Monday, September 27, 2010

Reverse that straightens it for managers

We all dig giving advice! We just love it. As they say in Hindi “Aur kuch free miley na miley, saali advice free zaroor milti hai”. Managers are paid to do this  But in corporate jargon, this ADVICE is called FEEDBACK, or less obviously, APPRAISAL. These are strong undercurrent words, trust me. Regardless of how great a relation you have with you manager, things are always accompanied with a constant undercurrent- a realization of the fact that you are, well, subordinate and manager.

Appraisals, however complicated, are simple. Both, the manager and the subordinate, know a set of parameters, or more fancily, goals and objectives, on which the subordinate will be evaluated. There is a discussion and it is basically a game. Both of them have their view points and try to enforce these on to the other. Someone either prevails, or there is an intermediate area that is found, which keeps both happy till the next appraisal. It’s quite simple actually.
Appraisal is good in a way. Salary invariably increases, promotions mostly happen, some constructive feedback happens, and in the end, all iz well. Otherwise, there is attrition 

Anyway, for all its merits (or compulsions), appraisals, or simply, feedback, generally lack one very basic but fundamental element of EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This element is the REVERSE FEEDBACK, a word often treated with undue disrespect. Appraisals are mostly one way. Reverse feedback gives a manager tremendous opportunity to REALLY gauge the gap between the expectations of his subordinates and what he actually delivers. This is really very important because a manager cannot be effective if this gap is not 0. A manager knows what to expect from his subordinates, by way of a checklist handed to him by his HR.

But a subordinate expects the world of his manager. He does not know what to expect since he has no checklist. A subordinate literally grows and develops under his manager’s guidance, and therefore, the manager has a very important role to play in how his subordinate’s career sets. A lot of times, due to the mistakes or shortcomings of the manager, his subordinate has to take the beating. And the manager’s manager will not completely know the details of what has REALLY transpired. His only way to know is through the manager, his own subordinate. Reverse feedback, therefore becomes very important. And while no manager will admit or like being feedbacked by his subordinate, it really is very important. I would also go to the extent of saying that the manager’s true management lessons have to come, not from the text book, but from the ground level- the way his subordinate thinks about him.

It’s simple- Reverse feedback is more important to a manager than feedback is important to his subordinate.

Doctors!!! Where are you sires??

A lot of buzz words are making news these days- Ganesha, CWG, anti-outsourcing, Dabangg, Salman Khan, Dengue, Malaria, munni, IE-9, KBC, KKK, Oracle-HP , Dell-HP etc etc. From page 1 to 15 of any newspaper, you invariably see various forms of only one of these buzzwords these days.

However, on one small corner of page 5 or 7 these days is a prominent piece of news- the issue of increasing the retirement ages of docs. Basically, for a long time, there has been pressure on authorities to increase the retirement ages of doctors. This has a two fold purpose- doctors can continue to guide upcoming doctors and young students by way of teaching and mentoring; and two, and more importantly, they can continue to fill up for the shortage of doctors that has been plaguing our country for decades.

Like any other such issue, this matter has been caught trapped in the typical proposal-evaluation-objections- delays loop that we have now come to know of. What happens to this issue, only time will tell. However, this does bring to mind a very important issue, due to which, page -5 for this coloumn ain’t sufficient. In our country, lakhs of students appear for Medical exams. At even a mere 10% rate, thousands graduate every year. Then why are we still SHORT of doctors?

In fact, we know of so many many many students who keep reappearing since they didn’t do too well in their previous exam. Medicine is a really tough and dedicated profession, and takes tremendous patience and hard work. From personal experience of close friends, I know this. But once you graduate and transition the initial struggle, you are ready! Medicine is a constantly learning profession, but the initial stage is the most important. Even then, with thousands becoming doctors every year, why this shortage?

One very common reason that most will cite is the population growth. The other reason that we often hear is the very commonly heard, brain drain. But that still leaves some questions to be answered. Shouldn’t the rate at which doctors grow mirror the population growth rate? I mean, it’s not as if new doctors REPLACE existing ones? So, shouldn’t the POOL of docs continue to grow? If we know that there is a shortage, why are more new doctors released into the system? This does not necessarily need to lower the bar in exams, but just modify the system so that more students graduate in.

The other question which very strongly needs an answer to is why does this brain drain continue to happen? Why is the best talent leaving the country? And probably, most importantly, we need to compare the BENFITS of retirement extension as an SOS tool with all of the options above. Increasing OPTIONAL retirement age should certainly be encouraged, but only because a doctor or a prof wants to contribute to the profession, not because we NEED him to.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Salute our SUPER COPS!! Do you?

This year, the Ganpati festival in Mumbai is different. No, I am not saying that it has suddenly become more GREEN, with realization of the environmental problems finally having dawned. I am also not saying the Ganpati festival this time was less intense or less expensive due to the recent recession. I don’t also want to suggest it was less noisy this year. It was the same huge, fun, noisy, awesome festival that it is every year. It indeed was the Ganpati of the ol, as we have come to know it for almost a century now.

Yet, there was something markedly different this time. And that was the discipline one could see in the way it was organized. The long queues were controlled well. The noise levels were kept in check. Wild celebrations seem well subdued this time. Security is super awesome everywhere. And yet, people are having the same amount of fun. Most importantly though, the traffic on the road has been well managed. Every year, it becomes a night mare to travel on the road, on the 2nd, 5th, 7th and 10th day of this festival due to the visarjan. But not this time.

I am writing this on the 6th day of the festival- the day of the Gauri-Ganpati visarjan. This is the 2nd most crowded day of this festival, and it is safe to say that all these years, it was a wise idea to stay home on this day. However, today, I went to my office as usual. My office is in Thane, which sees some very big Ganpati celebrations and visarjans today. I currently stay in Juhu, which is one of the 4 or 5 beaches in the whole of Mumbai where visarjans take place. On a normal, non-Ganpati day, it takes me about 1 hour 45 minutes to commute between Thane and Juhu, either ways. Today, I would have expected the same journey to go to about 3 hours each time, since both areas see huge huge crowds and traffic.

Surprisingly, it took me exactly 2 hours in the evening on my way back home- just 15 mins more than usual! No big traffic jams, no frustrated honking, all smooth..

All of this is due only to 1 entity—The cops and the traffic police…The way they have managed all of this is simply superb and cannot be appreciated enough….In the hindsight, they keep doing so much for us- manage traffic situations, deal with the bad guys, travel in the worst of places, face so many physical hardships..and yet, they get so little of what they actually deserve!!! This is not to even mention the kind of bad spotlight our cops get a lot of times..i mean, there are bad people in every sector damn it!!

I think it s just time we sit up and take notice,,,,rather, we stand up and salute them for their job…so the next time you are walking on the road, feeling safe, go up to the first cop you see and thank him…you owe it to him….I just did that today, and I feel tremendously happy..we all like our share of praises and thanks, don’t we? Then why not the cops? lets realize we need them more than they need us…