Thursday, July 30, 2015

The mislaBELLed Curve

Disclaimer: The logical loopholes, the intellectual immaturity and grammatical errors in arguments put forth in the below mentioned post are sincerely regretted.

'A difference which makes no difference is no difference' - William James 
Harvard Professor and Father of American psychology

           Assume that you are the leader of the most successful thief gang operating in G City. Every night you will deliver an inspirational speech to your thieves so that they can go and give their best on field to steal the best of fortunes from the people of G City. The team of thieves comprising various experts in the field of robbery will start at midnight, finish their noble work with the utmost perfection and assemble back at the headquarters in the morning with the proceeds of the robbery. As the leader of the gang it is your everyday duty to distribute the proceeds to various thieves of your team as a reward to their hard work last night.

            Since it is dark when the team is actually performing their work of robbery combined with the fact that you have poor vision, you had stopped tracking the efforts or inputs of your thieves long back and started judging the performance of your thieves only based on the results. Till yesterday you were assessing the performance of your thieves based on bell curve methodology i.e you were force fitting your gang members in a 3 point rating scale of 1 to 3 with 1 being the best, 2 being average and 3 being the lowest and subsequently they were rewarded accordingly. Since there was huge backlash against the Bell Curve system in the recent times, you had conducted a focus group discussion amongst your thieves and the following insights were derived out of the discussion.
  • Bell curve segregates our thieves as top thieves, average thieves and poor thieves with the majority being rated as average thieves which causes disappointment amongst majority of our thieves and leaves them disengaged - Disengagement of the major population
  • Since the majority of our thieves are disengaged after the appraisal process, they will feel less motivated to give their best while doing robbery the next night which will decrease the overall size of the proceeds pie the next day - Decreased productivity and profitability
  • Since robbery is a team game, the segregation of employees into different cohorts increases envy and jealousy amongst the team members - Poor collaboration
  • If this trend continues then we will be facing higher attrition of our thieves to the competitor gang which had started embracing the new performance system which gives instant feedback about the performance of a thief in the last night robbery and hence helps him to shape himself as a holistic thief - Higher attrition
  • Since majority of our rival gangs have started to move away from bell curve we will be losing our relevance as a Thief Gang of choice to the top talent which would like to enter the robbery industry especially the forever finicky and over pampered millennials. Hence in order to establish ourselves as a advanced and forward looking thief gang we should dump the bell curve and move on to advanced appraisal systems-  Impacting the  employer brand 
You have done your homework on the pros and cons of the topic at hand and now as the visionary leader of the most remarkable thief gang of the G City you stand on the stage to address your fellow thieves.

       "My dear fellow thieves, our journey to become the best thief gang of G City had started 20 years back and we always stood by our most fundamental belief that our thieves are the most valuable resources of our thief gang. We are forever focused on enhancing our people capabilities and over the years we have adapted to several changes in our ecosystem by bringing in the best thieves and best people practices much faster than our rival gangs. Our stellar performance track record in robbery all these years stands testimony to the fact that we are the best thief gang in G City"

      "Now we are at the crossroads our journey as the successful thief gang. Till date we have assessed our thieves everyday on relative performance using the Bell Curve methodology. Since many of our rival thief gangs are starting to move away from the bell curve methodology to assess performance I realize the urgency in each one of your eyes to not lag behind our rival gangs in adapting new ideas. I have gone through the insights derived out of the Focus Group discussion and also read about the appreciation which our rival gangs are receiving from the robbery industry thought leaders for moving away from the Bell Curve. We need to make a choice now. The choice which we are going to make is going to determine the future our thief gang since the performance management system is not just a people practice but the DNA of our competitiveness as a thief gang. Let me put forth my view points on this issue post which we will decide on our choice"

1.Our love for comparison- Our human brains are designed to understand the value of things not in absolute terms but only in relative terms. Hence relative comparison is the basic fabric of our society which is motivated by materialistic things. Just think about our salaries as an example. Does any one concretely tell me how much they should actually be paid based on how much work he does ? No. We initially decide on how much we should be paid by analyzing how much our peers are paid and later go on to analyze how much the industry is paying for the same kind of work before we decide on the actual number. It is a natural human tendency to be curious to know how he is doing relative to others rather than how he actually does. Hence absolute assessment is cumbersome when compared with relative assessment.

2.Survival or Disengagement - The industrial dynamics had changed completely over the years and every gang is now under pressure to deliver superior value to their investors. Its about the survival of the fittest, and our fitness comes from being more competitive. Rewarding the best and punishing the worst is the fundamental principle to enhance competitiveness. Yes, few members will be left disengaged and few members may even be asked to leave the gang. Every gang is a unit of economic activity to deliver economic surplus and not a unit of charity. If we need to choose between our survival or disengagement of few members we know the obvious choice.

3. The Invisible Hand promotes productivity - Let us validate the next insight that Bell curve is decreasing collaboration between members and hence shrinks the overall size of the pie. Is that really true ? Number one - When individuals try to maximize their own good, it is the gang which benefits overall and hence it improves the overall well being of the gang. Number two - Any best member will always be aware of the fact that his competitiveness stems from his collaboration skills and people with the collaboration skills also become the best. It acts in both ways.

4. We don't actually force fit - If you are under the presumption that the proportion of employees who get each rating from 1 to 3 is always kept constant it is not so. As the performance of the gang varies every day, we also kept changing the proportion of rating. For example, in a moderate day we follow this pattern 1-25%, 2-50% and 3-25%. In an extraordinary day we have tweaked our proportions to boost competitiveness with 1-40%, 2-40% and 3-20%. There are some superlative days when we give the bottom rating to only very few members whom he had lost hope. We do not force fit and we have always tweaked the proportion of ratings based on the performance of the gang. But differentiation is the integral part since it is the one which makes all the difference when it comes to competitiveness.

5. There is no universal bell curve - Performance delivered is dependent on two important factors i.e the individual and the environment. If you are under the assumption that there is some universal bell curve under which all the members are ranked not taking the environment into consideration it is not so. Members are always grouped into similar cohorts which has a similar environment and only then the ranking is done to measure precisely the impact of the individual alone.

6. Whats next ? - Yes. We accept the fact that the bell curve methodology has some flaws. Most of the people who are embracing the new systems are doing so not because of the actual merits they foresee in the new systems but because of the discontent they had with the Bell Curve methodology. Is the new system which is going to replace the Bell Curve will be flawless or whether it will lead to holistic performance of the individual is yet to be realized. Systems and practices are as good as they are in actual implementation.

I leave the choice in your hands whether to live with the known devil or unknown angel. But we need to keep in mind the fact when it comes to people practices there are no perfect systems which will keep every party happy and rejoicing. 

Life is never black or white.. It is actually 1000 shades of grey..


Ramesh Moorthy

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Decoding Passion

       "This job is not my passion, I want to quit as soon as possible" said Suresh - a fresh graduate, with a disgruntled look on his face. Its not quite easy to forget his father who runs a shop in our neighborhood, smiling with a big sense of relief on the first day his son joined his first job. It's been just two months since then and Suresh wants to quit his job now. His father requested me to speak to Suresh so that he revokes his decision of quitting his job which according to him is not his passion. It's been a difficult task to convince a young person who is emotionally charged, only using logic. After discussing for an hour, finally Suresh agreed to stick around in that job for another six months. In a country where around 12 million youth are joining the work force every year, incidents like the above one are becoming more and more familiar in the recent times giving nightmares to every organization which face early attrition of their new recruits. This article is my attempt to demystify this interesting social trend which is gaining significance among our youngsters.
Popularized by many thought leaders and recently by the movie '3 idiots' this particular message of 'Making your passion as your profession' has struck a deep chord among many youngsters. Since, the major portion of our life is going to be spent in our profession, having our passion as our profession is one of the beautiful gifts life can offer us. I salute those extraordinary gentlemen who had achieved tremendous professional success by following their passion. We live only once and what is wrong in following one's passion. Certainly not wrong, Isn't it? Wait, what if that this message of making our passion as our profession has a fundamental flaw in it? This message is inbuilt with two assumptions. Let me explain my viewpoint in detail.
First assumption: Does everyone knows what is their passion with precision? Is our educational system and upbringing make us think and reflect on what actually drives us? Does a 22 year old person has enough life experience to decide concretely on what profession he should pursue for the rest of his life? In my limited experience I would say a big No.
Its a surprising insight that most of the successful people in the new age organizations had no clear career map when they were out of their college. They stayed flexible and made themselves open to the possibilities which came during their professional journey. So the interesting point to think about is whether our fixation towards a particular thing / function / hobby is making us blind to whatever other opportunities which is coming our way. Another point to ponder about how we confuse Hobby and Passion with each other. So how can we explain the success of those people who have started certain things, for example playing keyboard, as their hobby initially and went on to achieve excellence. Its not just curiosity but greater levels of commitment and hard work which had gone into making that hobby a passion and excellence happens along the journey. To put it simply if we cannot give our 100% to it, then it's not and cannot be our passion.
Second assumption: Youngsters like Suresh often assume the efforts of people who make them to reflect upon their passion as an attempt to derail them from pursuing their heart. They often tend to ignore the expertise of experienced people and stick to their preferences. It's quite surprising to know that the God of cricket - Sachin Tendulkar initially wanted to become a fast bowler and was asked by Dennis Lillee to focus on his batting. That is the power of the expertise of the experienced people which we often tend to ignore. So, choosing a career path should also be based on the advice from experienced people. This will help us match our innate strengths with the skill sets which are more valued in a particular profession. Unfortunately, not even the best of academic institutions provide students with this insight of matching their strengths to a profession which they can chose to pursue. It's an irony that sometimes even educated parents are projected as villains when they ask their kids to choose a course, which they foresee to have a better future or which will suit their children better.
Final Thoughts: It is good to follow one's own passion, but it's equally good not to waste opportunities for that passion which we are either unclear about or which is located somewhere in the eternal future. Let us not waste the opportunity that is right there in our hands. Hard work comes first, pursuing our passion comes second since many of us are not fully aware what our passion really is.
As scholars say, making your passion as your profession can be done after doing enough self reflection on - what you love, what you are good at and what is paid better in the job market. If we are able to balance these three things together, then we hit the bulls eye. If we haven't found our passion yet, let us not waste the opportunity which is right there in our hands. Because at the end of the day, it's only hardwork, not just desire which defines passion. As Steve Jobs said 'Love what you do' and make it as our passion instead of finding 'Do what you love' and wasting opportunties as well as time.
Ramesh Moorthy

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Decoding Academic Excellence

Few months before my uncle called me and said that he is disappointed with his son's performance in the recently concluded +2 examination. His son, who is a bright kid managed to score 94.5%. However his father said that he and his family had sacrificed a lot of things in the last 2 years to ensure that his son gets spectacular cutoff marks in his +2 examinations, but their collective efforts had gone futile. With a lot of pain, he shared with me that because of few decimal point marks, his son cannot get a seat in the premier educational institution in which his friend's son had secured admission. I asked my uncle 'do you remember how much you had scored in your +2 examinations?' He said 'No, I don't remember'. I said 'such is the importance of academic scores in your life, that you don't even have to remember it, but can still succeed'.
This article is my attempt to decode the deadly obsession we as a society started having towards Academic Excellence. This obsession cannot be considered as totally wrong since Education apart from educating, also serves as a tool for the upliftment of the entire family's economic status. In a country which has more than half a billion people trying to shift their economic status from lower class to middle class most often through education, this importance of academic excellence is totally understandable. In a situation where few decimal points more or less in the cutoff marks is going to decide whether you will join the course of your choice in the institution of your choice, the importance of academic excellence is totally understandable.
My viewpoint is not to diminish the importance of academic excellence, but to question our obsession towards academic excellence. I have few insights to support my viewpoint. Let me list down one by one. I have done academically well during most of my long academic career which culminated in a MBA from a good B-School. I had the privilege to study along with people who are among the best in terms of academic excellence. Fortunately being an HR professional provides me a dual perspective of having the ringside view of the organization along with the opportunity to see how people have shaped their careers through their resumes. Going by the conventional wisdom of parents that only academically good kids will have good careers, the top rung of any organization should be full of academic toppers – the empirical truth is that it’s not.
The profound insight is that there is no significant relationship between academic excellence and professional excellence. More often, academic excellence is not getting converted into professional excellence at all. Don't blame the student for this, but blame the system. A system which focuses and rewards memory reproduction alone can never reproduce excellence in a professional setup. Unlike in the West, we haven't done any major social studies to explore the relationship between academic and professional excellence. So can we assume that all efforts put to excel in academics is futile? No, like all the complex and expensive diagnostic procedure your physician will send you for, 'it's good to have, but not must to have'. Nobody will question the fact that professional excellence is far more important than academic excellence.
If not academic excellence, what are those critical success factors which fuel professional excellence? With my limited experience I can list down the following factors which fuel professional success.
1. Handling Uncertainty - Most of the students who had done academically well, fail miserably in handling uncertainty associated in the business environment. If you are a student who used to prepare meticulously for all the examinations and score high marks and pass out with flying colours, you are never exposed to uncertainty. In an academic environment, there exists a direct relationship between the efforts and the results. If you study really hard, the probability of you ending up at more than 80% is very high. But this is not the case in the actual business environment, where you didn't even know whether your efforts are in the right direction or not. In my opinion, a last bench student, who had the exposure to write examinations without any preparation, is better equipped to manage uncertainty.
2. Confidence - Let me not even to try to explain the importance of this skill in the workplace. But if you are a parent trying to compare your kid with the other academically good kid or trying to over criticize your kid for his poor academic performance, do remember that you are not doing any good to build his confidence which is the most important skill for success in the workplace. To put it simply, good self-esteem is the vital part of confidence. Scars made in the self-esteem of students inflicted by their parents & society because of their poor marks will create major repercussions in their professional life.
3. Communication Skills - Whatever said and done, English is the language of business. People with good communication skills always fare well in the work place. Good vocabulary is vital for good communication skills. Good vocabulary is built by reading books. We have made education such a traumatic experience, that reading is only interpreted as a preparation for examinations. I have seen many successful people who didn't have fancy degrees, but I am yet to see a successful person who doesn't read books. Howsoever beautifully you may communicate, if you don't speak with content, people will never admire you. By making reading a traumatic experience, you are not doing great help to your kids.
4. Decision making Skills- It's not our talent, but our decisions which determine how successful we are in our lives. So how the decision making skills improve? To put it simply, it begins with making decisions in the first place and improves in the long run with the experience of making many wrong decisions. If you are a parent who criticize the failure of your kids, your kid will hesitate to take any decision on his own because of the fear of failure. If he doesn’t fail, how can he gain experience to polish his decision making skills? Just think about it.
5. Family support - Behind the success of any person in the workplace, there is always a great deal of support and sacrifice from his family. In a career spanning atleast 35 to 40 years, there will be lots of ups and downs. Sailing through the rough weather will be smoothly done with support from the family. There are many young stars in business who disappear completely after facing a single obstacle because of their inability to recover from failure completely. To recover completely, the support from the family or friends is vital. So, being there for your kid when he is going through a rough phase, will make sure that he will lean towards you instead of getting addicted to bad habits in the future. Be there for him, when he fails - he will succeed consistently in the long run.
Drop the obsession towards academic excellence. It's absolutely pointless. Professional success is far more important than academic success. Make your kids to succeed in their career path, it will be a wonderful way of impacting their lives forever!!!
Ramesh Moorthy

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Decoding the Best Kept Facebook Secret

Disclaimer: All the contents included in this post are meant only for fun. By reading on further you are actually agreeing to take the content of this post in lighter vein. Go on..

Decoding the new 'FB Status Symbol' of Girls

You belong to either of these two categories

1. The 'Unfortunate Category' - People who post intellectually stimulating posts and pictures in FB after hours of deep thinking and subsequently got hurt after seeing the pathetic number of likes they get and deeply frustrated by the feminist ideals prevailing in Facebook and still hold on to their memberships just for the sake of it - also called as Boys

2. The "Fortunate Category' - People who never ever had the chance to experience the above unpleasantries of the Unfortunate Category and are blessed with innumerable likes just for honoring FB with their membership, posts and profile pictures- also called as Girls

Is Facebook actually a feministic world in itself created just for encouraging girls whatever things they do online ? or we Boys lack any insights which girls are able to learn just by their power of Intuition? After hours of depression , I actually dared to look beyond the horizons of our assumptions and long held beliefs. 

In true MBA Style, we are now going to decode the new FB Status Symbol of Girls. Wondering what? Yes, we are speaking about the secret war going on between girls on who is getting the maximum likes for their profile pictures. On observing the Online Activity of many Girls in our Friends list who are getting more than 100 likes for their profile pictures 'just like that' that too within a span of few hours after posting their pics, I came up with 8 insights on how they could do that.

1. They know the power of SLR - They successfully managed to harness the power of SLR cameras. Armed with the power of an expensive lens and superior mega pixels, SLR cameras never failed to spit out the spectacular version of you and that is exactly why they are priced so high. Our research indicates that many times the photographer in this particular scenario is a Boy who is trying to achieve Transcendence, the highest point in the Maslows New Hierarchy of Needs just by taking those beautiful pictures of her.

2. They know the power of Picassa - If they can't get what they need, they don't crib like Boys, they quickly find alternatives. If they are not getting an SLR, they just order Picassa to be at their service. This simple and effective creation by Google is ringing the death bells for Adobe Photoshop by placing the power of image editing in the hands of amateurs. They just upload their picture taken in their mobiles into this software and do various permutations and combinations of features like Glow, Ortonify, Holgaish, Cross Process, Dual Tone, etc and Voila they got their New Me.

3. They know the power of Timing - Men dominate the profession of marketing worldwide. Many of the most innovative products have failed miserably just because of the fact that they had poor sense of timing the market. Every now and then we have observed that these profile pictures are uploaded during prime times in Facebook or from evening 7 pm to night 1 am. Yes, if the number of likes are going to be directly proportional to the number of users online at that time, why waste that opportunity and they are doing just that intuitively. Girls make better marketers..Proved beyond doubt..

4. They know the Power of Tagging - These successful girls never forget to tag those people in pictures and sometimes the photographer who is not even in the pic by something like this - 'Thanks to xxxxxxx for the beautiful pic, can't resist uploading' . More often than not , this is how they indirectly initiate the comments for their profile pictures and If you think it's not worthy to emulate, you are actually missing the way Facebook algorithm functions. Don't panic..Read on further.

5. They know the Power of Engaging in a Conversation- ' Hi di chellam, epdi kirukke' - 'I am good here di, then howz life'- 'I am doing fine, why don't you come to trichy'..... These are not excerpts from the chat , but the actual conversation happening in the comments section of the profile picture, they just now uploaded. Yes, they know that FB has a chat option , but they also know that the number of comments increase the Edge Rank of your post and in turn increases the duration of the time your post highlighted in the newsfeed. Yes, they can fool the complex Facebook Edge Rank algorithm just like that.

6. They know the power of Friends - What we actually meant here is that the number of friends they have in their friend list. Our primary research indicated that many of these successful girls had more than 500 friends in their friends list. Yes, they know how to recollect that friend's name who studied along with them in Pre.K.G, put efforts in finding their profile in FB, befriending them and be in touch with them effortlessly. One of the benefits of having this wider social circle stems from the fact that more the number of friends, more the number of likes. Off late we have seen that they also started exploring the power of 'Subscribe' Option in FB whereby they can allow people to subscribe and like their pictures without befriending them.

7. They know the Power of Likes- Do you know what is so interesting in the demographic profile of those persons who like the profile pictures? Very surprisingly we found that more than 40% of the likes come from Girls and sometimes this proportion increases more than 50% also. Yes, they understood the simple fact- if you want to be more likable  put more likes and they never shied away from liking the pictures of their counterparts, unlike the Boys or the Unfortunate category. We boys never are intrinsically motivated to like another boys picture. Blame it on our evolution, but understand that we are seriously lagging behind.. Unity is our Strength guys..come on..Don't shy away..Encourage your counterparts..

8. They know the power of Reinforcement - You are most likely to see these successful girls changing their profile picture suddenly to one of their old profile pictures instead of uploading a new one. Just be aware that, they are harnessing the power of reinforcement. If they fall short of likes in the initial upload, they never quit trying. They actually put that picture in hibernation for sometime and suddenly change their profile picture to that old one and the same old vicious cycle of timing, tagging, conversation, likes, continues. Like a portfolio manager who wishes all the stocks in his portfolio to perform exceedingly well, they want all the profile pictures in their album of profile pictures to perform exceedingly well and that is one of the secrets of their success.

Like all successful people in various walks of life, we found that many of these successful girls are not even consciously aware of all these successful habits, it comes naturally for them. 

Don't you find these tips worth emulating..

Follow these habits..

Don't forget to invite me for putting the 200th like in your profile picture..

See you in my next research post..

Signing off for now..


Ramesh Moorthy