The Consultant’s Role – Why we are??

The gospel according to Alan Weiss, probably the most profound statement of what we do (or rather should do) as consultants:

The role of a consultant is to improve the client’s condition.

When we walk away from a client, the client’s condition should be better than it was before we arrived, or we’ve failed.

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A year’s worth of no blogging

Its surprising to note that its been more than 14 months since my last post. Not that I’ve run out of things to say, so its about time I break the streak. Henceforth, we write!!

Failing Innovation

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And while the recent recessionary economy might not have been the right time to launch new projects, the need to incorporate innovation to build cheaper, faster and more efficient products and services is one of the major ways that experts agree how the recession is to be tackled.

A friend brought up this subject during a coffee break. Apparently a number of organizations have started off innovation projects in a number of areas, Product Development, Green Eco initiatives, Cost optimization etc.

The argument was that most organizations drive innovation projects like delivery projects. In the sense, that sooner or later they must give results. Now I agree with the fact that all undertakings must give results to be viable, but to assume that any innovation project should be successful is maybe being too optimistic.

So, the question is, is it ok for innovation projects to fail??

After all, it is in the realm of experimentation. Some ideas will succeed, a lot of them won’t. What is important is to recognize the futility of the project early on and kill it. Most projects either get treated as babies or as burdens, both to be let go of at the very end.

Forcing innovation this way will never bring about a Google, but it’ll always produce Bings!!!

Working for something you believe in

 

A curious thought came to me while I was shaving this morning. Now I’ve been a “loyal” [if that term makes sense] user of Gilette products. So the thought was this:

I apparently believe in Gilette products to keep using them for so long. So if I did work for Gilette, would I essentially be more motivated or more effective at work??

Maybe consumer care is a lousy example, but inkeeping with my expertise, would it be better if I worked for an organization whose products I use on a regular basis? Would it be easier to believe in the organization and in turn, believe in my work?

Do let me know your views on this.

Killing Entrepreneurship

The question I’m asking is:

Do large companies kill smaller companies??

Obviously, duh?? Of course larger behemoths devour smaller fry. Its the law of the world. Remember Darwin?? Survival of the fittest?? Rings a bell???

Ah well, of course I’ve done my basic Biology course. The biggies do gobble up the little ones.

However the feast I’m talking about happens without bloodshed… no restructuring, no layoffs and definitely no takeovers. The way it happens, I’d say it’s competition elimination without spending anything…. Now isn’t that a dream run???

Picture the situation.

Joe Engineer passes out of his engineering college with real hopes of changing the world. Though he never went to an MIT, he’s had enough talk been given to him of the divinity of the engineering profession. Typically he joins up a top IT firm and begins his climb up the corporate hierarchy. At this stage, he’s really happy to sit in front of a computer and wallow in megabytes of code, all with the intention of "putting a smile on the customer’s face".

A year into the job, Joe suddenly realises that he’s not exactly changing the world, but rather following code-correction orders from the Project Manager. Joe realises that to improve the situation, he ought to be giving those orders. So by hook or crook (more crook than hook usually), Joe Engineer becomes Joe Project Leader.

Suddenly Joe is now faced with a new monster. Project Finance and budgeting. Compared to these, building a supercomputer is a cakewalk. Joe also realises that his orders are now coming from top management, who now talk business rather than technology. Moreover, he also gets acquainted with Mr. Welch, Mr. Murthy and Mr. Gates and finally realises the path to true nirvana. And that path has a single milestone called MBA.

So Joe enrolls himself to be an MBA. Now it all starts to make sense. Organizational Behavior, Integrated Marketing, Financial Management, Project Management, all coupled with Peter Drucker, Tom Peters and Philip Kotler. He tops the Entrepreneurship course. Changing the world is now easier than ever.

Back in the job, Joe finds himself on a new pedestal. His old technology team doesn’t know what to do with this ‘outsider’. "After all, he’s all past gone beyond understanding the beauty of a recursive algorithm", they say. So Joe goes to top management.

"Ah yes, the newbie", they say. "Promising young fellow", they say. "Let him learn the ropes", they say. And Joe is put in charge of his old team with the sage prophesy,"Someday, you will be CEO". Joe Project Leader is finally transformed into Joe Manager.

So poor Joe is back to doing what he was before he got his MBA. He’ll never be back into technology, because he’s an MBA. And he’ll retire with the eternal hope that someday he’ll be CEO, because he’s an MBA!!

And that’s how the new firms are killed. In the minds and morales of brilliant executives who want to break out, but don’t know how and where. A sort of corporate abortion, prevalent in most top firms globally. And finally Joe disappears, a statistic, a face in the crowd. Without changing the world.

So much for Intrapreneurship and all that gas. Intrapreneurship forces one to think in terms of the existing or emerging markets, not radically as innovation is meant to be. For example, would an IT Giant stake into gourmet foods, even if the market for gourmet foods was booming?? Unlikely, with all that jazz about corporate focus, isn’t it??

And Can Joe quit?? Possible, but very unlikely. Not if he wants to constantly hear, "You quit XYZ?? What are you, an idiot??" or if he wants to suddenly wants his social circle to disappear. Its easy if you’re in a mid tier company to chuck it all and go the lone road, but when you’re in one of the top ten firms, it seems like a long long long way down.

So is there a solution?? Maybe. I’m still searching… and something tells me its in the force of collective efforts… A team … to walk the lone road together…
I’ll post my findings in a future post, so until that time, Au revoir!!

Two minutes to stop procrastination

 

My friend, Patrick from the Prevoyance Group told me about the two minute rule. It goes:

Anything that takes less than two minutes to do must be done immediately.

This, to me is a gem in prioritization. Its simple, an most of the time, is what we do without thinking. What really needs work is the ability to analyse quickly how much time each task that comes your way would take.

And also the humility to accept that some task is gonna take more time than 2 minutes….

loving your job

"The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug."

-Chris Hedges, from the opening quote in “The Hurt Locker”

 

I was watching “The Hurt Locker” the other day. One of the things that struck me was the honest attempt at giving credit to the efforts of the soldiers fighting the war. While there will be the eternal question about whether the War on Terror was justified, both in terms of the intention as well as the methods, the truth remains, that barring a few bad eggs, the personnel involved are doing their job the best they can.

But moreover, there was a different point that struck me, something that the film was reaffirming all along.

The point is that when you come to the realization that you’re damn good at the job you do, when you know that you’re the expert, then your work is no longer a chore. Its a work of art, a masterpiece you end up filling with every masterful stroke and shade that you possibly can. Eventually for those who love their work, the work is a lethally addictive drug.