Dil maange more

We are part of the digital age where business world is evolving very fast. I am an IT professional with one and half decade into my career and the challenge I took to revisit an academic environment is going on well in ISB by studying alongside like-minded senior professionals. I am someone who has primarily learned management skills being on the job, and  ISB is providing me the perfect way to augment my identifications, hone my technical and soft skills, and ground my practical knowledge with  understanding of business theories. The purpose of studying business at ISB is to marry theory with practice, allowing me to fill knowledge gaps and tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by today’s mid-level managers

Why PGP Pro with ISB:

  1. Compete with myself
  2. Developing a strong professional network
  3. Boosting key knowledge and skills
  4. Accelerating career progression
  5. No time away from work and family life to pursue a traditional full-time MBA.

Challenges for me:

Every alternate day, my team member asks “when he/she will get role change” or someone comes and say “I got job offer with 100% hike so can you match my hike” or someone with 1 year experience come and ask “I want onsite as some of my friend has travelled onsite”. There are many odd questions like this to me and I have no straight answers for any of these. But as a manager of large program, I pretend to be helpful for all these “ASKs”. Few readymade asks as below from my boss/team across projects:

  • My friend got a role change. I have also the same experience and same role maturity. When will I get a role change?
  • My friend got this much hike. Why my hike is so less?
  • My friend got so much payout. Why was there no payout for me this quarter?
  • Doing same work repeatedly for last 3 months can I change my project as my friend is doing automation?
  • My boss asks me to give 4% Q-o-Q growth– which is possible?
  • Bring innovation every alternate day – but how?

I do not have a magic stick where I can fulfill all these aspirations but I need to be on top of these asks and assure them that sooner or later these all will be taken care of.

How ISB is helping:

The implications of this  learning is huge. I am able to put classroom theory into practice and add value to my company straight away. I have the opportunity to learn from an MBA program that is equivalent to a full-time MBA, while still working—this is rare.

  1. There are diverse, definable, and recognized leadership styles. Each style includes different approaches that are based on research. I learned about the different styles and how to apply them in the real-world.
  2. Help to take out of comfort zone and challenge individually – “Dil maange more
  3. Peers are  from different walks of life  and bring a diverse range of skills and professional experience to the classroom, allowing me to benefit from their unique perspective and expertise. What I have found that I am learning alongside a successful tech entrepreneur, a senior scientist, and the Managers of a multinational company. We have all the bullets in one pistol.
  4. I do understand the nuts and bolts of technology as part of my day-to day job but along with that now I understand the business aspects of systems in order to make informed choices. Now I am more efficient or to be efficient to make decisions about my team and budgets.

A Lesson of Life on Agile Mindset: Tale of Two Washing Machines & Detergent Powder

On a Sunday evening, I was revising concepts in Corporate Finance, a course that was recently taught in my Exec MBA at ISB. I was immersed in a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation when I heard the doorbell. And then another call-out-loud, “Jeet, please check the door!”, from my wife who was in the kitchen. I rushed anxiously towards the door, while still crunching numbers in my head.

“Who is it?”, she asked.

“Grocery delivery man, from Grofers”, I said.

I collected the grocery items and thanked the person. While I was closing the door, what immediately caught my eyes was this packet, which had sachets wrapped in plastic. I unwrapped the packet and found detergent sachets, must be around 20-25.

Now that’s something I wouldn’t usually care about, but the MBA courses were playing a role I guess. Or maybe it was my recent read – Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”. I recalled from the Marketing course, why companies still sell sachets along with big packets (like 2kg+) for detergents, and similarly for shampoos and other products.

But, with finance concepts revolving around my head, I thought let’s see what is the real difference in price of 10 sachets of 200g each, versus a 2Kg packet. Aha, I found she had paid 18% extra for those sachets. Then why buy sachets still?

Oh boy!! Typically an Indian husband waits for such an occasion when he thinks he can potentially win an argument over his wife (especially when the husband is an engineer and wife is a doctor!). I was smiling out of happiness, I peeked into the kitchen to see she was preparing tea.

I went back to my laptop, crunched numbers on excel about 18% extra cash outflow every 3 months for 5 years, and calculated what is the Future Value (FV) worth.

I couldn’t wait, “Twitter! (her nick-name for how much she tweets) You know you are really paying around ~20% more when you buy the sachets versus the bigger box of detergent”, I said. And continued, “Do you know if you save the 20% extra that you are paying now, you could buy lot more detergent in future? Go for the bigger box, save money :).” And then sarcastically I said “But you haven’t studied Finance right? How would you know?”.

I cleaned up the table in the balcony, and sat there with that feeling of “Yes, I won!!”, waiting for the cup of tea.

She got the tea. “Ahemmm… Why are you sounding so logical today?”, she said keeping the teacups on the table. And then kept one sachet too. I knew she is not going to let me win this time too :).

Handing over the cup to me, she said, “When I buy the big box of detergent, I always struggle to guess how much detergent should I put in the machine. 1 spoon or 2 spoons, I couldn’t get a better idea. You remember when I was doing laundry with the bigger washing machine, you always complained about water wastage. Even you couldn’t guess what would be the right water level, because every week the number of clothes was different. You were unhappy with the cleaning.”

 Yes, that is another story, she recently purchased a smaller washing machine (capacity – 2.5Kg). The bigger one I had was 6.5kgs. And she convinced me after arguing for weeks that we needed to purchase another smaller machine.

“You were always complaining about the cleanliness too, sometimes you said that we are running the machine overcapacity”, she continued. “Now, I do laundry 2 times in a week, I use the smaller machine. I exactly know in 1 sachet, how many clothes I can wash. I also have a better idea of how much water will be required, because every time I have an almost the same number of clothes”, she continued.

I interrupted, “But really you needed another smaller washing machine?”, trying to recall previous discussions.

“Yes, because with a lesser number of clothes, it takes lesser time to wash. Since I am doing laundry more frequently, you get to choose between the clothes you want to wear and you wear cleaner clothes now. We save water too, see even you have stopped complaining about water wastage.”, she responded immediately.

She continued, “And for bedsheets and bedcovers, I use the bigger machine and that is only twice a month”.

 I realized all I was doing was – DOING AGILE.

Now that struck a chord in my mind. I was actually hearing this:

  • Her focus was only CLEANER CLOTHES (Quality), even if that requires more investment.
  • With smaller machine and sachets, she had become better at estimation, even better at managing resources (Water).
  • Washing the clothes more frequently removed any ambiguities in scope (no. of clothes), it increased predictability.
  • I was getting to wear clean clothes every day (overall quality improved and responsiveness).
  • Tightly aligned to ensure I wore cleaner clothes, however loosely coupled to the machine (big or small).
  • She learned iteratively to get better, focused on being roughly right than precisely wrong.

What I heard from her opened my eyes to what is truly the difference in DOING AGILE and BEING AGILE.

Being a program manager at work, managing a multi-million USD project, I was perplexed to hear that argument. Day-in and Day-out at my work, I talk about Agile. I discuss team metrics, burn-down graphs and talk about being high performing teams. I collect data about iteration acceptance, and cycle time for global teams, and always push the teams for smaller user stories so that we are more responsive and predictable in our deliveries.

I realized all I was doing was – DOING AGILE.

What I heard from her opened my eyes to what is truly the difference between DOING AGILE and BEING AGILE.

Agile is a mindset, and we hear this every day at work, but what is that mindset is what I learned today.

To my surprise, she had got rid of her big shampoo and body lotion bottles. All that she had was sachets and smaller bottles.

Perhaps I was lost in thoughts, and I couldn’t hear what she said more. She finally snapped her fingers to wake me up.

“What do you think now?”, she said.

Without responding to anything, I just walked to her washroom and opened the closet. She followed me. To my surprise, she had got rid of her big shampoo and body lotion bottles. All that she had was sachets and smaller bottles.

She started laughing. “Buying small, I can try multiple brands and settle on the best. You see now the beauty of small things!”, she pinched my cheeks.

I couldn’t express to her how big a lesson that was to me.