Friday, January 11, 2019

Should India experiment with a 4 day work week

Since the Industrial revolution, one thing has remained constant -- a belief that working longer and harder begets great achievement.
But if the benefits of new technologies are to be evenly spread around, employees can work less hours a week and employers can benefit from the increase in productivity and better attendance.
This can be simply explained by the fact that when there's 'less time to work, there's less time to waste.'
Hence, when you have a compressed workweek, you're likely to focus on meeting important deadlines.
There is a productivity challenge and especially for India.
Despite working 5 days and more than 50 hours a week, India has constantly faced productivity challenges.
According to a survey, India leads the charts as the 'hardest working' country, surprisingly, it also has 69 per cent full- time employees who will prefer to work 5 days a week even if they had an option to work for say 4 days at pay equivalent to 4 days as work does not seem to complete in the time available.

The same survey was conducted amongst many full and part time employees in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the UK and the US.
The survey found that 35 per cent of these employees in these countries would take a 20 per cent pay-cut to work one day less per week.
Working longer doesn't mean working better. Indian employees as well as employers desperately need to bring about a significant change in their work styles, lives and results.
For employees working in now established, "hard working" country like India, the enticement of having more time to yourself is surely an experience and worthy enough to work towards.
The 4 day work week experiment
Psychologist Dan Ariely, the author of The Upside of Irrationality, talks about how Google strongly believes a 4 day workweek is a practical idea. He talks about how Google gives its engineers 20 per cent of their workweek, which amounts to one full workday, to do whatever they please.
At Cockroach Labs, as an HR manager, Grenawalt informed that she was "open-mouthed" when the founders first presented her with this idea.
But having seen it work in practice for almost two years at the company, she said it certainly challenged her to 'think outside the box' about new ways to motivate employees.
Researchers did a survey of approximately 3,000 workers around the world and found 45 per cent of these could do their jobs in less than 5 hours a day which implies that many jobs could be done easily in a 4 day workweek and there would be no intrusion of work in the personal lives.
This Spring, a trial was conducted in New Zealand by Perpetual Guradian, a firm which manages trust, wills and estates.
The idea was to let the employees work 4 days a week while being paid for 5. It was observed, that this change actually enhanced the productivity amongst its 240 employees, who claimed to have been able to spend more time doing their personal chores.
The employees said, that this twist in their work-life motivated them to improve their productivity while at work.
Like, the meeting times were reduced to 30 minutes from 2 hours, number of breaks and break time were also cut down.
Similar experiments in various other countries too have tested the concept and reported the encouraging results including maintained work standard and quality along with increased teamwork, work engagement and decreased stress.
Why India needs to experiment too
Time has come for companies in India to participate in this experiment with the idea of a 4-day work week where people need to achieve the same targets in the reduced time.
This will force employees as well as the management teams to explore more efficient ways of working.
Some of the small and medium-sized organisations, especially the start-ups can start the revolution and create a template which can then challenge others to follow.
The companies need to have a look at the non-value adding activities and purge those.
How to make it a win-win
To make this successful will require a significant culture shift in the organisation starting from the top.
The companies will also need to find a way to measure productivity before the experiment and after in real terms else it may not lead to any tangible results for the organisation.
A successful experiment will lead to higher productivity for the company and will provide the employees more time for personal chores and engagement.
In the long term the company will gain due to better efficiency, higher accountability and happier employees.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Professional vs Lala company

I got asked a question, what is the difference between a professional company and a Lala company (typically used for a promoter led company). I had not come across any clear definition so went on to google and searched for Lala company. Was surprised to know that there are/have been companies which proudly call themselves Lala company, they of-course do not know the derogatory implication in the Indian context of that name. People have asked questions like what is the difference in salary between Private, limited and LALA company, I am wondering what would be the definition in the mind of the person who asked that question around the word Lala company.

Having not found any satisfactory definition for the term on Google, I can safely assume there is no definition, so I have my first opportunity of a Newton moment to define something in my name. The moment was as momentous in my life as an apple falling on my head and me discovering gravity or finding an unknown star and give it my name. The discovery is also important because of my lineage carrying a standard definition of the Lala community.

Let me put down my thoughts around what could be the difference between the two. There will obviously be some variance from the stated principles, but in general, I think most of them will fit the general situations and the way we filter between the two. This of-course is work in progress and can use some refinement, so if you have some opinions to refine and make this better, please provide your inputs and I will share credit for the definition.

  • If you work for a company where the promoter, who has the maximum stake and started the company, worked really hard to get the business established, put money at risk, learned the business from scratch, he/she also manages the company, then you work for a lala company. If some random person manages the business, who has otherwise no interest in the company, may or may not have a clue about the business, understands that the company sells soap, or is a BPO or some such stuff, has to ensure multiple times valuation so that he/she can make a lot of money, networks with the potential investors over golf, has read Blue ocean strategy, Good to Great, Strategy focused organisation, seven habits and many such great books, then you work for a professional company.
  • If your company is staffed by promoters relatives who he/she can trust, friends who have stood by him/her through bad times, people who have been loyal to him/her because of who he/she is and the company has taken care of them even in bad times, then you work for a Lala company. If you work for a company where the company is staffed by people who shift jobs with the CEO, every time he/she moves company, never worked for a company for a long time, nobody trusts anyone in the environment, and most of these guys will get fired in the next downturn, then you work for a professional company.
  • If you work for a company where the top management team abuses you in Hindi or other regional language you work for a Lala company. If the top management team abuses you in English or fashionable Hinglish, then you work for a professional organisation.
  • If you work for company where the CEO decides everyone's pay and performance without the inputs of all managers, you work for a Lala company. If you work for a company where you fill forms, give ratings, give suggestions, which go up a complete chain of managers, gets reviewed, moderated and then the CEO throws the data in the dustbin, decides on everyone's salary and ratings, in discussion with the HR manager who has been with him/her for the last 5 jobs, then you work for a professional company. 
  • If you work for a company where the CEO takes all the decisions, you don't know what the decisions are and work on what has been given to you, you work for a Lala company. If you work for a company where the Vision, Mission, Quality / Security / Toilet etc etc policies, have been put up everywhere in the office, you rarely look at them, the business has no connection to what has been written on those walls, the CEO seems to be changing business strategy everytime he/she reads a new book, you remember all the funny posters (put up as part of the Fun at work initiatives last year) but not the vision, mission, when asked you mention your last company's vision and mission and you still come out correct, you are definitely working for a professional company.
Disclaimer / Warning / Notice : I know from my previous experience at sarcasm, that some of you, especially if you work for a professional company, will feel offended by the content, please understand that this content is for adults and you should not have been reading this in the first place, you should have been working and not using the internet, as defined by the policy with reference to the policy hanging above the urinal in the washroom, duly notified and signed by the CEO.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meeting Menace

Recently one of my friend was complaining about how meetings keep getting dragged without any outcome from the meetings. I was in a workshop with some people around how to write job descriptions and many of them wanted to write one of the key responsibilities of their job was "to attend meetings".

Most managers that I have spoken to have always complained about too many meetings in their jobs across various kinds of organisations. To me having too many meetings are indication of not enough work in the system for the people or not enough clarity on who is responsible for what.

One of the things we did in our organisation to cut down on the wasted time was to do a simple thing. We would ask ourselves two simple questions, did we achieve anything out of the meeting ? Could we have done this better any other way ? Over a period of time we realised that we could have dropped many of our meetings that we were doing on a regular basis and get more work done from the same time.

So all you people who suffer the meeting menace, force people to answer these two questions after every meeting and you will suddenly find that the number of meetings would have to go down as most of them were not serving any purpose.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Simplify please

I would like someone to help me understand why have HR teams over all these years continued with, in my opinion, a very funny way of calculating leave. If you take a holiday on Friday and Monday then the weekend is also counted as holidays or if you take leave before and after a holiday then the leave will include all the days of holiday.

How does it impact the organisation so badly for having a need of this nature. Are we of the opinion that if a person takes leave on Thursday and Friday then we count them as two days of leave because we have lost two productive days of work. But if a person takes leave on Friday and Monday then we have lost 4 productive days of work.

Organisations spend huge amount of time trying to explain this funny policy and people spend lots of time trying to find ways to not lose unnecessary leave days. They also spend huge amount of time just keeping track of whether the person went on leave where there were holidays in between.

It would be so much easier to just reduce your total number of leaves and count only the working days lost. It would make the policy simpler to understand and also administratively easy.

The only problem I see with the change is that we may not be in line with the benchmark practices in the market, should give you a good reason why you should not give too much importance to senseless benchmarking.



Monday, April 04, 2011

Leadership learnings from Dhoni

Since cricket will remain the flavour for many months to come, thought of noting down what I think are the learnings Leaders can take from Dhoni.

The key ones being :

Go by your gut-feel and do something different : There are times when conventional logic tells you to go on the beaten path. A true leader would need to take decisions which have not been tried and risk being criticised by all and sundry, but if your gut-feel tells you that what you are doing is right, just go ahead and try it out. There is a 50:50 chance for success but when you succeed it will be something awesome, when you fail, you will be in the same place as all the others who have just been giving conventional advice.

Give credit don't try to grab attention : The most amazing thing I find about this guy is that he allowed Sachin and Gary to be carried around on shoulders. He stood on the sides in pictures and yet everyone would give him credit for what he has achieved, without him asking for it. Sometimes it just helps to not hog the limelight, let the others enjoy the moment equally as they deserve to share credit as much as you.

Face challenges head on : Always face crisis situations head on, rather than push others in the fire. To do this, one needs tremendous amount of self-belief, have good knowledge of subject and expertise, build all of those so that one can face the challenges rather than hide behind the team. The team loves leaders who are hands on supporting them in difficult times.

Be Cool : A cool head will find a way out of crisis. A tense person will will not be able to see the path from the woods.

Great show team India. Hope we keep repeating this success.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Young Startup questions

Recently I was called to address a group of people called the young startups, people who are at an early stage of their entrepreneurial journey. Was happy to see a bunch of excited people who had lots of passion for their idea, the right ingredient to have in an entrepreneur.

One of the key question they asked me was around how do you hire talent into the start-up and excite them to join, and also more importantly where do you find them.

My simple answer to them was that all the people that you want to hire are in a way all around you, you are just not looking. In my experience of being part of start-ups, we have hired people from the most unlikely sources and have had good results, sometimes bad too. The problem most time is not knowing what exactly do you want in the people, and in a start-up most times what you want is people who are passionate, willing to learn and flexible to multi-task. Only for a few roles you need serious technical expertise and if you have not figured those out before venturing out then in any case you are in trouble.

I have lots of stories around how we hired very different kinds of people, people you interacted with in a hotel, at a party, at a wedding, your little cousin who you would never have imagined can be a great person in the company and so on. I had another panelist with me who had similar experience of hiring the journalist who came to interview him and many other such stories.

My simple advice to most young start-ups would be to not start putting up too many structured ways of working in the organisation because that may at times kill the passion or adventure that people may have signed up to enjoy. A start up has to provide a very different kind of an environment for the people so that they can leave their boring corporate stable jobs and basically come for a ride which have those elements of thrills, bumps, scares, enjoyment and all the kinds of amazing experiences that most corporate jobs fail to provide. Hence flexibility in everything is key and so is flexibility around hiring people who may not have all the technical skills but will be able to learn and contribute to the idea.



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Enjoy your coffee - Happy New year.

As we step into another new year, just wanted to share a very nice thought which is a good way to look at life differently in the coming year. Hope you enjoy your coffee and your life !

Enjoy. Happy New year, may you have the wonderful one.

Thanks Kamlesh for sharing this.




The happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but those who learn to live with things that are less than perfect.”

A group of graduates, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor.

Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the simple and cheap ones.

While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.

In most cases, it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink.

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you Consciously went for the best cups… Then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this:

  • Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups.They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live.
  • Sometimes, by concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us. Enjoy your coffee!.”
  • The happiest people don’t have the best of everything.

  • They just make the best of everything.”

1. Live simply.

2. Love generously.

3. Care deeply.

4. Speak kindly.

5. Leave the rest to God.

You are the miracle, my friend;

Your life either shines a light OR casts a shadow!

Shine a light & Enjoy the Coffee!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Learnings from bosses 2

Continuing with my learnings from my bosses here are the next 3 important ones from my perspective.

- Kick them but stand by them : I have had two bosses who would literally kick you on your backside every time you made a mistake, but would also stand by you and help you in the time of crisis in helping resolve the matter. I have also had bosses who would shiver at the thought of getting involved in an issue of crisis, but would keep giving you advice on what you should do next from the sidelines, and most times their advice was more disastrous than the situation itself. Crisis has always been part of work that I have been involved with, so having people who did not mind getting involved in the crisis really helped in keeping you calm and senile and doing the right things to resolve the issue. This is one of my most important learning from some of my bosses that has helped me in my work immensely.

- Satisfaction leads to incompetence : Never be satisfied with what you have achieved is something that I personally really liked about a few of my bosses, who would continuously challenge you to doing things better. It ended up haunting all my team members by way of a constant statement from me, i.e., "I am not happy with your performance". But definitely the caveat being that it did not mean they would not recognize the effort put in or the success of those efforts. The thin line was about never letting the team feel that they had arrived and had nothing more to achieve.

- Politics bites back : Some of the bosses who indulged heavily into organisational politics ended up in very difficult situations when the politics got back to them. Key learning hence was to stay away, focus on your goals, set your own standards for yourself and understand and accept that organisational life is not fair, so that you have a way to deal with heartbreaks when people get more than you without deserving it. Hope and pray that some day someone will recognise your true worth and you will get what you deserve, in many cases I have seen that happen.

I hope that some day I would be able to follow all these principles in my work life and be a role model for myself as a boss. Would love to hear other perspectives around the same.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lessons from my Bosses!

I have had more than a dozen bosses in my working career till now, and was trying to figure out if I had to pick out a few things about them that I have admired and would like them to be qualities in myself what would those be. So in the next few posts I am going to put down a few things which I really liked about my bosses to create a reminder to myself about what I need to have as my leadership style. They are not in any particular order or preference just how they are coming to mind.

1. Show the way : I have had many bosses and many of them have continuously used one phrase "work smart not hard". The only problem with this being not many could explain 'WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MEAN'. Being a film buff it seemed like Fardeen Khan telling people to act better, but how dude, you seem to have no idea about it.

I was lucky to have two of my bosses who could tell me exactly what they meant and it was such a great luck to have people who could not just tell you what you were doing wrong but also tell you about how you could better what you were already doing well.

2. Dirty your hands once in a while : The reason why these two bosses, I think, could tell you what to improve was because they would dirty their hands once in a while. They would not just sit in their ivory tower but would be talking to customers, talking to employees, getting involved in all parts of the process, ofcourse only sometimes when required, but they were in touch with the entire process to understand the issues at each level and that I believe helped them also think about ways to resolve issues faced at each level of the process. And the key was to think about them, process suggestions by others and make the correct judgements about how things can be better.

3. Hire hungry people : Given the amount of food we used to eat, in all my jobs, it seemed true always :-) across all bosses. But the more important part was to hire people who were all hungry for success, achievement, growth etc. I can say half my bosses could manage to do this to multiple levels of success and once you could put this restless lot together then you had created an environment for success without any effort, they would all do it themselves.

This also gave me a lot of opportunity to work with great people who had lots of interesting ways of looking at the same problem and helped me broaden my knowledge base.

I will continue this post in a series and if you agree to some of these and have good experiences then would love to get your opinions on the same.

In the next post will add the next 3 qualities I have admired in my bosses.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Game Theory

I read this on my friend Abhinav Sinha's blog ( and found this to be an interesting explanation.

Game Theory :

While driving around the India gate, have you ever wondered why most (if not all) ice cream vendors are stacked together in and around a small patch. Or that most highway ‘dhabas’ are located in clusters. Or maybe, next time when you fly out do check why various airlines schedule flights fairly close to each other, on a given route!

It comes to me as a surprise why would each one of them choose to operate in a zone of maximum competition. Maybe a possible explanation is that since the cluster is already frequented by a lot of potential customers, it makes sense for a new entrant to logically attach itself to the cluster, rather than someplace else, where he would have to invest in building customer traffic.

The question to be answered is how the clustering begins. What would the scenario be like if there was a unchartered territory and just two players in perfect competition. Does system thinking in any way influence the way, they would approach setting up their respective businesses.

Consider a scenario where the two ice-cream vendors A and B, who have to sell their products at similar pricing for sustenance, have to decide on where to locate themselves on a stretch of road, that will make perfect business sense.

To capture the sense of this example, imagine that customers are smoothly distributed all across the road and brand and price being the same for both A and B, they choose on the basis of sheer convenience and proximity.

Imagine that the two vendors ‘A’ and ‘B’ start by locating themselves at roughly a position shown above. It now appears to ‘A’, that they have a equitable access to business opportunity, since half of customers located between ‘A’ and ‘B’ will go to ‘A’ and the other half to ‘B’, depending on a convenient walking distance for them.

‘A’ turns out to be an aggressive competitor to ‘B’ and decides to move a 100 meters towards the center of the road so as to gain access to a share of ‘B’ customers while protecting his own share of customers (lying to his left).

To offset this, ‘B’ plays his own counter move and moves 200meters towards the center. Subsequently, ‘A’ moves 300 meters and this continues till both ‘A’ and ‘B’ are located right next to each other, at the center of the road.

Both A and B have created an equilibrium that stays even when a third player C enters the market. C has limited choice, but to locate itself within the cluster for survival.

This is of course until C weighs his payoffs and decides to locate at a niche location and offset the disadvantage by offering a discounted price to the customers. This of course will set up another un-equilibrium which in due course will be answered by the competition A and B.

The study of strategic decisions making process in an interactive environment is called ‘The Game Theory’.