Monday, October 4, 2021

Just Be Yourself

 "We were just discussing in the staff room, and we all feel inspired by you!" said the IIM-A professor in my one to one interaction with him at the end of the Management Development course I was attending.

I was flabbergasted. I was at the premier management institute in India and here to be inspired by the greats. Why were they saying they were inspired by me? As he went on to enunciate what he meant, I realized that all you have to do to inspire people around you is just be yourself.

One incident that stuck in his mind was how I returned to the hostel one day at 5.30 am and met him while he was on his morning walk. He was convinced I would not make it to the 8.30 am class that day, but did not say anything. Yet, there I was at 8.30, after a short power nap in my room, on the front bench, keeping my eyes open and participating in the class. For me, it was nothing out of the usual. It was the month of Ramadan and that was a night long prayer session that I had attended in the last week of the holy month. Something I had been doing all my life, ever since I can remember.

That made me realize that you do not have to do super human feats to inspire people. The only thing you need to do is just be yourself. Your daily routine, your work ethics, your philosophy of life, which you consider as an ordinary thing, may be something inspirational for someone else. Just be there for people. That is sometimes enough.

This is also a great step towards self acceptance. We all have some flaws, but it is important to focus on the positive things we do. That is most likely what we also project to people around us. You don't need to be perfect. Just being real is enough. If we are true to ourselves, that itself could be a shining light for someone.

When approached for advice, we may even feel internally - am I qualified to advise someone on this? What is important is maybe just to listen to people. It is possible that all they needed to come to a decision was to verbalize the problem and options.

You might be surprised at the difference you make doing regular things. Just showing up consistently to your various routines makes the world go around with better vibes than it would have without you.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The difference between 'Giving Up' and 'Letting Go'

The pursuit of goals often blinds us to all else happening around us. It is like driving down a highway at max speed where your line of vision is restricted to just the lane markers going by. Such unsustainable effort in one direction will only lead to a burn out or a crash. 
How do you 'clean up' your old goals, desires, passions and what is the difference between 'Giving Up' and 'Letting Go'?
Read the complete blog on

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Learning Win-Win from a waiter in Thailand

I was in Bangkok for a business meeting with a European client on the sidelines of a conference. We met in the lobby of the five star hotel. This was more than a decade back and smoking bans in public places were not yet ubiquitous. The client fished out a cigarette and as the waiter was serving us coffee, he asked as a formality, "Can I smoke?".

Read what happens next on my linked in post -

Friday, February 5, 2016

Changing mind-set for Agility using Scrum

Adopting agility and scrum in IT projects is more about changing mind-sets. The practices and processes will follow. If your organization is moving from waterfall to scrum you will mostly find the Project Managers are renamed to Scrum Masters and work carries on as usual. This renaming is not enough.

Read the complete blog on

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Move over Big Data - LCD is here

So, LCD is an acronym for Little Connected Data. I have been fascinated by the perception changes caused by connecting little bits of data. The uncovering of these new meanings in little data can lead to huge insights in customer behavior in a local, social, online or offline setting. Something which Big Data endeavors to reproduce by looking in a similar manner at huge amounts of data.
Little Connected Data
Big Data or Little Connected Data?
Read the complete blog on

Friday, September 20, 2013

The utility of consensus

When teams choose to work together they need to commit to the betterment of the team leading in consequence to a betterment of their individual situations. This commitment towards the best interests of the team is what leads to teamwork and is a key element for achieving consensus.

Earlier I had written about situations where it is futile to seek consensus. When it is necessary to take some quick, hard decisions, a tough leader (think Welch, Jobs etc.) has no business building consensus. But tough times don't last and crisis is not an everyday phenomenon. If it is, then it is better to take a hard close look at your business model and dynamics.

In Business As Usual times it is far more advantageous to actively build consensus as part of your leadership strategy. While in the previous article we saw a study of futility of consensus, let us examine here the utility of consensus.

  • Write your own lottery ticket - When your team decides what they want to do, instead of being told what to do, they have a personal stake in the outcome. As a leader your job is to lay out the larger vision, while letting the team carve out the mission for themselves. Writing your own lottery ticket was an experiment performed in studying human behavior.  In this experiment, half the room was given printed lottery tickets while half the room was given blank papers and asked to write their own random six digits to make up a lottery. Before drawing the results, the researchers tried to buy back the lottery tickets by bidding for them. Guess what? The people who had written their own numbers were more reluctant (five times more reluctant as per the research) to part with their tickets, even though they had exactly the same probability of winning the jackpot as those who had been given printed numbers.  
  • A convinced team is a committed team - Even where the leaders like Jobs or Welch were seen to be autocratic in their approach, they had a larger than life reputation preceding them, which made teams want to tag along with their decisions. This conviction of the team in your abilities cannot always be presumed by all leaders. A bad year or a failed business decision is likely to erode your dictatorial powers pretty quickly. We had Groupon CEO Andrew Mason stepping down on the back of a ruining financial quarter and plunging share prices. In his open letter to employees he says "... My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers."  That says it all, doesn't it?
  • Et tu Brutus! - You may be able to pull rank on your team and get them to agree to certain decisions. You cannot make them deliver the success you envisioned if you had the super human capabilities of carrying out all the actions themselves. An unwilling team led into a battle they are not sure they will win, or even want to win, will either desert the ranks or find ways of sheltering themselves by simply going through the motions. It is far better to have the team solidly behind your ideas by listening to them and adapting the plans to what the team feels is the best way to achieve success. That buy in from the team, while costly in terms of timelines and compromises to the original goal, is what will guarantee a do or die attitude to achieving the goals the team has set for themselves. 

One of the pitfalls to avoid is faux-consensus. This is a false feeling of consensus based on team's sign offs on paper while in reality, doubts still linger. Often leaders will get teams into a room and lay out the 'what' they want to achieve and ask the team to come with 'how' they will achieve it. Larger teams often are broken into cross functional groups and asked to brainstorm on the 'how'. What emerges is a purely academic exercise with no clear ownership or buy in for the action items assigned to this team.

What is necessary is for the team to first deliberate on the 'what' agree on a common imperative they all feel is worth achieving. If this goal can be signed off by the team with commitments of timeline and individual ownership towards goal breakdown items, the 'how' can be left to the teams to work out over time as they proceed working on the goal.

It is to be noted that majority agreement is not consensus. Consensus is when everyone agrees to the common goal. This means arriving at a solution where diverse views and agendas have been addressed everyone feels there is something for him  in the end result. Such a result is indeed likely to be robust and may turn out to be far better than the original idea.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Agile Journey

I will be speaking at the Scrum Gathering India in Pune this Friday - 26th June 2013, about the components of a successful agile journey based on my experiences in Agile and Scrum. It will be exciting to address this gathering after two years of conducting Agile and Scrum Fundamental classroom training and hope to bring forth a view from the accomplishments of scrum projects executed.

My session is part of the 'Scrum Accomplished - Inspire 3' track from 1230 to 1330.

The discussion will cover Agile Maturity Models assessing readiness of organizations to be agile, the various metrics and more interestingly the non-metrics used to get a view of where we are and where we want to be on the agile journey.

How to select projects for scrum at various stages of the journey and finding the secret sauce for successful scrum forms part of the agenda. This is topped up with a discussion around the Scrum values and how we can relate to them in our quest.