Sunday, November 30, 2014

Monday Musings 216 -The irrationality of quick change

Monday Musings 216 – The irrationality of quick change
The print and electronic media is filled with the 6 monthly report card of Mr. Modi. Every observer worth his ink and byte is adding his two bits on this subject. The general theme describes these 6 months as a lot of fan fare and blitzkrieg but not of much change on the ground. Many also consider Mr. Modi as lucky as some of the external factors like oil process have softened and so inflation control is not entirely his doing. Napoleon would have concurred because legend has it that when he used to recruit a general, apart from testing on skills of war he would also ask “but….is he lucky?”
I am more intrigued about general hurry everyone is in finding earth shattering change of nation correction within a span of 6 months, particularly when the mess took much longer to be created. I am not a big fan of Mr. Modi, his brand of politics and his persona per se, but this is not about him. I find similar theme at play in organizations very often.
A new manager in a team, a new leader in the function and a new executive in the organization are all burdened by the expectation of quick changes, overnight transformation and solving permanent and amicable solutions to longs standing problems, and to use a phrase used earlier, particularly when everyone realizes that the mess took far longer to create. Actually every time I see such a manager, leader and the chief executive, I feel sorry for him/her. I also believe it is grossly unfair to burden them with such unreasonable expectations even when they are already burdened by the onerous task at hand.
It is not difficult to understand why Mr. Modi on one hand and the manager/leader/executive on the other hand, carry that burden. Partly it is their own creation and partly they are at the receiving end of a fundamental human fragility. Since they come to power or chair on the promise of transformative change they are actually creating circumstances where people will judge them on the highest standard of delivery. In politics such promises are explicitly made, in organizations it is subtly hinted. The messiah metaphor is a burdensome cross to shoulder because messiahs are always under scrutiny in the salvation they deliver, and there is nothing more heartbreaking and disillusioning for the masses than to discover that gods they revered had feet of clay. Managers and leaders must be very careful in what they promise, explicitly and implicitly for if they raise expectations of the teams/functions/organizations they lead for correction, progress and change, they better deliver it. Hell hath no fury than a team disappointed!!
 The second reason is a fundamental human fragility which is perpetually in search of a messiah – someone who has the magical prowess of ridding him of all that ails his mundane existence. Most of us have problems and most of them have no clue what to do with them. Whenever someone comes with an idea of a promise, either of the Promised Land, or of salvation or of solving the organizational strategy problem – the reaction is the same. We prostrate to his messianic powers, even though they are alleged and unproved as yet. The heady lure of a solution can blind even the most rational and the most objective. The problems of the nation cannot be solved in 6 months is rationally known to everyone. The problems of a team/function/organization cannot be solved in a year is known to everyone. Human beings love the notion of a magic wand. There is a starry eyed kid in each one of us who wants someone to solve our problems, accumulated over years – pronto! Sometimes it is the parents who take the shape of such messiahs, sometimes politicians and in organizations it is the manager/leader/executive. Surely it is their job to correct things and let us hold them to the highest standards of delivery and scrutiny, but can we be at least fair to them and give them a fair time frame to solve what they have begun solving.  
Unreasonable time frame to show results because he was given a mandate for change and progress will make Mr. Modi commit errors – make him to focus on quick fixes and the tactical or manipulate results optically. The same happens when we give unreasonable time frames to managers/leaders/executive to ‘show results’. The pressure to show results in not always from the top, it is equally from the bottom when as team members we expect miracles from our leaders and to my mind the unreasonableness of this pressure for magical change from below is far more serious and damaging than the pressure from above.
Teams/functions/organization, like nations take time to correct and build. Let’s give Mr. Modi and our leaders in the function/organization that we work in, a fair time to make that change happen.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monday musings 215 - The Robot

Monday musings 215 - The Robot

(this is supposed to be tongue in cheek - i say this for reasons of political correctness and personal safety)
I had a moment of epiphany the other day and in the spirit of unity of 'man'kind i must share it with others. The usual asterisks apply, that any resemblance to living is purely coincidental and no effort must be undertaken to solve the mystery of who might have inspired the author to write his musings - for the truth is, it is collective wisdom of fellow passenger's, the closest example being a memoir written basis the shared experiences of fellow inmates of Guantanamo bay detention camps or Tihar. 

The epiphany is that the first robot, a device which impersonates a living being, obeys orders and behaves in a pre programmed manner, without any resort to intelligence, intention or individuality was actually a husband. The husband was actually a prototype of what got created in the last century to be called as a robot, experimented and improved upon for centuries in his ability to do as told, behave as directed and still be made to feel grossly inadequate in his ability to take orders and execute them properly - the operational word being 'properly'. 

Now let us explore the world of robots a a bit more. First and foremost, the primary job of a robot is to follow instructions, which are inbuilt into him while he is constructed, bit by bit. After he is wired, if he does not obey the program which is supposed to guide his behaviour, he is considered 'rogue'. He will be reconstructed again and again till the time he does not 'toe the line'. A normal robot is only the one who behaves as per the script - any deviation from the script makes him, what else - rogue, which will attract reprogramming or invasive corrective surgery. All those who have been or are husbands may find this 'process' familiar, but they are advised to to accept and talk about this familiarity only at their own risk. The author shall be preoccupied to manage his own risks once this blog is posted.

Over time the robots are perfected and improved by the use of technology and new inventions, which by the way means that the robots only become better in doing what they are told to do. Some will argue that over time husbands are also improved and perfected, in guess what - to do what is told to them, in the manner in which it is told to them, which incidentally in all assessments by their respective programmers, they always fail to do.

I researched this subject and anecdotal evidence suggests that respondents refused to be identified with their 'true views' on this subject citing personal safety and domestic harmony. I could not argue with such noble objectives and dispute the ultimate human instinct of self preservation. They also recommended caution to me while writing on this subject and highlighted virtues like endurance and the famous sports  motivational maxim 'no pain no gain'.

A last word on this subject - being a robot is not such a bad thing. It takes away the risk of being wrong all the time. Just keep following the program and you shall be such a 'sweet', well....errr...hmmm....robot. Before anyone accuses me of typecasting, stereotyping and the grossly unfair and rude comparison between the husband and the robot, let me add to my defence, the husband and the robot's life may after all may not be comparable. 

The Robot gets programmed only once. The program for the husband may undergo multiple changes, without notice, till he does not know which program to follow in that situation. Needless to say the one he chooses to always the wrong one. !!   

God bless the Robot


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Monday Musings 214 - The raconteur's dilemma

Monday Musings 214 - The raconteur's dilemma

As i see it, life makes sense only in retrospect. While its happening, the joys appear heady and unreal while grief, to borrow a phrase from someone i know, is like 'undergoing an operation without anasthesia'. One is so engrossed in dealing with both that making sense of it is the last thing on our mind, not that even if we tried it will truly make sense in most cases. 

Recently i tried to make sense of my journey and here are a few things i discovered about the process in general and myself in particular. The usual asterisks apply that this may not be 'applicable to all'. 

The first thing i realised is that the past looks hazy and details lost. The details i remember are only those that i have told and retold many number of times as a raconteur. Actually the version that i tell may have drifted a bit from the way things actually happened. The possibilities are both - i might overplay my struggles to glorify it or underplay it because 'i feel blessed to have overcome them'. Struggles are struggles only when we are going through them - when it all ends, they are mere memories. I realised that forgetfullness has become my ally. I wonder whether it is actually a good thing or not - for forgetfullness helps in dealing with the tribulations that left a scar, but it also makes you forget what gave immense joy and blessedness. Sometimes i envy those who remember every small thing about their growing up years or even what happened only a few years back. I have only have a vague memory, most details appear to be lost. 

The second thing i realised is that my propensity to talk about it is equally appalling. Although my self view on this subject is rather flattering, because i consider myself a fairly self aware person, who can do a thing or two in reaching out to his 'real motives' in a situation, but fall short about talking about it. The reasons i attribute to this inability, is not some psychotherapy mumbo jumbo (Ok ok, its a science - happy!) but because i am convinced of its futility. Forgetfullness provides me the capability of moving ahead. I know the limitation of this stance and the good news is that i am working on it. So the agreement i have with self is that i will talk about the past like a 'commentator' or an 'observer' - as if it was a story, written by someone else or a play that someone else acted on. This way i will retain equanimity, a balanced view of the past - neither glorifying my successes not overplaying my struggles. 

The third thing that i realised was how blessed i was. The story, despite its hiccups of the past has turned out quite well. Although recent scriptures say 'picture abhi baaki has mere dost', i assume they refer to only the blessings that are yet to come.