leading from the bottom

3 Comments

One of the most important achievements of the current economic downturn is that it has forced even multi-billion dollar businesses to re-think their strategy and execution. Only those who can adapt will survive the test of time – more so in a globalized economy. However, as humans, we are enslaved by our habits – which make it difficult to adapt to new realities. We are bogged down by the dogma of tradition and the comfort of yesterday’s success. The ability to be flexible varies from person to person and from situation to situation. This is what differentiates leaders from the rest.
The higher you are, the lesser visibility you have about the ground realities. This is especially true in a complex multi-layered organization. Irrespective of the field of business that an organization is in, chances are high that the results often come from the bottom of the pyramid: the people who make and the people who sell. The most important task in the hands of the management team is to ensure that productivity and efficiency is optimum at the bottom of the pyramid, where it matters the most. To generalize, at every level of an organization, it is very important to optimize the lower rungs of the value chain. Unfortunately, control, power of judgement and decison making lies at a different place than where it can be best made.
The most logical step to change this status quo is to empower people where it matters most. However, this cannot be done over night – and often, even if it is done, will prove to be counter-productive since it is difficult to gauge the bigger picture at that level. Thus, the need arises to find middle ground. Empowerment has to be gradual – and limited in such a way that it does not adversely impact other areas of the organization. Such a change should also allow more flexibility in decision making and foster frugal innovation.
However, the most difficult part for most leaders, is to go down the value chain and realize the need for such empowerment. Even more difficult is to understand what is happening at the edge of the organization. This is where true leaders and great organizations stand apart. Organizations that have chalked their strategy bottom-up will eventually come out of this downturn better and stronger, thanks to the attitude change from “leading from the top” to “leading from the bottom”.

One of the most important achievements of the current economic downturn is that it has forced even multi-billion dollar businesses to re-think their strategy and execution. Only those who can adapt will survive the test of time – more so in a globalized economy. However, as humans, we are enslaved by our habits – which make it difficult to adapt to new realities. We are bogged down by the dogma of tradition and the comfort of yesterday’s success. The ability to be flexible varies from person to person and from situation to situation. This is what differentiates leaders from the rest.

The higher you are, the lesser visibility you have about the ground realities. This is especially true in a complex multi-layered organization. Irrespective of the field of business that an organization is in, chances are high that the results often come from the bottom of the pyramid: the people who make and the people who sell. The most important task in the hands of the management team is to ensure that productivity and efficiency is optimum at the bottom of the pyramid, where it matters the most. To generalize, at every level of an organization, it is very important to optimize the lower rungs of the value chain. Unfortunately, control, power of judgement and decison making lies at a different place than where it can be best made.

The most logical step to change this status quo is to empower people where it matters most. However, this cannot be done over night – and often, even if it is done, will prove to be counter-productive since it is difficult to gauge the bigger picture at that level. Thus, the need arises to find middle ground. Empowerment has to be gradual – and limited in such a way that it does not adversely impact other areas of the organization. Such a change should also allow more flexibility in decision making and foster frugal innovation.

However, the most difficult part for most leaders, is to go down the value chain and realize the need for such empowerment. Even more difficult is to understand what is happening at the edge of the organization. This is where true leaders and great organizations stand apart. Organizations that have chalked their strategy bottom-up will eventually come out of this downturn better and stronger, thanks to the attitude change from “leading from the top” to “leading from the bottom”. [tweetmeme source=”FlaringSparks” only_single=false]

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hail the ant

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Everything starts small, people say.. but certain things end smaller! One such thing is an Ant.
Today, when leaving from a close friend’s house, i saw some ants inside my shoe. For those animal entusiasts out there, they were red ants. Others, read on.
Well, I’m sure they weren’t yearning for attention, just that i had enough time to muse. Ants are pretty small, but carry things several times their size. They are almost weightless, but carry several times their weight. They are fragile and don’t have winter clothing, so they save enough to last a long winter. Their legs are microscopic, yet they walk a great deal. I’m not even sure if they have a nose, but they sense even if a few crystals of sugar lay on the floor. Their teeth is thinner than our finger tips, but its sting can hurt and leave a little cherry on your skin for over a day. No notion of time they may know, yet they can delay us by quite a while, just as they did to me today. Not because they are red in color, but they can actually get you angry or irritated or make you complain!
The point is that they aren’t as powerless as they seem. These little guys today, reminded me of several management fundas (aka jargon!), and some timeless principles of great value. They keep reminding that size does not matter – what matters is what you do with what you have. They work hard, save prudently, are very agile, make merry, take rest, are alert and if you get in their way, they know how to fight back. They do things that most of us can’t even imagine doing – can you carry something 3 times your weight and walk around? Most importantly, they are experts at planning, executing and looking forward to life. They know their limitations – they can’t come out during winter. So, they plan for their food and shelter. They don’t crib that they can’t find food for 6 months. They don’t worry about the tough times. Most of us do. They plan and prepare. We worry.
We, as elite creatures on earth, are used to having things our way. Even trivial things like crowed buses, credit card dues, bad roads, cell phone network coverage, traffic jams, shopping for a friend’s wedding, salary hikes, promotions, rising petrol costs, rise and fall of stock markets, etc etc affect us a lot. By making an issue out of all these perfectly manageable stuff, little do we realize that we are losing our resilience every day. Like Mr. Subroto Bagchi pointed out in his article ‘The Fallen Tomato Cart’, an average man, with a much tougher life than ours, does a better job of living it than most of us, the well to do, do. Most of us don’t even do as good as the little ant.
Isn’t it time we stop worrying about insignificant things around us, and start being more positive – rather sensible.?

Everything starts small, people say.. but certain things end smaller! One such thing is an Ant.

Today, when leaving from a close friend’s house, i saw some ants inside my shoe. For those animal entusiasts out there, they were red ants. Others, read on.

Well, I’m sure they weren’t yearning for attention, just that i had enough time to muse. Ants are pretty small, but carry things several times their size. They are almost weightless, but carry several times their weight. They are fragile and don’t have winter clothing, so they save enough to last a long winter. Their legs are microscopic, yet they walk a great deal. I’m not even sure if they have a nose, but they sense even if a few crystals of sugar lay on the floor. Their teeth is thinner than our finger tips, but its sting can hurt and leave a little cherry on your skin for over a day. No notion of time they may know, yet they can delay us by quite a while, just as they did to me today. Not because they are red in color, but they can actually get you angry or irritated or make you complain!

The point is that they aren’t as powerless as they seem. These little guys today, reminded me of several management fundas (aka jargon!), and some timeless principles of great value. They keep reminding that size does not matter – what matters is what you do with what you have. They work hard, save prudently, are very agile, make merry, take rest, are alert and if you get in their way, they know how to fight back. They do things that most of us can’t even imagine doing – can you carry something 3 times your weight and walk around? Most importantly, they are experts at planning, executing and looking forward to life. They know their limitations – they can’t come out during winter. So, they plan for their food and shelter. They don’t crib that they can’t find food for 6 months. They don’t worry about the tough times. Most of us do. They plan and prepare. We worry.

We, as elite creatures on earth, are used to having things our way. Even trivial things like crowed buses, credit card dues, bad roads, cell phone network coverage, traffic jams, shopping for a friend’s wedding, salary hikes, promotions, workplace politics, rising petrol costs, rise and fall of stock markets, etc etc affect us a lot. By making an issue out of all these perfectly manageable stuff, little do we realize that we are losing our resilience every day. Like Mr. Subroto Bagchi observes in his article ‘The Fallen Tomato Cart‘, an average man, with a much tougher life than ours, does a better job of living it than most of us, the well to do, do. Most of us don’t even do as good as the little ant.

Isn’t it time we stop worrying about insignificant things around us, and start being more positive – rather sensible.? [tweetmeme source=”FlaringSparks” only_single=false]