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.

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.

On Discipline

I had a hard time understanding discipline as a leadership value all my life.

It was shown and demonstrated something in the lines of : obey, patience, obedience, aligning, code of behaviour and punishment for disobedience.

Then I saw this explanation of discipline by Jim Collins. ( the world famous author of best sellers like ‘Good to great’ and ‘built to last’)

Discipline is not the same as regimentation. Discipline is not the same as measurement. Discipline is not the same as hierarchical obedience or adherence to bureaucratic rules. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long term aspirations.

That is discipline I can work with. 

Doing the impossible

In a brainstorming session at a recent workshop, I listened to a banter between two participants. It made me laugh. It was also profound.

A: “It’s a dream you are proposing. It’s impossible. How can we make impossible happen?”

B: ” You mean, you don’t know how to do the impossible?”

A: ” yes, that is why it is called impossible”

B: “well the way to do the impossible is to do it. “

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Neil inside spacecraft Gemini 8 , in 1969

Later in that day I watched “First Man”, the movie about Neil Armstrong. As a kid, when I learnt about Neil, it was just a fact. Neil was the first man on moon. On that day in 1969, 530 million people watched him take the ‘giant leap for mankind.’

The movie shredded my perceptions about landing on moon. I never knew the hardships in many fronts. How Neil struggled at home with sick kids. His daughter died at age two suffering from a malignant brain tumor. Never knew about his wife’s enormous strength and endurance. How he lost 3 of his fellow astronauts from a fire in a testing capsule. Never knew he escaped near death in many a missions. How thousands of NASA team members worked day and night to achieve the impossible, while citizens marched against mega budgets dedicated to moon landing, which could have gone in to pressing needs in America like poverty and racial tension.

It was impossible to go to moon, until that very moment Neil landed on Moon.

The more we run from our fears, the bigger they get. Yet, when we go right in to them, fears evaporate and vanish.

Do I have control over this?

Motivation is plenty on internet with inspiring quotes to adrenalin pumping videos. We watch them daily on our social media feeds. It’s like drugs. You need more and more each day to feel the kick. Why?

Your motivation is directly linked with how much control you have over your work and surroundings. When you have motivation, you jump and do things.

That’s why people gossip about sports and politics. Gossip is all we can do, because we don’t have control over what happens in sports and politics. We are spectators, nothing more.

Think about office gossip. It’s kind of the same. When we do not have control over our work and environment, we opt for gossip. It’s easy. But when we are clear about what we have to do and given control, we are hungry for work. We stretch and do things that were impossible at the beginning. The confidence built from doing even a simple thing adds up to drive us to the next thing.

New attitude

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Workplaces and our homes are now intensely complex. It’s hard to stay calm and be objective because emotions and residues from the past bounces most of us to get distracted and irritated. Obstacles are a way of life now. To embrace obstacles is the new attitude. I must try hard to

1. Control emotions to focus on objective

2. Filter out good in all situations

3. Ignore what irritates me and which limits me.

4. Be mindful in the present moment. Remove fear about future. Not to over think.

5. Only spend time on things I can control.

Daily workout and meditation in the morning is my fuel tanked full, for the rest of the day.

There’s a saying “if you want to make people happy, do not be a leader, sell ice cream.”

Leadership for me is to do the right thing, and if it feels right, get others to do the right thing too, so that they become leaders. Humans do not like to be changed. It is hard work. And it’s a choice.

How to innovate over and over.

Most of us, when we hear about “innovation” tend to visualise staff retreats, having fun and been creative by expressing ideas. Then come up with that ‘aha’ moment, and go and work on it. Once in a year routine, may be twice a year.

Far from it. Innovation in reality is loads of hard work, an emotional drainage, and a creator of many awkward and uncomfortable moments. If not driven well, it can derail even the most honest intentions.

Right now, in this age, if the head of organization is not leading innovation process, nothing will happen differently. Discussions may happen, but changes won’t be there. From next week, it will be back to old stuff.

So, then what is the role of the leader? Instead of thinking I have to give the grand vision and inspire people to follow, a leader must co-create space that people on their own generate new ideas, test, get it right, fail, generate ideas again, repeat.

Underdogs can win.

Yesterday Sri Lankan fans threw water bottles on the play ground during final moments of a ODI played between India and Sri Lanka. This is not the first in the history of cricket in Sri Lanka. It happened in 2015 too.

“It’s only a few people, not all Indians”

~ Indians, 1996

“It’s only a few people, not all Sri Lankans”

~ Sri Lankans, 2017

Frustration in universal. I’m not condoning the act, yet hey, welcome to reality.

No body wants to cheer a side that is losing continuously. No body wants to work in a company that is making losses year after year. Shareholders leave.  Staff jump ship. People invest to win, they take bets on winning. At least fans need to see the hunger in their team to win.

Damage is done. Reputation is lost. Frustration is out. It’s ok.

What is not ok is to keep things shabby and rudderless. Fans cannot be asked to keep calm. Fans are fans because of what they do. They cheer.

The team needs to show their hunger to win on the field, not in press conferences. There will always be politics. That’s the case in every country. Players need to play. A captain needs to lead. For the cricket board, well, they need to bring sanity in to the structure.

Way forward is to win. To win a few matches. Sri Lankans are not the first underdog, would not be the last. Sometimes, been the underdog is a blessing, if they can seize the moment. That moment is now, when they are at the bottom of the most darkest of pits of all time.

A leader’s dilemma on team building

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We want teams to explore opportunities, yet we celebrate speedy delivery.

We advise people to think as a ‘group’ but treat ‘group think’ as a cancer in the organisation culture.

We want self motivated, initiative taking teams, but at the same time fear uncontrolled outcomes they bring in.

We want people to meet, discuss and make collaborative decisions, when in fact that decision could have been made by just one person, saving hours of meeting time.

Are we walking the talk ?