Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meeting Management: IPAD


In my earlier post on meeting management I wrote on how to keep meetings shorter and frequent to get the most out of meetings.  Shorter meetings bring a sense of urgency.  Remember people will work their butts off to ship a product on time.  In this post I want to talk on other aspects of how to get the most out of a meeting.  There are many issues related to it but I will just focus on three of them and they are very simple to remember.  

The principle is known as IPAD principle.  Ok.  Very simple just remember IPAD.  It is very simple.  IPAD means I will come to the meeting Prepared with an Agenda and leave with a Deliverable (read outcome).  These three aspects of meeting (Preparation, Agenda, and Deliverable) are very important if you want to get something productive out of a meeting.  So what do I stand for?  It stands for Responsibility.  It means I will be held responsible for not having these things done.  That is why I have written it as an Oath.  I feel that if these aspects of business meeting are not met then it is not business meeting, it is just a hangout. 

Preparation
When someone comes to the meeting unprepared without having any clue as to what is going on is such a frustrating experience.  It wastes everyone’s time and energy.  If everyone comes prepared to a meeting then conducting a meeting goes effortless.  Sometimes you might even get solutions to problems even before you have a meeting.  Your team mate might even email you the solution.  Everyone contributes to a higher level if they are prepared. 

Agenda
Walking into a meeting without an Agenda is like wandering in a Jungle where you don’t have a clue where are you going.  Having a fixed agenda which has definite outcomes at the end of the meeting is very important.  A good agenda should have definite outcomes also known as deliverables assigned to specific individuals.  Sometimes meetings go on forever and they seem to achieve nothing.  Another thing to include in an Agenda is a quick overview of last meetings deliverables being met or not.  If your team doesn’t have agenda then volunteer to create one and send email to everyone requesting inputs and review them.  Send agenda in advance. 

Deliverable
As mentioned above Deliverable or outcome is a must after you have conducted meeting.  A deliverable will give a to-do-list to your team to work on.  Each deliverable should be assigned to a team member with a deadline.  Otherwise people would land up with sentence, “Oh, nobody told me”, “I don’t know what we were supposed to do”.  Be relentless in your approach to reach to a definite outcome of a meeting.  

Always remember the IPAD principle for meeting management and PDF principle for general management.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Creativity: For Whom Do We Really Work?

Money covers our eye, instinct, emotion and common sense most of the times.  Its domination prevents us from executing our art.  So for whom do we really work?  We spend most of the time in offices staying away from our loved ones and sometimes we get angry or upset with our family for a bad day at job.  After risking everything for whom do we really work for.  Is it your boss? The company? The Money?  No. You work for yourself.  You work for your happiness.  You work for your joy.  If you aren't happy working for yourself then it's not going to produce great work.  It is not going to be a master piece.

Check this video by Marian Bantjes titled, "Intricate beauty by design" on TED.com  In the video she talks about taking a more personal approach in graphic design her art got better.  In art and I believe in almost everything we should keep our egos out.  Marian examines if her work brings to her joy or not.  Let me tell  you a personal story related to Art.  Back in college days, I used to do sketches and sell them.  Some I did for my friends' girlfriends and other I did it for fun and my interest.  Whenever I did it for money and under pressure I almost did a pathetic job at it.  I was not happy for whatever I did.  I even had to consult my teacher over where my fault was.  It was even embarrassing at times.  And whenever I did it for my fun and interest it turned out to be effortless.  And they were really great.  I loved them.  

We should approach our work in a similar way.  If you are hiring a person don't check for what they bring to the table on a sheet of paper.  Check for passion, Check if the person is happy for his work and Check for enthusiasm.  People who are intrinsically motivated and not by money or any other performance metrics produce far more and great output.  We often forget the aspect of happiness and joy.  Money destroys your motivation to great art.  It kills creativity.  So don't let money come under your way.  Just do your art.  Because you do it for yourself not for somebody else.  And truly just think if you don't enjoy what you do then it is really difficult to have it sustain for long.  Life is too long to live unhappy.  Find a job that gives you happiness.   On an ending note check this another video by Don Norman on "3 ways good design makes you happy" again on Ted.com.   Read this book Drive by Dan Pink too on what motivates us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Working Backwards

Did you knew that Amazon internally approaches a product from the consumers' perspective first and works their way backwards?  What does that mean? OK. They first write a press release of their product and then they grill down on each and every aspect of the product by asking questions and answering them.  That Q&A stuff gets built into what is known as FAQ section of their product.  Before even starting work on the actual product they have worked on press release, frequently asked questions, user manual, and customer experience. All the questions that people would ask and would be confused about are tackled internally first by the team.  This way they are on track to deliver the most engaging and simplistic consumer friendly products. 

Everyone should approach consumer products or service in a similar fashion.  Recently Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple and lots of comments were made online on various websites regarding his leadership.  He is and will always be a great leader.  But as this article on HBR nailed it down on how Apple works ridiculously hard to execute the perfect consumer experience which they have defined long ago before even working on the product.  Many forget about how much extra mile Apple to goes to deliver that consumer experience.  Apple believes in the philosophy that the more you compete inside the less you have to compete outside.

Lots of companies and even creative individuals have a tendency to get excited on any new idea.  I have been through this and been burnt a lot of times.  Companies get so excited they jump on building product as soon as they feel they came up with an idea of next iPad or Facebook killer and then try to push a product to consumers which they really don't need.  Apple can convince you that you need this product and that they have built it just for you.  Amazon and Apple have worked their way backwards.  They have shown resistance to get excited on new ideas and ship half baked products to market.  Instead they choose to wait until they built the perfect consumer experience. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Vision: Multiply Your Efforts By "N" Times

Leadership is about steering like minded people to achieve a common goal, a shared vision, mission or solve a problem.  A project leader might have like minded construction workers who will build something as he says.  His job would be to steer them so that project achieves what it promised to achieve on scheduled time.

How can a leader have everyone agree to a common goal? A leader can create a compelling shared vision that everyone strives to achieve.  A vision that is created in isolation inside board room without public participation will not go too far.  Sometimes leader's persona is enough to have everyone agree his/her vision (Remember Steve Jobs?).  But that is not the case always. 

If you keep telling people about your vision or what you believe in continuously then ultimately you will have people around you who think like you and now instead one person working, now you have n number of people working for your vision.  Again if people in your company or team agrees to your vision then virtually you have cloned yourself and multiplied your effort by the number of people in your team. 

A vision is really a nice way to say, "Do as I say", if created by a single individual.  A shared vision which is created by the community or a tribe within your organization could mean, "We will do as we say".    Great leaders are said to be visionaries not because they imagined future but they were able to convince their troops to work day and night in one direction without giving up.  When there was no sign of hope, the troops looked up to the leader for inspiration.

A single person can only solve few problem on his own.  But a person with a shared vision among millions of people can also bring governments down.  Vision is not good on its own.  It has to be shared and spread among thousands in the community so that it becomes a vision of the people.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Are Only Smart And Capable As Your Tribe

Tribal leadership is the book one should read no matter if you are a leader or not. One of the coaching tips offered by the book is deserves to be framed and should be placed on everyone's wall. Here it goes.

Coaching Tip:
The central theme of the book is that you are only smart and capable as your tribe, and by upgrading your tribe you multiply the results of your efforts.

If you think you don't have a great team or you are not satisfied with your results then change your tribe. Or if you think in the future you will be faxing with bigger problems then you have to start thinking ahead regarding upgrading your tribe. As the book further mentions, "What kinds of triads will help us spot and fix problems so big that we can't even think of?"

Why people switch careers? Why people make a move to choose to work for a startup? People want to work with a team or tribe that will be able solve a problem.   People want to be a part of that tribe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Networking Tip: Everyone Is In The Same Boat

If you ever went to a Networking event and felt that you are a bit shy to talk to people then don't think that way.

I went to a conference and met some people. Earlier that day I was sitting at one place, not talking to people other then very next to me. I asked one gentleman sitting next to me, "what should I ask people and I am unsure as to how others would react and so on".  He said one nice thing to me, "Don't think too much, everyone here is in the same boat. And everyone wants to make a contact with people here. And that is the reason everyone came here. So don't think. Just start talking."

After some time I realized that I don't have anything to loose to get started so let's talk.
So don't think too much, get started. And always try to finish with the sentence, "let's see how can we help each other".

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You Can Do It

Have you heard about the story of a tree where the tree gets destroyed?  You may or may not believe it but it has practical implications in our life, so its worth a mention.

Once upon a time there was a tree and a guy named Joe. He used to cruse the tree everyday because it didn't gave him any fruits.  He cursed the tree so much that one day the tree died. The moral of the story is equally true is you take it in a positive way. If everyone around you just said that you can do it then one day you will definitely get it.

I am blessed for having such people around me all the time in my life.  Eventually you too start to be like those people. You will tell everyone that yes you can get it. Imagine how much it can boost the moral of an entire team working on a project.

To stay happy it is very important to surround yourself by happiest people in your life. Those people will encourage you, motivate you and will always say, "You can get it".  And you need an equal number of people who will correct you if you are putting your effort in the wrong direction.  

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mentoring Women

This is a very challenging topic to write leaving my male ego apart.  However, over these many years I have grown to respect women from all parts of my life even more.  People close to me would agree to it.  Men respect women and they do want to see them reach higher in life.  But sometimes they don't offer enough mentoring required for women to get excited and motivated.  From a husband's point of view, who wouldn't mind seeing his wife succeed in life?  Why wouldn't he mentor her?  He should mentor her enough so that she achieves what she aspires for.  And if I am right most men would do so.  That is not the problem.

The problem starts when you have to mentor another woman which is not your wife or sister or girlfriend.  What if she is a co-worker in your office?  Or some woman or a girl junior to you at your job or your university?  Will there be same level of mentoring?  This is a very tricky pothole in which people fall often to distant themselves from such kind of mentoring.  Such mentoring could look like an affair.  And as mentioned by Harvard Business Review article cited by this article on NewYorker, "the greater the power disparity between the male and the female, the more intense the speculation becomes that the relationship is more than professional.  If the woman is subsequently promoted, her achievement will be undermined by office gossip that she earned it illicitly."


Many would not want to associate themselves with such office gossip and the overall perception of the people. This is only one reason out of many which prevents mentoring.  Another and perhaps the biggest one would be how the husband and wife deal with such mentoring taking place.  How much understanding and openness is shown from both is crucial to have this kind of mentoring.  To reach higher in life, women need to be ambitious and carry a fighting spirit within them.  They have to pass all kinds of hurdles.

If women need to be educated and mentored then men also should be educated.  Why?  Let me talk about myself.  I had a different take over women issues and such out of the house mentoring relationships.  Sometimes the man inside me awakens and takes a very egoistic stand to prevent such kind of relationships from happening.  But it takes a very big heart to move on and give an unconditional support to your counterpart.  I learned that this larger than life attitude didn't come natural to me.  It took a while.  It took lots of questioning, self-confrontation, reading books, and looking at the larger picture of life.  This is something not everyone would do.  I am talking about both male and female.  Both have to show equal maturity, support, openness, and shower some big time unconditional love.

This is a big and complex issue in our society.  I mean around the world.  It is impossible for me to do any justice to this issue.  However, I would be glad if you would share your views on it to take the discussion further.  I will write another post on it.