On Strategy & Execution

•November 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I was at a bar with an acquaintance. Talk turned to work and he spoke about how his company is doing, given the current worldwide economic crisis & its effects. We started discussing strategy & performance measurement criteria, and he mentioned that in his company senior executives were rated separately on strategy & implementation, with no tie – in between the two!

Now if you ask me, such a rating is as good as saying “Hey great strategy Dave, It’s a shame you lost the game of chess, though.”The Chessboard I shudder to provide an example in business. Incidentally the executive in question was rated highly in strategy formulation & not so good in the execution of the same.

Another shocker (which I’m increasingly getting used to) was that there were no clear KPIs percolating down the org. chart to measure the impact of such strategies formulated by the Grey Eminences & Young Turks.

Not surprisingly, the company in question has seen a lull in business not entirely consequent to the global financial crisis.

This is unfortunately a state of affairs with quite a few companies in the SMB segment in India, which are unable to recognize the impediment to growth despite showing an initial promise of greatness.

Other opinions, solution – oriented thoughts are welcome.


The Bar Analogy

•April 17, 2013 • 2 Comments


I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend over drinks. He works at a .com & was railing against his head of sales. Now while ranting against your boss when you’re down a few & with friends is kind of universal, he seemed to make an interesting point. 

Their e-commerce business had a good year end with a JFM (Jan, Feb Mar) closing that was 30% higher than the previous quarter. The sales head had taken an ambitious target of doubling the percentage growth for the next quarter – AMJ. And this was what had upset my friend. Now if  you’ve been in sales, you know that an increase in target is always met with groans, but underneath this seemingly superficial protesting my friend seemed to have a rationale.  

He said to me, “Look, we’re both here in this bar & I’m going to order another whisky. But what if you & I weren’t in this bar but were out walking on the street. Would this bar be able to sell us anything?” He interrupted me to continue. “The demographic for e-commerce business is 20-30 year olds & this time of the year a lot of them are out holidaying. I can’t sell them anything if they don’t visit my website!” Turns out that AMJ historically has seen a slight drop in visits that they get. His grouse was how could a sales head not consider this while making a sales forecast to the CEO.

Problems Facing Yesteryear’s .com Darlings

•April 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This post explores some of the problems facing  .com darlings of yesteryear.



1. Where Do We Go Now







The fundamental truth about the Internet………..the internet is a network. At first it was a network of computers doing things for people. Now it’s a network of people doing things; On a computer, on other mobile devices. Recent developments in the Internet have been about that, about a network of people. And we’re moving on to make the Internet about a network of People & Things.

Yesteryear’s .com darlings are still coming to terms with that. So they’re playing catch up & failing and trying to answer the question – What must I become to stay in the game?


2. The Old Boys Club

Old boys club






Comprising the oldest employees. They’ve grown with the company & the public offering has made them a few millions. Having risen through the ranks over time, they’re now key personnel. They embody the Peter Principle  and the Frog In A Well syndrome.



3. Judge, Jury and ………..







The founder is the CEO; The CEO reports to the Board of Directors whose Chairman is…………………………wait for it……………….the founder. This makes board meetings little more than a farce.


Two Turkeys Do Not Make An Eagle

•February 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Credit for this statement must go to Vic Gundotra (VP engineering at Google), never was a truer word spoken about partnerships. (He tweeted on the Nokia-Microsoft partnership)

Time will validate/negate his comparison of Nokia & Microsoft to “turkeys”. However we’d do well to remember his statement in choosing our business partners while starting out.

Though a friendly equation helps, one cannot lose sight of the goal. What am I out to accomplish? I cannot – being a non techie, partner with another non techie, to make a technical product. It just won’t work. I could however make that partnership work should I decide to be a reseller of a product that we’re both comfortable selling.

This seems so obvious & yet it cannot be stated enough. Because given a choice people always prefer doing business with people they’re comfortable with even though that alliance may lead to a turkey.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

•February 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been in various meetings. Some with a tactical theme & some more important strategy formulation meetings. One thing I’ve found amusing is how the leader in trying to drive consensus in his team often becomes the “Emperor” from the fable – The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Allow me to elaborate. The very act of wanting to reach a consensus after hours of brainstorming leads people to “want to make this happen”. This in turn has at times lead to a lot of yes men saying “Emperor your robe is the finest in the kingdom”.

Sometimes, a kid in the crowd can be heard saying “But he’s not wearing anything”. More often that voice goes unheard. The subsequent devastations of a half baked strategy put into execution are only too apparent.

It’s a fine line that the leader must walk between driving consensus & avoiding group think.

A Startup?? ASK For The Right People

•April 9, 2010 • 1 Comment

September 5 2005

I joined a company that had just started a new SBU. I was interviewed by the BU Head & was chosen. I had the privilege of working with this gentleman for over two years. When I quit, in January of 2008, I asked this person why he’d recruited me & given me so many chances beyond my skills or knowledge. He told me then that in his 18 years in starting & running businesses, he’d learned one important secret about Human Capital. It’s all about the ASK, & in that order.

A – Attitude

S – Skill

K – Knowledge

ASK Principle

I had the opportunity, over the years, of working with different people & seeing success & failure, personally & around me. I have found that often the people with the skills & knowledge failed to accomplish because the attitude was lacking. Whereas an “upstart” with an attitude would acquire the skills & knowledge to get the job done. It is this, that gentleman saw in some of us those years back & it is this, my friends, I’d urge you to look for in people, when you’re starting out.

This is especially true for those first few people you surround yourself with in business, including both your business partner(/s) & those first few employees you’ll need to hire. Because it’s not the ideas that will make or break you, it’s the execution of those ideas & that requires people who have a “can do” attitude to begin with… then comes the skills & knowledge.

Any thoughts on this topic, sharing of experiences are welcome.

The Blind Men & the Elephant: Need for Business Intelligence

•November 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

There once set out certain blind men, to describe an elephant by touch. Each one was acknowledged to be learned in his own way. Now each blind man happened to touch a certain part of the beast’s body and made a corresponding description about the entire animal. The animal was subsequently described as being similar to:-

  1. A RopeElephant
  2. A Wall
  3. A Pillar
  4. A Fan
  5. A Spear
  6. A Snake

Now each individual in drawing a likeness was right in his own way and yet they were all wrong.


Let’s consider this in the business context. Each business has certain familiar departments such as Sales & Marketing, Accounts & Finance, Human Resources, and Procurement etc. Each would be headed by an able individual who should at an instant give an apt description of the organization & its performance and he would be right like all the other department heads & yet they would all be wrong like the blind men in the above fable.

Now suppose for a moment the condition of a Mahout (CEO) who has to drive the elephant onwards relying only on inputs from the blind men. What do you suppose would happen? This is where a need for a Business Intelligence Initiative is felt. To bring light to all the men involved so none is blind to the description of the elephant & how to guide it forward.

Other thoughts, opinions are as always welcome.