Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

US and China – Defining Relationship of 21st Century

” America has no permanent friends or enemies , only permanent interests ”   – Henry Kissinger

The nonagenarian master strategist and American diplomat Henry Kissinger spoke at the Columbia University on 26th September at the US-China University Presidents and Think Tank Forum.He described the US- China relations as the ‘ defining ‘ relationship of the 21st Century and suggested that from a rational day-to-day working relationship , this should raise to a conceptual level for ‘ Global Peace and Human Progress’ .Kissinger should know as it was he who initiated this relationship way back in June 1971 , when he traveled on a secret mission via Romania and Pakistan to meet up with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Chairman Mao Zedong at the behest of President Nixon ,ending  China’s isolation for 30 years from the western world.

I recall an incident in 1975 , when I was undergoing the prestigious staff course at the Defense Services Staff College [DSSC] , Wellington , Nilgiris , India . The then US Ambassador to India William B Saxbe was a guest speaker and one of my colleague asked him an awkward question –  ” Sir , US treated China as an untouchable till 1971 , and suddenly , we find that President Nixon sent his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly to China to meet up with Premier Zhou Enlai – How do you explain this incident in the context of morality in International politics? ” – The Ambassador did not like this question and avoided a direct answer initially . But later on , he stated that it was in the strategic interest of the US to have opened this so-called Track 2 diplomacy in 1971.

Rest is history now as the above initiative was soon followed up with the Nixon – Zhou Enlai summit in Beijing in 1972 and a new chapter began in the US- China relationship , though formal diplomatic ties came about only in 1979 because of the US stand on Formosa – now Taiwan. This major break through paved the way for a ‘détente ‘ with USSR later and helped both the countries to enter trade relations for mutual benefit . However , in the eyes of the US , China remains a potential adversary but an economic partner , in spite of the poor human rights records of China and the status of the largest foreign creditor of the US ! .

In the present North Korean crisis , the US – China relationship assumes a great significance and a summit meeting between President Donald Trump and the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is on the cards soon. Experts believe that this meeting can pavé the way to diffuse the tension and bring North Korea to the negotiation table to settle the Nuclear Issue.

What Decision is good for your survival ? – Bhoop Singh’s LMG

As a Leadership and Management student and trainer over the last two decades , I have come across large volumes of books , research papers and stories on Decision Theory , Decision Process , Heuristics , Game Theory,Decision Trees and the like .But , no one can ever tell you with certainty what is good for you in a given circumstance except yourself ! .You may take inputs from multiple sources , get your decision reviewed up the hierarchy , but finally you are responsible to decide what is good for YOU .

The following story which periodically do the rounds in the Army Circles and many times used by me in my training sessions will illustrate this point. Before we go to the story , let us understand the concept of positional defense at a forward Army post facing the enemy in a mountainous terrain.  Our troops generally occupy a piece of high ground overlooking a possible enemy approach and try to dominate it both by observation and fire power. In the smallest field formation called a section consisting of a dozen soldiers , the main fire power is provided by the Light Machine Gun [LMG] which can fire a salvo of rounds in an automatic mode at the approaching enemy column. From an enemy stand point , the attack will be mounted to neutralize the LMG post at the first instance before the attacker fight with the others dug in . In defense , the positions and sighting of the LMG is reviewed up the chain from the Section Commander , Platoon commander, Company Commander and the Battalion Commander .  In the case of some key locations where guarding and defending a possible enemy approach is vital for the success of the defensive battle , at times the Brigade Commander may review the gun positions prepared by each section . Needless to say,this management review process holds good in civil life also whether in the government or with the industry .

Now , the story . In a section of Army Troops occupying a defensive post in a mountainous terrain , Naik Bhoop Singh was in charge of the LMG . Considering various enemy approaches and selecting a post which gives him the best field of fire with the widest sweep of the gun possible , Bhoop Singh dug up his position in a forward slope selected and assigned to his section by the Company Commander. Later on , his Platoon Commander reviewed the lay out and suggested a different position for the LMG and asked Bhoop Singh to move his gun there and dig again. Bhoop Singh did this and moved his gun there. Soon, the review by the Company Commander followed and as luck would have it , Bhoop Singh was asked to move his gun to another position which according to the Company Commander gave Bhoop Singh better field of fire to inflict maximum casualty on the attacking enemy ! . Bhoop Singh dug up his new position and moved his LMG .

On the following day, the Brigade Commander accompanied by the Battalion Commander visited the defenses to review the layout down to the section level. The Battalion Commander discussed some details reviewing the gun positions with the Brigade Commander considering various threat perceptions. Bhoop Singh’s LMG position also came under review . The Battalion Commander instructed the Company Commander to select a better location for Bhoop Singh’s LMG . Before leaving , The Brigade Commander casually asked Bhoop Singh to tell him where he would be comfortable to locate his LMG  to face the attacker effectively . Bhoop Singh smartly saluted him and told him that he would like to site  the gun where he dug up the position originally !. The Brigade Commander told him to go back there !. Moral of the story and the Decision Process – It is mostly your  ‘ GUT FEELING ‘ that holds good both in war and in business !

 

An Inspection in the land of the Kanchenjunga

 

I am glad to refer my readers to one of my blog published last year in guftagu @ amolak.in. Hope you like it. The scenic beauty of this Himalayan State  , friendly locals , inhospitable weather with treacherous terrain especially at higher altitudes , eye ball to eye ball contact with Chinese  troops at the passes like Nathu La , Jelep La , Cho La  etc are still fresh in my memory . I am very closely following the Doklam Stand off which is in the news these days.

One of our patrol party strayed  into Chinese territory across the international border in 1980 . They were apprehended by the Chinese troops and were taken to Yatung , the local military HQ at the Chinese side of Nathu La for questioning .  We got them back after a week through negotiations at the Field Commander level. One Medical Officer , Captain , who was part of the party later told me that they were looked after well and every evening they were shown the Hindi movie ‘Awara ” .

Please also see my blogs on ” An Indian Rope Trick ” and ” Field Punishment ” which narrate  my experience and encounters in Sikkim.

Re – Imagining Infosys – Come back of Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani is back with Infosys after a gap of 10 years , this time on a SOS call from the co-founders and the board  to release the bellwether IT Company from the recent controversies it got mired into , initially with the strong criticism on the board’s functioning by Narayana Murthy [NRN] , the co-founder of Infosys in 1981 with a shoe string budget , followed by the resignation of Vishal Sikka , the first CEO  from outside ,  selected by the board unanimously in 2014 to re-position the company to meet the market challenges posed by the competition and technology necessitating a new business model . Sikka delivered in 3 years and took the company to a better standing among its competitors but  his style of functioning and the tacit support he received from the board  [ now without any founders as its members ] was  not received kindly by NRN . The ” fight ” went out to the market and the Organization suffered in its standing in the public eye.  The stake holders including the clients in 45 countries with a market cap of more than $ 34 billion and the co-founders  who own 12.8 % of the shares could ill afford this situation and immediately did a rescue act by recalling Nandan to take charge  and steer the ship to safety , balance and future prosperity.

I have been closely following Infosys , at least from the late 90’s when they established their  facility at Hyderabad . I believe  , the then Andhra Pradesh Govt had to have several meetings with NRN to persuade him to open a branch at Hyderabad . I had an informal meeting with Chandrasekhar Kakal ,the first center head nominated for Hyderabad in my office with Metamor at the Cyber Towers when he came over to check with me on the availability of a temporary office for Infosys. He finally managed to get a few seats with the STPI [ Software Technology Parks of India ] facility in Cyber Towers on rent . Today , Infosys has two major world class facilities in Hyderabad employing more than 30,000 professionals and is a dominant player in the Telangana IT Eco System.  As the Executive Director of HYSEA [www.hysea.in ] I had close interaction with Infosys , Hyderabad and all the Center heads from Kakal , Narry , Ravi Kumar , and Manisha has been members of the Managing Committee of HYSEA [ www.hysea.in] I met Nandan Nilekani during 2005 over a break fast meeting with HYSEA’s Managing Committee and was greatly impressed by his professionalism and a ” no nonsense ” approach to anything in  business and life.

Nandan has been largely responsible in taking NRN ‘s legacy forward when he stepped into his shoes as CEO of Infosys . The culture , value system  , corporate governance , and impeccable credentials of Infosys is well known in the Industry. He later on became the public face of the Company and took it to greater heights and profits making it a truly global entity. It is therefore proper for all concerned to bring him back in this moment of crisis to do the balancing act and chart its future with a new board . I heard his press briefing today thanks to an on line coverage by Economic Times , and was very happy to listen to his deliberate and measured  words to the media at the same time stating his immediate priorities candidly. He started by saying he is back because there is no one else , partly joking but otherwise meaning every word of it !. He assured that he represented 100 % of all the stake holders and has a  ” clean slate ” to work on ,assisted by a newly constituted board and the second rung of leaders in the company. His tasks are to build consensus , bring in stability , find a new CEO from among the insiders/ outside / Infosys alumni who moved out in the past to other organizations with the help of a search committee under Kiran Majumdar Shaw , CEO of Biocon , and work with clients , institutional investors co-founders and all others in this endeavor  . He specifically mentioned the need to ” patch up ” with NRN , the industry icon whose concerns needed  to be addressed on priority.

Nandan Nilekani  joined Infosys first at the age of 26 in 1981 , was its CEO during 2002 -07 , continued as its Co- Chairman till he left to take up his job with the Govt of India , heading the UIDAI project , another path breaking  performance which earned him great accolades from all. He is back  with Infosys at the age of 62 to  stabilize the company using his consultative skills as its HCF or LCD as he jokingly stated to the media today. Having read all his books , starting from the seminal work  ” Imagining India ”  and observed him and his style of Leadership from a distance , I am very confident that this new task is really cut out for him and he along with his team will bring this very resilient global company to greater heights and glory very soon.  As he himself stated today , this is also one form of serving the nation , while answering a question from the media. Time to Re-Imagine Infosys , Nandan .

Vishal Sikka’s message to Infoscions – A great lesson in Leadership for all

Dr Vishal Sikka resigned today from the post of MD & CEO Infosys attributing unrelenting , baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks on him . The board of Infosys supported his reason and also named the founder of Infosys  as the person Sikka was attributing in a statement to the shareholders , released to the Press. Not a happy ending to the stellar performance in all dimensions for a struggling bellwether IT Giant when Sikka took over command in 2014 . This blog is not to do a critique on the incident or its fall out but only to quote Mr Sikka from his farewell letter to ‘Infoscions ” which caught my attention from a Leadership perspective .

An extract from his letter –

Three years ago, I started this journey with a calling , to help reshape the company around innovation and entrepreneurship , to deliver breakthrough value for clients , and to help elevate our work  , our standing , ourselves , on the basis of a dual strategy , bringing together duality of renew and new , automation and innovation , people and software, to show a new path forward in a time of unprecedented disruption within the industry and beyond . That time , around and before June 2014 , was a difficult time . Our growth rates were low and attrition was high. There was a sense of apprehension all around and I came here to help enable a great transformation as our core business faced intense pricing pressure , and clients looked increasingly to innovative partners to help shape their digital futures. Now,a bit more than three years later , I am happy to see the company doing better in every dimension I can think of .————

And I am proud of how we have upheld our values , our culture , our integrity ,whilst we have gone about this massive transformation .

—————- I was ,and remain, passionate about the massive transformation opportunity for this company and industry , but we all need to allow the company to move beyond the noise and distractions .———–

Together we have achieved a lot . —- We have laid the foundation for the next 30 years of Infosys , and I feel deeply proud to have worked alongside all of you in sowing the seeds that will return this company to the bellwether it once was. As you’ve all often reminded ,Infosys is no bigger and no smaller than any of us ,the people,the Infoscions.  You are the ones that will take Infosys to the next 30 years and beyond. As I think about the time ahead, for all of us , I can only see us powered by a freedom from the known, of renewing ourselves to thrive in the time ahead. Each one of you has vindicated my deeply held belief that people are capable of doing more ,  achieving more, being more, than they ever imagined possible . So , keep pushing yourself to do better at whatever you are good at , but also learning to do things you have never done before ,indeed,nobody has ever done before —.

Advice and wise counsel to emulate for all leaders who would like to embrace change to grow their organization !

 

Padma Bhushan Dr F C Kohli – A Great Patriot

I consider it a great privilege in my corporate life to have met Padma Bhushan Dr F C Kohli, the founder CEO of Tata Consulting Services [ TCS] on 30 Nov 2016, when HYSEA [ Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association] felicitated Dr Kohli  for his Life Time Achievement in the service to the IT Industry in India , during its silver jubilee event at the International Convention Center, Hyderabad. As the Executive Director of HYSEA at that time, I was deeply touched by the passion and indomitable spirit and above all his great humility when I spoke to him on phone after sending him a formal invitation sometime in September 2016 through Mr V Rajanna, the Vice President and Regional Head of TCS at Hyderabad. Mr Kohli graciously accepted our invitation, spoke to me at length asking me about HYSEA and the event. Thereafter, he read out to me major points he would like to cover in his speech and sought my views on that. Coming from a person of his stature, this was a new experience for me.

When I joined the IT Industry with a MNC company back in 1997, Dr Kohli was already a great celebrity in the IT Industry of India. In fact, he is regarded as the ‘Father of the IT Industry in India’, having been the founder CEO of TCS way back in 1969. He was asked by the Chairman of TATA Group to take over the new entity when they decided to hive of an existing department to be a full fledged IT company. Under Dr Kohli’s leadership, TCS pioneered the IT revolution in India and the spectacular growth of TCS to what it is today is due to the visionary leadership and a ‘no nonsense” approach to his role by Dr Kohli.

Dr Kohli not only led TCS to glory but used Information Technology for the masses in India. His various adult literacy programs using computer and his advocacy to engineering students to undertake research and come out with socially relevant programs and innovations shows his great commitment to Nation Building. In his speech during the felicitation ceremony, he exhorted the IT Industry Champions to design software in all Indian languages so that the Internet can be truly an “Enabler ” for the country to harness the digital prowess of IT. A person in his mid 90’s in age, he spoke for more than 20 minutes clearly articulating his vision for the IT Industry in India and pledged his support in this endeavor. Over 900 participants, mostly CEO’s of IT Companies, in the august presence of Sri K T Rama Rao [KTR], honorable minister for IT, Govt. of Telangana stood up for a standing ovation to the Patriarch of the IT Industry in India and a true patriot.

I dedicate this blog to Padma Bhushan Dr. F C Kohli on the Independence Day and pray to the Almighty to give him long life and health to continue to be the Beacon for the IT Industry in years to come.

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Dr. FAQIR CHAND KOHLI

Profile

Born in Peshawar (Pakistan), Faqir Chand Kohli had his early education in Peshawar and Lahore. After graduating from Punjab University, Lahore he went to Queen’s University, Canada and received his B.Sc. (Hons.) in Electrical Engineering and later his MS in Electrical Engineering from MIT.

After a brief stint in US training in Power System Operation Planning, he returned to India in early August 1951 and joined Tata Electric Companies. He quickly rose in ranks to become director of Director of Tata Electric Companies in 1970 and was instrumental in introducing several advanced engineering and management techniques for the operation of power systems. He was also responsible for significant use of digital computers for power system design and control, using the CDC 3600 mainframe computer at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. All this while he simultaneously working as consultant to Tata Consulting Engineers.

In September 1969, when he moved to TCS as General Manager, it marked the beginning of IT development in our country. TCS pioneered India’s IT Revolution and helped the country to build the IT Industry. 

Be it the propagation of computerization in India or bringing the benefits of IT to India’s rural masses through computer based Adult Literacy programmes, Kohli saw IT as an instrument of national development. He has been working on advancing engineering education at undergraduate level to world standards to create a large pool of students ready for undertaking graduate studies and research.

F C Kohli is a fellow of IEEE USA, IET UK, Institution of Engineers India, Computer Society of India and many others. He has received multiple Doctorates in Engineering (Honoris Causa) from the University of Waterloo (Canada), Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, U.K., University of Roorkee (UP), from IIT Bombay, Jadhavpur University, Kolkata and IIT Kanpur. He has received many awards including the prestigious Dadabhai Naoroji Memorial Award in 2001, and was conferred the Padma Bhushan in the year 2002.

A visionary and pioneer by nature, Dr. F. C. Kohli is acknowledged as the ‘Father of the Indian Software Industry’.

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An Innovation at Higher Altitudes – The Indian Rope Trick

RTE – The Indian Rope Trick at Higher Altitudes (1)

I wrote this blog and sent it to my erstwhile commanding officer at Sikkim during 1981-82 for publication in his website guftagu@amolak.in. Later on, the post got the attention of the editor of FAUJI magazine and he republished the same.

Looking back more than 35 years, I feel very privileged to have been associated with this venture in absolute field conditions which finally resulted in a great pay off to the troops located in forward areas. The Doklam stand off with China now is happening not far from this area .

I am sure the Indian Army is much better equipped to cope with the “first enemy ” – the inhospitable terrain and then to meet any aggression in our soil in a befitting manner.

Proud to have been part of the Great Indian Army !

A WINDOW side view of Microsoft Leadership over the four decades

It was early 2000 and the venue – The Shilpa Kala Vedika at Hitec City , Hyderabad [ christened Cyberabad later on ] . A large crowd of Software professionals and leaders from that Industry were anxiously waiting for Bill Gates to appear on the stage to demonstrate the much touted device – The Tablet PC . I vividly remember the high dramatics attached to this event when Bill finally appeared on stage and presented the device to the delight of all assembled in the hall. It was global leadership in action from a position of dominance!.

Microsoft was in existence almost three decades before that and Bill’s body language reflected the fabulous success saga of his enterprise shaping the virtual world through his WINDOWS rooted in technology prowess.

Come late 2000’s , and we have a true dramatist and high flyer sales guy in Steve Ballmer , Bills’s successor with a larger-than-life image hugging people and shouting on stage proclaiming the dominance of Microsoft products against a tough and competitive business landscape in the form the likes of Google and others , not to talk about the issues connected with Anti Trust and piracy.

Tune to early 2014 and after 39 years , we have the third CEO of Microsoft – Satya Nadella again from Hyderabad India taking over the mantle from Steve Ballmer . His interview telecast recently with a business correspondent in the US was in stark contrast to the styles of Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer . Nadella’s affable ,gentle collegiate style appeared to all the reflection of a new chapter in the business history of Microsoft giving hopes of a collaborative style . It looks like he knows where the Industry is heading and his belief in breaking traditions and embracing Innovation to go forward displays a cultural shift for the mature company to transition into new business breaking from past glories and missed opportunities.

The Power Shift across the 31st Parallel to the South

The world famous management guru Ram Charan in his book titled “Global Tilt” discusses the shift in economic power from the Northern Hemisphere [ US,Europe , Japan and Russia ] to countries like China , India, Brazil , Middle East and the African countries across the so called 31st Parallel. These countries have of late shown a new capacity for economic up swing upsetting the age old belief that the North held the key to economic prosperity. Many of them have in fact come out with innovative business models surpassing the wisdom of the erstwhile giants from the North.

Ramcharan himself represents this outlook in many ways. From humble beginnings in India , over the last 50 years of work life, he has become an undisputed global management Guru highly respected by all in the C suites . His clients included late Steve Jobs, Jack Welch ,Michael Dell and Howard Schultz. His ideas are always current and are sought after by all.

In his book Global Tilt, he has narrated many success stories from South of the 31st Parallel. One of them pertains to the Indian Telecom giant – Bharti Airtel. The growth of this enterprise from humble beginning through innovative business practices both in India and in Africa through acquisitions is well known in business circles. Airtel ,as per today’s news have more than doubled its quarterly earnings during this quarter.

Some of the other large scale enterprises [LSE’s] from the South which find a mention in Ram Charan’s book are Huawei and Haier of China , Samsung of Korea , GMR from India , SABIC from Saudi Arabia , Zain Group in Africa and AB InBev of Brazil .

According to Ram Charan , a global company in the tilt will have a headquarters in the South ,will have leaders who keep a keen eye on the macro landscape ,will have goals,performance targets and accountability linked to real time challenges ,will redeploy resources quickly as per market dynamics ,will have closely connected decision makers ,will move decisively ahead of others and above all will have the psychology to accept that some things are unknowable,and the confidence,flexibility and resilience to adopt.

Probity in Leaders

Ayaz Memon , the well known senior journalist ,while suggesting a road map for the Indian Cricket team [Forbes Magazine ,Indian edition of January 10,2014] talks about the four P’s which they need to cultivate to stay on course as personified by the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid ,Laxman, Kumble and Ganguly who dominated the game during the 90’s and 2000.The four P’s are Pride, Passion,Performance and Probity.

Out of the four P’s what guides you during the hours of crisis , especially when sports is driven by commerce is PROBITY , according to Memon. This is very evident from the various match fixing scandals which troubled the cricket players all around the world.

Extending the argument , I am sure Probity is equally if not more important in all walks of Leadership – whether in Politics , Business or Society . The various scams we witnessed recently in India or the ENRON , Lehman Brothers and Sub Prime incidents in the US all substantiate the need for this stellar asset among Leaders of all walks of life .

Probity is developed through culture building among individuals and in organizations over time. It codifies a written or unwritten ethical conduct to follow in times of crisis. It becomes the bedrock of Organizations to fall back when challenged . All other P’s will come to a naught in the absence of PROBITY.