Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Born into a small trading family, India’s retail czar, Kishore Biyani, replaced conventional wisdom with “guts and instincts” to create Future Group, a $1 billion company that includes Pantaloon Retail, a department store group; Big Bazaar, the company’s name for hypermarkets; Food Bazaar supermarkets, and Central Mall, a more upscale aggregation of merchandise. Known for his insights into Indian consumer behavior, Biyani also represents an enigma to the country’s emerging retail players, both domestic and foreign. He offers some glimpses into what makes him tick in his recent biography titled, It Happened in India: The Story of Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Central and the Great Indian Consumer, co-authored with Dipayan Baishya. The book has sold some 100,000 copies, more than any other business book published in India so far. In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, Biyani, who has often been called “the Sam Walton of India,” talked about leadership, the Indian retail market and why he would never consider collaborating with Wal-Mart, among other topics. Excerpts from the interview follow.

India Knowledge@Wharton: What does leadership mean to you?

Biyani: In the last six months, I have read many articles on leadership and met a couple of experts on that subject. But I still could not find an answer to what, exactly, leadership means.

There are two types of leadership. The first is all about thought leadership, which is original thought, believing in it and making things happen based on those thoughts. The second type is skills leadership, which refers to doing things consistently and in your own style.

India Knowledge@Wharton: What part of leadership is inborn and what can be developed?

Biyani:For me, leadership is all about thought leadership, not skills leadership.Skills leadership can be developed even after the age of 24 or 25, but thought leadership cannot be developed after a certain age.

India Knowledge@Wharton: How do you define thought leadership?

Biyani: Thought leadership is about building scenarios and making them happen. I believe everybody is a victim of systemic thinking and has their own mental syntax. First things come first, and everything else is a reflection of where you started on that first thing. If you change that syntax, things change. If you have a business school orientation, your syntax of thinking will be in a particular direction. I am a businessman and entrepreneur, so my syntax of thinking will be in a different direction. Each has a unique method of sequencing to arrive at answers.

One would have to change everything to look at things differently. That is a very difficult thing to do as we have our own mental maps. We are not trained to change mental models. Business schools also have not been trained to do that. Business schools work on creating efficiencies, creating productivity and managing consistency. But life is not like that. Life is chaotic.


India Knowledge@Wharton: How have you developed leadership in your organization?

Biyani: We have developed a very different style of leadership. We run a seamless organization. We don’t have structures; it is a non-hierarchical organization that works with people coming together to do things.

It is also a very design-driven organization. We believe the structure has to be broken up to change; the design has to be altered to change things. A design-driven organization has flexibility and maneuverability. It is an amorphous organization that can be given any shape and any direction anytime.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Can you give an example of how that works?

Biyani: We can chop and change anything we do, anytime. Nothing is constant for us. Nothing is constant here. We believe in destroying what we have created.

India Knowledge@Wharton: In your book, you have described three types of entrepreneurs. You say your father and uncles were “preservers” and you call yourself a “creator” and a “destroyer.”

Biyani: Most people are trained to be preservers. It is great to be a preserver. But for us, whoever has to create has to destroy. Without destroying, you cannot create anything new.

That is also the law of nature. Look at the seasons. Everything gets destroyed to create something new. But unfortunately, business does not take any cues from nature. None of the business schools takes anything from nature. One cannot go against the flow of nature. In our group, we don’t follow business principles. We follow the principles of nature.

One of the biggest principles we follow, as I have said in the book, is to go with the flow. We never do anything against the flow of nature. And when you follow the principles of nature, ideas will get destroyed and recreated.

If you look at nature, human beings have not changed over a period of so many years. Love, hate and all the other emotions are still the same. But we all complicate things. We create segments, psychographics and other indices. It is a simple world, but we break it up and start looking at it through lenses that are very different. You will find all the answers in nature.

Continue here India Knowledge Wharton.


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Why does one product succeed while others crash? And why do the second and third products from a successful company almost always fail? The crew at Pragmatic Marketing determined that there are more reasons than features and price when determining the success (or failure) of a product, including “inside-out thinking” and the distractions of running a successful company. Here, they present 7 Secrets to dramatically increase the likelihood of becoming a market-driven success.

Why do some products fail while others succeed? that question keeps many CEOs, venture capitalists, employees, and shareholders up at night. Customers want to know too, because after all, they are spending their money on products.

The 7 Secrets of Market-Driven Leaders :

SECRET #1 = Work as a Trusted Advisor
SECRET #2 = Build from the Outside-In
SECRET #3 = Simple is Smart
SECRET #4 = Leadership is Distributed
SECRET #5 = Stop Being a Vendor
SECRET #6 = Marketing with a Big “M”
SECRET #7 = Measure only what Matters

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Former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca once noted, “You can have brilliant ideas; but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” In their new book, The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor G. Richard Shell and management consultant Mario Moussa provide a systematic approach to idea selling that addresses the problem Iacocca identified. As an example of effective persuasion, they tell the story of rock star Bono’s visit to then-Senator Jesse Helms’ Capitol Hill office to enlist his help in the global war against AIDS.


Bono had all the facts and figures at his fingertips, and launched into a detailed appeal based on this data. He was, in essence, speaking to Helms the same way he had recently spoken to executives and technical experts at the many foundations and corporations he had approached about this issue. But within a few minutes, Bono sensed that he was losing Helms’ attention, and he instinctively changed his pitch. Knowing that Helms was a deeply religious man (and drawing on his own born-again Christian values), Bono began speaking of Jesus Christ’s concern for the sick and poor. He argued that AIDS should be considered the 21st century equivalent of leprosy, an affliction cited in many Bible stories of the New Testament. Helms immediately sat up and began listening, and before the meeting was over had promised to be the Senate champion for Bono’s cause.


Examples such as this one illustrate what Shell and Moussa mean by “woo”: It’s the ability to “win others over” to your ideas without coercion, using relationship-based, emotionally intelligent persuasion. “The rock star Bono is superb at the art of woo because he understands what it takes to be a super-salesman, in the best sense of that term,” says Shell. “Here you have a rock star with tinted glasses and an elderly, conservative Southern senator. But when Bono had the good sense to switch from public policy talk about debt relief — what we call in our book the ‘rationality’ channel — to religious talk about poverty and disease — what we call the ‘vision’ channel — he touched Helms’ heart. He sold his idea and, in the process, created trust.”


The word “woo,” the authors note, has many meanings, but all of them relate to focusing on the person you are trying to persuade more than on your own needs and fears. “There is the obvious meaning related to courtship and romance,” says Shell, “but there is also the more general idea of wooing people to seek their support. In addition, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton have recently used the word ‘woo’ in their books to describe the ability to easily establish rapport with many different people.” However “woo” may be defined, the authors argue that effectively selling ideas — using persuasion rather than force — is one of the most important skills that everyone from CEOs and entrepreneurs to team leaders and mid-level managers need to learn if they want to be effective in their organizations.


The Spirit of St. Louis


The Art of Woo presents a simple, four-step approach to the idea-selling process. First, persuaders need to polish their ideas and survey the social networks that will lead them to decision makers. To illustrate this step, Shell and Moussa recount how an unknown mail pilot named Charles Lindbergh turned his dream of being the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic into a reality. His idea was radical: He would make the crossing in a single-engine plane flying without a co-pilot or even a life raft. The idea was followed by his campaign to overcome people’s disbelief that such a venture could ever work and to win over supporters in his hometown of St. Louis. Lindbergh started with contacts at the local airport who could see why his plan made sense and eventually worked his way up to the most influential businessmen in the city, using each person along the way to leverage an interview with the next.


The second stage of the Woo process is confronting what Shell and Moussa call “the five barriers” — the five most common obstacles that can sink ideas before they get started. These include unreceptive beliefs, conflicting interests, negative relationships, a lack of credibility and failing to adjust one’s communication mode to suit a particular audience or situation. Great persuaders throughout history have shared with Bono an instinct for overcoming this last barrier. For example, when Napoleon was a young officer at the siege of Toulon, he set up an artillery battery in such a dangerous location that his superiors thought he would never get troops to man it. They would have been right had Napoleon relied on the conventional “authority channel” and issued threats and orders to get his way. Instead, he demonstrated his social intelligence by switching to the visionary channel and creating a large placard that was placed next to the cannons. It read: “The Battery of the Men without Fear.” The position was manned night and day.


Similarly, when Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on the notorious Robben Island in South Africa, he managed to obtain blankets and other necessities for his fellow prisoners by foregoing the expected high-minded appeals to politics and human rights. He worked instead on the relationship persuasion channel. By learning the guards’ Afrikaans language and reading their literature, Mandela earned their respect and won them over to his idea of fair treatment — even as he continued to face hostility from the officials who ran the prison.


The third stage is to pitch your idea in a compelling way. Shell and Moussa note that at Google, employees selling ideas to upper management are given a challenge: to distill their business concepts into short, punchy presentations that get right to the essence of what they are proposing. This discipline forces them to figure out exactly what problem their idea addresses, how their idea will solve it and why their idea is better than both the status quo and available alternatives. The authors offer a template for pitching ideas in this format and give examples of distinct ways one can personalize an idea to make it memorable and distinctive.


The final stage of Woo is to secure both individual and organizational commitments. “One of the most common mistakes people make in selling ideas,” says Shell, “is to think that their job is finished once they succeed in getting someone to say ‘yes’ to their proposal. That’s only the beginning. Research shows that in most organizations, a minimum of eight people will need to sign off on even simple ideas. The number goes up from there. So after you move the individual, you also have to move the organization.”


Shell and Moussa use a number of cases from business history to illustrate this point. For example, they tell the story of Charles F. Kettering, a brilliant inventor and engineer from the 1930s whom many consider an equal of Thomas Edison. Kettering invented such things as the automatic transmission and safety plate glass, but one of his best ideas — the air-cooled automobile engine — sat on the shelf for decades until the Volkswagen Beetle incorporated it. Kettering convinced Alfred Sloan, GM’s top executive, that producing the air-cooled engine was a good idea, and the company’s executive committee gave the go-ahead to make a limited number of cars with the prototype. But instead of following the idea through, Kettering went back to his lab to concentrate on the technical aspects of the project. The committee handed the production assignment to the Chevrolet division, whose top managers had never been brought into the persuasion process. They let the idea languish and it was eventually abandoned. “Kettering made a fundamental mistake: He didn’t follow up and keep the pressure on,” Shell notes. “He didn’t do the political coalition-building needed to implement his idea.”


Andy Grove’s ‘Constructive Confrontation’


Individual personality plays a key role in how you influence others, Shell adds. The book therefore includes two personalized “diagnostic” tests that readers can take to discover their persuasion strengths and weaknesses. One of the diagnostics is the “Six Channels Survey,” which is designed to help people learn which of the key channels of influence they feel compelled to use most often at work and which they would prefer to use if given a choice. These channels include Authority, Rationality, Vision, Relationships, Interests and Politics. The idea is to help readers understand both how these six channels work and when they should adjust their pitch — as Bono did with Senator Helms and Mandela did on Robben Island — to appeal to different kinds of audiences.


A second self-administered test, the Persuasion Styles Assessment, helps readers determine the degrees of assertiveness and natural social intelligence they bring to the idea-selling process. The authors point out that there is no one “correct” style of persuasion; rather, the key is being self-aware so you know how you perform and how others will perceive you.


For example, Shell and Moussa illustrate the “Driver” style (a highly assertive type who gives only limited attention to the social environment) by examining how Intel CEO Andy Grove managed the persuasion process at Intel during his years as that company’s leader. Labeled the “screamer,” Grove could be intimidating to people who didn’t know him well. But he was also willing to listen if people stood up to him and matched his passion. To facilitate communication, Grove instituted what he called a culture of “constructive confrontation” that freed everyone to be as blunt and assertive as he was. The result was a high-stress environment, but one in which everyone could speak their minds.


The Art of Woo goes on to describe four other distinctive styles with examples drawn from business history. Banker J. P. Morgan is given as the model for the Commander (a Grove-like person who has a quieter demeanor), John D. Rockefeller exemplifies the Chess Player (a quieter person who attends strategically to the social environment), Andrew Carnegie’s life provides the example for the Promoter style (a gregarious type who uses high levels of social intelligence), and Sam Walton is the model for the style that strikes the balance among all the others — the Advocate.


Three Typical Mistakes


Both Shell and Moussa have wide experience in the area of negotiations. Shell is director of Wharton Executive Education’s Negotiation Workshop and author of Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People. Moussa teaches executive education courses on negotiation and organizational change and is head of the Negotiation Practice Group at management consulting firm CFAR (the Center for Applied Research). This year, Shell and Moussa launched a new Wharton Executive Education program called the Strategic Persuasion Workshop.


The idea for the book arose from the comments of executive education participants who frequently spoke about internal negotiation problems they were facing in their companies. These conversations gave the authors the idea to “talk about persuasion inside organizations, with a focus on selling ideas,” says Shell. “We had a laser beam into the crisis moment when you’re sitting at the table and you’ve got an idea or an initiative or a program, and you’re trying to get buy-in from a decision maker. From there, we built out the strategic process that can prepare you for that moment in the best possible way. By doing that, we were able to identify the key personality traits that great persuaders share and develop the diagnostic surveys to help people gain insights into their own styles and approaches.”


Asked what the top three mistakes are that people make in selling ideas, Shell notes that the number one-error is “egocentric bias,” or “focusing on yourself instead of your audience. People assume that the person they are trying to sell on their idea is just like them, that he or she has the same primary goals and frame of reference, and that what they are talking about is important to the other side. But other people may not care at all about what is important to you…. It’s a killer assumption.”


A second mistake is the belief that there are no systematic ways to persuade people to accept an idea. “A lot of people just wing it, thinking they can count on their own experience and instinctive powers of persuasion to carry the day,” says Shell. “But in fact, you do need a strategy. That is what this book is about.”


The third most common error is to forget about organizational politics, as Charles Kettering did at General Motors. “Whenever a new idea might affect resources, power, control or turf,” Shell says, “politics will be part of the problem at the implementation stage. You need to prepare an idea-selling campaign, not just a presentation.”


The authors suggest that people working in any group — from the largest Fortune 500 company to an entrepreneurial startup — can benefit from improving their skills at the art of persuasion. As Shell notes: “Influencing others in an organization to accept and act on your ideas is a challenge that never goes away.” Source

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Execution is taking precedence over profit and top-line growth as a focus for CEOs , according to a Conference Board global survey of CEOs, who chose “excellence of execution” as their top challenge and “keeping consistent execution of strategy by top management” as third-greatest.


The survey of 769 CEOs from 40 countries is from The Conference Board report, “CEO Challenge 2007: Top 10 Challenges.” CEOs rated their greatest concerns from among 121 enumerated challenges.




Sustained and steady top-line growth, which led the pack last year, now ranks second, with profit growth fourth, and finding qualified managerial talent fifth, The Conference Board reported (pdf).


“This year’s overall top challenge shows that CEOs from around the world are realizing that strong execution is a critical factor in driving profits and revenues,” says Jonathan Spector, President and CEO of The Conference Board. “These executives are also becoming increasingly aware of the crucial role that people play in growing their companies.”


The annual CEO Challenge Top 10 report from The Conference Board details specific challenges that CEOs face across regions (pdf), as well as by the company’s size, industry, and level of success – all factors affecting the concerns of CEOs. Highlights of the Conference Board report’s findings follow:


US Companies


Judging by this year’s US Top 10, finding qualified managerial talent (sixth place) and top management succession (seventh place) have become the dominant people issues for US CEOs, replacing last year’s top HR concern, healthcare costs.




The two concerns are closely intertwined, because competition for talented managers will become even fiercer as many baby boomers depart the “top of the house” to move into “third-stage careers” and retirement.


After ranking seventh last year, the challenge of employee healthcare benefit costs slipped out of the US top 10 in 2007. Its lower ranking as a greatest concern is most likely due to the downward movement of average annual rises in employee premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage, illustrating successful implementation of cost-containment innovations.


But the cost of employee healthcare benefits still ranks much higher for US CEOs (16th) than it does for CEOs in Asia (where it ties for 69th place) or Europe (where it ties for 71st place).

Comparing ‘More Successful’ and ‘Less Successful’ Companies


Of the 125 publicly traded US companies grouped as either “more successful” or “less successful,” CEOs from the “less successful” cohort feel more pressure from the costs of healthcare benefits (17.5%) than CEOs from “more successful companies” (10.4%).


A comparison of the two groups also shows that the “less successful” US CEOs (19.6%) report more strain from the costs/supplies of oil/energy challenge than their “more successful” counterparts (4.4%).


(Those with average return on assets (ROA) greater than or equal to the median were labeled “more successful.” Those with ROA below the median were labeled “less successful.”)


With such cost pressures driving a sense of urgency, it seems only natural that 21.1% of the “less successful” US companies rate speed, flexibility, adaptability to change among their greatest concerns, as opposed to 10.4% of their “more successful” US peers.


Similarly, 47.4% of the “less successful” rank consistent execution of strategy by top management among their greatest concerns, compared with 32.8% of their more successful US competitors.

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Leadership is about interacting with the people as distinct from making use of machines and other resources. Everything connected with and concerning the people in parts or as a whole, is the leaders main business

In an organization quest for creating optimum capability and maximum performance, leadership plays the most important role. It is the power engine that pulls everyone through the rough and tough to the organization goal. The quality of leadership is critical to its performance.

Leadership is about interacting with the people as distinct from making use of machines and other resources. Everything and anything connected with and concerning the people in parts or as a whole, is the leader’s main business.

People are his domain. He connects and combines the head and heart at work in the most appropriate and balanced manner. It is not to suggest that a leader does not deal with the material wherewithal required for the performance. He makes use of those through the people by enabling them to utilise the machines, material and money in the most effective manner. As people are central to an organisation’s performance, a leader is its linchpin. There can be no leader, at any level, without followers or a team. Leadership cannot be practised in isolation. It is not a solo performance.

Whatever be his vision and concept; howsoever brilliant and innovative may be his plans; those can be turned into performance only through his people. A leader realises and proves his worth through the willing efforts of his team.

A leader does not lead by virtue of his appointment. In fact, a leader can not be appointed by authority. While an individual may be placed as a leader, he has to establish his competency and credibility among his followers before he can expect them to follow him. The leader-led relationship is developed as a result of mutual interaction and remains the followers’ choice. It is they who gauge the ability of an individual to lead them and decide whether or not they are willing to follow him. Therefore, a leader has to make himself worth following to his followers by coming up to their expectations.

What are those expectations from the leader? The answer would serve to crystallise the concept and serve as a guideline to the aspiring leaders.

The followers would expect the leader to be professionally competent and have the acumen to determine their goal (cause, purpose, vision, objective). Having done that, find the best way to its accomplishment as also fulfil their individual and collective aspirations (direction, planning, guidance, growth). Thereafter they would expect him to lead them on that path (execution, motivation, action, trouble-shooting, achievement of goals) while always being in the forefront (example, inspiration).

In every sphere, he would be expected to follow a high standard of ethical behaviour based on integrity. A leader is instinctively evaluated in these expectations by his followers or team members, the beholders. Consequently, he would be held in their esteem accordingly.

It is only logical that an individual who aspires to be a leader should be aware of these expectations and develop his leadership accordingly. In brief, a leader explores the way; finds the way; shows the way; and goes the way; – leading from the front, all the way.

Leader’s portrait
In the light of these expectations, we may draw the portrait of a leader as a power engine in front; a visionary who can see far ahead into the future through the thick fog of surroundings, time and uncertainty; an explorer of possibilities; a guide who leads from the front; a motivator, facilitator, simplifier, catalyst and mentor.
He acts as a force multiplier creating synergy and skillful utilisation of resources. Overall, he adds value to the team performance through his leadership acumen. This portrayal highlights that a leader leads to serve. He serves the organisation and his team members by providing quality leadership keeping their interests uppermost. A high quality organisation culture propagates this definition and expects every leader, irrespective of whom he leads, to measure up to its spirit.

Why to be a leader?
During one seminar on leadership, a young participant raised a fundamental question. She wanted to know as to why should she aspire to become a leader which meant doing a lot for the team members and expect least rewards for herself. She would rather be a member where the leader would be responsible to motivate her, plan her work, do her trouble-shooting, help her grow and also get her the rewards.

The question related to the very fundamental of leadership development and its practice. It should be posed by every aspiring and practising leader to himself and get the right orientation towards leadership. A leader has the potential and the zeal to lead which he develops in two closely integrated plans in his quest for self-realisation. In one, he serves his organisation through adding value to performance of his team. In the other, he strives to help his team members towards their growth, realisation of their potential and self-fulfilment. He can transform ordinary people into champion performers.

Driving factor
This spirit of service and zeal to lead gets manifested as a passion like that of a mountaineer setting out to climb a peak; a diver to explore the deep ocean-bed; or those doing selfless social service for the cause of needy social segments. The ardour creates the aspirations and a surge in an individual to develop his potential of leadership as a perpetual process of learning and serving.

Leadership has to be a fire within an individual that drives and motivates him to don the mantle of a leader and sustain it. He strives to lead for his self-fulfilment and not for any extraneous reward. A leader measures his success by the joy and contentment that he derives from his interaction and accomplishment with his team. Every phase and milestone covered in his journey gives him the satisfaction of self-fulfilment.
While making others grow, a leader also has the satisfaction of growing himself. Leadership is a life-long pursuit of learning, service and growth along the path of self-realisation. He leads to serve and grow.

Article written by : By Maj Gen Virinder Uberoy on Deccan Herald

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Project managers are responsible for the successful delivery of a project — a one-time endeavor with a goal, scope, deadline, budget, and other constraints. A project manager will work to align resources, manage issues and risks, and basically coordinate all of the various elements necessary to complete the project. As they relate to products, projects can be undertaken to build a product, to add new features to a product, or create new versions or extensions of a product. When the project is complete, the project manager will usually move move to a new project, which may be related to a different product.


Product managers are responsible for the overall and ongoing success of a product. Once the project to build the product is complete and the project manager has moved on, the product manager remains to manage the product through the entire lifecycle. Other projects related to the product may be initiated, with the product manager being the one constant stream throughout, defining the project goals and guiding the team to accomplish the business objectives that have been defined.

One challenge of the two roles is that they can appear to be at odds with each other. A product manager may want to add a lot of features to meet observed customer needs, but the project manager may want to keep scope as small as possible so that the project is delivered on time and under budget. Traditional definitions (and probably those above, too) often mis characterize the project manager as singularly focused on getting the project finished on time and under budget without any concern as to whether it meets the market or customer needs.

Especially for web-based and technology products, the confusion between project and product management is common and potentially harmful to organizations who do not acknowledge the distinction. There are some important points to keep in mind related to project management and product management:

  • Just like every product needs a product manager, every project needs a project manager.
  • Just because product managers think they can manage their own projects does not mean they should.
  • The skills, talents, and traits involved in project management are very different from those involved in product management.
  • Just like it is hard to find one single person who can fill the product management role and the product marketing role, it is hard to find one person who can be successful at both the product management and the project management role.
  • Project management is not a stepping stone to product management, nor vice versa.
  • Good project managers are just as valuable as good product managers.
  • Finding a good project manager to manage your projects will help you be an even better product manager.
  • The less time product managers spend on project management, the more time they will be able to spend on product management.
  • To avoid conflicts between product management and project management, product managers, project managers, and project teams should all agree on shared goals and objectives as much as possible.

Article Credit: Jeff Lash currently works in product management at Elsevier as the Product Director for MD Consult. Jeff runs “How To Be A Good Product Manager”, a blog that provides regular tips on good product management practices. Source.

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