29 April, 2009
28 April, 2009
I read the news from General Motors yesterday, that they are discontinuing their Pontiac line from next year, with some sadness.
26 April, 2009
You discover something about a key supplier of yours that you didn't know before. He employs child labour.
1) Stop buying from him even though it may affect your business
2) Report his employing child labour to the authorities, but continue to buy from him
3) Ignore this, saying its his business and none of yours
If you work for a global company, you probably have no choice - NGOs will roast your company alive. (Remember Nike in China ?)
But , assume you are in a small local company. What will you do ?
Would your answer be different, if instead of discovering that he employs child labour, you discover one of the following
- He is cheating on VAT (excise, sales tax, whatever) and evading them , or,
- He is discriminating against women
Would your answer be the same ?
25 April, 2009
You resign from your company and join another company. Your were happy with your previous employer and he treated you well - you are moving just because a better opportunity arose.
In your new job, you need to hire four good lieutenants. You know that if you approached your four buddies in the old company, they would join you (for they loved working with you). But if those four left too, the business in the old company would be seriously affected.
This is one of those cases where in different cultures, you'd get completely different first responses. In some cultures, this is not a dilemma at all - you'd just do it. In other cultures, this would be a complete no no.
But, as I mused before, I believe these are deeply individual decisions based on one's values and beliefs. There is no "right" answer.
Would you place the call to your buddies ?
24 April, 2009
23 April, 2009
22 April, 2009
He quotes Charles Handy, an Irish philosopher specializing in organizational management who wrote in his book ‘What’s a Business For’ in 2002 this prescient paragraph:
The markets will empty and share prices will collapse, as ordinary people find other places to put their money--into their houses, maybe, or under their beds. The great virtue of capitalism, that it provides a way for the savings of society to be used for the creation of wealth--will have been eroded. So we will be left to rely increasingly on governments for the creation of our wealth, something that they have always been conspicuously bad at doing.....Trust is fragile. Like a piece of china, once cracked it is never quite the same. And people's trust in business, and those who lead it, is today cracking."
Click here to read this superb post.
21 April, 2009
Any takers for BPO in agriculture ?
20 April, 2009
How come ? Surely there's something wrong. You have one billion crazy Indians all wanting to imitate Shahrukh Khan or Aishwarya Rai. Not to speak of the rest of the world where lots want to learn "Bollywood dancing". Terrific talent in singing, dancing, acting amongst the Indians - just go to any college or company function. Fanatic demand. Great talent supply. And yet a tiny industry.
- The size is probably understated as the industry is not all above board. But even at 2 or 3 times the stated number, its still a tiny industry.
- Its highly unprofessional. A lot of financing is by the underworld and professional management just does not exist.
- Marketing is an unknown function. There's no merchandising at all (how many Lagaan cricket bats have you seen ?)
- Its not really sold globally. Whatever is taken global is for the expat Indian audience. Actually the films, with their song and dance, does have universal appeal.
- There's zero market research. Do the producers really understand their customer - what do they want ? What are the market segments - the bhaiyya watches completely different stuff from the aunty.
- Much of the product is garbage. That's why most films lose money - they are trash and deserve to lose money.
The industry has a larger than life image, but in reality its a mouse. There's a lot of noise, but little to shout about.
Corporate India - get on to the movie industry.
Now that's a thought. Won't you want to work in a company where you see Aishwarya on Monday, Kareena on Tuesday, Priyanka on Wednesday ......
18 April, 2009
17 April, 2009
These days China's numbers matter as much, if not more, than America's numbers. There was therefore more than the usual interest, when China announced its Q1 numbers yesterday.
- Growth is actually good, and forget whether it was dot on with expectations.
- Growth is being led by domestic consumption and investment, making up for poor exports (isn't this what the world has been clamouring for ?)
- Massive infrastructure spending and investment is happening - Will all this be really productive or will they be bridges to nowhere ?
- If you look objectively, China was overheating in the past and is now on a more even keel.
- The worry continues to be the banking sector. Massive lending for investment has happened. How much of this will truly yield returns. I know the published percentage of non performing assets is not high, but I am almost sure this is hugely understated.
- The story that there will be social unrest if 8% growth is not achieved in bunkum. I simply cannot relate to this logic
- Inflation in the medium term is a real real threat. God help if commodity prices around the world (especially oil prices shoot up).
One other thought struck me. Its only Apr 16. How come such numbers come out so early. Many companies cannot meet such a deadline. But a whole nation - and that too as huge as China?
16 April, 2009
- It exploits poor people in developing countries and sometimes deprives them of their traditional livelihood (farming)
- It is harmful to the environment and contributes to adverse climate change
- It deprives people in richer countries of their jobs
- It does not promote human rights and democracy in the countries they operate
Underlying this is the assumption that multi national companies , in their single minded pursuit of profit, will not care about any of these.
14 April, 2009
- Tax bands are globally agreed. Income tax on companies cannot be lower than x and cannot be greater than y by multilateral agreement
- Double Tax agreements are multilateral (through the WTO) and not bilateral between countries.
This will remove much of the pain global businesses face from the inevitable conflict of national tax laws.
Nobody can do justice to this area without writing a 1500 page PhD thesis. I have absolutely no intention of doing so ! All I am catalysing is a thought.
Tomorrow I'll post on another aspect of globalisation - why it seems to be dirty word in the minds of many.
13 April, 2009
11 April, 2009
10 April, 2009
PS - After I made this post, I got an email from Niraj Kapasi who has posted a very good perspective on the affair in his blog at http://productiveexperiences.blogspot.com/
09 April, 2009
- You have to submit tons of documents. Some of them are plain ridiculous. And the consulate is just looking for an excuse to return the pile to you - lets say there's an ink smudge at the bottom of the page !
- You need to produce a special photograph. And of course every country has its own rules on photograph. End result, I must be the most photographed man on earth. Once I was so irritated that I went to a studio, asked the photographer to click every conceivable type of photograph, print about 300 copies , dumped the whole lot on my secretary and then refused to go to a photo studio again. And I got caught out by the French embassy which stipulates that you cannot smile in the photo (I am not making this up).
- Then some idiots require you to come in person. These are the worst. You have to fight to get an appointment and travel to the city where the consulate is and spend a degrading 4 or 5 hours in the process. I am convinced that the rudest people in the world are the lot in the visa sections of consulates.
- And then you wait. With you passport stuck and you can't travel anywhere or apply for a visa to the next country you are going to.
- When you reach the country, you stand in a long and winding queue specially meant for citizens of lesser countries and go through the process of answering sometimes downright rude questions with a straight polite face of extreme gratitude. Every seasoned traveller knows that even if the guy insults your mother, you can't show the slightest trace of anger or else you are doomed.
07 April, 2009
06 April, 2009
05 April, 2009
A business presentation is all about communication of a message. Sometimes slides help in the communication of the message. But more often, you can communicate better without any slides.
The great communicators of the world don't need any slides. Barack Obama, to my knowledge, did not use Power Point in his campaign. And yet, don't we all remember "Yes we can" ?
Here is a recipe for a power pointless, but effective presentation.
- Carefully consider your message. This must take the maximum time in the preparation (and not the production of slides). What is the objective of the presentation ? What is it that you want to say ? Why should the listener be interested in what you are saying ? What are his concern areas on the matter that he would like addressed ?
- Consider how you will convey the message. Craft a few sound bytes - these would be the punchlines that the listener would remember after he has left the room.
- Write down , probably in bullet points, the flow of your talking. Use this as a reference during the presentation (in many cases power point slides carry out exactly this function - they are a prop for the presenter and not for the audience !)
- At the meeting, draw up the blinds, brighten the lights, open the window, maybe. Make it a bright, cheerful room rather than the semi darkened horror that is required for the other presenters who are using a zillion power point slides.
- During the presentation go to the whiteboard and write down the two or three numbers or data that you need to present. In most cases that's all the numbers you need.
- Talk confidently, in a voice, tone and accent that everybody understands. Make eye contact. Smile. Use gestures. Walk around a little bit. Relaxed , confident, sincere, is the key.
Think about it. People who know exactly what they are saying, people who are passionate about what they are saying, people who are supremely confident of what they are saying, don't need any props. Their words create the magic.
Wanna try the next time around ?
03 April, 2009
1. Check your e mail while somebody is presenting
This has to be at the top of the list. Checking email on blackberry or, worse still, on the laptop. Oh, its very polite. Tell the presenter you aren't one bit interested in what he is saying. I have seen many times, when somebody has flown 10 hours to be here and when the presentation starts, he is already fiddling with his blackberry. Why bother coming ?
2. Ask questions on Slide 1
Preempt the presenter by starting to talk before he does ! Ask all sorts of questions on Slide 1. Destroy his rhythm. Completely screw up his timing. Make him flip flop on his charts and his thoughts. Why not leave your questions till the last ? Let the presenter convey the message in the way he wants to . Listen. And then, after he has finished, ask your questions.
3. Flip the printed slides to see what is said on the last page
This is the problem with distributing printed decks. There is almost something irresistible about them. Your fingers are magnetically drawn to flipping over to the last page. Try and not open the deck. Listen to what the guy is saying.
4. Duck in and out
Walk in and out 17 times during the presentation. Take calls. Let your secretary interrupt you every 5 minutes. Not sure why you bothered to come for the presentation.
5. Nod off
Yes, I know - you had a sleepless flight last night. Still nodding of is not acceptable. Drink loads of coffee. Smoke like a chimney. Do whatever. But don't insult the presenter by nodding off. If you can't keep your eyes open, leave the room.
6. Point out the typo on the slide and crack a joke
Murphy's Law states that that every presentation has to have at least one typo. Don't compound the guy's misery by joking on it. Leave it be. Its not important to the message he is trying to convey.
7. Talk in a foreign language to another attendee
Cross talking is not polite during a presentation, but the worst is if you talk to your mate loudly in a language the presenter cannot understand. This is just downright rude and shows you are not a global citizen. If you must speak to another attendee, please do so in the language that everybody understands.
8. Look at the chart and not the presenter
Staring at the screen won't make you wiser. What the presenter is saying is more important than what's in the chart. Look at him. Encourage him with a nod. Make eye contact. You'll get his message better.
9. Your mobile gives a loud ring
Why is it that somebody's phone always goes off in every presentation. Is the silent mode so difficult to activate ? I wish there was a device that could automatically turn every mobile in the room to silent mode.
10. Doodle on the notepad
Another irresistible urge. Cover 5 pages full of intricate doodles in plain view of the presenter. Conveys a wonderful message to the presenter. Keep your hands firmly in the pocket. If you must take notes, do so quickly and get those hands back into the pocket.
In my experience, the more senior the member of the audience is, the more likely he is to be a listener from hell. What a pity.
Tomorrow, I'll post on presenting without Power Point to round off this series.
02 April, 2009
1. Spend 95% of the preparation time on chart making and 5% on what you are actually going to say
A whole battalion of underlings works on the charts. Hours and hours spent on revising and re revising them. A lot less time on what the presenter is actually going to say. Charts are an aid to speaking and not the other way around. How many times have I heard "now what are we saying in this chart" !
2. Have 74 charts for a 15 mts presentation
This is a universal truth - there will always be way more charts than what can be covered sensibly in the allotted time.
3. Spend 75% of your allotted time on Charts 1-4 and then desperately run through the balance 26 charts
Haven't you noticed how slowly the charts roll on in the fist 75% of the session and how they move at lightning speed in the last few minutes
4. Flip charts back and forth to check what is coming next
Some underling has put the charts together. You haven't spent enough time familiarising it. You don't know what's coming next. So you flip forward and backward just to see what's next. Worse still you gaze at your chart, after it has come on, to decipher what to say.
5. Recycle charts from old presentations
Everybody does this. But other than factual numbers and the like, any recycling makes sure the chart is not exactly in line with what you are trying to convey. After all no two presentations are exactly alike. And worse, there is the risk of the recycled chart carrying a big goof - for example the wrong name of the company !
6. Have a zillion things on your chart, preferably in a font size that can’t be read.
Why is it that consultants' charts are unreadable - after all aren't they supposed to be experts at presenting ; isn't that a key tool of their trade ? One CEO of a leading consultant said in a presentation that the "busy" chart was to give all the info for the listener to read later. Horseshit. Nobody reads the slides later. If your chart is unreadable; you've just lost the audience.
7. When asked a question, rummage through your chart pack saying “I have a chart on this”
Everybody has "backup charts" to be pulled out if a question is asked. Why ? Just answer the question. Nothing irritates the audience than the presenter rummaging through his deck to find the right chart.
8. Circulate hard copies of your charts before you start
Don't do it. Its a walking invitation for the listener to be flipping ahead to see your last chart. If you must distribute hard copies, do so after you have finished. Even this is rarely required. I have seldom seen anybody avidly devouring a deck post a presentation. Your nice glossy will simply lie in a cupboard for 4 years and then be shredded.
9. Have typos on your charts and then draw attention to them
There is always a typo or a goof. Mostly because you have been re revising it for the nth time and actually made some changes 60 seconds before you went on air. There is a golden law - if there is a typo, however small, the listener will get it. And you can then compound the error by drawing attention to it and "apologising" with a nervous giggle.
10. Stand at the exact opposite end of the room to where the chart is projected
This is to ensure that everybody gets a crick in the neck by swiveling from the chart to you. Being sensible people, they'll simply ignore you and stare blankly at the chart.
This is my own caricature of a "presenter from hell". Tomorrow its ten cardinal sins of listeners.