Saturday, September 29, 2012

What 'professionalism' means for me

The word 'professionalism' means two things for me - delivering what we promise and keeping our personal biases aside. 

Delivering what we promise
We need not be an expert. We might not even be the best in the field. But if we say we're going to deliver a certain product or service at a certain time and certain date, then we have to do it. That's delivering what we promise. Sometimes we may not be able deliver due to uncontrollable circumstances. In this case, proper communication about the delay is important. At times we might end up making errors. Accepting our mistakes and making improvements makes a big difference. When we take responsibility and deliver what we have promised we'll deliver, we're being a professional.

Keeping our personal biases aside
A person who is very good at his work may not get along well when it comes to personal relationships. We might have to work with someone with whom we have had some personal conflicts in the past. Sometimes ego clash may come in between work. But keeping all of this aside, work has to be aimed towards achieving a specific result or common goal. When a manager does a performance appraisal, he needs to look at the work and not his personal relationship with his sub-ordinate. If we are able to have an objective look at a person's work by keeping all the personal affairs aside, we're being a professional.

If we deliver what we promise but are involved in personal bias with our team members at work, then we're not professional. Similarly we may be very fair and just but if we fail to deliver what we promise then we're not being a professional either. Only the right blend of delivering promises and being fair produces the delightful taste of 'professionalism'. 
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

What kind of work you want to do?

Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: You have a work that enriches you and fulfills you internally. Your senior is not your boss but your mentor. He believes in you and your ability to do any task assigned. Even when you make mistakes or sometimes dodge deadlines, he doesn't make an issue out of it but tries to understand what has been bothering you. He has his complete faith in you and every time tells you 'you can' even when you're not doing your work as per his expectations. 

Scenario 2: You have a work that drains you from the inside. Your senior is a dictator. He constantly doubts your ability to do the work assigned to you. When you make an error, he gives this mocking smile and says "I knew you couldn't do it all right". He expects you to be a machine rather than a human. Even when you do the best of your work, all that anyone notices are the mistakes you've made and not the good work you have done.

Now it is quite evident what scenario anyone wants to be in. Everyone likes scenario one and no one likes scenario two. If you're in scenario 1, you're happy, motivated and loyal. On the other hand, scenario 2 means unhappiness, frustration and ultimately doubting your own capabilities. There are always professions we choose and we have this constant pressure and need of making a career for ourselves. But I believe before career comes happiness. Being happy means choosing scenario 1. The work may not add much to your career but it will surely add a great deal to your happiness and state of self-esteem. But if you're in scenario 2 then even if the job pays well and is a stepping stone for a brighter life ahead, as long as you're stuck there you're losing your happiness and draining yourself from your self-esteem.

However, there's no way of figuring out before you start any work whether you're joining scenario 1 or scenario 2. If by some bad misfortune, you're stuck in scenario 2 then perhaps that's a test in your life. One must learn to be patient and tolerate. There is much to learn from that kind of experience too. If you can handle that, you can handle anything in the world. But then there comes a time when integrity and a sense of peace and self-respect takes precedence over career. One must know when that time has come. Until then lets just survive the test and carry on.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

What is a team?

What is a team? Is it a team if a group of people are working for the same business of an organization? Is it a team if the corporate hierarchy dictates people to work together in the same working space? The name 'team' itself has a positive vibe attached to it. Therefore, if a group of people working together for the same purpose do not respect and value each other, it is not a proper team. Similarly, instead of supporting each other, if a few members of the team are conspiring against one person then it's not a team either. A good team has proper communication within the team. They help one another in times of need. If one member is facing a hard time, the others come for help and support rather than abandoning that member. There is mutual trust and cohesion within a team. If that is not the case, then we should not call that group of people a team in the first place.
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Work-Life Insights

If you've noticed I've changed the title of my blog. 'The Management Blog' didn't really seem suitable considering the contents I've been putting into this space. 'My Work-life Insights' is more like it as it's exactly what I do in here.

The story behind this blog

It all started some 7-8 months ago. I was working in an organization with a lot of potential in the field of research but it didn't have a proper management. They wanted me to contribute in establishing a 'system' but nobody really cared on acting upon it. I encountered unprofessional people along the way. I had so much to offer but I was upset in my inability to bring a change as nobody cared to include me in the so-called 'system-setting' process and nobody cared to change their acts and behavior in order to make the organization what they wanted it to be. Nevertheless, they kept praising my work and wanted me to stay. During this phase I felt a lot of negativity settling inside me. Thus, I decided to give it a creative turn. Instead of complaining about what's not right and letting my ideas vanish in thin air where no one gave a heed upon it I started writing it as a part of my blog.

The story now

I stopped working full-time in that organization back in December 2011. I continued helping them part-time for the next five months. Now I've been working in a different set of organizational setting. It's an organization I'd worked for previously and I will never hesitate admiring it for its set of systems. However, when I returned in the same place 2 years later I found everything changed. Life's more difficult, work's more difficult, people are most difficult to deal with. Once again, I'm using the same platform to channel my creative energies. 'My Work Life Insights', thus, is about work-life experiences and my reflection upon it. To be clear, it's nothing personal. It's all about the lessons I learn along the way.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

The best way!

He says his way is the only way. She says her way is the only way. They say their way is the only way. But, instead of focusing on 'my way' why not focus on 'the best way' of doing things? After all, there is a lot we can learn from every person. Why not discuss things out with an open mind? Why not focus on the issue at hand instead of personal ego? There is no right or a wrong way. We can always find a best way by combining all possible solutions. It's a good thing to believe in oneself and have a deep conviction in one's own ideas. However, sometimes the ideal solution can be reached only through learning, sharing and discussion. Relevant and applicable points can be picked from his way, her way and their way and a best way can be found.
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Being a manager...

They say, "MBA is for managers." And, thus, fresh graduates enroll into an MBA and expect to be managers as soon as they get a degree. At other times, we have people with years of experience assuming the role of a manager. But, being a manager isn't just about having a fancy degree and years of experience. It isn't also just about signing documents, authorizing actions and attending meetings. Being a manager extends far beyond all these external elements. Being a manager entails that you be fair, just and responsible. As a manager, you have to ensure that you treat all your subordinates equally. In the same way, if you have to stand up for the ones you're managing then you will have to do that. You've got to be just. You also cannot shift over all your responsibilities to your subordinates and let them take the final blame. You need to be able to have their back. As a manager, you also have to be concerned about the learning and development of the people you're managing. You're supposed to be a motivator. If someone is not doing a good job, then it is the manager's responsibility to find out the reasons and take necessary and positive actions. If someone is working well, then one has to ensure that person is acknowledged and rewarded. 

The job of a manager is not easy. You have to leave control but also have to take charge of so many things. You have to be firm yet flexible. You need to be proactive and patient. You have to be able to trust your own judgments. You've got to be a learner and also a guide. First time managers may fail in many respects but one must never stop trying. But, most of the times it is often the experienced ones who forget about all the necessary elements of being a manager and are only focused on power and prestige. Education and experience are both very important elements of a manager. But, along with it character and attitude plays the biggest role in determining whether the manager is a good one or bad.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Work life & Meditation

Every time I went for a meditation camp few acquaintances and relatives of mine would ask me if I was planning to become a nun. No, I was not! I was intending to become a professional. Meditation taught me to be non-judgmental and non-reactive. Whether it was a good sensation or bad I had to let it pass. I also learnt the importance of silence through meditation. The same techniques can be applied to survive in a professional world. Whether it be praise or criticism we have to learn how to let it pass. Just because someone is too good to us doesn't mean we can trust them. Evil intentions are usually disguised in the veil of politeness. Similarly, just because someone condemns us doesn't mean we have a reason to doubt ourselves. If the criticism is justified, then we've got to use our wisdom to make needed improvements. On the other hand, if the criticism is baseless, then we have to learn how to ignore it. Silence also becomes very necessary in professional dealings. Many times the words we use can be used against us. Vipassana advocates noble silence whereby no communication is possible even through gestures and body language. Having a blank expression where no other person can guess what's running through your mind is also crucial at work. This is important for two reasons - first, one must separate work and emotions and second, because it helps us keep a safe distance from people who are experts at manipulation. 

Work life entails a lot of pressure and stress. There are many chances of emotional fluctuation. One time you're elated and at other times you're down in distress. Learning how to deal with such highs and lows and keeping a stable balance guarantees a mentally healthy life. We also gain extra strength and stability for dealing with difficult situations. Having a calm personality and being a person who's fair and competent is the mark of a true professional. The only way I can think of how to get to that mark is by applying the techniques of meditation. So, the next time I sit to meditate - it's not just because I am looking for a spiritually fulfilled life, it's also because I'm looking forward to be a mentally healthy professional.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feedback - what does it say?

When you're new in any organization, the first few months is the time for learning. During this phase you'd expect your colleagues to co-operate and your seniors to guide you. You're also likely to make some mistakes. Perhaps you end up doing things differently than it's usually done. You will need someone to outline the system and process for you. If I do a certain process differently, it doesn't mean I think I'm better than everyone else and I'm trying to implement my own system. It only means that I haven't understood the system yet and I want someone to show me the right way. However, few managers tend to think the other way round. This morning I made a simple mistake of numbering in a slightly different manner than it's usually done. I wasn't trying to change the system or prove my ways are better. I just didn't know and I had too much work to notice the minor slip. The feedback I got, "Do you think your ways are better than my system and everyone else who worked here before you? If you think that way then you've got to prove it to me and I can assure you, you can't." The same person once told me, "I don't want you to do the easy way. I want you to do things my way." Now when I think of the constant feedback I keep getting from this person, I realize the feedback speaks less about me and more about him. Apparently, I don't mind! That's what work life is all about. A lot of people see their own reflection and perception in you. You gotta learn to keep an open mind and open ears whereby you listen everything, ignore most of it and retain a few points that help you learn and grow.
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bad examples

If a high ranking official talks about fairness, integrity and professionalism but lets his personal ego and issues influence his professional decisions, then it's hard to follow the values and standards he sets. If the same official favors and appreciates even the mistakes of a mendacious worker while condemning the efforts of the conscientious one, then its easy to question his intentions. When that same person changes business partners and makes employees overwork but underpays in the name of cost-saving yet refuses to let go of the perks and allowances granted to him, then its obvious to eye him as corrupt. Big talks doesn't make anyone appear big in the eyes of others. The work one does and the behavior one exhibits follows like a shadow. If the intention of a manager or someone in a higher authority role is to motivate and influence their co-workers and subordinates, big talks don't serve the purpose. What truly determines the character and commitment level of a professional is the work and not the words. Sadly too many hypocrites exist and we have to learn to deal with them. Sad but true - professionalism demands we keep a straight face despite the disgust. We simply learn to carry on with our work responsibilities without placing any degree of trust and respect for those who manage us in the name of corporate hierarchy. They are the unfortunate bad examples in the name of leadership. We despise them but the best we can do is try never to be like them and stay alert for though we're good, we all have to learn how to save our a**.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Management Styles

I'd always been the kind of person who've believed in motivating a person through love. I regarded fear motivation as a wrong practice. Appreciation and kindness seemed to me the best way to get work done through people. Democracy and freedom in work was important. But, lately a few instances where I've had the responsibility to manage has made me think differently. How you motivate and manage largely depends upon the kind of people you're dealing with. If it's proactive subordinates or team members who take their work seriously, are dedicated, willing to learn and understand what is expected of them then appreciation and democracy works the best. However, if you're dealing with people who're incompetent yet exhibit an atmosphere of overconfidence, take no initiative to learn, have no respect for authority and constantly makes mistakes that put you in a difficult position then direction, strictness and some degree of fear motivation becomes necessary.

Administering activities and managing a group of people is a difficult job. We cannot say one model works better than the other one. Whether you become a democratic leader or an authoritarian one depends directly on the kind of people you're managing. On a personal level, it might be considered as changing colors but on a professional level it's being flexible and tactful. After all, one's responsibility as a chief administrator is getting the work done efficiently and up to the standards without any blunders and not pleasing people. The key rule here is to learn about the people you're going to manage and adjust your management style accordingly.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Change - Is it always necessary?


“Nothing is permanent except change.” Change as such is not only inevitable but also necessary. Organizations like everything else keep undergoing a continuous process of change. Whenever an old leader is replaced by a new one or when an old management is replaced by a new one then change becomes an apparent phenomenon. Obviously management philosophies and style differ according to individuals in charge. However, when one is replacing someone then there seems to be many instances of not just necessary but also needless changes. Everybody has this inner need to make a difference and stand out. Bringing drastic changes seem to be their way of standing out. Critically evaluating a process or established procedure is important. However, looking for faults is never a good practice. Critical analysis means making a list of the good and the bad. If something already in place works then there is no need to make a change. What about making an effort to sustain the ongoing process instead? If there are some loopholes then one can work on preventing them. If there are some problems in the existing process then one can work on resolving them.

Standing out as a leader and making a mark doesn’t consist only in bringing new changes. Not all changes are good. Sometimes continuing on a established pattern would be a wiser choice to make. At the end, the test of a leader isn’t only about what new he/she created but also how he/she delivered the results. Rather than being a management that believes in ‘change’, why not be a management that believes in a ‘shared vision’ and ‘delivering results in the best way possible’. The best way might not always be a new way. Many times the old way with some minor improvements could be the best way of achieving targets. For this to happen the leaders and the body of management needs to keep their personal issues aside and look ahead towards a common purpose of seeking an option that works best for the organization. Yes, changes happen and one needs to learn how to initiate change and adapt to them. But, is change always necessary? That’s a bigger question to ask. Perhaps some new leaders and new management forget to focus on ‘what’s working’ and are too keen on finding faults that the change they initiate ends up being a bad change instead of a good one.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Rules or Results?

Recently there has been a lot of changes at my workplace. Restructuring and a new management has created a kind of chaos that has directly affected the quality of service it has been providing its customers. Besides the negative impact to the external customers there's also a lot of confusion and resistance among the internal staffs. While there are a lot of reasons that led to this situation, one of the key problems is that policies and procedures have become the center of focus more than the end results. Having a system is important in ensuring uniformity and fairness. However, at what cost have you established the system? Is following rules more important than delivering results? I've also noticed that binding employees in a set of rigid rules is a way of taking away the spirit of team work. Making every individual accountable for a specific set of work is a good idea but does it come at the cost of individuals ignoring the bigger picture? While some changes are good, some changes look like simply a way of exercising dominance. If it's an organization that believes in its vision and customer orientation more than anything, then why is it so stuck in paper work and rigid rules rather than the results? And, why are the rules and changes that was supposed to bring security and standardization causing inconvenience to the customers instead? Why is the value of mutuality being lost in the midst of all this change? I guess the ones who've brought by this rule-based need to ask themselves this question once: "What are we training our staffs for - to make them leaders or docile followers? Are we teaching them about rules to oblige by or helping them understand the shared purpose based on an organization wide vision?" 
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Think before you speak!


John Mayor sang, “Say what you need to say.” But, in the context of an organization, you need to be careful before you say what you need to say. You’ll have to consider:
  • What you say.
  • Whether what you say is important or not.
  • When you say it.
  • To whom you say.
  • And, finally how you say it.

Everything you speak about may not be all that important. Does a minor issue need to be voiced out? Another important factor is timing. Perhaps you’re really freaked out before undertaking a particular assignment. Should you voice out your fear at the moment you’re afraid? Or should you wait until you’ve accomplished the task. You could later tell your colleagues how afraid you really were. The next important factor to consider is to whom you say. If you have a problem then normally in an organization it’s the line manager. Voicing your concerns to every other person is not the wisest thing to do. Finally, how you say what you have to say makes a big difference. For example, if a person from another department asks you for your help and you’re really busy then you can say, “No, I’m busy. I won’t help.” Or you can be more subtle and say, “I’d love to help you but my buckets are full. So, I’m really sorry I can’t help you this time.”

Being a professional means you learn the correct way of saying the right thing at the right time to the right person and in a right way.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leading by Example


As managers and supervisors, getting the support and respect of your team members, getting the work done through them and keeping them motivated is a big challenge. You can enforce rules, read out instructions or give lectures on the way you expect your colleagues and juniors to behave. However, the best way to manage and lead is by setting an example. You can never extract good behavior by setting a bad example.

I have observed two kinds of behaviour at work. I have worked with someone who was punctual, polite and diligent. He completed all his work on time, stayed calm, highly organized and was always ready to help. When there was a problem, he focused on finding the solution rather than finding out the person to blame for the problem. He treated everyone including the lowest level of employee with respect. I have also worked with someone who was tardy, rude and indolent. She never met the deadlines, was impetuous and disorganized and rarely available for help. When a problem arose she focused on finding the person to blame rather than finding the solution. Besides the slackness in work, she was dominating and disrespectful with other staffs.

What difference does the behaviour make? Well, it is clearly a case of Professional v/s Unprofessional. If you’re behaving in a professional way then your colleagues and team members will respect you and follow you. However, if you’re behaving unprofessionally then you’ll have almost no support from your team members. Even when you make a good decision, it will be viewed with an eye of doubt. Even though your colleagues put up a smile in front of you for the sake of social convention, behind the back they will not have even a shred of respect for you. While a professional behaviour will be praised and rewarded, an unprofessional behaviour including the person who exhibits this kind of behaviour will be ridiculed and someday penalized.

As Spider Man says, “Big position demands bigger responsibilities.” It’s very easy misuse a high level position. You can order people around and make them do your work. The ones below you may follow orders out of obligation but will never be ready to help you willingly. To be a responsible person and a good manager or a supervisor also means being a good trend-setter. Example is the best advice you can give. Therefore, before you begin to enforce rules, voice out lectures or read out instructions, you need to make sure that you’re yourself setting a good example for others to follow.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pros and Cons of Part-time Work

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I worked full-time at four different places for almost 1.5 years. (Full-time in each of them - 1 month in a bank, 9 months in an INGO, 3 months for an individual and 5 months for an NGO.) Currently, I'm working part-time in four different places - all at the same time. Recently a colleague had asked me, "Isn't full-time better than part-time?" Well, the truth is - it isn't a matter of one being better than the other. It's a matter of preference. Thus, in this post, I'll be highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of working part-time based on my personal experience.

Benefits of working part-time

  1. Flexibility: The best part of working part-time is the flexibility. You don't have to work the traditional 9-5. You have the discretion to choose when you want to work and when you don't. There is no fixed routine anymore. Every day you'll be doing something different.
  2. Optimum utilization of time: When you're working full-time you need to stay inside the office even in those days when you have no work. But, when you're working part-time, you can use that time in doing something else instead. Your time is used well.
  3. Chance to pursue your hobbies: Since you have added flexibility and more time, you have a chance to pursue your hobbies. In my case, I spend a lot of time reading, writing and watching movies. The time saved can be used to change your hobbies into your skills and strengths.
  4. Benefit of variety. If you're following the same kind of routine every day and doing the same kind of work day in-day out, you're more likely to get dull and bored. When you work part-time, you'll be enjoying the advantage of variety as you'll be more keen, active and dynamic.
  5. Higher earning: Full-time job might give you additional benefits in the form of medical benefits and bonuses. However, if you compare the earning in terms of time you spend in a job then you're most likely earning more by working part-time.
  6. More contacts: Since you'll be working in more place than one, you're likely to have more contacts. You never know when these contacts will be a form of help for you.
  7. Development of multiple skills: If the jobs you're engaged in are of diverse nature then you get a chance to develop a variety of skills. On the other hand, working only in one position might limit your use of skills.
  8. Potential for full-time employment: Sometimes an organization can have a vacancy only for a part-time position. However, being associated in some ways to a big organization might increase your chances for working full-time in the same organization at some later date. The chances may be because the vacancy is advertised only internally or because your part-time experience has made you more knowledgeable of the work you'll be doing.
  9. Determining the best option: We don't always know what kind of job we wish to do or what kind of organization we'd prefer to work in. Working part-time gives you a chance to explore your option and later choose the one that you love the most and suits you the best.
  10. Minding your own business. The best advantage of working part-time I've found is that you get a chance to mind your own business. When you work full-time then you're most likely to be affected by the behavior of your team members and colleagues. But, when you work part-time, you go to the workplace, do your work and stay indifferent to other's behaviors. 

Drawbacks of working part-time
  1. No additional benefits: In terms of payment, part-time staffs don't get all the benefits that full-time employees get. Furthermore, they may also miss out on training and development opportunities.
  2. Unstable earnings: When you're working part-time there might be a season when there's no work while some seasons you may be working to the max. Thus, earnings end up being unstable.
  3. A sense of non-belonging: When you're working part-time, you don't fully belong to an organization. You won't be a part of internal meetings and you may not even be invited for office dinners and programs. This might make you feel a little left-out. 
  4. Jack of all, master of none: If you're engaged in jobs that differ widely in nature then you might end up being a jack of all but master of none. Instead if you're devoting full-time to a particular kind of job then you're more likely to be an expert in that area.
  5. Stagnant growth. When you work full-time then you progress along the organizational hierarchy as your performance improves and higher level position opens up. But, working part-time might mean stagnancy in terms of career growth.
Whether you choose to work part-time or full-time depends a lot on your personality, preference and life situations. For the time being, I prefer working part-time because I'm in the phase of exploring options and developing skills rather than settling down, I'm also earning more this way and this gives me freedom in terms of time. I get a chance to work on my personal projects. This priority might change some day and your priority might be different than mine. All you need to know is there is no barometer that indicates one kind of job to be better than the other. Generally part-timers are not considered as highly as full-timers. For ages the society has been valuing 'getting a job that pays you fixed paychecks each month'. But, it's totally a matter of choice in terms of what you wish to pursue and you have the freedom to choose what suits you the best.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Focusing on the Product


Really? For how long?
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The Marketing Mix composes of 4 Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Out of the four Ps, in my last post, I discussed about how companies rely on cheap promotion like the senseless use of sex appeal to promote their product. In this post, I want to focus on the first P, i.e. the Product and let me limit my discussion to food companies.

When I was a child, there was a Nepali brand of biscuits that used to be very fresh, delicious and crispy. Now I prefer Indian biscuits because that Nepali brand has lost its original taste as well as quality. Their taste is either slightly musty or each piece of biscuit in the packet have dark edges making the biscuits taste bitter. I’ve experienced the same problem with a certain chocolate brand. When it was launched at first it was as good as Kit-Kat. You could purchase the taste of a Rs. 10 chocolate-covered wafer for Rs. 5. When I tasted the same chocolate-covered wafer a few years later, I was disappointed. This reminds me of the ever-increasing brand of noodles. The old noodle brands have diversified their product in terms of the offering in taste. Sadly, the product seems to have lost its original taste. The same holds true for bakery products. When the company is new then everything is so fresh and yummy. A year or two later, the product loses its quality. You begin to find pieces of egg-shells in fruit cakes and the cookies start to grow darker and bitter.

I haven’t been in those production factories or bakery kitchens to identify the exact reason for these kinds of changes in taste and quality over the years (or months, in some cases). However, based on conjecture there must be four reasons why these problems occur. First, the raw material that is being used for making the product may have deteriorated in terms of quality. Second, the quality standards might not be set. If they are set, then they are either not being followed or the quality testing methods and equipments are not available. And, if the quality monitoring methods and equipments are available and the standards are being followed then the standards set may not be very precise. For example, what colour should the biscuits manufactured be? Is it okay if every biscuit produced is burned to black at the edges? Third, the production machine might not have been repaired and maintained on a regular basis. It is obvious that if the input and processing device is out of order then the output cannot be what is expected. Fourth and the most important – these food production companies may have been too focused on pricing, promotion and distribution that the core product received no attention. No one really remembered to preserve the originality in taste and quality of these products.

Is it?
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As a consumer, I’ll try a new kind of food product if someone has told me it’s good. Otherwise, I may rely on the packaging to make that first decision. After the first taste, I’ll go back to the supermarket and buy the same food item again only if I like the taste. If at any point of time the product disappoints me then I’ll stop purchasing that product as long as there are other options available in the market. (I recently did that with one brand of cake that turned from being soft and sweet to hard and extra-sweet.) No one has a commitment towards any product. As soon as the companies decide to switch away from their originality and degrade their quality then there will be a group of conscious customers who will decide to switch away from the company’s offerings. At the end, it is the one who serves the best product on a consistent basis that earns loyal customers in the long-run.
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Senseless use of Sex Appeal


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On my journey back home along the roads of Golkhupakha to Gongabu there is a hoarding board of an advertisement above one of the roadside shops. In the ad, there are three girls in skimpy clothing. Whether they are the same girl or different ones, I couldn’t tell from a distance. And, then I wonder if it is perhaps the advertisement of a boutique or a clothes showroom that sells summer clothes for uptown girls throughout the season. As I take a closer look and scan at the wider length of the board, I see the name of a certain carpet at the bottom right corner of the advert. The funny thing is I never notice the carpet in the picture. (Not that I wouldn’t but because I couldn’t!) The only things I notice are her boots that is delightfully stepping on the carpet and her seductive pose.

In yet another advert, I can see a Nepali actress wearing a low-neck t-shirt exposing the dent in her cleavage, lying uncomfortably across a sofa and holding a phone by her ears. And, since t-shirt seems to be the only thing she’s wearing I can’t help but notice her clearly waxed legs in high heels. And then when I read the text that accompanies the picture I tell myself, “Ah! This is supposed to be some phone company and not the announcement of Nepal Fashion Week.”

I even saw a big picture of another Nepali actress beside the advert of an alcohol. I kept wondering what the hoarding board represented when it showed half the board with the face of a pretty girl smudged in make-up and the other half with a bottle of rum. Was the board trying to say “pretty girls drink” or “when you drink you become pretty”? Or was it trying to say “if you drink then pretty girls will admire you” or “you should drink because pretty girl says so”? I’m totally at a loss to comprehend!

Using sex appeal and pretty girls to promote a product is not wrong or uncommon. In fact, sex appeal serves the best purpose in the promotion of certain kind of products. Take for example, body spray, body lotion or hair removing creams. An ordinary guy that everyone ignores suddenly becomes the centre of attention of girls because he puts on a certain body spray. In fact, his neighbour is ready to cheat on her husband because of the aromatic pleasure she derives in his presence. It is completely fine and logical to show a girl exposing her thighs if she’s advertising a body lotion or a hair removing cream. Her smooth and gentle legs are the living proof of the effectiveness of the lotion or cream. While sex appeal is the underlying point of attracting the audience in these adverts, the major focus is still on the product. The underdog found hot chicks and the girl got her smooth legs due to the body spray and the body lotion respectively. When this message is translated in print, then a cool guy surrounded by girls can be holding the body spray and a girl can be resting her body next to a big image of the lotion. In both these cases, the focus of the image should, of course, be on the product and not the models!

If the focus of the advertisers is on ‘sex’, then at least use some ‘sense’.  I wonder how many people bought the carpet because they saw the girl in mini-skirt and high boots stepping on the carpet! I also wonder if people switched to that particular phone company because they showed a sexy Nepali actress using the same service. I chose their service only because it gave cheaper call rates to call to the US. These models are, in fact, taking away the focus from the product itself. Why not then focus on the chief utility and the competitive advantage of the product rather than exposing body parts of models that in no way adds any value to the product? I compare these adverts to mindless comedies that aren’t just a disgrace for the models but also for the product and services of the companies these models are posing for and the one who gave that kind of idea for such senseless tactic of promotion.
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Be Selfish!


I live in a world where altruism is demanded, respected and rewarded. Altruism means placing the welfare of others above one’s own welfare. The foundation of altruism lies in selflessness and it entails in sacrificing personal benefits for the benefit of a larger group. The opposite of altruism i.e. selfishness is, however, condemned and considered immoral. Being selfish is rated as petty, bad and immoral. But, just like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, I believe in selfishness. As far as your work life is concerned, you need to learn to be selfish. Selfishness, or rational self-interest (in the words of Ayn Rand) is a fuel that drives you to success and good work. It is what helps you stand for what you believe in and prevents you from being a doormat. I’ll clarify this statement with the use of three examples:

I teach and I teach because there are many benefits I derive out of teaching. Teaching helps me develop my skills – communication, public speaking, public handling and leadership. It also earns me good money, updates me on the subject I’m teaching and gives me free time as well as freedom. I do not teach because I believe my teaching is going to bring some kind of revolution and change the lives of the students. Yes, if I’m a good teacher then the students will benefit more than by being taught by a bad teacher. But, being a good teacher also offers benefits for me – better reputation and the chance to continue teaching in every semester. Thus, when my primary reason for teaching is my personal benefits then I will make it a point to teach well and my motivation for teaching will be internal. However, if I’m teaching for the sake of students then first thing I’ll want is approval. And, then I’ll have expectation for bigger rewards like respect and acknowledgement of my efforts. I might be overly ambitious and perhaps too accommodating. My motivation will disappear if the students show no enthusiasm in their studies. I’ll consider the whole process so unfair – I’m teaching for the greater welfare of the students and they just don’t care. I will take any harsh comment from the students very personally and might end up frustrated.

Let us now talk about writing. I write primarily because I can write and I have ideas I wish to share. When I write I’m satisfied because I’ll know I haven’t let the music in my heart die. It is a form of expression and relief for me. It is perhaps the only legacy I’ll leave behind. Thus, when I write for myself I will continue writing no matter what. But, if I start writing for the readers then the first thing I'll want is popularity among readers. I’ll want my subscribers to increase. I will be disappointed if my writings are unable to inspire anybody. I may even try to please everyone and in this process write things I don’t believe in. When I write selfishly, I’m not just being authentic but I’m also okay if no one chooses to read what I write. I won’t be upset when the subscriber and the visitor list don’t increase. There will surely be few articles where what I write and what the readers want to hear will collide.

Finally, let us think of the workplace. There will be two factors that have to mutually interact: the organizational objectives and our personal objectives. Whenever we’re hired in an organization then we’re a tool to achieve the organizational goals. But, why do we join the organization in the first place? We do it because we want to earn money or learn from experience that will help us further in finding a job that’ll pay us well. Or, we might be enticed by the designation and the power we get through affiliation. How many of us are thinking of the organizational objectives and its impact on the society in the first place? If we start caring more about the organizational development rather than our personal development then we’ll start to get frustrated when the decisions of the higher level managers cause the organization to deviate from its objectives. As long as we’re selfish, we’re fine working in the organization. When we start thinking of the greater good, our expectations rise thinking we should receive preferential treatment for the goodwill we harbour in our heart for the enterprise. To enhance our skills we devote ourselves to organizational learning, to increase our chances for future employment we take on challenges and overcoming them will be a thing to boast about in our CV, to earn money we work more hours and to retain the employment for basic survival we follow the organizational rules. At the end, it’s the selfishness that’s at the heart of all our work.

If I don’t teach then the students will have a different teacher and if I don’t write the world won’t fall apart. Similarly, if you don’t work in an organization then there will be someone else in your place. Since we’re all easily replaceable we might as well work for our own sake. The truth is others just don’t care about our actions. It doesn’t matter to them if we’re doing some grand act for their sake or in other words ‘we’re being altruistic’. All they care is how our actions affect their benefit. Therefore, if you want to succeed and be a practical-minded person in the workplace then be selfish. Work for yourself and your personal benefit. Don’t work for others and don’t idolize the concept of greater good. Selfishness may be condemned and may be looked at with vile eyes but being selfish eventually pays off through a better job performance and greater achievement.

See - even a book has been written about the virtues of selfishness!

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