Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Third Generation Company:

Years ago when I was working for reliance I read a book written by John Scully. The book was called Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple. John Scully has written about his personal journey from being the youngest vice president of Pepsi to becoming the CEO of Apple. He describes the Cola wars, how team meetings and board meetings were conducted in Pepsi, The stress that he had to handle there and how eventually Pepsi got a better market share than Coca Cola based on these policies. Further down the book he describes his meetings with Steve jobs and Steve Wozniak and his experiences in Apple as the company’s CEO.

But the point which did capture my imagination was his description of First generation, Second generation and third generation companies. The first generation companies are as per him like the Coal mines which operated during the late ninetieth century. Places where the employees receive little respect and even little salary. Where the employees are treated more like animals of burden. A second generation company was something like Pepsi Co. Here the employees were treated with a respect and given good salaries, but were considered nothing more than accessories for the growth of the organization. The personal growth of the employee and the growth of the Organization were two different things. It was a place where the manager’s cabin was made of glass, but the company policies were hardly transparent. Employees got to know management decisions at the last minute and were expected to wear a tie in the office. But then in the 1970’s a new generation of companies rose in the US. This group he put under the third generation companies.

A third generation company has more open poliies and treat their employees like assets rather than accessories. Give them the freedom to learn and work the way they wanted. Allow them to have plans for their own betterment and assist them for it. Unlike a 2G organization which had many filters were each filter could say no to a particular decision, here decisions could be taken up by the individual. Of course the individual has more responsibilities, but he is also given the authority to execute them well. Apple as per him belonged to this category. It was an Organization were many employees spoke freely about dreams of opening their own companies without fear and resignations were never a problem for managers. As the company’s growth and success was linked to the individuals growth Apple became a fortune 500 company in a very short period.

And my mind I wondered during that time as to what it would be like to work in an organization like that. I was employed at Reliance during that time. A company which could hardly be called a Second generation Organization. It was more like a 1.5G organization. I felt stagnated and my growth was impeded. Bootlickers and Sycophants were in abundance. I was fortunate that my Boss much better than the rest of the senior management but none the less I felt frustrated by my work. But luck has its way. Based on the experience and knowledge I gathered at Reliance I got a job in ECI. Now I know at least how it is to work for an 2.5G organization. Just like Apple, ECI India’s growth has also been phenomenal. From a meager 5 million dollars in 2002 to 125 Million in 2008. It has grown more than 20 times in 6 years. In ECI individuals do feel free to take decisions and growth is not impeded by concepts like work experience and seniority. Everyone knows their role in the organization and aspires to do better. Employees are taken for annual meetings (or should I say annual holidays) to exotic places and given five star treatment. Team bonding is very high and discussions are always fruitful.

This radical shift in they way people are managed was probably always inevitable. The world is becoming a more and more competitive place and for a organization to succeed the employees have a huge role to play. Second generation concepts no longer hold good if a organization wants to grow at a rapid pace. Individual cannot be treated as mere accessories. My only hope is that Indian comapnies would learn from organizations like Apple or Google or for that matter ECI before it is too late.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Story of India:

Today As I gaze outside my window on a fine Saturday morning I see a small child being taken care of by the maid server. The child seldom seems to go inside and it appears as though he is waiting for his parents to return. I believe both of them work leaving the kid under the care of the maid servant. And My mind wonders yet again; Is this the story of India ???

Well I don’t think that the story of India is that of the mother who has to leave the kid in the hands of someone else against all her wishes and instincts for the betterment of her family. Nor is it the story of the father, who slogs day and night to give his family a better life. Nor is it the story of the kid who is perennially waiting for a glimpse of his parents outside the window. A wait that will go on for another five years before he is accepts the fact they will be home only for dinner. The Story of India is the story of the pre teen maid servant who has to take care of the kid. Do all the household chores. Give up on education and commit herself to a life wherein she might never get a chance to become a doctor or an engineer or a nurse. India’s story is the story of the little girl who has to work for some unknown reason, whose childhood is full of challenges and difficulties which I have still not faced in my life. It is the story of a Childhood lost in the quest of survival or possibly for the betterment of her siblings or even worse a greedy father who wants money for alcohol. Whatever it may be the real culprits in this case are the parents who employed her.

Nothing can justify employing a small girl for work other than the fact they are too selfish to shell some extra money and employ a mid aged woman who can truly take care of the kid. This act of employing a pre teen girl is as bad for the kid as it is for the little girl. The India government provides for free education for kids. For girls it is free up to college. They also provide midday meals to students who attend government schools. A meal which is balanced well enough for the mental and physical development of the child. There are organizations like CRY whose entire focus is on betterment of the poor by educating the young. Bharati has launched a new campaign to educate the girl child.

I have always felt that a country’s development depends on the number of educated people and not the percentage of literates. A literate is the one who can just read a news paper while an educated man will be able to act on what he reads. See beyond the obvious and distinguish the right from wrong. The parents of the child probably feel that they are doing a great service to the family of the girl by employing her and giving her money and food. They probably feel no remorse for the destruction of the girls childhood. These uneducated people who have employed the girl should be treated as criminals and nothing less. Their crime is comparable to that of murder and other grave offences.

My belief that India will be a prosperous country with equal opportunities for all diminishes when I see such atrocities. However I hope one day I will also proudly call myself an educated individual and do something to stop this rather then just close my curtains and look the other way killing all hopes for a better life for the girl.
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