Saturday, December 24, 2011

Using Experts

This afternoon I spent almost 3 hours trying to fix a problem in my camera. Suddenly my dad remembered the tech-genius in his office and called him up. I explained him my problem, he gave me instructions over the phone and tadaa - problem solved! The problem I couldn't solve in 3 hours (sometimes I tried doing the same thing over and over again) was solved in less than 3 minutes by an expert without even looking at the device. If I had consulted him in the first place, then I'd not just have saved 3 hours of my day but also would have saved the additional stress and frustration.

We cannot do everything on our own. Even if we try to then we can't be an expert at everything. Some people are good with technology, some are good with words, some are good with numbers and some are good in business. Therefore, each would benefit the most if they take help of an expert instead of trying to solve every problem on their own.

What this means to you as an individual then? Spend some time building networks and knowing people. Identify the experts and have them on your contact list. But, remember - knowing them is not enough. Relationship building is crucial here. Why should someone help you if they don't know you well? Also remember to help these experts out in areas you're good at. What if you're an organization then? Invest in hiring experts. You need not have them in your regular payroll but associate them with your organization as a consultant. You never know when you'll need them and when they can come in handy. Moreover, they think of solutions that never occurred to your mind.

Experts - they save your time and free you up to focus on those areas you're really good at. In economic terms, it is called gaining a 'comparative advantage'. Yes, using experts might be a little costly. But, a job well done and the time saved is worth every penny you pay.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leaders Without Title


They treat you with respect. They keep their promises. They're firm yet flexible. They keep hold of their temper. They appreciate what's good and look for ways to improve the bad. They're punctual, organized and fair. They work with sincere dedication. They're continuously striving for excellence and efficiency. You might question their results but they leave no room for questioning their efforts. They meet deadlines and makes sure you do too. They don't waste their time in gossip and personal melodrama. While they work with passion, they have a cool detachment from their jobs. It is because they know how to draw a fine line between what's personal and professional. They can stay calm even in the most stressful of times. Perhaps they're restless inside but they don't show it. They are polite, friendly and sometimes even a bit docile. They encourage and support a good cause. They have the spine to stand up for their principles and beliefs. They have the courage to take giant leaps forward to achieve their dreams. The only one that can drive them or bring them down is themselves. 

However, they don't always strive all the way. They know when to quit. They don't fight all the battles for they know all battles are not worth fighting for. They don't seek for ways to blame. They take responsibility but know how to establish boundaries.They give clear instructions and demand clarity in return if they're on the receiving end.  Their words, poise and work have this air of quiet confidence. They put forward their objections without being offensive. They fight for their rights without being aggressive. They decide to be a team player even when they know they can work best when alone. Sometimes they may be hard to please, but they are always fair in their judgment. They refuse without being rude and disagree without being patronizing. They listen and don't just hear and they know how to give a proper feedback - they're good communicators. But, they're not perfect. They make mistakes but don't let these mistakes define their abilities. In fact, they learn from these mistakes and get better every time.

'They' are hard to find and organizations should strive to find 'them' and when found should try to retain 'them' in the long run for 'they' can be crucial for the growth and development of any organization. If no one finds them, they find a way out on their own. They are, after all, leaders even without a title who inspire others by setting an example. 
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

SWOT Analysis for Career Choice

SWOT Analysis is a popular term in management. It is a technique used to identify the internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats of a business. The SWOT analysis commonly helps an organization to devise appropriate strategies in order to capitalize its strengths, eliminate its weaknesses, utilize the opportunities and overcome the threats. This same technique can be a very valuable tool for individuals for making important career decisions.

An individual will first have to make an internal evaluation of oneself so as to identify one's strengths and weaknesses. In this process, he/she can also find out his/her likes and dislikes. This is important because nobody likes to get stuck in a career one hates. Once this is done the next step is to look at the external environment. What kind of jobs are on rise? What is the demand of the market? What are the technologies in use? What are the changes taking place and how rapid is the change? An external evaluation gives you a chance to figure out what works and what doesn't and also to identify the training needs in order to further bolster your strength.

Sadly what most people do is just look at the external environment in terms of opportunities and threats in order to make their career decisions. Most career choices are made on the basis of what's popular, what employers want and the level of return on investment. Very few people take a moment to actually identify their strengths and preferences. As a consequence, someone who's great with cooking might be pursuing a degree in business administration just because everyone else is doing it; someone who gets super anxious and nervous when interacting with people might be planning a marketing specialization because marketing jobs are on a rise; a great writer might be stuck working as an accountant or someone with great potential in fashion designing may decide to work as a bank teller.

Before you find out what professions and qualifications get greater opportunities in the market, it's important that you look inside yourself to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. It is because you can turn even a threat into an opportunity with the right kind of talent. However, if you're weak in a certain area then no matter how big the opportunity is, you'll not be able to succeed. Therefore, first ask yourself, "What am I good at?" and "What do I love doing?" before you ask, "What kind of degree guarantees a high-paying job?" SWOT Analysis doesn't work if the first two important components are ignored in the evaluation process. Ignoring the Strengths and Weaknesses is a sure way for a strategic failure - both in decisions relating to business as well as the decisions relating to one's career. 
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

How important is winning?


I judged an interesting competition today. There were two teams in the competition – one team had one player and the other team had two. The one-man team had an average guy. In the team of two players, there was one player who was outstanding but the other one was a letdown. At the end, the winner was the average guy. If he had competed only with the outstanding one, he would have surely lost. The weak link in the other team acted to his advantage. This got me thinking – if you had to choose between winning and taking chances then what would you choose?

The fact that the weak player had the courage to try is commendable in itself. It is a noble deed to support someone who wishes to improve. But, the question is: “At what cost will the support be given?” Will it be at the cost of defeating your best player? If you’re leading an organization and have a weak performer then how many chances are you willing to take on that individual?

There is no simple and single answer to this. While consideration to a team member is important, competition cannot be ignored either. The best possible option would be to train the weak link and give him/her a number of chances to prove his/her capability. If the performance still doesn’t improve then letting go can be contemplated. The question once again is: “How many chances to give?” As organizations and as individuals, we can be supportive and considerate to a certain level to our team members but should it be at the cost of jeopardizing our own performance results? I guess it all depends on the answer to: "How important is winning?"
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Policies and Flexibility

I've seen organizations operate in the following two extremes:
1. Has a set of strict policies but no room for the slightest flexibility.
2. Has no policies and thus operates in ambiguity.

The question is: "Which of the two is better?"

Buddhism talks about taking the middle road. Have nothing in extreme but everything in moderation. Thus, following the Buddhist philosophy and drawing from my own experiences, I can tell you for sure that neither of the two is better. While it's important for an organization to have it's set of policies, there also needs to be room for some flexibility. Therefore, the wise and efficient way is to take the middle road.

An organization operating only under a set of guided policies is sometimes like a machine. Employees are only following a set of predefined instructions. However, having no policy is giving room for biasness and inequity. Having a set of written policy not only promotes transparency but also reduces the risks of obscurity. 

Thus, an ideal organization is the one that has policies that establishes a fixed system for people to follow and promotes transparency. But, despite the existence of a system, being flexible means being more adaptable to change and prompt to respond during emergencies. Being flexible also means being human (after all a corporation is defined as 'An artificial legal person').
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Importance of Job Description

You might have heard the famous story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. This is how the story goes:
"An important job had to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when nobody did what Anybody could have done."

Do you realize what was the underlying problem in this story? Well, there was no job description!

Job description defines a list of tasks an individual is supposed to undertake as a part of his/her job. It ensures that work is evenly and appropriately divided and is timely executed. Job description, in short, assigns fixed responsibilities to every member of an organization. For many Nepali organizations, job description seems to be only a theoretical concept that has no room for implementation. But, we already know what happens in the absence of job description - a job that can be done by everybody, somebody or anybody will be done by nobody.

Take an example: Your organization is holding a training session for five days. The person organizing this training says that he needs some stationery for the training. There are four of you present when he expressed his stationery requirement. However, none of you have a job description. Thus, none of you know whose responsibility it is to order stationery. Hence, no one orders the stationery and when the training is set to begin and no materials are available yet, the organizing personnel gets angry at everybody. Everybody then gets angry at each other because they think they were scolded for someone else's fault. Each one begins to think that the other person is incompetent. This consequently results in an environment of mistrust and negativity. 

Whenever a position is filled, it is important to define the roles and responsibilities for that position. One must know what one is supposed to do. Here are the key risks of having no job description:
  1. A culture of blame. If no one has their work and responsibilities defined then when something goes wrong, they can easily blame it on someone else. This promotes a culture of blame rather than a culture of support and team work in the long run.
  2. Mistrust and negativity. As the culture of blame starts to take its root in an organization, mistrust and negativity are the obvious consequences and the worst working environment is the one surrounded by negativity.
  3. Demotivation. Suppose a task needs to be done and everyone steps up to complete that task. You won't feel important because everyone else is there to do the job. "Who needs me?" - you think. Now, suppose a task needs to be done but no one steps up to do it. You have to do all the work on your own every time. You think again - "Why does everyone think I'm a machine?" In both cases, you are demotivated to work.
  4. Overstaffing/Understaffing. When the components of each task is defined and divided then an organization can know exactly how many people they need. In the absence of it, there is greater risk of having staffs either more or less than the requirement.
  5. No proper grounds for performance appraisal. An employee's performance is evaluated based on how well he/she does his/her assigned work. In the absence of a job description, there will be no grounds for performance appraisal. 
  6. No motivation for improvement. If the task at work is everybody's and nobody's responsibility then one does not feel like giving one's best or using one's ideas for improvement. After all, it's human nature to work for one's benefit. If there is no grounds for performance appraisal due to the absence of job description, there is obviously no motivation for improvement.
  7. No personal responsibility. If the management of an organization does not define the job of its members then no one will step up to assume responsibility. The common excuse might be, "Why should I do it?" However, if the job is defined properly then responsibility no longer is an option. One must take responsibility for the activities outlined as per the job description.
  8. Loss of good people. As the organization builds itself into a one that's filled with negative environment where there is rampant mistrust and negativity and the staffs are highly demotivated, any good person who's hard-working, smart and believes in taking individual responsibility is eventually going to leave. The key asset of any organization are its people and  the inability to retain proactive and smart people is obviously a serious case of concern.
For the proper management of human resources in an organization and the smooth flow of operations, forming a job description for all staffs is a must. This, however, does not mean being too rigid and avoiding all tasks that lies outside one's area of responsibility. Helping other out and doing new things does no harm to anyone. An individual can always have some core responsibilities and can have other supplementary tasks where he/she can be of assistance. However, one has to avoid the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody in an organization and develop a job description for all.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

A new journey begins!

I've been writing for the past 10+ months in my blog My Voice. My Voice is basically my personal blog where I write about positivity, personal growth, life lessons and whats obvious in my journey of life. However, having been a management student and internalizing my recent encounters with people who don't understand the value of management and who seem to lack heavily in this area, I'm encouraged me to start this blog - The Management Blog. In this blog, I'll basically be writing about all areas of management. The articles will be about a wide variety of topics like planning, team building, motivating, human resource management, organizational policies, leadership, training and development and so on. 

Who is this blog for?

This blog is for everyone. It is because whether you're an accountant or a health professional, engineer or a social worker, management is an essential skill you'll need to master. If you're an engineer who heads a construction company then you'll have the responsibility of managing people and the entire workflow. If you're a social worker who's aiming to raise a fund for some social cause then you'll need management too. Hence, this is a platform where I am making an attempt to inform you about the essentials of management. I will be speaking based on my experience, knowledge and my own ideas. 

Your readership matters

For the success of this blog, your readership is very important. Hence, I hope you'll visit my blog once in a while. Please do subscribe to the blog, if you find the articles helpful. And, if you have your own ideas you wish to discuss and share then feel free to leave a comment. An exciting new journey begins! (Of course, I'll continue writing for My Voice regularly as well.) 

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