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.