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Showing posts from July 12, 2009

Drawing inspiration from Hinckley's profile of Lincoln

He dropped out
of grade school.
Ran a country store.
Went broke.
Took 15 years
to pay off
his bills.
Took a wife.
Unhappy marriage.
Ran for House.
Lost twice.
Ran for Senate.
Lost twice.
Delivered speech
that became
a classic.
Audience indifferent.
Attacked daily
by the press
and despised
by half the country.
Despite all this,
how many people
all over the world
have been
by this awkward,
brooding man
who signed his name

A. Lincoln.

By writing this unique profile, Gordon B. Hinckley (“Strengthening Each Other,” Ensign, Feb. 1985, 3) may have intended to encourage the discouraged. But, how can any one miss Hinckley's outstanding communication skills? Such a strong, inspiring, accurate profile in under 80 words!

Are subordinates blameless victims?

We mostly read about mistakes LEADERS make. The MIT Sloan Management Review (Summer 2009) article “Are Your Subordinates Setting You Up to Fail?” by Jean-Francois Mansoni and Jean-Lous Barsoux shows the SUBORDINATE side of the equation.

Here are some subordinate behaviors that can damage team success:
Passivity, defensiveness, or agressivenessDiscounting the boss’s critical feedback on the grounds that it is driven by the boss’s disposition rather than their own performance flawsA focus on the boss’s shortcomings rather than strengthsMiscontruction of the actions of the bossOver-intentionalizing, that is, projecting hidden intent where there is noneExtreme vigilance, that is, watching their boss “interact with their colleagues. They notice who the boss spends time with, what the boss says or does not say. This extreme vigilance … can encourage subordinates to make too much of casual comments, rushed feedback or perceived slights.” Such subordinate behaviors activate a negative label a…

Paul Kagame’s uncommon leadership

President Paul Kagame is transforming Rwanda from a failed state into a country with a great future. He is profiled in Time magazine’s “Time 100: The World’s Most Influential People.”

Paul’s leadership has several uncommon characteristics as pointed out by Rick Warren (author of best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life and himself a Time 100 honoree). Here are a couple …

“One is Paul’s willingness to listen to and learn from those who oppose him. When journalist Stephen Kinzer was writing a biography of (Paul) Kagame, the President gave him a list of his critics and suggested that Kinzer could discover what he was really like by interviewing them. Only a humble yet confident leader would do that.

Then there is Kagame’s zero tolerence for corruption. Any government staff caught engaging in corruption is publicly exposed and dealt with. That is a MODEL for the entire country — and the rest of the world too,” says Rick Warren.”

Uncommon transformations need uncommon leadership.

First posted in Wo…

India: bottom of “good” lists, top of “bad” lists … WHY?

The cover story in Business & Economy, “Why India Ranks Near Bottom in Global Lists,” evaluates some lists in which India ranks poorly:
Corruption Perception IndexDigital Opportunity IndexEnvironmental Performance Index (worse than countries like Vietnam and Gabon; scores on sanitation and indoor air pollution, for example, are among the world’s worst)Global Hunger Index (41.6% live below povery line, according to World Bank)Global Gender Gap IndexGlobal Democracy IndexGlobal Peace IndexGlobal Competitiveness Index (improved lately, but still behind countries like Tunisia)Globalization IndexHuman Development IndexInformation and Communication Technology environment and readiness rank (Iran, Maldives, and Sri Lanka score better)Gini CoefficientIndex of Economic FreedomInternational Tax Misery & Reform IndexThe Environmental Sustainability IndexTrade & Development Index (ranked below countries like Moldova and Uganda) Based on ”Illicit Financial Flows” by Global Financial Int…

Earth Day: Green business applications

Today, the question is not “Should we go green?” It is “What are some ways we can do that?”
Should I focus on the data center, which does account for Carbon emissions? Improve server efficiency? Power off unused equipment?Or should I use software such as collaboration applications to reduce commuting and travel?How about specialized software such as those that help shift workloads to underutilized servers to reduce energy and floor space needs?All the above are good ways to go green. There’s more. For example . . .

. . . do we architect the application itself for efficiency? Applications architected with a business process focus have delivered 100% to 200% productivity gains. Here’s what my observation/research of around 500 Global IT initiatives has shown … Enterprises not only miss such efficiencies, they also miss the opportunity to optimize business processes (every app development initiative is a great opportunity to look at business process efficiencies). Even worse … when they r…

India: giver or taker?

While India’s IT success story, poverty, corruption, etc may be pretty well known, Swaminathan Aiyar writes about an aspect in India’s Global position that may not be common knowledge.

In his column in The Times of India (April 19, 2009) Swaminathan says “India scarcely matters. It is still a country that instinctively seeks aid and foreign concessions. On the international scene, it is a taker, not a giver. China, however, is now a giver. In the proposed expansion of the IMF’s lending, China has offered to supply $40 billion, against $100 billion from Japan and possibly the US. India does not figure in this giver’s list — it would rather be a receiver.”

Is this statement tied to the fact that the Nation is unfortunately and basically poor? Or are we “like that only”?

Regardless, asking ourselves questions such as “Do I cheerfully give or am I simply living a self-centered life?” can improve quality of life through self-awareness.

PS: The phrase “like that only” is borrowed from Rama …

Which company reaches over half of the world’s consumers? And why?

The company is Procter & Gamble. And one of the top reasons is Innovation.

CEO A. G. Lafley says, “Virtually every retailer we work with likes the fact that we lead innovation. It creates sales growth in existing categories. It creates new categoreis that are a source of sales and profit growth in the future.”

P&G’s innovation process must be good. Lafley goes on to say, “In our industry, only 15% to 20% of new products succeed. P&G’s success rate is a little over 50%.”

Source: BusinessWeek April 13, 2009

First posted in WordPress on April 13, 2009

Leading Change: Courage, Decisiveness, Tenacity

World Business Forum is America’s biggest business event with a great lineup of global business and thought leaders. While the 2009 event is scheduled to happen much later this year in October, organizers are already sharing some great thoughts. And where in their website do you see these thoughts? In their website’s banner!

These are the thoughts:
Courage: Doing today what others only dream of doing tomorrowDecisiveness: Changing before others realize change is necessaryTenacity: Doubling your efforts when others are pulling back. Having led an innovation-driven Change initiative, I know these three as fundamental traits of a successful Change leader.

Courage, decisiveness, and tenacity are “traits” that help beat resistance to change. They are so fundamentally important that if you think you miss even one of them, you may want to consider passing your Change leadership role to another person who you know has all three.

First posted in WordPress on March 2, 2009

Why don’t you want what I want?: The 3 faces of resistance to change

Having led an innovation-driven Change initiative at a young promising company that became an IT giant, I have to agree with Rick Maurer’s three faces of resistance:

1. “I’ve heard your idea and I don’t get it.”

2. “I don’t like it.”

3. “I don’t like you.”

I haven’t read his book (Why Don’t You Want What I Want?) yet, but here’s an excerpt:

“There’s a one-word reason most ideas never see the light of day: Resistance. Resistance is often behind the glassy-eyed stares you get following a presentation, the sarcastic put-downs you have to put up with when you describe your vision for a new product or service, and people’s abrupt departures from the watercooler when you approach, enthusiastic and ready to share an idea. What people are saying to you, either directly or indirectly, is I’ve heard your idea and I don’t get it, I don’t like it, or I don’t like you.”

First posted in WordPress on February 13, 2009

R&D spending during downturn and resulting payoff

Try arguing with history. Companies that hiked R&D spend in the 2001-2002 downturn got a leg up in the recovery that followed. Five years after that downturn, the cumulative increase in share price of the big R&D spenders was 136%.

The analysis involved 177 companies with market values exceeding $100 million on Dec 31, 2002 that hiked R&D spending by more than 10% in both 2001 and 2002.

Source: BusinessWeek February 9, 2009

First posted in WordPress on February 11, 2009

Ten Commandments for good corporate governance?

MIT professor Dan Ariely (Duke University PhD) has been recently profiled in Fortune as one of the top new management gurus. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan describes an experiment aimed at understanding dishonesty — an important topic in this age of the Satyams and the Enrons.

One of the questions he tested was “Would the Ten Commandments have an effect on participants’ integrity?”

Dan says “But what a miracle the Ten Commandments had wrought! We didn’t even remind our participants what the Commandments were — we just asked each participant to recall them (and almost none of the participants could recall all 10). We hoped the exercise might evoke the idea of honesty among them. And this was clearly what it did.”

While concluding, Dan suggests “… perhaps we could bring the Bible back into public life. If we only want to reduce dishonesty, it might not be a bad idea.”

Interestingly, that suggestion is not very different from what Tom Peters recently asked while getting tough with t…

Leadership and innovation: Mckinsey research

More than 70 percent of the senior executives in a Mckinsey survey have said that innovation will be at least one of the top three drivers of growth for their companies in the next three to five years. The article published about a year back is available at

First posted in WordPress on February 3rd, 2009

“Obama” at Chennai Leadership Summit

David Appasamy, whose presentation I admired at a recent SiliconIndia Leadership Summit in Chennai, used US President Obama as the example for how successful Leaders think. He described Obama’s leadership qualities to trace the President’s series of successes all the way to the top.

I would like to add something. In our excitement and urgency to praise Obama, we’re forgetting the role played by the American people in his success. It was America and the American people that recognized his talents and “fostered” his growth — as a Harvard student, as a Senator, as a Campaigner, and now as the nation’s President. If we ignore this, it might sound like he manipulated his way up, which is not true.

Kudos to Obama’s leadership skills! Kudos to the American people!

First posted in WordPress on January 30, 2009

Downturns breed opportunity?

It was during the Panic of 1873 that Andrew Carnegie launched his first steel mill. And he went on to become the world’s richest man.

Another example of similar courage? It was toward the end of the Great Depression that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard launched HP.

Wharton School professor Mauro F. Guillen says “A recession creates winners and losers just like a boom.”

To be on the winning side though, you need to be innovative, quick, courageous, and ready for change.

First posted in WordPress on January 29, 2009

Enterprises need apps that can speed things up

A software company came up with something they called quick check-in. It wasn’t fast enough. Quick check-in using the system took hours. “It took four or five screens,” says Carson Dean, Director, South Wilmington Street Center (SWSC). “We needed something like two screens.” The system was redesigned so that it took only two steps. SWSC says that it has saved them time and money.

The above is from CIO December 1, 2005. It demonstrates three things:
Even a not-for-profit organization such as SWSC demanded QUICK TASK COMPLETION from their software vendor — the value PCD deliversThe way the demand was met was by reducing the number of steps and screens — one of the ways PCD achieves it (Guess what the other way is?)The result is saving of not just time, but MONEY — this is often true with what we call productivity-critical applications.
First posted in WordPress on January 26, 2009

Prepare for the next upturn

The message that is repeated these days by business thoughtleaders and practitioners is: innovate, now.

Encourage the creation of new business models, new business processes, new approaches, and new services.

Experiment the new. Never skimp on good business ethics. Start now.

And if you want to talk about your initiatives and ideas, go to the Management IQ blog.

First posted in WordPress on January 21, 2009

Dare to innovate, Now!

Takeo Fukui, Honda’s CEO, is cutting costs, but refuses to cut back on innovation and research. Innovating now can actually leave you nicely positioned for a turnaround.

First posted in WordPress on January 20, 2009

Leadership: seeing and appreciating Vs only leveraging

Here’s a CTO’s message (sanitized) to the head of marketing communications ...

As you know Pradeep Henry is an individual we should be Branding constantly. He has published a book, and given interviews galore in various national publications. Presently his group is actively working on billable engagements.

In our website I would love for:
A mug shot of PradeepA shot of the book he has published with a brief excerptTwo white papersHis interview with Times of IndiaHis interview with CIO-IndiaCan we get this going, my friend? We do not have a lot of people who can stand to be industry stalwarts and should do everything to promote Pradeep and his group.CTO-name

Yes, the CTO was referring to me. But bragging aside, here’s the point of my writing. From the message, you can clearly see how well the company would have leveraged my accomplishments. Look closely and you can see something more important — great leadership capabilities in terms of seeing the difference, appreciating the difference…

Process-Centered Design is an approach for architecting UI of business applications

Make no mistake. Conventional User-Centered Design (UCD) makes a lot of sense while designing things meant for CONSUMERS. Examples of such things are: most websites, mobile phones, most everyday products. They are “bought” by and used by individuals — at their own discretion. So, understanding and designing for human use is the primary design goal.

A business application, on the other hand, is systematically used in a business process and is bought by and used by an ENTERPRISE. So, meeting business objectives such as process excellence and productivity is the primary goal.

PCD is the approach that focuses a software team’s efforts on achieving this primary goal.

So, while planning your next project, the first question to ask really is “Am I developing a business application or a “product” meant for consumers/individuals?”

First posted in WordPress on January 15, 2009

Turning the simple/humble into something big

What’s brilliant about innovation is it can turn a simple/humble thing into something of high value.

Take Corning, for example. The 157 year old company continues to turn something as ordinary as sand into big products. And Corning is the world leader in specialty glass and ceramics.

Take Process-Centered Design (PCD), for example. PCD takes the humble software user interface and turns it into a creator of new value for the enterprise — at the business process level.

First posted in WordPress on January 6, 2009

Tom Peters’ essential innovation tactics

“Recession or no recession, deep recession or not, the challenge to add more and more value grows, and the importance of innovation, and a culture of innovation, grows exponentially,” says Tom Peters. Benefit from his 4-part innovation series, which has launched at

First posted in WordPress on January 6, 2009

Meet a customer need competitors don’t even see

Wharton professor Ian MacMillan, who took strategy classes for me at a Columbia Business School exec-ed program earlier this year, says …

“Companies should exploit an economic downturn by identifying and meeting emerging customer needs that competitors can’t — or don’t even see.”

If you are looking for such an emerging customer need, may I introduce to you Process-Centered Design (PCD)? For enterprises investing in applications, PCD delivers NEW value in terms of: (a) Business process improvements at application level and (b) 100% to 200% user productivity gains (with reengineered applications). More about PCD:

Source: Harvard Business Review article “Change with Your Customers — and Win Big,” which Ian co-authored with Larry Selden.

First posted in WordPress on December 30, 2008

Influential companies are innovators

Some of the world’s smartest academics, consultants, and industry leaders allowed their brains to be picked. The result: BusinessWeek’s “The World’s 10 Most Influential Companies.”

What’s common among these companies is that they’re all innovators and front-runners shaping today’s business.

First posted in WordPress on December 29, 2008

Winning with lean

Toyota will soon beat GM to become the world’s largest automaker. But that’s not why I’m writing this article.

The point is that thousands of companies have studied Toyota’s lean production methods. And the reason is: they too want to cut waste and improve efficiency.

Efficiency matters — big time!

Call it whatever — lean or BPR or BPM or … but ensure that your production and business processes are efficient. ASAP!

First posted in WordPress on December 29, 2008

HP is world’s top PC maker. How did they get there?

“Wow!” is what sells, says Todd Bradley, whose PC division brings in $42 billion annually.

How does Todd achieve Wow? Through innovation.

And how does Todd strike a balance between innovation and price?

He uses a metric called “R&D productivity.” It measures R&D spending as a percentage of gross margin for each product line.

For example, a standard desktop computer with low margins may get one or two innovative features, while a high-end laptop with fat margins would get substantially more. (BusinessWeek December 22, 2008.)

Nicely done, Todd!

First posted in WordPress on December 29, 2008

Lessening the palace intrigue

Looking for the Welch way to deal with palace intrigue? Move out those who waste their time with it. Then explain why they left to everyone.

Don’t say: “They left for personal reasons.”

Say: “They cared more about themselves than the company’s success.”

Source: BusinessWeek December 22, 2008

First posted in WordPress on December 29, 2008

Resist toxic traditions, not change

A return to “traditions that matter” is a good idea in these tough times, says Nancy Gibbs, author of nearly 100 Time cover stories.

However, resist these traps:

Toxic traditions that are used as cover for prejudice, cowardice, and conformity
Refusing to change as in “we’ll do it this way because we always have.”
Good ideas for the New Year!

First posted in WordPress on December 29, 2008

Stock price not a good indicator of CEO performance?

I earlier talked about the danger of reducing Risk to a number. That number failed us.

Another number that is increasingly looked at with caution is the number by which CEOs are evaluated: stock price.

Management thinker C.K.Prahalad says “We took the complex nature of leadership and converted it into a single metric by basing compensation on the stock price.”

First posted in WordPress on December 29, 2008

Risk assessment’s role in crash: blame the computers?

Modern computing power enabled the quantification of risk. The entire financial ecosystem was obsessed with the numbers captured and crunched — to the point that risk itself became the thing to make money on.

How come the numbers that were supposed to make everyone safer failed? And failed so spectacularly?

How do we integrate human judgement into risk assessment? What are the other management areas that must integrate human judgement so we could avoid a similar catastrophe in future?

First posted in WordPress on December 26, 2008

PCD is a recession-proof job!

In a downturn as terrible as this, practitioners of Process-Centered Design (PCD) don’t need to fear losing their jobs.

IT service providers like Cognizant that flaunt their PCD practice will CONTINUE to enjoy competitive edge. Other SMART companies that adopt PCD will have a NEW value they can offer their customers. NEW value and a BETTER method to deliver it perhaps will be the only “weapons” service providers can use to win NEW business at times like these.

PCD practitioners will be the most-in-demand professionals at companies that practice PCD. In fact, as the industry increasingly becomes aware of PCD, it will also become aware of a huge shortage of several thousand PCD practitioners.

More about PCD is available at

First posted in WordPress on December 26, 2008

Another “silly” thing organizations can do during a downturn

“Innovate during a downturn” is what I suggested in my previous post.

Malcolm Gladwell in his new book “Outliers: The Story of Success” mentions another activity that some companies think they should not do during a downturn. To Fortune magazine’s question about the timing of talent development, Gladwell says “Paradoxically, this might be the perfect time. When it’s easy to make money, you have no incentive to think about development of talent. Now, you’re forced to.” FORTUNE November 24, 2008

First posted in WordPress on November 25, 2008

One way to get GROWTH back on track

Meet Michael Mandel. Mike is an economist, winner of of the Gerald R. Loeb Award for his coverage of the New Economy, author of several books including Rational Exuberance, and holds a PhD in economics from Harvard.

His recipe for the US to get back on track in terms of growth?

“… US companies need to focus on creating more INNOVATIVE goods and services …”

In the October 27, 2008 issue of Businessweek, Mike goes on to say that when the US government undertakes fiscal stimulus measures, some of the money should fund INNOVATION.

Innovation is a growth driver. Let not the scary times blind you to innovation opportunities.

First posted in WordPress on November 6, 2008

Business-IT alignment at the operational-level

Literature has focused the business-IT alignment problem at strategic or tactical levels. However, there’s more to alignment. While alignment starts with the CONCEPTUAL (business objectives, etc), it must move to the concrete. The CONCRETE is the “operational” or actual business process. Whether or not individual process elements are designed and integrated for alignment determines operational alignment. To achieve such integration requires a new method.

You just read the first paragraph of a CIO-critical article I wrote. Read the entire article at CIO Advice & Opinion.

Originally posted in WordPress on March 27, 2008

Can anything good come from the user interface?

For the IT team that develops business applications, isn’t the UI the humblest and least interesting part of software? And for the typical UI practitioner, isn’t being a UI practitioner occasionally a humiliating experience? I’ve even heard a UI group head (VP of a US product company) say this at a conference: “I’ve been bruised and battered.” Haven’t we heard that when employers downsize, UI practitioners are often one of the first they let go?

More importantly, for the enterprise that invests in IT, isn’t the UI often one of the major pain areas? Enterprise staff struggle, lose productivity, and even stop using apps on which hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent. And to confirm, hasn’t Forrester Research reported that software products from even the top companies are poor on basic UI quality factors?

If so, isn’t the application UI actually a source of pain?

The answer is “NO” if the UI is viewed and implemented as business process. Decades of viewing the app UI simply as an inte…