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Thursday, October 29, 2009

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When work is virtual,should physical presence be insisted upon

This article should have been published by me in April 09. Just when the draft was ready, a thought occurred to me. The question of work from home or work place arises, only when people have work. A sudden realization came to me that my friends in USA ,UK, India and other countries will be benefited if I can help them access jobs in their countries and if possible in their neighborhood. With that in mind, I embarked on the “Mission Impossible”.

From April till September 09. I was able to publish close to about six thousand jobs based in more than 32 countries with a viewership of around Thirty Thousand on approx. forty forums. Of course a matter for some satisfaction, however still a far cry from my goal of reaching Hundred Thousand people in hundred countries. The necessity to work for a living prevented me from putting more efforts in this direction. A couple of years down the line, I think I will be full time involved in this task.

I got huge support and encouragement from many large multinational organizations & development agencies, which helped me and allowed me to publish their job requirements on my blogs. The letters of thanks I received from people, who accessed the jobs & got the jobs, gave me satisfaction more than any remuneration could give and provided the maximum motivation for me to work further in this direction.
Now having done my bit, I can excuse myself for publishing this long pending article. “Mission Impossible” however continues. To view some of the jobs please Click Here

Work from Home or at home at work place

I do understand that work from home is not possible when you are working in a manufacturing unit or you are doing a work which requires your physical presence at the work place.

However if you are working out of your laptop, and the organisation is in a position to offer you the facility of home login, then I feel the work is more important than the workplace.

Several multinational organizations operating in India have realized this, implemented it and found appreciable increase in productivity levels for the same man-hours and the efforts.

In fact in the recession hit United States and Europe, certain organizations are contemplating the implementation of the norm for everyone to work at home at least one day a week. This single step could raise productivity, save energy, decrease pollution, reduce traffic congestion, cut household expenses, increase quality of family life, and keep educated women in the work force.

In this fast moving and fast growing jet age, everything including technology, thinking, people, processes, and policies have changed to more dynamic pattern. Yet one thing that hasn’t changed and refuses to change is the rigid workplace of the last century. It is amazing in the digital age that most work is still associated with industrial age work rhythms and the symbolic chains that tie workers, knowledge and otherwise, to fixed locations. Flexible workplaces with flexible hours and days are long in coming. This I tell you is a very mild understatement in relation to the present situation. This is because of the business owners who while using latest in technology and machinery,are very primitive when it comes to work pattern. I have seen managed family managed conservative organisations managing to remain as as small as thinkng even after years of existence They are of course encouraged by the overenthusiastic HR managers fresh from B-Schools, and yet to get into the unlearning process.

I can give a classic example of a Indian Corporate with more than hundred years of existence. The chairman of the corporate had his chamber at a location from where he could view the senior managers’ cars entering the building. He used to call the senior managers coming late and discuss with them.
A good one hour used to get involved in this exercise. One hour loss at senior management. Apart from this the other loss was that the senior managers used their time, resources and ingenuity to work ways to avoid detection. Leave alone the loss in productivity & optimization levels, if the attitude at the senior management is such just imagine what would percolate to the down line managers and thousands of workers in the organisation.

One thing is very clear. When the management is fixed mentally on the entry time the employees are fixed on the exit time. productivity and work take a back seat, tasks are left uncompleted, manager can no longer influence the workers to stay back and complete the tasks. Production and productivity suffers.

Discipline at cost?, self extinction?, certainly not I hope. I would always manage with a little less discipline if it ensured a better cash flow for my organisation.

Now let us take a look at the situation in USA
Many U.S. cities have become commuter nightmares as urban sprawl sends people across longer distances in their cars every week day. According to the 2008 U.S. Census estimates, 84 percent of the U.S. population lives within 363 metropolitan areas that spill over central city boundaries and, in some cases, over state lines. Jobs within central business districts have been declining, while jobs outside a ten-mile ring have been growing. Vehicle miles traveled have increased twice as fast as population growth.

Now does this remind you of cities in India ? Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad,Mumbai, Chennai and of course “Oh Kolkata”.

Choosing how long to work and on what schedule has long showed productivity benefits. People are less stressed when they can adjust their hours or days to family or personal needs. A greater feeling of control is associated with more energy and better health, studies show, making those workers more productive. Some savvy senior executives stay out of their offices occasionally even when not traveling, because they get more done in a setting with no interruptions, at home.

For many working parents, the chance to work remotely is the primary way to achieve work-life balance. Many women leave high-powered corporate and professional careers when they have children, frequently starting their own businesses they can run from home, because there is no flexibility and no middle ground between the all-out grind at a workplace demanding physical presence or opting out. A norm of remote work for everyone would ease the strain.

Technology exists to make remote work feasible and effective. Cell phones have liberated people from desks. The need for high-speed network connections is another argument for universal broadband and wi-fi access, with tax deductibility or reimbursement to employees for the connections to their home, as IBM and many US multinationals do in India.

The barriers are the usual human ones. Without a culture of strong accountability, collaboration, trust and personal responsibility, remote work doesn’t work. That culture is missing in too many organizations. Managers don’t always know how to coordinate and communicate with people they do not see face to face; they must value the work product and not the face time. Leadership is important. People need clear goals, deadlines, and performance metrics.

I know there is a huge other side to this also, the disadvantages. I leave it to my friends to argue and debate. As of now, I thank all my friends for their patience and allowing me a few lines about my work.


Shyamsunder Panchavati



By Shyamsunder Panchavati

Microsoft chief says entrepreneurship is alive and well, recession or not

Stanford Professor Tina Seelig, left, joined Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as he offered insights to students on entrepreneurship and innovation in difficult times.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s energetic chief executive officer, gave a humorous and optimistic pep talk Wednesday to a large crowd of Stanford students, including some about to graduate into the midst of the Great Recession.

Pacing the stage and gesturing with his arms, Ballmer spoke to a packed house of 1,700 people, many of them engineering students, at Memorial Auditorium. His advice to aspiring tech innovators was part of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar, normally attended by about 50 students.

After finishing his undergraduate career at Harvard, Ballmer enrolled in the Stanford Graduate School of Business for one year before dropping out to join forces with Bill Gates at Microsoft. Now bald, Ballmer poked fun at a picture of himself presented on a slide accompanying his recollection of those early days.
“That’s me when I got to Stanford. I still part my hair, by the way, on the right,” said Ballmer.

While speaking about the economy’s impact on entrepreneurship, Ballmer acknowledged the concern many soon-to-be graduates might have.

“My gosh—I am graduating, I am starting a company, I am moving forward, in the worst economy in, whatever, 70-plus years—is that a good thing or not?” said Ballmer. “It definitely is a tough, tough, tough environment. There’s no question about it.”

Ballmer, though, is convinced that the economic climate still provides enough room for entrepreneurs. He argued that there is enough venture capital available to fund the good ideas that are out there.
“The opportunity and need to invent … remains strong,” said Ballmer. “There’s going to be less venture capital this year than last year. There’s still probably in my opinion more venture capital than there are really good ideas to absorb the venture capital.”

Ballmer conceded that venture capital can contract too much and strain innovation, but maintained that excess venture capital is also not ideal.

“Let’s say there was four times as much venture capital. Would we have four times as much innovation? I don’t think so,” he said. “In a sense you could say there’s really not a better time to start a business. If you’ve got the right idea, you will get some funding. The ideas that weren’t good enough shouldn’t have been funded, and they won’t be funded today.”

Ballmer said the economy is resetting to a lower level and will then build back up from a lower base. That new base will provide a place for great ideas for companies and products to grow alongside the economy. He observed that Microsoft, Apple and General Electric are all companies that started under similar economic circumstances.

Ballmer argued that ideas for new technology are always changing. “Since I’ve been at Microsoft, the basic paradigm for how software gets written has changed a few times,” he said.

He suggested that these paradigm shifts open up new opportunities for people with good ideas. In particular, he noted that there is plenty of room for technological innovation in the fields of health and science.

“You’re able to model today the physical world with computers in a way that was never possible before,” said Ballmer. “Software accelerates the process.”

One of the next big changes will be the way people interact with technology. “That’s the future. That’s where things are going,” he said. “Today you learn to speak the computer’s language. If you want to write programs, you learn to write programs in the computer’s language.” He told the audience that his computer is incapable of understanding a simple request: “Get me ready for my trip to Stanford.”
“My secretary’s able to process that command,” he said. “My computer cannot process that command.”
In closing, Ballmer cautioned that even though there is room for entrepreneurship, success doesn’t come quickly and requires long hours and dedication. Because of this, he warned the audience about choosing a career for the wrong reasons.

“I think the biggest mistake most people make when they pick their first job is they don’t worry enough about whether they’ll love the work, and they worry more about whether it’s good experience,” Ballmer said. “You might pick a school because it’s good for you, and you might pick a second school because it’s good for you, but by the time you’re picking jobs I really think you’ve got to pick a job because you really think you’re going to love doing the work that you’re doing, and it’s a mistake not to.”

Ballmer’s talk was cosponsored by the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students, the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.

Casey Lindberg is an intern at the Stanford News Service.