2011 in review

January 1, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Leadership Breakdown

June 20, 2011

“Leadership is a state of being, constantly evolving; changing from the inside out and then again from outside in.” – Enfkay

Have you met or worked with people in key leadership positions who are charismatic, dynamic, supremely intelligent and have oodles of experience but who:

  • appear to be inconsistent in what they say
  • have selective listening
  • are never around when you need them the most or in most cases are inaccessible.
  • are constantly pre-occupied with a thousand things and you seem to be most often the last on their priority list.
  • are very concerned about being seen in the right circles, connecting with the right people.
  • call themselves ‘Strategic Thinkers’ / ‘Thought Leaders’ but often come up with only half baked ideas and expect you to fill in the gaps.
  • have an intense desire to be motivators, life coaches and mentors to other people around but appear to be restless themselves.
  • have created a brand for themselves no matter how hollow it might seem in retrospect.
  • refuse to get their hands dirty in the grime of work saying (if not in so many words) that with their kind of experience they should not be doing this sort of work or they have long past the stage of doing that kind of work.

If you have answered a YES to any of these questions it is indeed cause for concern to you as well as your organization and most importantly to the Leader in question. Most of these leaders are unaware of their behaviours and its impact on their immediate environment. Tragically it is seen that more prolific and well known the leader the more prone he / she is into falling into these traps or dysfunctional behaviour patterns.

As members of influence of the inner circle it then becomes your responsibility to directly or indirectly adopt means not just to ensure the smooth functioning of the organization but also to gently nudge the leader back on track. In order to do so it becomes imperative to have a better understanding of the various stages / levels in leadership and the traps that leaders might fall into at each stage / level.

Stage 1: The Unconscious Leader – A leader who is unaware of this true potential but displays all the characteristics of an influencer, role model and visionary.

Leadership Trap: Tends to remain in the background, may not utilize his full potential, may not purse goals / dreams with the required passion. Tends to be a tad bit unsure of himself and us very often overly self critical.

Corrective Measure: Needs to be shown the difference that he has made as a leader to people, teams and organization as a whole. Should be encouraged to take the fore front more often and lead larger teams openly.

Stage 2: Unconsciously Independent Leader – these leaders have risen to the position of power through years of dedication and hard work. They have made serious efforts to build a brand for themselves. They are in the news and headlines, are often quoted by the media and are in the constant limelight. These people often call themselves self made leaders who have worked hard to realize their dreams through persistence and hard work.

Leadership Trap: Personal Power serves as a trap door in this case. They do not realize that it was a large group / team of people, working behind the scenes who helped them reach the position there are in today in addition to their own efforts. Most leaders in this stage develop inflated egos due to the position they are in and the unprecedented amount of power they wield. Leaders in this position tend to become stubborn and are not very open to change. They prefer to do things in there own manner and do not like others telling them what and how to do things. It is seen that they often enjoy having the last word.

Corrective Measure: If remedial steps are not taken quickly at this stage, leadership is most likely to break down. Motivation of team members begins to dip, dissidence becomes common within the team and the team culture radically changes from an open and transparent one into a closed and authoritative one. The work environment is strained, misunderstandings and communication gaps become frequent and conflicts are on the rise.

The Leader needs to be made aware of his ‘Blind Spot,’ furthermore, he has to be sensitized on the importance of letting go and learning to take a step back. Personal credibility of the leader is maintained only when he learns to balance ambition consciously without trampling on the ambitions of his immediate team members. A classical example of Leadership failure at this stage is often seen in the Political Arena, wherein personal gains take precedence over societal welfare.

Stage 3: Consciously Independent Leader – This is a leader who has been in leadership position for an extensive period of time. Over time he has learnt to make quick, independent decision, is well aware of the consequences of his actions and is not just willing to take risks but becomes a ‘change champion’ within the organization. At this point in his career the leader is not very concerned about personal power and recognition – he has moved beyond that; now as a leader he aims at empowering his/her team and he defines success as a measure of his teams performance.

Leadership Trap: The leader at this stage begins to question his purpose in life and tries to find inner meaning in all his actions. Tragically, what he sees around him plunges him into depression and often feelings of being a failure take prominence as he feels that he has not made a significant impact on society in improving the quality of life. He wants to give back to society at large, but encounters bottlenecks in the form of corruption, dishonesty, complacency and indifference at every stage, which de-motivates him even further, questioning his efforts of making a difference. Self doubt is one of the biggest traps for a leader at this stage.

Due to inner changes and challenges the leader typically encounters a lot for problems with his family at this stage, as there is a paradigm shift in perception and wave length which many a time the family is unable to deal with. The leader prefers to spend time alone, finds socializing unnecessary and a waste of time. Typically the leader would want to spend every minute dedicated towards making a difference. It is at this stage that most leaders become very preachy which only has an adverse affect on everything around them, adding to their bucket of woes.

Preventive Measures: The only thing that will help the leader from falling into a trap at this stage is working without expectation, cultivating a non judgmental attitude, and deep insight into one’s current state of being. The leader has to learn to respect the fact that people around him might not be at the same level of develop as him. This is an exceptionally difficult phase in a leaders development and very few leaders make it through and move to the next level.

Stage 4: Consciously Dependent Leader – This is the highest level of development, which involves consciously crushing the ego and emptying one’s self completely. It is a time to unlearn everything assimilated over the years and walk the path of a ‘Leader without a face.’

It is a state of consciously becoming dependent on others, knowing very well that he is most likely to contribute much more if he worked on his own; but the time of individual gain and personal power are long gone. The leader realizes that he alone is nothing and must come down to the level of the common man to help others realize their true potential, for in it lies his true purpose. It is state of constant giving, without expectation, constantly working behind the scenes – a state of utmost humility.

‘Detached Attachment’ is the calling of this leader, being a part of everything, yet not being attached to any of it. This is what is called ‘Spiritual Leadership’ and sustained growth of an organization depends on it. There are just a handful of these leaders and it is almost impossible to meet them for they take great pains to fade into the background.

There are no traps for a leader in stage, the traps lie for the rest of us who are fighting hard to strike a balance between ambition and conscience.

It is important to note that, leaders  might not follow the stage wise sequential approach. There are a few leaders who jump levels and come to the final stage at a very young age, and then there are those who are constantly swinging back and forth between levels.

“The situation never changes, it is our perception of it that is constantly changing.”  – Enfkay

– Noor Fathima

(E):nf@dishacv.com / noor.fathima@gmail.com

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior – Book Review

June 12, 2011

“There are no Ordinary Moments. Life is a Moving Experience.”

There is a warrior in all of us waiting to rise when the occasion demands. Glimpses of this ‘hidden warrior’ are seen every now and then when life forces us to change, making our existence a matter of survival. Many have been the paths the warrior takes – from ruthless aggression to infinite peace; each battle telling a different story, hoping that lessons would be learnt for the goal always remains the same.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a simplistically written, brilliant piece of work. The true-life story of one man who choose against all odds to hear his inner calling by silencing the outer noise. The book chronicles the journeys of Dan Millman along with the teachings of his eccentric teacher ‘Socrates’. Filled with purpose, passion and intense energy the book hopes to awakening the warrior in all its readers.

Breaking through the ‘web of illusion’ the master takes the young pupil to the very edge of the universe confronting him with the paradox of life, looking beyond the obvious, seeking what is truly immortal. It is in the non-existence of form that life truly exists. Leaps of Awareness bring with them the realization that, ‘the body of consciousness’ does not reside in the physical form but is an entity that is constantly expanding with every living thing – it cannot be contained by anything or anyone, only experienced.

The secret of becoming a ‘Peaceful Warrior’ lies then in experiencing every emotion in its entirety and immediately letting go of it. It is the attachment to objects, feelings and sentiments that has become the bane of mankind. ‘Stress happens when the mind resists what is.’

Through the prophetic teachings and constant experiments of his master, Millman faces death several times only to be reborn again and again to embark upon the journey truly becoming a ‘living being.’ It is after having lost everything, that Millman finally realizes that, ‘happiness, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.’ Happiness is indeed a full tank and Joy a way of life.

In his final lesson Socrates teaches Millman that ‘the peaceful warrior’s way is not about invulnerability, but absolute vulnerability.’ Unless you open your heart to the universe completely you will never experience what it is to come alive. Always ‘give people what they want until they want what you give them.’

The book appeals to all age groups, its intent to bring the ‘dead back to life’; for people have long forgotten what it is to LIVE! A book that encourages you to ‘lose your mind just so that you can come back to your senses once again.’


– Reviewed by Noor Fathima

How to measure the performance of a BA?

June 9, 2011

Further to the interesting panel discussion on measuring the performance of a BA during the BA World, at Bangalore, India, I thought I would like to add my ideas / thoughts on how the performance of a BA can actually be measured – from a BA and an HR perspective.

My thoughts are that one needs to measure performance and potential. Any performance measurement generally follows an approach where you measure against results, and the potential is measured against competencies.

Performance measurement for a BA therefore has two options.

  1. Measuring the CSAT score (The BA is responsible for this directly)
  2. Measuring the number of times a BRD is modified during the validation stage

A third option that may also be looked at is as given below, though I believe that the two above is quite adequate and clear is measuring the number of times a sponsor is unable to make a decision when the BRD is submitted for final inspection

When it comes to potential, we have the 53 competencies from the IIBA or the Eight Competencies Model as given by Glenn Brule. Organizations could also consider their own appropriate mix that uses parts of this framework and define the levels of competencies that are desired.

Based on the above – it should be easy to design an assessment tool to measure the performance of a BA.

Would be happy to know what you think.

The Business Case for Mergers

April 23, 2011

Inorganic Growth – Why?

Fundamentally, acquisitions create value when they enhance the strategic capabilities of both the companies, improving the competitive capabilities of either or both, resulting in improved financial results. There are companies that on their own probably would not be able to make it, but when combined, are able to create a better set of products and services than could have been otherwise provided to the market.

Acquisitions can help grow a company’s market position faster than internal development strategies. It can also provide a way to bring in new capabilities and leverage existing ones that would be difficult without the synergy of an acquisition.

Mergers and acquisitions are being used by firms to strengthen and maintain their position in the market place. They are seen as a relatively fast and efficient way to expand into new markets, and acquire new and useful technologies.

The main objectives for mergers and acquisitions could be summed up as below:-

  • Horizontal mergers for market dominance or economies of scale
  • Vertical mergers for efficient channel control
  • Hybrid mergers for spreading risk, cutting costs, creating synergies, or could also be a defense mechanism to survive against competition
  • Growth for global reach
  • Survival by developing a critical mass
  • Acquisition of cash, deferred taxes, or even excess debt capacity
  • Acquire a bigger asset base to leverage borrowing
  • Top line growth objective, financial gains and personal power
  • Adding a core competency to provide more combinations of products and services
  • To acquire talent, knowledge, and technology (lately, this is becoming a very important reason)

These objectives arise as a consequence of the following changes in the business scenario.

  1. Globalization
  2. Outsourcing
  3. Speed of growth
  4. Shorter product life cycles

Regardless of the reasons companies have for merging, there are some basic assumptions that are being made, and these include:-

  • Mergers and Acquisitions are the fastest and easiest ways to grow
  • Mergers and Acquisitions are likely to fall short of their initial goals
  • Mergers and Acquisitions are difficult to do
  • Creating synergies is a major challenge
  • Shaping and adapting cultures is a major challenge
  • Due diligence is necessary but not sufficient
  • Pre-planning can help increase chances of success

The merger climate is mainly governed by financial, strategic, and psychological motives, and the following specific factors, individually or collectively, can be considered to have facilitated or promoted the current wave of merger activity.

  1. Changing market conditions
  2. Increasing availability of capital
  3. More companies for sale
  4. Easing of regulations
  5. The need to share risk
  6. The existence of complex indivisible problems

Acquisition strategy has been described as an area of corporate strategy where inappropriate mathematical theory and a yearning for greener grass, has prevailed over common sense2.

The objective of a merger and acquisition is to produce advantages for both the buying and selling companies, that is, the resultant entity should be greater than the sum total of the individual entities, that is

Value (A+B) > Value (A) + Value (B)

Motives behind Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and Acquisitions are considered to be rational financial and strategic alliances made to benefit the organization and its shareholders. Literature (Napier, 1989) suggests that merger motives are financial (value maximizing) in nature, or, in many cases, managerial (non-value maximizing) too. However, these two are often related. Besides these ways of presenting the benefits to the shareholders, there are some unrecognized psychological motives too, often initiated to satisfy the needs of an individual or a small group of individuals, rather than the long-term benefit to the organization. Some senior managers are motivated to instigate a takeover to be recognized as people with high desires to grow the organization and looking for new opportunities, and as an action against their own fear of obsolescence (Levinson, 1995). Out of a feeling of insecurity of their job, many mergers have thus been instigated. Career moves, egotistical needs to wield power, and empire building attitudes have been other un-stated psychological motives that have prevailed over the rational motives.

Categories of Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers fall into four general categories – rescue, partnership, adversarial, and hostile takeover. In each category the resistance levels between the people of the two organizations are quite different – from full cooperation to complete resistance.

A rescue is a response to a financial assistance call, and hence the acquiring organization is normally looked upon in a positive light.

A partnership category, where most mergers take place, is when both parties actively desire to combine.

The adversarial situation is when only one firm has a strong inclination in the deal and the two parties invariably want different kinds of deals.

The maximum resistance is faced when there is a hostile takeover, when one party is actively trying not to go ahead with the deal.

The characteristics of the mergers in these different categories are as given below:-

  • Rescue
    • Major weakness in operations or management
    • Top management generally requested to leave
    • Requires tremendous attention by the acquiring firm to retain key employees
    • Cooperation tends to be high between companies
    • Significant issues often overlooked in the negotiations, compromises made later on
    • Management foes not have to sell the benefits of the deal
  • Partnership
    • Surprises or strong hand tactics are scarcely used
    • Goodwill and respect prevails
    • Top management is positive about the deal, but forgets to sell the benefits to the employees
    • Once the financial deal is concluded, management forgets the integration details
    • Communication is the key to the organization’s acceptance of the deal
    • Management packages and agreements with the key employees is critical
  • Adversarial
    • Negotiations become aggressive
    • Typical barrier of one against the other
    • Win-win situation needs both parties to work at it
    • The management of the acquiring company holds a better position
    • Job security issues intensify as uncertainty prevails during negotiations, with talks of layoffs and closures start coming out
    • Productivity drops significantly and resistance rises before the actual closure of the deal
  • Hostile Takeover
    • Communication cannot overcome gossip and internal coffee-table talk
    • Animosity high and left behind by the acquired company
    • Win-lose atmosphere exists
    • Key talent invariably are the first to leave
    • Human resource failures are dominant

One – Changing the World from Inside Out

April 22, 2011

Human beings have lost the ability to connect not just with each other but with themselves as well and the outcome of this is seen in everything and everyone around us. Large organisations collapsing over night, attrition at an all time high, natural calamities are on the rise, maximum number of species have become extent in the last 25 years than any other time…human beings have forgotten what it is to live in harmony with themselves and nature.

It is at this juncture of human evolution that Noj Hinkins brings forth one of the most powerful books on reconnecting to the source of everything – ONE. Interwoven with facts and figure, case studies and soul searching questions the books taps into the essence of ‘being’ – appealing to the scientist and philosopher in all of us.

At the heart of the book is the ‘Zero Point Field’ theory simplified and broken down into easy steps. The theory talks about tapping the score of intuition often called the ‘sixth sense’ and using it as a guiding force to achieve whatever you want in life. The process includes shutting out ‘noise’ at three levels: (i) Outer Noise (ii) Inner Noise and (iii) Paradigm Noise. Fear it appears is our biggest attention divider, which spins webs and complex mind games causing a disconnect within ourselves and everything around us.

Hinkins, throughout the book emphasizes and re-emphasizes that we are connected to everything in the universe, there is no difference we are one with the cosmos. However, it is faulty behaviour patterns adopted by man to survive in the self-created rat race that focuses on individual differences creating a hierarchy of inferior to superior beings, which has become our fundamental problem.

He talks about realigning ourselves by looking into the depths of our soul and questioning our true purpose of being. A book that is guaranteed to send the readers on a ‘Vision Quest.’ The exercises, in the form of questions at every point in the book helps the reader re-examine his life’s goals at different milestones.

It appears that finding ‘Fierce Love’ (as the author would call it) is the ultimate resonance that leads to deeper levels of awareness, acceptance, non judgmental thinking and supreme confidence in following your ‘call’ connecting with the universe in all its forms creating a state of ‘being.’

‘One’ is a book not to be read at a stretch but practiced over time…till you are ONE!

The book comes highly recommended to all those on the path of reconnecting and understanding their true purpose. The readers would find the book powerful and effective only if they spend time doing the exercise, otherwise it would be just another so-called ‘self improvement’ book. The author has created a fantastic ‘log’ at the end of the book which encourages readers to share and pass the book on to others – an innovative way of creating a chain of connectedness and oneness.

-Reviewed by Noor Fathima

Gen Y Views on Leadership

April 22, 2011

During my travel and speaking to a variety of GenY people who have been gainfully employed, on their views of what is the kind of leader that they would like to work for, I got a few answers that I thought was worth discussing.

They highlighted the following traits that they would look for.

  1. Lead with the Heart

It is necessary that the leader puts their heart and head together. Accomplishing extraordinary things, calls for extraordinary work. Leaders must put forth objectives that they believe in, so that they can live it. They need to recognize the work put in by the team members. All members of the team must be treated fairly for what they contribute. Leaders should mark and celebrate accomplishments and make the members feel like heroes.

  1. Get a “buy-in” on the vision

If leaders can lead with the heart, this would be possible. Leaders must communicate in a way that the vision or the objective is accepted by all the team members. They must set an inspiring objective, which members would like to align to. While the organization would like to focus on the bottom line, the leaders must not lose sight of the building of human capital. This could happen only with a shared vision that focuses on people which in turn could generate results.

  1. Walk the talk

Leaders need to walk the talk. People like to follow the leaders who model the roles that they would like their team members do. When leaders practice what they preach, they get their message across quickly and effectively. After all, they are seen as “mentors” and the team is dependent on what they see, so that they can emulate the behaviors and build a strong team. Finally it is “team work” that makes things happen in any organization. It is necessary that the leader not only guides the rowing of the boat, but also shows how it is done. Leading and doing have to be in alignment. They should create standards of excellence by example, for the team to follow. Leaders should not only be able to put up signposts to direct the team, but also roll up their sleeves and get under the hood, when people are not clear on what or how to do things.

  1. Challenge the process

Leaders should be willing to challenge the way things are being done and look for different ways to be able to do better. They should be willing to change. The pace at which things are moving is so fast that there is a constant need to adapt. While it is necessary to have some processes, leaders must be willing to challenge them and seek newer ways of doing things and constantly moving ahead on the learning curve. The “what was good yesterday is good for tomorrow” is not something that can be considered true any longer.

  1. Enable action from others

Leaders need to create an environment where others are empowered to act. They need to create an environment where team members can experiment and try new things. They need to provide support for innovation. They should be seen as supportive to help build spirited teams that can work in collaboration. Leaders must establish a climate of mutual respect, if they want to see sustained extraordinary efforts by their teams. They must create an environment that build trust, which strengthens the team members and make people feel capable.