One of the elders in my family told me that I will become good at maths if I eat lady’s finger because that is the favourite food of the great mathematician Ramanujan. I believed that firmly and never missed a serving of that whenever it was cooked. I would often practice maths after eating a serving. It went on for a while during the childhood before reality struck me.
We will often see organisations wanting to bring in a change will readily adopt an organisation model from another company. Companies like NASA, Toyota, IBM have inspired management/organisation styles to be replicated like theirs. Adopting something that has been available in the public domain is not going to be of any use. Isn’t it like saying I follow the same things as an oscar winning director and I will win an oscar too?
One of the inclinations people now have is towards the Spotify model which was a matrix organisation with fancy names like squads, tribes, guilds etc. Does the same company follow to the dot on what is available in the public domain from early 2010s? Read this writeup about failed squad goals. This gives an idea that the model has not scaled or worked well for the one who proposed it as well.
An engineering culture is not easy to replicate just by copying the structure and names. Even if it worked for a set of people when implemented, it won’t work well for a long time or when the org grows up. Talent is not a static asset like machine capability that can be made to work in a structure. Government owned enterprises in India were infamous for their quality of work but ISRO which is government owned and has the same bureaucratic organisation, it has exceptional performance in the space program. How come it has the same org structure that has failed every where but works here, it is because of the strong engineering culture left behind by founding engineers which continues to thrive till date.
Before rushing to copy structures, free food, video games, stand ups, OKRs (…the list goes on) the best thing would be is to streamline flow of information between business, product and engineering. Eating the favourite food of a great mathematician does not make me a great mathematician.
A lot us generally try to keep some ideas to start doing something from the new year onwards and generally fizzle out within a month or two. Typical resolutions are like getting a six pack abs, running a marathon, learning to play an instrument etc. Many times we will end up with abstract goals or hard to achieve goals without any second thought into how difficult it is to achieve it.
What is the best way to hang on to a resolution? It is simple, concentrate on maintaining a streak of doing simple things every day instead of signing up for a large goal. I was able to achieve many things by doing simple things but everyday. Sort of a deliberate attempt at improving everyday by however small percentage that was.
This inspiration was drawn from Seinfeld calendar which was pointed out by my mentor. Maintaining a streak will bring discipline and will allow us to remain focussed on what we had signed up for. I had initially set out a goal to learn a foreign language to a level that if end up in a country speaking that language then I will be able to find my way to navigate around.
I did not go very far in learning another language when I had a resolution year on year to learn something. Things changed when I converted that to a streak, I installed Duolingo app and maintained a streak of not missing a single day of practice of learning a new language. It takes as little as 5 minutes to maintain the streak everyday. To my surprise I realised that I can learn to speak more than one language in a year at a tourist interaction level without consciously eyeing for it.
Little drops make mighty ocean
I had other streaks which helped me achieve different things without consciously working towards it. One such streak is minimum one blog a month that I have hit 10 years this month, it has been one of the most rewarding streaks that I have ever pursued. Plan for your lofty goals but approach it systematically through streaks.
Recently we did some renovation at home which involved buying a few big ticket items. As I had read a lot about supporting local vendors, I drove to the stores after doing some browsing online on big marketplaces for options.
My first reaction on the purchase experience was the level of willingness to negotiate an offer when the bill is running close to a lakh. Every shopkeeper wanted to keep the conversation on the MRP, declining to accept credit cards or were trying to pile on more charges like delivery, installation etc when preparing the bill. In all, the transparency was poor and the mindset to extract as much as possible from a lead was set in stone.
The same I had observed from a medical store nearby, with aged people at home; the maintenance medicines for a healthy life add to substantial costs, so I tried asking the store keeper that I will place order with them month on month but let us work out a deal because the big medical chains give me 20% and I am willing to take a cut for convenience. The shop keeper flatly declined saying that he does not do business less than MRP and I can continue to shop at the retail chains, he does not need my business.
Why is this happening? We perceive a loss to be greater than a profit of same magnitude. Winning a gold coin may not be equal in magnitude of happiness compared to the sorrow of losing a gold coin. That is what is at play at the small vendors. They do not see the overall profit gained in the transaction instead they read the money lost on the transactions that could happen on MRP. This clouds the judgement even if this can tun into a repeat business with a steady cash flow.
On browsing more for stores, finally I found places that gave a good deal even bettering online deals. These were businesspeople who are in the same business for generations even though their turnovers were small, looks like the family wisdom is passed on as a trade secret and I ended up noting their numbers to give to friends who will have similar needs.