Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Mentoring - the short cut road to Organizational Culture

Mentoring has been a sure safe method for perpetuating culture in prime educational institutions, particularly Engineering Colleges, Medical Colleges or the Management Institutions. In schools, that are referred to by their students, with pride and love, you will always note that there is an undercurrent of strong mentoring influences, by teachers, as well as the senior students. Alumni and students of many such institutions will be communicating to each other in social forums, discussing issues from school festivities to parliamentary debates. We can see distinct patterns of cultural trends in such casual talk. In organizations similarly, mentoring can be an effective and fast method to nurture the organizational culture. 

Mentoring can be formally and consciously resorted to by senior management. Alternatively, the organization may promote an informal but enthusiastic mentoring by the senior employees, out of camaraderie and good will. 

Mentoring is not training. Sometimes organizations will confuse mentoring with training. In an effort to mentor, they may schedule for regular and unnecessary management trainings. Technical subject experts, programmers or analysts would do well to opt for technical trainings rather than ambiguous management work-shops. Mentoring is not training; it is definitely a learning process, however, unlike a training, in mentoring the relationship is two way and both the mentor and mentee have the collaborative responsibility of the progress of the mentee. 

The prime attributes of mentoring are the responsibility and accountability of the parties involved and the defined or understood goals of the mentee. Consider for example the Indian Institutes of Technologies. The mentors and mentees know that the mentee must attain a level of technical skill and proficiency and professional attitude. The acumen to excel is a goal understood and decided between the mentor student guide and his mentees. This mutual understanding of the need of the new student, makes it easy for the mentor show his mentor how to go about academic goal-setting in a disciplined and focused manner. 

At work, in an organization too, mentoring is about being able to get the new recruit to be able to focus his abilities to achieve the best results. Both the mentor and mentee must understand the abilities of the mentee, special and unique from those of his other colleagues. Accordingly, both mentor and mentee could collaborate to find the strategy for the new employee to give his best to the organization.The mentor will also help to quickly introduce the new joinee to those non-formalized conventions and practices that go to define the distinct flavor of each corporate organization.

The modern day organizations depend hugely on team work. Mentoring is one of the ways to ensure that friction from lack of understanding of the company culture is avoided. Usually, senior members from a different team or the same team can come in handy for such roles of mentors. 

An employee, who has had a good mentor at the onset of his professional career, will usually turn out to be a better mentor than one who had no such experience. It is like blessings, easy to pass on, once you have been at the receiving end.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Managerial Ethics

 A personal anecdote on the question of Managerial Ethics

A few years back, when working as middle level manager for a team that was critical to the business of the organisation, I had an occassion when I had to swallow a bitter pill handed down by my boss. There was a question of ethics involved and I was at a fix to know, how I would decide my stand in the context of the honesty of my execution of the orders, whether I would take it at a circumstantial level or hold an absolutist point of view?

Looking back now, when the scenario has undergone some changes - both at the organisational level and also globally, the question poses new dimensions for consideration.

To give you a little more insight into the case, consider this: Management decides to give the pink slip to an employee, working satisfactorily for nearly 2 years in the capacity he is currently employed in, on the ground that he was an associate of an ex-manager, and continuing to have close, personal contact with the same and hence a potential confidentiality threat to business. This concerned person was however employed in a role that did not expose him to much business critical information, and therefore other than apparent reasons of official rivalry I could find little ethical justification for the decision.

About a couple of years thence and after the economic slowdown it now appears that for the employee and for the organisation it was a correct decision. The employee in question was a few notch less in academic qualification compared to the average requirement for the position he was working in. He was already earning pretty good compared to his qualifications, which was due to the skills he had mastered in the 2 years of employment. But further prospects of growth in the organisation were limited. In fact with the organisation growing at a fast pace, and new HR policies being put in place, upgraded technical qualifications were required for new recruits, which meant tough challenge for the less qualified older employee. Given two months paid leave, the employee stood a good chance to find a new placement, which incidentally he did. As he competed for a job that asked no more than the qualifications he already had; with his acquired skills his transition and later growth was less bumpy. It may not have been meteoric, but he happily survived any downsizing.

The case stands as has been stated. My question to you is this, does the right decision for the wrong reasons reflect wrongly on the team manager (in this case me) work values?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Motivate by paying more?

Better Packages to woo your work-force?

When I look back upon my years with the x-team and think of motivation, I realize that unknowingly I was doing the right thing for my team and role, by trying to increment the minimum salary level to a higher level.

The IT industry work-force is not one that would fit into the lower rung of the need hierarchy. They are tech-savvy and information oriented - meaning always aware and seeking updates through all channels and knowing how to use it too. They need money and the news of more money, by and by.

So you have to give them a package that is not unfitting to the industry standard and you have to give them the promise of more. The implements to make that happen too.

However, that process cannot be slow, because there are other takers out there.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taking Ownership

Emergency at work, and Employee Ownership

Organisations having maintenance teams - for that matter any team, and specially maintenance teams, should be careful as to avoid ambiguity on the concept of "Emergency". The employees should never suffer from fuzzy ideas on what is a situation that may demand on-your-alert attitude from them.

Oftener than not, management, in order to wring out the optimum output of their staff, loose focus and tend to think 'maximum' is 'optimum'. That keeps a constant alarm ringing in the work domain. Staff, in order to be on their toes, tire themselves and end up squatting.

Whereas, if with some linear thinking, management takes a perspective view of the situations, where not only immediate but always the future target are in sight, the work is never to be looked upon as a load-till-the-shift-ends! It is a flow, a perpetual and buoyant raising of skills and spirits together. When emergencies do happen, as they are rare, staff do not need to be prompted on the do's- and -don'ts. That comes as a matter of-course, from raised adrenalin flow, and individuals do not need to fight stress to  restore equilibrium to the system. That is what is all about Ownership, and building a right environment enabling employees to take Ownership.

Another interesting read: 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Collaborative Processes

 This is all about some Canteen talk

The Canteen is the place the HR should visit often. He should not be conspicuous and should know to mingle without his corporate garb.

That is where he will get the feedback that he takes so much trouble to collect through unavailing surveys and ceremonious workshops!

Overheard over the toast and butter. " What do you think? 'Tis process for people or people for process?"

The speakermeant, whether processes should be built keeping in perspective the people, who were to make those processes work?

Oftener and in this case too I think, the process seemed to be some sort of an extra-curricular super-system, self-running and grinding on the people for whom it was designed, to mean efficiency and to mitigate breaches.

But what loss! The purpose never permeated to the people, for whom it was designed. It only meant extra-load, for that was how it got implemented!

First lesson, good processes need to be developed for the people, by the people. When employees do not see themselves as stake-holders in the new system, success chances are reduced.

Processes that are designed by the employees, come through first as a matter of practice and then documenting that. So by the time it is documented, it is established as the organisation's (and that is the employees) culture. Meanwhile, through practice it is also perfected, weeding out any impractical frills that may have been planned.

This lesson is one we all learn, but as HR and Managers tend to forget. Out to implement new systems, we put it down on paper first and then rule with the stick to seek compliance. So it is a long way of coercion before the process buys allegiance and reaps 100% the benefits sought.