Category Archives: Consulting

Leading vs Performance

I had an interesting conundrum last week at work. Something which left me with this dilemma. It was the kind of question for me which impacts you as a person, questions your beliefs and core principles. I did took a decision and went ahead by it, I still probably would take the same decision in the similar circumstances but I am still not able to shake that feeling if I did right.

We had a small professional competition in office where I participated. The competition required us to form a team, we sent in the team nomination with some members and some people who were interested were assigned to our team. At the end I had a fourteen member team which I was supposed to lead in the competition. The competition was a long one with 6 weeks of timeline, requiring the teams to submit professional documents at the end of every week and finally ending with a presentation at the end of the contest. All of this was to be done over and above the regular working hours and deliverables we all had.

We started at a positive note with enthusiasm and everyone interested. We divided work and went around with our deliverables at the end of the first week, the enthusiasm continued till the second week. At the end of the third week the quality of the work started coming down, some of the team members stopped showing for the meeting without intimation, while others expressed inability to contribute further citing the workload. We finally moved to fourth week and there was further cutting of corners and general lack of interest by the people. The deliverable at the end of the fourth week end up in a situation where some of the people had just copy pasted stuff without even reading. By the time we reached five weeks we had reduced the number of contributors to eight from the initial fourteen. The eight folks kept at it picking up load on weekends and pulling late nighters to ensure the quality and the timeliness of our deliverables.

Our final presentation was good and we were happy with our effort. That is when the dilemma started. The organization leadership was a part of the panel judging our efforts, based on the number of people they saw in the final presentation they had a question on folks who had actually contributed. Since, I was the leader of the team I was asked this question. Apparently we were a part of the top 3 winners and they wanted to acknowledge and reward only the people who had contributions across all the stages but the final decision was with me. My first reaction was that as the leader of the team I should not discriminate between the members. It was a team effort and the entire team stands to win or lose, it would be opportunistic to drop people when we were winners. On the other hand, the contrary thought process was that this was a corporate competition with an idea and spirit to identify performers, reward people who can deliver. Why should the rest of the people who contributed far more significantly should carry the people who didn’t keep this work at the priority. At the end of the day entire team gets the credit for delivering, so people who didn’t contribute significantly throughout shouldn’t get the benefit of the victory either. When one deprioritsed the work, he/she let the rewards also to be forfeited along with the decision.

In the end I gave the eight member team pruning the list to people who contributed throughout the six weeks. I am still torn between if I made the right decision. Was it correct on my part to let go of the people who didn’t contribute when we won. Had I failed as leader when I chose to disown the people from my team? If I had I taken the other side would I have been unfair to people who spent working on weekends and late nights to ensure the work gets completed on time with winnable quality while their peers focussed on more important and personal things otherwise. Do let me know what you think?

My Confusion about Internet.Org

There has been a lot of noise on the internet about Net Neutrality in India. Specially after Honourable Prime Minister visited the Facebook offices and the viral tricolour profile picture and the fiasco post that. I have been reading, following the discussion about the net neutrality starting from the Airtel, TRAI circular, Internet.org, AIB video and thousand other shared Facebook Posts, tweets, and blogs.

I have done all, shared those videos, posts, wrote emails to TRAI etc all in the name of net neutrality. I understand the concept and appreciate it. However, I have lately taken to wonder if my stand and belief is justified. A lot of it is based on Internet.org, the concept being propagated by Facebook where the below poverty line folks get access to a specific set of sites for no charge.

I understand this at some level violates the principles of net neutrality and might tilt a level playing field. To give you a perspective, I border on the obsession of being connected. I have two cellular connections with Internet connection, one data card, one fibre optic broadband and a fail safe broadband in case the fibre optic isn’t working. I spend a fair amount every month to get this kind of connectivity while fending for my obsession. I wonder what happens to people who don’t have money to spend on buying connectivity? Mark Zuckerberg wrote about those children in Chandauli village who saw connectivity for the first time, what about them? Don’t they have a right to experience Internet or a part of it?

While the middle class, upper middle class and the rich are busy sharing corny, degraded humour on whatsapp 24*7, what about the poorest of the poor, Don’t they deserve even to know the weather forecast for next week? They have to make do with the inaccurate one in the newspaper at the local tea stall? They have to wait for their exam results or latest news to be published in news paper or put on the government school notice boards. Why the people which belong to the lower strata of the society be deprived of the essential connectivity? Why they can’t search for some government or medical procedure?

I see a lot of people complaining about the net neutrality aspect of internet.org. I agree with their view point that the internet should be a level playing field. I totally agree with those funny AIB videos which talk about the importance of net neutrality. But what confuses me the most is when you go out and decide on behalf of those poorest of the poor, when you go all out on decide on behalf of those kids in Chandauli village that he should not get access to the restricted access to some 35 sites which are a part of internet.org, what do you offer him in return? Do you have a plan which will make a neutral internet available to those kids and others in need and lack of money? Are these people going to launch a startup to provide free access to internet, you don’t need to be restricted to that 35 sites, here is a completely neutral internet free of charge for you. If we can’t provide that to a kid in Chandauli with a better alternative, then what right do we have to deny him basic connectivity as restrictive as it may be.

As a matter of fact a lot of technological changes have happened in a similar fashion, where disrupters came and disrupted the industry bringing change in the entire dynamics of the industries. There are umpteen examples of this industry disruptions, the time when SMSes killed Pagers, then SMSes were killed by Whatsapp. Then there were times when Reliance launched mobile calls at a nominal rates of few paise per minute, when Google & Apple started giving weather update on your phone killing the Airtel Special service which provided weather forecast @3Rs/SMS.

Like any other industry there is a win-win fortune which lies at the bottom of the pyramid, and if internet.org is going to provide some kind of free service by cross subsidising the connectivity costs from advertisement revenues we should probably accept the challenge and come with a low cost connectivity solution with less restrictive internet. Calling foul on Zuckerberg doesn’t work in my opinion.

This is what makes me so confused about the internet.org platform. Two conflicting views and I am probably in agreement with both. What do you think