Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Jelly-fishy Day!

Picked it up from a forum... Love it!
Hi Sue,

Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother. Last week I had a bad day at the office.I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all.
Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job. As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wetsuit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel-powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea, heats it to a delightful temperature, then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose which is taped to the air hose.

Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints. What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wetsuit. This floods my whole suit with warm water. It's like working in a Jacuzzi. Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my bum started to itch.So, of course, I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my bum started to burn!I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it. However, the crack of my bum was not as fortunate. When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my bum.

I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, were all laughing hysterically. Needless to say I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totalling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my bum as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't poo for two days because my bum was swollen shut.

So, next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your arse. Now repeat to yourself, I love my job, I love my job, I love my job. Remember whenever you have a bad day, ask yourself, is this a jellyfish bad day?

May you NEVER have a jellyfish bad day!!!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rishta - Unka Hamaari Peedha Se - Part 3

Continuing the Peedha and More Peedha, because of trackers, here's another one by 'The Sun'...

Toh mere sahyogiyon... kya badh gaya hai trackeron kay prati aapka pyar?

Sab apney apney sessions mein hain involved.
Kar rahein hai apni apni employees ko evolve?
Kabhi coaching to kabhi mentoring par hum de rahein hai gyaan..
Mr. K key dashboards par bhi hai humein abhimaan!

Bus kya karien inkey data requests say hi lagtaa hai dar..
HC recon kartey kartey jayegi hamaari zindagi guzar..
Palat kar dekha to ho rahi thee nayey praniyon ki entry..
MA, SMA ban gayey HR team ke centre of gravity..

Bas aagey kya bolein...
Humein hai aapkey inputs ka besabri sey intezaar..
Dissappoint mat karo yaar!
To which I responded :
Aur trackers hamare liye gaayenge...
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you.

And those who can't live without them...

Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it's you I can't replace
Oh trackers, can't you see
You belong to me

Jo trackers se Karen pyaar, woh MS excel se kaise kare inkaar?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Ode to Mumbai Local Trains

We Mumbaikars (I may be in Tamland married in Malluland but I sure am a Mumbaikar and will remain so, all my life) spend a lot of time discussing the 3:26 Virar Fast, the 5:44 Borivili Double Fast, the 10:26 Kurla Harbour local, 11:09 Dombivili Fast, because, to a large extent, our life depends on these local suburban trains. Don't ever mention the word peak hour. On the suburban trains, every hour is peak hour, including ek challis ki last local from Churchgate. The activity at the Churchgate and Victoria (Chatrapati Shivaji) Terminus stations, with a fully packed train arriving or leaving every two minutes, amazes me. The sea of humanity outside Dadar station every evening could be frightening. But it shows what the trains mean to us.

The experience of traveling in a Mumbai local can range from exhilarating, frustrating and occasionally frightening. There are times, with each train carrying more than five thousand passengers rather than the intended fifteen hundred when I wondered how I got into the crowded coaches and how I managed to get out. But then you miss out a lot of Mumbai life if you do not travel by the suburban trains.

I learnt a lot about life in the city from the trains. During peak hours, there was hardly any difference between the first class and the second class coaches. Even with millions travelling, almost everyone possessed a ticket or a pass. Unmindful of discomfort, the passengers chatted, gossiped, played cards and sang bhajans. I learnt a lot from their chatter. I got the latest twist in the Ambani power struggle and received tips on how to make rasam and appam from the South Indian lady passengers. The most heated discussions invariably took place during the elections or a cricket match when the fortunes of the parties or the teams were debated. And if you are a regular viewer of the K-serials and if you’ve missed the previous evening’s telecast, there’s no better place to catch up than the local trains.

Part of the education of commuting was rushing in first and trying to grab the window seat. The seat can accommodate three passengers comfortably but a fourth one invariably nudges and tries to squeeze in. Well, all you can do is glare at her and mutter something and hope she would away. But typically, you would get into the same situation the next day. saying - zaara adjust kar lo!

Commuting at leisure can lead to rumination. I used to wonder at the romance of station names like Cotton Green, King's Circle, Sandhurst Road, Santa Cruz and the harshness of desi station names like Chinchpokli or Ghatkopar. I remember hearing fashionable Christian girls pronouncing Kandivili as "Candyville" rhyming with Pleasantville, a New York suburb. Speaking of girls, it was the general belief that girls on the Western Railway were prettier and more fashionably dressed than the ones commuting by the Central. Don't ask me why! But then watching the Ladies Specials on both the Railways made one forget about glamour; the women pushed and barged in with a ferocity which would put male commuters to shame. Did anyone say weaker sex? For the timid, getting into and off a Mumbai train is close to a life altering experience. Engulfed in a sea of humanity, the hapless commuter just flows with the tide. Getting off crowded trains will redefine the meaning of personal space for you. The rides are so crowded that people even take the train in the opposite direction to one of the ends of the lines -- just so they can try and get a seat when the train turns around!

So what are the rules of commuting? The unwritten ones are :

1. No baggage Rule : There's just no space and in rush hours, either you get in sans the luggage or stay out!

2. Getting Off Rule : Stand near the door, atleast one stop away from your destination in empty compartments and in case your station is among the next three upcoming ones, do not even venture near a seat.
It is common for passengers near to tap each other’s shoulders asking for their destination. These people aren’t (usually) serial stalkers; they’re looking to position themselves for the 10-second window during which they can exit.

3. Seat Reservation Rule :
If you want to sit, stand in between the 3-seaters and ask the seated passengers 'Kaha uttarna hai' (Where do you want to alight?) If their destination is before yours, you point to yourself, then to him/her. A head bob from the seated party seals the deal, and your bum will soon be riding in style.

4. Helping-Hand Rule : You must, with the aid of your fellow passengers, scoop a passenger running towards the doorway
.Everyone works together to get you on the train before it departs.

5. Sharing Rule :
Newspapers are public goods in the Mumbai trains. If you don’t like people reading over your shoulder, then catch up on the latest Satyam development at your breakfast table. If you are reading newspaper in the train, you need to share it with atleast 3 of your co-passengers.

In Mumbai, local trains are the heart and soul of the city. It breathes life into Mumbai at the break of dawn and cradles the city to sleep, if only for a few hours. It truely is the lifeline. No other city, I know of, has such a plethora of people inter-mingling at one place and sharing moments of their lives together, even if it only is for a few hours.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Corporate Theatre

I have learnt the concept of training during my post-graduation course and have implemented it at various occasions in my work-life. I have also got trained by various methodologies in the last few years. But this was my first exposure to Corporate Theatre and training through the theatre methodology and what a refreshing experience it was...

This was the introduction sheet to the training :

Dress Code: Absolutely Informal. Wear something loose and comfortable that will allow sitting, lying, or rolling on the floor. (Rolling on the floor - was this corporate training or some kid's workshop?) Ladies are advised to avoid Saris as they inhibit free movement.

Bring nothing with you - no notebooks, pads, or pens. Note-taking is strictly forbidden.

Footwear to be left outside the hall. Along with footwear, participants are requested to leave adult personalities, seniority, designations, and hierarchy, outside. Whatever is needed from among these can be retrieved on the way back after the workshop. (I completely loved this statement).

Bring cameras along. You will catch yourselves and each other in amazing postures and costumes and with unbelievable expressions that you may find difficult to replicate afterwards. You will want to preserve them for posterity and show it to parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren down the years. However don't expect them to believe it is YOU !! (This really intrigued my imagination!)

When I read this as a prelude to a training program I was scheduled to attend later in the week, I was sure about one thing : it would not be the conventional training programs that I've been used to.

When I entered the hotel and was ushered to the Training Center, I was surprised to find that there were no chairs, no projectors, laptops - not even a whiteboard or a flip-chart. Instead, there were mattresses and bolsters along the three walls at one end of the hall. All chairs were stacked in one corner. And the participants were stretched out comfortably on the mattresses and bolsters, casually chatting with each other. The atmosphere was warm and if I may add, very homely!

Mr. Paul Mathew, the trainer, came across as someone who was really passionate about theatre and his entire life was dedicated to this sole passion. He emphasized the basic learning principles on which the "Corporate Theatre" methodology is based:

1. Learning happens best in the 'child' state : In the 'adult' state, one has most of the answers, very few questions. Made a lot of sense. Have you heard any kid say / think : What will my mom / dad / teacher / friend think of me if I ask them this question? They are free from the 'looking good' mentality and hence are open to a huge amount of learning - their curiosity for learning and inconsideration towards 'What-Will-Others-Think' attitude, fosters an immense speed , gamut of exposure and assimilation of knowledge. As we grow, we get into a lot of complexities and our inhibitions and ego that we already know so much stop us from asking questions and thus our learning becomes lesser and lesser.

2. No one can train another : The onus is on the learner. Unless the learner chooses to learn, learning does not take place. True, isn't it? Until and unless you want to learn, you may be present at the workshop physically but me mentally absent.

3. One person's knowledge need not be relevant to another : Learning is best when each one gets in touch with their own wisdom. This I completely relate to. The 'Aa-ha' moment comes when a particular point sticks on to you since you can relate to it from your past experiences. The other participants also hear the same lines but they may not get impacted the way you do. And then no amount of note-taking is necessary. It remains with you long after the sessions are done.

4. Transformation is the most immediate and direct result of learning : If there is no transformation, there has been no learning. This sums up any training program. Change and learning are essential to training and if there is positive transformation, even in a small measure, the training has impacted you.

The training was competely an activity based methodology and we did various group tasks, the finale being, using basic artcles like chart paper, bed sheets, felt pens etc, to create a scene which would not have dialogues but we would freeze, on the count, and basis our expressons, arrangement of the props etc, the other groups would have to guess what we were portraying.

My biggest learning out of this workshop was that, a diverse group of people, from various walks of life, can play up to their strengths and keeping their individual ego aside, work with single minded focus so that the team wins. Individuals didn't have to be complete in themselves but the team neede to be, by playing up to each individual's strengths.

Paul stretched this concept of teamwork into the way we use Performance Appraisals in our workplaces.
He stressed on the fact that an incorrect appraisal system could make people compete against each other in an unhealthy way rather than collaborating to work towards team goals.

Differentiation is key in team appraisals, on the lines of what I had discussed in my post 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. But the process should be such that if the team loses, no one gets rewarded, no matter how well they have individually performed. If the team succeeds in iys objective, everyone gets amply rewarded. And here, the winning team will differentiate its performers into top, middle and bottom.

Over a couple of cycles of appraisal, this will ensure that the Team weeds out the non-committed far more ruthlessly than a 'boss' can do it. Only those who can and want to contribute, are tolerated by a natural Team. When the Team does the rating, there is no perceived unfairness or injustice. It is not one person's appraisal. And unless a Team is 'suicidal' the rating will be ruthlessly fair. If not, they realize that ultimately everyone loses.

As I have said earlier, only a robust Performance Management System can build credibility in the process. There are various ways to differentiate and this is one of the ways.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I Know What's On Your Mind!!!

News has emerged from Google’s offices that should send a shiver down every employee’s back (and make Human Resources jump with joy). Google, concerned by the recent departures of several top executives, has developed an algorithm to try to identify which employees are likely to quit, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The algorithm would crunch “data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula” and would show which of its employees were the most likely to quit soon. Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources for Google, told the Journal the algorithm helps the company "get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave."

This algorithm has huge potential - a boon of sorts to HR. Imagine its powers. Catch employees going away on holidays too often or falling sick time and again, take his ratings, promotions and pay histories and presto : you know whether he is headed to the hospital or on his way out of your company. HR's job and primary KRA (Key Responsibility Area) will now become what Sherlock Holmes and our very own Byomkesh Bakshi did - track, follow, pursue, shadow and nab the traitors! Loyal employees who are dedicated and trusty have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. But the plotting, calculating, conniving and devious ones - Beware!

How many times have you bumped into your bosses, super-bosses and the Company CEO's and MD's and have been casually asked : So, how are you finding the company? And how many times have you answered with all the earnestness and emphasis in your command : It's going absolutely great, Sir. I totally love my job. Do we really have to follow a Light's Out policy at 8PM and no work on Sundays? I could get so much more done if I were allowed to stay the nights and work on weekends (while your mind is conjuring up pleasant images of your seniors' faces on your favorite dartboard and you hitting bulls eye and yelling - I hate you, your freaking job and your stupid company. If I could, I'd write out my resignation letter and throw it on your face. After I am gone, I hope your work suffers, you get demoted / pink-slipped and you feel cold, alone and uncared for, just as I have). But do you say this? Nope! You play your cards close to your heart, smile broadly, look happy and lie through your nose. Convincingly. Repeatedly.

So will you now get caught by the HR Under-cover Agents if you even just think of lying? Thankfully, the answer, for now, seems to be No. People Management magazine reported that the chances of Google commercially releasing the quitter finder algorithm were dim. A spokesman for Google clarified that, “The development of HR algorithms is not our core business”.

However, fore-warned is fore-armed. You are behind enemy lines and are constantly being watched.

After all, the New HR Mantra is :

Every breath you take / Every move you make / Every bond you break / Every step you take

I’ll be watching you.

Every single day / Every word you say / Every game you play /Every night you stay

I’ll be watching you.

Every move you make / Every vow you break / Every smile you fake/Every claim you stake

I’ll be watching you