was taken by Shishir Priyardarshi, a WTO official and former Indian diplomat. He shared some very good insight and experiences. Experiences which are hard to know by reading any book. Some of the interesting things that came up besides the conventional topics were consensus based decision making process at WTO ( each member country having equal vote unlike any other international organization; thus US equaling Sudan) , green room meeting concepts, special duty and quota free rights to LDCs (on 97% products, the remaining 3% products being the ones in which these countries trade mostly- so a mockery!!). Usual stuff which was covered was dispute settlement process, multi-fiber agreement, most favored nation clause, anti-dumping rules etc. The session ended with the career opportunities in WTO. This topic came up on request of a fellow student.

Another event about which I heard a lot was speaker series session by Mahesh Murthy, founder and CEO of Pinstorm, a search engine marketing specialist company. I couldn't attend it because of WTO workshop being in the same slot. I tried to gather about it from my friends. They told the guy was very unconventional and had a tangential line of thought. He criticzes Kotler, believes MBA education and any such education conditions one's mind and make one just an employee and not a employer. In response to one of the question asked by ~P about what 3 things he will suggest ISB students to do now, he responded saying that damage has already been done and only 3 things can be done now - Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.

Want to write more.. but got to sleep.. Cya!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What I missed on 15 August this year?

I regret a lot of not doing one thing this Independence day which is not being able to participate in "Bandan" organiszed at ISB by NetImpact club. From what I heard, this was an awesome event. Nearly 200 children from various NGO visited ISB to meet us all. These children put up a great show. Some of blind students were Sidhartha Basu of tomorrow, absolutely Quizzing Guru. They gave a tough time to even the Quizmaster. It was amazing to hear that these blind children had phenomenal knowledge about things around them in-spite of not everything accessible/suitable for them to read. I also heard that few deaf children danced marvelously to the tune of the Rang de Basanti. Its just unbelievable!!. From what I came to know from a friend of mine who actually saw them doing this magic was that at the beginning of the song, they were getting told that a particular song is going to start now and then they will dance by internally counting 1,2,3,4,... 1,2,3,4 repeatedly to figure out what dance step to take and also to synchronize their steps among themselves. This was the way they have learnt about the song. They truly enjoyed performing it and were the stars of the event.

This confirms an important point that the one enjoys music not because of lyrics or tune of the song but the feeling of it, which to some may come through lyrics/tune.

I regret of not being part of it and I know this regret is not ephemeral.

Absolutely craZy life at the moment....

Things have been really craZy for me here. I am not sure whether there are really too many things for me to do or I am missing on the time management skills. Before coming to ISB and also in the first term, I used to hear from my friends that I am good at time management. But it’s hard for anyone to say the same now. I have mostly preferred to sleep by 1 am in the night with some exceptions of a day or two in a month, but this term3 is weird (Yes! I am in term 3 and its right that I haven't written my blog since the end of Term1...). It’s the other way round now. It’s just only few days in this term that I could have managed to sleep by then. I have been working till the sunrise and sleeping then only for couple of hours. Every day there are assignments that need to be submitted before the professor wakes up. A very interesting thing happened on one of such nights. I was feeling very sleepy but there was an important assignment to be completed that night. I had done the calculations in the Excel and was in the process of coping them into Word to prepare report. I pressed CTRL+C to copy from excel with the intention to press CTRL+V in the word file, but I crashed immediately after pressing CTRL+C. It was only after some time that my groupees came in and say my condition that they suggested that I return to my quad and take sleep.

Various questions haunt me! Have my skills gone for a toss with increasing pressure or I am facing commonly shared problem. I have to think and work out a new strategy. I have taken off today from all the assignments etc to spend sometime thinking about this.

Few things I plan to do

- Control the time I spend here and there doing gossiping.
- Try to inculcate the theory of "let it go". One cannot drive everything to perfection. Build a natural ability to evaluate effort from the marginal benefit perspective. This in simple words could mean Pareto law (80/20 rule).
- Focus on key things only. One cannot work on everything. One need to find important levers and work on them.

I will be doing more of thinking on this front.

Lots of things have happened in last few weeks about which I want to blog. Let me see how soon I will be able to do that.

Happy Janmashtmi fellow Krishna Devotees!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

How it feels to be 12.5% MBA? - Part 1

I know I have been more than irregular in writing my blog. I have been trying for sometime to be really inspired by alums of the last batch who have been more than regular in doing so, but things haven't worked that great for me in Term 1 in those respects. Yes, my term 1 has ended, though final results are awaited. I expect to pass in all so I should call myself a 12.5% MBA. I know its dangerous as half knowledge is worse than no knowledge.

Term 1 went well with some very excellent faculty teaching us. The insight in to the Game Theory was just awesome. The content of the subject, teaching pedagogy, the faculty's delivery just enthralled us. On the last day, when we were asked to fill feedback forms, I just peeped into some of the filled forms and found that most of the students have rated him 7 out of 7 on all major aspects. He was certainly remarkable. The extra lecture he took on the acution theory, his main area of interest and study, was very enlightening as we gained insight into the historical origin of auctioning and various types of auctioning - English Ascending, Sealed Bid 2nd Price, Dutch Descending and Sealed bid 1st price. One of the important learning was that in conventional auctions, second highest value is the final bid value. It was a quite surprise that even in a bid the auctioned item doesn't get the highest value but the second highest value.

There were some great learnings in other subjects as well which I have to move to the part -2 of this blog in the interest of my time.

I should now better get down to the pre-reading for the competitve strategy course. The pre-reading is colossal for this course with nearly 100 pages to be read for the first class. Its going to be a challenge for a ultra slow reader like me. But I know one thing that I would be able to finish this before the class tomorrow because I am good at finding short-cuts and I will find one.