Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The House on Kaviraj Row

“The events that left their indelible mark on his psyche were the communal riots of 1946. The Muslim League called for ‘direct action’ and the city became a mute spectator to the mindless atrocities perpetrated on each other by both Hindus and Muslims. For 12 days, beginning on 15 August, the city was gripped by the terror and tragedy of the Great Kolkata Killings, as they came to be known. The howls and cries of victims from both communities rent the air. The entire world seemed to be in a state of collapse. People fled from their tormentors, seeking shelter wherever they could.”

“During the first outburst of communal madness, Pyne was down with malaria. When his fever had subsided, he remembers seeing the twilight sky blaze into a glowing red the way it did at sunset…”

“The Pynes fervently hoped that the insanity which had taken over their world would eventually die down and spare them from having to take the decision to evacuate their home, leaving it to the mercy of the marauding mobs. On 16 August, however, two constables yelled out to all and sundry from the mouth of the lane: ‘We cannot assume responsibility for those who choose to stay behind; we are prepared to escort the rest to safety.’”

“In response to that call, men, women and children came scurrying out of the houses along that lane. The Pynes were forced into the decision of leaving their home; only one of Ganesh’s uncles remained behind. The rest sought refuge in the compound of the Medical College. It turned out to be the right decision, made in the nick of time. For within the next two days, the entire area around Kaviraj Row would go up in flames…”

Shiladitya Sarkar in ‘Thirst of a Minstrel: The Life and Times of Ganesh Pyne’ (Rupa & Co)

China raid

“One thing only remained: to establish ‘terror in the heart of China proper’. This was accomplished by a series of raids, and by the slow destruction of China’s remaining border fortresses. In November 1642 Tien Tsung dispatched an enormous force of men, under the command of his elder brother Abtai, into China. The expedition was a resounding success: by the time the army returned to Mukden it had been victorious in 37 separate engagements against the Ming, and had captured and put to death around a 1,000 members of the Imperial clan, including six Princes of the Blood. The spoil secured was staggering: 350 kg of gold, 3,48,000 kg of silver, 4,440 ounces of pearls, 52,234 bolts of silk and satin and innumerable quantities of furs, robes and deer horn. Almost 3,70,000 prisoners were taken (most destined for slavery among their Manchu captors) and over half a million camel, oxen and other stock.”

“Once again it was not simply the superiority of Manchu arms that had carried the day. The cliques and factions, the intrigues and chicanery of the Ming court, especially the machinations of the eunuch cabal, made a coordinated policy impossible and emasculated the Ming defence. In the northern section of the Great Wall alone there were four viceroys, six governors, and eight generals-in-chief, all vying with each other for supremacy, and above them a eunuch commander-in-chief, who saw the purpose of his position solely in terms of personal advantage.”

Keith Laidler in ‘The Last Empress: The she-dragon of China’ (www.wiley.com)

Keep them informed

“Most company newsletters that we have seen are either barely disguised advertising circulars for new products, updated specification charts, or employee-of-the-month bulletins. Generally, very little of substantive interest to customers can be found in them.”

“We believe that any type of regular communication tool ought be used as a primary source for word of mouth promotion. We think the way to achieve this desirable goal is by putting the customer on the inside of what is going on in the industry of the company producing the communications. Most of your customers never read your industry’s trade papers and business journals. But it is exactly this kind of insider information, once shared with a customer, that filters out to contacts of the customer and produces conversations that can lead to increased business for your company – at almost no cost.”

“For example, if printers are reading in their professional magazines about anticipated paper shortages – due to environmental limitations on tree cutting, a new demand for specific types of paper, a reappearing disease being found in the forests, or any one of a hundred other factors – they should make this kind of information prominent news in their own customer communications. We believe in such situations customers would be more understanding of subsequent price increases and better prepared to conduct their own business as a result of the new information…”

Godfrey Harris in ‘The Hottest Ideas in Word of Mouth Advertising’ (www.vivagroupindia.com)

Does the glass really matter?

“If you’re just drinking wine as refreshment with your meal, and you aren’t thinking about the wine much as it goes down, the glass you use probably doesn’t matter in the least. A jelly glass? Why not? Plastic glasses? We’ve used them dozens of times on picnics, not to mention in airplanes (where the wine’s quality usually doesn’t demand great glasses, anyway).”

“But if you have a good wine, a special occasion, friends who want to talk about the wine with you, or the boss for dinner, stemware (glasses with stems) is called for. And it’s not just a question of etiquette and status: Good wine tastes better out of good glasses. Really.”

“Compare wine glasses to stereo speakers. Any old speaker brings the music to your ears, just like any old glass brings the wine to your lips. But (assuming you care to notice it) can’t you appreciate the sound so much more, aesthetically and emotionally, from good speakers? The same principle holds true with wine and wine glasses. You can appreciate wine’s aroma and flavour complexities so much more out of fine wine glass. The medium is the message.”

Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan in ‘Wine for Dummies,’ third edition (www.wiley.com)

The impact of deadly emotions

“Deadly emotions always start in the mind with a thought. That thought leads to a word, and the word leads to an attitude. In turn, these bad attitudes lead to deadly emotions that become trapped in our bodies and set disease in motion.”

“When an individual experiences excessive anger, worry and the stress caused by hatred, his or her adrenalin level rises, blood pressure may increase, and a heavier load is placed on the heart and circulatory system. The risk of heart disease – especially heart attack – increases for those who live in attitudes of anger. These individuals experience twice the risk of heart disease as compared to everyone else.”

“In addition, when a person is upset, angry or fearful while eating, these negative emotions stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn causes decreased secretion of hydrochloric acid. This causes decreased secretion of pancreatic enzymes, which makes it harder to digest the food… This may lead to bloating, gas, heartburn, indigestion and other digestive problems.”

“The excessive stress caused by negative emotions is quite dangerous because it increases our cortisol levels, which then suppress the immune system. When the immune system is suppressed, cancerous cells can begin to form and grow. Hatred and jealousy are devastating emotions.”

Don Colbert in ‘What You Don’t Know may be Killing You!’ (www.magnamags.com)

Cure your obnoxious employees

“All employees are not equal. Here we are going to talk about employees who refuse to fall into formation, and exhibit unattractive traits frequently. Some may be egotists who can’t accept the fact that they may be able to learn from others. Some may be so ambitious that they may think that undermining other workers is part of the job, and they look down upon those who are junior to them as ‘nothings’. They are simply obnoxious. Such employees are present in every organisation in entrepreneurial as well as staff categories.”

“You, as a leader, must never tolerate obnoxious employees. The obnoxious employee prevents effective functioning of a team. Give them an opportunity – listen to them, and if they don’t improve, fire them!”

Pramod Batra in ‘Be a Winner Everytime’ (www.successcorners.com)

Mithun Chakraborty

“He started out with director Mrinal Sen in the film ‘Mrigaya’, and then came to Bombay. Here, he became a star with a large following among the lower middle class and the urban poor. This was in the 1980s, when he had assumed a screen persona that was a mix of Amitabh Bachchan, James Bond and Saturday Night Fever’s John Travolta. In the late 1980s, he starred in a few Amitabh Bachchan films as well… By now, however, his days of glory were over, or so everyone thought. Mithun Chakraborty thought otherwise, and all through the early to mid-1990s, he became more prolific than ever. Between 1990 and 1995, he starred in at least 51 films – 8.5 films a year, or a film every 42 days! None of these, however, was a hit in the conventional sense.”

“Without a single hit, how did Mithun Chakraborty manage to get so many films over so long a period? He shifted to the south Indian hill station of Ooty, and built a hotel there. So, a producer would land up at Ooty, stay with his crew in Chakraborty’s hotel at concessional rates, shoot a film with him and an aspiring or failed starlet, finish shooting in three weeks flat, do post-production in Mumbai over the next fortnight or so, and inside two months, a film would be ready with six or seven songs, several fight sequences, one rape, fiery dialogues, and a weepy mother. The producer would then release the film in the less classy theatres in the big cities and in smaller cities like Patna, Indore, Benaras and Bathinda. The actor’s loyal front-stall fan following ensured a decent run for a couple of weeks. Low investment, short gestation, moderate returns, and guaranteed break-even: many producers were very glad to take this package.”

“Since film financiers lend money at 3-4 per cent interest per month, the length of the gestation period can often be the difference between profit and loss.”

‘Bollyworld: Popular Indian cinema through a transnational lens’ edited by Raminder Kaur and Ajay J. Sinha (www.sagepublications.com)

Narayana Murthy

“Many people have questioned Murthy on whether it was fair that Sudha, who had stood first in her State school examination and in her engineering course and won a gold medal in computer studies, should remain just a housewife.”

“In her book ‘The Story of a Dream,’ Sudha has given a clean answer to this question. ‘His dreams are far superior to my dreams. My dream is confined to a small circle, ‘my work…my future.’ But his dream is big; it is about finding the means to increase the wealth of the country. Therefore I don’t think there is anything wrong in my giving up mine. In case my dream had been bigger and capable of doing good to the country, he would have given up a lot more than I have done now. I have no doubt about it at all.’”

N. Chokkan in ‘Narayana Murthy: IT guru’, translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Venkatraman (www.nhm.in)

Dhirubhai Ambani

“Ambani believed in god, but not in rites and rituals. Although every new business venture began after the routine puja, it was conducted more for the satisfaction of his family and well-wishers. As far as Ambani was concerned, service to humanity was greater than service to god.”

“Once, when he was speaking to Ramayana exponent Ramesh Bhai Oza, he boldly told Oza in front of thousands of disciples that the people who had gathered there to sing bhajans could be better utilised to lay roads or install water pipes.”

N. Chokkan in ‘Dhirubhai Ambani: A business legend’, translated from Tamil by R. Krishnan (www.nhm.in)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tata’s car!

“In 1901, he brought a motorcar out to Bombay, and delighted in taking his friends on uncertain excursions to which a breakdown only added a spice of adventure. He would not have a chauffeur: his coachman had to learn to drive, and when the car failed there were plenty of coolies to haul it home. Someone had to handle these hobbies. So Mr Jamsetji selected a servant, to whom he gave a few months’ training in mechanism, until the man could adjust defects with varying success. When Mr Tata bought his first Diesel engine it had been set going before the German engineer arrived to piece it together. For Mr Jamsetji did not believe in importing experts. ‘Let the Indian learn to do things for himself,’ said he.”

“These minor interests filled up Mr Jamsetji’s odd moments, but his favourite hours were those spent at home among his books…”

Frank Harris in ‘Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata: A chronicle of his life’ (www.penguinbooksindia.com)

Never give up

“There are so many people who want to better their lives, yet it is only a handful who actually end up doing so. This is because most people give up too easily when they come across obstacles along the way.”

“If you are the type of person who gives up easily, never finishing anything you start because of distractions or obstacles along the way, you can forget about achieving most of your dreams in life. Without perseverance your dreams will always remain out of your grasp, a mere figment of your imagination.”

“Perseverance is possibly the single most important quality anyone who is interested in succeeding could ever possess. Develop this quality and it will lift you when you are down, urging you to push on until you reach your dreams.”

“Perseverance makes all the difference between failing and winning! Without perseverance you have lost before you have even begun. No matter how often you fall and are knocked back down over and over, you are never a failure if you keep picking yourself up to try again. The only failure is in giving up and staying down. Remember the spirit of the true champion is found in those who pick themselves up every time to try anew. When you have perseverance you will win even when the deck is stacked against you.”

“Perseverance should not be confused with ‘hard work’ or ‘the number of hours worked’. It can be more accurately defined as your total commitment and determination to follow through with your plan, even in the face of defeat and criticism. It is knowing what you want and being so determined to have it that you commit your entire efforts to getting it. It means having the willpower to fight on when others wave the flag of defeat. It is the quality that truly separates the winners from the losers.”

“So how do you develop perseverance? It is quite simple really…”

Warren Veenman and Sally Eichhorst in ‘Where Has My Ceiling Gone?’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Perseverance

“Learn to finish what you start. This is a major failing in most people. They never seem to be able to follow through with anything and see it through till the end. Practise finishing projects, like an incomplete paining, fixing your car which you started ages ago, finishing extensions which were supposed to be completed months ago, completing a course you started and lost interest in. The object is to practise perseverance in your everyday life and it will eventually become a habit to persist until you achieve everything you set out to do.”

“We are judged by what we finish, not by what we start. Anon.”

Sally Eichhorst in ‘If I Can You Can’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Financial statement analysis

“The tools used to analyse financial statements, though appear to be different from each other, there is a significant overlap in the effects they highlight. For example, declining profitability of the company could be highlighted by more than one tool (horizontal analysis, vertical analysis, and profitability ratios), each analysing from a different perspective.”

“The tools for analysing financial statements can be classified as: horizontal/growth analysis, vertical/common size analysis, ratio analysis, and quantitative analysis.”

“However, it is important to note that there are some limitations to financial statement analysis. Some of these limitations are:
Business decisions are made in a world of uncertainty.
No single ratio can be relied upon to provide assessment of company performance.”

“Hence, no financial analysis can be 100 per cent accurate despite including all publicly available quantitative and qualitative factors. This fact should always be borne in mind before making any investment decision.”

Dun & Bradstreet in ‘Equity Research and Valuation’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Portfolio management strategy

Stage 1

“In the time period between the ages of 20 and 35 the objective is to achieve maximum capital appreciation by taking elevated, but reasonable, risks. In these early years, young investors need to purchase stock in small companies that have fast revenue and earnings growth and high profit margins. Companies expanding their operations in young and growing industries provide the best opportunities…”

Stage 2

“This is the period from 35 o 50 years of age. The main objectives are to make capital gains and create a growing stream of income. Another objective is to develop a diversified portfolio to control the level of risk. A way to reduce he level of risk is to switch out of the small companies and into medium-size companies that have competitive advantages in established industries. This type of company is found in non-cyclical industries such as food products; non-durable household products; medical supplies; personal care products; electric, water, and gas utilities; and waste disposal services. Avoid cyclical businesses like industrial manufacturing, transportation, steel production, residential and commercial construction, travel, and style-based retailing. Companies in these industries have variable earnings and may reduce their dividends during lean times. In addition, their stock prices can decline severely at the bottom of a cycle in the stock market…”

Stage 3

“This covers the time span between 50 and 65 years of age. The objective in this period is to maintain a high level of income flow and make some capital gains. The relative safety of each investment is the primary consideration. The relative safety of each investment is the primary consideration…”

Stage 4

“These are the retirement years. After amassing your fortune, the objective is to preserve capital and live on the income from the investments. This requires selling individual common stocks and switching into very low risk assets such as….”

Clifford Pistolese in ‘Lifespan Investing’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Follow-up system

“To get the results you want – put your know-how into action – you need a follow-up plan that provides structure, support, and accountability.”

“Structure means regularly scheduled meetings with a coach, a support group, or some vehicle that will help you behave on your good intentions. Unless you have that, you know where the road paved by good intentions will lead.”

“Helpful structure is driven by relationships. When the people who meet with you care about you, they will give you the support you need and, in a loving way, hold you accountable…”

“What we need to do in the training business is to spend ten times the amount of time following up our training as we do organizing, developing and delivering it. What we need are mentors and coaches to help people move from being novices in doing what they know to becoming master teachers.”

Ken Blanchard, Paul J. Meyer and Dick Ruhe in ‘Know Can Do! Put your know-how into action” (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

How to stop worrying?

“When we are busy at work with our mind full of the challenges of the day, it is difficult for the ‘worry bug’ to settle in. It is when the mind is free from the day’s work and we are doing nothing in particular or lying in bed with the lights out that the ‘worry bug’ has its chance to creep in. We start to worry about things that have gone wrong during t he day and could still go wrong, what we should have or shouldn’t have said to others and whether we are getting anywhere in life.”

“So how do you avoid worrying? Simple! An excellent way to avoid worrying is to allow yourself no time for worrying. In other words, keep your mind occupied. What you must also understand is that there is a 99 per cent chance that your worries will never become a reality. So don’t waste y our time and energy worrying about something until it happens. Just this small change can create a major improvement in all areas of your life.”

Warren Veenman and Sally Eichhorst in ‘Dare to Succeed’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Understanding Organisational Behaviour

“Role stagnation is a common stress in organisations when individuals get into new roles as a result of their advancement in the organisation or as a result of taking over more challenging roles. In such cases, there may be a feeling of apprehension because the role is new and may require skills that the role occupant may not have. In such a situation, the usual way is to continue to play the previous role about which the individual is sure and has been doing successfully. Many people, even after advancement to top positions, continue to play the role of lower-level managers. A workshop supervisor, for example, may in due course become a general manager and may still continue to play the role of workshop supervisor, with consequent frustrations to the new supervisor and to others who expect him or her to devote time to more productive aspects of the new role.”

“In an organisation, after several self-searching sessions, it became clear to many at the senior management level that their tendency to undertake close supervision was really a tendency to continue to play old roles.”

Udai Pareek in ‘Understanding Organisational Behaviour’, second edition (www.oup.com)

Visualizing Information with Microsoft Office Visio 2007

“I started 20 years ago with computer-aided design (CAD), on a bespoke workstation and a spreadsheet, on a Commodore Pet. Gradually, I could get both applications on a UNIX workstation. Throughout the 1990s, the corporate world increasingly wanted to see themselves through rose-tainted Windows. What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) was in… and nothing was more WYSIWYG than Visio (the product and the company had the same name in those days – see http://visio.mvps.org for a potted history)…
I got hooked, but then a bigger fish came along and swallowed the bait (Microsoft’s acquisition of Visio Corporation was its biggest at the time). Microsoft Visio emerged with a new identity, and Microsoft started the struggle to blend Visio into the rest of the Microsoft Office System. The 2007 release has continued this progression, but the Big Three of the Microsoft Office family (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) have shiny new coats and bionic hearts, while the others look on enviously, but there are new, useful toys to play with (Link Data to Shapes and Data Graphics).”

David J. Parker in ‘Visualizing Information with Microsoft Office Visio 2007’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Strategic Reward

“Engagement is concerned with people and their work. It happens when people are caught up in and interested in, even excited, about their jobs and are therefore prepared to exert discretionary effort in getting them done…”

“An engaged employee is someone ‘who is aware of business context, and works closely with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation.” (Bevan et al.)

Michael Armstrong and Duncan Brown in ‘Strategic Reward: Making it happen’ (www.vivagroupindia.com)

How to Manage in a Flat World

“Maria-Rey Marston, Executive Director at the Latin America Logistics Centre, argues that the whole notion of ‘work-life balance’ is dated, relating to the 20th century office or factory, not the online global business environment where electronic devices combine work and leisure functions. She comments: ‘Everyone does 24/7 and has a PDA. Most people do not have cut-off time, but most people don’t find that a problem any more. If I’m here, deleting a chunk of mails, you may think I’m working, but I’m freeing up time, dealing with things that don’t add value. There’s such a blurring of work and leisure. The devices are for work and entertainment… When people talk about separation in work-life balance, they’re trying to make a distinction that’s artificial… I don’t think the word ‘balance’ is the right concept. What people crave is flexibility; the flexibility to do personal things in work time and work things in personal time…”

Susan Bloch and Philip Whiteley in ‘How to Manage in a Flat World’ (www.pearsoned.co.in)

Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2007-2008

“Some private schools in Singapore are teaming up with Apple Macintosh Asia to develop ways of delivering education over the Internet to provide continuity of education during a pandemic. A technology is being tested by which both video and audio content as well as PowerPoint presentations can be broadcast through the Internet using Apple’s iTunes.”

Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2007-2008 from Orbicom and the International Development Research Centre (www.sagepublications.com)

Why not…!

“Very often, we think that conflicts are created to put us down. Most of the time, it is not true. We certainly jump into a conclusion before knowing the real reason. Why should we assume things? Why should we assume that people want to put us down? After all, there is something called benefit of doubt and we must allow that benefit to us as well as to others…”

“Are you suggesting that we keep quiet and allow things to settle down?”

“Not really. You must be clear in your communication and must let them know your perception. But not with a preconceived mind. That can be a disaster.”

“It is easier said than done, Tushar.”

“That is why everyone does not reach the top. Silas used to tell me that not being able to manage conflict is the biggest deterrent for career advancement. Often, we take positions and hence the conflict becomes personal. Most of us want to reach the top without any obstacle…”

“But sometimes it is so difficult to avoid such situations. It gets onto your nerves.”

“This happens as most of us take ourselves too seriously and hence the conflict becomes personal. We become defensive and tend to react. Then to safeguard our point of view, we go on justification mode and we counterattack. Why should you convert a professional conflict to a personal one?”

“But we are not saints. No one has any right to put us down and show us in a wrong light.”

“Fair enough and I completely agree with you. Hence, we need to talk and talk maturely. Blowing up things may not give you the right solution. There is no end to such conflicts unless handled with a clear thought process.

Reaction is the easiest solution as that is the easiest way to defend and most of us finally resort to reacting. Then as we react, our answers are never thought through. Silas taught me to think before reacting. The reaction of the other person is not in your hand, but you can control yours. We can definitely control the damage by having a control on our reaction. I tried and it helped.”

“I think the best way to solve the issue is to simply avoid it.”

“No way. You must talk and give utmost importance to the situation…”

Partha Sarathi Basu in ‘Why not…! Racing ahead with mentors’ (www.ubspd.com)

Econospinning

“‘We offer evidence that legalised abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions.’ That’s the very first sentence in ‘The impact of legalised abortion on crime,’ a paper by John J. Donahue III and Steven D. Levitt that appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in May 2001.

And that’s the sentence that turns out to be untrue. Donahue and Levitt offer no persuasive evidence that legalised abortion contributed to recent crime reductions, significantly or otherwise. They offer no persuasive evidence, regardless of whether those crime reductions are measured in absolute terms (number of crimes committed) or, more appropriately, in terms of crime rates (crimes as a share of the population).

Since we are dealing with an empirical research study in a respected scholarly journal, the authors must have done a lot of empirical research. And they did – except not the research that would have made their evidence persuasive. They show that legalisation of abortion coincided with a decline in birth rates among women whose offspring would be prone to commit crimes. They also show that the decline in crime began about 18 years after the legalisation of abortion, when these offspring would have been starting their high-crime years.

But all that evidence is just circumstantial – unpersuasive for a simple reason: It does not show that there was an actual decrease in births of crime-prone offspring, only that there might have been. But if there were, say, a 10 per cent increase in the number of women who fit that demographic profile, and a 5 per cent decline in birth rates among these women, there still would have been an increase in births of crime-prone offspring…

What the data on births actually reveal is that the crime-prone population did increase as a share of the overall population. So there would have been no reason to expect crime rates to decline – and thus no plausible evidence that abortion was a factor.”

Gene Epstein in ‘Econospinning’ (www.wiley.com)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Practical Psychic Self-defense for Home and Office

“A racist thought is the worst form of psychic attack since the victim is not just one person but an entire race or country. Racism is terrible. It results in so much suffering, harassment and social injustice. A negative racist thought can be projected verbally or mentally. It has been clairvoyantly observed that even the auras of victims of ‘subtle racism’ are filled with projected negative thoughts of inferiority, hatred, hopelessness and unjustified, unexpressed criminal accusations from ‘closet racists.’ The victims are subjected to repeated psychic bombardments on a daily basis. It is important to practise psychic shielding in order to repel the projected racist thoughts and return them to the senders.”

Master Choa Kok Sui in ‘Practical Psychic Self-defense for Home and Office’ (www.pranichealing.in)

Advances in Plant Physiology: From the Green to the Grain

“Fertigation is a new term used to indicate fertiliser supply through the irrigation water. As such, it is being practised by many farmers. This method has many advantages over the using of them separately. It saves money by combining the two tasks and allows the growers to fertilise the crop throughout the growing season. Furthermore, many crops can thrive with less fertiliser by this method. Fertigation began with sprinkler irrigation. Fertigation is followed in other methods such as surface and sub-surface irrigation. Sub-surface systems have advantages, like prevention of seepage of excess nutrients into groundwater.”

Seshadri Kannan in ‘Advances in Plant Physiology: From the Green to the Grain’ (APH Publishing Corp)

Think & Grow Rich!

“Broadly speaking, there are two types of people in the world. One type is known as leaders and the other as followers. Decide at the outset whether you intend to become a leader in your chosen calling or remain a follower. The difference in compensation is vast. The follower cannot reasonably expect the compensation to which a leader is entitled, although many followers make the mistake of expecting such pay.”

“It is no disgrace to be a follower. On the other hand, it is no credit to remain a follower. Most great leaders began in the capacity of followers. They became great leaders because they were intelligent followers. With few exceptions, the person who cannot follow a leader intelligently cannot become an efficient leader. The person who can follow a leader most efficiently is usually the one who develops into leadership most rapidly. An intelligent follower has many advantages, among them the opportunity to acquire knowledge from his or her leader.”

Napoleon Hill in ‘Think & Grow Rich!’ (www.jaicobooks.com)

Management through Interpersonal Relationships

“One of the most common complaints of married partners, especially unhappy partners, is ‘We don’t communicate.’ But it is impossible not to communicate – a cold look may communicate anger as effectively as a fierce outburst of words. What these unhappy partners mean by not communicating is that their communication drives them apart rather than brings them together, feeds conflict rather than resolves it…”

“Couples in satisfied marriages tend to have the following characteristics:

  • Willingness to accept conflict but to engage in conflict in non-destructive ways.
  • Less frequent conflict and less time spent in conflict.
  • Ability to disclose or reveal private thoughts and feelings, especially positive ones, to one’s partner.
  • Expression by both partners of more or less equal levels of affectionate disclosures, such as tenderness, words of love, touch.
  • More time spent talking, discussing personal topics, and expressing feelings.
  • Ability to accurately encode (send) verbal and non-verbal messages and accurately decode such messages from their spouses.”

“…Mace and Mace (1979) observe that on the day of marriage, people have three kinds of raw material with which they can work. First, there are the things they have in common, the things they both like. Second, there are the aspects in which they differ, but the differences are complementary. Third, unfortunately, there are the differences between them that are not at all complementary and can cause them to meet head-on, with a big bang. In every relationship between two people, there is a great deal of the latter sort of difference. So when we move closer together, those differences become disagreements.”

M.B. Sharan and Damodar Suar in ‘Management through Interpersonal Relationships’ (www.jaicobooks.com)

52 Ways to Motivate your Staff

“Those of us fortunate enough to be able to hear are not always blessed with the ability to listen! On average, people can think and process incoming information at four times the speed at which they can talk. (Of course there are always the exceptions who seem to talk faster than anyone else can listen!) This fact should give us a great advantage in being able to listen with our full attention, so that we get the underlying ‘ideas’ message as well as the superficial facts. But most of us spend that time-lag thinking up what we’re going to say when the other person stops, and if they don’t stop soon enough, rather than forget our gem of wisdom, we interrupt.”

“The term ‘active listening’ is used to differentiate from simply absorbing passively what is heard. It demands frequent eye contact, concentrating totally on the person who is talking (i.e. not thinking what you will say next, looking at the clock or looking through the window at a dog crossing the road), sitting in an open relaxed position, and making the sounds and facial expressions of interest from time to time.”

“It also means listening with our eyes…”

Tish Nicholson in ‘52 Ways to Motivate your Staff’ (www.jaicobooks.com)

Human Sigma

“Having a high-performing business culture is a competitive advantage today. Most companies expect every employee to be a builder because every employee through his or her actions either makes the culture stronger or weakens it. Employees, in turn, want to be proud of their organisations and local teams. And, in many countries today, the employer needs the employee more than the other way around. As the world shifts from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy – and as employees are increasingly valued for what they know as much as for what they produce – the employer’s power has diminished or evaporated. So, how do we manage people for success and high levels of productivity in the new economy? Too many organisations build management models on the assumption that managers and leaders have the power in the company/employee relationship, but that’s no longer always the case. The answer is employee engagement or the ability to capture the heads, hearts, and souls of your employees to instil an intrinsic desire and passion for excellence. Engaged employees want their organisation to succeed because they feel connected emotionally, socially, and even spiritually to its mission, vision, and purpose…”

John H. Fleming and Jim Asplund in ‘Human Sigma: Managing the employee-customer encounter’ (Gallup Press)

Service Quality Management in Hospitality & Tourism

“What is service quality? Unfortunately, there is no universal interpretation. It means different things to different people at different times and on different occasions. To parents with small children, it may mean a swimming pool and extra towels in a hotel. For a businessperson, it may mean a prompt wake-up call and accurate billing. For a couple celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary, service quality may take on the guise of a romantic view from the room or unobtrusive room service. However each person may define it, service quality is generally thought to be the aggregate of his or her perceptions of the service experience.”

Bonnie J. Knutson in ‘Service Quality Monitoring and Feedback Systems,’ included in ‘Service Quality Management in Hospitality & Tourism’ edited by Jay Kandampully, Connie Mok and Beverley Sparks (www.jaicobooks.com)

Creativity

“One thing that makes creativity in my field different form other activities is the desire to not go with the conventional wisdom.”

“Conventional wisdom is almost always mediocre, because most people agree that a problem should be solved the same way. I think that artists try to put themselves into their own idiosyncratic personal corner where nobody else’s answers will fit.”

“In our society, problem solving is greatly over-appreciated. Problem creation is, in fact, much more interesting. Because, if you ask yourself a really interesting question and no one else’s answers will fit, that will kick open a door that you can go through and follow your own path to wherever it goes. One way to distinguish yourself from the pack is to try and follow your own path with art, so that somebody standing in front of your work will not be thinking about another artist.”

“Lately, for a lot of younger artists, appropriation is the prime modus operandi; and that’s antithetical to the way I came up. It’s like sampling in popular music. You take something that already exists and you put your personal stamp on it. But it’s going to look like someone else’s art or it will not look like art.”

“I think the most exciting thing in the visual arts is to see something that actually does not look like art…”

Chuck Close in ‘Decoding the mysterious process of art,’ included in ‘Creativity: Unconventional wisdom from 20 accomplished minds’ edited by Herb Meyers and Richard Gerstman (www.palgrave.com)

Valley Boy

“One Saturday morning in late 1971 I was working in my office when, to my astonishment, Dave Packard walked in and sat down at my desk…”

“He was in a tux, and I had never seen him looking so fancy, but he also looked exhausted, really devastated. This was during the height of the Vietnam War, and John and I were amazed as Dave told us in detail how he had to become directly involved in managing that horror. Like civilians before, he found the military bureaucracy intractable – we were astonished at his stories of deploying troops and planning battles. He was officially upbeat, but we both concluded that his heart wasn’t in it.”

“Now, instead of being at his desk in the Pentagon, he was in my office asking me to find the last five days of the Wall Street Journal. I found them, and we averaged the price of HP stock for that last week. He muttered something about my keeping mum about his visit, and he disappeared.”

“Some weeks later it was announced that Dave would be returning to HP, and the mystery of his visit became clear. When he left to go to the Pentagon, all his HP stock had been put into a trust, so that any profit on his holdings while he was in the government would be given to charity upon his return.”

“The stock price had declined in the intervening years but had been rising recently. The five-day average established the price for his return – his timing was nearly perfect in that there was very little profit to be given away.”

“Why did he worry about something like that, when later he donated billions to his charitable foundation? I don’t really know, but I suspect that there were two reasons: first, I think he was disillusioned, totally, by the war, and second, I think he had an early whiff of what was soon to become the Watergate scandal.”

“I just think that he wanted to keep his stock and not have to surrender any to pay for those two things. Dave would never talk much about his Washington years, but I believe they had a profound and depressing effect upon him at the deepest level.”

Tom Perkins in ‘Valley Boy’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Political and Incorrect

“Four kinds of Indians come to Davos regularly: political leaders, bureaucrats, businessmen and journalists. They react in different ways to this gathering of the world’s elite. Most of our political leaders, with the exception of P. Chidambaram, react with abject puzzlement. Even the supposedly sophisticated ones, who pride themselves on their Oxbridge accents, find they have little to say and almost no answers to the questions they are asked.”

“Our bureaucrats react, as they usually do when confused, with sneering arrogance. This year we had the cabinet secretary and the finance secretary as the main representatives of the Government of India. One of them was heard saying, ‘We don’t need Davos, we have people queuing up to invest in India.’ Mercifully, our businessmen make up for this chippy arrogance by listening, observing and trying to learn; and we hacks try hard to hide the fact that we are either bedazzled or befuddled or both. I long for the year when I will be able to come here and report that like other Asians (Chinese, Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais) we have also learnt to react normally…”

“The Chinese – who do not have the advantage we have of familiarity with the English language – now speak with the confidence of real members of the global community…”

“For too long we have allowed our political leaders to get away with concentrating on the sort of subjects that allow endless hours of meaningless waffling – secularism, communalism, nationalism…”

“So inconsequential have we become because of our insularity and our isolation, that India quite simply disappears from the newspapers and news bulletins of the world while you are travelling…”

“We could react as our chippy bureaucrats do by simply shrugging our shoulders and saying we couldn’t care less. This would be stupid. Globalisation may only be a buzzword in India but it is a reality everywhere else. If we want to be part of it, we must start demanding that our political leaders and high and mighty officials speak in a language the world understands. For a start, they have to become economically literate.”

“It is no longer good enough for us to be told, ad nauseam, that India is a poor country with vast problems. We need to know why it is still a poor country and what our political parties are going to do about it. When they learn to answer our questions, they will learn to answer the questions of the world.”

Tavleen Singh in ‘Land the world forgot’ dated February 16, 1998, included in ‘Political and Incorrect: The Real India, Warts and All’ (www.harpercollins.co.in)

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Funda of Mix-ology

“Dog-eared covers,
enclose fading text,
missing pages I seek,
unknown chapters ahead

Writing my dreams,
in the blank pages ahead,
line after line filled,
with hopes in my head

It may well change,
like chalk on slate,
but at least I’ll know,
the author was me, not fate.”

Mainak Dhar in ‘The Funda of Mix-ology: What bartending teaches that IIM doesn’t…’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Oracle Database 11g New Features

“The new Data Recovery Advisor is used to repair a number of different errors including data block corruption, undo corruption, and data dictionary corruption. The Recovery Advisor is integrated with OEM, the Health Monitor, and RMAN to help make dealing with data corruption problems as easy and seamless as possible.”

“For the Data Recovery Advisor to function, Oracle must first detect an error. This can happen as a result of an error occurring naturally during the course of database operations (that is, some form of an ORA error) or if the DBA executed a health check that detects the error.”
“The Data Recovery Advisor will return the priority of the error (Critical, High, and Low) and its status (Open or Closed) and provide repair options available to you to correct the problem (such as perform media recovery). All information from the Data Recovery Advisor is stored in the ADR. The repair options presented may be automated or manual, or both options might be presented…”

Robert G. Freeman in ‘Oracle Database 11g New Features’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

HR Forecasting and Planning

“Evaluation is a critical part of all aspects of the human resource plan, and of none more so than training. In the past, much of what has been allocated to training in the annual budget round has been an act of faith. The training budget has not always been subject to the same hurdle rates of return as some other investments. However, there are signs that this approach is beginning to change – and it is certainly possible that all training investment will henceforth require a return calculation before it is approved. In terms of the training plan, therefore, it may be necessary to prepare metrics that demonstrate performance improvements…”

“Much of the training may in any case be covered by trainer satisfaction measures, and these should be given a high profile. Yet they may not be enough, so more detailed financial analyses could well be worth looking into.”

Paul Turner in ‘HR Forecasting and Planning’ (www.jaicobooks.com)

Best Practice in Performance Coaching

“The key to creating a coaching culture is self-belief. You may not be working in a creative culture where you can encourage staff to come up with their own ideas and take risks; you may be in payroll, compliance or the legal profession, where there is only one correct answer and it is whatever the law dictates; you may be responsible for checking the work of other staff and ensuring that mistakes are corrected.”

“However, if for every time you have to correct people (perhaps 10 per cent of the time), you also tell them when they are getting it right (correspondingly 90 per cent of the time), you will start creating a culture where people are enthusiastic.”

“Your workforce will be satisfied at the end of the day by more than the money they have earned; they will be part of a culture where people will go the extra mile and turn down offers of higher-paid jobs elsewhere; you will have started a coaching culture.”

Carol Wilson in ‘Best Practice in Performance Coaching’ (www.vivagroupindia.com)

Handbook of Competency Mapping

“A competency model describes the combination of knowledge, skills and characteristics needed to effectively perform a role in an organisation and is used as a human resource tool for selection, training and development, appraisal and succession planning. Identifying and mapping these competencies is rather complex. Skills can range from highly concrete proficiencies like the ability to operate a particular machine or to write a sentence, to far less tangible capabilities such as the ability to think strategically or to influence others…”

“A banking company launched a new scheme of private banking and realised that for its growth it had to develop its sales force. It needed a rapid increase in the number of sales associates. The sales force was needed not only to sell the new product but also address high turnover in field offices and wide variances in sales effectiveness among officers.”

“Thus a sales competency model was developed, clarifying the characteristics required to succeed in the job. It had an objective: To integrate into the company’s selection system on the job, the same criteria for hiring people, as required for effective performance. It was incorporated into the performance management system to ensure that sales people would receive coaching and feedback on the behaviours and skills that had strong correlation to success on the job. The focus was to increase productivity and check turnover…”

Seema Sanghi in ‘The Handbook of Competency Mapping’ second edition (www.sagepublications.com)

International Business and Culture

“No phenomena have fascinated researchers in the modern globalised and free market economy more than multicultural, moral and ethical value systems. In recent years, multinational management perceptions have been shaken. There has been much public concern.”

“One belief is that the value systems of humanity that made the late twentieth century so achievable are the results of global competitive cooperation. For example, American culture which represents multiculturalism is emphasising the importance of cooperation between workers and capital holders for more synergy. Some researchers concluded that there is a widespread ethical commitment among US workers to improve productivity…”

“Another example is: what causes both employers and employees to strive for productivity? Do employees view work as a necessity of continuing their life? Is people’s view on work a contractual binding between employee-employer commitment? Are they viewing work towards achieving higher levels of profitability? The answer to all these questions indicates that the more money a corporation gets, the harder they work, and the more profit they make the higher wages and benefits are paid to workers…”

Kamal Dean Parhizgar in ‘Globalisation of multicultural management’ included in ‘International Business and Culture’ edited by Kip Becker (www.jaicobooks.com)

Indian Supply Chain Architecture

“The two important metrics used by organisations for monitoring order delivery in supply chains are shipment accuracy and on-time order fill rate (OTOFR). Average shipment accuracy is the ratio of shipment dispatched correctly to the total number of shipments dispatched. It is thus a measure of the completeness or accuracy of shipment in terms of the quantity shipped to the customer. Average OTOFR is the ratio of orders dispatched complete on requested date to the total number of orders dispatched. This is a measure of the timeliness or responsiveness of the order fulfilment process to meet the customer’s demand on the due date…”

“As the expectations and bargaining power of the customers increase with the help of IT and the adoption of electronic commerce, both these metrics will have to be improved and maintained at very high levels.”

B.S. Sahay and Ramneesh Mohan in ‘Indian Supply Chain Architecture’ (www.macmillanindia.com)

Achieving Business Excellence

“The secret of ‘excellence’ is contained in one word – ‘passion’. If you are passionate about your work, you will always enjoy it. If you enjoy what you do, you will excel.”

“Business excellence is a relative and dynamic concept. It means exceeding any competitor on: innovation, product quality, cost competitiveness, delivery, customer satisfaction, and service.”

Pravin Rajpal in ‘Achieving Business Excellence’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Non-fiction

“The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being….”

“An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that, and it will never occur to you that the people who inhabit the place in which you have just paused cannot stand you, that behind their closed doors they laugh at your strangeness (you do not look the way they look); the physical sight of you does not please them; you have bad manners (it is their custom to eat their food with their hands; you try eating their way, you look silly; you try eating the way you always eat, you look silly); they do not like the way you speak (you have an accent); they collapse helpless from laughter, mimicking the way they imagine you must look as you carry out some everyday bodily function. They do not like you…”

“But the banality of your own life is very real to you; it drove you to this extreme, spending your days and your nights in the company of people who despise you, people you do not like really, people you would not want to have as your actual neighbour. And so you must devote yourself to puzzling out how much of what you are told is really, really true (Is ground-up bottle glass in peanut sauce really a delicacy around here, or will do just what you think ground-up bottle glass will do? Is this rare, multicoloured, snout-mouthed fish really an aphrodisiac, or will it cause you to fall asleep permanently?). Oh, the hard work all of this is, and is it any wonder, then, that on your return home you feel the need of a long rest, so that you can recover from your life as a tourist?”

“That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour.”

“But some natives – most natives in the world – cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go – so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.”

Jamaica Kincaid in ‘A Small Place’, included in ‘Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Non-fiction: Work from 1970 to the present’ edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Cutting Edge Advertising

‘Has creativity become too homogenised?’

“Globalisation is seductive, but brings with it the risk we will all sound and look the same. And the issues are as compelling for advertising creatives as they are for authors and filmmakers.”
“How can I plug into the universal mainstream, but retain my own voice and culture?”
“If I want to achieve an international standard, do I really have to imitate the West?”
“Can my own culture evolve and find its own space within the wider marketplace?”

“Too often, bad advertising is excused, even justified, simply because it is ‘local’, which is an insult to the culture in question. What we have to remember is that British advertising is ‘local’ at its point of origin, and so too is American work. British advertising is so often brilliant because it is unashamedly British. Likewise, American advertising speaks with an American voice and attitude.”

“It’s a question of applying the universal truths – singularity of proposition, simplicity of expression, and relevance of message – within your own cultural context. You don’t have to slavishly copy Western ideas, or make your ads look like they were created in London or New York. The Brazilians have embraced the universal truths and found their own voice. So have the Japanese, the Thais, the Australians and New Zealanders. The Indians, Chinese and many others are beginning to.”

“It is not as difficult as it seems. Scottish author and Booker Prize nominee Ali Smith explains: ‘You go as local as you can, the thing becomes huge, it becomes the world. That’s the key. Small things are big in our small lives. Little details are gold dust. We think things happen in a big way in our lives. Actually, things happen all the time in small, random and disparate ways.’”

“If a New Zealand movie telling a New Zealand story can win the Academy Award, and if an Indian writer writing about India and an Australian author writing about Australia can win the Booker Prize, then the message is clear. Cutting edge creatives should be true to themselves and their own cultural context, while taking on board the universal truths of great advertising as their guiding principles. Rather than imitate, they will then innovate. The world is waiting.”

Jim Atchison in ‘Cutting Edge Advertising: How to create the world’s best print for brands in the 21st century’, third edition (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism

“Brief periods of foreign occupation may rest essentially on military power and the willingness to use coercion and terror, but these alone cannot guarantee durable foreign rule, especially when that rule is exercised, as it almost always has been, by relatively, and indeed usually absolutely, tiny numbers of foreigners.”

“Let us remember that the number of British civilians engaged in governing the 400 million people of the Indian empire was never more than about 10,000. Historically, empires may have been conquered by military force and established by terror – ‘shock and awe’ in the phrase of the US Pentagon – but if they wanted to last, they had to rely on two main instruments: co-operation with local interests and the legitimacy of effective power while also exploiting the disunity of their adversaries and their subjects (divide et impera). The present situation in Iraq illustrates the difficulties even the most powerful occupier will face when these are absent.”

Eric Hobsbawm in ‘Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Everyday Excellence

“Money is not a motivator – people expect to be compensated fairly. In fact, money can be a powerful demotivator. As soon as people feel that their compensation is unfair, money becomes very important, and we enter the realm of negative motivation. This occurs when most of the other motivational factors are weak or absent, and compensation remains as the sole measure of their success.”

Requests for a pay increase. People may threaten to leave unless they get more money. What if you find their claim is unjustified? Are you going to raise their pay because of the threat? If you succumb, the word will get out. Others will realise that the only way to get more money is by threatening to leave. You are then faced with an anomaly: outspoken staff get more than the more reserved staff. This is not a fair picture, nor a happy one. Once you start to make exceptions, the whole system might collapse.”

Money and productivity. Some staff members claim that if they get paid more they could be more productive. This is laughable. They are really telling their manager that they are not working very hard at the moment. It also illustrates that pay, performance, and motivation form a flimsy link.”

“Raise someone’s pay by 5 per cent. Are you going to see a 5 per cent increase in productivity? Unlikely. If you doubled someone’s pay, could they be twice as effective in the same position? Probably not. There has to be a threshold. Is there a just-noticeable difference in performance when someone gets a pay increase in your organisation?”

“Nor should one expect more money to lead to an increase in morale. The opposite may even occur. A perceived lack of equity in salary or bonus can result in grumpiness and lack of effort. Even if their compensation is excellent, some people are never satisfied. More money can even lead to a slacking off and a drop in morale if the employee thinks, ‘is that the best they can do?’ It is easy to define the bottom line when it comes to compensation and motivation: It is the perception of fairness. This is not always easy to achieve.”

Clive Shearer in ‘Everyday Excellence: Creating a better workplace through attitude, action, and appreciation’ (www.pearsoned.co.in)

I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari

“There is an age-old proverb: Work expands itself to completely fill in the available time.”

“This speaks of poor time management by most people. And, unfortunately, it is true. I read about a world-class organisation, which had over 5,000 employees. It worked 6 days a week. A regular ‘Voice of Employee’ survey showed that employees believed that they were extremely stretched and had no time for themselves and their families – in other words, no ‘work-life’ balance. It was so serious that the management decided that they needed to shift to a 5-day week. This would give the employees a two-day break.”

“As a result, the organisation lost a day every week. But the CEO took a very interesting call. He said that for the next 3 months, the organisation would not hire anyone to supplement capacity, but would do it after 3 months, if required. It was expected that people would work longer hours for 5 days to take care of the loss of one working day.”

“The CEO then started keeping records of the ‘in’ and ‘out’ timings of everyone without them knowing that they were being timed. An interesting finding emerged. There was no change whatsoever, in the time that people came in or left for home. The ones who were used to leaving at 6.30 p.m., left at the same time as before, the ones who stayed till 8.30 p.m. every day, stayed till 8.30 p.m. even now. Surprisingly, there was no drop in productivity of employees in these 3 months. The performance of the organisation, too, remained the same as before.”

“What does this indicate? The same employees, who cribbed about ‘work-life’ balance and work overload, now completed the same work that they took 6 days to finish, in 5 days. How could they, unless, earlier, they were wasting their time and not using it effectively, when they worked for 6 days? Alternately, if they could finish all their work in 5 days, why should they need to complain of excessive work when they were working for 6 days?”

“There was only one difference. Everyone started managing their time productively when they had to finish their work in 5 days. In the 6-day scenario, work expanded to fill in the available time.”

Ravi Subramanian in ‘I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Finding the Next Starbucks

"The term groupthink was popularised during the Vietnam era. Essentially it describes how smart people, when together, make really dumb decisions. Groupthink typically occurs when people become preoccupied with what the group consensus is, and that obsession overrides the motivation to assess situations objectively. Groupthink, while in the same family as conventional wisdom, is driven by group dynamics, whereas conventional wisdom is an aggregate collection of the seemingly obvious."

"Take, for example, the concept of investment risk. As individuals, most people would define risk as the chance of permanent investment loss, the degree of volatility, uncertainty, and so on. In a group setting, risk becomes defined as deviating from what the consensus thinks. Not looking stupid is a very powerful influence on how people look at risk."

"As it applies to investing, groupthink results in it being riskier to buy a lesser-known company with above-average growth potential and a reasonable valuation than it is to buy shares in a well-known company with perfection already reflected in its price. Yet 'the group' knows the company, loves its history of success, and considers it a blue chip. This is the investment equivalent of the old saying, 'You can't get fired for hiring IBM.'"

Michael Moe in 'Finding the Next Starbucks: How to identify and invest in hot stocks of tomorrow' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Egonomics

‘The moment of Truth’

“Devotion to progress sometimes requires sacrifice for causes greater than ourselves, with no immediate or apparent return to us. That devotion was displayed by one of the most courageous, devoted people we studied. Her name was Isabella Baumfree (which she later changed to Sojourner Truth).”

“As an African American woman who escaped slavery, she became a powerful advocate for women’s rights and freedom from slavery. In 1851, Truth went to the National Women’s Rights Convention and requested to speak. She was such a powerful voice for freedom, her opponents made a move in an attempt to humiliate and disqualify her from speaking at the conference. It is reported that officials ordered her to go the women’s restroom and bare her breast to prove that she was a woman.”

“At that moment, Truth had a choice: she could walk away and allow injustice to subdue her voice, or agree to a demeaning test and liberate her voice. As she removed her clothing, she said, ‘It is to your shame, not mine, that I do this.’ To leaders full of humility, there is no humiliation – only purpose and progress. Humiliation is a feeling most often felt by those who lack humility. Upon getting dressed again, she delivered her ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ speech. Here’s an excerpt:”

‘That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?’

‘I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [a member of the audience whispers, “Intellect.”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?’

David Marcum and Steven Smith in ‘Egonomics: What makes ego our greatest asset (or most expensive liability’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

The Great Experiment

"In retrospect, 9/11 stands as one of the great missed opportunities of American history. The attack, while carried out on US soil, was part of a threat to civilisation itself. As the immediate victim, the US could have combined retribution on its own behalf with the formation of a global alliance against the perpetrators of the terror everywhere and a comprehensive, sustained, sophisticated effort to address the root causes of the broader phenomenon, which included widespread alienation of the youth in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia (the homelands of most of the 9/11 hijackers)."

"As a conservative Republican who had already demonstrated that he was no bleeding-heart one-worlder, Bush would have been especially well suited to the task of managing the domestic politics of construction effort to build a 'new world order.' In that sense, he could have achieved a lasting breakthrough in an area where his father had made a promising start."

"Instead, Bush chose, essentially, to go it alone..."

Strobe Talbott in 'The Great Experiment: The story of ancient empires, modern states, and the quest for a global nation' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Malls in India

"Circulation in the context of shopping centres should be created to enable the space to conveniently accommodate movement of people around the mall both horizontally and vertically."

"Space within a store should be designed in a manner in which a harmony, relationship and movement of traffice between different areas is maintained. Food courts in mall should be strategically located in such a manner that the peripheral noise is avoided, but at the same time facilitates maximum visibility. The obvious reason: to increase the number of footfalls (which may increase the number of conversions) in the shopping centre. Clear demarcation of spaces also acts as a guide for a customer while strolling inside the store."

"Retailers today demand more column-free spaces for the optimal utilisation of leased area and more height for the appreciation of spaces in the store. The need of large lobbies and circulation spaces such as atrium and lounges has increased the loading of gross leasable area (GLA) over the super built-up area in shopping malls. Most mall developers in India have been traditionally charging 25-30 per cent as a loading factor on usable area. This is because the sanctioning authorities include the area consumed by lobbies, lounges and atriums in the calculation of total floor space index (FSI). Global standards, in contrast, suggest that five to 10 per cent of the toral built-up area is allowed free of FSI for such areas in shopping centre design."

'Malls in India: Shopping Centre Developers & Developments' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Corporate Voodoo

"The economic challenge is to develop in young people the skills, knowledge and personal qualities they need for a world where work is undergoing rapid and long-term change."

"The technological challenge is to enable young people to make their way with confidence in a world that is being shaped by technologies which are evolving more quickly than at any time in history."

"The social challenge is to provide forms of education that enable young people to engage positively and confidently with far-reaching processes of social and cultural change."

"The personal challenge is to develop the unique capacities of all young people, and to provide a basis on which they can build lives that are purposeful and fulfilling."

Rene Carayol and David Firth in 'Corporate Voodoo: Principles for business mavericks and magicians' (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/)

Brave New Words

'Senior moment'

"If you can't remember where you left your keys and then discover that you are actually holding them, then dismiss this temporary stupidity as a senior moment. With the stress and information overload of 21st century life, not just senior citizens, but people of all ages are liable to forget things and have senior... now...what was that phrase we were just talking about?"

Kerry Maxwell in 'Brave New Words: A Language Lover's Guide to the 21st Century' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Bull in China

"Looking at China today, I see the US a hundred years back, before Henry Ford even got started with his Model T, or Japan just recovering from the Second World War. There are a whole lot of consumers and truckers who have yet to be put behind the wheel. And that leaves a lot of room on the road to future growth: for every 1,000 people, the US has 700 cars. At last count, and despite the increased congestion, China had only 24 cars per 1,000 people."

"So long, trusty bicycle. Hello, sexy sedans and Chinese convertibles. Even if the scramble to establish local car brands leads at first to overcapacity and a glut of mini-jalopies, such affordable wheels will only mean higher revenues for roads, road-builders, auto parts and repair, suppliers, and allied tourism. Either way, there are big gains to be had from China climbing into the driver's seat of the world auto industry."

Jim Rogers in 'A Bull in China' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

I Can Make You Rich

"When it comes to living the life of your dreams, one of the least effective pieces of time-managment wisdom is the notion of 'delegation'. In theory, delegation is a sound idea: we should be constantly looking for activities that we can delegate to our assistants, colleagues, spouses, and children, freeing up our time for 'more important things'. There are, however, several problems with this approach in practice."

"Delegation tends to lead to a sort of 'out of sight, out of mind' approach to whatever has been delegated, which in turn can cost us time and energy in teaching, managing and worrying about whether or not tasks we could easily do ourselves are being inadequately done by others."

"A good rule of thumb is this: Delegate the task, not the responsibility."

"Something all the rich thinkers I studied agreed on was that you must be getting regular updates on where your team members are with the various tasks and projects you've delegated. Think of these check-ins as like having a GPS system for your goals - it can be tremendously helpful, but it only helps if you take the time to look at it and are willing to adjust your course when necessary."

Paul McKenna in 'I Can Make You Rich' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

The 5 Catalysts of 7 Figure Growth

"Tips for the incoming leader"

"Congratulations. You are about to be handed your predecessor's most precious offering: the business. You are about to become an entrepreneur, whether or not you think the label fits you. You didn't create this business, but you will create its future."

"In track and field, relay runners must complete a clean handoff within a certain distance, called the fly zone. If the lead runner steps out of the zone before securing the baton, the team is disqualified. As you wait in the fly zone for your turn to run the business, keep the focus where it belongs:

* Power past the handoff without colliding into other runners. Complete your transition of power, accountability, and ownership of assets and liabilities.

* Accept coaching and cheering from your team. While you have the baton now, it can be lonely leading the pack, so seek out wise counsel.

* Shuffle your team if you are losing the race. If a member of your new team runs into trouble, ask your predecessor to fill in and temporarily do a needed job."

"Do so with determination and humility. Your team, your vendors, and your customers will admire your transition from follower to leader."

Andy Birol in 'The 5 Catalysts of 7 Figure Growth' (www.jaicobooks.com)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Benazir Bhutto's autobiography: 'Daughter of the East'

"All through the 1980s, when General Zia ul-Haq ruled Pakistan with an iron fist, he simultaneously played America like a fiddle. As long as America needed Pakistan's support (and most specifically the ISI's support) in the Jihad against the Soviets, the US would not press the dictator on democratisation."

"Only when the war in Afghanistan began to wind down in 1988 did America's interest in democratisation come alive. But great damage had been done during that decade, not only to Pakistan, but to the long-term strategic interests of the US, the Muslim Umma and the rest of the international community..."

Benazir Bhutto in 'Daughter of the East: An Autobiography' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Breakout Strategy

"Companies going from laggards to leader could not possibly have made the transition without breakout leaders who could build confidence and trust among employees who may have felt beaten down after years of subpar performance."

"Carlos Ghosn made it a priority to convey real hope to the people at Nissan, spending countless hours in front of groups of employees and answering any questions they fired at him. He realised that honesty and empathy were necessary prerequisites to reenergising the base."

"In many ways, this is the essence of political campaigns; it was something that Ronald Reagan excelled at as he spent the years after Ford's defeat in 1976 preparing the ground for his run in the 1980 Republican Party primaries."

"Shape shifters are perhaps the most dependent on the relational capabilities of senior management. To move a company from a reasonably strong position to a new place, even when that place has the potential for exponential growth, is a scary assignment for any leader. Ensuring that you have the right people, motivated and energised, confident and trusting, to succeed at this transition is at the top of the 'to-do' list."

Sydney Finkelstein, Charles Harvey and Thomas Lawton in ‘Breakout Strategy’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Project Management Survival

"Silence can be the most powerful tool in a discussion. If you ask someone a question and you aren't satisfied with the answer then you can, of course, ask for more information, get clarification of a particular detail or whatever. However, before you do that, you can also stay silent for a few moments."

"People normally become very uncomfortable when there is a lull in a conversation and will try to fill an awkward silence by talking some more. This is particularly true when they are worried about something and don't want to talk about it - even if the discomfort is only subconscious."

"I don't recommend following every question with a 30-second pause, as people will either think you're a pain in the backside or a moron. However, I do think the careful use of silence can be very powerful in the right place."

Richard Jones in 'Project Management Survival' (www.vivagroupindia.com)

'Different Thinking

"Some authors suggest that what people want above all else is low prices and that for consumers, price has become the simplest and most reliable way of deciding which product to buy. In their opinion, 'cheap' has become synonymous with 'good'. But is it really true that companies have no other choice but to cut their prices even further? Is it true that cheap is good and even cheaper even better?"

"We don't think so. We are convinced that you shouldn't be wasting your energy trying to find a way to undercut your competitors' prices by 1 or 2 per cent. That is hardly creative, and it's wearing in the long run."

"You only need to look at the German food retailers to see exactly how unproductive it is. For years now, there has been the same discouraging situation: cut-throat competition and sluggish demand have reduced profit margins to below 1 per cent in some cases..."

Anja Foerster & Peter Kreuz in 'Different Thinking' (www.vivagroupindia.com)

Managing Energy Risk

"Economically, gas supply is characterised by high investment costs and negligible variable production costs. The same holds for long distance gas transport. Variable costs occur only in the form of gas used for transport."

"For pipeline transport, gas is needed for the operation of compressors. For LNG transport, gas is needed for the liquefication process and for the regasification process. Furthermore, during sea transport, part of the LNG evaporises (boil off) and is partly used as fuel for the ship's engine. In total, approximately 20 per cent losses occur throughout the LNG chain."

Markus Burger, Bernhard Graeber and Gero Schindlmayr in 'Managing Energy Risk' (www.wiley.com)

Power to the People

"Unless hydrogen energy can overcome the three big hurdles raised by the sceptics - of safety, storage, and supply - it will not take off...."

"Despite the jibes from hydrogen sceptics that fuel-cell cars are 'rolling H-bombs,' the easiest of the three objections to tackle is safety. It is true that hydrogen is inflammable. But that risk has to be put into perspective."

"Unlike hydrogen, for example, methanol is corrosive and extremely toxic, while gasoline is both a carcinogen and easily ignited. A study done in 1997 by Ford argued that hydrogen-powered cars, if properly engineered, could potentially be safer than those using gasoline or propane..."

"A tougher challenge for hydrogen is storage. Because hydrogen has the smallest atomic structure of all elements, its atoms can wiggle through the crystal lattice of the material used to contain it. The leakage from a pressurised hydrogen tank could be significant..."

Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran in 'Power to the People: How the coming energy revolution will transform an industry, change our lives, and maybe even save the planet' (www.vivagroupindia.com)

India: The Emerging Energy Player

"Transporting gas either by pipeline or tanker is a complex process with diverse parameters influencing the cost and security dimensions. The relative inflexibility of a gas project, compared to crude oil, makes long-term price and demand critical."

"Asian economies are recognising the integrative nature of gas trade, hence, trying to develop the regional infrastructure, thereby promoting cooperation..."

"According to Petronas, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei have agreed to pool their shipping resources in order to sell their excess LNG into the spot market. As the off-take patterns become less predictable, some of the big producers are moving to take more control of the means of delivery."

"BP, for example, is commissioning between three and five LNG vessels from Korean yards, and Shell has ordered four vessels..."

Girijesh Pant in 'India: The Emerging Energy Player' (www.pearsoned.co.in)

From Wall Street to the Great Wall

"Examples abound of fraudulent accounting and stock manipulation in China. In a truly daring move, branch officials of the Agricultural Bank of China issued a $10 billion in phony letters of credit in 1993."

"Shen Taifu had a better idea. As a senior officer of the Great Wall Machinery and Electronics Scientific and Technological Industry Company, he duped 100,000 hardworking Chinese into investing over $170 million in securities touting a 24 per cent annual interest rate."

"After collecting the money, Shen tried to leave China on a phony passport. He was caught and eventually shot, once again proving the old adage 'you can't take it with you.' These two cases, plus numerous other examples, spurred the Ministry of Finance to conduct a study."

"In 1999, the ministry released data showing that a whopping 89 per cent of the companies listed on the Chinese exchanges had cooked their books."

Burton G. Malkiel in 'From Wall Street to the Great Wall: How investors can profit from China's booming economy' (www.wwnorton.co.uk)

China into the Future

"When they assumed office, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were expected to strive for two, somewhat conflicting goals. One goal was to continue and even accelerate growth, by opening up the economy and toughening the commercial environment, moves well-aligned with the WTO compliance process."

"The second was to redirect growth, driving resources away from the coastal cities and toward the relatively impoverished interior."

"Internal publications and external analysts are now saying that the regional disparity is proving almost intractable, and in the face of rising discontent with the stubborn maldistribution of resources, the message is being promulgated that such gaps and dislocations are a natural part of fast economic development that must be endured."

"The focus remains very much on driving economic development, and the most powerful generator of wealth to the direct benefit of the Party and state is not the tax system, but the network of top SOEs."

'China into the Future: Making sense of the world's most dynamic economy' edited by W. John Hoffmann and Michael J. Enright (www.wiley.com)

China's Nuclear Future

"Chinese general beliefs about nuclear weapons are expressed in four key concepts, at the strategic and campaign levels, that form the backbone of Chinese nuclear doctrine. Each one of these four elucidates different aspects of China's current approach to the roles and missions of nuclear weapons.

1. Strategic Level
*Houfa Zhiren (gaining mastery by striking after the enemy has struck)

2. Campaign Level
*Yanmi Fanghu (close defence or self-protection)
*Zhongdian Fanji (key-point counterstrikes)
*Fan Heweishe (counter nuclear deterrence/counter intimidation)"

'China's Nuclear Future' edited by Paul J. Bolt and Albert S. Willner (www.vivagroupindia.com)

Charm Offensive

"By the early 2000s China's charm offensive had begun. From the top, the Beijing leadership set out its goals. As Chinese leaders constantly emphasised, China desires stability and peace with all countries, and especiallial those on its borders - frontiers with fourteen nations, ranging from dynamic Vietnam to tiny Laos to colossal Russia to backward North Korea..."

"Chinese scholars and officials eventually developed the term heping jueqi, or Peaceful Rise. First used by Zheng Bijian, a powerful senior adviser to the Chinese leadership, the term soon became a part of Chinese leaders' speeches and central to academic studies of China's future, though some Chinese scholars thought rise sounded menacing, and Chinese leaders now often use the phrase 'Peaceful Development' instead."

Joshua Kurlantzick in 'Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World' (www.oup.com)

Guide to Internal Controls over Financial Reporting

"One of the key components of internal controls is the control environment (also referred to as the 'tone at the top') which is the foundation upon which all other components of internal control are based, and sets the tone of an organisation."

"The control environment has an influence on the way business activities are structured, objectives established and risks assessed. It also influences control activities, information and communication systems, and monitoring acitvities. It is influenced by the entity's culture and in turn influences the control consciousness of its people."

Guide to Internal Controls over Financial Reporting (www.icai.org)

Guide on Risk-based Internal Audit

"Internal auditors quite often face instances of lack of support from process owners. Operational personnel tend to consider internal audit as avoidable work as they have different priorities. They may not want to be questioned on the way they manage risks."

"To minimise such situations, it helps to have the support of those decision makers who are responsible for establishing sound internal controls and an internal audit environment in the organisation. The Chief Internal Auditor may find it useful to promote RBIA (risk based internal audit) and the value it brings to these decision makers with respect to their compliance objectives."

Guide on Risk-based Internal Audit (www.icai.org)