Saturday, December 20, 2014

Signs of a Dysfunctional Organization Structure

Organization structure is very important for the success of any enterprise.

However, many organizations fail to grow due to apparent ignorance of this simple aspect.

Such organizations are started by a group of individuals who keep the control within themselves by creating what can be called as a dysfunctional organization structure.

Such a group of individuals form a well knit coterie where anyone joining at a senior level remains an outsider.

Here are some typical signs of a dysfunctional organization structure. 
  • There are certain functions where the coterie doesn't have the needed skill set but still one from the coterie is made the head of the function. The head is forced from above in a ridiculous way. The only intent is to retain the control with the coterie.
  • Such organizations find it extremely difficult to hire a professional at a senior level. Senior professionals hired by such organizations are trapped in a dysfunctional organization. 
  • Any professional will easily figure out the prevalence of the coterie culture and utter lack of professionalism in such organizations and stay away.
  • Professionals joining such organizations at the middle level will soon find themselves trapped and start feeling suffocated and will move on.
  • There is a glass ceiling due to the strong coterie culture which eventually results in no churn in the senior level and high churn in all other levels below.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Examples of Bad Leadership

Bad leadership is the primary reason why many companies fail to grow, stagnate and eventually die. Here are some examples that characterize bad leadership.
  • You work hard for achieving a major milestone for the company and the company's top man humiliates you by inviting someone else to join him while going for the celebratory lunch
  • The top man puts a trusted lieutenant over your head whose only job is to second guess you, give suggestions for the sake of it (and stupid suggestions at that), steal the credit blatantly and show you down in all possible ways
  • For decisions where you have accountability and limited authority the top man always communicates only over email while religiously copying the trusted lieutenant
  • The trusted lieutenant in such companies has poor intellectual horsepower in general and no understanding of the area he looks over the head of the professional manager handling that area
  • The top man is completely hands off and doesn't like any criticism whatsoever. He prefers "yes sir" stooges and invariably promotes a coterie culture
  • Such organizations are breeding ground of people with attitude. In such companies some of the trusted lieutenants of the top man think as if the whole world (and not just the company) revolves around them
  • Such organizations are soul-killers for anyone who believes in professionalism, fairness and transparency
  • A professional manager would always be an outsider in such organizations. And the only advice for such people is not to join and in case have made the mistake of joining quit at the earliest
  • Such organizations have an old boys club and no one joins at a senior level. In case someone at senior level leaves it is difficult to fill that position. Also, those whole leave at the senior level are the "outsider" professionals but not the "coterie" trusted lieutenants
The best way to deal with bad leadership in case one is stuck in such a situation is to simply move on. The culture and the lack of professionalism in such companies (where sound bites from the top man would be full of lies and falsehood) would not allow a true professional to grow in their career.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Signs and Sounds of a Weak Senior Manager

In the corporate world those who become senior managers may not actually be deserving of it. Owing to loyalty to the top man in the organization some people become senior managers in such an organization. And quite ridiculously they may be asked to look after a department about which they have absolutely no clue.

This might lead to a case for example where a finance person becomes head of admin. This results in an organization structure which is artificially propped on the back of an old boys club. In such an organization professionalism and competency have no place.

Such organizations are also perfect breeding grounds for a weak senior manager. These are the people who have no spine and who can never take a stand. In case someone raises a point they are more than willing to lie down prostrate and let others run them down. The weakness is a result of competency and manifests itself in several ways.

So what are the typical sights and sounds of a weak manager. Here are some examples:
  • Such a manager tries to avoid any confrontation whatsoever
  • Such a manager never supports her team
  • Such a manager can never take a stand
  • Such a manager fails to create trust and respect in those who report into him
Reporting into a weak manager especially combined with the old boys club syndrome in the organization (where quite ridiculously they may be asked to look after a department about which they have absolutely no clue) is a frustrating experience to say the least. The best advise for people stuck with a weak manager is - just quit and do it fast!

Friday, March 7, 2014

How Organizations are Fighting the War for Troy Everyday?

There is a famous dialogue from the movie Troy, War is young men dying and old men talking. You know this. Ignore the politics.

This  applies very well to the organizations in the corporate world.

Running a company involves old men (executive and senior management) busy in talking (board meetings, strategic planning, management reviews, et al) while the young men (middle and line management and all other employees) keep on dying (tight deadlines, lack of adequate resources, lack of visibility, stretch goals, et al).

The old men define the strategy, direction and resource allocation whilst the young men are busy in performing activities that earn money for the company.

Old men are busy in deciding what resources to allocate to which area, which persons to keep in an area or move to another area and for these old men certain buzzwords mean everything - shareholder expectations,  market trends, profitability, operational excellence, employee engagement, etc.

On the other hand, the young men are like sacrificial lambs who are moved from one to another place and told what to do and what not to do.

In light of the above organizations are fighting the war for Troy everyday. The young men keep on dying while the old men keep on talking and more talking.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Someone Close to You Falls Seriously Sick

Seeing someone close to you go through serious sickness and witnessing the pains and tears that accompany it is both physically and emotionally draining. Serious sickness is also financially draining if one is not  able to afford the treatment comfortably. One wants the sick person to be completely cured and that too quickly. In case the process of healing gets prolonged the emotional stress generated reaches very high levels.

The flow of various activities like talking to the doctor, buying medicines and injections, seeing the patient being administered the medicines, helping the patient consume the medicines at the prescribed time in the prescribed dosage, watching the progress of healing makes one go through various mood changes. This is tougher in case the patient happens to be a child.

In an overall sense, the experience of someone close to you falling seriously sick is a humbling experience in life. The fact that life is so vulnerable and fragile stares at your face and makes you realize the nothingness of many things we take so seriously at times. Not only that one comes to terms with one's own vulnerability and mortality.

It also helps one acquire a philosophical outlook towards life and towards the very purpose of it. The only certainty in life is death and a close encounter with serious sickness or death is a good eye opener and recalling such experiences throughout one's life helps one stay humble and in touch with ground reality.

The fact that almost no one alive at this moment will be alive 100 years later is a fact that no one should ignore. There is no reason to get sad or anxious about this fact. Awareness of this fact should instead help one to have complete peace of mind. No fear, no failure, no humiliation, no happiness, no sadness should be viewed big enough for one to loose one's peace of mind.

Bhagvada Geeta provides an excellent take on life. The focus on Karma (actions) as the only Dharma (religion) without any expectations of Fal (fruit or outcome) is a very powerful concept which helps one to enjoy life through the various deeds one would perform from birth until death.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Writing it Down Helps

Writing down something that is bothering you is very helpful in coming to peace with the troublemakers and the bad situations around you.

It is interesting that 100 years later you, the troublemakers and the bad situations will cease to exist but at this point and in the near future the troublemakers and the bad situations will continue to bother you until some other troublemakers and bad situations take their place.

In that sense, life consists of movement from one botheration to another until the last botheration of life - death itself.

When it comes to the troublemakers writing the initials of the people who create trouble for you and for others is a good way to come to peace. One can write the names in this manner such as MK, SD, DA, MM, RS, et al.

Similarly, when it comes to the bad situations writing the details of the bad situations that bother you is a good way to come to peace. Here are some situations:
  • Getting a nasty email from a senior though immature person in the organization
  • Getting a nasty call from a senior though immature person in the organization
  • Getting a call from a senior person in the organization asking you to do something unethical
  • Getting an unfair request from someone who thinks highly of herself

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is this Right Time to Move on from Your Current Company?

This simple yet powerful question is one of the most important fundamental questions and must be an integral part of one’s career advancement plan. Asking this question at the end of every month (in some detail) and at the end of every quarter (in complete detail) should become a standard procedure for any professional to follow religiously.

Another important fundamental question is why should you stay with your current company? The answer to this is the reasons driving the answer to the question “Is this Right Time to Move on from Your Current Company?” are absent or very weak at that point in time.

So how to decide – “Is this Right Time to Move on from Your Current Company?” The answer to this question is very simple and can be captured in the following two statements. The sequence of the following two statements is equally important. If statement B is the first reason then you are still not desperate to quit however if statement A is the first reason then you are certainly desperate to quit.
  • Statement A – The reason you are still around is because you need the job for the money you are making from it to pay your bills, otherwise you would have quit by now
  • Statement B – The reason you are still around is because you haven’t been able to find another job though you have been trying very hard, and the moment you land one you will quit immediately
It is interesting to understand how you reach to a stage where the only reason for you to stay with your current company is limited to the above two statements. So what are the drivers for you to reach to this stage? Here are some:
  • You are certain you will not grow any further irrespective of your performance and irrespective of how much longer you stay put
  • You are not learning anything new and not at all improving upon your competencies in any significant manner
  • You are interacting with stakeholders who are themselves not growing and the discussions you have with them are purely transactional and operational in nature
  • You have come to believe that the organization is not run professionally but rather by the whims and fancies of an old boys club
  • You have come to realize that the people who are heading the various areas lack in leadership qualities and are totally narrow-minded due the prevalence of an old boys club culture
  • You have come to the conclusion that the company has a bleak and dark future because the so called leaders lack in leadership qualities and are totally narrow-minded

Staying Alive, Becoming Successful

For all forms of life the purpose of life is “staying alive” but for human beings the purpose of life seems to be “becoming successful”.

If one were to go by the mainstream discussions and discourses in media, government communications and corporate dealings, it might appear that the primary purpose of any person’s existence is to become successful – which would mean a combination of various adjectives like powerful, influential, wealthy.

Success in different fields of human endeavor may have different connotations though – like for movie stars success is related to popularity, for politicians success is related to being elected again and again, for employees in a company success is related to becoming CEO eventually, etc.

Somehow human beings, perhaps because they control the planet, have glorified their importance over other things on the planet. It appears as if what we want, what we are capable of, what we think is right guides the developments and advancements on this planet, starting from the time the first living being of the species homo sapiens walked on it. Purpose of life in such a context is defined by human beings as “becoming successful” unlike other forms of life whose purpose is simply “staying alive”.

However, it’s perfectly fine to fail. Failing is not a crime though one may get punished for it, at times too severely to recover from it. In the history of mankind, there are plenty of instances of people succeeding as well as failing. Looking back at history, those successes and failures have shaped the world to become what it is today but those failures and successes mean nothing directly to an individual who is alive today.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nitpickers and Naysayers

Nitpickers and naysayers are part and parcel of any organization. These people are characterized by typical behavior patterns. It is crucial for one to learn to deal with the nitpickers and naysayers.

First and foremost, how does one figure out the nitpickers and naysayers present around? Here are some signals that can help one on this:
  • Such people would write emails with disparaging remarks about others and with the intent to show others down
  • Such people would write nasty emails starting with "I am surprised that this did not happen", "People are laughing at this", "I was just wondering what is the value add from this", etc.
  • Such people would react nastily to any changes in the schedule of an activity shared with them earlier with statements like "I am not a dustbin that gets moved from here to there just like that"
  • Such people would call you at the slightest of reason like someone requesting their team to help at the last moment
  • Such people will act nasty with anyone whom they perceive and think as more competent than themselves
  • Such people would be amongst the first ones to bring up reasons why something will not work at all

Cycle of Engagement – From Joining to Leaving

When one joins a new organization to take up a new position one is generally highly determined and brimming with energy to succeed. One willingly gives the best to help the organization achieve its objectives, especially those for which one is responsible, either directly or in some manner. The passion to succeed is a function of one’s degree of trust on the organization’s ability to help fulfill one’s own career success objectives.

Career success objectives in this context have following connotations, the list of course is not complete.
  • Involvement in pertinent decisions taken in the organization
  • Promotion to higher positions in the organizational hierarchy ladder
  • Increase in compensation and benefits aligned with market and performance
  • Opportunities to continuously develop professional competencies
The degree of fulfillment of the above objectives has strong influence on the degree of one’s engagement with the organization. And the level of engagement of an employee with the organization over the next many months, quarters and years is shaped by the extent to which the employee’s objectives are achieved.

When one realizes that further advancement and achievement in respect of the connotations listed above is not possible or becomes increasingly difficult or not at all under consideration by those in one’s line of upward reporting, the writing on the wall is clear. The process of disengagement initiates from this realization and for all practical purposes the employee resigns mentally. 

The employee would resign physically much later, after the employee starts looking out and gets a job offer in hand. This culminates eventually in the employee leaving and joining elsewhere. A new cycle starts thereafter.

Since an employee would essentially work for achieving one’s career success objectives while working with an organization, it is quite important to understand the linkage between organizational objectives and employee’s objectives.  Those in the management ranks in an organization who are aware of this constantly work on the psyche of the employees ‘who work in the trenches’ so as to keep them engaged and productive.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why Working in a Small Company is Not a Good Idea at all?

Many a times people switch from a bigger company to a smaller company and the reason could be very many. An analysis of the reasons would typically reveal the following drivers for such a switch:
  • One gets laid off from a bigger company and finding another similar position is difficult at another similar sized organization, this is all the more difficult at higher positions and senior designations.
  • One can't grow any further in the bigger company because of higher competition for available positions and reduced opportunities one would find as one moves upwards in the hierarchy.
  • One wants to take up higher responsibilities like handling a team, liaising with external agencies, etc. earlier than what would be probably possible in a bigger organization.
However, no sooner would one land in a smaller company, one would hit upon more intricate challenges. These challenges are important to be appreciated as they clearly indicate why working in a small company is not a good idea at all. Here are some such challenges:
  • One feels trapped in the current role and sees no potential to move vertically, at times compounded by the fact that the person in the higher role one is reporting into is totally incompetent and is there because of being a trusted lieutenant of the top man and a part of the old boys club. The phenomenon of old boys club is rampant in smaller companies and owing to that they are far away from being a professional organization.
  • One feels saturated in terms of the learning and growth opportunities and also sees many others lingering on in the organization (and many of them sadly because they have no chance of getting another job to move on). The canvas is simply small and one would have painted it all over in no time. Thereafter one has nothing significant to do and learn.
  • One feels frustrated by the big egos in the smaller company. Yes that's the most shocking reality, the long timers in a smaller company have egos bigger than the size of an elephant and despite being a frog in the well they live under the wrong notion that they are the best. Not only that, lack of experience of working at varied organizations comes up as a serious flaw in the long-timers as they have too narrow and unhealthy perspective. As compared to this, long timers in a bigger company have a much bigger canvas and hence a much broader and healthier perspective.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

When to Move out of an Organization

When to move out of an organization is the most important question every employee should constantly ask everyday, right from the very first day of joining that organization.

Just like any smart investor would sell off the stocks held at an opportune time, a smart employee should move on from the current job at an opportune time.

Here are some signs that can guide the decision on when to move out of an organization:
  • Career growth is not visible and may be entirely absent
  • Reporting is suffocating and not right and fair
  • Leadership team is like an old boys club, and not at all professional
  • Top leader is not ethical and has no vision

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