Resolutions 2013

On the momentous occasion of New Year’s Day, which, to the surprise of the gathered multitude, was almost exactly like the previous day and, disturbingly, threatened to be almost exactly like the one that follows, a senior minister of the ruling party said, “Our youth, look at them, they are being corrupted by foreign influences. Just last month, everywhere you looked you could see (we think he meant hear) people talking about the Mayan prophecy of doom. Now, is it fair?”

He paused for effect and to let the import of his words sink in, as all senior ministers do so ably. After waiting long enough he repeated he made another telling remark, “Now, is it fair?”

Again, after a pause and a sip of water, he continued, “is it fair that our youth talks about the Mayan prophecy of doom and totally ignores the all the hard work we have put in to bring the world to a real and untimely end.”

Blowing loudly into his handkerchief and trying to wipe a non-existent tear, he concluded, in a rousing voice, “My resolution is to work harder towards an early end of the world. At least our country. And, I assure you, each and every member of my party supports this resolution. I also assure you that we will not be dependent on any foreign influence to achieve this goal. We are totally self-reliant when it comes to self-destruction.”

The senior leader’s words have touched something deep inside the psyche of public servants and people in the public eye. Something that was so far believed to be non-existent. We believe the closest word in the language is “conscience”. It has triggered a race for making and going public with their people-friendly resolutions for the new year.

Never ones to be left behind in the race for making fools of themselves, the Khap Panchayats, which came into the limelight with their path-breaking research into the root cause of heinous, violent crime like rape against women in which they nailed down the culprit as chowmein (read story titled “Root Cause Analysis” on, the humble Chinese dish, that was not even a suspect till then, have set the ball rolling.

They have resolved to extend their research and reasoning skills to other areas for public benefit and issue at least one diktat every month that defies logic and common sense. It is believed that they are close to their next big breakthrough which links amoral behaviour such as elopement to cellphone usage by women. Not by men. Only women. In anticipation of the announcement, Apple and Samsung have started working on the design of a cellphone that can only be used within the hundred square feet confines of a room. Their stock-prices have responded in anticipation.

In order to encourage and support “public spirit” amongst people, the police has resolved to catch offenders only after the public raises a hue and cry, takes out a protest march, gets the media involved in highlighting the issue, and threatens to shame the police for their ineptness.

Demonstrating leadership beyond the call of duty, the police chief has made a second resolution; that of taking people to task for no reason, especially if they are young and have no history of political activism or rowdy behaviour, when they post opinions and views on social networking websites, as expressing a personal opinion is a person’s right in a democratic society.

A well-known yoga guru, with a modern yoga facility in a religious town in the Himalayan foothills, has resolved to travel to the capital and participate in all protests in order that people can benefit from the healthful effects of yoga while they dodge teargas shells and water cannons of the police, while he demonstrates his signature asana (yoga position) of “foot in the mouth”.

A popular author, whose books have sold in the millions and been adapted for movies, has resolved (threatened some people say) to write a book which has content. In order that this book jar the sensibilities of as few people as possible he will write it in Mongolian. He has put this resolution in his just-released book which is called “Resolutions 2013” which sounds similar to one of his earlier books.

His legion of followers have, meanwhile, resolved to boycott all books he writes that have even a small iota of content or anything vaguely resembling it.

More are bound to pour in as the year progresses, particularly towards the end of the year.

Book review

I am pleased to share a review of my book, “What happens in office, stays in office”, that appeared in the print edition of the New Indian Express, a leading national daily, on 22nd October. The content of the review is also visible on the online edition which can be accessed on:

This review has been penned by a fellow WordPress blogger. As he writes under an alias I cannot reveal the identity. But it would be interesting to see if anyone has a guess. A hint – writing styles tend to stay constant.

The book is available, among other places:

– On in the US

– On in India

An image of the page carrying the review:

Look to the lower half of the page on the left. Ignore the photographs on the page, they are not mine!!

Thank you for your support.

Power corrupts…

It finally happened last week.

The event for which our politicians and administrators had been so carefully and assiduously planning for so long, over the course of almost half a century, was unleashed in grand style. It is a testament to the mettle of the people involved that they have pursued this task regardless of the hardships they faced and the money they may have made in the bargain. It is also a testament to the unity in diversity across political parties who got together in pursuit of a common goal in national interest. Despite frequent changes of government, pursuit of this dream continued unceasingly.

The Northern Power Grid collapsed on a Monday, bringing life to a standstill in most of the northern part of the country. As a result, among other impacts:

  • Over 300 trains were disrupted in the affected states
  • Several hundred coal miners were stranded underground
  • Metro train services in the national capital were shut down which, in turn, caused a gridlock on the roads
  • Income Tax returns could not be submitted on time leading to an extension of the cut-off date and delay in revenue for the government
  • Over 600 million people were affected
  • Holiday declared from 3 PM onwards
  • Water treatment plants were shut down

On account of this stellar performance, the Power Minister has been promoted to the coveted Home Ministry.

His next in line have been demoted to inconsequential roles on account of, among other reasons:

  • Only 300 trains being disrupted in the affected states
  • Only several hundred coal miners stranded underground
  • Only Metro train services in the national capital shut down; why was the rest of the public transportation system not electrified so that it could also have been shut down is a question they could not answer convincingly
  • Only Income Tax returns could not be submitted on time leading to an extension of the cut-off date; why were Sales Tax returns not affected?
  • Only 600 million people affected; in a 1.2 billion country this is an inconsequential number
  • Holiday declared only from 3 PM onwards; in a shocking admission, they admitted to letting people work till 3 PM
  • Water treatment plants shut down; unanswered qustion – why no impact on cooking gas?

Justifying the demotion of the people responsible for this state of affairs, a Power Ministry spokesman said “These people been in their jobs for years and had enough opportunity to ensure that this effort did not turn out to be the half-hearted effort it finally turned out to be, like many other similar attempts of the past, sullying the image of the nation once again. Like successful private companies, we want to hold our people responsible to the highest standards of performance, and take strict action against junior employees as and where those standards are not met.”

In a function held to felicitate him on this landmark achievement, the Power Minister lauded the achievements of his ministry. He said that several thousand villages have been electrified, i.e. provided electric connections and joined to the grid. He said it was one thing to electrify villages when you have power to supply, quite another to do so when you don’t have power to supply. His ministry’s achievements were even greater because they have electrified villages without having any power to supply to them.

The crowd broke out into applause.

He said that some misguided people were trying to experiment with solar power generation and stand in the way of development. “We will not let motivated and unscrupulous elements stand in the way of development”, he stated emphatically. In a firm tone he sent out a clear warning to the miscreants and stated, “We are dealing with the situation as it should be dealt with. We are planning to make solar power generation illegal. We have a bright future ahead of us.”

Admitting that he has had to make sacrifices and endure personal hardship over many years in quest of this noble goal, he broke down. His family had ben most affected, he said. He said that his family, as they have always lived in the VIP areas of the city, have had uninterrupted power supply. They have been deprived of the development unleashed on the rest of the country through frequent power cuts. He feared they will be ill equipped to participate in the economic renaissance sweeping across the nation.

In an emotional speech, he said it has been an uphill task to repeatedly avoid facing the facts, ignore correct data, make incorrect projections and parrot out empty promises. It had taken a huge toll on his health and he was happy that he was being moved to a different role which had greater opportunity for the development and welfare of the nation.

With this, he stepped off the stage to a thundering ovation.

(to be continued…)

In the eyes of others

In the late eighties, when I started working, in India, there were a handful of car models to choose from and very few cars. An air-conditioner (AC) in a car, though not unavailable, was a rarity. After all, a car was a means to an end. It served the purpose of transporting you from Point A to Point B. Its reason for existence was not to make you comfortable in an AC environment while transporting you, or to ensconce you in a cocoon while shutting out the external sounds, or to enable you to watch your favourite TV programme while travelling, as seems to be the case today. At that time, it was a big deal for a person to have a car with an AC.

One of my many early management lessons was from a senior colleague, who had a Sales job in the company and who believed that it was important to keep up appearances, who once told me “It does not matter that you don’t have an AC in your car. You should still drive with your windows rolled up. After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not. Hence, when someone outside sees you inside a car with the windows rolled up, he will naturally think that you are travelling in an AC car, and your position in his eyes will grow manifold.”

That lesson stayed with me. And I spent many joyful road-trips inside the car with windows rolled-up, feverishly wiping sweat off my brow and everywhere else my hand could reach, happy that my stock was rising in the eyes of the people outside the car who, of course, I did not know from Adam. Those joyful days of steadily rising in the eyes of the world came to an end as soon as I got a car with an AC.

A few years back, when Blackberry handsets had started becoming popular and one could do emails “on the go”, it was fascinating to watch senior people carry them around and keep peering into them or typing on them, especially when they were inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place. It imbued them with an air of importance. At least they must have felt important. Of course, I could not afford one. 

On one of these occasions my early days lesson came back to me and I heard the prophetic words again “After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not” which morphed to “After all, you know that you don’t have a Blackberry handset but the guy receiving your mail does not. And I sent the next email from my PC with “sent from my Blackberry handset” as the last line.

Thereafter, whenever I sent an email from my PC, I made it a point to type at the bottom “sent from my Blackberry handset”. So much so that it became a part of my email signature. Not sure if anyone ever noticed that I sent emails only from my Blackberry handset. Certainly my stock would have risen with all the people who received my emails in those days and they would have placed me in the same category as the important people who need to respond to important emails only from their handset even if it after three days of receipt, especially when they are inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place.  After flirting with the Apple iphone message for a short period, these days I am increasingly getting into the habit of typing “sent from my Windows Phone”, the one that I don’t have.

I am constantly window-shopping for newer and more expensive technologies and lifestyle rages that I will never buy. 

This stuff is addictive. I am hooked onto it.

When I am unable to accept an invite for golf I always text saying “Sorry cannot make it.  My Honma set will need to lie in the closet for another week.” Of course, if I accept an invite I send no such message because of the Honma set that I don’t have.

I have now even started writing “written by my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” on office documents which one needs to write on. Even where just a physical signature is required as proof of authorisation, I add “signed with my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” after every signature or initial. I did the same when I signed on the form I had to fill for renewing my Passport. My application got rejected. Seems like the government folks don’t get it.

Not only that, during meetings in office, whenever I speak or need to concur / differ, I make it a point to remind others who the concurrence has been given by. So, if the meeting organiser were to ask at the end of the meeting “do you agree?”, if I agree I would nod my head and immediately hoist a poster (prepared in advance) above my head that reads “this agreement has been given through a shake of the head that solved innumerable Calculus problems at MIT”. If I disagree verbally I would say “I disagree” and follow it up with “this disagreement has been voiced by the vocal chords that spoke out aloud at Oxford”.   

And it helps one aspire. For example, I am already planning my next email message line which will say “sent from my diamond encrusted Vertu handset”.

I feel great about what the external world may be thinking about me….

How I wish I could complain

I hope that some day I am in a position to complain. And complain big.

In fact, I have charted out my life in order of complaints that I would like to be able to make, with milestones defined at five-yearly intervals so that I can track progress and take corrective action, if the situation so demands.

By the age of 30, I should have been able to complain that

  • I have so many customers wanting my time and attention that I have no personal time left

By the age of 35, I should have been able to complain that

  • My employer insists on loading me with additional responsibilities, wants me to participate in all meetings and handle all important assignments

By the age of 40, I should have been able to complain that

  • I have to pay a huge amount of Income tax

By the age of 45, that

  • The fourth house I bought last year, on the beach, is going to seed because the caretaker is a slacker
  • The hike in the price of aviation turbine fuel is making it increasingly expensive to fly my private plane

By the age of 50, that

  • I don’t have enough parking space for my eight cars, ever since I added the two sports cars last year to the fleet
  • The oil struck on my property is spilling over and destroying the vegetation on that piece of land and reducing my agricultural income

By the age of 55, that

  • No commercial airline flies to the string of remote islands I own in the middle of the Indian Ocean forcing me to fly in my private jet
  • I haven’t been able to get a parking space for my Yacht

By the age of 60, that

  • My children are comfortably settled in their worlds of choice and don’t depend on me for anything
  • I have to spend a fortune to guard all the original masterpieces I own, the Van Gogh, the Monet, and many others.

By the age of 65, that

  • My stable of thoroughbred race-horses has not delivered a big win in over six months

By the age of 70, that

  • I am forever forgetting the names of the artists whose artwork I own, since there are so many of them, and getting mixed-up in the names, like Manet and Monet, resulting in buying the wrong artist occasionally

If I have been able to complain as per the timeline I have defined for myself, there may not be scope for making any further complaints, unless it is to complain that I no longer have any complaints.

Complaining is surely under-rated.

These irksome Headhunter calls

Senior Manager A is in a meeting with his team-members on some contentious issues. The Senior Manager has asked all of them to clear out their diaries for another two hours to ensure they have enough time for this meeting.

During the meeting, Senior manager A’s phone buzzes. He looks at it but it is not a recognised number. He snatches at the phone and barks “Who is this ?”.

A soft voice wafts into the earpiece “Hello. Am I speaking to Senior Manager A ?”

Senior Manager A barks again “Yes it is. Who is this ? Please hurry up ?”

The voice says “I am Jack from the Overtly Crude and Intrusive Placement Consultancy. We are a head-hunting firm and we place people at senior levels, like yours. We are currently working on some interesting assignments which require skills like yours. Is this a good time to talk?”

Senior Manager A looks around furtively and barks again “Thank you for your call. I am not interested. Bye now.”

Turning back to the meeting participants he says “These Headhunters are a nuisance. They think that everyone is for sale. They can call up anyone at any time and people will talk to them just because they are offering a job.

All participants “You are right sir. They are a nuisance.”

Senior manager A : “Well, not me guys ! I told him off. I am not for sale.”

All participants “We heard you do that sir.” 

Five minutes later in the meeting the Senior Manager says : Guys, just remembered something important. Need to stop this meeting here. Let us work on the items agreed so far. I will reschedule asap for the rest. Sorry about this.

The Senior Manager waits for everyone to leave the room.

As soon as the last person leaves, he ensures that the door is shut and dials a number. When the call gets answered he says “Hi Jack, this is Senior Manager A. You called a few minutes back. Sorry I had to be abrupt as I was in a meeting. We can talk now.”

Illustrious career – promotion every year

CEO’s speech on the retirement of Harry

It seems like only yesterday that Harry became an Assistant Vice President (AVP). Before he became AVP, he had slogged for several years as a Senior Manager and impressed one and all with his commitment and capability which is how he was promoted to AVP.

After earning your way through to the position of an AVP, some people tend to slacken and take it easy, preferring to enjoy the fruits of the hard work in the years gone by. But not Harry. He  continued to work with the same commitment and zeal, resulting in a sterling career path which can be held up as an example to many.

From an Assistant Vice President he became an Associate VP (AVP) the very next year.

He continued to grow. Growth to the levels of Senior AVP (SAVP) and Corporate AVP (CAVP) happened in quick succession, in successive assessment cycles.

A year later, he was promoted yet again. This time to the role of a Global AVP.

Thereafter, thanks in part to his efforts during the buyout of a competitor, he was made an Executive AVP (EAVP), the only one so far to have got that position.

He has kept the company on its toes. He has kept performing and we have kept up by in creating new designations to reward him. His growth is an example of what is possible for the right person in this company. He has risen five times in the last five years. Can you hope to get this kind of growth with any other company ? The answer, clearly, is a resounding NO.

In the earlier, unenlightened days of the company, he would have gone from AVP to VP in a matter of three years, a single promotion in three years. In today’s enlightened company, after becoming AVP, he has already been promoted five times, and he could still have aspired for the VP position were he not retiring.

Today, as he retires, he has been instrumental in charting out an entirely new career path not only for himself, but also for many others who follow. I am pleased to announce that the designations introduced in the last five years (keeping time with Harry’s progress) for the growth of AVPs, will henceforth be applicable to all the levels below that.

Hence, a Senior Manager, who would have become an AVP in his next promotion, will now become a Senior Senior Manager (SSM). After becoming an SSM, his next promotion will be to the level of a Corporate Senior Manager (CSM). This will be followed by Executive Senior Manager and Global Senior Manager (GSM). As things stand, if you become a GSM, the next promotion may take you to the level of an AVP. Though there could well be more promotion opportunities introduced between GSM and AVP before anyone gets to the GSM level.

You will never get to say that promotions in our company do not happen fast and enough. I challenge you to compare with any company in the industry. I am sure the promotion opportunities available here cannot be matched by anyone in the industry.

I wish Harry happiness and success in his retired life.

The Very Important Person – how to find him in Office

It is normally difficult to tell the very important from the less important people in office, as the very important ones tend to go about their business in a no-fuss, even self-deprecating manner, letting their work “speak” for itself. Should one, however, need to find such a person at the workplace, even if it is for no reason other than the opportunity to observe and learn from him, a few pointers that may be of help in this pursuit are produced here.

You walk into his office just as he sinks the twelve foot putt into the waste paper basket lying on its side. You need to discuss the project that you are working on. He says “not now, I am busy”. You want to know when you could come back. He says “check with Jenny (his secretary)”.

He is a Manager and his team is working with the team of Manager B, a peer working in another department, on a Project. When he needs to communicate a project related message pertaining to the successful completion of a deliverable by his team to Manager B, he will call up Senior Manager B, Manager B’s Boss, and communicate the message with a request for the same to be passed on to Manager B.

If Manager B calls to give him (Manager A) a similar communication, he will ask him to call up Supervisor A, one of his team-members, and communicate the message.

He can be seen talking loudly into the mobile phone when he is outside his office, especially when he is on the move outside his office. On occasion he will be found to be cradling the mobile phone between his head (craned awkwardly to one side) and shoulder and writing something on a piece of paper likely to be a tissue.

In many cases he can be seen talking to himself. Loudly. He is actually talking on an earpiece connected to the mobile.

He is an effective communicator. In face to face discussions he makes productive use of his hands, flailing them wildly while talking. He also ensures people who don’t need to be part of the conversation hear him talk. His speech is slow, deliberate. If he has to communicate “Eastern is a very big company” he will say “Eastern is a company. Eastern is a big company. Eastern really is a big company. Eastern is a really big company. Eastern is a very big company.” And there will be a pause after each sentence so that the message has sunk in.

His conversation with the Security Guard will be peppered with words like “contract”, “transaction”, “price”, “revenue”, “deal”, “turnaround time”,” target”, “competition”, “market”, etc. interspersed with four-letter words.

He can often be seen holding four simultaneous conversations on four different topics with four different people.

I hate travel

Manager, back in his office after a week on the road, to Team Members : Good to be back in office. Some respite from constant travel. I am sick of constantly having to rearrange my personal life on account of business requirements. Seems as if my life is spent in airport lounges more than home. And the hotel food really gets to me. I hate all that.

Team Members, in one voice : We know it must be difficult sir. But isn’t it exciting to visit new places ?

Manager : Yes it is, but you know me. I am happy between my home and my office. I will tell my Boss that I am not travelling for the next one year. If the company insists that I need to go because nobody else is qualified, I will resign and leave. After all, there is a limit to everything.

Team Members : You are so simple and straightforward, sir. How we wish we had these opportunities to travel.

Manager : Well, you know me guys ! Focussed only on work and family. Of course I understand your feelings. And, believe me, when the opportunity next arises, I will nominate one of you to travel and represent the company.

In the middle of the meeting the Senior Manager (the Manager’s Boss) drops in and says, “Oh, by the way, we have been invited to the Industry Conference in Las Vegas end of the month. It is for a week and the company will bear all expenses. We would like someone from this team to attend the conference on behalf of the company. I am leaving the choice to you guys. No specific qualification or knowledge is required as we are not anchoring any session. The participant would mainly need to listen to the speakers, make notes where appropriate, collect Business cards, and come back and debrief. We don’t mind if you want to take your spouse / partner along as long as you pay for it.

Team Members, in one Voice : Hurray. We love the company.

Before leaving, the Senior Manager to Manager : Send me the name of the person chosen to attend by end of day please. My secretary will make necessary arrangements.

After the Senior Manager leaves, the Manager turns back to his team and says : See, it never ends. Just when I thought I will have a few peaceful days at home comes this requirement. I will again have to pack my bags and go. Such is my life!!

For your own good – Do my work

Friday evening

CEO to Senior Manager : What, you have not completed the analysis of last quarter’s Sales ? You had a whole week to do it. I need the analysis for my presentation on Monday morning.

Senior Manager to CEO : I am sorry sir. I know I had promised you the analysis by Friday day-end. Got so busy with the visiting client delegation over the last two days that I could not complete it. I did not want to delegate this work to anyone else. But rest assured sir, you will have it by Sunday evening, in a ready to present format. Once again, apologies for the delay.

Later the same evening

Senior Manager to Supervisor : Young man, I have chosen you from the group of some extremely smart young people who work for me to do an analysis on the Sales of last quarter. Unfortunately, the CEO and I need it by day-end tomorrow so that we can review it and include it in an important presentation to be made on Monday morning.

Supervisor : But sir, tomorrow is a holiday and I have some plans with the family.

Senior Manager : Its your call son. As you know, we were doing this for your own good. This is a recognition of your potential and could be a stepping stone towards higher responsibilities. But never mind, if you don’t want to do it, I will ask someone else.

Supervisor, after thinking : Sir, if you give me till Sunday morning I could do it on Saturday night.

Senior Manager : OK, this concession is only for you. The CEO is keen to see it by day-end tomorrow but I will explain to him. I will also tell him who the analysis was done by.

Saturday morning

The Senior Manager had a good game of golf with his friends this Saturday as well. He had no urgent Sales analysis to complete.