Category Archives: organization

A Dog in Sheesh Mahal

Don’t be too amused at the title just yet. Its a local idiom showing how a dog in a palace would behave. Out of place, bewildered, confused even bedazzled. Most of us started out careers at the entry level. We all have come from different backgrounds. Some have been exposed to corporate setups due to our parents or family and some of us have not. Some come from elite institutes while other from very humble beginnings. What all of us have in common is that we started somewhere and today we have achieved a certain status in our professional lives. Going back in the journey and recalling our first day at work …. Do that…please go back in time and remember. The nervous insides, tingling unexplained sensations, the fear of the unknown … Are you there yet? Good, or not too good 🙂 Now, do you remember the first senior who took you on and explained some of the basics to you. The first senior who corrected your mistake and told you ” Its ok. We all make mistakes…learn from this and you will be ok!” I feel certain that we can all name at least one senior in our professional lives who carved the path to our achievements , to our success. Being senior professional in our respective fields today … we owe it to those mentors, friends, guides to Pay it forward ! Acknowledge the fact that our knowledge and skill cannot be taken away from us, cannot be stolen. The purpose of our experience is to “share”, to give away to our new generation ( batch ) of budding professionals who stagger in to the hall ways of professional greatness .. unsure and unaware of the magnitude of potential they are carrying hidden away inside them. It is up to us to act as guides and in many cases as catalysts to build confidence and transform these freshers. I am a result of many great minds who have in their own unique ways contributed to my professional path. And today I would like to say “Thank you ” to all of them. I would request a moment from everyone reading this post to take a minute, remember those mentors and send them a thank you note, sms or email today…now . It may not seem much, but appreciation goes a long way. I am in the process of emailing mine 🙂

Office Show Down

Now that I am working for the 7th company in my professional experience spread over a dozen years and multiple countries and a few continents I feel that I have finally (rather obvious) concluded that office politics is not a local or regional phenomenon. It is a universal reality. 

The sooner we acknowledge its existence, the better prepared we will be to handle and cope with it. Mostly I feel it’s about how WE react to such situation and less about accepting it. 
But as the saying goes, acceptance is half the battle won.
First, always remember that amongst all the variables that you cannot control … there is one very important factor that you can control. That factor is YOUR RESPONSE to any situation. How you choose to react decides the tangent the situation will take. Always evaluate and respond in a manner that is above petty personal differences and ultimately good for the business.
Second, Always remember that if your reaction supports the bottom line then sooner or later your boss and management will see it. This is a good thing J
Third, instead of being upset about the things you cannot change its better to be happy about the things you can change. Very often we are too busy feeling victimized by some policy that we cannot change to notice the positive influence we can bring within our own area of influence.
Fourth, Its always better not to take sides. Being opinionated is one thing however taking sides is another. Learn better and effective conflict resolution techniques in order to resolves positively the disagreements.
Fifth, Always remember to understand before your seek to be understood. This helps in creating a deeper understanding of the others point of view and also creates a better possibility of a Win-Win situation.
Last, Never …Never get personal. It is an office and you will come across many people from different places and different insight and opinions and objectives. You must remain focused on the company objectives and stay aloof from making it personal.
Have a nice weekend!

Handling Office Politics


Political Tug of war
Office politics is just like the lottery.  Dreaming about winning doesn’t get you anywhere – there’s no payoff if you don’t buy a ticket. But YOU have to play if you want to win. 

However, unlike the lottery, there are consequences if you decide not to play.

Game Plan

Not everything in life in black and white and unfortunately, office politics can’t be reduced to this level of simplicity either. 
Office politics is a complex stew of power, ambition, control and ego.  Winning, if there is such a thing, requires continuous attention to who’s important/not important at any given moment and strategically aligning with the right 
faction(s). Mistakes can be fatal to a career. 

It’s easy to see how many people decide it’s smarter to sit on the sidelines.  Swim with these sharks?  No thanks, it’s much safer not to get involved.  Or so you’d think … but you’d be wrong.

Opt out, and the best you can hope for is to be completely ignored.  This might be good for your psyche, but it’s tough on your career.  Promotions or good assignments won’t be coming your way, but a layoff might, if one’s in the offing.  All too often, quiet = expendable

If you choose not to play, be sure you don’t criticize those who do, or the game itself.  You’ll be labeled a loose cannon or a troublemaker.  You’ll also be a target for skilled political players who may decide to use you to further their own agendas.  It’s easy to identify the person who doesn’t want to join in as the malcontent who’s responsible for badmouthing unpopular decisions.

Well, says you, I’m not being negative, I’m just saying that things should be based on merit – the quality of your work, not who you kiss up to.  I agree – in principal:
It sounds great, but I’ve never seen a company where there wasn’t some element of politics at work.

This is Unfair

Right.  What’s your point?  The culture of each workplace evolves over time, largely in reaction to the example that’s set at the top.  Unless you’re the new CEO, your ability to unilaterally create change is very, very limited.  You can continue to resist, but it’s going to be a lot less painful if you adapt.

You’ll be most effective if you can deal with things the way they are, not the way you think they should be.  No one can take your principles away from you, but they can take away your position.  It’s really your choice, and I hope it never comes to that. The best strategy is to modify your view of office politics.  Rather than seeing it as a hotbed of useless gossip, intrigue, brown-nosing, or backstabbing, try to recast it in a positive light.  Think of the political game as a means for you to spread your own gospel through positive example.

One of the few absolute rules of office culture is that it’s not enough just to do a great job. You’ve also got to communicate your abilities and successes to the right people, and you’ve got to do it via the “right way”, which is going to be dictated by the company’s cultural norms.  Observation is the key.

Open Your Eyes and Ears; Keep Your Mouth Shut

A key mistake in office politics is accepting information without independent verification.  There are a couple of ways this happens.  One is that people look at an org chart and take it at face value.  In the work environment, there’s both a formal and informal hierarchy.  There are people on the chart with position and authority who are incapable of exercising it, and conversely, there are people that may not even appear on the chart who manage to run everything.  Your job is to figure out who’s who, and cultivate good relationships accordingly.  That won’t happen if you step away from your desk only to use the bathroom.

Listen
The second mistake people often make is to align themselves with one faction too early, or too closely.  When you start a new job, it’s tempting to latch onto a person or small group fast. Understandable – it gets you over being green and helps assimilate you to the new environment.  The danger is that you may inadvertently align with the wrong group, and you won’t know until it’s too late.  Better to be friendly towards everybody and get the full range of opinions.  If you don’t favor one faction over another, you’ll be able to array all of the different points of view and validate their legitimacy against your own observations. 

Spend less time talking, and more time listening.  This is a wonderful technique that has several distinct benefits.  First, you minimize the opportunity to say anything stupid or ill-advised that can come back and haunt you later. 
Second, people who like to talk think highly of people who listen. They project competence onto you because you let them do what they need to do.  They’ll speak well of you later, even though your view of these conversations is that they’re a good opportunity to plan what you’re going to do for lunch. 

The third benefit of doing more listening than talking is that your silence, especially your continued silence, is liable to make other people a bit uneasy.  People who are edgy tend to chatter more than they should. (Think how job candidates might babble to fill up a silence during an interview.) Sometimes, that chatter includes information that wasn’t intended to be revealed.  All the better for you.

Rules of the Game

There’s one rule in office politics that can trump all the other rules: never make your boss look bad.  Most bad bosses are capable of accomplishing this all on their own.  They don’t need your help and you don’t need to get dragged down with them.  Create a situation where your boss is seen in a negative light and you’ll be the one who pays the price in the short run. 

The other rules of office politics are less about the politics and more about you and your behavior. This list isn’t all-inclusive, and strict adherence doesn’t guarantee success.  But, it’s better than nothing:
1.     Figure out what you want and plot your strategy accordingly.
2.     Be a part of multiple networks, not just one.
3.     Communicate with your networks often, and in the ways that work best.
4.     Judge behavior in the organizational context, not against some idealized standard.
5.     Watch other people at work and identify successful behaviors that you can model
6.     Don’t pass along questionable judgments or spread rumors
7.     Look for win/win ways to resolve conflicts, but never leave them unresolved.

More

Despite all this, there really is one way out of the office politics maze.  Work for yourself and work alone.  You’ll still need to interact with clients and customers, but those politics are for another column entirely. 

Some types of difficult co-workers

Now that we have some idea about managing difficult people at work, lets proceed to identify some types… so to say, lets assign them a category and make our approach more targeted.

I have come across a variety of difficult people in my career, and others I have read about :). At times, being fairly honest, I may have been a difficult co-worker myself. My “real” friends used some of the measures discussed below in changing my outlook and making me in to a more professional person. The reason my I have highlighted ‘real’ is: Only the people who cared about me combined with a positive outlook towards organizational / departmental harmony wished to do something to handle the issues instead of simply making an issue out of every little thing I did and having me replaced.

Lets begin:

The Crabby Coworker

You know the type – they come in to work in the morning( or evening /night depending on your line of business) , don’t say hi, won’t even make eye contact with you or crack a smile. 
While we do not all have to be best friends at work, it is pretty awkward when you can’t interact with these people the way you would with a normal person who will at least say hello. What to do:
  • Try to find some common ground:There’s got to be something – anything – that you have in common with this person and if you’re able to find it, you just might be able to crack them. Maybe you and him/her watch ‘Humsafar’ 😉  – you could ask them what they thought of last night’s episode! Maybe you both have kids starting school this year – ask how that’s working out. The point is to find something to get that person talking so he/she feels like you’re both on the same side. They still might not pass any salutation to you, but you might get a glimmer or a smile every once in a while that can lighten the tension.
  • Ask if something’s wrong: When people are grumpy to the extreme, there is usually something wrong on a personal level. If you’re not afraid to have your head bitten off, ask if something is indeed wrong and if there’s anything you can do to help (only if you mean it…thou, I have had instances where the other person knew that I was genuinely concerned, but they still couldn’t resist punching my teeth out ( just an idiom)). This might be a brave approach depending on who you’re dealing with but can once again help open the lines of communication and might lead to a smile down the road. Maybe the person just needs to feel that they are not alone.
  • Don’t take it personally: Chances are that if you find this coworker cranky and difficult to work around…..realize that some people are just like that no matter what you do and try not to let it bring you down.

Agent Coworker (009) (Ahem ahem … informer extraordinaire)

One fine day, you are called into your manager’s office because you were tattled on by your very own 009 … and that too for something that doesn’t really matter anyway. 009’s are really like spies because they are very good at slyly discovering every little tiny mistake you have ever made at work and then going and telling on you, thus making them look good and you look bad. ( BTW, the 009 is an increment to 007, with a licence to chugli-fy)
Is there anything you can do? Yes:
  • Make sure they like you: It might make you sick to your stomach to try to be work friends with this person but if you can do it, it is in your best interest. 🙁 And honestly I don’t like writing this, just as much as you don’t like reading it. This is especially true if you have to work closely around the person and know that they will always be “watching you.” There’s a chance that if this person feels a friendly vibe between the two of you, they might move onto another target who hasn’t made that effort to be friends. Since nobody likes a tattle, they don’t usually have many friends. Use this to your advantage.
  • Be on your best behavior: Sure, if you know the tattletale is sniffing around, just carry out your work according to the books and to the highest code. If you do everything absolutely perfectly, there won’t be anything to tell on. Plus, try not to go overboard trying to share your impression of how the boss forgets what he was talking about, or the way the director smokes etc etc. Its better that you do your comedy in the privacy of your own personal friends. 
  • Avoid, avoid, avoid: If you really don’t have to associate with this person, don’t. It’s as simple as that.

The Know-it-All Coworker

Nobody knows everything but don’t tell your know-it-all coworker that! 
Mr. Know It All
What’s tricky about these people is that they’re hard to reason with because they carry on as if the only ideas that are “right” or “the best way” are their own. It’s especially difficult when this type of coworker is your supervisor who gets to call some of the shots that affect the quality of your job and eventually your day. What if you come up with a better way of doing something that could benefit your whole department? 
Here’s what to do:
  • Make them think that your idea is really their idea No, you’re not gonna get credit if you take this approach but if you can get past that and are just looking for end results, this method works pretty well. You might say something like “Remember your abc idea? (which is actually YOUR idea) I think that will work well for us because of xyz.” You’ll probably only want to try this for ideas that are only slightly different from theirs and not a paradigm shift otherwise your know-it-all coworker could catch on (but you might be surprised – people who think they know everything and are unwilling to budge are often not that sharp).
  • Show your evidence. Prove it. : Even the most knowing of all know-it-all coworkers may find it hard to hold onto their ideas if you can provide all kinds of evidence to show that another idea or another way may be better. Tread lightly on this one and make sure that your battle is worth it.

The Lazy Coworker

Lazy worker
There is nothing more frustrating than doing all the work while your lazy coworker(s) sits around and does nothing. Ideally, someone in charge will see the light and your lazy coworker friends will eventually get fired but we all know that it’s nearly impossible to fire someone these days so don’t count on it. Apparently some people think that HR should not fire, but should rather counsel and counsel again…and once again…etc…… So while the counselling is going on…you may want to try these instead:
  • Suck it up: Yes, you work and your lazy coworkers don’t but one approach is just to acknowledge that fact and move on. In other words, as they say, “do your work and go home.”
  • Don’t pick up the slack for the lazy one: You might find yourself taking on extra duties that were initially meant for your lazy coworker without even realizing it. Stop doing that! Once the workload starts to pile up and you resist the urge to dive in and finish it off, even your coworker may take notice of the backlog and pitch in to help. And if they don’t, say
  • “Help me! I’m overwhelmed! There is work to be done here!”: Sadly, you might have to spell it out to your lazy coworker just like that. Lazy coworkers are not all bad people but sometimes they are oblivious to the fact that there is work to be done so you really just might have to tell them.
To forgive is to release resentment, hatred, bitterness and desires for revenge…We choose not to hate such people, even though we hate what he or she did.

Always remember that when you forgive:
  • You don’t literally forget about the existence of the offense, and you don’t have to ignore the fact that it did cause you pain and hurt. 
  • It doesn’t mean you approve of the offense or allow it to happen again. 
  • You don’t have to become friends with that person or trust them to show that you really forgave them. 
  • Trust is something that takes a long time to earn, not something given as a token of forgiveness. 
Learn to forgive and move on… We live on a small planet and work in even smaller industries let alone offices…. We all have to share it…. Move on and work towards cooperation or at least co-existence.


NGO with a vision

My wife volunteered here a little while back. Amazing place.

The kids were happy and it really seemed to have contributed very positively to their lives.

Kids of “kam walis” and Gypsies are given admission free of charge. They are tutored in the following:
1. Academic courses
2. Personal grooming
3. Religion
4. Livelihood Skills
The first three are self explanatory. Thus I shall not go in to details for them. The fourth one is rather interesting as it gives them the skills to earn a living after they leave the secure confines of the school.
The kids are taught how to make embroidery and stitch ornaments on fabric. These templates so to speak are then sold in to the US and Canada markets and the profit from them are used to primarily finance all the activities in the school.
These templates are made on “khadis”. I got a chance to see them when I visited the school at its old location in PAF, Cantt this year just before they moved the school to the new location in DHA.
We should all in the very least contribute by volunteering in such organizations to see firsthand the impact they are making the lives of our future leaders.

The Nine Pitfalls of Organizational Change


David Chaudron, PhD

The Wall St. Journal has many times reported on the struggling efforts of companies trying to effectively change their organization. With such national focus on the needs of organizations to respond to today’s volatile climate, why all the failure?

Based on our experience, there are several significant causes to an organization’s change efforts to stumble or stagnate. You can use this information to avoid these pitfalls, or recover from them if you have fallen in.

Need-technique mismatch
This problem occurs so often it isn’t funny any more. A manager hires a consultant to help implement buzzword X. After conducting a thorough analysis, the consultant says, “You don’t need X. You need buzzword Y instead. The manager then replies, “That may be, but I already told my boss that we are implementing X?” A common example of this is when an organization hires someone to conduct a skills training course, but the lack of skill isn’t what is causing the organization’s problems. Many organizations put in one IT system after another to solve specific issues, but never realize the lack of integration among the systems they have is the primary cause of their problems.

More fundamentally, however, is the mismatch that occurs on a larger scale. Organizations often use small-scale, incremental techniques such as Six Sigma, when instead they need to evaluate their reactions to future scenarios of a radically changed business climate. They may need to divest themselves of a money-losing division instead of pouring more money into an industry that is dying a slow death.

Not making systemic changes
Management must realize that to fully implement change, satisfy its customers, and promote teamwork in the entire organization, often wrenching systemic changes must be made: Profit sharing may be introduced; individual performance appraisals may be radically changed or eliminated; organizational structure may be realigned away from functions (production, quality, engineering) to a customer-, process- or geographic-based structure; information may be given to employees formerly reserved for senior management; and significantly more authority may be given to line employees.

If management does not align these systems, the effect will be like Dr. Doolittle’s Pushme-Pullyou” animal (a horse with two heads, each pulling in the opposite direction). Each system (rewards, structure, information, etc.) is tugging the organization in a different direction. The result will be much struggle and confusion, but little success.

Overuse of process teams
Some organizations treat Six Sigma teams (SSTs) like candy: They want dessert before having dinner.

I know of a 3000-person organization with over 70 current SSTs) working on a variety of issues. The organization avoids measuring their success, provides them little technical support, and still has not addressed “dinner” of the systemic changes (see next section) needed to support them. This implementation strategy has a high risk of failure, and organizational change will probably not become an integral part of their culture.

This problem occurs when, paradoxically enough, an organization achieves successes with its first teams, or hears about wild successes of other companies. They then buy a canned training program, or hire a trainer to setup their programs. Much training occurs and many SSTs formed. With various degrees of management support, these SSTs attack a variety of problems. Unfortunately, because of unclear long-term plans, and the lack of system changes, (see next section) many of these SSTs fail. As a result, the organizational change effort may stagnate, and once ardent supporters become disillusioned.

In addition, management often delegates a problem to a team as a way of avoiding hard management or personnel decisions. For example, one manager in a software company assembled a SST because the customer complained of too many bugs in the product. In addition, the manager needed a reporting system to evaluate the progress of the bug fixes. The SST quickly realized that this was not a “process” problem, but a personnel problem: One employee of the manager just wasn’t doing his job. The SST knew this, and the manager knew it. Unfortunately, the manager was unwilling the confront the problem, and hoped the SST would find away around it.

Not making decisions up front
Many organizations need to design the architecture of their quality effort. If they do not, they risk pouring time and dollars into an effort that will eventually collapse. Among the decisions that should be made up-front, before implementing a quality effort are: the measures of success; the degree of employee involvement; the depth and breadth of implementation; and the techniques to be used. As someone once said, If you don’t know where you are going, you may not like getting there.”

Caught between the square peg and NIH diseases
Many organizations buy canned implementation efforts that describe for them, step by step, what to do. This square peg approach is often not appropriate for the round hole of the organization. This kind of effort can often lead to the overuse of SST’s and the problems with mass training (see the section on training).

On the other hand, organizations can also become infected with the not invented here (NIH) disease. They insist in reinventing the wheel when it isn’t necessary to do so. I know one consultant who made a lot of money because of this disease. The rivalry between two manufacturing plants belonging to the same company was so fierce that they refused to talk to or learn from each other. This is despite the fact that they were located only a few miles apart. The consultant made his money by helping one plan with organizational change, and then driving to the other plant to do the same thing. The secret to implementation is not to choose between one disease and the other, but to decide what aspects of implementation can be bought, and what aspects need unique solutions agreed upon by management and employees.

Mass training
If you wish employees to use their training, organizations must train them in skills specific to their needs just in time to use them. Too many organizations have spent untold thousands of dollars and hours on training employees on concepts they may never need. If they do need these concepts, they will need refresher courses because their training was long ago. Because mass training puts such a burden on organizational resources, not all members of work teams are trained at once. As a result, some know what to do but others do not, which causes more confusion.

The no top management support excuse
Supervisors and line employees have often complained that they do not receive management support for their efforts. I believe all parties are at fault for this problem. Management may not fully realize what they specifically need to do to support SSTs, and SSTs choose to 1) work on problems that don’t interest management or 2) don’t get the proper authority and specific support from management before they start their efforts. This no management support is caused by unclear or unknown expectations.

Labelitis
An interesting problem in organizational change is hero worship. There are Deming worshippers, Crosby worshippers and Covey worshippers. These cults of personality often get in the way because any concept not uttered by one’s hero is suspect and probably not true. Organizations can often get into this labelitis by swallowing a buzzword and avoiding any concept not labeled as such. One example of this happened earlier this month: A client said he wasn’t interested in becoming a “team-based” organization because it wasn’t “Six Sigma.”

Much the same thing has happened in Latin America with the word “reengineering”. The word has been misapplied so much that any mention of it is returned by a look of disgust. To properly implement organizational change, organizations must look beyond the label, and ask serious questions about what changes are needed and what they should do about them.

Not measuring results
No only do organizations not measure results, they often desperately try to figure out if they were successful after organizational change has already taken place. This is the messiest way to determine if change happened, because sometimes 1) the data should have been gathered before the organizational change happened and can’t be collected afterwards; 2) politics play their role as those asking if the change was successful may have hidden agendas seeking to either justify what has already been done or destroy what is taking shape.

Source: http://www.organizedchange.com/ninepitfallsoforganizationalchange.htm