Jan 12 was officially the 90th day for me. To be honest, I didn’t follow first 90 days to the extent I imagined – with a timeline etc. But certainly there were some key things that I leveraged which proved useful.

  1. Promote yourself – it is not to go around with tantrums but to actually imagine yourself in the changed job/role for one or two days before the switch
  2. Build network – understand people as much as the new processes and tools.
  3. Build learning agenda/plan – I think this is one area which has helped me immensely. In what could have been a case of drinking from a fire-hose, I now feel very comfortable with the new setup.
  4. Securing early wins – not necessarily a big win – but what I like to describe as “moments of truth”. In a relationship role this would be credibility building. Performing value-creation activities and communicating an image consistently. If the image involves few values – these moments of truths should highlight them.

I will leave you all with a final insight – Shut the doors!

Shut the doors on other options – the biggest deterrent to success is doubts, allowing buyer’s remorse to build and loosing focus on job-at-hand. It is related to what Watkins says as “promoting yourself”. I will say after ‘promoting yourself’, stay there. Especially for next 30 days, do not keep “testing” – any testing on whether it is the right job/role should be before joining! You will give yourself a best chance to succeed if you “accept” the change completely and put your wholehearted effort. You will find a similar point in “trust your boss”.

I can describe what I am saying above in an “emotions” curve.

The Emotions Curve [I preferred to embed – but couldn’t get it soon enough. Don’t have the time, for now, to figure out which widget/plug-in/codex to use. Please bear with me and click this link.]

This is so true for first job after MBA. The problem with the first cycle is that you will never know if the job was alright or not. This is no survey of all MBA pass-outs. Just, my honest observation from people I have interacted with. Please note the y-axis is not “success scale”. It’s an engagement scale. Staying involved doesn’t mean success and vice versa too. Also, engagement depends on multiple factors – some of which you can, and some of which you can not, influence. Going through emotions curve-2 is one of the things you can control.

The First 90 Days and the series end here! A lot of you, my friends, followers and mentors, have been encouraging me consistently and have liked/followed this series. My sincere thanks to all of you – only because of you I feel a lot energized everyday I write about this series.

The entire series:

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

(4) First 90 Days Insight-3: Be Decisive

(5) First 90 Days Insight-4: Where to?

(6) First 90 Days Insight-5: Shut the doors & Conclusion.

First 90 Days Insight-4: Where to?

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

The First 90 Days book elaborates a lot about matching strategy to situation. But really where to?

Here’s a thought:

Don’t take it to where you WANT it to go! Don’t take it to where it WILL go!

Take it to where it CAN go!

The “It” above can refer to organization or a team depending on if you are a CEO or a team leader. For now, I come somewhere in between :) and I have found it true till now. There are two aspects to “Where to” – First, to know where to; next, to take it there. To be aware of the difference between these destinations (WANT TO, WILL, CAN) is, in a lot of ways, a gift. The next takes skill. Successful people have both or do both well. Time will tell, if we can do both well!

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(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

(4) First 90 Days Insight-3: Be Decisive

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

I wrote about this in the first insight itself that you can’t really postpone decisions in first 30 days. In the next 30 days, the problem is different. You know stuff but you don’t know enough probably. You could fall into the trap of indecisiveness and/or less communication.

The thumb rule is – you will never know enough. Especially, so, if you continue in this state. From whatever you know you will have an opinion. State it openly and confidently if in a brainstorming session or act on it if in a decision making situation. The catch is, be open to be corrected. But demand enough information before being corrected.

How many of us believe that Decisiveness and Flexibility do not go together? I believe they are a strong combination.

I must share (without specificity for obvious confidentiality reasons) an experience recently about how people reacted to such decisive remark in a brainstorming session. Few reacted with disdain and dismissed it. The official discussion took a more objective and constructive approach and I felt it led to meaningful dismantling of few myths. During the lunch/coffee people had thought about it and gave some excellent counter-arguments which I agreed on.

Overall, the discussions certainly made me wiser. I believe vice versa is true too, but I can’t be the judge.  For me, I understood about some nuances of the business I was getting into and got closer to few people.

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

One of the concepts I liked from the ‘First 90 Days’ book is the “STaRS” framework.  Every business situation can be categorized into one of these: Startup, Turnaround, Realignment, Sustaining Success. Each situation needs a unique approach because the priorities and challenges are different. For example, quick decisions are critical in turnaround versus realignment. In realignment and sustaining success scenarios measuring success is not easy as against startup or turnaround. What is considered ok performance could have been worse and what is seen as good could have been better! In turnaround the focus is on dropping dead-weight, in startup it is on building solid team and so on and so forth… While I am at it, ensuring key personnel in organization go through STaRS situations grooms them. In fact, its one of the four ways selected people can be groomed:

1. Give cross-functional exposure

2. Expose to different geography

3. Prepare for career crossroads

4. Increase breadth of exposure to STaRS business situations

Hmm… makes a lot of sense! Anyone who has gone through all of this will be a lot wiser!

By the way, the insight I wanted to register was related to STaRS – Keeping my promise that you don’t have to read the book, I wrote a bit about it.

Unless you are in a turnaround situation, you are likely to encounter pockets of excellence in your new organization or group especially in a realignment or sustaining success situations. Consciously look out for these islands! General tendency is to be skeptical  or create a completely fresh setup. More often than not, if you are sympathetic to what is being said – you will realize there are interesting stuff that exists which can be leveraged or built upon. Some of this holds good for a new bride or groom – you enter a new system which needs to be respected. Understand first. Later, tweaking can be done for peaceful co-existence.

So, be sympathetic – this will help you spot more of those pockets of excellence!

Pre-read: First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

MW makes two points relating to initial 30 days. First, he says refrain from taking ground breaking changes and focus on learning in first 30 days. Second, refrain from key decisions before forming your informal network.

But that is easier said than done. You will have to make a call on few things. Steve Jobs says follow your instincts you will one-day be right. But this is about following standard framework when possible. We will use Steve’s dogma when pushed to it :-)

Remember, you are walking blind (and naked) in the first 30 days. Blind – because you don’t know the environment; naked – because you don’t know the informal network and alliances; In most cases, it is not possible for you to make the right decision just by yourself. So trust your boss’s decision. He/She is aware of the environment and current situation, certainly more than you. And, remember, your win is important for his/her win too. So the decision will be more grounded.

What if that does not work, what if you believe your boss is not making the right decision. Try telling what you feel. Mostly you should get a reasonable logic or may be they will brainstorm from that angle. This is also a great way to know about the environment. In the brainstorming, you will get to know key details about people, their preferences; system, its behavior; and strategy. Besides, you already took a call to take this job/role and this is not the time to judge. If you fail, you can always change course later or, perhaps, even change role/job. Given the choices you have made, you will give yourself a best chance to succeed if you trust your boss.

Three Professors from HBS, INSEAD and Brigham Young University spent years researching innovative companies and leaders and wrote the book Innovator’s DNA. They conclude there are some basic skills that differentiate business innovators like Steve Jobs from ordinary managers.

They sound pretty logical and hence un-innovative! Nevertheless, logically thinking :), it’s clear why these skills will help in being innovative!

So here’s the list. Master them and you will give yourself a good chance of being innovative.

The three profs call them the five skills of disruptive innovators:

  1. Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities; Example: the interface with computers for humans is through body organs – eye, ear and hands. Then is mouse natural? Why not gestures and voice recognition?
  2. Observing helps innovators detect small details—in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies—that suggest new ways of doing things. Example: College kids spend most time socializing but emails are not good enough then why not build a new product?
  3. Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds; Example: (If true) Aamir’s suggestion to picket MP’s residences to force an opinion on Lokpal proved a masterstroke. If not Aamir, someone in the network came up with this right!
  4. Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas; I guess this is the most intuitive one – so no examples.
  5. Associational thinking — drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields helps to create innovative solutions. This is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas. Example: If offshoring works for IT why not for knowledge processes and core operations? The book Corporate Chanakya is another example.

There you go: The mantra to be innovative is “Questioning, observing, networking, experimenting and associational thinking”

Now if you are a leader of a group that needs to innovate – here’s another framework – 3P framework for people, processes and philosophies. Fundamental change within senior managers (some mastery of the five discovery skills); changes in how their innovation project teams work (processes that support innovation); and changes in philosophies that foster the belief that innovation really is everyone’s job.

RT @bhadragiriyar கருவின் வழி அறிந்து கருத்தைச் செலுத்தாமல் / அருவி விழிசொரிய அன்பு வைப்பது எக்காலம்?

Bhadragiriyar was a king who became a votary of Siva(God). He wrote two line snippets which are called “cribs”. The cribs about life are written in his penchant to reach god (tamil – meignana pulambalgal). His period of existence is not known but research points to the fact that he could have been a contemporary to pattinathaar.

I really loved this snippet. Ancient (Sangakaala(?)) tamil is so diferent from current (valakku) tamil. So my translation is questionable! Nevertheless, here is my take:

1) When will I stop researching origins and instead focus on practicing love?

Aren’t we lost in origins? It starts right from theological questioning on life, existence, re-birth etc. Why do I need to KNOW the answer to these questions? Isn’t it just enough if I live a life of love? The lower level of thinking on origin would be about birth origins – leading to racism, casteism, religious fanaticism. The lowest level could even be favoring one’s own kid over neighbor’s or brother’s! Why do I look for these origins? Do they mean anything?

I found a book on “Chanakya for corporate life” in a book store. Certainly the parables of Chanakya, bhadragiriyar etc are applicable in modern day corporate life as well. I would replace origins with “pre-conceived notions (about originator)” and love with “objectivity”. Shouldn’t a good leader stop having pre-conceived notions and focus on objectivity!

This crib has a beautiful “uruvagam” (metaphor) – Aruvi vizhi (waterfalls eye) – used in the context: love like a person who would cry (feel) for another being with tears falling like waterfalls.

I will tell you one more reason why I love the “cribs”. They don’t preach. For example if the above point was to be made by a thirukural or a bhagavat gita or a kuran or a bible, it would have just preached: “Don’t focus too much on life origins, but instead focus on practicing love!”. The cribs are written from the perspective of a flawed person – an incomplete human being! Every crib ends with “ekkalam”. In English translation, let’s say, every crib will start with “When will I”. They highlight human frailties – inability to come out of one thing to reach a stage where you know you should be! Gandhi said “Knowing ones own weakness is his biggest strength!”.

Going back to the snippet: Why do people research origins? I think human mind wants reasons, has a natural curiosity and for the lower levels has an interest in things closely related – the reason why facebook is such a huge hit! Any thoughts?

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Epilogue: if you liked this, you may want to follow “bhadragiriyar” in twitter. You owe a beer to my friend Arvindh Rajesh (which he doesn’t drink so u can treat me instead) who has written a bot to post a “crib” in twitter twice every week – tuesdays and thursdays!. You can help by posting translation or even writing “urai” in valakku thamizh. If you are in a real hurry to read all – go here: http://projectmadurai.org/pm_etexts/pdf/pm0074.pdf

In many of his cribs, bhadragiriyar talks about inability to control material desires. I don’t know if one needs to control them. I’ll say un-attachment over material things whether you enjoy them or not is important. But truly the guy is awesome – here’s to illustrate the beauty: His diplomatism might be lost in my translation “When will my thoughts be like that (single-minded thoughts) of a separated casanova who is searching for his previously intimate lover?” :-) To state in simple terms: “When will I search for Siva with single-minded obsession like how a seperated casonova would search for his previously intimate lover”. In tamil “koodip pirinthuvitta kombanaiyai kaanamal / thedith thavippavan pol sinthai vaippathu ekkalam?” Happy reading!