Friday, November 28, 2008

We Miss Peace...!

While everyone knows that showering unconditional love to those in proximity is the only way we can live in harmony-I wonder why do terrorists exist and more importantly why do they create so much of havoc, anxiety, trauma, mayhem and terror?

We express our sincere condolences to Mumbai Martyrs who fought bravely in the War Of Terror and sacrificed their lives for our sake. We salute the bravehearts -they'll be missed so much :(

"There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people ~Mohd Ali"

Friday, November 21, 2008

India Shines On...!

As I headed straight to the "Science" section of my favorite Indian Daily this morning, I was thrilled to learn that a 16-year old girl (Masha Nazeem) from TamilNadu has invented and proposed design of a "flameless sealmaker". Its a breakthrough modification of the existing process of sealing documents/packages since it totally eliminates the use of fire to melt lac for sealing, runs on electricity, lets one control flow of the lac thus ensuring a uniform seal imprint, minimizes the fire related hazards that exist in sealing process as of today. Few reasons why this invention amazes me so much...
  • Change is the Key: Its based on the notion of improving an existing process and Masha seems to have analyzed the shortcomings of the existing sealing process pretty well. And any positive change always deserves a warm welcome.
  • Practical Application: While designing her prototype, she kept in mind the practical application of her offering - ballot boxes, government documents. This reducing the doubts of possible customer buy-in to near zero.
  • Super Efficiency: Its cool because it makes life so simple. Think about it-if implemented this would cut the existing cycle time of sealing documents in offices, give extra time to officers who are involved in "sealing process" thus letting them take up new tasks, improve their skills and so on.
  • Lean Thinking: This invention reminds me of myLean Six Sigma Project (back in TCS) aimed at making the software/product delivery process to the end clients easier. Though it was no way even light years close to an invention or something like this;) but the point I am trying to stress here is that her invention makes the whole process of "document sealing" in public offices leaner. And thats indeed a cost, effort and time saver in tons of ways.
Oh and a little googling tells me that this super-talented girl has proposed an equally impressive prototypes to keeprail tracks clean-her proposed system allows a Loco Driver to switch off the waste release from all the lavatories when a train enters a railway station. Isn't that a true Out of the Box approach-I bet it is. Keep up the spiritMasha or as the Human Torchin Fantastic Four says keep ur "Flame On"!

"Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Way Off Track..!

First it was the Banks, then the Auto Industry and now the Public Transport-I never thought that the prevailing financial crisis would snowball into a major problem for the US Government and the residents alike. While since banks and Auto Industry crisis affect a section of people and there are bunch of ways to fix them (financial stimulus/bailout packages etc)-however, can you imagine how much of an impact would cutting down on Public Trasport have? Afterall-not all of us use cars as a means of commute! According to the latest news, MTA faces a budget shortfall of around $1.2 bn and the authority’s chief executive Elliot G. Sander has voiced severe concerns to the government. This presentation (from MTA's Website) shows the magnitude of the problem MTA is going through. While I have always been an admirer of MTA's superb service (Trip from New Haven to NYC was such a breeze)- frequency of trains, passenger safety, timeliness, cordial staff etc, I differ with Mr. Sander's solution to the problem at hand. He suggests either "Increasing the Fares" or "Cutting down Service"-but either of these are going to disrupt schedules and lives of millions-right !! While I am sure MTA's senior management are applying their brain cells to full throttle at the moment but here are few things I feel (strictly my subjective opinion) they can do now or on an ongoing basis:

  • Reduce Benefits-Agreed-compensation is always a sensitive issue but cutting down on benefits to employees can be a true saver. And a conflict-free way to accomplish this is to cut benefits across the company at all hierarchies. That ways you still have support from your loyal employees and discussions on "biasness"/"favoritism" etc. are totally out of scope. There are 'n' number of non-value adding activities that go on everyday in any enterprise.
  • Communicate Smartly-When giving a demo on STARS(Our BI Reporting Product) at Windsor two weeks ago, I noticed an interesting satellite office of a small real-estate firm there. I wanted to make a quick call since my cell battery had died out and thus I stepped into their office asking for a pay-phone. The lady (looked quite surprised first) responded with a warm smile and told me that employees there use Skype as a means of communication as against phones. (And I thought Skype just helps us in staying connected with friends back in India). VoilĂ -Think about it-an enterprise can actually save substantial money by using Internet/VOIP to comunicate; besides you can actually do stuff like Video Conf etc. as against flying to a client location to give demo-phenomenal cost savings again !! (Hey but I still like travelling-Okay:))
  • Infuse Fresh Blood-When things don't go as planned for an extended period of time, try hiring young people, empowering them and infuse competition amidst them. Competition can do wonders!
  • Watch Out-Many times cost cutting initiatives by companies lead to exodus of the most efficient and the best people. Avoid it-give them reasons to stay back, Involve them in policy decisions-NOW!
  • Look Around-Understood that everyone's (individual/company) problem is unique but once can always learn from what others did in emergency situations. Google out some case studies, approach B-school professors.
All I am trying to say is that MTA can still come up with a WIN-WIN solution with pragmatism and optimism. But yes whatever steps they undertake, they must infuse a strong sense of discipline, vigor and passion in implementing the same. Afterall, trains look better on tracks than off them :) Good Luck MTA !
" Adversities come and go like ripples in a stream"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Feedback Mechanisms...!

One of the things I really (yes honestly) appreciate about service industry is there's always a huge scope for breaking the status-quo and improving the business operations - only if one pays true attention to the customers (Yeah they teach you all about Customer Satisfaction/Delight n stuff at college but I am talking about real life). And the best way to listen to customers is to offer them a way to communicate their candid opinion about your service. Thinking about feedback, I remember an elective on Control Theory I studied in my 3rd year of bachelors (O boy! Solving those complex numericals wasn't fun at all:)). Our faculty advocated that there are always two kinds of feedback mechanisms in life (Okay he meant electrical machines but I heard otherwise ;))

Open Ended: When you give an input power to the machine/black box and you get an output which might be in line with your expectations. In our case this scenario would be-You get wowed (or bugged up) by a product (new phone) or a service (restaurant/movie rental) and provide your feedback to the company and thats it. They might act on it-you hope so!

Close Ended: A sensor placed at the output monitors the system output and feeds the data back to a controller/computer which then acts and ensures a pre-defined system throughput with least error. Smart Technique-isn't it? In our case this would amount to the company (Service/Product Provider acknowledging the customers' feedback and then acting on them quickly thus Wowing the Customers even more.

And common sense says that by all means a close ended feedback (though has few overheads) ensures better and consistent quality over a period of time. And now the story (the reason why I am feeling so happy at the moment)...

Once upon a time (17th Sep, 2008 and you thought it was ages ago ;)) I flew with Lufthansa to India and I've said before that this trip was such a nice experience. I was quite impressed by their immaculate customer service on board and friendly crew (spc. the Captain who did talk to few passengers too asking howz everything-service, food etc) and since whenever something impresses me I need to write about it - I wrote them a note expressing my sincere gratitude. Period. And what an amazing company Lufthansa is - these guys acknowledged my feedback right away and sent the following letter in mail. One thing is for sure-this gesture on their part made my evening (Thanks Sabina & team) and I so much wish to book my next air ticket with Lufthansa now. See-getting true customer loyalty isn't rocket science :-D
"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ignited Minds...!

Whenever I see tiny tots around my first instinct urges me to run upto them & teach those innocent small wonders bunch of ideas 'n' tips which might help them in dealing with different people(difficult ones in particular) in walks of life when they grow up (Sometimes days are just not normal;)). While checking out my favorite "Timon & Pumba" Comicbook from the local library today evening, I observed some 7-8 smart kids in Kids' Section-they were trying to arrange blocks to formulate a pattern displayed in a big artbook placed in their proximity and I must admit that observing them immersed in the activity was so much fun. Each one of them was so spontaneous, exceptionally curious, energetic, naive and totally unself-conscious! Near zero anxieties, unbiased view of things/people around, sheer idea of living life fullsize & celebrating small victories-for a moment I thought that merely by changing their viewpoints kids are able to inhabit a euphoric state which we as adults have a hard time adopting! The small episode instantly reminded me of the amazing book "Ignited Minds" by the reverred Dr. Abdul Kalam I read few years ago...I wish I had the book around now:(

On the brighter note when the Moon Impact Probe [MIP] attached to the top of Chandrayaan-1 with Indian tricolour painted on all sides lands on moon at around 8 PM IST tonight-it sure is a reason to cheer for all Indians dwelling in India or abroad. What makes it super special is that it coincides with Chidren's Day (Dr. Kalam's brilliant idea)!

Here's me wishing all the super-talented tiny yet ignited minds a Very Happy 'n' Eventful Children's Day ahead-N'joi the Song :)
"Life's what you make of it, so lets make it rock!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Glass Half Full...!

Its 5AM EST and I am at a Starbucks Store right off the Mass Pike sipping my Cinnamon Dolce Latte, gazing outside the Store Window, giving finishing touches to my STARS slides (today's pitch needs to be perfect!)on my Laptop and somehow I feel so different today-its exceptionally quiet out here. All I can hear is a miniature sound of chirping birds (or may be insects), hum of trucks on Mass Pike, sound of a distant police siren somewhere and a very strong and distinct throbbing of my heart. I wonder-Was I tuning out such small sounds before or wasn't I attentive enough? Well, I guess I know the reason for sure this time...
The roller-coaster ride I was forced into-2 weeks ago has certainly depleted my otherwise turbo-charged energy reserves and enthusiasm levels. Sudden news about a devastating loss of a dear acquaintance (my self appointed creative protege) has left me with a never ending spiral of following feelings:

Shock<-> Denial<-> Anger<-> Vapidness <-> Puzzled <-> Depression --> Acceptance

I have been trying to keep myself engaged in challenges & activities that divert my attention but those unpleasant emotions keep hitting me again and again and again:( The mind keeps denying the news of sudden disappearance of the very person who used to equip me with super-creative ideas & off beat tips for my creative pursuits-even though it knows its a truth I have to live with now on! What's even more surprising is that my plants (gifted by the same person) dried up the same day too-c'mon how can this be true? Are the events co-related? Well, I seriously don't have a logical or pragmatic answer but they certainly have left a deep impression in my mind.

While I appreciate the phenomenal support provided by everyone during past few weeks so much, I have also come to realize that in order to deal with such losses constructively, its very vital to consider "
Acceptance" Stage (in spiral of emotions listed above) as one's indispensable Goal that needs to be accomplished as quickly as possible. It sure is very easier said than done and coping up takes time but inner strength, good food, writing and engagement in community based initiatives help a lot. And in the bigger scheme of things (Life I mean), one has to and must move on - right?

I am sure that the remaining 2 hours of drive will bring me back to equilibrium but the essence of what I had and what I lost might stay on with me for the days to come!
"Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well."