The trap of job identity

The video of Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin went viral, a couple of days back. Why did the video go viral?

Because there was a stark contrast between her personality and expected job identity. This contrast caught the eye of the masses.

There is little room in our minds for an extroverted librarian. Or for that matter a Tibetan monk who might love skydiving. 

We often get trapped in our job identity. Some of us don’t do it deliberately, while others find comfort in our job identity. Over a period of time, it becomes easier to carry the cloak. And soon it starts showing in your behavior. The way you walk, talk, manage your demeanor, choose your words and actions, and dress for the situation, everything begins to shape up. It is like a cage we slowly build and find comfort in. 

Now that you have done all the hard work, people expect you to be in that cage. As long as you comply with the standards set by you, peace prevails. Meanwhile, your authentic self, sits patiently and quietly in a corner, hoping that someday you will break the cage. And then some fine day there is a revolt. There is a civil war of sorts between the work identity and your true self. The winner decides how your life would unfold for many years to come. 

Career transitions and sabbaticals happen when the authentic self wins. Work identity leads you to scale where you are, perhaps at the cost of losing your true self.

I have witnessed some leaders slyly use their work identity to cover their true selves. They just don’t want to be vulnerable. 

Anyway coming back to Sanna Marin’s story. She told reporters that “We partied in a boisterous way, I danced and sang. I am an individual and a human. There is a private side to me.”

I can only appreciate the society that allows people like Sanna to be their authentic selves. 

I can only empathize with those who are striving hard to maintain their work identity. It is like walking a tight rope. It takes energy. It has a cost. The question is how long can you stretch it? Or is there any need to do so? Should your work define your personality? 

What do you think?

#work#job#personality#identity#behaviour#career#society

The value of decisiveness

Being decisiveness in life is like playing Tetris, every random block that emerges at the top is a decision to be made. It is your choice to not make the decision but then you also don’t get to play for long and have fun.

Keeping this in mind, thought of sharing a simple perspective with you.

These days before booking Uber and Ola, one needs to pray. My wife was getting late for work. We tried booking the short trip to her office multiple times but had no luck. I was even more worried because it became my responsibility to drop her the moment this happens. 

The clock was ticking. We both were just badly hoping for some rider to confirm. At the same time, we were cursing the service. 

Hope is a bad strategy. What is the probability that someone will accept the ride in the next five minutes?

A decision had to be made here. I have to simply get up and drop my wife to the office instead of wasting more time. And I just did that. It had to be done. It took a 30-minute round trip. My wife was happy that she reached out just in time for a meeting. 

This is so trivial as compared to the more significant decisions that life demands.

Indecisiveness kills. You either hope for a miracle to happen or curse the situation. 

Every change that you long for needs some decision to be made immediately. Wish to be more fit, what is the decision that you need to take right now. Wish to find a better role? What is the first decision that you need to make today?

With every decision, your life changes a bit. Consider it has a left or right turn while driving.

A slight right on the GPS will take you on a flyover, a slight left might lead to a service road.

#decisiveness#change#life#career

Do you really need a 10-minute delivery?

Zomato’s 10-minute delivery sounds like 2 minute Maggie noodles.

Can you really fix noodles in 2 minutes? 

But for decades we have had this on top of our minds. 2 minutes is something very quick. 

Noodle is a quick fix for your hunger pangs. Do I really need my noodles in 2 minutes? Not really.

Do I really need the delivery in 10 minutes? I don’t think so.

10 minutes is super fast. Hence Zomato can deliver something faster than the alternatives. Zomato equals speed.

I am limited by imagination when I try to think about how this is even possible, especially when there are humans involved in making this happen.

Nevertheless, 10 minutes has created the necessary buzz. A win for Zomato. 

#zomato#marketing#buzz

The fridge Vs Hyperlocal Delivery

A recent ad by Dunzo, a hyperlocal delivery app goes as “Ab Fridge ka Kya Kam hai” (what’s the use of the fridge now?)

Time for a lesson on operations management. Here we go!

Seems like the 10-minute delivery proposition erodes the utility of a fridge.

It is a battle of inventory Vs JIT (Just in Time)

We hold inventory to eliminate variability. In short the vagaries of the supply chain. Do you sense a shortage? Hoard more!

Holding inventory requires some planning and accurate forecasting. You need to take into account the quantity and time factors here. When to order and how much to order. Needless to mention the active monitoring, how much garlic do we really have in stock?

Forecasting takes into account the trend of past consumption. All this leads to the frequency of ordering. I and my wife have set this frequency to once a week. We order on Sunday evening and get a Big Basket delivery on Monday morning. 

The downside of inventory?

Holding costs. We might unnecessarily hold items that might not be consumed immediately. What’s the point of ordering paneer on Sunday evening if I am not going to consume it until Thursday noon. 

The second big challenge is that human estimates are subjected to errors. I might order fruits that I might forget to consume. Or I might forget to order fruits altogether. 

Actually, inventory is a waste. We maintain inventory because we have not yet cracked the equation to match supply and demand in real-time. (at household level)

And that’s where JIT or just in time comes into the picture. Japan mastered this art in the 70s and attacked the west on its own home turf. Overnight eroding the competence of giants like Ford. But that’s a different story. 

Coming to the present.

The fridge is like a micro warehouse that holds inventory.

The 10-minute delivery is JIT.

Holding the inventory needs planning, forecasting skills, time, and effort to order many things at one go and at a set frequency. This also comes with slippages and waste.

JIT works on a whim, you are out of lemons and coriander? Just order it now! JIT gives you the power of now. Don’t plan, just order. 

So it all boils down to the human behavior of Planning Vs Impulse.

The power of now will win in the long term. Because the sticky behaviors are the ones that are easy to adopt. 

The value of a 4 day week

I started my career with manufacturing and process engineering. The companies I worked for gave me Sunday to relax, enjoy and rejuvenate.

A Sunday wasn’t enough. A half-day on Saturday is what used to long for. 

That was a decade back.

Now I have switched jobs and work in an industry where 5 day work week is a norm. I value this norm. It gives me more time to relax, enjoy and rejuvenate. 

Now there is a new emerging trend, the 4 day week. 

One poll asked, how do you wish to use an additional day. 

Left me thinking. 

What would it solve for me?

Will it offer a better work-life balance?

The answer to work-life balance is an additional day off? That’s it?

How would you feel on a Monday after you take a 3 day weekend?

How would you feel if you were to sprint through the 4 days to get the tasks done?

Would you work for 12 hours instead of the usual 10 hours that you spend? 

Over the years I have realized that work-life balance has little to do with how you unwind on weekends.

It has more to do with how you manage your workday and still get enough time and mindfulness that enables you to reset, spend time with your close ones. 

If you look at the history, was there even a concept of weekend? Humans don’t mind working everyday as long as they are in a flow, and get enough breaks to reset their minds.

Then there were extended periods of rest, off-seasons and long breaks.

But that was past, let us not go there.

Today there are freelancers who never take a day off.

Manufacturing still has the 6 day work week. 

How do they even manage?

Any thoughts?

Why predictable stories win?

Couple of weeks back I just binged watched Squid Games on Netflix. I am sure many of you have watched the show by now. Whenever I login onto Netflix, Squid Games is always trending. 

What is so different about Squid Games that makes it so engaging? How some people always get their storytelling equation right?

Isn’t Squid Games one of the most predictable shows out there?

You know what is going to happen from day 1, don’t you?

Who is going to win all that money and in what sequence people are going to die, we know it all.

But Squid Games doesn’t seem loose the grip on their audience ever.

Then what is working so well for Squid Games?

Well, it is not “what” is going to happen but “how” it is going to happen that matters.

We always wish to see how it is going to happen, how things are going to unfold.

Some character is going to die for sure, but how?

Someone is going to cheat, but how?

All stories are predictable. And Netflix has got the equation right.

Humans look forward for predictable plots. We love to see reruns. We love when heroes win and villains eat the dust. Predictability is the safest bet that producers take. 

Ok, apart from all that, there was one thing that has worked really well for Squid Games; high stakes

When the stakes are high, as high as life and death and obscene amount of money involved, the plot is usually foolproof. 

Money Heist worked on that principle.

I sometimes wonder why Bollywood/ Indian producers aren’t able to get the equation right. 

I don’t think Indian origin shows trend so much in other nations.

And the answer that comes to my mind is simple, they blatantly copy the “what” and also shamelessly copy the “how”. They play it too safe. Low risks, low returns. 🙂

Please leave your thoughts

Managing Customer Experience is really a rocket science

I love to visit Crossword. It is a ritual I perform every time I visit a mall. Usually, these stores are quiet, peaceful and urge you to spend time with books you never care to read. But a few days back, it was a different story.

Two staff members were having a heated conversation. The mediator was their store manager who was quietly listening.

It was early in the day, around 11:30 am.

It was not a big store but clearly understaffed given its size.

I could hear the heated conversation from the extreme corner of the store.

By every minute it was getting louder. They were speaking in Marathi.

My wife gestured, let us move as I was trying to find a good book for her.

Whatever I could overhear was the following:

“I don’t take lunch breaks, she goes for lunch breaks and takes her own sweet time to return. 

She doesn’t even file the bills. I am working here for 8 years, I have never seen such nuisance created by a new employee.”

We left the store. I didn’t even feel bad. I am not even a loyal customer of #Crossword. I appreciate them for their physical presence and always prefer to buy books on Kindle. Or buy physical copies from Amazon. Thanks to the huge price differential. Do I deserve a good experience at a Crossword? maybe not. 

Maybe it was the post-pandemic noise as things are coming back to normal. The discussion could be dismissed as two employees voicing out their concerns over KRAs, work hygiene, etc. 

We then headed towards Decathlon for a specific need; compression socks for distance running.

I love their large stores. Employees were busy arranging merchandise. 

“You need compression socks? You will get them near the billing counter on the left” said a 20 something enthusiastic executive.

Once we reached there, he came and explained the nomenclature and the size details. 

Unfortunately, my wife couldn’t get her size which she ordered online later but I got mine. 

After a few minutes, he met us again at a different counter and asked if there is anything else we need.

Are we comparing the two experiences? Not really, it will be foolish to do so.

But I believe managing customer experience is very difficult. It is a deliberate art, well thought of the top levels and equally well executed on the floor. 

Trivia: Decathalon hires employees who are passionate about sports. They are hired as sports leaders and manage the related merchandise.

#customerexperience#perspective#management#hiring#culture

Finding your weaknesses

What are your weaknesses? 

When asked in interviews, we all have a couple of well-fabricated weaknesses up our sleeve.

Serves the purpose. 

But what are our real weaknesses? And why most of us are not able to clearly articulate them?

Here is the answer: Our weaknesses are deeply buried under our strengths.

Oftentimes we use our strengths to such an extent that our weaknesses always remain hidden from us.

These weaknesses also remain hidden from others.

We “overuse” our strengths to hide our weaknesses.

Here is a common example.

I bet you must have experienced a heated argument with your close ones, friends, or colleagues.

If you always try to win such arguments by being logical and critical then it is more likely that you are unable to have a deeply emotional and empathetic dialogue. 

Note that “Always” is the keyword here. 

If you “always” address conflict by being passive and quiet then you are underusing assertion as a skill.

If you happen to play a Table Tennis match with me, you will notice that 80% of the time I use my backhand.

I am an average player, never took any formal coaching. 

But the backhand is so hardwired since my college days that I am just unable to play simple forehand shots.

I tend to overcompensate the lack of forehand technique by creative and strong backhand action.

I could easily improve my game by 30-40% if I work on my forehand but sadly I don’t.

Table tennis is a sport, your weaknesses could be spotted in plain sight.

Unfortunately, life isn’t.

Strengths are often coping mechanisms for our shortcomings.

Behavioural shortcomings are difficult to identify.

But with some reflection, you could identify them.

Just spot a strength that you tend to overuse and ask why am I doing that?

#strength#weaknesses#behavioralscience#selfawareness

I wrote an email to Jack Welch

Back in 2014, my boss told me to draft an email to Jack Welch (you read it right). I never dared to ask why we are even doing this. I thought why would Jack Welch or his team even read this email and reply.

But Jack’s team replied:

“With Mr. Welch’s current schedule, a trip quite this far, unfortunately, doesn’t look feasible for this fall. To give you some general information, Mr. Welch has a two date guarantee for international appearances, with each appearance at an honorarium of $150,000 (a total of $300,000) plus private plane expenses, one suite, and one standard room at the hotel of his choice, security, ground transportation and meals for two.”

It was not a surprise or shock. 

Why did we even write to him in the first place?

Were we stupid? Maybe.

In hindsight, was my boss aiming for the stars, in the hope of finding a moon? Who knows?

Back then, “Make in India” had different traction altogether. The attempt was to invite such luminaries to deliver a speech on digital transformation in manufacturing in India. The plan was to give it good media coverage and launch a program for the manufacturing group under that media Buzz.

The underlying belief was that sometimes some people are more accessible than you think they are.

We not only wrote to Jack Welch but also reached out to Seth Godin, Clayton Christensen, and some Harvard professors. Every time we received a very warm reply. Some kindly declined and some quoted obscene amounts. 

The result? We consolidated the findings and reported them to the management. There were discussions around budget and approach. One thing led to another. Eventually, we settled for some IIM Professors. 

Was it a big success? Not really. However, the event started moving things. It gave us the required momentum to progress. We were comfortable inviting people and conducting events. 

Cost of trying and failing in digital world is too small. It is worth taking that moonshot. 

Organizational Culture Doesn’t matter?

Last week, I connected with a close friend after a while.

After the usual gup-shup, the conversation somehow steered towards workplace culture.

He recently changed his job and given the circumstances, joined the company remotely.

I asked, how is the culture of your new company?

He said, it doesn’t matter, I have no clue about the culture. But do you know what is more important? The culture of a team.

He went on to describe his boss and his colleagues, the team dynamics, and routines.

After the conversation, I reflected a bit.

Why we are so obsessed with organizational culture?

Isn’t a team a micro-community within an organization? 

Have you noticed two starkly different teams in the same function? I bet you have.

The team leads/ managers set the tone for the team culture.

It matters how well your colleagues stick to the values and expectations set within a team.

The team lead can espouse organizational values and culture within a team.

Or he/she might completely isolate the team from the good/bad influence of #workplace#culture.

Two teams are like two neighborhoods within a given locality. Each with its own set of characteristics. 

And given the #WFH situation, the significance of #teamculture has become even more profound.

In that case, should we take the Glass Door reviews that describe org culture (both in a positive and negative light) with a generous pinch of salt? 

What do you think?