Thursday, January 28, 2016

The focused boss

In the present day world, we struggle to provide undivided attention to the task assigned to us. We have countless distractions while we strive to accomplish our tasks and goals. There are Outlook, Lync, Yammer and numerous other activities that take away our attention. Hence, it becomes difficult to focus. While technology has made us closer and accessible on one hand, it also made us less productive and sadder on the contrary. Because of this reason, the mention of a focused boss caught my attention.

The focused boss is a desirable thing to happen to any one of us. But there are variants of this species. My friend's story is related to a one of the variant. Before I start my tale, let me tell you commonly accepted norm related to our working lives. The word of the boss may not be equivalent to the Bible but in the overall scheme of things, it is almost up there. So my friend story starts with a confrontation between the focused boss and his employee. The employee was in a common area when the focused boss came out of his cabin to confront him. The focused boss wanted to obtain an update on the employee's action plan from the previous meeting to contain a potentially explosive situation.

Focused Boss: *without wasting time* Did you call the client?

Employee: *respectfully* No, I didn't have to. I managed the situation.

Focused Boss: *voice raising a couple of notches* Did you call the client?

Employee: *very respectfully* No, I didn't. Before that, I resolved the issue and hence was sure it would not flare up.

Focused Boss: *emphatically* Call the client.

The conversation didn't end there. The employee wanted to wait further before calling the client as he didn't have sufficient information. But I want to draw your attention back to the conversation. You may have realized why I refer to the person as focused boss. He has kept his focus on the call with the client but ignored all other aspects of the conversation. What kind of management style is good? Is it important to be transactional if your underlings can take charge and manage the situation? Tell me what you think.

Tags: Musings, Boss, Style

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Alan Rickman: The man who took an eternity to speak

"The villain is excellent," exclaimed my friend. I was angry. Why is my friend glorifying the villain? Without even bothering about the dark anger on my face, the friend continued, "He keeps his cool all the time and never shouts". That statement was like pouring oil on the fire. We were discussing a new action movie featuring an unlikely hero with a receding hairline and whose name was new in our part of the world. Compared to the hero, the villain looked dashing with a neatly trimmed beard. We were talking about a movie where the hero tries to save his estranged wife from a group of villains who has taken control of a multi-storey office building, and is holding its occupant as hostages. The movie was Die Hard, the hero was Bruce Willis, and the villain was Alan Rickman.

The news of Alan Rickman's death is saddening for me as I had recently seen his performance in Harry Potter. A montage follows the death of Professor Snape after Harry drops Snape's tears in the pensieve. Anyone who has read the book and has seen the eight movies will know how good an actor was Alan Rickman by seeing those scenes. And to think Alan Rickman was the second choice after Tim Roth couldn't do the role. I only remember Die Hard, Robin Hood, Love Actually and Harry Potter series. I initially wondered why Alan Rickman took ages to say a sentence. Then like an acquired taste, I came to enjoy his dialogue delivery. Every syllable was clear to the audience. We waited with bated breath for him to complete a sentence. Even though I dismissed him as just another villain, I began to like him in the subsequent viewings of Die Hard. The more times I saw, the more I liked him.

After Die Hard, I saw him in Robin Hood. I was still young unable to distinguish between Hollywood and British film. I was too naive to understand even the difference in accent when I saw it the first time. Alan Rickman playing the wily Sheriff had the audience in splits when he hurries through the marriage ceremony with Maid Marian. He had us laughing with his eyes rolling to indicate frustration and irritation when Robin Hood breaks through glass trying to save Maid Marian. Then I saw his years later in Love Actually. Despite the film being a feel good one, Alan Rickman's role is a tragic one. The role of a man dragged into infidelity is made memorable by Alan Rickman.

Then came the Harry Potter series. All the books weren't written when he started acting in the series. When you view the final montage, you realize his performance could be interpreted in different ways. For the first time viewer, he is a cold person who hates Potter. For the audience who is seeing it the second time, we see the pain of seeing Lily's eyes, caring for his only friend's son and frustration of Harry becoming more like his father. How can Alan Rickman package it all under one performance? Wasn't he taken away too soon?


Tags: Musings, Alan Rickman

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Books: Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century

The title and the topic are the two things that attracted me to this book. Exodus is both a story in the Bible and also a novel by Leon Uris. Both refers to the birth of Israel. I have read the novel and also the movie based on it. The book left a far significant impression on me. Coming to the second point, the topic of this book by Paul Collier relates to migration in both forms namely emigration and immigration. I am a migrant work myself. So you may imagine my interest in the topic. The theme of migration is a polarising topic. It is relevant to the times we live. You will see immigration discussed over and over again in discussions, debates and policies.

Paul Collier is a professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Oxford. So this is a non-fiction book about migration from an economist's point of view. The author's perspective is bound to pique our interest. After Freakonomics became a best seller, there has been scores of economists publishing book which been providing education in an entertaining fashion. This book is anywhere near as entertaining as other books by economists. But this book is an eye opener for everyone who falls on any side of the divisive topic of migration.

According to Paul Collier, there are many arguments for and against immigration. The other side of the coin, emigration, is never discussed or understood until there is a substantial flow of people out of one country commonly called brain drain.  The government takes decisions on immigration without actually understanding the causes and effects thoroughly primarily to please the voters. So Paul Collier wants to lay out the facts on the table and also propose the right policies. If you look at the credentials, he is the right person to do so. But are they correct? This inference is up to each one of us who reads this book.

The language used by Paul Collier is easy to understand. Immigration is a serious topic and hence it is important to decide on a simple style of narration. Paul Collier succeeds here and hence we are still interested in the proceedings when he whips up charts to explain his theory about diaspora. In this book, Paul Collier categories the actors in immigration into three groups and provides the viewpoints of each group in detail. The groups are the immigrants, the indigenous population who are affected by the immigrants and the people left behind by the immigrants in the host country.

The author despite his credentials gives a well researched and a humbling explanation of the various aspects by dividing the actors in this drama into three different categories. He forces us to examine all aspects of immigration thereby questioning our beliefs and prejudices. The icing on the cake is final repartee. He proposes the right policy for immigration after he explains the issues related to migration without checks. Is it palatable to everyone? The jury is still out.

The irony of the present world is we are no island although we are living in one. Hence, our lives are touched in one way or the another by this topic. So I would recommend you to get a copy of this book and read.

Tags: Books,Paul Collier,Immigration




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

9000 miles for exoticism

Our quest characterises our life. In fact, we are searching all our lives for different things. If change is constant, then so is our quest. Does our continued exploration become successful in finding the answer? It 's hard to say. It becomes cruel when the search defines the quality of life we live. Because of this reason, I was interested in a writer's find after traveling 9000 miles. 9000 miles a pretty long way from home.

Have you heard about a fruit named Jambu Air? The writer discovered this exotic fruit in Indonesia. You may read her account of this discovery by clicking this link. When I saw the picture of Jambu Air posted by the writer, it looked familiar. As a result, I looked it up, in my mother tongue Malayalam. Jambu Air is Jambakka. Jambakka is a common in Kerala. My mind was overloaded with a lot of childhood memories when I made the connection between Jambu Air and Jambakka.

The fruit is a common one in Kerala. It is exotic for someone who lives 9000 miles away. There is beauty near us. But we never find it. Sometimes, it takes a stranger to find it near our home and tell us.

Tags: Musings, Search, Exotic

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pappettan goes to a garage

A visit to the garage is saddening. Whenever you take a car for servicing, the repair man identifies so many small things. When you fix these little things, the resultant bill adds up to a big amount. So when Pappettan asked me to accompany him to the garage, my wicked mind was already playing out the victory scene in a loop. Although his intention is a simple oil change, Pappettan goes to the garage and eventually hands over a whole lot of money. But the reality turned out to be different.


After handing the keys to the supervisor, we waited for the assessment report. We might have waited for an hour when the supervisor returned with a sheet. I could see it was a long list.

Supervisor: *looking at the long list of the items* Your car has a lot of problems. You will have to do a coolant flush, trans flush and a power steering flush. *pauses and looks up* We recommend these flushes.

Pappettan: *nods and listens*

Supervisor: *goes on* The air filter is also nearing the end. It is better to replace now.

Pappettan: *still nodding and listening*

Supervisor: *continues* Your check engine light lights up intermittently. Hence, we would like to run more diagnostics to identify the underlying problem. For this service, we will have to charge you labour costs.

Pappettan: *calmly listens*

Supervisor: *adding the finishing touches* Finally, we will do the oil change as requested.

Pappettan: *looks at the supervisor in the eyes, waits for a long time and speaks* Please change the oil. Please do not do anything else.

Supervisor: *speechless at Pappettan's response and stammers* But...

Pappettan: *continues* Keep one thing in mind. I know my car has a lot of problems. While you are opening up the hood to do your activities, please don't introduce any new problems. I can live with the problems I have created but not with the ones you create.

Picture Courtesy: www.freeimages.com



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Resisting versus Savoring

There is a popular topic that emerges out of self-help material. During a day, we make many decisions. As we progress through the day making decisions, our mental energy is slowly eroded. At the end of the day, we have no more energy left. As a result, our decision making grinds to a halt. To avoid this situation, most of the self-help authors urges to make these decisions easy for you. For instance, if you have trouble going out for a jog, keep the jogging shoes closer to you like near you bed. So when you get up, you can quickly put it on. The easy reach to your jogging shoes will reduce the time you grapple with the decision cycle.

On a similar line, the effort spent on resisting pleasure drains us out of energy. Eventually, we succumb to having an excess of what we have deprived ourselves. A study of French parenting shows this phenomenon by taking the example of how children are taught to eat. The French teach their children the pleasure or plaisir of eating instead of extolling the virtues of healthy food and the key things to avoid. This approach results in the kids growing up to savor food versus resisting and then succumbing.

Tags: Parenthood, Resist, Savor

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Regret Minimization Framework

What is a regret minimization framework? I am not sure who gets the credit for coining this term. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, uses this term. The name may sound fancy to you, but I am sure you have either read or heard this in many other forms. The concept is simple to explain. Decision making is difficult and all day along, we make decisions. This day-long exercise drains us of our vital energy. Sometimes, we struggle in this process, not knowing which is the right path. What do you do in such cases? So you use this framework to reduce the regrets you might feel by taking the decision. Jeff Bezos uses this project himself far into the future and reflects if he would regret the decision. Stephen Covey asks you to imagine what would be your eulogy. The underlying principles are the same.

You may watch the video for better understanding. Jeff Bezos describes a framework. You still have to use your wisdom before applying it.



 Tags: Musings, Jeff Bezos, Regret

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Who is trying to disarm and conquer?

We saw many occurrences of gun related violence from the unexpected quarters. Most of these occurrences happened in the United States. I am not sure how easy is it to get a gun in the US. Nor do I understand what kind of controls do they want to impose on the sale of firearms. But one thing for sure. The subject of gun control polarises the nation. I saw a clip on the news channel where the opponents of gun control were holding up a banner highlighting a quote from Adolf Hitler. To conquer a nation, you must first disarm its citizens.

If you reflect on the quote, it makes perfect sense. But did Adolf Hitler say it? According to the fact finder site, www.snopes.com, there is no documented proof behind this quote. But there is enough literature that can be interpreted to arrive at this alleged quote. Looking back, Hitler invaded a lot of countries in his quest for domination. It makes perfect sense to disarm the citizens once he has conquered a nation. Whom are we fighting against now? Who is conquering us? As far as I can see, there is only one thing that tries to overpower and subjugate us. Fear. Can we use a gun against our fear? How do we fight this monster?

Tags: Musings, Gun, Disarm

Friday, January 1, 2016

Fire and Drinks, 2016 begins

The new year has dawned all around the world. All are happy and hopeful about what the new year will bring. All of us have already forgotten about the joy and pains of the year that raced past us. I like this particular aspect of us. We forget and move on quickly. We may not forgive, but we do move on. As I watched the world usher in the new year with broad smiles and open arms, two things caught my attention.

The first was the about the fire at the Address Downtown Hotel, Dubai. Before the new year, the fire turned out to be alarming. Luckily, there has been no loss of life. The hotel can take pride in this fact although we are still awaiting the exact causes. As the world is rapidly becoming a dangerous place to live in, any news like this is treated with suspicion. You struggle hard to take away the doubt on villainous involvement. Despite this setback, Dubai behaved like a real showman. They went about their business as per schedule. There was usual artwork on their skies with fireworks. You may click this link to see the aftermath of the fire in the morning.

The second was the photograph of a person celebrating the new year. The person has passed out after consuming drinks, a mistake most of us has made at different times of our lives. We drink too much. As a result, there is a blackout, and we remember nothing, thankfully. But then a photograph surfaces from the unexpected quarters. Luckily for this person, we can't see her face. So she can rest assured. You may click this link to see the photograph.

So fire and drinks forms the first image of the new year. Here is wishing everyone a happy new year.

Tags: Musings, New Year, Fire
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.