The traditional way of managing ebooks is by creating a hierarchy of directories by topic. If there is a book that is goes across topics, you either create a shortcut or copy the file over. Managing this can become a nightmare. After some time, we may have duplicates, and we do not know where they exist, as the file names could be different. If we are synchronising with e-book readers, you need some way of knowing which books are in which reader. We may also need to know if we have books by a certain author but catering to different subjects. It would be best if each file had tags associated with it. We may also want to have the book cover and other meta data associated with it.
I use a software called Calibre and its creator has come up with a portable variation. I can install this portable variation in my external hard disk and I become independent of my computer, as nothing has to be installed on the computer. Which means, I can plug my hard-disk to any machine and use my ebook management software.
Calibre also has plug-ins which allow you to search for duplicates. It can use different libraries and switch between them. You can also create your own columns for better database management. It can connect to a variety of readers and smartphones via USB. It also has news readers inbuilt into it.
Full disclosure: I do not get any revenue out of recommending this. This is free, and if you like it, you can donate. I do donate each year a certain amount.
Segmentation allows us to slice and dice the general population according to their capability to buy and according to their needs and wants. Needless to say, creativity in segmentation allows us to get massive gains. It allows us to create demand where supply is less, commanding higher prices. Segmentation allows us to focus our sales and marketing strategy, but the narrow focus may seem too restricting to some strategists.
We segment the recruiters in the basis of the specialisation. Another way of looking at it, we specialise based on this segmentation of our recruiters.
Horizontals become verticals
All specialisations can be treated as horizontal specialisations, wherein a person, performing a specific function, can be employed in any industry . That means that any company running operations, be it BPO or manufacturing, can employ an Operations MBA. Any company having an HR department will hire an HR MBA and any company having an in-house IT department would hire such an IT MBA.
Since companies outsource their internal functions, each of these outsourced functions are set up as organisations providing such services. Therefore a horizontal becomes an industry vertical. For example, HR recruitment firms help their clients recruit – which, earlier, was an in-house function. So a person specialising in HR can join any company in their HR department, or a company in the HR industry, providing HR services.
The same goes for Operations and Marketing.
Broad segments can be sub-segmented. Male Shavers can be sub-segment by age groups. All specialisations have sub-specialisations. HR can have Human Relations and Industrial Relations (factory or production set-up focussing on labour and wages, not knowledge workers and salaries). Another way of segmenting HR is by sub-processes like recruitment, payroll processing, policy design, policy implementation, appraisal implementation, downsizing (“Up in the Air” movie) and so on.
Operations can be segmented as manufacturing / product based operations or services based operations. In product operations you can have FMCG operations or Consumer Durables operations. Again, functionally, it can be Purchases, Supply chain, Distribution chain, Inventory management, Logistics…
Marketing can be segmented by Product category, Services category and by Sub-processes.
Finance has even more ramifications. You can have Corporate Finance which is Financial management in an organisation (typically done by the CAs), and related functions like Costing, audit etc. You can have sub-industries like Corporate Brokerage, Retail Brokerage, Investment Banking, Commercial Banking, Corporate Banking, Retail Banking, Rural Banking. You can have operations processes like Sales and Relationship Management, Front office Operations, Back office Operations, Risk and Middle office Function, Settlement, Cash Management, Custody, Reconciliation, Treasury Management etc.
IT was and still is a horizontal function, and has slowly got outsourced into the huge IT industry. This can be segmented into software and hardware. Within software, you have services – low end services like body shopping firms hiring out programmers, project based programming. You can have software product development and sales and implementation support.
In hardware / networks you can have design and development of products, implementation and support. You can sell boxes like PCs etc, or infrastructure, or services like storage services and so on. The various modes of segmentation is left to the imagination.
You can have higher-end services like design of IT services, Business Process Modelling, setting of ERP, CRM-type enterprise level software. You can act as interfaces between the users and the developers both to gather requirements and to test the applications. As MBAs, since you have knowledge of business functions, you should know more than the average programmer.
You may get involved in high end consulting, preparing a company for the internet world, set up internet marketing, blogs, websites etc.
How do we decide what is the right specialisation for us?
The convenient way is to ask: where do I get the most money, the best growth prospects and a branded company my parents can be proud of. Seniors, alumni and well-wishing relatives and uncles / aunts abound, justifying their existence and their specialisations. Some give good, thoughtful advice, the rest shoot from the hip.
The other way is to look at your traits and determine what is the right specialisation. “I am a peoples’ person, so I should do marketing or HR”. “Most women go for HR.” “I am good at numbers so I should do finance” – so is a cheap calculator good at numbers.
Another way is to ask what it takes to succeed in an industry? What traits and what skills? Find out an ideal candidate profile for each type of a job in terms of attitude, transferable skills and subject matter expertise. Then determine whether you have them, or can you acquire them. The subject matter expertise determines your specialisation. The others you need to acquire assiduously through other means.
In any conflict situation, we immediate attribute the cause of the problem to a defect in personality.
If there is a fight between you and me, you will blame my personality or my disposition (“You never listen!”) not the situation causing the distraction. If a professor is strict in class, the students will label the professor a “Changez Khan”, not the situation which caused the professor to behave strictly. If your experience with a company is bad, you will attribute it to the company, not the situation. If a child has behaved badly, we ask, “What is wrong with you?” instead of asking “What made you do this?” We blame the person, not the situation.
On the other hand, if I have a fight with you, I will justify my loud voice to the situation, not to a defect in my personality. If I am strict in a group meeting, I will blame the situation, not my disposition. If I am the person from the company, I will blame the situation, not the company. A child will say, “He made me do this…I am not like this!”
So there is always a bias in judging a situation. We tend to take one data point and make a generalisation about the person. We then use that generalisation to predict all future interactions. If you have a bad experience in your college or your company, you will attribute it to the college or company, and then generalise all future interactions about that college (‘Don’t send you children there, it is a bad college!”) or the company (“Don’t join that company, or buy its products – it is a bad company!”)
But if you were part of that college, you would say, “There is nothing wrong with the college, the situation with that student was bad!” or if you were part of the company, you would say, “He could not adjust to the culture” or “One batch of products was bad, we have instituted better quality control!”
This phenomenon is called Fundamental Attribution Error, and is a basis of most social interactions. It is fundamental because this phenomena (attribution to “personality” for others and attribution to “situation” for self) cuts across cultures, time and geography.
Our mental models are created because of this. When we observe an incident and jump to a conclusion, that conclusion is typically a generalisation of the personality (“All men are dogs!”), rather than an attribution to the situation. We therefore tend not to give the benefit of doubt. We then tend to justify this attribution by selecting those examples that support our position.
Knowing that we have this “observation bias”, should we not ask, “What situation led to this?” which may allow you to do a root cause analysis, rather that jump to a generalisation? Do we really have all the data to jump to conclusions that it is a personality defect?
Yesterday, one of my ex-students, after watching a skit performed by the current students, which denigrated a Hindu deity, expressed his anguish at the denigration and his apprehension that if the video of this performance was uploaded to Youtube, it may have negative repercussions.
Today I was reading about the Jaipur Literature Festival and the Rushdie ‘tamasha’.
- Have we lost tolerance? The survival of Hinduism happened because of its ability to assimilate other perspectives. In fact, most religions that that have survived and are currently acceptable, are those that have adjusted their viewpoints. Fundamentalism and right-wing attitudes have equal and opposite reactions and create more polarisation of society.
- Is not acceptance of a situation a starting point to solutions? Only when we move from Denial to Anger to Acceptance that we can move towards solutions. Why are we not able to accept and something has happened, and then move on to prevention or mitigation? Why do we stay shocked, deny what happened or remain angry?
- Have we lost our sensitivity? Should we not, before embarking on an action, determine who will be impacted, both in the short term and in the longer term? The students verified with me whether mimicking me on stage was acceptable (because of an immediate fear) but did not verify whether vilifying a Hindu god was okay!
- Have we lost the courage to speak our mind? Do we no longer have the freedom of expression? Is this freedom being misused? Who or what determines misuse? Does our fear emanate from the recent phenomenon where bullying is the first line of offence? Are we becoming a generation of bullies?
I teach people to face fear. I exhort them to treat F.E.A.R as an acronym – “Face Everything And Recover”. But I will be frank, even I am fearful. In this situation, I shall desist from putting up the video for public display because of the potentially negative impact on the institution that hosted the plays.
But I am ashamed of the fact that I am displaying cowardice and hiding behind prudence as a rationalisation of my cowardice.
In our parents’ time, joining the public sector ensured job security and perpetual employment (till retirement). Most of our parent’s generation stuck to one company throughout their working life. The economy was stable and upheavals were rare and contained.
During my time, multinational firms were the rage and we would stick with a company for a minimum of 3 years, and changed jobs maybe 6-10 times in a career spanning 40 years. During the mid life crisis, we would contemplate an alternate career maybe in the social sector or the entrepreneur bug would bite us. The economic upheavals were more frequent, and the impact could create job deficits and layoffs. However, most organisations still believed in 3-5 year plans. We could also sense the trends and change our profile accordingly to remain employed
In the next generation of employees, the economic upheavals will be more frequent and the impact on the jobs would be more severe.
- Organisations cannot come up with a strategy beyond a year, as the trend cannot be predicted, due to disruptions of technology and the economy as well as ‘black swans’
- Companies will therefore start projects in marketing, sales and production and then shut them down if the expected results do not come through or if there is a cash crunch
- Companies will outsource most of the humdrum activities like payroll, administration, even some aspects of sales and production, if these activities do not have any competitive advantage or are commoditised with no value-add
- There will be more inorganic growth by mergers and acquisitions
- Companies need to have flexibility in size and operations. This means that the workforce will always have a mix of permanent employees and consultants
We will therefore sometimes be unemployed and sometimes work as a consultant. Reality is that no company can guarantee permanent employment nor are they compelled to. If the market is down and the supply of MBAs is large, we have to accept what is given, else our pride will keep us unemployed.
This creates psychological issues, as our beliefs are governed by our parents’ beliefs – that permanent employment is good. There is a stigma attached to temporary jobs or being a consultant.
We have to accept that we may not get permanent employment. Acceptance is important and allows us to move on.
We should therefore:
- Invest in government backed investments like Public Provident Fund for long term capital creation
- Create and keep a stash equal to one year’s salary as an emergency fund
- In our CV, focus on what we know, learnt and achieved, not what designations we held
- Be ready to change jobs and locations, leaving the family behind
- Invest in skills that can provide additional employment including transferable skills
- Create and use skills that can keep you self-employed (be it music, teaching or something…) and keep the home fires burning, children’s education taken care of
- Be mentally prepared to move sideways, not necessarily upwards
- Build and maintain your network
Today, a close friend of mine expressed anguish at the following incident.
Yesterday, he learnt of the death of his sister’s father-in-law. He was close to the deceased gentleman and they had spent many moments together solving crosswords and discussing other similar mysteries of life. He went over to his sister’s house and started helping with the arrangements for the funeral – ambulance, priest, death certificate, calling friends and relatives…
Meanwhile, he received phone calls from his workplace and from other persons who had professional things to discuss with him. With each person, he started his conversation by stating that he was in the midst of funeral arrangements of a close relative. Almost all persons, after saying something like, “Oh I see…,” carried on regardless, stating their case and discussing whatever they had called up for.
My friend, being the polite gentleman he is, discussed their case with them.
Subsequently, he expressed his wonder and bewilderment that, apart from one person, no one commiserated with him or showed any sensitivity towards the occasion or his emotions.
We see similar parallels in our life. I too am guilty of the same. I sometimes ask the other person whether it is a good time to talk. But other times, because I need the counterparty’s help or advice, I plough on regardless. I sometimes think that I will not take much time, but lose the sense of time when immersed into the details of my problem.
It may be difficult but do consider that over the last 24 hours, you may have superimposed your will on others, who have been polite enough not to tell you to “take a long jump off a short pier”.
It is very difficult to share our feelings.
We have been taught and conditioned to “keep a stiff upper lip” or as the Greek philosophers said – be a stoic. Sometimes we are afraid to share our feelings – people may think we are weak, or cry-babies. There may also be retaliation, or someone may exploit our weakness.
Bottling up our feelings leads to a venting – not gradually – but explosively, impacting a lot of people around us.
A part of emotional intelligence is to learn that speaking about your feelings can be as effective as acting out our feelings, without the negativity. For example, telling a child, “I am angry” may be effective enough, without shouting or slapping him. Tell a professor that you understand that he is irritated may be better than arguing with him.
Before the internet happened, sharing our feelings was one-to-one. You could call someone and talk, or you could write a letter. This meant that our support circle would be limited in scope and in the promptness of response. Till that time, we would feel that we were alone and without support.
With the ‘Net, the ability to broadcast our feelings and to get instant support has improved. Needless to say, it has its drawbacks – people can misuse it. If you are venting against a person, that person can retaliate and so on. But if you share your feelings, without relating the instance, you may get a lot of positive support that helps you feel that you have a lot of support and people understand how you feel.
A support circle helps. To that extent, blogging can help. The following article mentions the same point.
I know that I am supposed to do a particular activity like an assignment, or study a book or write letters. But I tend to postpone these indefinitely, citing various excuses.
Charles Handy talks about 3 things that are required in the motivational calculus.
- I should know my needs. These can be the need for security, for money, food, clothing and shelter, or need for companionship, or need for approval, or a need to fulfill my debt to various people.
- I should know the result of which activity would satisfy these all or some of these needs.
- I should have the energy or the resources (money, time etc.) to spend on those activities.
The above are multiplicative. That is, if any of the three is not there, I would not be motivated.
If I do not know my needs, then no activity would motivate me.
If I do not have the energy or the resources, then I cannot finish the activity satisfactorily.
If I do not know how to satisfy my needs, then I will not be motivated.
Therefore, I have to link the activity (that I dislike) to a need. For example, if I fear that I will fail a course, and therefore have a need to pass it and get rid of my fear, I can link an assignment to that need. If I need the approval of my colleagues, and the distasteful activity will satisfy that need, then I will try to do the activity.
Whether I finish the activity or not is based on the resources at hand. If I do not have the time, or I delayed it so much that I cannot possibly finish, then I am not motivated to do the activity, even if I know that the activity will satisfy a need.
The same principle holds good for motivating others. If I do not know the needs of another person, I cannot offer him an activity, the result of which would satisfy the needs.
If I do know his needs and I can link it to an activity that I want him to do, and I provide him with the means and resources (including training) to do that activity, the person will be motivated.
Remove any of the three (needs, activity or resources) and there will be no motivation.
While teaching strategy, I debunk most of the strategies like BCG, Porter, etc. For that matter, I debunk most of what has been taught. Students are then confused. Why did we study them?
Why did we learn to ride the bicycle? To learn the concept of freedom, of balance and road sense. This led to the mo-bike and later, the 4 wheeler. Each step taught us something more.
Failure at each step taught us what not to do – and what to do – to be effective. Reading a book on “driving a motor cycle” does not teach us to drive one.
Santayana famously talked about those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Management as a science (arguable!) started with Mr. Drucker and then evolved in a meandering fashion through scientific taylorism, then behavioural, then back to science via deming and co. and back again. Unless we look at this history, and the application of management thought in real life, and learn from their failures, how do we know what works, why, when and how and more importantly what does not?
Mintzberg said that all theories of strategy are like the story of 6 blind men and the elephant. Each has its perspective, but unless we learn to synthesize, we cannot get insights. Speaking of insights, most creativity comes because of our past experience. The MBA program gives you the experience of many, who passed before us.
More importantly, studying creates a certain discipline, a rigor of sitting on a table and thinking, of postponing instant gratification to do assignments and study, a sense of gratitude to those parents who paid our way though college…it creates a work ethic and teaches us professionalism.
That is why we study.
For that matter, why do people do anything? De Becker talks about 4 things.
- Justification: we make a judgement that we have been wronged, hence we need to retaliate. If we think about it, we have justified each of our actions (or inaction). Sometimes we say it was necessary or unavoidable. Sometimes, we assume an impact which may or may not really happen.
- Alternatives: typically, violence seems to be the only alternative. This comes out of a lack of emotional control, where we are so much into the emotion that we cannot perceive any other option.
- Consequences: whether we can live with the consequences of the act. In fact, if we are afraid of further retaliation, we may not act.
- Ability: do we have the confidence to use our body or a substitute (knife, gun or another person) to achieve the results.
When we talk about motivating others, the justification is the end result (either we want to avoid the pain or go towards pleasure) or what we want to get the person to do.
How we achieve the end result, are our alternatives. As a manager, we need to understand the other person’s justification and then come up with alternatives. We may then choose the right alternative. However, in general, we choose the first or the emotionally satisfying one.
Typically people stop at this level of analysis and start to act. But a good manager would think of the following also:
Will the action guarantee the consequence? What about other unintended consequences? This requires a certain experience.
Are we capable of doing this action? Intention and the selection of the most ideal alternative do not guarantee execution, if we do not have the skills and the experience.
Most motivational tactics fail, because without execution capability, they is only wishful thinking.
Suppose we wish to make people in the team work.
- The justification is the result of the the team work. Whether team members buy into the result will determine if they will contribute. The result may not be important if it is not important to a person. finding what a person wants and linking the result of the team effort to this ‘want’ requires a certain creativity.
- What can we tell a person so that he is convinced that he should do the work allotted to him. Maybe it is not the right work, because he perceives it demeaning. Maybe he thinks that you have given some one else the work that he wants to do, and that you are playing favorites.
- Does the person believe that the work he is supposed to do will have the right consequences? If you promise him that it will, but he does not have confidence in you, then he will not do it, even if he has the capability.
- And lastly, are you sure he can do this work?
Suppose we wish to change our job.
- We justify the change of job – the boss is not good, the company is not good, the work has changed etc.
- We look for alternative jobs – and here we indulge in a lot of wishful thinking and peer comparison.
- We check of the short list of jobs will have the right consequences in terms of peer approval, money and prestige.
- We do not typically, look at our capability in doing that job because we are focused on the job profile, not our capability.