Archive for October, 2010

CBC News Online: United States Select Committee on Intelligence – Report on pre-Iraq war intelligence

I had an opportunity to read the above article that appeared on the CBC online on July 9, 2004. It is an opinion based on the 500 page report entitled “Report on the US Intelligence Community Assessment of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq”. This document thrived hard to put the blame on the intelligence community for invasion of Iraq. I agree, based on what I read and heard from several media, with Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, that the decision to invade Iraq was predated to the intelligence community findings.

I think that the group that analyzed the intelligence community findings had already made up their mind to wage the war against Iraq. The analysis of the intelligent findings provided ambiguous evidences that Iraq does and does not pursue any weapons of mass destruction. But the pre-set “group thinking” of the analysts provided recommendation to US government to invoke the war.

I disagree on faulting the American intelligence for relying on UN weapon inspectors, Iraqi exiles, and dissidents. I believe that is how intelligence works. If there was a formal mechanism to check and gather data on the Iraq’s nuclear activity, then there was no need for intelligence operatives.

I fully agree that the intelligence community managers lacked leadership in managing the work. They were supposed to work on an unbiased basis without leaning to a side. But in this case, I guess, they were asked to find evidence that can soothe the top management. That is why they did not try to challenge their assumptions or did not consider alternative arguments.

HBS: HCL Technologies (B)

Vineet’s confident and brave on unleashing “Employee First Customer Second” concept to customers amazed me. It is certainly a risky move as feared by the senior manager. Who want to say in front of customers “You are second”?

It is Vineet’s ability in maintaining the internal momentum that took the HCL in the growing path. He was trying all efforts to keep up that momentum even at a high attrition rate. But, I believe, Vineet is on the right path. This can be seen, as Swarup notes, that during the first directions meeting managers ask the transactional questions and in the second meeting they focused on the strategy and how to add value.

iGen is absolutely an innovative idea. Vineet asked the employees to find solutions to problems HCL faced. Usually organizations sugarcoat the problems try hard not to reveal their entirety to employees to avoid any unrest. Here again HCL’s policy of transparency is the key.

I am not fully convinced in getting away from the small time engagements. In many instances, these small time engagements help to create and keep up positive relationships with clients. Some of them will become large clients in the future. It is a usual phenomenon in all organizations that maintaining the existing clients are much economical compare to finding new clients.

As part of his transforming HCL, Vineet created new lines of businesses. This strategy will help focusing on new areas of services. Also these lines will provide seamless solutions where ever necessary as noted by Ram Krishna.

Vineet did not use PowerPoint slides during the “Explore and Transform” meeting held in Agra. He reasoned that people don’t remember anything from PowerPoint slides. I completely disagree. Based on my personal experience as an attendee to several meetings and as a student in the class room, I absorb more when I see and listen the material. I also noticed that if the attendees’ eyes are not engaged on the topics they turn towards the neighbor and start talking within themselves.

HBS: HCL Technologies (A)

I am greatly impressed by Shiv Nadar’s vision of the future and Vineet Nayar’s radical transformation of organizational culture. I am just thinking that how many of us will be allowed by our top management to try something new that was not tried before even though we know it can be done. I am certain that it is almost impossible in a government organization where high level of bureaucracy already hijacked the system. The “Force of one” is an amazing tool for all sizes of organization where each employee brings value to the customer. This tool will shift the traditional perception of each employee from “Working for the organization” to “Working for the customers”.

Shiv Nadar attributed Vineet Nayar’s success to his unreasonable expectations. In general I learned that this is major cause for unethical behaviors and ultimate failure of a person. But in this case Vineet Nayar was not so greedy. He even turned down the offer to be the president when he was offered first time. Vineet’s efforts to break down the power structure and being closely in touch with his employees made the employees feel ownership of the organization that ultimately lead the success of HCL. I think Vineet’s transparent approach was the key for the success of the transformation.

I have concerns on two approaches. The first one is transforming the organization from volume centric to value centric where focus is given on the outcome instead of effort. But when it comes to employees, I believe that their efforts should be accounted for even though no value is added for a particular task. That effort may add value in some other projects in the future. My other concern is about the “Project Quality Index”. It is extremely difficult and controversial to come out with an index across various projects in different line of businesses. But it seems it worked out well at HCL.

California Management Review: Strategies of Effective New Product Team Leaders

I read the article “Strategies of Effective New Product Team Leader” appeared in the California Management Review winter 2000 issue. If someone asked me to summarize what I learned from this article in one sentence, I would say “Improve communication and transparency within and between teams and departments in the organization”.

I am glad to see some of the essentials mentioned in this article are implemented in my organization. Our administrators are in the process of cross training the employees in some divisions. This effort will ease creating cross functional teams. We have senior project managers who directly do not supervise any people. For each project, the managers pick people from all other divisions with the help of division chiefs. In this case the divisions will not function isolate and the delays in the process will be eliminated.

This article emphasis more autonomy to the team leaders from the top management and team members from the team leaders. This is one of the difficult things to implement in many organizations. I think that all the human beings want to empower themselves and use it where ever they get the opportunity. The team leaders are encouraged to develop their own protocols and make their own decisions. I am not sure this can be done in an organization with several hundreds or thousands of employees. The top management wants to have a formal policies and protocols for the organization.

I fully agree that the team leaders should have cordial and personal relationships with other division heads.  This will help to avoid unnecessary formalities, work overlaps and cost of redoing. Effective intra and inter communications are essentially important as the technical skills. I am glad my organization has a lot of training under different labels like effective communication, inter-gender communication etc… Unfortunately none of these essential trainings are mandatory.

It is always an issue that some people in any organization resist any changes that will improve the products in the long run. These people label the leaders who take risk and experiment new ideas as crazy.

HBS: Compensation and Performance Evaluation at Arrow Electronics

It is not clear for me why the CEO Steve Kaufman tried so hard to come out with a performance evaluation process for a few employees who are not on commission based reward system. Most of the Arrow Electronics employees are sales people and they are rewarded based on the sales they complete. A major part of their salary is derived based on the commission and they don’t go through this performance evaluation system.

It seems that Arrow Electronics is having hard time finding loyal employees. It is obvious in a highly competitive market that commission based system will not buy loyalty. I agree that these employees are the most loyal folks money can buy. As experienced by the Arrow electronics, rejecting the resumes that had indicated a pattern of Job-hoping is not an ideal method of hiring in a commission based system. Having said that, I applaud the efforts of Kaufman’s search of effective performance evaluation method.

I can’t stand setting a performance evaluation target and evaluate the employees to meet that target. Steve Kaufman complained that all the managers rate their employee at high levels. I don’t see any problem on that evaluation. If the managers are happy with their employees, that should be a good sign.

I believe that Steve Kaufman did not have many things to do as a CEO of Arrow Electronics and bored. That boredom resulted this case study.

HBS: Sins of Commission- Be Careful What You Pay For, You May Get It

This article backs up my ideology of not to be employed in a commission based reward system. The Author’s car dealership experience exactly reflects my car buying experience 19 months ago. Finally I end up buying the car from an out-of-state dealer where the sales rep was very decent in dealing with me. I never tried to ask about their reward system at that time. The sales rep is still in touch with me and probably I will ask him about it.

I believe that the reason for the increase of the commission based performance system is that the CEOs of the companies find ways for short-term benefits to jack up the share prices.  Also I agree that the managers want to find an easy way to give incentives in situations where the objectives and processes are way too complicated to adequately capture in the incentive scheme.

I have noticed that people who work hard and do well usually get promotions. In many instances the performance review system does not correctly portray actual performance. I feel there is nothing wrong to link the teacher performance with the students’ grade. It is bogus to say that teachers will cheat by giving answers to students before hard to increase the grades. That is a crime.

It is funny and interesting to know that leading compensation consulting companies implement individual incentive schemes to their clients and then they go back to the same clients at a later time and fix the problem created by the scheme they installed.

WSJ: Get Rid of Performance Review

I enjoyed reading this article authored by Samuel A. Culbert published in Wall Street Journal on October 20, 2008. I fully agree with the reasons that prove performance review is bogus. Employees at every level in an organization should be educated that the wages they receive do not depend on the annual performance review. As mentioned in the article wage is predetermined and influenced by market. The performance review should be used as two-way communication tool and a record of conversation.

The alternative to “Performance Review” suggested in this article is “Performance Preview”. I am not convinced how this will substitute performance review. Performance preview is currently implemented on a task basis or project basis in different names like, pre-construction meeting, pre-field visit meeting, stake-holder meeting, and project team meeting etc…

After reading this article, I was thinking whether there is a possibility for getting rid of performance review. My answer is “no” at least in the short-term. All the bosses want to have authority on the people who report to them. Another reason, as mentioned in the article, is that this system is in place and well established. It is not easy to break away and come out with new ideas. There is another possibility that people who hate the performance review will be labeled as “bad performers”.