Monday, December 27, 2010

Office-Office: Follow up

By now you have figured out that a marketing job in any organization is the one with least clarity - in terms of the tasks expected to be accomplished. While an internet search will outline an extensive (and impressive sounding) set of expectations, you will seldom see "follow up"figuring in that list.

But doesn't everyone follow up on some thing or the other? True. If a check is expected to be credited along with your salary, you will (and should) follow up on it. If your promotion letter is expected in the mail, you better follow up. But would you follow up on a check that would help register two of your colleagues for a nondescript event? Or send "gentle reminders" the 50th time to a colleague who is yet to revert on some client information? I suppose you get the difference.

A marketer most certainly ends up doing the second category of follow up. At any point in time, over two-thirds of the to-do list is filled with follow up activity. It is not enough that you successfully executed a trade event, you now have to follow up with the sales guys for qualifying leads and closing deals. If that sounds bad, how would you react to following up on the payment to the vendor who helped you set up that stage at the event?

The worst degree of follow up happens before a major event such as a client dinner. On D-2 days realization dawns that only 5 people have confirmed their attendance. What do you do? You call every single person on the list of invitees and tell them how valuable they are to your firm. The more blah, the better. Creativity, a pleasant voice and patience (to dial those long confusing numbers) are vital skills common to the secretary and the marketer. The secretary may be excused for low IQ, but a marketer is never spared as long as the follow up is pending.

The net result of following up is an ever expanding to-do list and a nagging boss who often asks "Only follow ups? When will you do real work?". At times like these, while one might feel like retorting with "Oh yeah? I can see how you outsourced your follow up issues to me!", it is best to make your point by reminding them with "What is the status of that activity I was following up with you on last Friday?"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Office-Office: Ghostwriting

I was surprised when a close friend asked if I had stopped writing. No fiery articles from you any more, he remarked. Defending myself, I pointed out how my piece had appeared last week only in a leading financial daily. "Where?", he asked. That is when reality struck.

The piece was published and I did receive accolades for it from the boss, however, it did not appear with my byline. It had the Super Boss's name. Welcome to corporate India's legacy of ghostwriting.

We (actually "they") do not believe in speechwriters, only ghostwriters. Ghosts technically don't exist and consequently neither do their opinions. So old farts, who don't know the difference between a comma and a full stop, can lecture ghosts on getting the punctuation right and feel powerful. As to the point of view in the article/presentation, every ghost comes with a rich (and supposedly colorful) past and is expected to delve into that experience and create a point of view. God help if that too doesn't make sense to the old farts!

Mortal speechwriters on the other hand, will ask for a formal designation, authority and scope of work even before stepping into office. The point of view created by them, albeit unoriginal, will be backed by so many studies/ reference material, that the old farts feel positively afraid to even raise a finger. A ghostwriter is immune to criticism and will easily work on version 20.20, while preparing mentally for version 20.40 of the document. A speechwriter will not budge beyond version 2.0.

Ghosts create endearing articles, speechwriters create crafty propaganda. Ghosts create heros, speechwriters create "strong" personalities (read Villains).

Lastly, ghosts can conveniently be banished, if found unsuitable. Speechwriters, on the other hand, might form unions, demand more than basic wages and come at you hammer and tongs for lack of work-life balance. They might even ask for institutionalizing stress relief breaks (smoke time).

If a ghost screams foul and threatens to leave, he is shown the direction to the marketing department and given a fancy designation like "Marketing Manager" or "Communications Advisor", minus any reportees or role change. And yes, when you finish one year with the company, do not expect any cake cutting/ hands clapping or congratulatory notes from the HR. Remember, ghosts do not exist.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Office- Office: The Great Indian Offsite

We love most things that come prefixed with "The Great Indian" starting with the rope trick (at least those who have seen it), followed by weddings, pomp and show of the popular kind (read Indian Idols and many other idles) and ending with the cricket team. The one exception is perhaps the Offsite.

Any company that employs more than 1,000 people is looking for ways to squander away some portion of the capital gains. Or that is the impression the employee gets when hit with the word Offsite.

"The vaguer, the better" is the universally accepted formula for developing an offsite agenda. The venue is a pseudo-exotic location (the much visited Goas, Pondicherrys, Keralas, and Uttaranchals should ring a bell) with a free blowing booze permit. The journey to reach the venue, touted as an "experience to foster bonding", is often by bus or train – hardly the sort of break your bones deserve after the daily criss-crossing of potholed and traffic filled roads leading from your home to office. Most people end up sleeping on each other's shoulders or sharing the plastic bag for a good post meal throw up. Perhaps that is also sharing at an unconscious level.

The horrors at the venue are usually proportionate to the budget allocated per person. Of course, even chartered accountants can mess up budgeting so it is usually left to a foundling in the Marketing department. Not to be outdone, the HR department usually grabs the running of the hourly program at the offsite. This is what it looks like:

- Drama (attempts at generating a few laughs – either on a stage or through a game)
- Booze (to relax after the drama)
- Grief (effect of the clarity after booze gets into your system)
- More drama (Revelations pertaining to performance – of any kind you may imagine)
- More booze (To help digest the various scenes enacting around you)
- Much more grief (As the real entertainment kicks, either the bar shuts down citing new permit rules or HR decides to join in)
- Boozing till you are hauled up back into the bus with your belongings (Yes 36 hours has passed and you also cheered "Hic! Hic! Hurray")

It is therefore no surprise that the ladies in white, the ageing superstars, the social butterflies and those who prefer Earl Grey usually do not show up for the Offsite. The budget is not conducive to help them bond with the rest. The average employee is average at everything – bonding and boozing included – and most likely to snore before any superlatives kick in. So who truly benefits? My bet is the HR. Hic!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Office – Office: Comfort Zone

This week we move to a new office building.

Now I consider myself to be the sort of person who challenges status quo, and as an extension of that, the very concept of comfort zone. One shouldn't do the same thing for too long. One shouldn't be in the same place/ space for too long. And so on. On that basis, I should have welcomed this change. I did not. I was aghast because my comfort zone was challenged – that too by some one else.

On deeper thought, I realise that corporate culture is all about maintaining comfort zones – that is your own and ensuring that others move out of theirs. Look at the first email from your boss on a Monday morning. It is inevitably a continuation of last Friday's email where she gave the impression that she was handling everything. But thoughts of the looming weekend ensured that she remained in her comfort zone and did not action that email. What is worse, Monday morning blues have set in. The net result – you are expected to shrug off the blues and get on with the work.

Ever wondered why the "support" staff in office take so long to respond to your urgent online query? Comfort zone (If it is urgent, get out of your comfort zone and look for the solution). Or that the cafeteria helper lets your sandwich go stale before plonking it on your table? Comfort zone (if you want it hot, move from your comfort zone and get it). The fact that the Finance team in every office sits isolated on one floor and invariably has the most number of peons can also be attributed to comfort zone. (All of us have visited that floor at least once in our career with the company for claiming some re-imbursement or worse still figuring out the tax deducted at source)

Ever wondered why during an office shifting process, it is the senior leadership that is often on tenterhooks? They are the first ones to check out the new rooms, with a mental measuring tape – the window is bigger than the old office (yippee), the chair is only rexin (damn), the room is much smaller (how dare they!) and there is no book case (how do I impress the clients now?). An inch of distortion and they will come at you with all that weight accumulated over the years. Did I tell you "comfort" is an integral constituent of that weight?

So what can you do to remain in your comfort zone? Fein ignorance in a tone that says "Yawn! How insignificant."  If pushed, change the tone to "Gawd! How uncouth! That is so 1990s." Fein temporary deafness, cold, cough and/ or vision problems. Work from home, you can always blame the power cut. Whatever you do, don't deliver before time. If possible don't deliver at all!

And if you are being forced to shift from your cozy perch, start bad mouthing the new office. Put it on social media preferably with blurred pictures highlighting that terrible lighting in a flouroscent green.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Insider Reports: World Classical Tamil Conference – banal reporting

Growing up in Tamil Nadu and being a Tamilian, I have surprisingly never quite understood the insane ferocity with which anything Tamil was constantly defended and everything else was instantly branded "Anti-Tamil".

I have believed that a language or culture is kept alive by making it current and easily accessible to the masses. Tamil to me seems outdated and may soon become the exclusive domain of the few who only attempt to complicate it further ("keeping it pure", they would say) – strangely like Sanskrit, who the Tamils supposedly detest.

Therefore when the recently concluded World Classical Tamil Conference, costing the State at least Rs 400 crore, ended up as an exercise in nostalgia and possibly no real purpose, I could not sit still.

The result was an article that gave vent to my frustration over the media lapping up the Tamil propaganda and not raising any relevant questions. The Hoot, published this piece on July 3rd and I am sharing the link and details below. Request your comments.

Making light work of a literature meet

English media covering the World Classical Tamil Conference did not highlight the fact that the meet was an exercise in nostalgia which failed to give a direction for the future development of the language. ARCHANA VENKAT says the coverage could have been more incisive.

Posted Saturday, Jul 03 18:05:53, 2010

The recently concluded World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC) was an exercise in nostalgia with no clear direction on the future of the language. Unfortunately, the English media* covering the event seems to have missed highlighting this vital aspect, choosing to focus on incidents of petty one-upmanship and propaganda.

Five days and close to Rs 400 crore (including the Rs 100 crore announced for a Tamil Development Fund) were dedicated to an initiative that failed to indicate how this language can empower the present and future generations. Most of the themes discussed ( ) were efforts to trace the growth and accomplishments of Tamil from its origin to the present ??" something that has also been a feature of the eight international Tamil Conferences held between 1966 and 1995.

Only the World Tamil Internet Conference 2010, which happened alongside the much bigger WCTC, brought to light relevant aspects such as e-governance and computing in Tamil to aid in the growth and development of the State. Predictably the internet conference, owing to its lack of political content, did not see as much media attention.

The "recommendations" made at the end of WCTC were reported by the media without any attempt to evaluate and analyse their merits. Sample these:

  1. Tamil be made the official language at the Centre. This is not the first time such a demand has been made. However, no news report mentioned that the issue had been quashed citing Articles 343 (1), 342 (2) and 343 (3) of the Constitution. This fact, if posed to the political bigwigs during the conference, was not reported. The Times of India in its editorial on June 29 makes a passing reference to this, perhaps after seeing that the rest of its reportage had ignored this point.

  1. Tamil as official language in Courts. This demand was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2006. The Law Ministry said it would not object if the State wanted to conduct proceedings at the Madras High Court in Tamil. Consequently this year one case was argued in Tamil. Did the media question if this would improve the functioning of the judiciary and if cases would be dealt with faster? Rather than analyzing the issue the media has restricted itself to reporting on the protests outside courts. The latest writing on this topic was by The Deccan Chronicle on June 22. Unfortunately despite the heavy presence of State and Central political leaders at the WCTC, no journalist seems to have thought it prudent to raise this issue.

  1. Funds for research on "mythical" Kumari Continent and Poompuhar. No details were sought on the rationale behind the project, what it would entail and how it would benefit the common man.

  1. Funds for Tamil books in science, economics and geology. Reporters could easily have questioned how such a step would help future generations when higher academic research as well as jobs requiring the study of these subjects would be English based. This issue should have been raised particularly in the light of the media's criticism of the recently started Civil and Mechanical Engineering courses (around 1,800 seats) in Tamil. These are exclusively for students from Tamil medium schools and the media has said that the state was experimenting with these students, few of whom would find jobs unless they picked up English language skills. The New Indian Express, in an uncharacteristically banal report, aired populist sentiments at the venue. It is ironic that the scientists quoted in the story, despite hailing from Tamil medium schools, opted for jobs in the Central government and not within the State. The genial Dr. Sivathanu Pillai, the distinguished scientist who is the chief controller at the DRDO, would surely have responded if he had been quizzed on this.

  1. Law to be enacted to give preference to Tamil-medium students for Government jobs. Only The Deccan Chronicle commented that such a legislation would violate Article 16(1) of the Constitution ??" right to equal opportunity. Given the quota restrictions, what realistic opportunity would Tamil medium students have in government jobs? Also, would this law apply to currently serving and future politicians of the State including the convent educated former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and Dayanidhi Maran among others? Such questions, if asked, were not reported.

The English media published close to 70 news reports on the WCTC and the World Tamil Internet Congress 2010. Barely a seventh of these were focused on the role of Tamil in fostering growth and development in the State. Only The Times of India and The New Indian Express have published editorials on the WCTC

To achieve the developmental goals of education for all, poverty & hunger eradication, infrastructure improvement and gender/ caste/ class equality, it is important to empower people through job creation and equal opportunity. How does the State propose to use Tamil to achieve these goals? Does it plan to have personality development courses to help Tamil medium candidates become confident in facing job interviews? Is there a plan to create jobs that will mainly require Tamil language fluency with little or no emphasis on English? How will such a move work when over 45 per cent of the State's revenue comes from services in the private sector that perform software jobs requiring fluency in English and about 34 per cent comes from manufacturing (mainly exports and inter-state trade) where English is the preferred medium of communication? What steps are being taken to improve computer literacy among Tamil medium literates?

How does the state plan to promote Tamil given the apparent lack of interest in the younger generation? Children's literature from Arunachal Pradesh is being translated into English and adapted for current times. Katha, a children's book publisher that undertakes such work told me it is seeing an increased interest for such books, with children from the North East Indian community expressing interest in learning their native script through bilingual books. Chandamama, among the oldest of children's magazines, allows children to read and re-write their versions of popular native fiction in a language of their choice. Video and mobile game versions of literature are other ways to inspire youngsters to take interest in their native tongues.

These are some pivotal questions and ideas that the media should be raising on such occasions. The amount of scepticism they reserve for private enterprise should be present in covering public enterprises and governance too.

Such conferences should be platforms for launching new ideas, services, products and functional literature that make Tamil more current, relevant and effective in day to day life.
* Comments in this article are restricted to coverage in the English Media

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Office- Office: Perception Management, the Ramu Kaka Way

The other day the wide eyed wonder was found with eyes red. Apparently her boss felt she was not doing any work and “I work like a bloody donkey 14 hours a day”, she sobbed. What do you do when trapped with perception management issues? Look inwards – I mean look within the confines of your house and see that hard worker who adds the extra shine to your floors. Your domestic help.

You might hate your servant, but you still won’t dismiss him/her. They take a month off without notice leaving you gritting your teeth and awaiting their return. Their work is always found wanting. They ask for a raise, old clothes/ shoes/bags, “chai paani”, medicines, salary in advance, new clothes and all you can do is give into their demands.

There is no better representation of perception management. Put yourself in the humble servant’s shoes and imagine the control you can have over your boss! To get there, just follow these three rules:

1. Be humble: It gives people an illusion of control over you. Eventually an intangible bond builds up and your boss can never dare to shriek “WHAT KIND OF SHODDY WORK HAVE YOU DONE?”. They will think it is rude.

2. The 80:20 rule: Do 80% of your work putting in only 20% of your efforts. Save the bulk of your talent for the evasive 20% of quality work. (Wondered why servants put in their best before the festival season? So they can avail a pay rise, leave and new clothes..)

3. Never mind your own business: The employee who prospers, is the one whose eyes are wandering and ears de-waxed. Every boss loves to hear gossip if packaged appropriately. Gossip tops the do-do-list. (After all don’t you overlook the dirt under the bed in exchange for knowing which TV Mr. Khanna has purchased or where the Reddys are vacationing this year or how the flat secretary Pandey came drunk one evening…..?)

As for the wide eyed wonder, she has decided to re-instate both her servants.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Office-Office: Tolerance

The next time you see some one behaving like a nincompoop, don’t blame them. Blame the organization they work for.
Tolerance (to B.S.) is a virtue (at least you are made to believe so) that is taught extensively throughout corporate life. So grueling is the training that lessons often trickle into personal life. How else do you explain my SMS to husband dearest saying “Request if you can kindly pay the internet bill”? He promptly called up to clarify if my phone was still with me or had it been hacked/ acquired a brain of its own. I responded with: “Deepest Apologies. Regret the message. Kindly do the needful.”

As with most things corporate, tolerance too has multiple shades. The above example reflects Brain-Dead tolerance, an extreme condition where the person, eager to please (mainly out of desperation), adopts extreme politeness in his/her communications. The consequences of this are deteriorating self worth and a performance review that says “Meets expectations”.

This is preceded by the beginner’s tolerance. An example is the Butterfly asking the Wide Eyed Wonder to “be more soft” in her communication with “senior people”. And you thought much experienced people did not care for niceties? Certainly not if an email has 3 “request,” 7 “kindly” and 5 “please” in it, as the wide eyed wonder learnt. For those who cannot comply or comprehend, here is a useful template:

Request if you can kindly . Attached here is the document for your kind perusal.
Request you to please look at the document at your kind convenience.
Request if you can kindly share your esteemed thoughts on this. Will be grateful to hear your kind feedback.

Note how it scientifically follows the basic principle of public speaking: Tell, Tell and Tell yet, again. It is selfless too (notice the lack of “I” s and the abundance of “you”s). Use this template for 1 month and be assured of an “Exceeds Expectations” appraisal remark. The primary side effect of beginner’s tolerance is the stares and whispers from colleagues that often sound like “dumb” & “ass-licking” as you pass them by. But look at the positives – at least you are being talked about!

The last distinguishable variety of tolerance is the Mock tolerance. It advisable you have an IQ of over 110 to even read further. Good, now that we understand each other, Mock tolerance is the only defence of the truly enlightened in the corporate world. It follows a pattern that is based on the simple principle of “give the customer what he wants to see”. If the Super Boss likes it soft, go soft. If the ageing superstar likes it spicy, then cut the saccharine in the email and add some lines of gossip instead. As for the manager, send him an intolerant email. He/ She will be enraged and ask you to tone down the message and make it soft. Immediately comply with a diabetes inducing email on how considerate he/ she has been to your faults, ending with a thank you. Expect a raise and a promotion, not to mention “the far exceeds expectations” remark.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Wanderer: Munnar - God’s own or godforsaken?

Last weekend my husband and I visited Asia's second best (according to tourist destination – Munnar in Kerala.

We drove from Bangalore, a nearly 500 km journey, of which only the last 80 km or so was hilly terrain. We were enamored by the vistas – tea plantations, wild shrubbery, flowering trees, once thick forest vegetation now reduced to wispy browns due to the weather and streams and rivulets every few km. After much Ooohing, Aaaahing, photo clicking and deep breathing we arrived at Munnar.

Our itinerary for the next 3 days involved everything from trekking, tea tasting, boating, eating king size British meals (fresh butter on toast is what I am mainly talking about), shopping and posing for photographs during break time. After an eventful check-in at our heritage hotel (see previous post), we retired to our room – too tired for dinner. I dreamt of Enid Blyton inspired vegetarian meals.

Next morning I was greeted with idlis, sambhar and chutney. Maida bread, melted butter and Kissan Jam (all of which seemed like they had been scavenged) were other items available. Every Enid B dream is followed by the Munshi Premchand reality. I gobbled down the idli-sambhar-chutney, imagining it to be some exotic Indian version of the Enid B "hearty" breakfast.

First stop – Tea Museum. Munnar has two tea museums. The highly recommended one is the Tata Tea Museum at Nallathanni Estate. Contrary to public opinion we discovered that it did not have a tea tasting area nor allowed any photography. So we went to the Kannan Devan Hill Plantations Tea Museum in Munnar town. A visit to the model factory, a documentary film about the place, tea-tasting (30 varieties of tea) and then shopping on the premises completed the tour. Though photography was prohibited inside the factory, we enjoyed the visit.

We asked officials at the museum to suggest a few tea plantations we could visit to understand how tea is grown. Their answer: Plantation visits are banned because visitors litter about. Surprised? Me too. Friends told us not to miss the plantation visit in Munnar as this is a unique experience. Is this how you "miss" it?

Next stop - Indo-Swiss farm in Mattupetty. We were told "No visitors allowed," even as two cars loaded with visitors (of the human variety) zipped past the gates. Do we need prior permits? Pay fees? Bribe? – all questions were resolutely answered by finger pointing to the "No visitors allowed" sign. (Private security agencies can look at this talent pool for future recruitment). How different can a buffalo look? Hybrid or otherwise? Tchah!!, I said to myself and moved on.

Mattupetty Dam nearby officially closes at 5:30 p.m. As we approached the gates at 2:30 pm, the guard said "Boating is full for the day" and turns us away. About 10 tourist buses and several other vans loaded with passengers passed us into the parking lot. "Try explaining that to them" – I was tempted to tell the guard. But by this time I was fed up.

We tried to salvage the trip by inquiring about the trek inside Eravikulam National Park that claims to offer glimpses of the Nilgiri Tahr. One can also climb Anaimudi, South India's highest peak, located inside the national park. Needless to say, the trek was cancelled because of a "herd attack." I am tempted to think it was our lot that turned itself upon the rest of the brethren. (Some thing on the lines of "All Mallus are lazy" and "All Tamilians are black" being enough to start a fist fight). As for the Anaimudi trek, it was apparently cancelled 12 years ago. Wonder how the some junta have climbed it as recently as last month?

Though I increasingly felt god had long forsaken this place, there are still some ways in which you can salvage this trip.

Make your trip Jhakaas by:

  1. Keeping expectations low: Once you have seen the first plantation 35 km from Munnar, your trip is effectively over. What you do in Munnar should not be confused with "sightseeing".
  2. Carrying your own food: A hamper containing a loaf of bread, jam, cheese slices and juice will taste better in Munnar than it ever did back home. If you are vegetarian, your choices are reduced to the claustrophobic Saravana Bhavan and a few other places whose names I can't recall.
  3. Experimenting with photography: It's a wonder how so much of one color - green - can inspire at least 10 shots of the same scene.
  4. Noticing the other color in the hill station: RED. The color of passion, sweat, blood and violence can mean laziness only in Munnar. The workers may be Tamil, but the govt is clearly commie.
  5. Going on a package tour: Self driving and exploration is for the poor, especially if you drive a humble Wagon-R. Fix yourself up with a tour operator. He most probably has the necessary skills to get you into all the places mentioned above. If not, you can always visit the next town/city as part of the package.

How not to lose your way:

Stay away from Google Maps. You will not spot Jattihalli at 80 kmph, leave alone SH 86. Pick up a state map from the book store and circle all the towns marked on the NH. Ask directions sequentially if in Karnataka, such as "How to go to Hosur." (Anything further will confuse). Once you enter Tamil Nadu, ask them for "How to go to Munnar". Follow those instructions to the T. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wanderer: High Range Club, Munnar

All that glitters is not gold. All that is old is not heritage. Nestled on a hill, the 101-year-old High Range Club, Munnar has a proud legacy of many firsts to its credit. However, this club is far from heritage. Here are four reasons why you should avoid it and some tips to watch out for any tourist dwellings that may masquerade as heritage:

1. Back to basics:

The Indian Hotels Association classifies a heritage property as dating back to 1935 or earlier with a minimum of 10 rooms with basic amenities. How basic is basic? The day hubby and I arrived, the phone line in our room not working. The reason: "Lightning struck last night and since then all lines are down." So we called the reception from our cell phones. I thought in the good ole' days one used a bell to call their domestic help. I didn't find any buzzers in our room.

Later that evening, for about 2 hours, the telephone operators kept testing our lines (imagine trring trring trring, every 2 minutes) and eventually replaced the handset. We had advance booked the room a month before and had driven down 500 kms earlier that day. Given our mental health, we did not dare to check if the phone was working. Did I mention we did not have a fan in the room?

2. Décor – rating:

"Exquisitely designed and decorated; meticulously preserved" is how a journal describes heritage properties should be. I am not sure that includes tackily fixed-erstwhile-broken down furniture. Single cots that didn't align at the centre, drawers and windows that needed a Herculean effort to open and close and sub zero size tables– all this and much more welcomed us. Guess the British took the furniture back with them.

3. Service (the lack of it):

The waiter who attended to us bonded so well with us that he started sniggering at the property manager's capabilities (amnesia for starters), the bad food served here (he also suggested that we should eat outside) and why no one comes to stay here (poor service). Needless to say, his own sense of duty was found wanting by us several times. Our room was not stocked with fresh towels, mosquito mat and machine (a common fixture in hill stations) and drinking water when we checked in. The room was not serviced the next day. The waiter's excuse: You did not give me the room key. How did the burra sahibs deal with such statements?

4. Authenticity missing:

Heritage properties usually welcome guests graciously, give them a tour of the property and their room in particular, help them settle and then entertain them with the best of local cuisine, arts and crafts. All of that was missing here. The common rooms were left open to us without anyone taking the trouble to give us an introduction. Food was mediocre and no hard drinks are allowed on the premises (A teetotaler Englishman? Beats me). No activities were arranged by the club such as tea tasting sessions, tea plantation visits, local folk arts, and sale of local crafts. Worse still, the manager and the reception were not of much help with local sightseeing either.

My mother once said "any place that is frightfully old is inhospitable." In this case I would agree with her. Unless you can be satisfied with Analog TV watching, mosquito swatting and mountain gazing, don't bother with this place.
PS: The club has a 9-hole golf course, squash and tennis courts and a billiards table- all of which you can access for a steep fee. We didn't check any of this out. Perhaps there are more tales there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Office-Office: Guesstimate

(Picture Source:

One hears about informed guesses all the time (dubiously know as guesstimates), but all of us know (or can guess) how truly informed (read ill-formed) they can be.

Last fortnight saw a flurry of guesstimates being used in the office to give strategic direction to future plans. Super Boss was in town after an overseas meeting with big bosses from other geographies. Much Earl Grey drinking must have happened, for the man seemed content and before leaving for his holy seat in the capitol, said "We must do something in the chemicals industry."

The non-conformist immediately starts mapping the chemical industry trends with the company's services and draws up a plan. While being reviewed by the Ageing superstar, (don't tell me you expected Super Boss to listen to others voices?)  it is struck down with one red slash of his pen (without reading it of course). The reason: "Super boss has lost touch with reality. He has no idea that there is no scope for any of these services in this country." So who has the idea?

While one can guesstimate that Super Boss was guesstimating, can you make out that the Ageing Superstar was "super guesstimating"? (meaning: making a guesstimate of an existing guesstimate). This is a common value add offered by senior team members. Identify it by looking at the amount and extent of grey matter on the person's scalp. In case of women look at the amount of jewellery and make up; Less of either of these coupled with prominent use of white indicates a high probability of super guesstimating.

Taking a cue the non-conformist soon applies this guesstimate theory on a hospitality project and sends the "findings" to the Ageing Super star. His verdict: "There are no hospitality companies in this city. So any marketing activity here is pointless." Pointless to inform him that the management has identified hospitality as a "key" sector this year and that a flurry of activity is already underway including a mammoth collateral kit.

This is a classic case of guesstimate beyond reason (GBR) attributed mainly to complacency and seat warming. GBRs often come from those who are next in line to win the super boss title. GBRs are usually close-ended statements and the only way to open the discussion is by sharing facts such as "I read this report on the blooming hospitality sector in the city. We can have a first mover advantage if you spearhead this." A response to a GBR will never be followed by another GBR. If anything you might find yourself without work.

A week later the non-conformist, still at her job, gets called by the Ageing Superstar. He says "Hey! I saw your email. You know these hospitality chaps are b%^&*$#@. Pardon my language. But they are b!@#$%^&. I think it is pointless to market anything here."

This is the guesstimate by experience (GBE), a complex maneuver that only the experienced can deliver. Lack of patience, a strong opinion and reputation as a names dropper are usually the pre-requisites for a GBE specialist. If you think a GBE comes close to sounding like an opinion, do not be surprised, for it is an opinion. When you are subjected to a GBE, it is time to archive all related communications in that folder (read "put the past behind" and "start afresh"). 

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Insider Reports: IPL-Gate – How not to do follow up reporting

This piece was my response to the coverage swimming around me in the last 1 month. I buy 3 newspapers and read at least 5 more online. I was aghast at how most of them were covering the IPL scam, giving little consideration to the ethics of journalism.


I am grateful to the Hoot for finding this worthy of publishing. The link to the piece is as follows:



For those who cannot open it for whatever reason, please find the piece below:

IPL-Gate --how not to do follow up reporting
Questions are not asked, news angles ignored. There has been a media witch hunt rather than responsible follow up reporting, says ARCHANA VENKAT
Posted Tuesday, Apr 27 22:38:16, 2010
The last few weeks have seen a witch hunt by the media to dissect any and every aspect of the Indian Premier League (IPL). So much so that even after the core issue of the IPL has been unearthed and is under investigation ' source of funding for the proposed Kochi IPL team and subsequently all other teams—journalists continue the trial by media by reporting bits and pieces of information that have no real relevance to the core issue.

In what can perhaps be termed as the worst possible example of "follow up" reporting, the media now runs the risk of being called irresponsible.

The primary aim of a follow up news report is to explore and answer questions raised in the first report. New information that broadens the perspective of the first report is secondary, unless it is of greater importance than the findings in the first report.  While following up on a story gives a journalist credibility and helps her/him and the reader/viewer get a holistic picture of the issue, it is important to pick, pursue and publish leads that may strengthen or weaken the case.

Unfortunately, with the IPL probe reportage, these principles seem to have been forgotten in the quest to break news.

A chartered flight between Delhi and Coimbatore, used by an IPL team, was in the news, allegedly because Poorna Patel, Aviation Minister Praful Patel's daughter and hospitality manager for the IPL, had used her father's clout to do so, leaving other passengers inconvenienced.  Air India CMD Arvind Jhadhav disagreed stating that the flight in question had taken all necessary permits, informed passengers much ahead of time and made arrangements for them with other flights. The aim of should have been to unearth if the IPL had flouted any norms. While that in itself may not have lent much support to the ongoing probe,

it certainly might have proved fodder to investigate who else's palms were greased by the IPL machinery. The journalist could have checked any previous instances of IPL teams having diverted flights for their use and unearthed a pattern for further investigation. A well investigated story with facts and figures could have had more impact than the current report that seemed like a cut-paste job of two opinions.

Another attempt to catch the IPL flouting norms was made by asking how and why the Maharashtra State government could permit the IPL go on post the 10 p.m Supreme Court ruling. The report quotes the IPL CEO Sundar Rajan stating he had written to the "ministers concerned," however, a slew of ministers quoted later do not seem to have any such recollection. Ideally, the journalist could have gone back to Rajan asking for a copy of the letter or at least the Ministers to whom it was addressed. With this information, one can check with the appropriate government department on the status of such a permit. Had such information been added in the story, readers would have derived greater value.

While Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar have been hounded as outcasts, no efforts were made by any media to seek opinion from either parties. Only Tehelka took the efforts to speak to Sunanda Pushkar and published an interview that might prove almost all reports about her as amounting to libel. Whatever happened to the Barkha Dutts and Karan Thapars of the newsroom?

A most amusing discussion on the future of the IPL was aired by a leading news channel with socialite-author Shobhaa De and populist fiction writer Chetan Bhagat as panelists. True to their professions, both suggested rather colorful scenarios to the IPL's future. Pray, was it so difficult for the channel to find a credible panel, considering the abundant supply of

"sports analysts" who share their opinion after every IPL match?

The most interesting of all reports was the one on how Lalit Modi grabbed government land in Rajasthan in 2007 (courtesy his closeness to then CM Vasundhara Raje) at "throwaway prices". While this may indicate that Modi was an astute business man, it fails to establish any meaningful relationship with his current predicament? A possible investigative angles to this story could have been whether any of the IPL teams stayed at these properties (a couple of heritage havelis converted into resorts) and if so, why? Were these properties the hospitality partners for IPL? Was there a fair process to decide that?

On several occasions one does not get suitable angles to a story. In such a case it is best to go online and read the kind of comments readers leave to similar news reports. Not only does it give a journalist an indication of public opinion, it also reveals what kind of stories the readers feel would be enriching.

The fact that Shashi Tharoor's Twitter following has not diminished or that most youth still think of Modi as an icon must indicate something to a journalist. It is worrying that all reports on the IPL have so far been prejudiced against both these people. The aim of any reporting is to attempt to present both sides of an issue as objectively as possible.

The IPL management is being accused of betting and match fixing ' a malpractice that sports journalists are familiar with, thanks to the match fixing scandal that ended careers of popular sportsmen barely a decade ago.  Few have aimed at revisiting past coverage and attempting to draw similarities with the current scenario.  Lastly, no one has attempted to ask any of the franchise owners on details of the IPL clauses and whether there are any clauses specific to corporate

governance and anti-money laundering. Such information would directly add value to the reporting on the probe itself.

Either we have short memories or we simply do not want to kick up sweat in producing meaningful follow up reports.

The Insider Reports: The beginning

When I moved from journalism to Marketing, I felt queasy being referred to as a "former journalist". Are doctors who don't practice called "former doctors"? Are teachers who retire called former Professors? Are lawyers ever called "Former Advocates"? And will my next door neighbor in Chennai (also a distant relative), the 85 year-old Colonel Ramswamy ever become Ramu Thatha (grandpa)? Definitely not.


Activists do not take shelter in the "former". They find new causes to back. I started this blog with the intention that one day I would also write about issues that truly concern us. (Yes, spending Rs 500 watching a movie that I recommended might also be a true concern.) But this series of posts will be more in the realm of ethics, good practices, inflation, home loan rates, government policies, current affairs, state of the economy and a whole bunch of serious talk which, de-jargonized, can be quite helpful and bust frustration.


"The Insider Reports" is my effort in keeping the journalist in me alive. I will be happiest if any of this content moves beyond these screens into discussion. That way all of us can become activists and keep the fires inside us burning.

The Wanderer: Grover Vineyards, Doddaballapur, Near Bangalore

If you are thinking grape crushing, dancing, eating, drinking and general leisurely pursuits forget it. This is India and we love Indianizing everything, particularly if we don't understand it.

Our guide for this visit was a French lady who felt much at home. (We were told later by some friends that she grew up in her father's vineyard in France and had come to India for an educational tour to get exposure into the wine brewing business here.) As she laboriously explained the history of the vineyard, types of grapes used for cultivation and when to pick them, I wore a resigned look. When a very beautiful lady animatedly tries to speak English with a French accent, I have to give up since I don't know where to look – at her mascara (Must be fake eyelashes), blush (God! When will they understand that you can only tan in India), outfit (how do they get to be so thin on a diet of chocolate and wine?), or just roll my eyes to heaven requesting god to make her more understandable.

Just as I realized the waste potential of this visit, eureka struck. I jumped into action asking my husband to click some half a dozen pictures of me in various poses near the grapes, touching the vines, standing resignedly in a side profile…..

The factory smelt of sour grapes (I am not sure why I assumed it would be otherwise). There were vats of all shapes, sizes and material inside. In another barely lit room there were barrels full of the wine left for fermenting. As we moved towards the bottling section, it struck me that we were doing a reverse tour of the factory.

We ended at the entrance of the factory where freshly plucked grapes were being loaded into a crushing machine. Yes. That explained the lack of leisurely enthusiasm among the inmates. When a machine replaces a wide bucket of ripe grapes waiting to be crushed, you can forget about barefoot dancing and merrymaking. What you get is "Business as usual" with people in uniforms, shower caps and gloves carefully loading every bunch of fruit. And so with a heavy heart, I moved to the wine sampling session.

6 glasses set beside each seat. This, I felt, was set up to put me to shame. For starters I am no wine connoisseur (in fact, I don't even drink the stuff). Further the French lady consoled me suggesting I smell the stuff instead of tasting it. Big Insult, considering my sense of smell is only marginally better than an earthworm's. The result – Husband happily drank my share of wine, posed a zillion times and got tongue tied trying to pronounce the French names. Thankfully, a child in our group rescued me by bawling his lungs out on being refused to sample wine. That definitely marked the end of the wine tasting and our visit to the vineyard.

Make your trip Jhakaas by:

  1. Speaking to the workers on the vineyard. They will give you a de-glamourized version of everything starting with the owner of the place to the plants in the English you will understand. In case you don't, they also speak Hindi, Kannada and Telugu.
  2. Once the tour of the factory is over, turn around and repeat the route – this way you will understand all the processes in sequence. Watch out for grapes/ grape juice on the floor.
  3. Reading up on the company online. It has many firsts to its credit.
  4. Some wine enthusiasts also conduct this tour and the verdict is that they do a better job.

How not to lose your way:

Head North on the way to Bangalore International Airport. At Jakkur Airfield, take the left fork of the road. Cross Angsana Spa and travel about 10 km further until encountering railway line. Take a right from the second railway line. When in doubt, ask the locals for "Grover Wine Factory".

Cost: Rs 500 per head. Includes cost of vineyard visit, factory tour and wine sampling.


You cannot purchase wine at the factory.  You cannot order for single bottles to be home delivered. The minimum order is for 6 bottles. So, approach the wine tasting session with a motive.

The Wanderer: The Beginning

Did you know that the Indo-Islamic marble sculptures in Amer fort can be cleverly interpreted in 10 ways? Or that it costs only Rs 12 Lakhs to own several acres of coffee plantation in Coorg?


I like noticing quirky things about places. A surprise feature, a lesser known piece of information, local tall tales, in short, everything that contributes to turning a mundane trip into a king-sized adventure.


'The Wanderer' will feature a series of posts on travel and adventure. The tone of this post will be conversational (read non-boring), until I see and feel some thing of great value which absolutely needs to be publicized for the better of mankind. In such a case, I will test people's patience by getting into details, developing a conscience and going objective. For your own good, you shall pray that does not happen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earful! : IPL Gate - Key Lessons

The latest scam to beak in India after the Satyam case, the IPL Gate will perhaps supercede Satyam in volume. To make sure you dont become the next Modi (Oops.. does Raju sounds better?), read on:

1. What goes up comes down: If you are flying in your private jet and looking down haughtily upon the rest of the cattle class travelers, beware. Your ex-co-passenger, now disgruntled at the thought of traveling cattle class, may inform the cops that you use ethanol instead of air fuel. What is more you don’t use power from the grid for your bathroom….

2.Technology killeth the human: Don’t indulge in key board lashing and virtual war. Be a man and fight your battles face to face. That way you can still tell people the rabid dog got you on the street last night, as you walk away wincing in pain holding the bandage around your jaw.

3.You Got e’m? Keep them: Bling is the new Sting! It is time to get the pastels out and leave behind any sign of flash, including the fake gold jewelry. If people as much a notice you, it’s a problem. Better hunt for a dowdy wig and a second hand Maruti 800. By the way, look around and you will see that beaded string jewelry has made a come back.

4.Network is equal to Net worth: As a corollary of point number 3, avoid meeting anyone who looks remotely well fed or well dressed. I would have suggested hanging around with the spiritual go-getters, had it not been for the Nithyananda episode. Your best bet could be the vegetable vendor or the 90 year old grandfather next door (On second thoughts, he might leave you behind an inheritance, so drop him from the list). At all costs avoid anyone worth giving a second glance.

5.Blood is thicker than water: Precisely why no amount of acidic talk will do any good. This is when one regrets not appreciating the foresight of the National Family Planning Commission’s messages of two rose and one bud and some bawdy copy scrawled on the back side of lorries. Relatives are a nuisance. More so when you want to go low key. Start looking for the anti-dote to Fevicol.

Now, where to put the real monies you ask? Buy gold out of the money and then bury it deep in your garden and let the dog poop on it. Or you could go the ancient way – build walls of gold and cover them up with high grade plaster (clue Amer Fort, Rajasthan).

Earful! : The Beginning

Did you think the Sania - Shoaib scandal (by now you should realise that everything spoken about for over 2 days in the news is a scandal) has some learnings? Do you think Shah Rukh Khan's "dancing nude" statement is not as simple as it appears?

You are right, because behind every scandal is another scandal!

That is what Earful! attempts to unearth and delightfully present to you in a manner that you will find very tempting and practical.

Topics that will be fodder for this section include but are not limited to
1. Political sagas
2. Celebrities
3. Entertainers of all sorts including cricketers and Bollywood.

In short, anything that is scandal-worthy is welcome!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Office-Office: Need to Know

(Picture Source:

Open the newspaper and the front page has a story with a photo of your boss. For a second you are elated (“the man is dead and so are my worries”) , but then reality dawns and a tinge of sadness fills you (“Had I completed the report, he would have died slightly happy”). Wait a second, what’s this – boss is not dead. He has moved firms!

Gosh! Why didn’t he tell you? (At least you could have had a peaceful night’s sleep and actaully looked forward to tomorrow). Because you did not need to know.

Wide eyed wonder works all the time on a presentation that she thinks is her original effort. But just like the good Samaritan of the movies who gets killed by the villain before intermission, she is rudely emailed a similar PPT and asked to re-work and submit this instead of her work. She has 30 minutes to do this. Worse still, she has no clue that what she is going to work on has been deemed “trash” by another team last quarter.

So why does she have to use this PPT and not her original work? She is not told as she does not “need to know”. Why was this PPT not shared earlier? No need to know. Where will this PPT be used? She will be told on need to know basis.

This is a phrase barely mentioned in any induction program – that all information sharing will happen on “Need to know basis”. Did I hear you muttering some thing about an RTI Act? Forget it, you are too educated for your own good. Corporate India hasn’t heard of it. If they have, then their reason for still withholding information is because they signed a confidentiality agreement (with whom remains a mystery).

So Super Boss doesn’t think you need to know that your service line has been nixed and that when you come to work tomorrow, you might have a new boss, a new seat, a new team, a new designation or all of these. (Additionally, you may also be given the challenging but empowering responsibility of shredding the paper from all the departments’ trash).

However, what is of paramount importance and therefore you “need to know” is that he always sips Earl Grey in between biting into two crispy pale brown Samosas. If you forget, you will promptly be reminded through 3 emails – One from The Butterfly (saying “Oh! What have you done!!!!!”), one from the ageing Super Star (saying “Good job. Hehehe. Ooops! what I meant was good show, but do keep the samosas hot next time…) and one from THE character himself (You aren’t emailed directly of course, but CCed on a mail addressed to the Butterfly saying “It is a pity our managers cannot organize for basic food. I wonder what clients must be remarking”).

How should we tackle this?

Don’t show up to work for a few weeks. All those who need to know will know. Follow this up with a disheveled appearance one day and tell your manager you don’t want to talk about anything. Remain morose throughout the day. Ask the manager for his/ her cell phone and pretend to make a few calls and then wail loudly shouting “You killed him. What more do you want from me?”. Then cut the phone and leave immediately….If this doesn’t do it, then your manager is an android.

As for Super Boss, send him an email saying “Govt. of India bans Earl Grey” followed by a fake news item on how Earl Grey has been named the next illegal substance and all those in possession will face 10 years RI…

The Butterfly will be quelled with “Please tally attached excel sheet. Due to paucity of resources, you will be doing this work for the next 1 month. Do not delegate.”

The Ageing Super star will get ucomfortable with “So when are you moving to firm?”.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Office-Office: Management by Instruction

(Picture Source: )

Ever noticed how slick the emails from your boss read. “Share marketing plan for next 6 months in the next 30 minutes.” No, don’t look through the inbox. This is the first time the vocabulary has ever been used.

“Submit report by 2 a.m.” That may just be a conservative estimate considering the monstrosity you may have to deal with. Rest assured the boss will get his sleep and not read the report until during presentation time.

The King of Slick emails is the one that The Butterfly sent the wide-eyed-wonder and non-conformist: “We (yes, she has multiple personality disorder) had a call today with the Super Boss and he wants to bring out a newsletter. Please brainstorm and share your ideas”.

There are two messages deeply embedded in this crisp email – “Call with Super Boss” and “Brainstorm and share your ideas”.

Let me illustrate the reactions of the two affected parties.

Case 1 – The wide-eyed wonder: Oh! Ok. But why does he want a newsletter? Let me brainstorm.

Case 2 – The non-conformist: You had the call. You storm your brain and give the idea. In any case leave me out of it? By the way I think you should tell Super Boss the ground reality and get it over with -- Newsletter or no we are f*****.

And just for kicks let us see how the Mustachioed Young man would have reacted to this

Case 3 - Interesting. The mail is addressed only to me (the others are only in CC). If I give two ideas, that will translate into two hours on the time sheet spent on this effort. Multiply that by four and I could bill myself for a whole day without doing any real work……..

Eventually all send responses:

Wide-eyed wonder: Maybe we should have some interesting links on the newsletter.

Non-Conformist: Half a page with 10 bullet points listing the possible contents adding “would appreciate a de-brief on the call and request to be included on the next call.”

Mustachioed Young Man: Request if you can send sample newsletter.

Who wins? The Mustachioed Young Man, without doubt. Years of having the same designation and seeing all his colleagues shoot ahead has taught him one thing: Management works by instruction.

When some one sends you an instruction to carry out, return the favor by sending them a bigger, more unachievable instruction. What’s more, generate employee delight by marking at least 4 people on the CC list. If nothing at least your reputation for kindness will spread through the organization. And if you get really lucky you may receive an email addressing you by name (which is a very big thing considering the sea of persons marked on CCs these days) that says: “Please Call now.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Office-Office: Hypocrisy

(Picture source:

The first few months spent as a new corporate employee are very insightful.

You realize how full of B.S. the induction program was – except for the info on the cafeteria and loo breaks. (Hail companies that don’t have an induction program! You hit the shit immediately). You see your real position (or the lack of it) in the organization, when you compare yourself to the boss. The best way to illustrate this is through the experiences of the mustachioed young man (M) and the ageing super star (ASS). Of course, we will throw in our favorite character Super Boss too, wherever appropriate.

1. ASS comes to work at 8:00 am (official work hours being 9:30 am) and leaves at 3:00 pm citing “client meeting” reasons. M comes at 9:00 am and is not expected to leave.

2. ASS can delegate work to M, the vice versa will be short of harakiri.

3. ASS drinks tea brought in by a butler, curses its “inferior” quality but empties the cup. M has to shove his way to the café. See several pairs of similarly tired eyes stare momentarily at him, grab the mild coffee and stand listlessly under the fan, only to realize the coffee is long over. Talk about taking a break!

4. ASS gives M files to review. M reviews them and makes recommendations. ASS shares recommendations without credit to M. When Super Boss shoots down a few recommendations, ASS remains silent. Post call, gives M a tongue lashing calling him a “useless joker” among other things and quietly asks for an explanation to the recommendations that got shot down. At the next meeting with the Board of Directors, Super Boss makes the same recommendations he shot down. ASS’ mouth is gaping like that of a gold fish. This is what you call reeking in hypocrisy.

5. M is asked to handle a client interaction. ASS pokes his nose into it and goofs up. Predictably ASS denies any involvement during a damage control Q&A session. M is severely reprimanded. A fortnight later ASS handles initiative and again goofs up. Media gleefully runs rampage adding spice to the story. No questions asked at office.

6. M and ASS go for an event together. ASS ends up entertaining some guests with tea and snacks. He leaves brusquely asking M if he can pay the bill. M, taken aback, does so, forgetting to collect the bill copy. Net result – M is poorer by Rs 1,250 as re-imbursements can be claimed only by “Senior level people”.

7. M is overworked and has started admitting that to himself and a few colleagues. ASS thrusts more work on him saying “he can do it!” (did I tell you ASS is a Nike Fan?). M tries to live up to the challenge, but fails. Fighting rage, ASS tells him “I will do it!” and asks him to leave the cabin. 30 minutes later ASS is frantically calling M asking him to how to change slides. Everyone knows who did it.

As for the mother of all hypocrisies, consider this – The HR chaps disappear after the induction program only to reappear when one has handed in one’s resignation. What’s worse, they hand one an exit interview questionnaire to complete with a section on “Rate your relations with the HR manager.”

Office-Office: Value Creation

(Picture Source:

The First millennium (Period before 1000 AD) can be safely credited with following the “eye for an eye” philosophy. You kill one, I kill ten and vice versa in most cases. The second millennium is credited with propagating the “two cheeks are better than one” philosophy, thanks to Gandhiji’s fondness for trains.

This millennium’s undisputed contribution is the “Give me work and I will give you grief” attitude practiced diligently by the corporate human.

Sample this –

The non-conformist asks The butterfly for options to pursue a matter. The butterfly promptly responds – “Please brainstorm and give options”. (And you thought one couldn’t brainstorm solo. Hmpf!! Tsk! Tsk!).

Unfortunately, we consider ourselves an evolved breed and cannot stay happy with one idea. Sample these variants -

1. Give me work and I will give grief + Give me an inch and I will take a yard = Give me work and I will take a yard.

The wide eyed wonder requests for help regarding Matters A and B. The Butterfly diverts it to the Hungry Wolf who delegates it back to Wonder, who is now learning how to do the job. Outside Party too has been designated to work on A and B. On D-Day, Outside Party delivers the tasks, Hungry Wolf claims all credit and Wonder is left doing more work.

2. The Etc syndrome also known as “? Go Figure.”

The Non-Conformist emails some material to Super Boss for approval. Super Boss responds: “Please correct some of the words like money etc.” (!?) It doesn’t get vaguer than this. Rest assured one will have work for the rest of the day trudging through text.

3. The career development brainwash

When the non-conformist politely refuses to do backend task A, The Butterfly subjects her to a lecture on how “supporting the initiative” and “looking at the larger picture” will help in career development. Later Task A is delegated to the wide eyed Wonder who eventually believes her prospects have improved post the task completion. Task A was about proof reading some articles written by an ex-employee.

Collectively all this falls under the category of “Value Creation”, yet another corporate jargon. Where is the value, you ask? Let us leave that for the next millennium to discover.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Office-Office: Project Management

(Picture source:

This much abused corporate jargon until recently was the bastion of those with a growing girth, balding pate or increasing myopia and gunning to become Super Bosses (or perhaps ageing star performers). Recent additions to this motley gang have been the Butterflies (solely introduced with the intention of maintaining the 33% reservation) and smart talkers, characterized by small body structure (including brains), loud mouth, agility of a banana stealing-langur and attention seeking syndrome.

Ever wondered why some one has to recommend one to a project management course? Because, those who do it suo moto don’t need to tell. Their work speaks for them.

The original suspects don’t have any time (Tsk! Tsk! Procrastinating again!) to apply project management, though opportunities galore. The growing girth perhaps makes it difficult to bend forward and see the computer screen full of tasks and the balding pate does affect the abilities of the grey cells.

The Butterflies – You suspect if they have understood anything of the subject. Your fears are confirmed when you see neatly typed notes on “Project Management” on their desktop. They continue to be hassled with numbers – be it evaluating a subordinate or making a plan.

The Smart Talkers –They are here because some one thought they might put the surplus energy to good use. Alas! What a mistake. This class of people loves to hear its own voice, they leave little time to hear what the instructor is saying. Since they are inherently good at running multiple thoughts in their heads, important subject matter often tends to escape attention. The result – you will see these people liberally using certain jargon from the course to attract attention in a social gathering. Sample this – “Oh the Likert scale is completely useless in my line of work. We believe in evolving our own model.” Or “Time management is some thing most opportunists are harping on to attract attention. We professionals don’t need it.”

How then do you teach such people project management? By aiming where it hurts the most – The pay packet. Every recorded lapse in work/ response leads to a certain number of points corresponding to penalty deducted from salary at source. Further, put an 8’x10’ photo of the employee in the office corridor. Keep adding black marks to his/ her face for every lapse recorded.....