Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Journey of Self-Actualization: A Leadership Process of Discovery, Development, and Delivery

It is established in organizational behavior that self-actualization is the ultimate goal of every employee, almost! Self-actualization is the fact of using one’s skills and abilities and achieving as much as one can possibly achieve. The concept of self-actualization is applicable for every individual of the society. The concept is especially relevant for students aspiring to choose their careers and to entrants in organizations seeking to develop their careers. The unfortunate part, however, is that most individuals would not be exposed to the concept of self-actualization, let alone enabled to explore it. As the concept is defined, there are two operative parts; one is that of skills and abilities, and the other is that of goals and achievements. Despite the simplicity and clarity of the concept it is distressing that it is known so little, and worse still is practiced so little.

The primary reason is that the life of an individual from school to college, and from the starting organization to the ending organization is seen in parts. As a student the objective is no larger than selecting a helpful course, as a graduate the goal is no daunting than entering a remunerative job, and as a working professional the aspiration is no loftier than reaching the top of a function, business or company. None of these, however, leads one in a structured way to self-actualization. On the other hand, individuals tend to be ignorant of what they intrinsically seek to become, even towards the terminal phase of their long careers. The reason is that individuals tend to benchmark themselves with others than engage themselves in a process of self-discovery. It is important that one has a paradigm from the start of an academic journey to eventually self-actualize oneself.

Five components

The journey of self-actualization is a five component mantra. It starts with the discovery of one’s skills and abilities as the fundamental building block. This is followed by converting the intrinsic capabilities into tangible competencies, in the process also acquiring synergistic capabilities. The third component is setting one’s aspirations in a lens that is consistent with one’s value systems and inner aspirations. The fourth component is leveraging one’s competencies to achieve one’s aspirations. This, in certain select cases of transformative leaders, involves converting individual self-actualization into an organizational, social, national or global endeavor. India’s freedom movement led by the Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a striking example of individual self-actualization helping a nation to actualize itself. The fifth level of self-actualization is an iterative one, assessing the level of self-actualization periodically, and going through the journey from a new phase of self-discovery each cycle. This could occur every few years, typically.

The fundamental starting point of self-actualization is self-discovery. The fundamental enabler of converting the intrinsic capabilities into tangible competencies is application. The fundamental motivator for aspirations is a larger purpose of life. The fundamental vehicle for bridging aspirations into achievements is performance while the fundamental driver for transforming individual self-actualization journey into broader social transformation is authentic leadership. The fundamental driver for going through the iterative process is openness to understand the self in the context of contemporary and futuristic developments. Each of the components requires a high degree of clarity on the part of the individual. Self-actualization as a journey is neither easy nor one of mere followership. It is a journey of innovation and courage, a journey in which an individual grows with his or her broader residential unit, be it a class room, a corporation, a society or a nation or even the globe. Some of the greatest achievers actualized themselves in their laboratories or corporations but could simultaneously transform social and industrial living.


Without doubt the fundamental building block of self-actualization is an awareness of one’s intrinsic capabilities. Each human being tends to be blessed with certain capabilities genetically. This is true of even the ones with challenges. These capabilities get accentuated or attenuated based on education, experience and familial circumstances. However, the internal blinkers one has, often caused by family, educational or career circumstances, inhibit one from understanding the full set of one’s capabilities. The driver of a car may consider himself fit only for driving a vehicle all through his life but if he is engaged in the process of self-discovery may understand that his finely honed skills of motor coordination actually could position him better for avocations requiring such skills, including music. A professional leader who charms his huge teams with his oration and charisma could well be capable of leading social and political movements. An academic who is passionate on strategy and entrepreneurship could one day become an industrialist himself.

The paradox of being in one domain and having skills of another domain runs through one’s life from educational to experiential states. The more visible of such trends is one of engineers moving to business management. The more subtle of such trends is one of pharmacists engineering pharmaceutical plants and chemical engineers becoming chemists, for example. A process of open self-discovery is one of introspective understanding whereby one’s skills, abilities and aptitudes are appraised to help one discover one’s path of self-actualization. Many times, friends, peers and mentors play a helpful role in one’s discovery process. Many times organizational inequities, professional alienation and social scorn, when tackled with a positive mindset could lead to self-discovery. The treatment meted out to M K Gandhi in South Africa without doubt challenged him to discover his capabilities but also re-charter his life journey. The process of self-discovery constitutes many times an inflexion point in one’s life. It would launch one onto a journey of self-actualization, which would otherwise fail to be even recognized as possible.

Competency building

It is not just sufficient for one to discover one’s abilities, skills and aptitudes. It is important to have the confidence and diligence to convert them into tangible competencies. The process of conversion is influenced by contextual setting as well as personal commitment. Contextual setting refers to the openness of the family, academic or professional ecosystem that enables one to consolidate one’s skills into competencies. When the author of this blog was spotted as a writer of management columns in business papers decades ago the managing director of the organization gave several opportunities to leverage his writing skills that reinforced the skill as a core competence. Personal commitment refers to the commitment of the individual to developing and deploying one’s skills into, and as, competencies that the world recognizes. This is not a task that is easy by any reckoning if one is in a domain while his skills flow from another domain. Consider for example a person undergoing engineering education but has capabilities in as varied disciplines such as psychology and biology. It requires personal commitment to identify domains through which one could leverage the intrinsic capabilities; in this case he may try to become human resources professional in an engineering company or become a bio-medical engineer by post-graduate specialization.

Conversion of intrinsic skills into tangible competencies would need to be supported by a process of acquiring adjacent or adjuvant skills too. For example, a professional knowledge worker in a corporation with a passion for social service would need to acquire communication skills to be able to actualize himself or herself. An engineer in the shop floor with a flair for industrial design would need to have the skills of understanding the marketplace to develop a canvas of actualization. The process of self-discovery would need to identify the bridging skills between the intrinsic skills, convertible skills and synergistic skills to develop a complete set of competencies. This requires a dedicated effort to learn the missing skills. Focused expansion of knowledge rather than random acquisition of degrees and certificates would be required. In one’s competency building exercise, the previous step of self-discovery supplemented by benchmarking helps one become a well-rounded personality of requisite competencies.

Aspiration setting

The third component of self-actualization journey pertains to aspiration setting. The aspiration can be set in a purely material sense (say, becoming the president or chief executive of a corporation), in a collaborative sense (say, developing the organization to a leading state), or in a highly emotional sense (say, becoming the change and transformation agent for the mankind). The aspirations could be also ranging between achieving something solely for oneself, for the family, or for the society. Between the extremes and around the middle exist many ways of looking for appropriate expression of aspirations. Let us imagine a professional leader who has all the attributes of becoming a chief executive but dislikes the materialism that surrounds the aspiration. Assuming he is in infrastructure industry, he could instead view his chief executive position as an instrument t o build the nation with high quality infrastructure and not necessarily as a chief executive position to aggrandize himself.

Similarly, a highly accomplished doctor or surgeon may look at building a hospital not merely as a means to build business but also as a means to serving the family and the community that brought him up. He may see himself as a savior of more lives and greater provider of healthcare than he would individually be able to. In other words, in every material aspiration of rising to the pinnacle of an organization there would also be a higher emotional aspiration of serving a larger community. Per contra, a sublime emotional aspiration would also need a material power and organizational vehicle to provide the harness the power. Competent professionals who baulk at the thought of material visibility as leaders would do well to appreciate that even the greatest of philosophers and religious leaders needed organizations and visibility to propagate their thoughts. All material aspirations have undertones of social service when the power is exercised wisely, and all social aspirations need material backbone to be able to serve the society effectively. A self-effacing approach is not an option in the face of existence of competencies to serve.

Authentic leadership

Given the competencies and aspirations, what remains as the last lap of the self-actualization journey is delivery. The bridge between competencies and aspirations is leadership. At the start of the academic career or professional career, the leadership is a combination of the grassroots leadership of the individual and that of his or her leader. As one moves up the leadership hierarchy, individual leadership becomes more important and domineering while that of his leader becomes less domineering. And once one reaches the position of chief executive he would have none other than the board to mentor. One has to display leadership that is borne out of conviction about competencies and aspirations. The word “authentic” which means real, genuine, true and accurate has great relevance to the actualization journey. The more authentic one is the more leadership capabilities one gets imbued with. “Walking the talk” and “leading from the front” are two of the popular leadership adages that reflect the authenticity dimension in leadership journey. Competencies, aspirations and conviction form a successful triage of authentic leadership.

An authentic leader is largely self-made. History teaches us that most top leaders of the world responded to circumstances and in several cases drew upon their inner sinews to fight adverse circumstances and shape positive circumstances. From Srinivasa Ramanujam, the greatest mathematician that India has produced to Mohandas Gandhi, India’s apostle of non-violence, authentic leadership was demonstrated through continuous performance leadership as opposed to armchair strategizing. Such leaders demonstrate that regardless of the domain, authentic leadership helps individuals actualize themselves, and in the process also help domain teams, societies and nations. Transformation of individuals into professional leaders and change agents occurs through authentic leadership. Dr Pratap Reddy, the physician who returned from USA to practice in Chennai, set up India’s first corporate hospital, Apollo Hospitals, and later went on to transform Apollo Hospitals into a national healthcare and brand, actualizing himself in the process as a leading healthcare icon of India.

Iterative journey

Self-actualization is an iterative journey, with constant rediscovery, continuous buildup of new competencies, setting of new aspirations and reinforced leadership. Each iterative cycle takes the journey of actualization to the next higher level. The inability to actualize in one go is natural and not to be disparaged about. Like corporations have horizons of growth, individuals too have their phases of development. From a single hospital in Chennai to a national hospital chain and a pharmacy chain, the journey of Apollo Hospitals chain is a reflection of the rediscovery of the actualization process by Dr Pratap Reddy, the founder. When MG Ramachandran, NT Rama Rao and J Jayalalithaa moved out of their peak acting careers to enter the political arena and achieve resounding successes such bold moves signified the processes of self-actualization into newer territories and onto higher trajectories. Creative fields are, in fact, well known for affording ample opportunities for enhanced levels of self-actualization. As a corollary if individuals pursue paths of creativity, opportunities would abound for actualization.

The ultimate result of self-actualization goes beyond an individual achieving his or her full potential. Given that actualization is enabled by authentic leadership, individuals achieving self-actualization serve as change agents and role models. An authentic leader inspires trust as he tends to be a performing leader leveraging his competencies. He is also seen as a guardian of values. Actualization and leadership do not necessarily mean that as the cliché goes one must always lay a new path. There cannot, for example, simply be as many different ways of studying science, engineering or management as there are students. Similarly, there cannot but be only a few ways of designing, manufacturing and marketing products. What distinguishes one individual from the other in studies is studious absorption and creative application. What distinguishes one corporation from the other in execution is efficiency and effectiveness. From individual leadership in the initial years to corporate or organizational leadership towards the senior years, self-actualization tends to be a highly thoughtful, competency-based, aspiration pursuing journey of authentic leadership.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on August 28, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Process as a Determinant of Product: The Case of the Automobile Industry

There are certain industries where the fundamental configuration of the product is extremely difficult to change. Ever since the first true automobile was invented by Karl Benz in Germany in 1985/86 and the first mass scale production of the automobile was undertaken by Henry Ford in USA in 1910, the automobile technology has steadily reached new frontiers but the fundamental product characteristics of the automobile, from the shell and power train to the exteriors and interiors, remained the same. Somewhat wrongly, some technical experts attribute this to the conservative nature of the automobile designers, citing the developments such as supersonic aircraft and bullet trains in the adjacent segments of transportation, or the various other electronic products like smart phones and tablets that changed the lifestyles. That indeed is an uncharitable view.

The reason is that the automobile has to reckon in its design with a fundamental and immutable enabler as well as a constraint called road. The challenge and opportunity of an automobile is the existence of the road or the highway in which the automobile has to transport its passengers or cargo (notwithstanding the limited need for off-road transportation, which also only the basic design of automobile must satisfy). One may hypothesize a flying automobile but with automobiles being required in millions it simply is not an option. The automobile industry, willy-nilly, is the prototype of an industry where continuous improvements in product and process technologies rather than breakthrough transformations in product configuration set the tone for industrial progress. That said, continuous enhancements from the materials to product value chain, and transformational developments in other industries do offer synergistic opportunities for innovative product development in the automobile industry.

Product development

The passenger car has seen many product developments such as more powerful, fuel-efficient engines (from popular in-line to V engines, and relatively unsuccessful rotary engines), more seamless gear systems (from constant-mesh to synchromesh to automatic and continuously variable transmissions), more comfortable ride systems (from coil springs to parabolic springs to hydraulic and independent McPherson systems), less resistant drive systems (from manual to power steering), more safe and secure passenger environment (from seat belts to multiple airbags), more sturdy chassis (from welded constructions to pressed or hydro-formed monocoque construction) and so on. The engines have become versatile to accept virtually every kind of fuel (be it petrol, diesel, CNG or bio-fuel) or tandem with electric or hydrogen engines.

Simultaneously, significant changes have occurred in styling, from aerodynamic shapes to fluidic designs and from protective grills and bumpers to signature frontages and rear protectors. Optimized spatial designs, ergonomic seats, elegant trim, navigation systems, sensing systems, entertainment systems and connectivity options are seen as differentiators providing diverse value statements. As a result of all of the above, some of them driven by advances in electronics and telecommunication systems, cars began to be developed from sub-compact to super sedan as well as on-road and off-road as well as crossover options, with differentiated features. The world has today at least 40 major global manufacturers with a combined output of around 80 million vehicles. The population of vehicles on road is estimated to be around 1.1 billion.

Visible manufacturing processes

The process development paradigm in the automobile industry has both visible and invisible components. What is visible is the magnificent scale of changes in the shop floor technologies. The epoch making conveyor belt assembly of Henry Ford now looks basic compared to the impressive developments in flexible machining centers, robotic welding, mammoth presses, multi-level, synchronized sub-assemblies and assemblies, all in the umbrella of the famed Toyota Production System for reduced takt time, enhanced quality and optimized inventory. The design philosophy optimized manufacturing in terms of ladders of platforms that could support multiple overlapping models. It also epitomized a global manufacturing philosophy of multiple counties supporting globally unified products customized for diverse markets through innovative internal components.

As a result of such above approaches, the global automobile industry has become the text book of contemporary manufacturing management and a showcase of operational excellence practices. Manufacture of automobiles is seen as the seamless integration of planning, execution and delivery, across the entire value chain, from local to global centers of development and manufacture. This unique paradigm coupled with practices such as concurrent engineering which are uniquely developed and refined by the automobile industry to manage multi-year product development programs gave rise to the view that manufacturing efficiency is the essence of process development in the automobile industry. This visible part of process development is supported by a completely invisible component of technological process development that has changed the way components, aggregates and systems of an automobile are made. Automobile as a contemporary product is a resultant of the invisible process refinements, across the entire industrial value chain.

Invisible technological processes

While the manufacture of automobiles has many visible features as above, there exist several more invisible process innovations that are triggering product development in the automobile industry. For example, the process of combustion of fuel, be it petrol or diesel, in the internal combustion engine is at the heart of enhancing fuel efficiency and reducing environmental pollution. Fuel injection, sparking and combustion systems are continuously being developed to achieve the objectives. Complete heat recovery from the engines further optimizes energy consumption and usage. This paradigm is further supplemented by design of key components such as piston, crankshaft, camshaft and connecting rod to achieve lower weights, better balance and reduce frictional losses. In addition, the engine block itself provides, through superior boring and honing as well as liner technologies, potential to eliminate frictional losses, and also extend the life of components in the high temperature environments.

Matching innovations in manufacturing processes help optimize the rest of the aggregates too. Aluminum is now an integral part of chassis and body design and is helping reduce weight and enhance agility of an automobile. Gears and axles come with stronger basic materials and superior finishing and hardening processes to ensure smoother drives and longer lives under multiple conditions. Nanotechnology has been finding enhanced applications in a number of components and systems such as fuel cell catalysts, fuel cells, batteries, catalytic converters, polymer nanocomposites, electroceramics, nanoparticled tyres and other materials. Nanotechnology is also enhancing the life and elegance of bodyworks through better coatings, glazings, shields and in the overall, corrosion protective nanotechnology processes. More extensive use of nanoparticles and manufacture of nanomaterials and nanocomponents faces another process challenge; the extent to which nanoparticles can be contained in manufacture and the exposure limits to humans would determine the extent to which nanotechnology can be deployed.

From telematics to robotics

Processes of operating and benefitting from an automobile have seen, and will continue to see the integration of technological advances in electronics and telecommunications. In-vehicle telematics provides drivers with instant safety, security and communications services. Practical applications include global navigation systems, voice assisted driving directions, parking, acceleration and vehicle failure detection. Telematics-driven infotainment services include Bluetooth wireless and satellite radio. Future applications will include vehicle-to-vehicle communications to ensure vehicles keep a safe distance from each other to avoid and perhaps eliminate collisions. Automakers will be pressured to develop a global platform upon which vehicles are designed, engineered and produced, to leverage the most capital-intensive equipment and resources initially, and then customize and accessorize later for regional preferences. Perhaps most critically, car manufacturers and suppliers will need to embrace a long-term consumer vision to succeed, in the same way in which Apple has done with its iPod, iPhone and iPad products.

The future promises to be even more exciting. The car as known today and driven by a human being would be supplemented by video cameras, radar sensors, laser range finders, program logic controlled and software integrated driving systems to become a robotic car requiring no human intervention. Apart from enhancing seating capacity, robotic car technology when perfected would bring orderliness to roads and highways, enable productivity while on drive and eventually enhance safety by reducing accidents dramatically. Self-driving robotic cars will save time, fuel, cut traffic jams and prevent some of the estimated 1.2 million deaths that occur globally every year due to car accidents. “Safety is definitely the number one benefit,” says Sven Beiker, the executive director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University. “ In 95% of accidents, human error is at least a contributing factor.” A self-driving car on the other hand cannot become distracted, take a phone call, fall asleep, or drive under the influence of alcohol.

Synthesis: process over product

Automobile as a product may not have changed so far, and may not be changing in future too in terms of a basic product structure. However, as a human-driven automobile has revolutionized transportation by substituting animal driven carriage, the existing human-driven automobile would in future be substituted by a self-driven robotic car. Such a car may include additional enhancements such as hybrid (oil-electric) engines, solar powered heating and cooling systems, and lighter but stronger materials. At the core of the product transformation is not a new product per se but a host of visible and invisible process innovations that change the specifications and operability of each component, aggregate and system of an automobile. Process innovations dictate the emergence of new materials even as new manufacturing processes enable the use of new materials on the shop floor.

The automobile industry has several interesting lessons for product designers, who have passion for new products and newer market ecosystems. When limitations on fundamental product transformation exist (as in the case of automobile) designers would do well to extend themselves as backward as possible to integrate process improvements. The smallest of the components can be redesigned to use newer materials, and render them stronger but smaller. The most complex of the systems can be reengineered to use electronics and telecommunications, and render them more efficient and seamless. Process improvements, integrating technologies from other domains could dramatically improve the product usage functionality and redefine the consumer ecosystem. Research and Development establishments must have exceptional process depth, for in several cases process could be a determinant of product!

Posted by Dr CB Rao on August 19, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Management and Leadership: More Than a Semantic Difference!

It is very often asked: “what is the difference between management and leadership?” One established concept has been that managers are found up to certain midrange hierarchy levels and leaders are found at the levels of heading functions, locations, businesses and organizations. This question has become even more confounding with a liberal use of the term leadership in organizations. Many times such organizations use the terms manager and leader interchangeably. The concept of grassroots leadership which implies that leadership can be found even amongst the frontline employees or public at large adds an intellectual red herring in the debate. On the other hand, the law usually considers officers, managers and directors as legally and operationally relevant terms. Leader is not a legally or administratively practical term.

For all the extensive, often liberal use of leadership as a term, even corporate organizations do not accord a formal recognition to leadership as a title. Organizational nomenclature includes titles such as executive, manager, president and director (with all the prefixes such as junior, senior, general, vice and a few others as applicable) but never a title that has the term leader in it. Even the acknowledged leader of a corporation is called the chief executive officer, managing director or chairman but not the chief leader, so to speak! Does that mean that leadership is a qualitative and ubiquitous concept that cannot be formally assigned? Or, does it mean that leadership has such deep undertones and person-to-person variations that the concept cannot be adequately framed in a formal title? If so, why does so much rhetorical debate exist around the terms management and leadership and why does the term leadership get used (or misused so much)?

Semantics of differences

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, management is the act of running and controlling a business or similar organization, and a manager is a person who is in charge of running a business or a similar organization, or a part of one. The dictionary also defines a leader as a person who leads a group of people, especially the head of a country or an organization, and leadership as the state or position of being a leader. The definitions are semantically similar in terms of the domain of operation, that is, a business, organization or a part of it. The fundamental difference is that a manager is expected to “run and control” while a leader is expected to “lead”. The former gives a profile of acting within a boundary while the latter provides a flavor of defining a boundary. In a simple but elegant manner, the behavior with reference to a boundary sets the tone for the qualitative difference between a manager and a leader.

Much has been said by management experts to delineate the differences. In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis composed a list of the differences. Some of these are: the manager administers while the leader innovates; the manager maintains while the leader develops; the manager focuses on systems and structure while the leader focuses on people; the manager relies on control while the leader inspires trust; the manager has a short-range view while the leader has a long-range perspective; the manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line while the leader’s eye is on the horizon; the manager accepts the status quo while the leader challenges it; the manager is the classic good soldier while the leader is his or her own person; and the manager does things right while the leader does the right thing. Other viewpoints are that management is all about efficiency while leadership is all about effectiveness, and management is about planning, executing and controlling activities while leadership is about inspiring, motivating and leading people.

Beyond semantics

Leadership and management must go hand in hand. While they are not the same thing, they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Not all efficient managers can be effective leaders while a leader cannot be effective unless he is an efficient manager too. Clearly, leadership has a wider canvas than management. Every manager has the opportunity and challenge to demonstrate leadership while every leader has the responsibility not to disown his or her managerial legacy. While the concept of “born leader” reflects a hypothesis that leadership characteristics tend to be intrinsic to an individual, an overwhelming proportion of leaders would perforce have to take the managerial route to becoming a leader. This is true to the core with professional leaders. On the other hand, entrepreneurial leaders who forget their managerial basics create a shaky short term that fails to support the distant long term vision, however appropriate it is.

Leadership and management are not necessarily hierarchical even though the way businesses and organizations are run allows for only a few leaders while it requires scores of managers. This is also the reason why corporations and groups which design their strategies and structures to facilitate many leaders are visibly more expansive and successful than those which have unitary and constraining organizational strategies and structures. A leader’s role is primarily transformative in that he or she constantly makes change happen; discovering and actualizing new boundaries is a critical aspect of leadership. A manager’s role is primarily focuses on execution in that he or she constantly converts plans into reality; that said, planning and controlling are a critical aspect of management. An effective manager demonstrates a potential for leadership every time he or she encounters a challenge or an opportunity. An efficient leader demonstrates a flair for management every time he or she seeks to convert his vision into strategy, and then to execution.

Measure and listen

It is often stated that what is not measured cannot be managed. It is not surprising, therefore, that managerial performance is often linked to measurement. Whether it is physical or financial performance, metrics are the key to management. Meaningful metrics which are benchmarked with internal and external best practices help demystify performance. At the same time, metrics that are not perceptive and are not benchmarked provide an illusory feel of management, in terms of planning, execution and controlling. An ability to understand the lead and lag effects of a metric is an essential component of managerial competence. A diligence to recognize the story behind the behavior of a metric is, however, reflective of managerial maturity. An organization which has a managerial bench that appreciates and implements a forward looking metrics based paradigm is likely to be efficient and effective, relative to its peers in the industry.

If metrics are the bedrock of management, listening is the hallmark of leadership. A leader’s communication skills help the leader to present his vision to the people he or she leads, inspiring them to execution. A leader’s real communication skills are, however, rooted in the complementary arm of communication, namely listening. A true leader listens as much as he or she is listened to. There have been exceptional leaders who listened to their inner voice and developed industry leading products, be it Henry Ford in the case of automobiles or Steve Jobs in the case of consumer electronics. Most successful leaders stay tuned to developments in the marketplace, customer feedback, employee expressions and stakeholder expectations to work proactively on industry leading concepts. The successful leader, therefore, creates an organizational ecosystem by which not only the leader but also employees stay connected to the external environment and with internal customers for transformative performance.

Development options

Given the importance of efficient (and effective) management as well as effective (and efficient) leadership, the development of a robust managerial and leadership talent pool with the right attributes is a key talent task. Education and experience need to be synergized to achieve expertise that can lead to superior managerial efficiency and effectiveness. Connectivity and communication need to be institutionalized to achieve an ambience that can lead to superior leadership effectiveness and efficiency. Each organization would need to develop its own talent models that would meet the twin objectives. Leadership is a qualitative and ambient motivational drive of an organization while management is a tangible and visible dimension of performance of an organization. In virtuous organizations both leadership and management work as institutionalized concepts enabling the organizations to achieve sustainable competitive advantage.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on August 12, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Sublimity of Friendship: Redefining the Need Hierarchy

Today, August 5, 2012 is celebrated as the Friendship Day. As the dictionary defines, friends are those who are not connected by family relationships but who have mutual attachment and affection for each other. Every individual as he or she grows in life relies on friends and friendship to seek support, guidance and fulfillment beyond the family. Close friendship has a sublime and overarching impact on one’s life, with friends being relied upon for thoughts, actions and guidance which even the family members cannot offer. Friendship which starts from childhood tends to be a lifelong friendship. It is, however, possible that friendship between adults based on mutual respect, affection and caring could also emerge as a lifetime development. A true friend understands and fulfills the needs of the other, without the other ever having to express. True friendship never seeks reciprocity; it is also not an accounting transaction of give and take, in any dimension.

Need fulfillment is the key to one’s equanimity with life. Upbringing, education and experience teach one to seek needs, fulfill the needs and also to moderate them. The unpredictability and harshness of life, however, positions individuals to depend on his or her friends for need fulfillment. This could be as commonplace as material support, as appropriate as intellectual support, and as sublime as emotional support. The unbelievable growth of social networking points to the omniscience of friendship as a fundamental trigger of life. Not all needs can be easily and effectively fulfilled, however. Many times, they require extraordinary understanding, patience, persistence and courage. Need fulfillment by a true friend is, therefore, a selfless act that seeks no name or fame, and would even accept suffering and sacrifice. No wonder then that the old adage says that a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Maslow need hierarchy (or pyramid)

If need fulfillment is the basic foundation of friendship, one may be tempted to analyze the framework of human needs to examine the nexus between need fulfillment and friendship development. Amongst all the theories of needs, Abraham Maslow’s theory ranks high. In 1943, Abraham Maslow's article, “A Theory of Human Motivation” appeared in Psychological Review, proposing five basic sets of human needs, which were further expanded upon in his book, “Toward a Psychology of Being”. Abraham Maslow attempted to formulate a needs-based framework of human motivation and based upon his clinical experiences with humans, rather than prior psychology theories of his day from leaders in the field of psychology such as Freud and Skinner, which were largely theoretical or based upon animal behavior. Very quickly, Maslow’s need hierarchy became a major foundation of organizational motivation theories.

Maslow proposes the need hierarchy as comprising physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization needs. This hierarchy is also proposed as a need pyramid with a large number of physiological needs serving as the base of the pyramid, and the self-actualization needs serving as the apex. Safety, social and esteem needs form the mid-tier needs. The basis of Maslow's theory of motivation is that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed. Per the teachings of Abraham Maslow, the general needs (physiological, safety, love, and esteem) have to be fulfilled before a person is able to act unselfishly. He believed that once a lower level of need is fulfilled he seeks a higher level of need, and the lower level of need no longer motivates.

Friendship through inverted need pyramid

True friendship follows a inverted pyramid, wherein it provides self-actualization ahead of any other deficit need of a person. A true friend helps the other to realize his or her true intrinsic potential. He understands the capabilities of a person who could soar higher but needs support, and provides the needed encouragement and intellectual support to realize the full capability. In the good old days of school and college education, it was never unusual for the more endowed to help out the less brilliant classmate bridge the knowledge gaps. True friends also complement, synergizing each other’s strengths and helping each other overcome the respective weaknesses. Self-actualization in an ecosystem of friendship has been the foundation of many entrepreneurial journeys. While the stories of Microsoft and Sony friendship foundations are well known, there are examples in India too. In the South Indian movie industry, ace producer Nagi Reddy and creative writer Chakrapani were two friends who founded and nurtured the vast Vijaya production house.

True friendship seeks no esteem. There is perhaps no better description of esteem-free friendship than the friendship of Lord Krishna and the poor, humble Kuchela in the Indian mythology. A true friend never looks at his friends through a lens of esteem. Nor does he ever forget his humble origins or the friends of humble origins, as the case may be. In true friendship, material issues do not color or influence the approach towards each other. True friendship, as was known in earlier generations, was never viral; nor was it in the mode of mass socialization. The infectious friendship fever of today’s social network sites is an instantaneous enabler but lacks the core emotional connect of the yesteryears’ true and close friendship. Yet, there exist instances of instant social connectivity over Facebook and Twitter, which saved lives and promoted positive causes. Personal knowledge is not a sine qua non to help in friendly causes in these contemporary times.

That true friendship provides safety goes without saying. The assurance that friends provide often encourages talented and indigent people find their mark. The role of true friendship in looking after the needy in terms of their physiological needs is also remarkable. Sharing of what one has with the other provides pure joy to both the giver and receiver. Many movie moguls and business magnates passionately recall how the shelter and food provided by others provided sustenance and optimism to stay on in the pursuit of seemingly difficult goals. The ability to give a break to a friend in life is a vital characteristic of friendship. Instances abound of right introductions helping capable people achieve exceptional, yet highly deserved, transformations in life.

Friendship circles

Typically, friendship is an expanse of expanding and intersecting circles. One typically has in the outermost circle all the acquaintances. People feel obliged, rather than intrinsically motivated, to keep track of each other’s progress periodically. Many a time, they are connected through social networking sites, and the real emotions and the true vibes are never likely to be known. This may be called the acquaintance circle. The next inner circle is the circle of friends who have personally experienced the attributes of each other and had been part of life’s journeys in schools, colleges and professions. Typically, this circle is nurtured by a feeling of happiness with each other’s progress, and conversely unhappiness with any setbacks. This is the most visible form of friendship circle. The smallest circle, however, represents the core of close, lifelong and lifetime friends. Friends in this circle literally think and live for each other, with perfect alignment in intentions, thoughts, expressions and actions. One should be considered blessed if one has at least one friend in the lifetime friendship circle.

Ideally, the three circles should be concentric. This leads to an orderly development of friendship structures. Intuitively, introverts should have minimalist circles and extroverts expansive circles. However, in reality, an introvert could draw many extroverts into his fold, and vice versa. Also, friendship being a matter of heart and mind, and human heart and mind being capable of multiple emotions and intentions, it is possible for friends to be in multiple circles of multiple friends as they grow up in life, in any of the three circles. As one matures, however, life teaches that true friendship cannot be built on one dimension, and requires alignment on a number of human attributes, including values. The soft and sensitive attributes of pious, caring, compassionate, affectionate and positive living mark the ultimate definition of innermost lifetime friendship circle. It is an existence of sublime purity to discover the blissful joy of a blessed life.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on August 6, 2012

Random Monsoon and Sustainable Growth: Management of Power for Water

After a relatively long drought-free period, India is faced with the likelihood of a significantly deficient monsoon, if not a drought, this year. Coming on top of the slackening economic growth which is forecast to decline from a peak of around 9 percent reached in recent years to a current expectation of around 6 percent, the specter of drought is something which India could have lived without. In the past, declines in the initial month of June used to have been made up more than bountifully from the month of July. This time around, the deficit continues to be adverse even in the month of July, with the latest overall deficit forecast being placed at 15 percent by the India Meteorological Department. Not surprisingly, the common man and the businessman alike are worried about the likely impact of the truant monsoon on the economy.

Rains, the world over, have a significant impact in determining the quality of life; not merely for the farmers but also for the public at large, and the industries in particular. This is more so in emerging economies like India. The upstream and downstream linkages in terms of water for cultivation, drinking water, industrial water and electric power are substantial. While alternatives exist for generation of power, there is no alternative to water that is needed for irrigation, industrialization, drinking and household work. While groundwater serves to augment rain fed user needs, groundwater tables are highly dependent on copious rainfalls. Groundwater conservation and rainwater harvesting have helped in countering the rapid declines in groundwater tables but there has been no substitute for annual rainfall being timely and in adequate quantities for the health of the society and growth of the economy.

Forecasted, forewarned

The key to planning is forecasting. Despite the enormous technological development, prediction of monsoons is yet an imperfect science. The prediction of seasons is challenging mathematical modeling while prediction of seasonal or unseasonal rains is a proactive tracking science. More than that, in the context of global warming, the traditional seasons have been witness to unpredictable shifts, and the intensity of rainfall has been subject to much volatility. If the developed world has caused global warming, the developing world has borne its impact. Not recognizing the impact, however, the developing world has been following the earlier Western development path, with smoking factories and dated utilities, enhanced consumption of energy and reduction of green cover. Quite apart from a moderation of these trends, what is required is a robust globally integrated weather forecasting system, as opposed to India-specific weather tracking system.

The atmospheric and ecological variables that generate and influence the monsoons are far too many. While some of these such as natural solar heating, natural winter chilling, artificial atmospheric warming (real, man-induced!), draw of moisture from the seas, and other open water systems, soil conditions, plant conditions are visible they are so interactive, and are also so pervasive that they defy easy quantification. Over and above that, each severe weather phenomenon, be it a storm, cyclone, typhoon, hurricane or tornado modifies the cloud formation and travel, and accentuates or attenuates the monsoon seasonality and volatility. There is, therefore, a need for a concerted globally integrated research to identify appropriate primary and secondary variables and simulate predictive models. NASA and the US universities have invested, and continue to fund, millions of dollars to develop predictive models. In India, higher technological institutions (such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Indian Institutes of Technology through their specialized centers) conduct scores of projects to observe and conclude on these phenomena. The Indian Meteorological Department must explore how these scientific and technological initiatives can be better funded, better scoped, and better integrated to deliver more effective weather forecasts.

Declines, lagging growth

NASA has described the habitability criteria as “extended regions of liquid water, conditions favorable to the assembly of complex organic molecules and energy sources to sustain metabolism”. Clearly, monsoon and rainfall determines how habitats can form and sustain themselves. Yet, given that 70 percent of our planet is sea, and another 25 percent is either cold or hot deserts, and probably only 5 percent of the land is habitable, the rain-habitat nexus needs greater study. While 100 percent of rainfall occurs all over the planet, only 5 percent of the rainfall probably falls over the habitable region which has 100 percent of population. The need for rainfall to be adequate and predictable in habitable regions is self-evident. Yet, while the population has been doubling itself every four decades, especially in the larger and more populous countries such as China and India, the rainfall (or global precipitation) has at best been static, according to research studies. The need for the world to manage more of living with less of water is even more compellingly evident. It is, therefore, disturbing that all analysis of rainfall is carried out more in terms of historical trends rather than growth requirements.

Rainwater conservation and optimal utilization of water are the twin parameters of sustainable habitability expansion in future. The real challenge lies in retaining and harnessing the millions of cusecs of water that is showered in the catchment areas of rivers and their tributaries as well as the smaller rivulet and lake systems of the country. The largest dam in India is the Indira Sagar Dam in India which has a capacity of 12.22 billion cubic meters. In contrast, the Three Gorges dam in China has a capacity of 39.3 billion cubic meters! Before 1949, there were only 22 dams of any significant size in China. But now China has more than half of the almost 50,000 dams in the world that are classified as "large" because they have a height of at least 15 m or a storage capacity of more than 3 million cubic meters. In contrast, India has less than 2000 large dams today, though it had probably 300 of them (15 times more than in China) in 1947! Evidently, India has had a large lag in dam construction vis-√†-vis China, and with a renewed determination of the governments, hopefully has still a huge unexplored potential, given the saying that India is a land of rivers. Not that dams do not come with their formidable financial and human costs and the tragedy and trauma of human resettlement. The benefits probably outweigh the costs to a significant measure, if the human elements and ecological protection are taken care of. The dependence on water in dams should not lead to any slackening of use of water in irrigation, industries and living. Given that 70 percent of fresh water usage is for irrigation purposes, low-water irrigation is a model that India needs to vigorously pursue. Israel is a role model in this context. Israel’s agricultural sector turned out a sustained growth in agricultural production based on close cooperation of scientists, farmers and agriculture-related industries. Israel has developed advanced agricultural technology, water-conserving irrigation methods, anaerobic digestion, desert agriculture and salinity research. Greenhouse technology ensures instant, year-round supply of high quality produce, while overcoming the obstacles posed by adverse climatic conditions, and water and land shortages. Technologies include computerized greenhouse climate control, greenhouse shading, drip irrigation, fertigation, water recycling, and biological control of plant disease and insects. Control of production parameters and titration of water use is the primary strategy.

For other industrial uses, several measures such as substitution of water cooling by air cooling, reduction in use of water for cleaning without compromise to quality, use of dry methods and delivery systems in water intensive industries, and water-efficient industrial processes (for example, low solvent manufacture of bulk drugs and low coolant usage for metal cutting) support water conservation. Metered usage of water, and evaluation against best practice requirements should be part of performance management of any industrial operation. Researchers in such industries must also aim at water efficiency in product and process development. For domestic, commercial and public uses, municipal utilities must aim at supply and regulation of high quality water to ensure public health. It is possible to conserve rain water in urban habitats with determination. In Tamil Nadu, mandatory rainwater harvesting in urban dwellings has resulted in a 50 percent increase in groundwater table. This strategy and achievement is a role model for other parts of the nation, and individual dwelling units. In India, this needs to be supplemented by enhanced availability of water for sanitation. The efforts by Bill Gates Foundation and others in this area must be supported and supplemented by the governments.

Power for water

India has nearly 20 percent of its total power requirement drawn from hydro-power. While hydro-power is an optimal solution when rainfall is copious, it risks both agriculture and industry in drought years. In fact, the power cuts routinely applied in India in summer months is solely related to the drop in hydro-power generation in water-starved summer months. India would do well to enhance its share of safe nuclear and clean thermal power, leaving water to largely its irrigation course. Hydropower in such instance would be the bonus and insurance. India’s total installed power generation capacity is reportedly 205 gigawatts (GW) while the expensive captive back-up generation capacity is another 60 GW (about 30 percent). The power blackouts that have happened in most parts of the Northern India on July 30 and 31, affecting over 670 million people in total for about 22 hours, are indicative of the urgent need for a steep increase in power generation capacity in India. However, in the new strategy, rather than depend on conventional hydropower generation as an adjunct newer and innovative methods have to be explored.

Given India’s long coastline of around 7500 kms there is a significant scope to pursue tidal and wave power projects and reduce the dependence on rain water power generation. Researchers believe that there exists enormous potential for non-conventional hydroelectricity generation from tidal and wave projects, as well as from small in-stream projects that will not require new dams. Thus far, few of these hydrokinetic projects have reportedly been realized. France’s La Rance Tidal Barrage, with a 240-megawatt maximum capacity, was the first large tidal power plant. It began generating power in 1966, and is still operating today. In South Korea, a 254-megawatt project was completed in August 2011. Now the world’s largest tidal operation, it has the capacity to provide electricity for half a million people on the country’s west coast. New Zealand also recently approved a coastal hydropower project. Wave power is also drawing the attention of both engineers and investors. Firms in France, Scotland, and Sweden, among other countries, are working to capture this emerging market. Estimates from the World Energy Council indicate that worldwide, wave energy has the potential to grow to a massive 10,000 gigawatts, more than double the world’s electricity-generating capacity from all sources today. India can take the lead and demonstrate how innovative hydro-kinetic (wave and tidel) power generation can conserve scarce rain water for the more important uses, including building an insurance for other non-power uses, and in any case, conserving water in the scarce months.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on August 5, 2012