Taking things all at once

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I have met many people in the last two weeks who say they thrive on a multi-tasking environment and they are able to gear themselves up with changing needs of various kinds of work. I ask them, have you been productive enough? and most of them start to mutter thereon.

People often confuse working on several different things with optimizing their timelines and schedules. Working effectively doesn’t necessarily mean you work on 10 different assignments in the same two hours, but could very well imply working on an assignment for 20 minutes, bringing it to a meaningful close and moving on to another one for the next round of work.

High performance needs a mix of focus and intelligence, not always does divided attention let you achieve that.

Where’s Your Audience?

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So yesterday evening in the downtown area of Karachi City, this man brought a van with huge speakers put on to it, and started protesting on the mike while passing through the busy Saddar streets. Throughout the speech, he was protesting against government and telling what the government ought to do about one particular case.

However palatable the reasoning and arguments might have been, he could not even attract ears of even flies around there. It is important to make a well-put case forward, but much more important to know where to put it. The only value that guy created was nuisance value. No value addition.

Alternatively, if he had spent the same amount of money that went in preparing that van, renting the sound system, making other logistics arrangements into preparing a fora where government officials could be approached and petitions could be filed to the relevant authorities in the government, the efforts could have borne some fruit.

The difficulty in doing the thing right is the fear that it would go past unnoticed by the majority, but really, is  that attention even worthwhile? Keep doing things the right way and the right people would notice. After all, isn’t that what you wanted in the first place?

Many Choices or Just One?

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Many times people get bogged down by the number of choices they need to make in any particular decision. This applies at all levels. The sheer number of choices discourages some of them to decide on to something. That’s not the best thing.

In most cases, there is only choice that you have to make, and the rest follow suit according to the mother-choice you previously made. It is simple and practical to think this way as long as you’re willing to tell the truth and be honest. For example, if you have decided to grow as a person through acquisition of education to enlighten your mind – that is the choice. The choices that would follow could be getting university education, traveling to broaden scope, or even learning something through working with certain people/organizations.

Organizations also often have to that take one choice, however, they often fail because they procrastinate.

Mark Hurd’s Lead in Oracle

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Mark Hurd has joined Oracle. The market welcomed this move with a whopping increase in share price as soon as the news broke. Is it a good thing for Oracle? For HP?

At HP, his departure was somewhat strange with a host of stories from his abuse of power and sexual harassment charges to simple expense account irregularities as suggested in the company’s press release, but things were not brought out very clearly in the Press Release done by HP. It was a hotchpotch of news items which were found all over the “internet” and the “off-ternet” suggesting reasons for his departure but few were able to assign clear cut reasons for the same. HP’s position goes worse on two accounts: firstly, losing out on a competent employee means loss of company performance in the short-term and secondly, such a loss of performance would be hit by even larger fear lingering on other top C-level executives that would possibly keep them from even productive, professional involvement with female executives in many instances.

At Oracle, Hurd’s new Presidency means a host of opportunities for the company. However, Larry Ellison would still retain the top-man’s role in the company. This new setup with with Safra Catz and the role in the Board would mean a revitalization of Oracle at C-level and the possibility of entering into many new dimensions, much faster.

Clearly, things in the industry would shuffle up and there would be radical diversions in the strategy of not only these two companies, but also others. It would be interesting to note and compare HP’s growth trajectory and product and service innovation with Oracle’s in the next few months to years to see how important the “person behind the gun”, or the top executive could be in leading and managing change.

Procrastination

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Many people suffer from this deadly habit of procrastination where they keep on delaying things until such time that the knife hangs on their necks. Many of them do it so often that they forget there happens to be an alternative. Sometimes, they feel bad about being late but mostly, things are fine as long as they do it. Can you remember someone in your friends’ list who shares similar traits?
Some businesses, like human beings, develop this habit of procrastination. These kind of businesses are often seen fire fighting on small, petty issues rather than strategizing on more important ones. Three most common reasons why this might be the case could be:

  • Organizational head is a procrastinator by nature, hence, everything else falls into its place – late.
  • Organization has a lot of “inertia” as I like to put: This happens when the size of an organization grows much beyond their managerial capacities.
  • The key executive/(s) in organization are trying to get the maximum benefit out of their position while they’re still on their seat. This is actually the worst reason of the three, principally, because this leads to lower employee morale, disgruntled employees, higher attrition rate, losing out employees to competition, bad word-of-mouth for the organization and the overall poor perception of the organization in the industry.

Once an organization has successfully  identified why it has turned into a procrastinating organization, and figure out what’s the reason, the decision to make is to change or not. The point I want to make here is that to successfully identify the reason behind the lethargic organization is at least as much important as the decision to change, since latter without former would only create confusion.

Designing Goals

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Be it individual, or corporate or even government run organization, they all need goals. Most of us grow up listening to people about how important it is to have goals, and all the nice things about keeping performance in check through goals. So all that while most of the information that we receive about goal setting is reinforcing the same basic issues.

What we come to learn at a management school is something that is very much applicable in effective goal design and setting. Goals should be S M A R T. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

If smart goal designs are understood and implemented, this could lead to a huge degree of change in the results.

Specific means you provide a quantifiable figure to your goal. For instance, increasing profitability by 10% for instance, rather than targeting higher profits.

Measurable means that you keep checking in to your target and current state and gauge the difference to note your progress. One, it motivates you toward achieving your goal and Two, it acts as a warning sign if you are going off.

Attainable is a bit tricky, however, to put simply, goals should be achievable given the resources that you have in terms of time, effort, finances, energy, skillset, etc. Here, also important is the open acceptance of goals, not imposed acceptance.

Realistic is to say that these should neither be too easy nor be very difficult, as in both the cases most people will lose their drive and stop working hard enough.

Time-bound is an important fifth pillar of SMART goals. All goals should be linked to a time component to see if work targets have been met in time.

On the finishing note, in order to increase goal effectiveness, make sure you write down your SMART goals. Once you have it written, it comes as a reaffirmation of your conviction in the goals and would increase the chances of success of your planning endeavor.

Celebrate Events – Create Stories

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Many organizations like to underplay the hidden lingo that is commonly used in the organization, and try to ignore the organizational norms and events that make them unique – just because they’re so different. Is that the right thing to do?

As much as it becomes viral throughout the company, it becomes part of the core of the culture. Companies that understand and appreciate their uniqueness often benefit in two ways. One, they become confident of their own style of doing things and this leads to increased productivity; and two, they tend to attract the right kind of human resource that gels in well with the organization’s culture.

Smart executives understand these advantages, celebrate events and create stories through their actions. Channeling a company’s grapevine through a constructive media reassures the rejuvenated spirit of the company and it good for the company in the long-run.

Stories are created by the way the top cadre treat people and events, by the way they dress, talk, eat and sit, so much so that even the size of executive room and desk size inside the rooms help convey stories.

Are you conveying the stories that you want to, or unintentionally leading all to completely different stories?