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5 Steps to Bridge the Strategy- Execution Gap

Businesses are implementing increasingly intricate strategies to survive, succeed and generate real value in today’s competitive global markets. But even if a business defines most brilliant strategies by carefully examining the market and technology trends – the battle is only half won. Because if these strategies are not put into action and executed accurately – they are worthless.

It’s easy to spend hours and hours for articulating a good strategy but that doesn’t mean a thing if it is not backed up with actions.

More than 80% of organizations will have a great strategy at one end of the planning gamut and execution process at the other. Why? Because executing a strategy is an uphill struggle.

Many leaders have a blind spot in the execution area- believing that their job is only to set direction and execution is the responsibility of lower-level managers. But strategy and execution are fluid and intertwined. As these both flow, execution demands adjustments to strategic planning in terms of communication and cross-functional coordination thus making the overall task of execution more challenging and time-consuming.

Many organizations fail to recognize and act upon this execution gap and unfortunately, become a force fit into existing operational processes and organizational structure. It’s important for companies to make a conscious effort to close this execution gap. All that is required is to take steps to create some fundamental elements that encourage a “get it done” culture.

Such as:

1) Start your execution with a plan and not the strategy: An end-to-end thought through execution plan will not only improve the efficiency of the project but will transform the business at large. Set an ambitious strategy – not in terms of finances but in terms of sustained value creation and aspire just as high on the execution end in terms of dedication and obsession of achieving the goal. When held together, an ambitious strategy with an obsessive execution plan will work wonders for your organization.

2) Forget your weaknesses and Play to your strengths: Look for your strengths that set you apart from others. Use them as a starting point to step up the success ladder. Articulate your achievements, where you excelled as an organization and outline what it will take to build on your strengths. The more you are aware of your strengths, the more opportunities you will look for to build on them.

3) Involve people who are ‘Bilingual’ for decision making: In business, bilingual means, to be able to speak the language of the boardroom as well as the execution team with same ease. For bridging the gap between strategy and execution, people across company need to master the skill of bilingualism. This way they can envision a great strategy and its execution route. Encourage bilingualism in processes and practices so that people can relate to the big picture easily.

4) Change your performance management system to a business toll: Any business can have a remarkable vision and enthusiastic people. But in a result-oriented business culture, it’s important to have a good tracking system that can monitor the road from strategy to execution. Once a strategy is signed off, it should be integrated into an employee’s performance and appraisal measurement system. This will set a culture of “how to do” instead of “what to do”. Employees will be clear of actions to be taken to support the strategy execution that will meet company’s long-term objectives.

5) Clarify. Clear. Communicate: Assuming the team will understand what needs to be done is a manager’s folly. It’s important to keep the expectations as close to the actions as possible. Underestimating the need to communicate and clarifying “what needs to be done” with the team may result in unwanted bottlenecks.

Executing a strategy successfully is a constant challenge. To gain a competitive advantage, it is imperative that strategic and operational decisions are translated into action in minimal time and once they do, you’ll notice an improvement in individuals, teams and the overall ability of the organization in executing plans and proposals. Wins will come in easy bringing along inspiration and encouragement for the employees and making them more efficient and responsive.

And then you realize that your mission statement actually holds true!

“Theory without practice is pointless, practice without theory is mindless.”

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The Catch 22 of Strategy

The success of any strategy execution relies largely on managing the underlying tensions that are nothing but parallel contradictions – paradoxes that pull in two opposite directions. In business, such contradictions always prevail and persist.

Execution of strategy gets extremely noisy at times – generating a lot of communications, calculations and burning escalations to other lines-of-business.

But the real challenge lies in skillful balancing of these situations which often are the biggest blocks on the road to successful strategy execution.

Progressive vision Vs Aggressive targets:

An inspiring vision is imperative for sparking the commitment of people to embrace change. Communicating the need for change, the final state after the change and the tensions that will accompany the strategic execution is equally important.

Explain them about the strategic tensions and how strategy and execution need to work together with the tension to make the experience real.

Put aggressive targets and provide direction to challenge people. This will not only make people aware of the pre-requisites to achieve long-term goals but will also prepare them for meeting tensions upfront.

Authority Vs Autonomy in decision making: 

Empowering people with a sense of ownership that can influence change tends to make them work hard, contribute more ideas and thus value-add in the overall process. Its flip side being – various passionate groups dashing around in multiple, uncoordinated tracks resulting in off-tracking and delay from the initial set of decisions and execution plan.

No doubt, ‘strategic tensions are dynamic- they change while execution’ but it typically circles around:

– The right type of conversation about the strategy with the team,

– The quality of decision making and

– The excellence of execution

Expanding Capabilities Vs Delivering Results: 

We all have faced it – sometimes the pressure or tension related to delivery of immediate results are so intense that we fake existing capabilities and compromise on the overall quality of the deliverables. But working on these expanding competencies along with delivering short-term high-quality results is yet another challenge.

Such tensions help us to ‘test our vision-strategy’ and the overall approach in organizational context. So, if you have pressures that come from the outside world, then your strategy and its implementation plan must be able to monitor those external tensions and should be able to balance them.

Control Vs Creativity:

‘Control’ is usually inversely proportional to ‘Creativity’ and one of the hardest tensions to balance in business. We all fear that if creativity is encouraged, control and discipline of the organization will go for a toss. But the truth is uninterrupted creativity leads to unforeseen results and insights.

Getting good strategy executed often calls for trade-offs between innovation and delivering short-term results. But organizations that can balance the existing deliverables while flourishing the mind bugs of its employees are far ahead in implementing successful strategies that persist for long.

Rightly, put by Einstein –

‘The ability of a person to hold two contradictory ideas in their head and still function, is the sign of a genius’

So, leave no excuse – look at the contradictory ideas as a ‘constructive strategic tension’.

You will never find a perfect balance between strategic tensions; some days will require greater emphasis on execution while other days will profoundly focus on future-oriented strategic planning. But if you cautiously handle, maintain and balance these tensions, very soon you’ll navigate your business towards the future of your dreams.

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RETURN TO INDIA: In the Spotlight, Bangalore

TBM technology vision 2017-18

This white paper examines the factors involved in understanding the trends, challenges & critical success measures in conceptualizing and activating a potentially successful “Return to India Program” for competing India based technology companies, especially the one in the e-commerce space. 

R2I stands for Return to India. It’s a term used to describe the return of an NRI (Non Resident Indian) or PIO (Person of Indian Origin) professional relocating back to India after a significant amount of time abroad especially the USA – Bay area / Silicon valley, Texas, Boston/ Jersey/ Tech centers in the USA.

Since 2009, the Wave 1- R2I, it was the Technology Services Companies of Tech giants with captive Tech or R&D operations in India who drove the programs for getting the leadership talent, which could bring valuable insight into the client side work culture and expectation for developing the delivery capabilities.

The Wave 2- R2I is focused on the hunt for Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence experts who can interpret the required data sets to help businesses make better strategic decisions. Hiring’s are being done with compelling rationales for making a shift from a Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to a Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola or Zomato in Bangalore.

Current State of Attracting Talent in E-Commerce/Mobility App space

  •  Competing for Bay Area Talent – Intense competition is emerging in this area as India based companies like Flipkart, Ola, Zomato, Snapdeal are articulating & communicating ambitions on a global scale to hire Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence experts from the Bay Area.

However, the Leadership talent of Indian origin in the specific areas of Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence is not abundant, as multiple companies chase the exact fits as trophies.

Also, talent in Bay Area, working in cutting edge or complex areas of Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, often see a departure from the Bay Area Ecosystem as a career negative. Countering this would translate into institutionalizing cutting edge Tech development programs and committing resources for their maturity.

  • Communicating Vision & Ambitions Effectively– For Silicon Valley’s top talent, nothing attracts more than a mission to dominate the world. “The idea is always world domination”, currently if you speak anything less than that, you are not ambitious enough or the Vision may not be motivating enough to buy into.
  • Matching and bettering Salaries is the New Normal– And may not be enough- All salaries being offered look handsome and silicon valley-competitive in dollar terms, and most assignments have to involve complex technology solutions for the mobile platform in order to appear as an attractive career opportunity for a top notch talent.

Challenges at the Candidate Level

At a candidate level, a number of challenges are involved in executing an R2I career move. A typical return entails a lot of planning and a lot of decision making. The process takes three to six months and requires total commitment from the whole family.

Some of the concerns include:

• Financial and tax issues to take care of matching salaries.

• Citizenship issues, for children born abroad.

• Selling of house and car.

• Education & School admission for kids.

• Housing & lifestyle.

• Losing Professional / Social Connects.

• Ability to return back to USA in Future-should one chooses to.

Conceptualizing and executing successful R2I program

The challenge of creating compelling reasons for candidates to consider a position in India especially for the tier 2 and tier 3 levels requires more than top management commitment and a compensation war that technology leaders from the Bay may demand.

Bay Area hires for their rank and files require the R2I programs to maintain the momentum over long periods, requiring frequent re-invigoration and media campaigns.

It involves addressing multiple areas. Some of them are highlighted below:

1. Ensuring clarity in the Objectives of the Program at all levels.

2. Establishing the Program Leadership for engaging the R2I talent.

3. Developing unique career propositions and career Road-maps e.g. Cross border Labs as the in-house yet independent development organization.

4. Identifying Potential R2I candidates and network from Target companies in the space.

5. Identifying the Key factors, that inspires them think R2I.

6. Keeping the R2I candidates motivated and keeping them integrated with the Bay area Ecosystem.

6. Developing and orienting and managing vendors across shores, uniquely positioned to execute various stages of the program like pre-empted reach outs, propositioning and recruitment programs.

7. Developing and delivering the Program experience in a Communication package touching social media, networks and forums. Almost like giving a walk-through of the R2I experience to a potential Incumbent. Relocation & integration Support at candidate and family level.

8. Ensuring Engagement Quality at all stages including engaging their spouses effectively as well.

9. Compensation & Benefit strategy- Matching and better USD salaries. Savings opportunities.

10. Professional Development as a part of the R2I program execution.

A Case for Potential Employers- Pre-empting the questions

  • While communicating, as a Market leader looking to raise the Bar may be a good starting point to excite R2I trophy’s, a key question will be asked -What a potential employer wants to do at world level and the market apart from innovating within its current focus?
  • Also what specific technologies that will enable innovations and such a future needs to be communicated.
  • What’s a potential employer take on competition “Creating an On-demand Future” needs to be visualized, articulated and communicated as a part of its corporate communication strategy to set a direction of its innovation and strategic intent.
  • Other questions may include- Can the technology developments, fire up developments of other apps and can its API’s create an ECO-system? What is the vision of such Technology intent and what does the R2I hire is expected to do in this context?

Answers to these questions will create the foundations of communicating the strategic intents to fire up the imagination of potential leaders expected from the R2I program.

Conclusion-

The R2I program execution is an emerging specialization and competitive area for the Talent management organization with in Tech companies. Very few recruitment vendors or consultants can run it at a strategic level, ensuring all areas of the program development and execution are addressed effectively.

The companies expecting to win the war of talent in the Wave 2 need to run their R2I programs with a lot more commitment at the strategic level than the tactical hiring done in Wave 1 scenarios in the past.

Lets Stay Connected!

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In other words, their leadership SUCKS…

Tracing the origins of business survival true statistics by Bloomberg revealed that 8 out of 10 businesses ‘fail’ within the first 18 months of inception.

The question is – who is the real culprit for this colossal amount of failures?

Most businesses fail because the leaders running them did not succeed in creating a culture of awesomeness. This deficit further resulted in crippling everything else that they did.

Business culture is a curious thing. You have one whether you’re oblivious and ignorant to its presence or not. And if you’re not focused and clear about the culture you are working to cultivate in your business, you’re going to end up fostering an environment which talented high performers would not want to get associated with.

The unfortunate reality is that many leaders wake up to this realization only when sums of money are involved. Whether you’re incurring losses or not making enough profits or looking at growing exponentially – are the only circumstances where business leaders pause and think about organizational culture. And in this instance, it’s usually too late to drive the immediate change leaders seek.

Just because you need to scale up or expand right now doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to bend the laws of nature to your will. That’s not how culture works. Frankly, you’ll never drive massive amounts of new revenue if you’re not focused on creating a sustainable high-impact, inspired workplace.

It really boils down consistently and persistently adheres to the following leadership norms

•  Invest time not just on doing better but on being better.

•  Get rid of negative people and destroy passive aggressive activity wherever you spot it in your organization.

•  Never shy away to apologize and own up when you do something wrong

•  Set real and clear expectations with everyone around you.

Practice these things every day: Preach them! Teach them! Reward them! Protect them!

Don’t expect anything to change overnight. But stay at it.

Make your growth an outcome of a sustained and congenial culture and not a random act of hiring new talent or technology.

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” —Brian Tracy

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How to Spot The Real Data Scientist?

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Some four years back, when data stream was picking the pace, many professionals began changing their titles to Data scientist; though the exact qualifications of a ‘Data Scientist’ was slackly defined. This resulted in perplexity in the hiring market due to an overstatement of skills in resumes.

A couple of years later, ‘Data Scientist’ became ‘The dream profile’ for ambitious job-seekers who wanted a high paying and an alluring job.

But there is a mounting apprehension among business leaders and employers that applicants are just getting tempted by the ‘title’ of a Data scientist without actually possessing a proper skill set and mindset required to succeed the job.

So, genuine as well as fake candidates appear with tremendous enthusiasm and optimism at the job interviews.

Structuring an interview for a Data Scientist position and knowing if the candidate is really suitable for the job profile is pretty hard. Usually in data science interviews, candidates are asked to solve brainteasers (related to probability) which are easily solvable if they have memorized the formulas. But it doesn’t signify if they will be able to work on, visualize and give meaningful insights from raw, unstructured and messy data.

So how to be sure of a worthy Data Scientist-

A real data scientist has:

  • Good experience with unstructured data and statistical analysis: If the resume reads experience in tools such as Google Analytics, SPSS, Hadoop, AWS, Omniture, and Python, ensure that they are accompanied by projects that showcase the skills put to use. If there is a vague mention of the experience or the projects, then they are probably not a data scientist.
  • Business Acumen: It’s not that a person with research background will not back a good data scientist, but the key responsibility of a corporate data scientist is to understand ‘how data affects the business goals’ and ‘to give critical insights in risk mitigation and overall solution.’ Exceptional data skills combined with business savoir-faire are the real determinants of corporate data scientists.
  • An eye for logical and visual interpretations: With strong analytical skills and ability to spot patterns, a good data scientist is one who understands visual representation of data and is able to interpret and represent a story around it that adds value to any organization.
  • Multidisciplinary: Many organizations narrow down their recruiting on candidates with Ph.D. in statistics or mathematics. But the truth is, a good data scientist can come from many backgrounds with no advanced degree in any of them.

  ‘Person who is better at statistics than any software engineer and better at software engineering than any statistician’ -Josh Wills

  •  Curious and Creative: A data scientist should be able to look beyond numbers, even beyond an organization’s data sets to find answers to problems or may be pose new dimensions and insights to an existing scenario.
  • Able to handle noise in data: Any data model draws a fine line between the sample set being too simple to be meaningful and too complex to be trusted. No matter how ‘big the data is, its finite sample is pierced with potential bias. A promising data scientist actually develops a healthy skepticism of their data, techniques, and conclusions.

A data scientist not only helps in providing data-driven insights to propel faster decision making but are recognized as strategic assets which drive business growth and profitability.

If one can find a candidate with most of these traits accompanied with the ability and desire to grow, then you have found someone who can deliver incredible value to your system, your business and your organization at large.

“A data aspirant leverages data that everybody sees; a data scientist leverages data that nobody sees.”

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Why do you feel happy when others fail?

Have you ever sat across a colleague at a workplace who is discussing and enjoying someone’s misfortune instead of empathizing? Well, this colleague of yours may be experiencing ‘schadenfreude’ (pronounced shaaden-froyda). It stems from the feeling when an individual gets a sense of satisfaction if misfortune befalls someone.

Wikipedia explains ‘Schadenfreude’ as “the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.”

Certainly, they feel an envious resentment of someone’s achievements deep inside their brain that constantly manifests in a negative behavior towards other people at a workplace, either in private or public.

In today’s competitive organizational culture there is no escaping from office politics, back-biting, and annoying envious subordinates. In most companies, you will easily find group of people who are fundamentally pleasure-seeking creatures.

Observing the misfortune of their competitors brings a subsequent sense of satisfaction to this population. They are born with a tendency to dominate productive resources of the company in sheer frustration of not being able to achieve success for themselves.

Many kinds of research and studies revealed that schadenfreude stems from a deeper level primarily in terms of self-esteem, self-control, belongingness, and meaningful existence. Such individuals are by-and-large poor or underperformers’ yet highly competitive and it is this paradox that ignites an objectionable form of pleasure called schadenfreude.

It is well explained by psychologist Professor Richard H. Smith in his popular book ‘The Joy of Pain’ that, comparisons with others and the conclusions we make about ourselves based on them, and the resulting emotions pervade most of our lives.

As much as inferiority makes us feel bad, superiority makes us feel good. The simple truth is that misfortunes happening to others are one path to the joys of superiority and help explain many instances of schadenfreude.

“Social comparisons are a way of life”

Generally, there are 3 major reasons why people feel pleased with the misfortune of another person:

(a) The other person is perceived to deserve the misfortune – This is purely an act of victim-blaming that occurs when a person is experiencing emotional outbursts and not able to accept his failures. As a defense mechanism, the protagonist feels pleasure-in-others’-misfortune with a strong belief the other person is destined to sufferings and his malicious joy is justified.

(b) They are passive in generating the other’s misfortune – It has a lot to do with the theory of karma. According to a person who is experiencing schadenfreude, his rival sufferings are well deserved and the distress seems like moral causation to him.

(c) The personal comparative behavior syndrome – This happens with people constantly battling for attention. When the focus of attention shifts to someone else these people start feeling an overwhelming sense of jealously.

Organizations and employers of today must understand that employees are extremely sensitive stakeholders who are a collective reservoir of emotions and feelings. Therefore, investments should be made to address the issues and concerns of every employee at a primitive level, to create a positive working environment within the organization.

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity” – Audrey Hepburn