Admitted to the hospital with severe injuries from a gas explosion, Anjan keeps meeting Savio, a friend from his childhood. In the interactions, Savio holds up the moral mirror for Anjan to come face to face with the private demons from his past.
The explosion unearths a long lost letter which explodes his relationship with his wife Jaya.
“From Jaya’s diary: What do you say when all that which gave meaning to your life lie broken and anguished in the space-time continuum which was once your own?”
Fault Lines is part of my forthcoming book, ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me @ email@example.com
In Ashtami Sujit, a Junior Clerk in the British administration in Calcutta, with his young wife Bina, is forced to migrate to distant and dusty Delhi as the capital of the British Raj shifts. Shanti, born of a forcep delivery process gone horribly wrong, comes into their lives, physically and mentally challenged.
“Shanti sat there in the engulfing darkness desperately holding his dying brother’s hand. A low pitched moan emanated from him; a sound of utter helplessness that ricocheted on the closed doors and windows of the nearby houses, and failing to open them, got lost into the night…”.
Ashtami is part of my forthcoming book, ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
As we Reboot and enter a world with a new normal, we need to know that Uncertainty and Unpredictability would be part of that normal.
A great tool to use in under Uncertainty and Unpredictability is the OODA Loop, first articulated by US Colonel John Boyd in the context of air combats. In its simplest form it consists of the four stages of OBSERVE, ORIENT, DECIDE and ACT, looped as under.
OODA Premises :
When circumstances change, we often fail to shift our perspective and instead continue to try to see the world as we feel it should be. We need to shift our “mind models” to make sense of the changing world – in order to deal with the new reality.
As we make specific observations about something, we would experience more uncertainty about another; this is the limitation of our ability to observe reality with precision.( Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle).
Closed Systems viz. individuals or organizations that are cut off from the outside and new information would experience increasing mental entropy or disorder ( Second Law of Thermodynamics)
I propose to use an Airline, it could be Indigo, Air India or even Emirates, to showcase the OODA tool.
A more detailed model of the OODA Loop is shown below.
Stage -1 Observe :
We must focus on external parameters and quickly filter out what is important. In this data collection stage we seek and absorb and evaluate all manner and forms of data to gain a more accurate insight.
What shifts in demography, buyer behaviour, traveller behaviour, Regulations and Technology are taking place that might directly affect our airline?
What changes in the environment are taking place that might impact our airline and its business? Now or later on?
What information do we have in terms of : (1) Routing options (2) Capacity deployment (3) Alliance opportunities (4) Marketing strategy (5) Gross revenue, costs and profits.
Mechanics of Observe: As we consider new information based on above questions, our minds move from being closed to becoming an open system. We thus start forming new mind models and gain the ability to “see” the emerging situation differently. We overcome confusion inducing mental entropy of closed systems.
Stage- 2 Orient :
Orient is the heart of the OODA Loop because that’s where our mental models exist, our mental models shape how everything in the OODA Loop works.
So how does one orient oneself in a rapidly changing environment?
We constantly have to do “destructive deduction” i.e. break apart our old paradigms and then do “Creative Induction” by using these old fragments to form new mental concepts that more closely align with what is really happening around us.
In the context of shifting customer profile, buying and travelling behaviours, how do we :
3. In view of shifting customer mindset relating to travel, how do we :
(a) Optimise route network?
(b) Deploy Capacity on routes?
(c) Enter into alliances with other airlines and associated service providers?
(d) Marketing partnerships with hotels, ground transportation, destination services?
4. In view of emergence of new regulatory frameworks,how do we:
(a) Engage with and support Governments and Regulatory authorities for creating worldwide / regional standards for hygiene and operations?
(b) Ensure an overall smooth and consistent customer experience?
Mechanics of Orient: We formulate new approaches using refreshed mental models and paradigms. As we analyze the data collected in the Observe stage, we deep dive into our business’ internal capabilities to assess our current reality.
Stage-3 Decide :
We choose among the various alternatives generated in the Orient stage to move forward with our best hypothesis viz. “possibility” about which mental model(s) will work.
What booking process will we roll out to inspire customer confidence in terms of fairness and transparency in pricing, adherence to regulations and ease of use and refunds?
What Airport Check-in process should we implement which will ensure ease of passenger handling, customer comfort, adherence to safety protocols, improved operational efficiency and aircraft turnaround time?
What routes, frequency and aircraft capacities should we deploy?
What internal resource group do we need to create to work with Governments and Regulators to ensure smooth, consistent and safe customer experience?
What Alliances and Marketing partnerships have we shortlisted?
Mechanics of Decide : As we start deciding on the courses of action, we need to be aware that Success or failure will be based on our competences, our practised experience and the quality of our observations and orientation. For every trip around the OODA loop, new data will be transformed into new information, driving new suggestions, giving us opportunities to modify our decisions and drive subsequent actions.
Stage – 4 Act (Test) :
Why “Test” has been put next to “Act,” is to emphasise that the OODA Loop is not only an execution decision process, but also a learning system; we get to perpetually test our new hypotheses in a shifting world. Action stage is where we find out if our mental models are correct. If they are, we achieve the objective; if they aren’t, then we start the OODA Loop again using our newly observed data and modified models.
Evaluation and reporting of the following parameters:
Revenue and Expense accounting
Interline billing of alliance partner airlines
Proration and fare audit
Loyalty and marketing program effectiveness
Mechanics of Act: . Making a decision and taking action will have an impact on the data you have observed, which drives the information you’ve created and influences the decisions you have made.The loop perpetuates until the opportunity is fully resolved by either completion or disengagement.
How we could use OODA Looping speed ( tempo) to gain competitive advantage:
In an uncertain and volatile environment, mission does not solely end with deploying the OODA loop effectively. It is also about how relevant our organisation ( airline) can remain in comparison to other airlines under constantly shifting parameters.
An organisation should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than its competitors or, preferably, get inside the competitor’s decision time cycle ( OODA Loop) to gain an advantage.
Analytics: Our Airline system generates a large volume of data at a very high velocity. How could we use Analytics to collate and analyse this data in the subsequent looped Observe (1) and Orient (2) stages ?
How could we synchronise our pre-departure processes like Check-in, flight operations, airport operations, transit services, post travel issues etc.with real time shifts in market conditions and own performance?
How could we do inventory based dynamic pricing upto flight departure to force competitors review their pricing strategy ( Observe & Orient stages)?
Mechanics of Looping Speed ( Tempo)
By continuously collecting, connecting and testing data that is generated the airline would create a data repository for use in any phase of its decision process (Strategic or Tactical). This would also enable an upstream and downstream impact analysis of all decisions.
How can you apply the OODA Loop to your own domain and business? Feel free to reach out to me.
Acknowledgement: The Tao of Boyd: How to Master the OODA LoopByBrett & Kate McKay, May, 2019
There is going to be a post Pandemic world. That is a certainty. What is also certain is that the post Pandemic world would require significantly different perspectives and competence set.
“The one thing I’ve personally learned is you’ve got to get ahead of the curve, don’t try to deny it or put your head in the sand, and wish for the best. These are the times when a culture and an organization gets tested”
– Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage
There is going to be a post Pandemic world. That is a certainty. What is also certain is that the post Pandemic world would require significantly different perspectives and competence set; we would come to live in a world with a new normal.
The pandemic is a black swan event. What that implies is that none of us have faced anything like it before. What happens when we are confronted with something about which we know nothing about? We become like the caveman in the dark of the night, neither able to see the path to the safety of our cave nor know whether a saber tooth is lurking nearby waiting to pounce. Neurochemicals flood our brain, we become geared to fight or take flight.
In the present day context, a black swan event leads to our primal brain conditioning kicking in. We get drawn into the uncertain and the total lack of knowledge aspects of the event. The more we try, the more we fail to make sense. We feel dis-empowered, make assumptions and frequently adopt high risk strategy without much thought or evaluation. When we fail we are quick to blame the VUCA (the volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) inherent in the environment. In short we are disrupted.
Why do we get disrupted? Because we keep on trying to predict what would happen in the future. We keep on working with probabilities. But since a black swan event has no precedence, allowing no experience from our past to guide us, we fail.
In a post pandemic world, we need to shift into a mindset of possibilities.
I invite you to do this practise for just one hour a week. During this hour, unplug yourself from the present. Unplug from all your existing challenges and apprehensions. Unplug from your inherent belief system which is telling you that once things normalise, you would go back to how things were in the past. This is where the fallacy lies and you need to be aware of that.
Then plug yourself into the future. How do you do that? You do that by establishing hard trends about which you do have significant certainty and do know some facts.
You make three lists.
The first list is of all things you are certain of.
The second list is of all those things and aspects which you know, which are part of your competences.
The final list is of all things you can do.
This very act of making these lists would shift your mindset and open up possibilities. This leaves you empowered, you evaluate to choose low risk strategy, thereby gaining confidence and focus. As you succeed, you become a disruptor in the new world.
As you practise, you would become more proficient to determine the hard trends. You would become Anticipatory as you develop the capacity for future back thinking. You stand in the created future and look back to establish what actions and strategy you need to work on today to make the future happen.
How might you deliver business and revenue goals, organisational growth and marketplace success in a post pandemic environment?
How would you make sense of what might put brakes on organizational velocity in the post pandemic environment and how to un-brake?
How might you get high performance from team members in the uncertainty of the post pandemic world ?
What is that which blocks you from achieving professional success? What practices could you adopt to remove such blocks and maximise your potential?
‘Your limitation – it’s only your imagination’
Are you aware of what professional success would look like for you in terms of your performance, career and life ? What is that which blocks you from achieving professional success? What practices could you adopt to remove such blocks and maximise your potential?
Maximising our professional success is never about what impacts us but our response to that. We never see the world as it is, we see it and respond to it as it occurs for us.
We remain unaware that our listening ( or for that matter seeing, understanding, interpreting) is not an empty vessel, not a blank slate. We assume that whatever someone says to us (that is, what enters our ears) registers in our listening (lands for us) exactly as it was said. This is never so and this is what constrains and distorts our perceptions and actions.
Professional Success is thus really about creating a context that could empower you towards a future that you would like to achieve. What could be the elements of such a context?
Professional Success is also about moving up the effectiveness ladder in terms of how you contribute viz. Doing it under supervision to doing it independently to doing it through others to setting a strategic direction. As you move up in this manner, your contribution expands in terms of your influence, perspective,complexity and impact.
To maximise your professional success I invite you to deliberate and try and answer the following.
What mental attitude and skills would you need to develop to be able toprogress through the above stages?
What kind of a risk-taking style do you have and how does it support your development? How could you change your risk-taking style in order to further increase your effectiveness?
What patterns do you see among those with whom you have the strongest relationships? What patterns do you see among those with whom you do not have the strongest relationships, or any at all?
Think about a person in your network with whom you have a strong relationship. What can you leverage in your relationship with this person to help you build or strengthen your relationship with others?
Choose one key person inside your network who, if you had a stronger relationship, could better support your effectiveness. What is the benefit of improving this relationship? What is the cost if you don’t? What if anything is getting in the way?
Choose one key person outside your network who, if you had a stronger relationship, could better support your effectiveness. What is the benefit of improving this relationship? What is the cost if you don’t? What if anything is getting in the way?
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
We remain days away from entering a brand new decade.
A hundred years back, it was called the roaring twenties. An era of economic boom. What kind of twenties are we going to have this time?
I invite you to ponder on the above as also these questions. How would work change? What would create wealth? How would the exponential growth in 24 X 7 human connectivity through social media impact us and our lives?
We are into a world which is changing at an ever increasing pace. We need to continually become someone or something we never were before.
So what happens when we continually become someone or something we never were before? We feel discomfort, fear, uncertainty; we are on edge. How we feel impacts how we act, how we work. So being on edge with negative feelings as above leads to loss of creativity, inability to take risks, loss of productivity and engagement. And herein lies the danger of becoming someone or something we never were before. I call this the Change Trap.
So what could we do to avoid the Change Trap? Since it is difficult to control our feelings, we need to see how we could shift its impact on how we act, how we perform. One way of doing this is to focus inwards – into the kind of changeless core that we are and what makes us tick. Our big vision about the world and our self, our competences, our passions and our relationships.
In the New Year, I invite you to do this practice for just the first fortnight to empower yourself and avoid the Change Trap. Write down the following in your diary every day for 15 days before you go to bed.
When you were at your best today, what were you doing?
When you saw your energy going up, what were you involved in ?
When you felt happy helping someone, what did you do?
Should you persevere with this practise for a fortnight, you will notice how its impact changes your life and the world around you!
I wish you Merry Christmas and a lovely 2020 ahead.
As we get set to usher in a brand new
2019, I would like you to reflect on the following.
What could we do in a
fast changing and complex world that would satisfy issues faced by our team? How could we develop
our relational intelligence to gain traction with stakeholders? How could we construct a dynamic game plan to
get our organisation shift from the present to the created future?
What if I
told you that the key to each of the above questions lies in one specific
aspect of our own personality?
this some more, let me tell you my own story.
As the business head, I was the top dog in the organisational hierarchy. I felt cocooned by the warm comfort of managers, supervisors and executives being there to do my bidding. Somewhere along the way, this ‘being there’ feeling changed into a ‘better than’ mindset. And this is when my leadership problems started.
I began to think of myself as superior. I thought that as a Leader I had to be! And this led to my being arrogant. Over time this became my garb. ‘I had to use every opportunity to make all these little people understand that I was simply better than they were!’ I could just not afford not to know everything there was to know. So the arrogance led to my being inauthentic. Worse, the decision making increasingly started bordering on ‘my way or highway’. For accepting an outside possibility would undermine me would it not! This of course led to my becoming isolated.
inauthenticity and isolation started eating into the organisation’s openness
and team work. And when this impacted overall performance, the blame game hit
the roof. With me of course doing most of the blaming!
point came with the plummeting organisational performance. It took the shape of
The advent of Self Awareness in me that “I
need to curb this feeling of superiority that rears its head every time I
Getting my hands dirty by adopting a ‘walking and talking’ leadership style
and thereby becoming curious about people, not results.
Practicing the Attitude of Gratitude, realizing how fortunate I have been in receiving
support of others inspite of my shortcomings.
Leading with Generosity by
jettisoning the fear of being taken advantage of. Realizing that even though I
would be taken advantage of, that would
be better than being closed to openness and possibilities.
So in the
New Year, what could each one of us do as leaders to jettison our superiority
mindset and arrogance?
Yesterday I got a call from the Training Manager of a leading pharmaceutical company. She wanted to know how a Leadership program could support the sales personnel to perform better.
“I do understand the importance of Leadership in rewriting the future of an organisation”, she said to me. “But to a sales guy all this seems airy fairy stuff with no value. What he needs are tools and techniques which would allow him to effectively close some prospects and achieve his target.”
“So would that imply that the Sales personnel, in-spite of their selling experience and closeness to customers, are falling short of organisational expectations?” I asked.
“Well that is what the corporate guys in Head Office seem to think”, the training manager confided.
I did not have the heart to tell her that the solution lay not in new tools and techniques but a shift in how and what shows up when confronted with a business challenge. And that in essence is what leadership is all about.
For a start, we need to un-hinge our self from a “fixated to the past” mindset. To do that we need to first understand what this “fixated in the past” mindset is all about.
Our brains are hardwired to view an emerging situation through the lens of our past experiences. What is merely needed is copy paste what worked in the past to find a solution in the future. We are thus conditioned to believe that a person with a ten year sales experience would perform better than someone with lesser experience.
But what the above mindset assumes is some kind of continuity of the environment and all that it represents. The competition and its response. The buyer and his decision making behaviour. The technology and product gaps. And so on.
The third millennium however is all about discontinuity, disruption and accelerating change. In every which way one could think of. Be it competition and emerging strategies, buyer psyche, technology and products. The beacons of our past experience are no longer effective to handle this.
So we come back to the aspects of Leadership that could support performance in this era of discontinuity, disruption and accelerating change. Be it in Sales or some other business domain.
The awareness that you do not know. You cannot upgrade your performance if you already know all there is to know.
Say YES to being pushed away from the beaten track and into the discomfort of the unknown. It is such discomforts that unhinge you from fixated beliefs and mindsets.
Avoid assessments during a situation. This leads to hasty reactions based on the ‘what worked in the past’ mindset. Effective reflection and assessment can only happen after a situation has occurred. And this is when the space for new learning opens up.
The other day I was speaking to the CEO of a mid- sized organisation and we got to discussing his intentions and plans. He told me about how he is currently engaged in bringing in technology and transforming the existing processes and the way of doing things.
“So how successful have you been till now?”, I asked.
“Well I have been able to demonstrate to my Board the trend of costs going down. Which should hopefully result in profits going up”, the CEO responded.
“ So have the profits started going up?” , I continued my enquiry.
The CEO looked troubled. He confided, “Actually the profits are not up at all. We have been facing significant resistance to adoption of the changed processes by team members. Our team seems to have got de-motivated and are putting in less efforts. So much so that the productivity levels are actually down.”
The above is one more case of a Leadership unilaterally trying to improve profitability through implementation of technology. When such implementation is done in a ‘command and control’ manner without adequate involvement of various stakeholders, the Leadership might occur to the team as ‘untrustworthy and self-serving’.
Such organisations become locked into a cycle. I call it ‘the cycle of repairing an old tube’. As one patches a leak in the tube and build back the pressure, a new leak starts at a different place. As the organisation resists a problem by trying to fix it, the more it pushes, the more the problem pushes back.
Whatever one resists,persists.
Amidst the whirlwind pace of change occurring in the environment today necessitating the need to constantly shift the technology and process base of an organisation, the millennial leader needs to provide the anchor of a unifying context for such shifts to occur.
What is that unifying context that millennial leaders need to create and exercise for transformative changes to succeed?
“if you wish to see creativity at work, cut the bureaucratic red tape dammit!”
“Hierarchies no longer serve. We need networks of free individuals”
Red tapes and Hierarchies are all designed to drive accountability. To ensure that in a work situation, where you have been given freedom to act, you become accountable for delivering something in return. Red tape dictates that one submits to certain checks and balances as part of a process to drive an initiative. And to hold onto a work position within an organisation, one needs to accept the command and control hierarchy there.
So what is that which has created this belief that Red tape and Hierarchies which drive accountability somehow negate Freedom and the creativity that might flow out of it?
As I think of the above question, I sense the concerns are really about the perceived loss of Power. Power that comes from a freedom to take decisions and explore creative possibilities. But there is also a flip-side to this. In my own work-life I have seen innumerable instances of people not able to handle the freedom allowed them and actually floundering and not sure of how to proceed.
The Millennial Leader, faced that he is with relentless changes and disruptive influences, can ill afford to get overly involved with sorting out red tapes and hierarchies. He needs to instead focus on creating a culture that drives both Freedom and Accountability.
Freedom not about unburdening people and allowing them to do what they want. Rather the kind of freedom that allows people to envision new possibilities.
Accountability not of imposing something and devising reward and punishment schemes to do that. Rather the kind of accountability that would lead people to take ownership and hold passion for the possibility they envisioned.
What practices does the Millennial Leader needs to adopt to shift from ‘Or’ to ‘And’ between Freedom and Accountability?