Monthly Archives: November 2005

Management by Matrices

The 2 by 2 matrix is perhaps the most commonly used tool in a lot of management literature. Perhaps management theorists feel a trifle insecure about most of their ‘postulates’ which lie somwhere in the space between common sense and ‘common sense expressed in fewer English words than lay persons’. It could be that Management is a Science that does not lend itself easily to formulaic expressions. Surely, if CK Prahlad were to say that organizations should focus on what they do best, it wouldn’t sound like somethign worthy of a journal, but when he calls it ‘core competence’ , you have an idea that sells. It must also be said that this ‘jargonization’ is true with most disciplines. Perhaps practioners of a discipline feel more ‘apart’ from lay-persons when they use jargon. Actually… it makes sense. You dont see Pepsi marketing itself as ‘ sweet carbonated water’. Instead they would like us to believe that their product is the elixir of life itself!


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The CC Handcuff

If you ever need to get work done out of someone at the workplace, try this. I call it the CC handcuff. It happens across all organizations and its about time someone gave it a name. I wonder if it falls under the category of games in transactional analysis. I know it sounds like some sort of martial arts hold, but believe me it is just as effective.

It works like this. Suppose, you are a newly joined manager in the system. No one really knows you in the organization and not too many people even take you all that seriously considering that you are just a fresh recruit. A typical problem that you would face is to get the regular employees to take time of their ‘busy’ schedule and spend some time doing something you want them to do. Here is where a carefully used CC handcuff comes into play.This is how it works:

Mr. Smart fires of a mail to the person (Mr.X) from whom he would like some work done. In the cc field he adds his boss, his boss’ boss and everyone else higher than him. While Mr. Smart composes the mail, he makes sure he casually involves his superiors in the ‘conversation’. Eg. “Mr. Smith, as we discussed today, the blah blah needs to be done in this fashion. Im sure Mr. X can assist us with the same”Now Mr. X has been handcuffed to the task that needs to be done. He cannot put in on the back burner since that would mean he would come across as inefficient to the superior. He cannot not reply to the mail. He cannot not do the task. He has been handcuffed! Suddenly, Mr. Smart’s task climbs up Mr. X’s priority list.Anti-thesis: A poorly timed CC handcuff could lead to a situation where Mr. Smart gets an instant reply in his inbox that looks like this. “Mr. X is away on leave. He will be accessing his mails only after he is back. In case of emergency call xxxxxx”.

From a transactional analysis perspective, I think the CC handcuff could well be a game. It comes across as an Adult-Adult transaction.
Adult: ‘We need to get this done. Mr.X can do it for us.’
Adult: ‘Yes, I can do it for you. I’m glad to be of help’

However, the ulterior transaction is of Parent-Child
Parent: ‘ You are handcuffed. Do as I say or the boss will kick your *** ’
Child: ‘Sigh! You got me. ’

Any TA experts out there who can can tell me if there exists a previously documented game of this nature?
[I had originally posted this on my personal blog here]

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On this blog, you will find some of my original management related thoughts and observations as well as interesting stuff that I come across from other sources. I am an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and curiously enough, graduated in engineering (this combination is not uncommon in India).

Meanwhile, my personal blog exists here, in case you want to read about my other interests.


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Television Ads I like – Visa, IBM, Tata AIG Mahalife

The debate on whether advertising should focus more on the product or more on the creatives has gone on for long. However, I think that creatives vs. product features is not really an issue of either-or. I have come across quite a few ads that are creative and product centric at the same time. Three that I can think of:

1. The Visa ad featuring Richard Gere: The ad is set in what appears to be a marketplace in a desert type place in Rajasthan. A little girl believes that setting free caged birds brings good fortune. She buys five caged birds, while an amused Richard Gere looks on. Even as she opens the cage, a million pigeons are released at once. Turns out, our good friend Gere has used the Visa power of his credit card to buy all the birds in the market. There appears to be a sort of First world benevolence towards impoverished Third world children in the whole ad, but maybe I am reading too much into it! However, the point is that the ad is both creative (the idea of using a Visa card to buy a million birds) and product centric (even if you dont have cash, you can always swipe your card and bring happiness) at the same time.

2. IBM: The series of IBM ads being run these days are amongst the best tech ads I have come across. The ads are good fun to watch even if you are not really interested in what IBM has to offer. The ads on ‘prototype testing’, ‘RFID tags on stocks that are being transported’, ‘Web portal to bring together all players in the woolen industry, including the shepherd’ etc are all fantastic. Technology suddenly seems so much more relevant to our daily lives with the situations that the ads present. Most other tech companies seem to get all lost in jargon and technicalities that no one cares about (thats right, no one, not even the people who buy their products. Buyers of tech products and services do not necessarily care about what kind of chip goes into it.)
3. Tata AIG Mahalife: There are two good points about this ad. The first is the choice of the celebrity endorser – Harsha Bhogle. Bhogle is one of India’s most reliable voices on television. His commentary is loved by millions thanks to his precise diction as well as unbiased analyisis of the game. Secondly, the ad focuses less on life insurance (where you get money only when you die!) and more on the product as an investment option that gives you a steady income. Suddenly, the word “death”, which is usually the subtext in most life insurance ads is no longer there. Instead, there is the more heartening proposition of you getting money continuously ’till you die’ (oops!) as opposed to ‘when you die’. The ad for Tata AIG Invest Assure also used a similar theme.

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Leadership – Notes from Plato’s Republic

Leadership is often bestowed upon an individual who is most likely to work in the interest of the group he leads, even if it means sacrificing his own well being. While, the first half of that statement is rather clichéd, the second part is the one that is more interesting. It is our tendency to choose leaders who will not work for their own self interest that leads most people to not want to be leaders themselves. They will gladly be a follower and reap the benefits of having a leader who will work to maximize the well being of his constituency than step on the pedestal themselves. This argument is also found in Plato’s Republic.

Plato’s Republic presents this idea through an argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus in the course of which Socrates says:

No one willingly chooses to rule and to take other people’s troubles in their hand and straighten them out, but does ask for wages… In a city of good men, if it came into being, the citizens would fight not to rule. There it would be clear that anyone who is a true leader doesn’t by nature seek his own advantage but that of his subjects.

What kind of wages is Socrates referring to? The answer is – money, honor or a penalty if the individual refuses to lead. Most people however, would not want to be seen to lead for the sake of just money or honor. Instead, they often make the choice to lead due to the third reason – the penalty of having someone worse than themselves as their leader.

However, it would not be right to shun leadership based on the above argument. After all, leadership gives us an opportunity to access within ourselves that higher standard of ethics and morality that we always expect of others but never confirm to ourselves. In some sense, leadership presents an opportunity to experience a perfect state of being where one forgets oneself in a cause larger than oneself. It is therefore not surprising that Plato recommends that good leaders should also be philosophers.

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