Forward Pass

Forward Pass

Try this. Say instead of zipping past a car on the opposite side of the road waiting to make a u-turn, slow down (of course, look back first, to make sure you don’t cause a pileup) to ’em make the turn. The driver will be pleasantly surprised. They don’t expect it. Nobody does. And that’s what makes it even more worthwhile.

Or for that matter, let the lady with kids, or the old folk cross the road. Without having to hear the roaring of menacing engines revving impatiently for them to dive-out-of-the-way. Or even just random people who are already on the road (provided you aren’t already going too fast), let them pass.

Try it once or twice, and you’re gonna love it. If not for the good feeling of doing a lil good deed, at least for the surprise you’ll be giving these folk. It’s worth every moment.

And with everybody doing this at least a few times a day, imagine just how much more pleasurable driving could become.!

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The Fire to Hire

Start-ups and many small to medium sized companies often think that costs can be saved by hiring poor to average quality candidates, thereby being able to get the adequate “number” of manpower and be able to scale up while keeping salary expenses down.

However, what many of them fail to realize is, that for every average, lower salaried hire, either they or someone from the top team is, indirectly contributing a part of themselves to that new hire’s role.

Because the average candidate will not be pro-active, determined, or have the fire in her or him to do that little bit extra, or for that matter, even just do what is expected, in the right way. They would need to have a baby-sitter to constantly monitor them and keep checking if they are on track from time to time. More often than not, you would be thinking of their action plan and communicating it to them, instead of them thinking of the best solution and suggesting options to you.

So, with each new ‘average’ hire, not only do you compromise on the tasks you assign to them, but your company too gets lesser and lesser of you, since increasingly greater portion of your time and efforts start getting diverted to managing your ‘average’ team’s planning and execution.

Instead, spending more to get a ‘better than average’ dynamic and enthusiastic hire will not only leave you with more time and less tensions/ responsibilities towards them, but they will also contribute in terms of figuring out better/smarter/ cost-effective ways to doing things, thus taking the business forward.

Another way the business would tend to grow multi-fold with such hires is, that you start thinking bigger, thinking more, to keeping such capable employees busy and on their toes. Because they can. Because they want to. And fueling their growth in turn, fuels your business.

So, while a ‘better than average’ hire will always cost more, she or he would more often than not prove more cost-effective in the long run.

Layers of BS

Ever realized how much time we spend each day either building a thick layer of ‘unnecessary’, and/ or scraping a thick layer of it.

Rather than build quality products and services, we tend to build our own imaginary features, declare our products/ services to be the absolute best without the real stuff to prove it. Facts are covered up, hyped, or even distorted.

And customers on the other hand, while listening to people brag about their ‘best-in-the-galaxy’ offerings, have to spend most of their waking hours in a state of suspicion, of products and services they buy, of people they interact with, of ideas and suggestions they are given. Because, more often than not, there’s always a layer of bullcrap that customers are mentally scraping and making their own deductions. And usually, the more the BS, the poorer the impression they have of what you have to offer.

Sellers will ridiculously inflate prices. Buyers will be aware to some extent, and both will go through the motions till they arrive at a common ground. And it isn’t just about price. It’s the same with quality, safety, and a lot of such critical factors. One hypes it, the other either falls for it to whatever extent, or doesn’t at all.

Rather than spend time in building quality products and services, we have come to rely more on confident BS based on an illusion of supposed facts that we have created, and what we pass on to every new employee at most companies.

More emphasis is given on teaching the shortcuts, rather than on the product/ service or business know-how. Employees too would rather learn some quick fake facts about something they’re trying to sell, rather than know what they offer, inside-out; so that they could perhaps better understand it, better understand the customer, and help build an even better product/ service.

Guess the meaning of ‘learning the ropes’ has, over the years, slipped down the very same ropes.

Our innate attitude is towards avoiding that extra mile, towards quick fixes, rather than in the direction of building something that lasts.

The way I see it, that extra mile today usually saves several hundred extra miles in the long run.

Fly-by-satire

Today, another MIG-21 crashed in Haryana. Thankfully the pilot was safe and apart from a big ass crater in a field, there was no major damage.

With 6 MIG-21 crashes in this year alone, the IAF has lost over 100 pilots in 283 accidents between 1993 and 2002. Till date it has lost over half the 976 MIG-21 fleet in air crashes. The Indian Air Force seems to have an innovative method of retaining only the best pilots. Send them all up in MIG-21s, if they survive, they must be damn good or bloody lucky.

The world has moved on to the fifth generation fighters with Short Take-off & Vertical Landing, Stealth, Internal weapons, the works, and yet we’re hell bent on sticking to flying coffins from the 1960s.

Multiple Copy Paste

Multiple Copy Paste

Ever felt the need for a double or second ‘Copy-Paste’ option on your computer, tablet or even mobile phone? That is, when you could copy 2 different things one after the other, and then paste them back in sequence. As opposed to doing a copy-paste and copy-paste.

I’ve seriously felt a desperate need for it on several occasions, like say when you have to do multiple copy-paste from and to different locations (say different word files), or more importantly, when say you wanted to type a really funny message and be able to send it in 2 parts, with just that fraction of a second of time interval between them to have that killer punch. Instead we’d have to either send the whole message together, or take a while typing out the second half by which time the joke would’ve lost half the effect.

Is it so difficult to have a double ‘copy-paste’? Perhaps a <Ctrl-C-1, Ctrl-C-2> and <Ctrl-V-1, Ctrl-V-2> or whatever other simple easy-for-your-fingers combination (you’d have to figure it out on touchscreen devices). Of course, more than a double copy-paste might get a little confusing to work on. “Where did I have to paste ‘Copy 4’ now?” Or “Say, what was ‘Copy 4’ about?”  😉

But imagine the benefits, the little bits of time and effort we’d save,  and how we could make chat a little bit more fun.!

Work Smarter, or Work Longer?

I guess the longer working hours became more and more common only in the last decade or slightly more, but it’s quite surprising that it seems to be going strong even to this day in many companies.
And not only do companies demand more of the employee’s time, employees surprisingly take pride in claiming they work anywhere for those 15 or 18 hours a day, day after day.

Now, I don’t know about other educational courses, but anyone who’s done their engineering, or even sat through a 3-4 hour management ‘discourse’ would know how the brain just shuts off after a bit.
Or for that matter, even if you were busy working on a school or college project on a tight deadline, after hours of continuous work, am sure you would have realized that while it was perhaps possible to continue doing some monotonous mindless repetitions (say copying full paragraphs from one document to another), it was near impossible to do something creative or something that required you to reason.

I know for sure from personal experience. During engineering, I was up for 2.5 days straight during a week-long cultural event at college. And somewhere towards the end of that 2.5 days, some genius put me in charge of handling music for a group dance. And at any other time, I could operate the Winamp shortcuts blindfolded, but right there and then, I goofed, and stopped instead of pausing a track. Thankfully the highly skilled bunch of girls picked up from some random music position I started again, and they were big-hearted enough to spare me later too.
Anyway, so how is it humanly possible to go through those extra long work hour days without losing out on productivity and creativity?
Sure you’d probably manage to impress a superior who thinks ‘long work hours=value for money on employee salary’, but am sure others would realize what they are losing in the bargain, the purpose for which they had hired you in the first place.

Google, Search Better

Google, Search Better

You know how you sometimes Google something, but the results are random or irrelevant.

And you know how Google has the +1 recommendation option on search results.

Now, here’s a suggestion that should be considered for Google, shopping sites, and those offering search directly via Google. How about an option similar to the FB ‘Like’ button? Individuals who have entered a search, can click on results that they feel do not match the search query. That way, after a listing hits a predetermined number of ‘clicks’ on the ‘wrong result’ button, it would alert the IT/ admin folk, who could then verify and accordingly change tags, etc. to improve all future searches progressively. Alternatively, the Google algorithm could rework the search results based on user input. Even though their algorithm already factors it in some way.

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We Deliver.!

We Deliver.!

Several years back, I used to work in the ever so famous BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry in one of India’s IT hotbeds, Bangalore. My job involved providing technical assistance to North American customers of our pretty impressive all-in-one printer range.

There was a time I wondered if the monotony could leave me permanently depressed. Or worse, brain-damaged. But right then, I received an email from my boss. He was forwarding an email from a customer I had assisted a few days before. The customer had needed print cartridges urgently. For some reason unknown to most of us, it took about 3-4 days after placing an order, for the cartridges to actually reach the customer. (And in case you wondered, ‘no, the cartridges weren’t shipped from India).

While this was a free delivery, there was a 1-day shipping for some charge. I was aware that in some special cases, I could request a senior colleague to waive off the charges on the 1-day fee, but it was not a luxury I’d like to take for granted. So I promised the customer a 3-4 day delivery period and that I would try to have the cartridges delivered earlier if possible.

Coming back to the email the customer had sent, it read something on the lines of  – I would like to thank XYZ for the quick shipping of my print cartridges. He said it would take 3-4 days, but when it arrived the next day, I was thrilled. He has done what we in the customer service industry call ‘under-promising and over-delivering’, the surest way to win a customer and a little more to that effect.

That was my first lesson in customer service; ok maybe not the first, but certainly the one with the most impact. It has been a while since that corporate ‘high’, and since those technical support days, but that feedback has stayed on with me. While I’m no ‘pro’ at customer service, I do understand its ever-increasing importance in any business, and I constantly try to figure ways of improving the customer’s experience.

And I have found many an Indian BPO employee, or for that matter, even your average sales or service staff at any retail outlet or business centre, bubbling with enthusiasm to cater to the customer’s every demand. And while this is a great thing for customers, there are 2 key ingredients missing in many cases. Those being  Planning and Communicating. A simple equation of their effect on customer experience would look something like:

Customer Experience = Communicating (Planning+Commitment+Delivering on Commitment)

Most of us are great at committing, but tend to fall a little short when it is time to deliver on the commitment. And this causes unnecessary customer dissatisfaction.

In our endeavor to give the customer that little bit ‘extra’, we often miscalculate delivery or commitment deadlines. And this ends up causing the exact opposite of the effect we had planned for.

If we were to take into account all possible influencing factors (Planning) and build it into a commitment or delivery deadline, and perhaps even throw in a little buffer if we have a gut feel about possible delay, we would be giving the customer a more realistic picture. And of course, nothing beats plain old ‘Communication’. It is extremely important that we communicate with the customer. Even a call or message updating them the moment you see a deadline getting stretched, does wonders. You cannot imagine how much customers appreciate that phone call informing them of a delay. It beats them arriving at your doorstep on D-day only to be asked to come the following week.

To my customer.
I may not have the answer, but I’ll find it.
I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.
-Unknown

Then of course, nothing beats delivering on a commitment or deadline.!

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Drivin’ me Nuts.!

you are driving one morning to work. nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘i’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left, suddenly cuts you without a signal or warning. you snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives, so you wouldnt want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. you near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. you honk lightly. you think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.
Grrrr..!! that does it. that driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position.

Drivin’ me Nuts!

You are driving one morning to work. Nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘I’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. Just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left and cuts you without a signal or warning. You snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives. So you wouldn’t want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. You near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. So you honk lightly. You think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.

Grrrr..!! that does it. That driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position. Then you suddenly realize that you’ve rattled the nerves of that middle-aged lady whose trembling hands just about managed to swerve out of the way of your car screaming through. So you slow down, and try and get back your cool. Though its not happening. the music playing doesn’t seem to work its magic either. You get to work, your mind imagining you perhaps strangling the driver who dared to cut you.

I’m sure you can relate to at least most of that.

I got my driving license sometime in 2001 i think, though I’ve been crazy about driving well before I could pronounce “car”. As a toddler, I’d sit on my dad’s lap while he’d drive, and I’d hold the steering and pretend to drive.

Then, when i was halfway through school, I’d change gears on my relative’s jeep, while the driver drove and took care of the foot pedals.

Anyway, almost soon after i learnt how to drive, i came to realize that the way people drive has a strong correlation to their personality and behaviour patterns, and also the peculiarity of people in that region.

For instance, in Mumbai (India), where I’ve driven the most, cars on the road tend to make maximum use of the road. Three lanes could accommodate up to 5 rows of cars and still have place for a bike with saddle bags on either side to smoothly ride through.

Now while I say this after driving/ observing only certain parts of India, am sure if anyone paid enough attention, a pattern would emerge for the population at different locations, across the world.

A foreigner visiting India had observed that Indians, while driving, make full use of the road. So if there were no road dividers, cars would “expand” to the opposite side of the road as long as there was no on-coming traffic, and then get back into their side of the road while some vehicles whizzed past from the opposite direction, and then get back to using part of the opposite side again. Talk about adjusting to the surroundings.!

I noticed another interesting habit in the town of Mangalore, and in the city of Bangalore, and am quite sure it must be highly prevalent. If one wanted to turn right at a crossroads which had a small circular garden or something similar at the centre, they would normally be expected to drive around the circle in a clockwise direction to get to that particular turn. However, most of our great people would instead find the shortest path… making the right turn just before the circle…I mean who cares if you’re staring at a bunch of alarmed drivers coming head-on.

That reminded me of this joke i read sometime back. A man is driving on NH1 when his wife calls him. “darling, be careful”, she says frantically, “I just heard on the radio that there’s a madman on NH1 driving in the wrong direction. Please be careful.” Her husband replies, with a hollow laugh, “your damn right about that, but it’s not one madman, but hundreds of them!”

Another strange driving habit, very similar to our corporate circles, is people’s reaction when being overtaken. Some people drive at a slow 25 kmph. And with a gap between them and the vehicle in front being big enough to fit an A380 (Airbus). Now you are somewhere between these two cars, in the next lane. You have turned on your indicator to signal you’d be moving in between the two cars.

Soon as you’ve given the indicator, the car behind you and in the next lane, rockets to 60 kmph. The driver desperately tries to keep you from getting into their lane. You barely manage to save scratches on your car, wondering if the driver left his senses back home that morning. Its very similar to the behaviour of crabs in a bucket. Even if they aren’t trying to get out, they’ll do everything they can to prevent others from getting out. If you’ve driven in India long enough, you’d know over 85% of the people never use indicators.

I assume its for one of two reasons; first being, ‘why bother signalling, if the other driver loves his car, he’ll slow down anyway’, or, because he/ she’s dead sure the car behind will speed up, so instead, its better to suddenly cut lanes while no one’s expecting it.

Nothing’s more horrifying that a parked car suddenly darting into your lane on what seemed to be an empty lane till then.

Ok, maybe that’s not horrifying enough. Try this instead. You got that same parked car suddenly taking off on the extreme left, going 0-30, and darting to first lane to make a U-turn. These drivers expect everyone else to be driving at 20 kmph with a foot ready on the brakes. Or they consider themselves immortal. And you thought Milla Jovovich had a hard time in Resident Evil.

All these trends/ characteristics associate closely with what Indians have been known to be like. Now I’m not generalizing. And while I take pride in being an Indian, am just pointing habits/ behaviours we must strive to change.

And while your at it, try get hold of the book “Games Indians Play – Why We Are the Way We Are” by V. Raghunathan, to get some more perspective on the general attitude.

Anyway, I’ll get back to what I was talking about (I tend to deviate from topic quite easily).

Indians (me obviously included), are always in a rush to get somewhere. So much so, we tend to cross the zebra crossing, or stop over the crossing, while waiting at a signal. Every second counts, I suppose. The closer you are to the starting line, the quicker you can leave on green. Then it doesn’t matter if you continue to drive at 25 kmph in fast lane from there on. We’d still prefer to be right there, first car to move, when the light goes green.

I’ve seen cars literally squeeze through gaps between cars. Some drive halfway up a sidewalk, or drift to the wrong side, just to be first at a signal light. However, after the lights turn, somehow, they don’t bother getting even close to the 50 kmph speed limit. They’re driving at their pace, with not a care in the world, even at 9 am on a weekday. Brings me to wonder why then, do they take all the effort to get to the front row.

Now this one absolutely takes the cake when it comes to driving in India.

Recollect how some cars try to get to as much in front as possible, while waiting at a signal?

There’s another really funny trait among many of our drivers here. Some people end up going so far ahead at a signal, that the signal is actually behind them. I mean, “what the ****!!”. So when the lights go green, they depend on a car behind to honk, to let them know that they can move. So if the cars behind weren’t in a hurry, cars could be waiting for as long as 10 seconds, before moving. Believe me, its a hilarious sight to see.

Imagine something like that happening in Formula 1. An over-eager-to-win F1 driver driving past the racing lights and stopping, before the race started. All I can do is hope we all drive a little more responsibly. And be a little more accommodating, on the road, at work, at home, everywhere.

http://shrutinshetty.blogspot.com/2009/09/drivin-me-nuts.html

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Ease up…On the Throttle

Ever been late to get somewhere, and you got stuck behind a car driven by an old woman or man, or maybe even a learner who’s instructor managed to pick the same road on the same day when you were late and crossing it. Or even the one who’s so busy chatting with their co-passenger, that driving becomes almost an external, disconnected event for them.

Ease up…On the Throttle

Ever been late to get somewhere, and you got stuck behind a car driven by an old woman or man, or maybe even a learner who’s instructor managed to pick the same road on the same day when you were late and crossing it. Or even the one who’s so busy chatting with their co-passenger, that driving becomes almost an external, disconnected event for them.

And what do we do in turn. Blaring horns, jumping the car menacingly at them, or even swerving dangerously close to them when we finally manage to overtake.

Am saying this coz I’ve pretty much done it all when it comes to bullying the day dreamers on the road.

But recently I realized; I guess after my mom n dad’s repeated advice started sinking in. We can’t change the world. At least, definitely not by bullying them around. Ok, might I clarify, that I’ve never bullied old people or women drivers, or old people and women in general. It’s usually taxi drivers, or the lost drivers who temporarily suspend all road rules and regulations while they pass by. Or the occasional owner of cars, who probably didn’t have to ‘earn’ their license to drive.

Anyway, back to what I was saying. I realized that we can’t change people by going at them menacingly, or by cutting ahead of them. Now while I have realized it, it still does take a while to implement. Coz the average Indian driver can come up with a million different ways to drive you crazy, literally.

The way I’ve started working on easing up, is in stages. You could try it too. Firstly, say you’re driving back home after work. You’re not exactly in a hurry to get anywhere then. So why not let that car in the next lane move up in front of you. Or why not let the car that’s two lanes to your right, cut three lanes without indicating, and take the turn coming up to your left. Or be a little patient with people learning how to drive, or those not very confident about their driving, even if they’re going at 15 kmh.

After all, learners deserve a chance to learn without the fear of being shouted at, without the deafening sound of many horns, and without having vehicles move threateningly close to them. Same goes for ladies, and the old folk too. And more so for out-of-towners. I’ve noticed that people of cities aren’t particularly ‘friendly’ to vehicles and occupants of cars from another city.

Then I plan to address the main problem. To develop driving etiquette. To be patient with the crazy drivers on the road and not curse them. Not to overreact to their ignorance, lack of confidence or outright disrespect for traffic rules.

Maybe everybody deserves a second and third chance after all.

And with us ‘reactors’ not ‘reacting’ to crazy driving, that itself would reduce the total number of ‘crazy drivers’ on the road. And that way, hopefully, one day, the number of patient, mature and responsible drivers will slowly start outnumbering the crazies and force them to get their act together too.

That’s what hope and patience are all about I guess.

That, or I’m getting old real quick.

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