MVP

Image result for MVP

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.

 

 

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.

Image result for meditation hall

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

Image result for man in the boat

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

Image result for old man at the market

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.

Outsourcing everything

There are things you cannot outsource. There are things that cannot be ‘Uber of this’ or ‘AirBnB of that’. As much as there are trends, we should not be enslaved to think that everything can be outsourced to cut cost or look sexy launching an app. There are many failure stories, that does not get your attention.

There’s so much of human touch needed in serving the customer now. Never been a time like this where products and services are sold in abundance, but customers want personal attention. This is a conundrum. Growth does not mean just achieving new numbers. Growth requires the expansion of your existing relationships with customers. When organizations outsource their core value areas for the sake of sanity and cost, brutal outcomes may happen.

For example: I was rudely surprised when I was treated badly by an insurance agent, when I needed their service the most. After 2 and half years of paying monthly premiums, here I was looking for the first service from them. The person had no regard for this. He treated me as one of those ( I understand there are bad customers ) crooked ones. I immediately got back to the sales person who sold me the policy. He understood. Patched things up. In insurance, what matters is that interaction the customer have once in a while. Those precious moments decide whether the customer would stay or not.

Respect time.

Though many say “time is money”, time in organisations is not actually treated in the way we treat money.

Organisations in meeting rooms waste hundreds or hours in few hours.

I was recently at a meeting with 25 people for 2 hours. That is 50 man hours. What we achieved ? – confusion and boredom. Only one decision was taken. That could have easily achieved through one email.

Many want consensus in decision making. It’s all good. But we simply forget how difficult to get consensus even between 2 people. Try deciding what movie to watch with your spouse, if you think consensus is easy.

Rather, focus on what people want. Ask questions, and be ready to accept answers as they are. Be bold to be surprised and vulnerable. Think “there’s always a better way to do things, even routine activities”. Then act differently. Courage to act after getting that feedback is the loop that keeps you improving.

To get feedback, you don’t need meetings. Feedback can happen in your way to the water dispenser, with the right question. Sometimes humans are relaxed and more responsive when they are standing on their feet. You don’t need to have an answer. But you need to have the mind space to accept the response to your question.

Save meetings. Save time.

The other side of ratings

I was waiting for my ride on Uber when I saw on app that the driver had a 3.5 rating.

Only 3.5 ?

A sudden irritation crept inside me. What could this 3.5 number mean?

Is he a reckless driver? Is he bad with using maps? is he mean? may be his car is in bad shape?

These thoughts circled my mind for the 5 minutes he took to arrive.

Reflecting on my mind state, I questioned my self “what if I had not seen the rating?”

I decided to act like I hadn’t seen his rating. I got in.

I was welcomed to a wide smile of a young man in his mid twenties.

To my surprise he drove exceptionally well. No crazy changing of lanes, no abrupt brakes, and he was very courteous.

He had been driving for 6 days on Uber. There can be many reasons for his 3.5 rating.

I judged him on his rating alone.

We already have enough criteria to be judgmental: monthly income, size of home, car, brand of clothes, number of degrees/MBA’s.

Now, with social media and apps: how many likes you get to your selfie? how many friends, followers, Shares ?

Ratings throw beauty of randomness out of human equation.

We judge people like they are things, not as humans who are capable of random acts of goodness.

These random, ad hoc characteristics of humans are been standardised to make humans palpable for big data. Then humans can be classified to include them in to target groups. Very interesting times.

Asking questions and fear of failure

I find audiences very peculiar. They don’t ask questions after a session is over.

When I go to a session, an event, a meeting or to a talk,  there’s a good reason why I am spending my time there. Otherwise I don’t go.

So when I am there, I want to ask questions to clarify and clear doubts. I want to learn new things.

I am not afraid if I look stupid in front of others, because my biggest resource is time, and it needs better care.

From experience I found, it is only my questions that can make my time spent worthwhile in many occasions. Here’s an example.

Extra tip: I am an avid google maps user, but I stop by and ask from people about the place I am going. I am pleasantly surprised by the knowledge I get.

I found most of the time, the reason I do not want to ask questions is the fear of rejection.

Steve Jobs explains this in less than 2 minutes:

How can I help you ?

how-can-i-help

At events, especially after completing a talk, number of people who network with me is high. It’s all good.

But time is limited. At one instance there were 3 persons from different organisations around me. All want to talk about their work, but all want to leave soon as well, because it was already past 530 pm. Traffic is insane in Colombo.

So this is what I did.

” How can I help you?”

The conversation moved from what we do to why we should connect. We all were questioning each other with specific questions and sooner we understood each other. It took 10 minutes and we knew how we can help each other.

Wonderful thing was with one person I  found he could help me more than I could help him.

So, ” How can I help you?”