Who has a better life – this generation or the previous?

Answer by Bharath Kumar Balasubramanian:

I would answer this question from a technology perspective:
My generation – 80’s born (Gen Y) have seen a sea of change!
– We moved from 8-inch to 5 1/4  inch to 3 1/2 inch floppy disks!
– We jumped in glee at using the shiny CDs, followed by DVDs and then Blue-rays!
– We saw ‘Thumb’/Pen drives proliferate along with external HDDs
– We saw Moore’s law in action – performance of systems getting better and better while becoming smaller and smarter!
– Mobile phones metamorphosed from brick like devices to the smart snazzy devices that we use today!
– From Dial-up modems and their classic connection noise, that we would patiently handle   we have moved to superfast broadband!
– Websites and Applications for each and everything – you name it, it is available!
– Laziness and convenience got a boost with on-line shopping. Anything and everything delivered at the click of a mouse!
– We are connected more than ever before – very social!
– We are in the knowledge proliferation age. All that you want to know is available and all you have to do is just ask! (Quora for example!)
Isn’t this a great time to be!!

Who has a better life – this generation or the previous?

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Workshops that work! (Part 2)

brainstorm

This post follows from the part 1 at:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/workshops-really-work-bharath-balasubramanian-pmp?trk=pulse_spock-articles

Part 1 deals with,

– identification of workshop objectives

– classification of participants

– Dealing with each category

This part deals with the preparation for ensuring a super workshop!

‘Be Prepared’, the boy scout motto applies itself well in our case! Workshops that deal with organization level changes have much higher rate of success when the participating audience is comprised of individuals across the organization. While this ensures a high quality of discussion and a wider coverage of options, this also necessitates that the workshop preparation is at an organization level. Imagine having to switch topics (production – sales – supply chain – general management – product development-…) while discussing a single idea or impact!

An interesting introduction ice-breaker that we could use to bring out the value of each participant would be to pair the participants and have them ‘sell’ their partners to the audience. The selling terms would be in terms of expertise, roles & responsibilities and hobbies – this ensures that the audience understand the value that each individual brings to the workshop while also establishing a personal connect!

From experience, 8 preparation activities that have helped me connect well with the audience and conduct a great workshop:

  • Research, research & research:

Understand the industry, the players and the latest happenings in the industry. How is your customer going to be impacted?

Ideas and the suggestions that will make the Senior management sit up and take notice (‘Wow! That’s interesting – we never thought of it that way!’) are important. The quality of interaction could make or break the senior management commitment to the workshop.

  • Who’s who?

Use LinkedIn and other social networks to really understand the participants better. Using their name as they walk-in and referencing their experience works wonders. A simple ‘Hey Mark, how’s your whitepaper on predictive analytics going?’ warrants a focused participant and a great contact!

If you can’t find them on the social network, the organization’s intranet could help you with the photos and the project details, so that you have a ready greeting for them!

  • Be value driven:

Workshops could actually result in a massive waste of time and money if not properly channelled. A 2-day workshop with 15 participants could be a massive 240 hours wasted if not conducted properly and if it fails to meet the expectations. Ensure that the expectations are set forth and the objectives clearly communicated before the start of the workshop. Time checks and course corrections are a must!

  • Be prepared:

Prepare for exigencies – non availability of meeting rooms, workshop materials, food and beverages (very important – hunger is a big distraction), reduced availability of key participants…. could all feature in your list of risks. Plans B & C really help!

  • Ensure mutual respect:

More the participants connect with each other, the easier it is to conduct and achieve the objectives. One fun way to ensure that each individual understands the importance and the value of the other participants is to conduct a ‘Sell him’ introduction. Participants in pairs, sell each other to the audience at large bringing out the best that they have to offer in terms of their experience.

  • Have Fun!

Workshops need not be morose, sullen affairs where the focus is merely on coming up with an organization strategy or defining the requirements for the next state-of-the-art trading system. The idea is to not only come up with the best of plans but to also ensure that the participants are at their creative best. You would never believe some of the great ideas that come up as a result of participant letting go of their constrained thinking.

  • Hold individuals responsible

Walking away from a workshop and forgetting what happened is a very common occurrence. Workshops should be followed up with action items and status reporting to ensure that the learning and the actions do not go waste. Institutionalizing a desired trait needs the best of nurturing and directions and of course, follow-ups.

  • Ground rules rule!

Laying down the rules for usage of electronic devices, breaks, expression of views and attendance helps in setting the context and ensures a workshop with minimal interruption.

Enjoy your workshops!

This article on LinkedIn

Getting into Shape!

A finisher...a champion!

A finisher…a champion!

Always dreamt of getting into shape,
Flaunting a figure for others to ape!
Scared whenever I look at the measuring tape,
Only if i could shed off this fatty drape!!

My dresses of yore fit no more,
Squeezing into one would be an impossible chore,
Talking always about losing weight is a bore,
Can’t take it lord…not anymore!

Started on the road to shedding a few pounds,
And after a long time, heard the early morning sounds,
one more, one more…so went my rounds,
My dream was no longer out of bounds!

The keywords were now diet and nutrition,
Couldn’t still hold back many a temptation.
I guess I needed some competition,
and looked at my old pics for some inspiration!

Sweating out repetitions the Sisyphean way,
Set to cutting away the flab come what may,
Sleep, Diet and exercise day after day,
Continually inspired by the future that was to stay.

Lost my 15 extra pounds finally,
Jumped up and down, celebrated with glee!
Gorged on chocolates, cakes and high calorie,
Maintaining myself now is another story!

© 2014 Bharath Balasubramanian All Rights Reserved

Indian Railways – The Joys of travelling without a reservation; Part 1

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India’s largest employer and the 9th largest employer in the world with 1.4 million employee, Indian railways employers more than our armed forces (1.3 million) but has fewer employees than McDonalds, Walmart & the Chinese army and railway corporations (!). Still, from an Indian context the impact is huge. It is amazing to know that at any point of time more than 5 million people are on the move using Railways and more than 25 million people use the railways everyday to reach their destinations. Roughly 10-11% of the passengers (by my calculations) travel by what is called as the General or Unreserved class. This blog is dedicated to the hapless souls (such as myself) who have experienced a journey in the General compartments. Filled with inconveniences and learning, these travel experiences certainly mould one’s character and ensure significant servings of hope, patience and will-power enhancement.

It started with a last minute plan to visit my sister in Birsinghpur for Diwali this year. Birsinghpur is  a township and hosts a Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board power plant. To reach the place it takes a minimum of 2 connections. I had my ticket booked for the ‘Garib Rath’ (tr: poor man’s chariot) a train that belies its name and is comprised entirely of 3rd AC coaches. The definition of poor is a little shaky here given that its from the lower middle class that the fare becomes affordable. Booked at a waiting list of 774, prayers and addition of coaches brought it down to a teasing 50 on the day of departure! Wanting to make it at any cost, i decided to go for the unreserved travel option. Confident from an experience gained in my first year at college 14 years ago, when as a result of ragging we had to forego confirmed tickets and take the train for the next day to our home towns from Durgapur (WB).

The first alternative train was supposed to leave at 12:40 PM. I went to the station and verified the time and they said it will leave at 12:10 – i was pleasantly surprised that the train was running before time when the clerk added – 12 hours running late….ouch!

Found out the next alternative – this time a triple connection via Itarsi & Katni. confident and keeping my focus fixed on a great diwali ahead, i bought the general ticket. Knowing that i had better forget a good meal for the next 18 hours, had a good(!) lunch at the railway canteen. Attempting caution even in such a scenario, i bought a sanitiser and a couple of tablets for cold and fever and a few old newspapers (never know if you are going to be ‘floored’ for the journey!!). Thus armed and prepared (once a scout, always a scout), i began my journey.

Went to the platform an hour early and found that people had already started forming a queue for the general class. About 75 members deep, they sat in a line reminiscent of the colourful plastic pots that queue up for the corporation water in Chennai. You start at the 75th position and yet find yourself at around the 130th as a rest of people calling their kith and kin over to join them in the middle, braving the protests from the people at the back! A couple of minor squabbles over the size of a family (8-9 members) that a person was trying to insert claiming to be his immediate family had the railway police drawn to us. The family suffered a partition as 5 sullen souls made their way to the end of the line, now at least 150 deep. People in our country wield power, no matter the situation! There was this guy who was late with his family of 4 and was still making a phone call to the station in charge so as to be placed in front of the line! Howls and physical signs of protest, however, showed him rightful place at the end of the line! You know, the mob is like best thing to set things right – unless you are on the receiving end!

One thing that i have firmly come to believe in is that no matter how ugly the situation or the experience, you are never alone. There are always other who have gone through similar, if not worse situations. When i started chatting up with my neighbours in the line, i found that a couple of them wanted to reach Agra and had absolutely no idea. A few wanted to get to Jhansi and were clueless as well! Reminds me of Lao Tzu’s quote:

 “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving” 

Next part: The 18 hour Journey and camaraderie in the coaches! 🙂

Mumbai Meri Jaan! – Part 2

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Second blog in this series – continues on driving & mobility (please ensure you have read part 1 – for continuity’s sake!)

I remember a joke in a Tamil movie in which the comedian, an autodriver, dupes the traffic police by switching on the left indicator, uses his right hand to signal a turn and finally goes straight, leaving behind a bewildered traffic policeman! Mumbai’s drivers don’t even provide such useful clues – exhibit totally random behaviour. One thing that is common, is the urgency – every nook, every gap available is made use of. The gaps and the vehicles do not match, yet  they manage to go through! Highly protean, you will admit! The best part is the repetition of the Camel’s hump prejudice – it never sees its hump, but rather comments on the ugliness of the hump of the camel in front. Mumbai’s drivers (and so do most others) exhibit the same. Despite coming on the wrong side in the first place, this guy will berate the other hapless driver to the max extent. That the meek shall inherit the earth doesn’t apply here – the meek drivers shall invite more curses and taunts in Mumbai!

Its advisable to stand either 30 meters away or before the bus stop – the buses rarely stop in front of the stops. You will realise the right place after a trial and error experiment. The best is to ask or observe where the typical Mumbai-wala is standing, after all do in Rome as the Romans do! One good sight is the formation of queues for boarding at a lot of high-traffic bus stands. Self-regulated by the commuters, these queues stretch for quite sometime during peak hours and queue-breaking is certainly a no-no unless you want to be bashed by a mob of irate to-home-after-a-bad-day-at-office commuters.

Autowallas follow their Mann-Marzi when it comes to ferrying passengers. They simply refuse to ply and sometimes it takes an act of noting down their registration number and a threat to inform the traffic police to make them ply. Even this trick is wearing thin now!

The local trains are the lifeline of Mumbai, ferrying close to 7.5 million passengers everyday! Crowd mobility is the way to embark/alight from trains. Just ensure that you stand in the right place, in front of the right carriage and the crowd will do the rest. You are swept into the train amidst the scamper for legroom. Getting down is a lot easier and only thing that you have to watch for is the incoming crowd who push and shove their way in to get the few seats that are available. If not careful, you could get really hurt in the process.

I am reminded of a true incident mentioned by an ex-manager at Cognizant. There was this sales guy (tie, formals) who wanted to get aboard a busy local. The local trains have a vertical bar at the entrance as a divider for the incoming and outgoing traffic and to provide a hold who are engaged in footboard callisthenics.

This guy was a tad late and was in the trailing part of the crowd who boarded the train. To his dismay he could not get both feet onto the train and was left with one foot dangling, when the train started. Taking the wise decision to wait for the next one, he got down but found that his connection (read: neck tie) to the train was still there. Someone had the Tie tacked to the pole by sandwiching it between their hand and the pole. This guy now started running along with the train while shouting for the @#$%^& to take his hand off. With the train gathering momentum, you can very well imagine what the poor sales guy would be subjected to. Finally, someone yanked off his tie from underneath the cluster of hands and freed the sales guy – sending him crashing into a group of standing passengers, but safe nonetheless. Whew!

I am not sure about the rest of India, but atleast pedestrians in Mumbai understand the power of Unity. 1’s lonely, 2’s company and 3’s a crowd is followed and that’s all it takes to start crossing! There’s a battle of emotions at play here and the safety is in numbers. The oncoming vehicles don’t look like they are going to stop. The pedestrians have to be confident in their stride and in total defiance of the incoming speedos to make it across a busy street. A little hesitancy on the peds’ part would mean their taking a step back and waiting for what would be a long while before the traffic thins to attempt a crossing. Zebra crossings have become the new stop line for motorists forcing the peds to take a circuitous route around the vehicles.

With the Metro, Monorail and newer ferry routes coming up, Mumbaikars are going to be spoilt for choice when it comes to commuting. How long will these work and how soon their shiny new carriages are going to be painted red with Paan (Betel leaf + a host of other carcinogenic components) stains is anybody’s guess!

All said & done, Mumbai is a great place to explore – by foot ; at every turn and every corner there is an aspect of the city that remains to be discovered and an experience, to be treasured. Viva Mumbai!

#Mumbai Meri Jaan! – Part 1

This is my first in a series of blogs on Mumbai. This blog is my take on driving and mobility in Mumbai.

The land of acceptance, a land of dreams, a place where anyone can make it big, the US counterpart of the ‘Land of milk & honey’ – all these sobriquets and many more are applicable to this ex-archipelago called Mumbai. We have been reading about the individual culture and collective culture in our Human resource subjects and Mumbai is a great place where you can see it in full play.

What struck me first was the pace of the city – remember the time lapse videos of traffic and people milling about? Mumbai is exactly that; a difference in that it’s not a video and that is the normal pace! Coming from a lot quieter south India and having spent considerable time outside India in even quieter and organised locations, the pace was a little unsettling at first.

The sheer temerity of the auto drivers as they weave in and out of highly congested streets throwing all notion of safe driving to the wind is admirable. The first time i sat in the front with the auto driver (that’s one extra seat  = extra $$), i had to keep my eyes closed (a good driver makes a bad passenger!), and peek every now and then to enjoy the ride nonetheless! The auto driver had to be an expert seamstress in his past life to be able to weave his way through like that!

Dogs rudely awakened from their siestas, half naked children playing in the middle of the road, an overloaded bicycle and its trembling rider, an elderly person shuffling across the street – all are made to scamper for their lives by the autowallah. He rules the road, it doesn’t really matter who is at fault – he gets to spit quite a mouthful of curses at the other drivers and the by-standers for making his journey uncomfortable! A cuss-fest breaks all out at dense intersections, when a taxi driver, some private vehicles and autowallahs come together in a non-collaborative way. The choicest of expletives, invoking family members present and past and not sparing ancestors who were enjoying a state of respect (until now, that is!) , are exchanged in the melee. You would realise that it takes a special sense of ingenuity to come with swear words like that. Lexicons are challenged and multi- cultural, multi-language references used. The clash of the egos is usually broken by the arrival of a traffic policeman, who dishes out a few authority laden words from his extensive vocabulary, with the result that the mob is scattered without a trace.

Enough of spelling bees, I wish we could host a swearing bee contest – we will be the undisputed winners, every time.

As i believe, you don’t need brakes to survive here – you need a nice loud horn!

Life @ SP Jain – Making of a Tirthankara :-) Part 1

How it all began:

My career with Cognizant was a great learning experience in terms of the roles I handled, the people I met, the work I did and the places I travelled to.  Doing my MBA seemed to be the ideal step (it was late already!) to break away from the monotony of profession that I had got into. The complacency and comfort that accompany a long tenure at an organisation made it a very tough decision and I was sort of putting things off for the past couple of years citing one reason or another. A bystander in the social networking arena,  I have been playing a very passive role for the most part. It seemed all ok while at Cognizant wherein my focus was restricted to customers, profits and projects . All day to day interactions and communication were purely for business with very few contacts taking root for a long term connection. I realised that my social networking and communication skills need an immediate overhaul!

Now I really needed to become a student again to  buy time and put off matrimony for a year :-))

Why SP Jain?

SP Jain is one of the finest colleges in the country and the fact that they had the simplest of application forms to begin with, helped ( I realised  later that they grew exponentially in complexity after the first round – but once you started, there was no looking back). After 2 levels of written applications and a couple of Face to face interviews at Mumbai, I was in.

I essentially found it harder to convince my superiors at Cognizant than the admission panel at SP Jain that I needed to do my MBA! They were of the opinion that I was already doing great and in my latest role of a business development manager, was having a successful run winning multi Million $ customers and projects.  I was, however, convinced that a disruption was required for me to understand myself better and to find my purpose. I really needed to refresh and reboot myself for a new beginning 🙂

Arranging for the moolah was not really tough considering the banker at home (he also had a ‘peththa kadan’ to take care of!) and I am now an elite customer at Syndicate bank considering a combo of housing and education loans!