Ignore this and digital projects fail

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There are many reasons for failure, which I will explore in posts later. But one thing stands out and cuts through all of them.

Human emotion.

Project leaders tend to think that digital will solve all their problems where as the business users ( staff who will be using new digital ways to serve the customers) are skeptical from day 0.

Will I lose my job?

Will I be replaced by a new young staff ?

Will I be seen as old school ?

Gosh, I need to learn so many things…

Though people don’t say these things openly, these doubts are circling their minds and hearts every time a digital project comes in. Are they to be blamed ? Absolutely not.

The problem lies with leaders who do not see it through to the end. I heard this from one of my friend, who knew of a leader who said below at the project initiation meeting.

“You will not lose your jobs. If someone goes home, I will also go home”

That is a leader who knows how to rally a team around a cause. It is so simple on the print, but takes so much preparation and empathy as a leader. One can fake it, but it is not sustainable.

On motivational speakers and training

motivation speaker

Motivational speakers are good, when your team is in low spirits.

Provided you have a good strategy, right team in place and enabling structures are executed.  But what happens when you have no sound strategy, mediocre teams in place and structures are crumbling.?

No dose of motivation can fix that, right?

But no, many leaders don’t get this. They outsource the hard stuff to a forever optimistic outsider. They sugar coat with hype and jargon. They say “all our futures are bright. But we need to gel together now.” Sounds like crap coming out of  from politician’s mouths, ain’t it ? Sadly many organisations are throwing one session motivational speakers to solve their big long enduring problems.

Like with many mediocre inefficient solution out there, motivational speakers are attractive. They give the sudden boost of steroids. We all feel good, until we feel the ‘same old’ the next day.

So what can we do about training ?

Training is way more important to outsource. There are areas you can outsource, but the core strategy and execution of training should never be outsourced. The senior management and unit heads should be leaders in real time. The problems of today are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. 

You need senior managers and unit heads to step up to be coaches and mentors. No HR department in the world can get real time assessment of individual training needs of an organisation. That’s why Netflix decentralised training function to unit heads. Netflix’s global reach is testament that their decentralised training plan is working. They publish more and more creative original content and expand their global reach month on month.

So does this mean motivational speaking has no place in the work place?

The answer is Yes and No.

Yes it does – Why do you think sports coaches give their pep talks at the start and intervals of a game? When you have done all game planning and trained hard for it, all you need is a grain of motivation from your leader to go out there and perform your best.

No, that motivation speech can do nothing – if you don’t have sound strategy, a great team and execution structures in place.

Let me know what you think. Appreciate if you can drop a comment below.

MVP

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Something interesting happened last week.

I was designing a new project with a friend. The project had much potential and I wanted to test the idea with 10 customers by building a minimum viable product (MVP) . The idea of a MVP is not to go in to full spec product, but putting your immediate effort to create a very basic version of the product, that would get the the thing done, for now.

I whatsapped my friend ” Hey, we need to have a MVP fast”

He replied “of course”

Then in the evening when we met I asked him, “so what is your MVP”

“errh..we need to find him or her from the team right?”

“What? I am asking you about Minimum Viable Product

“Oh, sorry, I thought you meant Most Valuable Player

(I have forgotten 2 things:

  1. That I should not use abbreviations, because you know, as you can see, it’s confusing.
  2. I also have forgotten that my friend is a basket ball fanatic. )

We had a very long laugh. The meeting was productive and we came up with a minimum viable product.

Then during this weekend when I reflected on this humorous coincidence, I figured there’s actually a connection between minimum viable product and most valuable player. 

Think about members in your team, workplace.

How many of them are capable of coming up with workable versions of what is needed. When others need 2 weeks, this person comes up with a solution in half a day ?

I bet you have met people like them in your companies and outside.

They are the most valuable players in your team who comes up with the minimum viable product. ( This is now becoming cliche: The MVP who comes up with MVP !! ) 

Seriously though, I have found in my career as a business consultant, these MVP’s have a hard time convincing their bosses they are good at what they do.

The reason is bosses are obsessed with crazy big ideas that take months to implement, and requires lot of resources, hoping that it would land them recognition from the board. Those big projects are of course needed for companies to grow , no doubt.

But the issue is in pursuit of those audacious goals, bosses have forgotten the value of their MVPs. These are the people who love a challenge and want the teams to succeed, not just him/her self. They take the brunt of the company and deliver. They rarely get appreciated. Yet their incremental improvements are the ones that hold the business together.

Why not you reflect on this in your weekend? Let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment below. Let’s find our MVPs and appreciate them.

 

 

5 ways to get recruited in tech industry

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I had a two hour conversation with a very senior CXO ( a tech wizard and a philosopher) of a world famous big Sri Lankan software company. Our major topic was why the gap between what employers want and what employees are looking for is widening, with special emphasis on the millennials. ( Ahhh….the eternal scapegoat for every HR issue in any company now 🙂 ) 

So, if you are a young person ( 18-24 age) looking for your first job, or an internship, here’s the formula for success revealed by our tech wizard and philosopher. ( No, there’s no guarantee of securing a job, unless you actually do these stuff.  Even when you do it, it has to be genuine and authentic)  

1. Volunteer for meet ups and tech events

These events are in abundance. Get in touch with the organisers and genuinely offer help. Do the hard stuff like carrying, cleaning and arranging stuff in the room. If you are good with interacting with people, be the front desk assistant. If you are good with public speaking, offer to be the emcee, moderator, facilitator or whatever the role that is there and no body wants to pick up.

2. Grab attention to your work.

If you do work above, attention is automatic. If you don’t love events, go and talk to HR people and say that you want to intern as a coder. Show that you are open to learn on the go and deliver in time. When you get the opportunity actually do what you said at the first place. Nothing spreads faster than your work.

3. Get recommended by industry seniors

If you do good stuff, you know it yourself. Don’t be ashamed to ask for a recommendation by your seniors. An old fashioned recommendation letter or better if it can find its way to your linked in profile recommendations. It’s a digital world, so should be your recommendations.

4. Do not just look for big famous tech companies.

This may be a shocker to you.

Do not just go after big and famous tech companies, because you know, everyone is applying there. Roughly companies get 100 CVs for every candidate they shortlist. So, you get my point right ?

Look for opportunities in government sector ( cough). What ? there are more than enough people in government sector, and they are collectively an inefficient machine, right ? NO. that is not the reason.

There are very limited number of tech professionals in government sector. So if you are good at tech, they are willing to recruit you. The experience will be immensely valuable for your career and you have the opportunity to serve your nation directly.

5. Build your credibility as a deliverer.

Nothing gets you places like your reputation. Work speaks much much louder and clearer than your words. Be hungry and be foolish ( as Mr.Jobs said). Learn new technology ( online learning is so cool) , do side projects, publish them in portals like GitHub. Get attention to your work. Update linked in profile.

Anything I missed ? Why not leave a comment. I will add to this list. 

 

 

3 stories to massage your VUCA mindset.

Hello !

I had explained what is VUCA, why is it important, and benefits of a VUCA mindset, in my previous post.

Maintaining a new mindset is not easy. As you practice it, you will face multiple challenges that will throw you away. When mind is agitated, mind gets tired, just like our physical bodies. Just as we massage our bodies when we are physically exhausted, our minds need massages, time and again.

A good story is a great way to massage your mind.  I stumbled upon these stories in books, internet and in midst of conversations with friends. You probably have heard variants of these. So here are 3 stories to reflect ( massage) when your mind is fatigued with VUCA.

Finding calm at the meditation hall.

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A lady went on a meditation retreat somewhere in England. On second day, she was starting to get some decent mindfulness. But then out of no where a man next to her started snoring. She lost her mindfulness, the stillness. She could not sit in silence, she was agitated and was upset that this man is ruining her blissful experience. As the meditation session was ongoing, she had to endure the torture for another half an hour. When the session was over, she went straight to that man and complained. That man was in shock. He said that he did not snore, in-fact he had a wonderful meditation. Then the lady realised that snoring sound was still around in the hall. A further inspection revealed that the sound came from the radiator of the heater in the hall.

In a split second she was released and apologised. Just the knowledge that the sound was coming from a radiator, not from a man, enabled the mind to accept sound with out judgment and irritation.

Same sound coming from a machine and a person have very different consequences.

Boat ride

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A man was on a boat sliding down stream in a bit of  rough river. He saw a log coming at him. He steered his boat away from the log and avoided disaster. He was happy about his quick agility that got his boat saved, and his life.

Then further down, he saw a boat coming in his way. He saw few people in that boat. Furious, he yelled at people in the boat, ‘are you trying to kill me?’

People in the other boat started yelling at him too. Yelling continued until they were out of sight of each other.

Then further down the stream, another log came his way. He used his agility and manoeuvred the boat to safety, again. He felt proud, again.

Same challenge coming from an object and a person have very different consequences.

Old man at the market

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Wife asked her husband to go to the market and bring a dozen of eggs. Husband was not a fan of shopping, but what can a man do when wife requests :)?

He was about to enter the market, when out of the blue, an old man appeared and started to scold him in filth. Husband was upset and got embarrassed, rushed back home. He yelled at his wife, “I’ve never been embarrassed like this in my entire life. You wanted to me to go market, that’s why it happened. How many times I told you to get eggs from supermarket?”

This wife was not like most of the wives. She listened to him calmly and asked “Is this man was wearing a red hat?”

“Yes”

“Did he had a large scar on his left cheek?”

“Yes”

“Oh, my dear, that is an old man who has lost his mind. He’s dwelling at the market place. That’s where he lives. People at the market let him live there out of pity. He has nowhere to go. He’s homeless and abandoned by his children. He has lost his mind and yells at every person.”

The husband immediately felt released, relaxed and thoughts of embarrassment was a thing in the past. He felt no feelings of embarrassment because now he knew the old man had a mental illness.

Same words coming from a sane person and a person with mental illness have very different consequences.

So next time VUCA happens in life, remember these three: the radiator, the log, and man at the market. Just remembering them will give you a different perspective to navigate VUCA in full awareness. It helps me everyday, I hope it will help you too.

Some people find these stories amusing, witty and sarcastic. Some find them insightful, transformative and therapeutic. How do you find them? Leave a comment below.

Thank you.

The Online Lives of Young Children in Sri Lanka

Sarvodaya-Fusion’s IT YahaMaga program at a school somewhere in Kuliyapitiya

Nicholas CarlisleFounder/President of Power of Zero and No Bully, has interviewed me few months back on ‘The Online Lives of Young Children in Sri Lanka’ as part of their series on the online lives of young children across the world.

Power of Zero is a global campaign to reshape early learning for a connected world. It focuses on children aged eight and under. Young children (8 and under) spend an average of two hours a day with screen media and the time increases every year. Technology has now become part of the landscape of childhood.

I talked about my experience of Sarvodaya-Fusion’s ‘IT YahaMaga’ program, where we have raised awareness about internet safety and ethics, for more than 50,000 school students in less than 5 years.  You can read the full interview here to see my answers to questions like below. I would like to see your comments and critique which I will report back to Power of Zero to update their case studies.

Are they using the kid friendly version of Facebook Messenger?

Mostly no, because they are using their parent’s phone and often their parent’s Facebook account. More educated parents create separate accounts that are child friendly, but that is a much smaller percentage. I talk to people in the rural sections, and I ask them “Are you on Facebook?” and they say yes, and I say “Are you on the Internet?” and they say no.  They get their mobile data enabled by a prepaid connection, but all they can see is that they are on the Facebook app. They don’t realise that they are on the Internet. I am not talking about the young people here, I am talking about the adults in rural sections. They are not asking the questions that they need to ask such as: “How do I enable my mobile data?” and “How do I set my privacy’” and “Do I have to be careful about sharing pictures?” Those conversations are only now starting to happen.

Mission of ‘Power of Zero’ is to build every child’s powers to connect well, by setting up the next generation to harness the positive power of the internet and end online hate, bullying, and violence.

I highly recommend their learning materials section. It has lot of useful material if you are a parent or a facilitator in building capacity of children to be safe online.

VUCA mindset

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What is VUCA?

VUCA is an overused managerial acronym in the business world which actually came from the military. VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

VUCA showcase a world of quick change, unpredictable results, and complex relationships.

It is a nicer way to say the situation is bat crazy. Most of our personal lives and work places are in VUCA, thankfully not in the level of military grade.

Yet we face career insecurity, inflation, rising interest rates, terrorism, global trade wars, natural disasters and irrational markets behaviours, making it impossible to gauge moment to moment with sufficient information. We have to take decisions with out having all information on the table.

So What are our options?

So if our world is in constant VUCA, does that mean we are helpless?.Does it make sense to plan at all?. Planning may not wipe out your helplessness 100%, but it can certainly help you to anticipate things, prepare in advance, and give you the space to respond in a better way.

Where to start VUCA mindset

I would get in to more of what VUCA situations taught me in future posts. But this post is all about how to get what I call, the VUCA mindset. Without building this mindset, no matter how much knowledge you have of your situation, you will be drowned in chaotic emotions and loads of information. So, how to build that mindset?

It needs practice. A lot actually. But small experiences daily, add up to strengthen that VUCA mindset. It’s like clearing your work desk or cleaning files on your computer desktop. Building a new mindset needs new space that is devoid of old habits.

Recently I went on a pilgrimage to India with my family to visit the places where Buddha was born, enlightened, gave his first sermon and eventually passed away. It involved 6 days of rigorous traveling for over 1200 kilometres in a big bus. If there’s a good place you can experience VUCA, Indian roads comes at the top of the list. Vehicles driven at crazy speeds slide all over the place. Roads and bridges are in constant state of construction. Traffic is terrific. Brown dust whirl pools circling roads and beyond. Heat and humidity suck the last ounce of human energy. We had Air conditioning, but the driver’s cubicle had no AC.

One day I was right behind the driver’s seat. Traffic got on to my nerves by just watching the road. I wondered, what would it be like to our beloved driver, who on some days drove more than 300 kilometres. He was the calmest person I’ve ever met in my life. He did not react, let alone bat an eyelid in stressful traffic. He did not get tired in difficult terrain. Nothing.

He showed me the most important lesson in VUCA: the absolute compulsory need of a calm mindset. Every time I am in chaos, now I visualise him driving those long winding roads in Uttar Pradesh, like below, which I hyper-lapsed five minutes of his driving.

 

Why not compare?

compare

If you want to engage someone at work (who works below their capacity and they are making the effort to improve) don’t compare them with someone else in your organisation. 

Absolutely do not compare them with people in some other organisation, or their practices. 

Ever wonder, why someone who have performed exceptionally well in one organisation, then goes to a new organisation to fail miserably ? 

This behaviour comes from our need to compare numbers: they are doing well, we are not. 

Humans are not numbers. With the advent of big data, managers want to tag everything to a number, because it makes decision making easier. 

Yet if you really want to develop people, learn to trust them and coach them.  

Invest your time to learn why they are working in your organisation ? 

What keeps them motivated ?

People stick with managers who gets them. 

I have seen people working happily at a lower salary for years. They love their manager. I have seen Managers who cannot keep their team members from leaving them, despite offering higher salaries. Yes, there are many reasons to switch places, but have you ever wondered what is the first thing that triggers people to look elsewhere ?

Micro finance should be regulated

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A loan officer somewhere in India. There are good outcomes when done right, but things have turned bad. 

Micro finance is not glorious as majority of the reports out there proclaim. There are many findings to the contrary, including this article of FT. 

Micro finance has been converted from a small enterprise creation help for poor people to a monster greedy business machine for finance institutes to exploit poor people. 

According to the Lanka Microfinance Practitioners’ Association (LMFPA), data gathered from 37 MFIs for from 2017 to 2018 shows that there are over 2.8 million active borrowers, of whom over 2.4 million are women, who have taken loans amounting to Rs. 94 billion. 

The micro finance sales people are dishing out loans ( very small loan at bizarre high interest rates as much as 40%) to poor people for consumption purposes. Sales people know it. They don’t care because  their commission is at play. The recipient ( Most of the time a woman) is not finance literate at all, and all they care is getting that money to get out of the trouble they are in for the moment. 

It was found that women are compelled to borrow to finance health emergencies, funerals, coming-of-age ceremonies and weddings through microcredit facilities. “They give the loan for livelihood development, but we use the loan for other purposes. I showed tailoring and cattle rearing as reasons for getting the loan,” said a female from Batticaloa, while another from Monaragala said that she took the loan saying it was for cattle rearing. “I showed someone else’s cattle as my own since I don’t have my own. That is how people borrow. We show different means to borrow money,” she said

As the article mentions, there’s a direct link between women migrating to middle east countries as house maids to pay back the very small loans they received as micro finance, which have become un payable.  

The micro finance space is not regulated. This is sick.

Hithawathi හිතවතී

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You are a female. Imagine a scenario where you get bullied, trolled or blackmailed on internet. Or that happens to someone you know, someone you care.

Ask them to call 0114216062.

Hithawathi is a timely initiative launched by LK domain to support the ones who get distressed on internet in Sri Lanka.

Hithawathi has a website ( www.hithawathi.lk)

You can email at help@hithawathi.lk

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