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Sunday, May 29, 2011

NO COMPETITION AT THE TOP

In every field that we look around whether in health, education or the corporate sector there seems to be a severe shortage of talent. As we go lower down the hierarchy we find that the competition for each position becomes more and more intense. For each position there are so many applicants and only the best able to make it. However, have you given a thought at what is happening at the top of the corporate ladder?
One of the trends that we often see is that most top positions in companies are never advertised but are filled quite fast. The two major sources of finding the right talent have been through internal networks and through Head Hunting firms. People at the top in different companies are identified as prospects and the lead is followed through by offering salary packages to attract them to the new positions. At times this work is done through Head Hunting firms who are able to act as intermediaries. Does this suggest that there is a crisis of leadership at the top of the ladder?
There is little doubt that in a competitive world that we live in today, there is intense competition at the bottom but almost no competition at the top. When we talk of competition at the top, we should be careful in understanding that the competition is between strong candidates only and unfortunately such a luxury does not exist at the top positions. The result of this shortage is that companies have to attract talent from other competing companies by paying salary packages in excess of what would normally be the case. This trend is likely to continue for the next ten years and all those aspire to be there should prepare for the coming wave. The fact that competition does not exit at the top and that good talent is a very scarce should help us all to begin to package our career accordingly.
So what are those basic principles that we can apply to reach the top and be able to stay there. Below I am listing some to the key competencies, skills and mechanisms that may be of help to all of you.
1.       Corporate visions are very large for one individual and thus it is necessary that we carry everyone together on this journey.

2.       Don’t be scared of good talent even if there is a risk of you having to take a back seat for some time. Always identify and promote competent people only to take strategic positions.

3.       You are only a small element in the whole organization setup and you will need to work towards getting recognition to move forward. This can be achieved only by selfless work during the initial years of your career. You have to look beyond self and there must be excitement to achieve targets for the company.

4.       Don’t try to always find reasons why something has not been done. People who have to rise don’t blame others for work not completed; they take full responsibility and make sure that it is executed. In Indian context we are a society of “Follow ups”, where you need to understand that reminders are necessary at every step of the work. Make it your job to ensure that you follow-up on the work to be completed.

5.       Spend time in thinking some of your weaknesses and work to overcome them over a given time frame. You can derive a lot of strength if you can find mentors within the organization.

6.       Ensure that you have good public relations within the organization. There should be people within the organization who can speak for you and your work. Always smile at the work place and don’t be a negative force within the organization.

7.       Don’t always insist on a defined role in the organization. Sometimes going beyond the call of duty and your defined roles is what pushes you forward. Be ready to share the burden of those that are not in a position to complete their work but ensure that your work does not suffer. Remember that when you share the burden of work of others in the organization you are not just helping them you are working to meet the grand objective of the company. Keep your immediate supervisor informed of the developments.

8.       Work hard but ensure that your superiors know of your work and value addition you are making. If you have time, it is a good practice to ask your superiors if you could help them on something new. This is what gives you an edge over others and you rise up the learning curve.

9.       Keep your personal relationship with co-workers out of the work place. Avoid small talk within the organization and remember that there are not friends at work place.

10.   Always practice the policy of talking to each other and avoid talking about each other. Organizational culture is nothing but how we as individuals behave at the work place. So if you don’t like the work culture of the organization, then you are the problem and also the solution to it. You can’t always hold others responsible for it.
These are some of the essential elements of success and to move up the ladder. However it is essential to remember that these are the necessary condition but they may not be sufficient by themselves. We need to develop strategic thinking of our own role and responsibilities to ensure the path to the top of the corporate structure.
Just keep climbing the ladder one step at a time.
Plan and work for success and you will end up with it….

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REFORMING INDIAN HIGHER EDUCATION

Indian higher education system is going through a major crisis but I feel that as a Nation we are so used to such crisis situations. In India order comes only from extreme state of disorder and we seem to heading in that direction at this stage in our development and growth. We don’t have official privatization in education but de-facto privatization exists for over 25 years now. One sure way to determine if our education system is on a decline is to look at the growth of coaching centers. There is a parallel education system being provided for everything. Students are going more and more to coaching centers despite that fact that they are enrolled in schools and colleges. We are conducting entrance exams for almost everything in this country and our students spend more time in preparing for entrance exams than to acquire knowledge and skills in our university systems. With a few exceptions, our public universities are losing their credibility as they seem to be doing the same job for which India Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) was created. They are only admitting students and conducting exams.
Most Public Universities with a few exceptions have become local universities where students, teachers and staff are local residents of the city in which such universities are located. To add to the mess a large proportion of them are also related to each other. The best universities are still those that attract students and teachers from across the country such as JNU or Delhi University. There is no incentive for our universities to perform either in teaching or in research as they have become centers for political activity for both teachers and students. What will happen to our education system if the decision to appoint a Vice Chancellor is based not on academic & administrative competencies but more on political considerations? Universities are funded without any considerations of performance in either teaching or research. I do not want the reader of this blog to assume that I am putting down our education system; I am also a product of the same system. I however, recognize that there is too much going wrong with our education system that we have to start public debate on the subject.
Every now and then under pressure, the government decided to set up committees to look at the functioning of our universities and to reform them. The problem is that most of these committees have as its members the very same people who have been responsible for its decline. How do we expect them to reform the system? There is no new thinking in the process of reform of higher education. There are too many interest groups involved for the reform process to take its own course. So now the government plans to dismantle all regulatory agencies and form on National Regulatory Authority. But then they will shift all existing people from these dismantled regulatory agencies into the new one. It is believed that this will solve the problems, No it will just lead to more centralization with same people running the system all over again. What will be necessary is to have the new National Regulatory Authority run on the same principles of credit rating agencies and it should be free from Government control.
The other side of the coin is the private sector education. This sector has its own problems due to lack of transparency, accountability and regulation. Those in the Public system accuse the private sector of being too commercial in their character and fleecing students and parents. I cannot say that there is no truth in this and to some extent there is an element of reality in this thinking. But what bothers me most is that the same very people who have always voiced their resentments of the private sector have after retirement from Public Universities and government regulatory agencies joined hands with private players and started dancing on their tunes. This is what I call hypocrisy of the first order. If you go across the list of advisors in various private universities, colleges and institutions, you will find people who have retired from UGC, AIU, AICTE, MCI etc. All of a sudden they don’t find the private sector as being commercial anymore and are open in saying that private sector is the solution to India’s education reform. This is the typical I am OK syndrome which exists in our country and to a large extent has been responsible for the mess we are in today.
Although private sector may have its own problems, it is the regulatory system of the country that needs to be held accountable for the unchecked growth of the private sector. From Deemed Universities, to institutions, everything emerges from the incompetence of the regulatory agencies. The level of corruption that exists within the regulatory system is known to one and all in the field of private education. Pointing fingers at the private sector is not the solution to the problem and regulators have to take full responsibility for the mess that has been created both in the public as well as the private sector. As long as special interests will dominate this sector, there will be no solutions to the existing problems and reforms will take a back seat. Every person in government and at policymaking level knows the problems but they are unwilling to do anything about it till a point of disaster is not reached.
So how do we go about reforming our massive educational system which has been victim of so much administrative and regulatory failure? To begin with let us try and understand the realities and how we can deal with them one at a time.
  1. Given the supply-demand mismatch in Indian education, it is not possible for the public system to support the educational infrastructure required to educate all in the country. This will require us to clearly understand that both private and public sector will have to work together to create a robust educational system in tune with the current realities.
  2. Emphasis needs to be given to re-structure the Ph.D programs of all universities to make them demanding and to begin to produce good Ph.Ds who will fill the gap of the impending shortages of quality faculty members in the years to come.
  3. Make the regulatory system very stringent and transparent for both the public and private sector. There should be single policy and all higher education institutions will be measured on the same parameters’ irrespective of whether they are private or public. We cannot have two different quality standards in higher education. What is good for the public system has to be good for the private sector as well.
  4. Reform the funding criteria of public universities. There could be two different modes of funding. All public universities could receive a grant-in-aid which could constitute about 50% of their current funding. The remaining funding should be directed towards needy students directly through a voucher system. The students can go to any public institution of his choice and if admitted the government will fund each of such institutions by the value of the vouchers presented to them. This will ensure that every public university will have to now compete for students to ensure adequate funding. In the event that the needy student is unable to get admission in a public system he could go to a private institution and use the same voucher. The fee in public system has to be brought in line with actual costs. Since most needy students are going to be funded by voucher, all other students will have to pay higher fee to cover the full cost of university education. This will result in some students who can afford private education to exit the public system. The net result will be to open up more avenues for needy students who would otherwise not be able to afford higher education.
  5. The model works well and both private and public universities and both will co-exist to create a robust system which meets the needs of a growing economy like India. United States has a good system based on this principle and we can learn something from there. I cannot say that everything will work the same way, but it may be useful to study the USA model and make changes as per our own systems and requirement.
Above all this, there is one aspect that is critical to any reform in our higher education. There is a need to accept that there is a problem and that we need to find a solution to it.
I do not want the reader of this blog to assume that I have answered all question on educational reform, it is a complex issue and needs a greater degree of understand and public debate. I have just raised some critical issues for everyone to think and discuss. I believe that as a Nation we are now in a position where a fair percentage of the college going age students can afford private education and thus there is a need for us to see if we can divert a greater share of our public funds towards meeting the needs of those that cannot take care of themselves.
Reform is not about changes in the process of doing things in a country but about changes in the mindset of its population…
The views expressed in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the organization I represent.
Happy reading..

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I, ME & MYSELF

During the course of my career growth, I have had the opportunity to interact with people from different sectors both in education and in the corporate world. I am blessed to have met some of the best people who have had a profound influence on my life and work. I have also met people who have made a place in my mind for a very different reason. I have learnt immensely from them as to what I should never do in my life. These are the people that I call as the “I, Me and Myself” category. They have something so unique that you can’t ignore them. I am sure that you will also have come across such people in your life. Some of the characteristics that define them as follows:
1.       They don’t see the world in the same way as normal human beings. They feel that they are the center of the universe in the same position as the Sun and every other planet (person) has to go around them for light.
2.       75 percent of their body weight is ego and thus it is very shallow from within. They however have the “I know it all attitude” and have answers to all problems in the world or at least that is the way they feel about themselves.
3.       They have a false sense of pride about what they have achieved, which is mostly stolen contribution of their co-workers. They never give credit to anyone within the organization for their contributions.
4.       They talk only about themselves but they are good at talking the right things. The will generally tell you what you want to hear but they are very poor on their value systems. They will compromise their principles if there is a personal gain for them self.
5.       These are people who are always trying to show how much they work and are seeking out from others to tell them how good they are. They build castles in the air and thrive on bubbles of illusion they create within the system.
6.       They are the happiest people when you message their ego and you can get away with murder as long as you do that. They are heavily dependent on incompetent people and they always surround them self with such people as they have the tendency to hire only those who would know less than them.
There are so many other characteristics that I can list but I think now you would be able to recognize them fairly well. They are everywhere in all organizations. They treat their subordinates with disrespect and they will be on their knees in front of their superiors. So what is this breed of people and how do they reach to higher positions. Well the answer may be simpler than you expect. First such people tend to attract each other just as incompetency promotes incompetency. Each of them has the tendency to step on the shoulders of others to go higher in life. It does not matter to them if you are not able to take the weight of their rise. If you promote them there is always the risk that they will stab you on the back when the right time comes. They are outright dangerous people and it is important that we identify them at the right time.
So what can we do to overcome the barriers that such people will create in your career path? Well there are several things that we can do to change the course of our life when we are in such situations.  First it is necessary to understand and have the confidence that if you are good at what you do, no one can stop your progress they can only postpone your progress. So it is a matter of time and such barriers have an automatic exit path and your life becomes better. Second, remember that running away from an existing problem is a bad solution, it is important that you work through the system and find possible solutions. The nature of problems may change from one organization to another but there are no organizations that have no problems. So hang in there and start making a positive impact by working in a self less way. Even incompetent people appreciate good work; it is just that they never acknowledge it.
So if you are facing a problem in working with a bad boss you may not be alone and don’t lose your sleep over it. Remember if your boss is bad it is very likely that they will not be there for too long. Begin to make a place for you self in the organization and prepare for your growth post you boss leaving the organization.
Also don’t forget to think if you yourself are one of the “I, Me & Myself” type person who is a barrier in the life of other people around you.
Happy introspections…..
Note: This blog was written after my meeting and discussion with an old student in Mumbai yesterday.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

BEING SELFISH IS FINE…

On many occasions I have given thought to the term “being selfish” as it is commonly used by all of us. It is wrong to be selfish? Speaking purely on economic grounds, I think it is rational to work in our own self interest. This is a natural human instinct and trying to go against it will lead to unhappiness. If it is natural for all of us to work in such a way, that our activities will enhance our happiness and take us to a higher level of social order, then why is this term selfish so misunderstood? I think the answer lies in our inability to differentiate between selfishness and self-centeredness.

I believe that all of us work hard to promote our own interest or the collective interest of our family and its wellbeing. Rationality dictates that human beings should be selfish to acquire higher level of assets which leads to higher order of happiness. The most important aspect that we need to take care of is that in this process of being selfish and promoting our own self interest, we do not hurt anyone else or the interest of anyone else. For example, as long as we can continue to promote the welfare of self and our family without hurting the interest of anyone else we should be fine and not worry about anything. In this sense it is perfectly ok to be selfish. In fact some degree of such selfishness will take you closer to your goal faster than otherwise.

So at what point selfishness turns to self centeredness. We can all introspect and we will find that to some degree we have been self-centered in our ways to life and living. The concept of self centeredness comes into play when your action of profit will result in a loss to someone else. We do not need to take the term profit in the literal sense, what it mean is simply that when we benefit at the cost of someone else. In a way what ever we benefit is due to a sacrifice made by someone else. In this transaction where your gain is offset by loss to someone else, there is so value addition to the society as a whole. For example if you steal $100 from me, the society as a whole is still having the same amount of money. Only the hands that hold the money have changed. Similar is the case when people act in a self-centered manner. The net addition to the over all welfare of society is almost zero.

So the most important aspect is running our day-to-day life is to have an understanding that our actions can hurt the interest of other people around us. We may not feel the pain till it happens to us. So always try and promote you interest, whether within your organization, community, college, etc but remember that you do not hurt the interest of others in this process. It is important to enjoy your success but learn to enjoy the success of others around you as well. This is what makes you a person who is admired and people will always look up to you in life.

Happy thinking….