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Archive for February, 2012

A Potato Protests

I am a very humble potato. I write this to protest the treatment meted out to me by the homo-sapiens. Despite making sacrifices and doing good for humanity in general, I get derided for no valid reason. Mine is a kind and obliging soul, but I am not treated well by human beings.

Derogatory references are made to me while referring to lazy bums watching TV endlessly as being “couch potatoes”. I am not capable of commenting upon the value of what is shown on TVs these days (only humans can suffer the content, though, for some strange reason, they refer to it as entertainment). But I would like to point out that referring to an avid watcher of TV as someone being a potato of any kind is an outright insult to my species.

I have very noble and humble origins. I have been serving mankind for around 10,000 years. I originated from Peru and Bolivia. Thanks to ancient mariners, I have made my presence felt on all the continents of our planet Earth. I can justifiably boast of as many as 1,000 varieties the world over. I myself have lost track of the number of dishes of which I am an active ingredient. The dishes which can get made using me range from fish and chips in Minnesota and Copenhagen to aloo sabji  in Mathura and Varanasi.

Other than being eaten directly, very many industries use me as a raw material. They process me further (and how!), ending with products which are quite different in nature.  Vodka gets made only because I happen to be around. Potato wafers and quite a few snacks would not be there if I had not been there. Life would have been pretty dull in my absence, no?

Let me say with confidence that I it is no fun to be a tuber crop and to grow underground; think of all the worms and insects which surround me when I grow as a baby. It is like living in hell. Once I ripen and get picked up, my suffering only increases. So as to be able to make myself presentable and delicious, I often undergo a harsh treatment. I get boiled, baked, chopped, fried, roasted, mashed or cut up, so all humans would be able to enjoy what they eat.

If you ever visit a wafer manufacturing factory and imagine yourself to be a potato like I am, you would realize the kind of suffering which is in store – you get graded, bounded about on metallic conveyers, washed in steam, mashed, made into a paste, get extruded in the form of thin wafers and eventually get sprinkled with all kinds of spices, before being bundled off in a pouch packed with a dash of Nitrogen; yuck – I just hate it!

I provide good carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to mankind, but still get blamed for obesity. This is patently unfair. If people consume me with relish and then lead sedentary life styles leading to health problems, how can I be blamed? I provide a good diet which makes one feel full at the least possible cost. People who eat me can do some physical work and benefit from the fiber content I provide to their digestive systems.

Before you call a friend of yours a “couch potato” next time, please consider this plea of mine. Think of using me more wisely. Mix me up with other vegetables – like spinach, beans or cauliflower – and relish the tasty dishes that your Mom comes up with. If you have me as your staple diet, I am happy. But then think of jogging, brisk walking or join a gym, so I may help you to become more active and develop six-pack-abs in a shorter duration. This way, your friends would wonder what magic potion you have found in me. And yes, girls may just drool over you also when you offer them an aaloo tikki burger next time round.

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DECISION MAKING
Strategic decisions made in a jiffy on a sudden impulse could lead to disasters. The company could end up having a wrong plant location, an outdated product, or a service of which the time is yet to come. Changing such a decision would invariably be an expensive affair.
Run of the mill decisions, like which brand of Xerox paper to buy for the office, or whether the car parking positions of officers should depend on hierarchy or time of arrival, are best delegated and left to be made at the operational level, where the executives are closer to the ground realities.

DELEGATION
When you can’t do something as well as the other person can, a smart choice you can make is that of delegating the task; that is, moving from doing it yourself to getting it done through others. If you do not learn to delegate, you could suffocate.
Trust, instinct, communication and control are the pre-requisites of delegation. Delegation without benchmarking and monitoring of targets is abdication!

DESIGNATIONS
Designations are not important in cases where the external exposure of the employee is minimal. They form the psychological part of an employee’s compensation package.DESIGNATIONS
For those whose role demands an external exposure, a higher sounding designation would improve the canvas of opportunities, enabling a faster realization of company’s goals.
For employees who have outlived their core utility in companies which believe in firing people only when there is a disaster of a nuclear nature, an improvement in designation would be a valuable tool in the HR arsenal.

DETACHMENT
Beware of managements which exhort you to follow the much misunderstood principle of detachment expounded in the Gita – you should continue to slog all year long but do not expect that elusive overdue promotion. Do a reality check – are you repeating your own past performance? Is there a way you can improve the quality of your targets? Upgrade your work plans and actions accordingly.
If you can follow the principle of detachment, though, mental peace is guaranteed.

DIRECTOR, BEING ONE
Invited to be a director on the board of a company? Accept the offer only after a due diligence at your own risk and peril. You may earn a modest fee and some handsome privileges, but would have little control over the kind of legal and procedural misadventures taking place across the company. Unless, of course, getting served with a notice or landing in a jail is your idea of having fun in life.

DISCRETION
If you wish to start a relationship with the receptionist, better give the idea skip. There is not much difference between a manager rooting for an executive and a cashier having his hands in the till. Managements need to handle such cases with discretion; if the manager concerned is otherwise a good performer, he can be helped to get transferred to a temptation free location and kept under watch. Another misdemeanor, just throw him out.
Complex businesses require discretion in handling information of a sensitive nature – could be related to pay packets, new products and services or long term business plans. Judge the pros and cons and be discreet wherever necessary.

DRAUPADI SYNDROME
In what are euphemistically known as “matrix” organizations, reporting to several bosses at the same time could be a challenging experience. One has to learn to balance each one’s expectations against those of others. Much depends on their relative seniority or clout in the company, based on which one could handle the situation. Of course, it does not pay to pitch one of your bosses against the other, whether directly or indirectly.

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CALLING BACK
If you head an outfit, try calling yourself up once in a while. You may be surprised by the defenses you have built for yourself and your managers. The young women attending to incoming calls in your office may need to be counseled at frequent intervals.

COMPROMISES
When asked to mediate between two colleagues of yours, seek the areas of agreement first. Take clear sides with one, so the responsibility to win rests squarely on the winner, without losing the cooperation of the loser.
When involved in a warring situation, learn to bow out and lose gracefully, if need be. The apparent winner would dread you while your superior could end up appreciating you.

COMPLACENCY
This is a malaise every workplace is stricken with. You may have a set of intelligent, obedient and relevant people working for you. COMPLACENCYBut it is quite likely that half of them would have fallen into the trap of complacency. They would have become critical of the company/department, would be working in a comfort zone, and would be displaying a singular lack of initiative. They would no longer have the shine in their eyes, and would surely not be operating on all four cylinders.
Your HR honchos would be neglecting this lot at the company’s long term peril. An anti-dote package could comprise a sustained program of employee engagement, elaborate mentorship, job rotation, sponsorships for advanced educational courses (either on-line or in the distance mode), recreational breaks and by simply spicing up their work life.
At the individual level, keep watching for signs of falling into the trap of complacency. Analyze, introspect and then speak to your seniors the moment you notice the zeal gone. Or, become a rolling stone and gather no moss!

CONFLICTS, RESOLVING
Executives fighting their bosses when they feel the top dog is wrong is a good sign. Executives fighting between themselves in the boss’ presence is also the sure sign of a healthy work culture. Seniors airing their difference of opinion or berating their colleagues is an unhealthy sign.

CONSULTANTS
Hire only a specialist, preferably a loner, to solve a specific well-defined problem for which an internal solution is not being found.
To win over internal dissent in the short run, it might help to hire a consultant who, being a rank outsider, might have a better acceptability and credibility with your own team.

CREATIVE ACCOUNTING
Joined a company which strongly believes in creative accounting practices? Stick around there only at your own risk and peril. If it is a closely held outfit, the management may just manage to swing it for some time. If it is in the public domain, investors will eventually lose trust. If that happens, your pink slip can not to be too far behind.

CREATIVE DISSATISFACTION
The art of creative dissatisfaction keeps you expanding your frontiers of knowledge and thereby casting your influence net wider. Keep at it – you would never regret it in your career.

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