Sunday, August 14, 2011

Make your one-on-one with your Manager work for you

Different companies have different philosophies of Management. No matter which philosophy is followed by your company, your one-on-one meeting/interaction with your Manager will always remain crucial. Like any other meeting, if you are not well prepared for one-on-one interaction with your Manager, then you won’t get much value out of it. Over several years, I was able to make a comprehensive list of things that you must discuss with your Manager in your next one-on-one meeting.

Current work progress and areas of improvement: Sometimes due to a large group of people reporting to one manager, he/she can’t provide attention to everyone. Thus, take this opportunity to inform your manager about your current work progress. Make sure to communicate current status of your project and any issues that you might be facing. And yeah! Don’t forget to publicize your achievements. We are all humans, and we tend to forget things over time. So, make sure to remind your manager about your value in the company.

Talk about your future goals: My primary focus of one-on-one with my employees is to have a two way communication. I want to know, what I can provide to my employees to make their life easier at work and make them more productive. Thus, I always get impressed by those employees, who acknowledge their weaknesses and have a plan to diminish them. This approach might end up helping you. For example: I used to work with a very talented person. He was a team lead, very technical savvy, but slightly shy in her personality. When he talked to his Boss regarding his weakness and proposed few personality development classes for his improvement, his manager agreed to his plan immediately and paid for his entire program. This might happen to you too. Thus, make sure to communicate your goals with your managers.

Talk about your personal life: Most of the people believe that you should not discuss your personal life with your manager. I don’t agree with that. Of course, you don’t want to bore your manager/boss with your personal life problems, but you should not be afraid of talking about your hobbies and personal life achievements. You never know, your boss might like similar things as you do. And maybe you will end up finding something common between you and your manager, which will help you in the future to establish a positive relationship with him.

Provide feedback: This is one of the best opportunity to provide feedback about your co-workers, lead or manager himself. I like to provide positive as well as negative feedback about my coworkers to my manager. If you are not comfortable with negative feedback then its ok. But you should still provide positive feedback about your coworkers. This will not only make them look good, but it will show your manager that you are a team player and you value your coworker’s opinions. And depending on your relationship with your manager, you should also provide feedback for him. This will help you build trust relationship with your manager.

I hope these tips help you in making the best use of your one-on-one meeting with your Manager. If you know any other ways to make your one-on-one meeting more interesting then feel free to share it with me. I am always looking for people’s feedback to improve my knowledge. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Conduct result-oriented meetings with your Virtual Team

I hate those video conferences, where people around the world meet in a virtual setting, and at the end of the meeting, the only thing that they can decide is the date for the next meeting. I am sure I am not the only one who has been through these kinds of meetings. Am I right?

In my current position, I manage a diverse team of people from 3 different locations. And I have developed few techniques to conduct effective meetings, which I would like to share with you here.

Know your audience beforehand: The first step is to clearly define the audience that will be attending this meeting. If you are conducting the meeting for the first time, and if you don’t know the background of anyone attending the meeting, then ask around. Try to contact each individual through phone or e-mail to get a better idea of their goals and expectations.

Identify the meeting need: Ideally the meeting originator need to develop an agenda. But I have seen that it doesn’t happen often. Thus, if you don’t know the agenda then your best bet is to as the meeting organizer about the problem that he/she is trying to resolve through this meeting. This will give you an opportunity to prepare yourself before the meeting. And your preparation can be helpful in prioritizing the learning objectives for the next set of meetings.

Create an action plan: Whether it’s running a government or running a company, team works better when there is a shared and visible accountability. I would always suggest you to create an action plan in the meeting, instead of creating it afterwards. By doing this, you are making sure that an action plan is in place before you leave and that action plan is visible to everyone in the team. Thus, there won’t be any situations of miscommunication of the information.

Create support materials: The next to last step of the effective meeting is to determine the materials you will need to supplement the meeting’s outcome so that the learning objectives are achieved. I would recommend following checklist for supporting materials:

  • Create the facilitator notes.

  • Create an action plan with task items, individual’s responsibilities, and deadlines.

  • List of people attending the meeting so that you can send these documents to them.

Continuously monitor progress: The final step is to continually monitor the progress of the meeting and the business need for the meeting. One should make changes based on the successes, or weaknesses, of the meeting. I would recommend creating a shared action plan document, which is visible to the entire team. If you have this set-up, you only need to discuss the status of each individual task during the meeting. And that’s all.

I hope these tips help you in better conducting/attending a virtual team meeting. If you know any other ways to make a virtual team meeting more interesting then feel free to share it with me. I am always looking for people’s feedback to improve my knowledge. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where will you use written communication over in-person communication?

I recently opened up my Google+ account like any other tech fanatic. And one of the feature that got my attention was - Google's Hangout. I have never seen more than 4 users video chatting at the same time without a premium account (whatever service it maybe). Though this hangout feature got my attention, I don't think that today's generation of SMSs and Tweets will use this feature extensively. I might be wrong, people might use this technology extensively and we might find a new generation of “Hangouters”. But this is too soon to predict anything. The only thing that I can say with confidence is - why people prefer SMSs, Tweets, and e-mails instead of in-person talk, phone calls, and meetings. Following are few situations, where people would rather prefer written communication over in-person communication.


Language barrier: As a part of my job, I manage various individuals from different locations. One of the team that reports to me is located in China. While they are very intelligent and technically sound, they have one short coming of speaking English properly. They normally understand my pronunciation of English, but I mostly have a hard time in listing their English pronunciation. Even after closely listening, I miss some sentences. Thus, I prefer to talk to them through Live Messenger instead of through a video conference. This gives me the opportunity to understand them better, while this gives them the opportunity to consume the data, translate it into their native language (through Google translator), and respond me back.


Broadcasting: Written communication is also useful during information broadcasting. For example: if I am having my birthday party, I would rather post it on my Tweeter feeds, Facebook or Google+'s feeds instead of calling everyone to come. And why not? I don't need to repeat the same message to everyone on the phone. And I can also get the count of expected attendees at my party through these event's page.


Record keeping: With information overload in today's world, people tend to forget things which you might have mentioned to them few weeks ago. Thus, most of people like me, tends to follow-up through e-mail. According to me, e-mail is the best way to keep records of your conversation. For example: Let's say, I talk to "Joe" regarding some IT issue over the phone and he tells me that he will get back to me on next Monday. If I wouldn't have followed-up with an e-mail explaining the problem, I had to explain him the problem again on Monday. If I would have e-mailed him the details then I can just forward that e-mail and ask the status of this issue. He can then look at the information in the e-mail and find the status of the issue without wasting my or his time.


Speed: Sometimes, people just don't like to talk in-person for smaller talks. For example: Let's say, I have just talked to my colleague to see if he is interested in coming to a BBQ at my house. And he told me that he will get back to me today, but he forgot to respond. I would rather SMS him to ask his answer instead of calling him. If I call him, I don't have anything to say because I just talked to him not long ago. But I still want his answer. So, I will just get SMS him to find his answer. This will be much more quicker and time efficient.


People's availability: This is a really big question in today's world. 6/10 times, I want to talk to someone, but I can't find their free time. Thus, I always end up writing them an e-mail or texting them on their mobile. There can be various reasons for this issue, from time zone differences to their prior commitments to work or personal events. But when I use written communication instead of oral communication, they have the time to consume the information and then respond back to me on their free time. In this way, I don't put someone in a weird situation by calling them during their working hours.


I hope these tips might have given you some pointers about where to use written communication instead of in-person communication. If you know any other situations where written communication will be preferred over in-person communication then do let me know. I am always looking for people's feedback to improve my knowledge. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Monday, July 4, 2011

New hire’s guide to learn the culture of the company

My team is currently growing. We are hiring few new people at this time. And as we hire new people, I need to make sure that they get appropriate tools and training to come up to speed. Thus, I was creating an on-boarding plan for these new hires. My initial plan only contained specifics of what processes, technologies and tools that they need to learn. I didn’t have any idea about how to train them on our existing culture. And I thought of this blog. Following are few pointers, which might help you in learning the existing culture of your new company.

Policies: The organizational policies and procedures influence the projects that a company undertakes. The organizational procedures will determine how to implement new strategies and if the work environment will be formal or informal. For example: some organizations may allow employees to work anytime from 7.00am to 7.00pm, while other organizations may be very strict about their working hours. To get yourself acquainted with these policies, you should read all the possible policy documents at your disposal. HR department would be your best bet to find more information. Detailed oriented observation of your co-workers can also help you in learning unwritten policies.

Values: The values, beliefs and expectations of an organization have a major impact on the organizational culture. The organization’s strategic decision making choices, preferences, and approach will vary based on its values and beliefs. The criteria for the election of a project are determined by the organizational culture. For example: a competitive, ambitious and assertive organization will select projects with high risks, while a highly rigid and authoritarian origination might not take projects with high risks. Most of these values are derived from your company’s culture or your team’s culture. Your best bet would be observing your manager’s behavior and socialize with your colleague to get more information. Going out on lunch with your coworker can give you many valuable insights.

Management style: The management style of the organization is another factor that affects the organizational culture. Some managers follow a coaching style, while other managers follow a controlling style. After observing the management style of your organization, you can determine if your feedbacks will be valued or not? If the management is going to implement new strategies based on your feedback or not? As a new employee, I would recommend you to adapt to the management style of an organization. And once you properly understand your Manager’s management style, try to provide your feedback in the manner that he/she will understand.

I hope these tips will help you to learn the culture of your new company as soon as possible. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions regarding this subject. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to manage cultural change within your organization?

In my last blog, I talked about few high-level tips to successfully change your organizational culture. As I help my client to divide this high-level vision of cultural change into smaller parts, I will simultaneously blog about my current experience. My client is a manufacturing company, who manufactures the same equipment from last several years. In order to change the organization's culture, existing employees need to unlearn the old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn new ways of operations. I have provided following recommendations to manage this cultural change:


Provide training: Change in organizational culture will depend on individual's behavior changes. Thus, we need to provide extensive training to our employees to make them understand what is expected of them, and how to actually do that using new methodologies, and how they will be rewarded for their new behaviors. For example: provide training of differences in national cultures, provide training of new acquired standards such as 'six sigma', etc.


Change organizational structure: If your existing structure doesn't support your desired organizational culture then you need to change the physical structure of the organization to align it with the desired organizational culture. For example: flatten your organizational structure for quick responsiveness, add few verticals to incorporate new acquired divisions, etc.


Change reward system: Changing reward and recognition is the key aspect of the cultural change. By changing reward system, we can encourage desired behaviors in the organization to achieve the desired organizational culture. For example: provide extra bonuses for peak performer, provide salary raises based on the performance, etc.


Change your documents: In order to change organizational culture, we need to make sure that we document our new mission, vision, values, and processes. This will serve as a new guidelines for existing employees, while it can be also used as a reference for any new hires in the organization. For example: remove your posters of existing vision and replace it with the new vision, update your internal website with this information, change process documents with new guidelines, etc.


I hope, these tips will help you to successfully manage your organizational culture change. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions regarding organizational cultural change. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams

I have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.


Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.


Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.


Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.


I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

3 simple tips to successfully change your organizational culture

Recently, I was helping one of my client to develop a new line of product in their product portfolio. With the help of their existing equipments and resources, they could have come out with this new product very easily. In order to create this new product, they required a major shift in their existing culture. Maybe that was the major reason why this initiative hadn't worked for them.

Organizational culture is formed over years through historical events, employee's shared values, employee's shared beliefs, organization's leadership, etc. Normally, organizational culture grows over time, and most of the times people are comfortable with the existing culture. Thus, we can't expect an immediate change in the organizational culture. But we can progressively change organizational culture through following steps:

Understand your existing culture: Before any organization can change its culture, it must first understand the existing culture. There are various ways to perform cultural analysis of your organization. Few methods that I use for cultural analysis are: Schein's rubric and Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Schein's rubric can be used for understanding the organizational culture of a smaller company, while Hofstede’s cultural dimensions can be used for understanding the culture of International organizations.

Develop cultural vision: After you are done with understanding your existing organizational culture, you need to develop a cultural vision for your organization. This is a crucial step, as you will be defining the strategic direction for your culture, and making sure that these cultural changes support your overall organizational goals. Envisioning culture artifacts, values and beliefs will help tremendously during this phase. For example: our new culture will have open door policy, tightened ethical standards, etc.

Change organization's behavior: In this stage, we need to change organization's behavior to create the desired organizational culture. We might not be able to change behavior of each and every individual, but we can make changes in the organizational structure and leadership to propagate these changes to an individual level. During this phase, we need to get full support from executives, and provide appropriate training to the employees to make this work. Communication is the key element for changing people's behavior. Thus, we need to provide various channels of feedback and performance metrics, through which we can measure success of these changes. For example: employees feedback sessions, employee satisfaction survey, rate of increase/decrease of productivity, etc.

I hope, these tips will help you to successfully change your organizational culture over time. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions regarding organizational cultural change. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Friday, April 15, 2011

3 Simple Tips to Effectively Manage Customer Expectations in a Project

Unfortunately, I have been a part of numerous projects, where customers change their expectations in the middle of the project. I am sure that you must have been a part of similar situation during your career. I might not have a perfect solution for this problem. But in this blog, I will provide you with 3 simple tips that will help you minimize any change in your project due to changes in customer expectations.

Identify what your customers don't need:

In my experience, I have always found a "NOT TO DO" list very helpful. The list of things you will not deliver sets boundaries for your project, and it provides a comprehensive basis for scoping discussions with your users and customers. To define a "NOT TO DO" list, you can ask various questions to your customers, such as: What is of the least value to you? What if we don't deliver this component? What will be an acceptable project? Trust me, this approach will go a long way in defining the actual scope of your project.

Communicate ONLY realistic expectations:

During my career, I have been a part of numerous projects where expectations were unrealistic. Manager/Client will over promise to their customers/stakeholders to gain their business/trust, and they fail to realize that they will lose their credibility when they can't stand up to their expectations. Thus, I would suggest you to carefully define the scope of your project. If you suspect any infeasible components in your project, then investigate those issues before promising anything to your customers. If your investigation shows that something expected by your customers is probably impossible, then communicate your findings with them. In this way, you will earn their trust and gain some credibility by involving them into decision making. After all, it is always better for projects to under promise and over deliver than to do the reverse.

Revisit requirements often:

Those days are gone, when we used to have rigid requirements for our projects, which hardly ever changed. Today's Project Management is a whole new game. Though our project might not change, the external environment will change, which will in turn change the requirements of the project. Thus, I would recommend you to implement a continuous feedback loop in your project management lifecycle, and revisit your requirements often. You can use various mechanisms to do this, such as: ongoing project discussions with your customers; demonstration of prototypes, pilots, mock-ups, and intermediate deliverables; feedback from testing; and other periodic customer interaction.

I hope, these tips will help you to manage changes in your project due to change in customer expectations. Let me know, if you have any other suggestions regarding the same. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Monday, April 4, 2011

Incorporate best practices into your organization's culture

Recently, I was called upon for help by one of the local small business owner. She wanted to improve efficiency of her business processes to improve production capacity. After reviewing her existing process documents, I couldn't find any major improvements. So, I visited her company and met with few employees to get more information. To my surprise, employees gave me the different picture of the organization. Most of the employees seemed to consider processes as an unnecessary overhead. Their working style reflected "Just do it" approach to finish the work. This is not an independent event. I have seen many organizations, where this problem is prominent. You can have as many processes as you can, but if you fail to incorporate those process in to your culture then nothing is going to help you in improving efficiency. Following are few tips that you can follow in order to enforce your processes.

Demonstrate Benefits:

Most of the workers push back on the use of processes based on their primary perception of "more processes = more work". While that might be true, the assumption that not employing processes will tend to create less overhead is generally untrue. Thus, an organization needs to do a better job of communicating benefits of their processes to their employees. For example: Don't just tell your employees to put in their actual hours in to the ERP system. Explain them how this will help you to get an appropriate estimates for your future projects, and how this will reduce their overtime. Also, discuss about other benefits such as reduction in employee's stress level due to more control over projects, etc.

Customize processes:

It is always better to have people adopt practices that they have thought of instead of demanding that they should follow a particular process “because I said so”. Thus, every organization should do a better job of involving their employees in fine tuning their processes. Before coming up with any kind of process or hiring an external consultant, one should ask their employees about their idea of an ideal process. Of course, you might not agree with each and every idea that is presented to you. But it will give you a baseline to think about, and that too, for free. Asking feedback from employees will make them feel valuable and get their buy-ins before you implement the process. Thus, there are more chances that those customized processes will convert into actual processes instead of being just on paper.

I hope, these tips will help you to incorporate best practices in to your organizational culture. Let me know, if you have any other suggestions regarding the same. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Friday, March 25, 2011

What would you do when your e-mail backfires?

In today’s world, almost everyone communicates through e-mails, SMS, or twitter. While these communication channels have made it faster and easier to convey our messages, it took out the human element from the communication. Thus, sometimes our messages are interpreted differently. Hence, we need to make sure that our messages are conveyed to the right people, and their interpretation of that message is same as our interpretation of the same message.

If we fail to recognize this then we can end up in a big trouble. For example: In one of my MBA class, I work with a group of four people. One day, I wrote an e-mail to my group regarding some work assignment. And I used one of my team mate’s name (say Mr. X) as an example to ‘not do something’. Since, I knew him from my other classes and we had close friendship; I thought he will understand my humor behind this analogy. But that e-mail backfired on me. On the other day, Mr. X wrote me a long e-mail explaining, how I offended him. And how he is unhappy about that e-mail.

Obviously, I took corrective action to explain my situation and apologized to him for any unintended behavior from my side. That’s where I got an idea about this blog. I hope, my suggestions in this blog helps you in better communicating with your peers through e-mails, SMS and Twitter. Following are few tips that I would recommend you to follow:

Use of smilies: If you are trying to be humorous in your e-mail then use smilies after your statement. Smilies will go a long way in explaining your stand behind that statement. In my situation, if I would have used a smilie after providing a bad example of Mr. X, nothing would have happened. Mr. X would have understood my message and he would have considered that message, as humorous instead of offensive.

Proof read your e-mail: Make sure that you proof read your message, before you send it to someone. If it is a message about ‘corrective action’, then please proof read it thrice (if possible). E-mails about ‘corrective actions’ are already very sensitive, and you don’t want to overcomplicate it by sending unclear messages. Also, try to put yourself in to the shoes of the reader, and read the e-mail again. Don’t send any e-mails that will offend you, if you were on the other side of the spectrum.

Ask for feedback: Always ask for the feedback. You can use wordings like – “Let me know, if you need anything else from my side”. Feedback mechanism will not only make sure that your message is conveyed properly but also provide an opportunity for the receiver to provide their feedback. Since, I always use this mechanism in my e-mails, Mr. X felt comfortable enough to confront me regarding my e-mail. This gave me an opportunity to explain my position. Thus, don’t ever forget to ask for feedback.

Apologize for miscommunication: In the worst case scenario (like me), never hesitate to apologize. Few words of apologies go a long way. Don’t just apologize by writing something like “Sorry” in your response. Write a brief e-mail regarding your statement, and explain how he/she might have misinterpreted that. This will give you an opportunity to explain yourself and strengthen your relationship with the receiver of that e-mail.

I hope, these tips will help you to better communicate with your team. And if you have any better suggestions, then please feel free to share it with me. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Friday, March 18, 2011

How to resolve 3 key challenges of a virtual team?

In today’s global business world, there are higher chances that you will end up leading a virtual team at some point in time. Though basics of leadership remain the same in a virtual team, however, the members of a virtual team work at different times and different places. This will make your leadership tasks much more complex and difficult. In this blog, I will talk about 3 key challenges of virtual teams and my practical approaches to resolve those challenges.

Building Trust:

PROBLEM: As with all teams, trust is a key factor in determining virtual team’s success. Building trust in a virtual team, where people speak different languages, come from different cultures, and live in different time zones is very challenging.

SOLUTION: These challenges can be resolved by different approaches. The approach that works for me is to use of facial pictures in e-mail exchanges. This will help you a long way by putting a human element in to virtual communication and reminding people about the person who sent this message.

Taking ownership:

PROBLEM: The virtual nature of the team and its assignment can make the virtual team’s project seem less real and pressing, with the serious consequences that team members fail to take ownership of the project.

SOLUTION: I might not have the perfect answer to resolve this issue, but here is what I do: Lay down team’s mission and explain the reasons behind that mission. In this way, they can connect their goals to this mission and I get more buy-ins from them. Then I try to share control over defining team’s objectives and process. This helps me build the climate of self-determination and ownership.

Maintaining visibility:

PROBLEM: “Out of sight, out of mind” may explain why it is easy for a virtual team to become isolated and forgotten by the organization. Thus, maintaining visibility becomes a real challenge in a virtual team environment.

SOLUTION: Again, I might not have the perfect solution for this challenge, but here are few steps that I follow:

  • Invite key decision makes, stake holders and project managers in the weekly conference call.

  • Include these key decision makers in some of your important e-mail chains.

  • Publicize your achievements through group e-mails and team’s website.

  • Follow up with key stake holders regularly to check up on the project progress and get their feedback.

I hope these tips help you in resolving your day-to-day challenges of virtual team management. And let me know, if you have any other suggestions. I am always looking for your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is cutting higher education the answer for reducing budget deficit in Nevada?

I don’t consider myself as either republican or democrat, but I believe that government should not raise taxes about a certain threshold. I know that times are tough, and government deficit is flying over the roof. Thus, every State in the USA has to cut their spending in one form or another (no doubt about that). But my question to my readers is – Can we create a sustainable society in any country/state/region by cutting spending in Education? For example: Brian Sandoval’s new budget proposal proposes to cut more than 25% of spending in the higher education sector of Nevada.

You don’t need to be an expert to realize that cutting education will impact heavily on Nevada’s economy. Nevada is one of the unfortunate State in the USA, where high school graduation rate is below 60%. Over this, if Mr. Sandoval cut higher education spending, then Nevada will be left with unskilled labor force resulting even higher unemployment. I can understand the intention behind Mr. Sandoval’s budget cut plan. In theory, you can attract more businesses to a particular State/region by reducing taxes. But sometimes those theoretical approaches don’t work in real life. Let’s say, this budget cut will help us solving the short-term budget deficit of Nevada. And Nevada will be successful in attracting new businesses by providing tax cuts. But what will happen when they come to Nevada? Where will they get their workforce from?

History shows that the education had played an important role in the growth of economies, regions and even countries. India wouldn’t have capitalized on ‘Y2K’ and ‘dot com’ boom, if it didn’t have highly skilled labor force. There might not be any direct relationship between education and growth of the economies, but I am sure that they are highly correlated. Without appropriate education, we can’t expect our future generation to deal with difficult times like these.

In summary, I agree that Nevada needs to cut its spending to reduce budget deficit. And unfortunately, part of it has to come from higher education. But if these cuts are not implemented properly then Nevada will be left with even higher unemployment and no future perspectives.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Sandoval's plan for budget cuts? Please feel free to share your opinion. I am always looking for your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simple tips to create an innovative environment for your team

I really feel proud and motivated when my clients call me up, and give me feedback regarding my work. One of such experience happened yesterday.

Jitesh (my client) is a small business owner, who runs his graphics design business from India. Few months ago, he came to me and asked – “Bhavin, my business is doing bad. Our customers are not happy with our products, and it seems that we have lost our innovation capabilities in the rapid expansion. Can you help me fix this?” Yesterday, he called me up again and told me – “Bhavin, your ideas worked. Our customer satisfaction has increased by 40% as compared to last year, and we are coming up with really great designs. You should check us out. Thanks for your help, buddy”.

So, what happened between now and then? Trust me, I didn’t gave him any magical powers through which his employees started innovating. I knew that he has top performers in his team. What he might be missing is – the innovative environment. And that’s what I provided to him. Following are couple of tips that helped him in creating an innovative work environment.

Implement a suggestion box system:  Don't just have a suggestion box, which does nothing. Have some mechanism to review these suggestions on daily basis (assigning a resource to review these suggestions on part-time basis would be your best bet). Make it a simpler process, there should not be any lengthier forms and long paperwork. I would recommend you to provide an intranet application with four key elements – idea, implementation plan, evaluation, accept/reject. And yeah! Have some mechanism to recognize these ideas. For example: great ideas of the year award.

Have an event for the best ideas: If there is an important issue that needs some creative ideas, then why not have an event where people with the best idea wins something? You can also have a  team contest where teams post ideas on an intranet site and everyone can vote for their favorite. Or throw a party where people have to contribute ideas to get treats such as snacks and drinks.

So, what do you think? Do you have any other ideas to create an innovative environment? If you do, then please feel free to share your opinion with me. I would love to hear from you. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What can Executives learn from Obama’s State of the Union speech? (Part 1)

In the State of the Union speech, Obama touched many critical issues related to the growth of the United States. Delivering his annual State of the Union address to the US Congress, Obama made various references to emerging economies like India and China. He also unveiled his plan to maintain American leadership in an increasingly competitive world marked by the surge of nations like India and China. His plan relied on four key pillars - innovate, educate, build, and reform. These are four few crucial things that Executives should learn from his speech. In this blog, I will concentrate on innovation.

In today’s environment, most of the companies are reducing their R&D spending by drastic amount. They are trying to cut almost everything to reduce their spending and improve their profit margin. This might be the good strategy for the short-term, but it is definitely not sustainable on long-term basis. History speaks for itself. By just one Google search, you will be able to find various companies, who lost their competitive edge by reducing their spending on R&D. Reverse of this is true too. Look at Apple for example, it differentiate itself by bringing innovative products in to the market. Maybe that’s the only reason why they have crazy fan following.

Obviously, just pouring money in to R&D without an actual plan will get you nowhere. So, create an innovation plan before you think of investing in R&D. Define your goals and clarify your objectives. One thing that might help is to create a small research team, who think more broadly and creatively without outside pressure. Don’t be like those big companies, who eat their own children. Create an environment where your employees can feel innovative. Don’t be afraid of disrupting your own revenue stream with a new unit. Empower your employees to innovate, and change the organization’s culture to think out of the box. Don’t ever ditch all the little initiatives to focus on core business without at least acknowledging them.

So, what do you think? Do you have any other ideas to create an innovative environment? If you do, then please feel free to share your opinion with me. I would love to hear from you. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to create a perfect Action Plan

Thanks to LinkedIn, this weekend I met my old friend from high school. He is now a Manager at one of the biggest MNCs (Multi National Companies) in India. While we were talking on skype, I came to know that he is also facing similar work challenges as other Managers.

Almost all the Managers create Action Plans to make sure that a particular amount of work gets done. But most of the times, they forget to follow up on the assignments. I have seen many managers, who work on problem-and-solution kind of approach. They will have many action plans for other items, but they don't get any priorities until failure to execute those plans disrupts the normal operation of the business. In that case, they forget about the old action plan and work on resolving the current issue. This keeps on happening again and again. So, what can you do to ensure that Action Plan is taken seriously?

I can't tell you the perfect answer for this question, but I have developed few strategies throughout my experience, which helps me in ensuring that my Action Plans are implemented properly.
- Request your managers to kick off biweekly meeting, stressing the import-
ance of the Action Plan. This meeting will help you in getting all mangers on one page, and ensuring the importance of the Action Plans.
- Invite different team leads in these meetings to share their stories about some of the key competencies and why they are critical to the success of the organization.
- Don't forget to send a copy of the Action Plans after every meeting. This action plan should contain: action item, person responsible to finish that task, probable end date for that task, etc.
- Ask the group members to set up a meeting with their supervisors to
go over their Action Plans as homework.
- Make sure that your supervisor or leader must attend this meeting on regular basis to stress the importance of these meetings.
- As homework, ask each participant to meet with each of his or her team members to informally listen to each worker’s career goals.
- And yeah! Don't forget to review the results in a follow-up session. Even if your goals have changed from the last meeting, you should still follow-up. This will give you the opportunity to at least document the to-date progress of that particular action item.

So, what do you think? Do you have any other ideas to create a perfect and workable Action Plan? If you do, then please feel free to share your opinion with me. I would love to hear from you. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Future of collaboration – The Obama way

I recently helped one of my clients to create a collaborative application with their suppliers. This piece of software will help them in reducing their administrative costs by huge amount, and improve their process efficiency. During this entire process, I kept wondering about the future of collaboration.

In today’s world, the collaborative possibilities are transforming the way organizations operate. Look at the presidential primary campaign of 2008, Barack Obama became what The New York Times described as the first real “wiki-candidate”‘, with an online fundraising operation that operated in much the same way as social networking sites like MySpace or YouTube. The ‘’ site offered users a practically unlimited array of ways to participate in the campaign. You can register to vote, or start your own affinity group, or download an Obama news widget to stay current, or get text-message updates on your mobile phone, etc. This list goes on. But the important thing to learn here is - Barack Obama’s campaign is a sign of things to come. It involved and connected voters in new ways, allowing mass participation in politics on an unprecedented level.

Now, let’s forget about the politics for the time being. Have you ever had chance to look at one iPhone app – the barcode scanner? This app is a live example of the future of collaboration. Using this app is really simple. You just have to scan the barcode of the product that you like, using your iPhone camera, and it will show you the price of the exact same product in other stores. I personally think that this is the future of collaboration. In the future, people will use technology as their primary resource for collaboration. Doctors will be able to see your complete medical history by just one click; Universities will be able to see your transcripts from another University in a second; business will be able to accurately predict the demand of their consumers. Those days are not far away, when your Doctors will be able to see your payback capacity (credit history) before operating on you.

I hope my article was helpful, and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi