B-schools, MBA grads & Their Priorities

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Many b-schools in India are tilting less toward business, management, and ethics; more toward finishing skills. With a strong (and often desperate) focus on placements, they go an extra mile to add superficiality to students. From a scary importance on cracking interviews, having a cocky attitude, and the ability to fib-on-the-fly.

Unknowingly, they’re doing the students a great disservice. Students who enroll with little or no work experience are about as clueless as many of us were back in the day. But the overconfidence is only creates more problems for them.

It’d help to keep things a little more real, more on-the-ground. What institutes often churn out, are individuals who can talk their way through interviews, before they run out of steam. Some might blame that as regular millennial disposition, but I refuse to buy that. I’ve met exceptional millennials. People I’ve learnt a lot from, enjoyed having meaningful discussions with, and who are really pushing themselves to the maximum.

But the problem with many b-schools, is the pressure to fill batches by leveraging past stellar placements. And that goal drives their actions and priorities. Students on the other hand, are strongly influenced by these actions. If you have negligible prior work experience, the institute is your biggest windows into corporate life and its workings. Institutes’ concern ends the moment a student has cracked a job interview. So that’s where their efforts are channeled toward.

I received an email yesterday from an MBA with less than a year of total experience. It attempted a ‘shock-and-awe’ structure. Starting with something wrong about some aspect of your business/website, etc., before seeking a suitable role, which wasn’t even related to the ‘issue’ pointed out. And I’ve interacted with a fair share of them, when conducting workshops or giving talks, with MBA interns, and friends.

It takes some years of working the ropes to even attempt to sound cocky on emails or in person. And it has to be backed by solid stuff. This email turned out to have been by the candidate themselves, and not influenced by their b-school. But there are a lot of placement coordinators and college staff, filling impressionable minds with little tricks that work in the corporate world. Institutes need to be responsible for moulding their management students to be more receptive, and a little grounded. Not attempting to pull off such gigs with strangers on email with the expectation of landing a job, or even an interview.

If you want your business critically reviewed/reassessed, and love your business enough to be open to suggestions, I’ll be here.

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Feedback from a friend about a post

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I just received probably the best feedback yet, regarding a post on my blog,  ‘Death and The Maiden‘, from Jimmy, a good friend of mine.

Now Jimmy’s the youngest friend I have. At over 65 years of age, he’s actually more fun to hang out with than some people my age. His sense of humour would make the rest of us look grumpy. And that’s when some of his dirty jokes aren’t leaving people red in the face with embarrassment.

Anyway, he is excellent at writing, and even better at poetry, and he was kind enough to email me this.

Here’s what he wrote..

Dear Shrutin

Read your article on the analysis of suicide – well analysed and considerable inputs

Perhaps sometimes it is not as simple as it appears. How often does one comment He/she had everything going then why

Another factor which is of great importance in keeping the balance tilted to the right is the “guardian angel ” This is extremely important and I say this from personal experiences I have been extremely  fortunate in this regard

There is a lot going for you and your writings are extremely profound. A thinker in the making. It is not important if someone likes it or not but if it sets even one person thinking it is good.  Keep at it my friend

Jimmy

Thanks a lot buddy.! Truly inspired and humbled by it.

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So what’s your Point?

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Back in Engineering, a bunch of us close friends had the habit of asking ‘so what’s your point?‘, usually when one of us was sharing details about some important or serious incident with the rest. For instance, say a relatively shy friend was explaining about how he struck a conversation with a girl he had a crush on. So he’d explain the tiniest of details about what was going on in his mind, how nervous he was, how she reacted, what she said, blah, blah, the works. And while he couldn’t possibly get any more serious, we’d wait patiently for him to finish, and then with a real blank face, one of us would ask him ‘so, what’s your point?’

Those words would instantly leave him flabbergasted, and it would take a moment before he’d recover and retaliate with a barrage of expletives. And then we’d all burst out laughing. It was one of those brotherhood things. Am sure a lot of you have done something similar more than once in your life.

Anyway, it’s been almost a decade since, but I recently remembered the phrase. And the importance or the meaning of it suddenly struck, or connected.

When we communicate, especially at work (via emails, face-to-face, on call) with clients, prospective clients, industry colleagues, etc. , we sometimes just talk and lose perspective or the purpose/ objective of a discussion. More so if we’re marketing a product or a viewpoint, or are desperate to prove a point.

That’s when I feel it is important for us to ask ourselves, ‘so what’s your point?‘. The question needs to be answered keeping both our perspective, as well as the target’s point-of-view in mind.

Essentially, what that boils down to is, we start writing more concise, orderly and clear emails rather than taking the sheep grazing, because while writing, we are double checking whether what we’re typing will make logical sense from the receiver’s point-of-view or not. We also tend to bring back into focus, the purpose or objective of a business pitch, a political or religious debate with colleagues or friends, or anything conversation or discussion for that matter. That way, if winning or losing a discussion/ argument is relatively pointless  (when you get “nothing” as the answer to your ‘what’s your point?’), then it makes sense to just drop the topic and move on, instead of just getting lost in the heat of the situation and just punching away blindly.

This thought was aptly put across as back in time as 1657, by Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher, when he said, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

In our current times, with shrinking attention spans, I believe ‘impactful brevity’, in thought, word and online text is gaining significant importance. That being said, I believe this  simple question might help us get there faster.

WhatsYourPoint

We Deliver.!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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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what’SAPpening?

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what’SAPpening?

You know the whole “effect” thing. It is all about how things are put, less about what things really are. Its more about the gift wrap than about the gift. More to do with the fanfare, and less about the intention; all about quantity, not much about quality,  and all that.

For the past few months, one of my responsibilities at work includes contacting the Management folk at Colleges and B-Schools and introducing them to the SAP uAcademy courses, which are an innovative way of enabling students to gain working knowledge of SAP by way of a Learning Management System, an online Audio-Visual module, whereby students can take the course at their own pace, re-work topics, and they can have queries immediately answered by SAP’s support team by way of call, email, chat or video chat. And all this at a heavy discount to the SAP courses available at Training Centres.

Anyway, a part of this task involves me looking up college websites, identifying the right person to contact. A Vice Chancellor (VC) or Chairman, and in many cases, the Director or Dean.

I had a list of colleges that I started tackling one by one. The first few calls felt like I was speaking to the gatekeeper to heaven. Whose only job was to make it nearly impossible to reach the VC or President. I heard every reason from ‘he is traveling’, ‘not in town’, ‘not at his desk’ to more direct ‘no one can speak directly with him’ and so on. Schools, and I thought these folks were supposed to be a little more approachable. I have not had even half the trouble speaking and meeting General Managers and Directors at companies. And here I was, struggling to meet people at colleges.

Then, one Saturday, a few days and many calls later, I called a college on the number given on their ‘Contact Us’ page. And to my surprise, the Director answered! (‘Wha.!’, I’d say to myself, just praying it wasn’t a prank by a bored peon looking for a kick out of his otherwise mundane routine).

As I kept working on my list, I got to some colleges which had mobile numbers listed under ‘Contact Us’, which belonged to Directors or Dean’s. A refreshing change from the otherwise fortress some institutes had around their heads.

And today, when I was almost at the end of my list, I call a college and asked only for the Director’s email id (no, couldn’t find any direct lines, and I was way too bored to request a direct word with the Director), saying I will first email him and then call to speak with him, and the generous person at the other end says ‘Hold on, I’ll connect you to him, you could speak to him directly’.

The more you want something done, people seem to make it that much tougher. When you don’t care, they’ll give you that extra push up the hill. Humans, never cease to amaze.

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