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[Repost] Management Consulting 101:Have a Problem, Google It!

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on February 14, 2013

I used the phrase “Google it!” twice at work today. Each time I was asked information that could so easily be accessed on any online search engine. So here’s a repost of one of my earliest thoughts on this blog:

This advice goes out to everyone out there doing anything, anywhere. If you have a problem, Google* it! Chances are that many on this planet have faced the same or similar problems and have shared the solutions online. It will save you a lot of time you would otherwise spend banging your head against the wall.

And Management Consultants in particular need to follow this approach. Lets face it, given the nature of capitalism, there are only a finite types of problems in the world. And most of those problems have been tackled and details posted somewhere online in the form of a case study. So the approaches to problem solving are limited and out in public domain. The real value addition lies firstly, in identifying the unique parameters that influence the process in which the problem lies, secondly, innovation in the form of tweaked derivative of an existing solution for the problem at hand and finally, implementing the solution in the unique Eco-system that the problem belongs to.

E.g when manufacturing moved to China, the management there faced production issues that were faced by factories in the United States in their infancy. The new problems were not new in nature but new to the Chinese Eco-system. The solutions that were implemented were derived from US factories and tweaked to adapt to the new environment.

There is no shame in incorporating Googling* as your first step of problem solving. It saves a lot of time and lets you use more of your grey cells in the real value addition.

*Googling refers to the act of searching. This could be both online as well as offline.

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Management Consulting 101:Have a Problem, Google It!

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 24, 2012

This advice goes out to everyone out there doing anything, anywhere. If you have a problem, Google* it! Chances are that many on this planet have faced the same or similar problems and have shared the solutions online. It will save you a lot of time you would otherwise spend banging your head against the wall.

And Management Consultants in particular need to follow this approach. Lets face it, given the nature of capitalism, there are only a finite types of problems in the world. And most of those problems have been tackled and details posted somewhere online in the form of a case study. So the approaches to problem solving are limited and out in public domain. The real value addition lies firstly, in identifying the unique parameters that influence the process in which the problem lies, secondly, innovation in the form of tweaked derivative of an existing solution for the problem at hand and finally, implementing the solution in the unique Eco-system that the problem belongs to.

E.g when manufacturing moved to China, the management there faced production issues that were faced by factories in the United States in their infancy. The new problems were not new in nature but new to the Chinese Eco-system. The solutions that were implemented were derived from US factories and tweaked to adapt to the new environment.

There is no shame in incorporating Googling* as your first step of problem solving. It saves a lot of time and lets you use more of your grey cells in the real value addition.

*Googling refers to the act of searching. This could be both online as well as offline.

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The Key To Conquest: Surrender

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 23, 2012

Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

“Nature cannot be commanded except by being obeyed”- Francis Bacon, Magna Instauratio

The underlying message urges pursuit of learning the laws of nature in order to master her. The same postulation can be extended to our daily lives. Whenever we wish to accomplish or achieve something, the first step should be to immerse oneself into the essence of that object and learn as mush as possible about it. Only then will we succeed in conquering that which eludes us.Here are some examples,

  • To win over an enemy in battle, the strategist delves into the mind of the opponent. To do this, one must condition one’s brain with information that has molded the opponent’s thought process. Only then can the enemy’s move be preempted.
  • To solve a management problem, in-depth analysis into the parameters that drive the process is a must. Without gaining an understanding of the sequence of events that lead to a problem, the solution can never be arrived at.
  • Before designing a marketing campaign, the marketing consultant must literally live the lives of the target audience. Statistical Data that does not involve emotional factors is pretty shallow.
  • Next time you rebuke your child, try to peek into the mind of the little one and evaluate the circumstances that led to the child’s actions.

In short, to conquer or overcome someone or something, become one with that object. The rest will be a cakewalk.

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Philosophy-Science-Art-Business

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 22, 2012

The opening page of Spinoza's magnum opus, Ethics

The opening page of Spinoza’s magnum opus, Ethics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Every Science begins as Philosophy and ends as Art, it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement”- Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy

The key to innovation could not have been put in a more succinct manner. Compare this to one of the most successful consulting strategies in the world and you realize how hypothesis driven problem solving techniques yield better and faster solutions. Time to quote another one of my favorite thinkers, Spinoza. “…the motion and rest of the body must arise from another body, which has also been determined to motion or rest by another..”-Ethics

Spinoza was laying down his propositions for defining existence, body and mind. But if you apply the same postulate to science you find a relation with Newton’s First Law, that of Inertia.

The more one explores, the more one observes the symbiotic relationship that exists between philosophy, science, art and business. Exploring all dimensions can yield miraculous discoveries.Not surprisingly, the best discoveries and inventions have been realized by individuals who conducted research in multiple disciplines.

Posted in Management Consulting, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Retail Bank Growth Strategy 101:Catch Them When They Are Young

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 20, 2012

Strategy: Retail banks need to catch prospective customers early. Target individuals that are making the transition from studies to professional life and benefit from the customer loyalty that is inbuilt into the product offering(explained below). Focus Sales efforts towards Corporate Accounts because these accounts translate into Employee accounts that tend to have a longer life. Do not go for customers that adversely affect the deposit per customer to cost per customer ratio.

Illustration:

The Manager of  SBI, a Public Sector Bank asked me to advise him on what he could learn from Private Sector Retail Banks. Why was it that I had my accounts with  HDFC, a Private Sector Bank and not his? And this inspite of the fact that there was no differentiation in the product lines of either bank; internet banking, mobile banking and other services were all part of SBIs offering as well. So why do I not have an account with SBI?

The question was out of the blue and not at all relevant to our preceding conversation. Caught me by surprise! So I thought…the cliched response that came to my mind was aging staff, poor quality service blah blah. But then I realized that SBI had already worked on these issues and addressing them would not add much value to their growth strategy.It was not the reason I did not have an account with SBI.So I though more…Eureka!

I used HDFC as my retail banker because the first company I was employed with used HDFC to process their salary accounts. When I joined that company, my first job after college, I was proud of my first salary and with it proud of my first very own bank account. HDFC had gained a new retail customer through their corporate account with my company. And I was not the only one. Like me, all new employees had there accounts opened in HDFC to ease transfer of salaries.

Lesson:

Customer Loyalty in Retail Banking has increased. While some of this can be attributed to good service quality, a lot of it is due to new features such as Internet Banking, Mobile Banking, Trading Accounts etc. that are bundled in the offering. The barriers to changing one’s account have increased because an account holder who gets used to the interface of Internet and Mobile Banking of one bank is hesitant to move to another bank where he would have to go through another round of initiation with the new bank’s interface. E.g. I am so comfortable with the UI of HDFC Netbanking that I am reluctant to shift to the platform of another bank. I have my customer IDs and passwords memorized and don’t want to change the status quo with a whole new set of numbers and passwords. I love my ATM card and don’t want to deal with a new one with a new PIN.

On further discussion it was evident that SBI was not aggressively targeting Corporate Salary accounts and this is hurting not only the quantity but also quality of its deposits.

Disclaimer: Bank names have been used only for illustration.I do not intend to endorse any.

 

 

 

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Benedict de Spinoza:More Transparency in Both Government and Corporations

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 18, 2012

“It has been one of the songs of those who thirst after absolute power that the interest of the state requires that its affairs should be conducted in secret…But the more such arguments disguise themselves under the mask of public welfare, the more oppressive is the slavery to which they will lead…Better that right counsels be know to enemies than that the evils secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens.They who can treat secretly of the affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; and as they plot against the enemy in the time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace.”- Benedict de Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

One of the things that have always intrigued me is why Cabinet meetings of our ministers,that discuss important issues and Bills, are held behind closed doors and hidden from the view of the very public that those legislative actions are going to affect. Are they plotting against the citizens during time of peace?

Lets extend this argument to corporate big-wigs.Several strategy decisions are made in secret and for obvious reasons. One, to prevent sensitive data from reaching competition. Agreed. However, an arrangement should be made to video record these meetings and display them to the shareholders once the results of the decisions have been fully realized in the public domain. Shareholders, like citizens in a democracy should have the right to view the decision making process of the executives they  pay huge salaries to “protect their interests”.

After 60 years of Independence, India finally has a Right To Information Act. A bittersweet case of better late than never; generations from now it will be recognized as the one legislation that saved democracy in this country.

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Don’t Wait For Annual Appraisal For Conferring Benefits.Reward Now!

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 17, 2012

“Neither a Republic nor a Prince should put off conferring Benefits on People until danger is at hand.….Let no one, however, put off making sure of the populace until the time of danger arrives, because he may not, as the Romans did, succeed in this. For the people as a whole will not consider that they owe this benefit to you, but rather to your enemies, and, since they cannot but fear that, when the need has passed, you may deprive them of what you have been compelled to give, will in no way feel obliged to you.” –  Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Corporate Illustration: John walks up to his reporting manager with a resignation letter and states that he has an offer from another company. The reporting manager realizing John’s importance in the organization immediately offers to increase his salary and benefits by up to 20%. John negotiates a hike of 35% and stays back

Now that’s an all too common scenario in organizations around the world and calls into question the performance of existing Appraisal and Reward programs in a majority of companies. While organizations have increased the frequency of Performance Appraisals from annually to quarterly, the process of rewarding still remain annual in all but a few.

Delay in rewarding a deserving effort creates a window of opportunity for competitors to acquire performing assets from your talent pool. And even if you manage to retain the talent by giving into their demands, the payout ends up being several times more than had the rewarding been more frequent. This is evident in the above illustration where the cost of quarterly increments in John’s benefits would have added up to far less than the 35% hike that he eventually sealed.

Also, when the organization rewards John regularly upon the execution of good work, it adds to not only his motivation but also his loyalty to the company. In the illustration above, John walks out of the meeting, not with a sense of gratitude and motivation but with a sense of pride in his ability to squeeze the company’s arm as and when he wishes. Now that is not desirable at all!

Organizations need to re-assess their appraisal programs and stress rewarding good work when it is accomplished and not wait for the end of the financial year. There is a lesson to be learnt from the 15th century strategist.

 

 

 

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Corporate Acquisition 101: Inspired by Niccolo Machiavelli

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 16, 2012

In Chapter 3 of “The Prince” Machiavelli states, “when states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there.”

Now here lies a lesson for all those consulting or undertaking Corporate Acquisition, especially one where entities from different countries or cultures are involved. Just replace “states” with “companies” in the above quote and the message is clear: The CEO or Chairman or Decision Maker of the company that makes an acquisition overseas, must move his office to the acquired company and run his business from there until Integration of the two entities is truly complete.

Further he wrote, “Because, if one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them; but if one is not at hand, they are heard of only when they are great, and then one can no longer remedy them. Besides this, the country is not pillaged by your officials; the subjects are satisfied by prompt recourse to the prince; thus, wishing to be good, they have more cause to love him, and wishing to be otherwise, to fear him.”

Proximity to employees of the acquired company will go a long way in allaying their fears and insecurities. Needless to say, this is of utmost importance when you wish to leverage the resources of the acquired firm to the fullest.

 

 

 

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