Lemons? Make lemonade.

lemons and lemonade

I was sitting in his uncle’s office, when Vijay walked in.  Today it wasn’t Tuesday, so I asked him,”How come you are not at your factory today, Vijay ?”.

“Uncle, there is a slowdown in business recently, so I could come out here even on a working day.  The boys are on the job cleaning up the plant, so I thought let me finish some outside business today”, he replied.

“Oh boy, slowdown, eh?  That’s not good news”, I expressed my sympathy to him.

“Not at all, uncle.  Slowdowns are necessary at regular intervals.  They have so many advantages”, he replied coolly.

“Advantages of slowdowns?”, I was confused.

“Sure.  Let’s count them.  Advantage 1: We are a small enterprise.  So during full upswings in our business, we hardly find time to undertake extensive plant cleaning.  In a slowdown, we put our resources- people, to take up cleaning work.  All the old junk and debris also get disposed off.  The whole plant becomes so pure.”

I nodded.

“Advantage 2: We get Machine shutdowns.  So we can schedule proper repair works of all equipment.  That way, we can at peace get some basic issues addressed, and then we are fully ready to take on the next upcoming upswing, giving better and faster service to our customers”

I silently listened.

“Advantage 3: During good times, who has to the time or the energy to look out for new customers.  We can hardly cater the needs of the existing ones.  So during slowdowns, we get time to meet new potential customers, understand their needs and concerns with their present vendors.  We can built new relationships, while retaining the old good clientele, and also weeding out some nuisance trouble makers.”

“Advantage 4: As I told you, we are a small enterprise.  So during good times, our receivables do tend to climb up, largely due to higher business volumes and lack of consistent followup for payments.  In slowdowns, we get enough time to push the old receivables and try to cover up on our debtors as much as possible.  Whatever we can get will make our books look good, right?  So you see, slowdowns have so many advantages”, he finished.

Wow, I said to myself.  That’s real out of the box thinking, coming from a high-school dropout.  I learnt some valuable lessons that day on how to flip each threat into an opportunity, or as I read somewhere, if life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

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કોઠાંસુજ

Out of the box

હું એના કાકા ની ઓફીસ માં બેઠો હતો. ત્યાં વિજય અંદર આવ્યો. આજે તો મંગળવાર ન્હોતો. એટલે પૂછ્યુ,”કેમ વિજય આજે ચાલુ દિવસે તારી ફેકટ્રી છોડી અહીં ?”

” અંકલ આજકાલ મ્ંદી ચાલે છેને, એટલે ચાલુ દિવસે નિકળી શકાય. છોકરાઓ ને સાફ્સફાઈ માં લગાડ્યા છે. થયું બહાર નુ કામ પતાવી આવું.”

” હાં ભાઈ, મંદી એટલે તો બહું ત્રાસ નો સમય, નહીં ?”, મેં સાંત્વના વ્યક્ત કરી.

” ના રે ના, અંકલ, મંદી પણ જરૂરી છે. સમય સમય પર મંદી પણ આવતી રહેવીં જોઈયે. એના પણ ઘણા ફાયદા છે.”

” મંદી ના ફાયદા ?” હું ગુચવાણો.

” હાં, ગણો – ફાયદો નંબર ૧ – તેજી હોય ત્યારે ફેકટ્રી ની સાફ્સફાઈ પર જરાય ધ્યાન ના આપી શકાય. ક્યારેક વચ્ચે મંદી આવે તો બધો કચરો સાફ થઈ જાય. ભંગાર કાટમાળ નિકળી જાય. વાતાવરણ શુધ્ધ થઈ જાય.”

“બરાબર”, મેં માથું હલાવ્યુ.

” ફાયદો નંબર ૨ – મશીન બંધ મળે, એટલે રિપેરીંગ કરવા ના બધા કામ થયી જાય. મશીન પરફેકટ કંડીશન માં લાવી દેવાય. પાછી તેજી આવે તો વધારે સારી રીતે કામ કરી શકાય.”

” ફાયદો નંબર ૩ – તેજી માં નવા ઘરાક વિશે કોઈ વિચાર ના આવે. જુના ઘરાક નાજ કામ પુરા ના થાતાં હોય, ત્યાં નવા ની જગ્યા ક્યાં. મંદી માં આ નવા ઘરાક ને મળી શકાય, એમના કામ સમજી શકાય, ભાવ અને બજાર જાણી શકાય. નવા સારા ઘરાક તૈયાર કરાવનો આ સૌથી સારો સમય”

મેં એને હોકારોં આપ્યો.

” ફાયદો નંબર ૪ – હવે સમય હોય એટલે જુની ઊઘરાણી બાકી હોય એ કરી લેવાય. જે થોડા ઘણા પૈસા છુટ્ટા થાય તે નફા નાજને, ખરૂં ને?”

હું અવાક્ બની સાંભળી રહ્યો. જે છોકરો ક્યારે કોલેજ ના દાદરો ન્હોતો ચડ્યો, એ મને એની કોઠાંસુજ (Out of the Box thinking) થી એમ. બી. એ. ના પાઠ ભણાવી ગયો.

ખરો ભાયડો ભાઈ.

The Keystone habit

The Keystone habit

It was someday in the month of January 2014, when I was sitting across my friend and then colleague, Ashwinbhai Tailor in his office.  He was frustrated about the limited resources that he had at the Wastewater Treatment plant, and narrated to me his woes about the sleepless nights he had to spend, keeping the discharge parameters within limits.  While I was patiently listening to him, out of the blue these words spurted out from me,”Ashwinbhai, naaku pakdo !” in Gujarati.

He looked at me puzzled.  I explained, ”Look, our job is to keep the parameters of the treated effluent discharged from our plant within prescribed limit, right?”  He nodded.  I continued, ”But the difficulty is we also know that if we do not allow the manufacturing plants to functioning smoothly, we will not have any effluent left to treat.  So we bend over backwards to see that the manufacturing keeps going on.  Therefore the top management never gets any hint about our misery here at ETP.  So if we keep the limits not on the border line, but stringently much below them, we can operate the treatment plant easily.

But then we will be forcing the manufacturing process to stop”, he retorted.

I know.  But only then we will have the ears of our bosses listening intently about the limitations we face here.  After all, they are in no position to tell us to flaunt the discharge norms.  If they do so, they know that they are in effect absolving us of all responsibility of getting caught by Regulators.  And they will then have to bear it themselves.  Let us hold our objective firmly by its neck, and see what happens

He did agree a bit reluctantly.  But knowing him, I was sure that once he sets his mind on something, he will leave no stone unturned to get to the finishing line, victorious.  Rest, as they say, is history.  All major Waste water treatment plant infrastructure requirements were met, and the plant started operating absolutely trouble free.  Though it was not before lot of heated bouts between the teams and the Management taking place, and he had to face a lot of flake, since he was the torchbearer.  But then his greatest virtue I found is perseverance.  Lastly, all’s well that ends well.  He could sleep peacefully.

It was a few months later that I came across this bestseller book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  In it, he talks about how developing a Keystone Habit can lead to the development of many more good habits, by starting a chain effect in our life, producing a number of positive outcomes.  Little did I realize that my telling Ashwinbhai to hold the end (“Naaku Pakdo”) was getting a Keystone habit in place, that resulted in a chain reaction across the Company, completely transforming the way we performed.

Charles Duhigg gave many examples of the keystone habits and the effects seen as a result of acquiring them.  But the best one I liked in it is about the Aluminum Company of America – Alcoa.  How in 1987 as a newly appointed CEO of the Company, Paul O’Neill chose ensuring Worker Safety as the Keystone Habit and the miracles it performed.  The entire story is one compelling read, and beyond the scope of this blog, but you can read it at How “Keystone Habits” Transformed a Corporation article here or google it yourself.

So what can be our Keystone habits?

Awake

morning-awake

All his last remaining hopes were shattered last friday night, when the jail officer informed him that the President had rejected his plea for mercy.  The last door had closed on him.  The die was cast.  Now without any further delay, he would be executed by hanging till death on Monday morning, before dawn.  Today is Monday.

Couldn’t it be finished on Saturday itself ? he wonders now.  The weekend that is always looked forward to happily by all normal people, were a roller coaster ride of emotions and memories for him.  He was dead scared, angry, resentful, melancholy, hopeful (of some miracle as seen in so many Hindi movies), one after other, or all at once, sometimes. Continue reading “Awake”

Stillness

 

img_20171123_095658_041-1815488387.jpg

So you are here, to read another blog. But I have silence inside today. So what shall we do?

No, don’t run away yet. Take your hand off the mouse, or the back button of your device. Since you are here, why don’t you use this time to be you, for a change. Not the you, that your parents, friends, foes, siblings, teachers at school or college, those unknown buddies giving empty likes on your forwards, make you believe it’s you. Not the little story, a brief history that your mind keeps telling you, about you. Continue reading “Stillness”

Man in a cage

Facial

“You know uncle, we were just a few hundred feet away from that majestic beast, with his family of four, basking in the morning sun”, Mahesh, the young father of two was beaming with happiness narrating this recent lion safari at the Sasan Gir jungle.

“Dada, the lioness was playing with the two cubs so merrily”, young Rohan quipped.  “And the little ones were so cute, and tiny.  Wish I could hold them in my arms”, Anjali, the youngest, joined him pretty excited. Continue reading “Man in a cage”

I don’t know

Eckhart Tolle Dalai Lama

Laura was taking us around the IBM Burlington Chip factory.  It was then the largest electronic chip manufacturing unit of IBM.  Laura was the Public relations officer there.  She was explaining to us about the clean rooms, the various types of chips being manufactured, the number of people working there, the spread of the overall plant, while we walked in the glass lined corridors of the beautiful manufacturing facility.

I was 29 then, first time in the USA, all beaming with enthusiasm, waiting to impress this beautiful lady and my colleagues with my information I learnt studying as Electronics engineer.  Information I mistook as knowledge then.  About the end of the tour, she asked,”If you have questions, please ask.” Continue reading “I don’t know”