Friday, January 28, 2005

The Microsoft Memo

The best piece of science fiction I've seen in a long long time - "The Microsoft Memo" - Wired Feb 2005 issue.

Just see the heading - "Bill Gates hires open source icon Linus Torvalds? That was just the beginning of Redmond's hybrid strategy to face the free software age...", well thought out and written stuff.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Geeks in Management

A very interesting Slashdot thread on how geeks should fare in Management: Geeks in Management?.

Some responses that the thread got:
I) # You are NO LONGER a peer. Do not act as such, it will undermine your ability to manage
# Protect your people. I try to take the PM view I learned at IBM. I try to shield them from BS so they can focus. _I_ am the "bad cop" to outsiders who are out of line. I NEVER ask my folks to take that role.
# Listen to your folks, discipline is ALWAYS a secondary (or later) tactic for addressing issues. I have listened to a lot of screaming from my team. If they're pissed, they barge in my office and let loose. They're not disrespectful, they're frustrated, angry, and want someone to listen and help. After they're done, we figure something out. I'd rather they yell in my office than at some jackass outside the group.
# Honesty. Whether it's reviews, promotions, good, bad, whatever - be honest. Even if it's - I can't say right now.
# Your tech skills will be gone soon. You'll have exposure, but at a high level. I finally had to give up on the hands-on tech stuff. It's not easy, but it's the way it is
# Have a spine with upper mgmt. This doesn't mean shoot your mouth off, but be ready and able to say "no" in a firm but calm manner and help them "make better decisions" when appropriate. Holding my ground and remaining calm has helped me a LOT. You will be granted precieved authority beyond your title which can make life easier.
# Look long term and don't get shaken my short term events. Your team will react in a similar manner to your reaction to news (merger, layoffs, uppermgmt change, etc).
# ALWAYS remember - Karma is easier lost than gained.
# Listen to older SUCCESSFUL managers who offer advice

II) The best manager is the one that recognizes accomplishment, delegates, and rewards. Micromanagement is a trap many fall into - so remember what it is all about: facilitating people who work under you to feel empowered, and be empowered to do the work. The day you complain some guy is always 5 minutes late, when he is twice as productive as the guy next to him, is the day you need a smack upside the head.

III) As a manager, you cannot succeed without your employees succeeding. Any of their major accomplishments are shared with you inherently...broadcast these accomplishments and sing their praises to the masses. Recognition is a great incentive, and when your employees get credit for something, YOU get credit as a good manager.

When they do something wrong, defend them to the hilt...even if it was something stupid. Then behind closed doors let them have it and make it clear that you put your butt on the line for them. Be willing to take a personal hit on their behalf...NEVER sell them out.

Realize that to be first, you must be last. You are there to facilitate their performance as someone who works for them.

For cryin' out loud...never micromanage anything. All employees are different, but for the most part you can measure them by results and not stupid timeclock things, etc.

And I stress that all people are motivated by different things. Money, recognition, who and what they work with....learn and listen. If you reverse engineer their motivation you have very important information in your hands.

Be very careful of minority groups--and no I don't mean the legal minority groups--whoever the smallest group is in your team be they white male or indian female. The smallest subgroup tends to fight amongst themselves, or unite to destroy the rest of the group. Watch those situations carefully.

Monday, January 24, 2005

China on a roll

China seems to be on a roll - Its economy grew 9.5% ! in 2004, the fastest in the last 8 years. Its GDP now touches $1.6 trillion - this despite the fact that it is trying hard to slow down its growth to prevent over-heating its economy. And hear this - personal disposable income rose 7.7% in urban areas and 6.8% in rural areas, the fastest since 1997 - we are witnessing the emergence of a new super-power.

For all India might talk about having a decade's lead over China in software et. al., we should not underestimate determination - it is the basis for all achievement. I would not be surprised if they match us soon in the IT field too, after all, who could have predicted man would ever set foot on the moon - there is one thing no forecasting method can ever predict or account for - the determination of man.

Article in Bloomberg.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Creating a boundaryless world

We have this course called "international business economics" taken by an alumni of ours - Sankaran P. Raghunathan (man - this prof is awesomely good). Quite a few interesting papers to read as part of that - one particular author, Kenichi Ohmae is really cool, almost porter level. As Indian companies starting becoming more global, there are very interesting lessons to learn from existing global corporations. For one, globalization is, in effect, about becoming more local - in the sense that the ultimate "nirvana" (as prof. sankaran likes to call it) is ultimately about becoming a "local" player in every geography that a company operates. Truly global corporations have become so much a part of the different countries in which they have "homes", that they almost behave like local companies. Secondly, there are three aspects to becoming "global" - the 3 O's - operations (having a global setup), orientation (thinking globally) and ownership (being owned by the ppl in the geographies they inhabit). Most existing global corporates have already gone through multiple stages as they progress towards the truly global "nirvana". Indian companies need to learn from this - instead of going through the whole painful process, it is essential that Indian corporates realize where they are headed and take steps accordingly - else they shall be needlessly re-creating history.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Happy Pongal !!

Wish you all a very happy Pongal !

The ezhunellipu ceremony as part of Thrissur Pooram at the Bhagavathy temple in Varakkara. Source: The Hindu, Jan 14th

What i can not create I do not understand

Wired article on synthetic biology: Wired 13.01: Life, Reinvented - a cool intro to the emerging world of synthetic biology... something that could become the IT industry of the future.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Citigroup at top of league tables

Citigroup seems to have ended up as the top equity and bond underwriter for the year 2004. Interestingly, banks with a commercial franchise like Citigroup and JPMorgan seem to have gained over purely investment banking firms like Goldman Sachs or CSFB. JPMorgan arranged the maximum US mergers while Citi seems to become the top junk-bond underwriter displacing csfb from the top spot after 11 years.
Article in yahoo finance: Citigroup is top underwriter for 2004

I had studied JPM while doing a project on its merger with BankOne in the MACR course - BankOne's CEO Jamie Dimon (who will shortly become the ceo of JPM) was once Sam Weill's protege and was tipped to become CEO after him. Instead in the battle for the top spot he lost out to Chuck Prince (the present CEO of Citi). So he joined BankOne and turned it around. Now having merged it with JPM he gets to head the second biggest bank after Citi in the US. Interestingly, his progress mirrors the career of Sam Weill himself - once tipped to become top man at citibank, he was outsted in the leadership battle; he then went on to head Travellers - which he turned around and then he merged it with citibank forming Citigroup - subsequently going on to head the combined entity.

AP to build a new broadband network

Andhra Pradesh is spending Rs.400 crores to build a new broadband network interconnecting all districts of the state with a 10Gbps backbone. To be built by a consortium of 6 companies, the project is expected to be completed within 2 years and is expected to provide cheap broadband connectivity to citizens and boost e-governance initiatives in the state. Looks like the ball which CBN set in motion is gathering momentum.

Article in the MIT Technology Review