Am I ready?

When you are confronted with this question Am I ready?  – Remember this ancient Tamil sage’s wisdom.
Rhineland holds a special place in Hitler’s desire to rule the world.  It is part of Germany bordering France. It was to be demilitarized as per treaty of Versailles signed by Germany post world war I.  The aim was to ensure French security by making it impossible for Germany to invade France unaware.

On 7th March 1936 – 32,000 armed German troops entered Rhineland, violating the terms of Versailles treaty. France did not oppose! – reason, France was on the verge of election. Politicians were unwilling to take unpopular decision – It was not right time to go to war. British people thought treaty of Versailles was wrong in parts, demilitarization of Rhineland was one such wrong clause.

Without Britain’s support France do not want to confront Germany, especially with election round the corner. In effect, France was questioning its readiness for taking military action.

Hitler later commented “The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw.”

Cut to present day!

When we take make major decisions in our lives we are confronted with this question?  Am I ready? 

You are an eligible bachelor / spinster about to get married – your mind asks – Am I ready?

You get a big break in your career with the change of job – your mind asks – Am I ready?

You bidding for a complex emerging technology project – your mind asks – Am I ready to take this project?

Tamil poet has given beautiful suggestion 2000 years back on such situation.

Vinaivaliyum Thanvaliyum Maatraan Valiyum Thunaivaliyum Thookkich Cheyal

Let (one) weigh well the strength of the deed, his own strength, the strength of his enemy, and the strength of the allies (of both) and then let him act.

This task about strength, the strength can be people, skill, technology anything…

This applies to every day situation.

 Assume you want to bid for a project in emerging technology.  How do you decide to take this up?

  1. What is your experience, ability, skill?
  2. What partnership you can bring ?
  3. What is the complexity of the task?
  4. What are the forces that acts against this project, whether we can take them on – like hardware limitation etc.

Based on the answers of the above question you can come to a conclusion – correct?

Back to history

Had France evaluated

  1. How prepared is German military?
  2. Can we engage like minded nations and evaluated their readiness to help?
  3. What is the cost of not taking action?

And sent the troops on that day! course of history could have been different – who knows?

3 Skills for managers

You want to grow in hierarchy – here are the important skill you should have

I was addressing new manager induction program. I was asked what are the main skills required to become a successful manager.  In my opinion there are 3

  1. Trust and surround yourself with good people
  2. Ability to handle uncertainty
  3. Ability to manage change

Trust and surround yourself with good people

Started in 1976 with 11 beds, Aravind Eye Hospitals  grown to be the largest eye care service provider in the world. Aravind serves more than four million patients and performs more than 400,000 eye surgeries each year (Source : 2018 Activity report published by Aravind eye hospital).

In the book Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen: Making 11 Indians Pulled Off the Impossible, Dr. Natchiar of Aravind eye hospital says, people come and study our processes. But , they do not see people we have. The main difference we have is in people not process. We recruit locally and train them. We give more importance to their approach, commitment, aptitude than their skills.  We train them for skill.

Ability to handle uncertainty

Under former GE CEO Jack Welch, GE’s revenue grew from 28 Billion USD to 170 Billion USD.   In his book straight from the gut , he narrates an incident during his early days as CEO. He visited GE’s nuclear reactor business in San Jose.  He was presented with a business case of selling 3 new nuclear reactors every year. Looking at the past performance this was a reasonable figure. However, Jack Welch asked them to shelve this plan.  He said “Guys, you’re not going to get three orders a year. In my opinion, you’ll never get another order for a nuclear reactor in the U.S,”. He was correct until he retired 20 years latter, GE did not receive single order. 

Future is uncertain. Decision that manager’s take today, will affect the future of the company. Hence, managers should have the ability to handle this uncertainty.

Ability to manage change

Under former Infosys CEO Narayana murthy, Infosys grew from a start up to a half a billion-dollar enterprise.  Over the course of his 20-year tenure market, buying habits, technology, human resource availability and demand all have changed. He was able to weather through all the changes. Here is what he says about change.

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.”

I would say if you are a manager want to go up in the ladder. Above 3 traits are most important.

Be Resourceful

Resources or resourcefulness what is important? Story of race to build an Aeroplan.


I understand most of you will know the difference, however below is the definition of resource and resourcefulness.



Resource: a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.

Resourcefulness: the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties


I would say resourcefulness here is why?


Probably you may not have heard about Samuel Pierpont Langley. He was born on August 22, 1834. He was secretary of the Smithsonian – at that time, the greatest scientific position in America.

He was a pioneer of research in aerodynamic. He was tasked with building an aeroplane.

He had all the resources at his disposal to make an Aeroplane.


Money  – He was funded by US war department.

Knowledge –  He had access to best brains in the united states

Machinery  – He could buy and build best equipment to assemble his plane 

Yet ….. his attempts to make a manned Aeroplane failed twice (October 7 and December 8, 1903 )…. He receded in to oblivion… last in the history ….  


 Wright Brothers

Both brothers attended high school, but did not receive diplomas. They were two unknown bicycle makers from Ohio.  They were neither wealthy nor had government funding for their project.


Practically access to resources was very limited in terms of Money, knowledge and machinery.



They successfully flew their aeroplane on 17th December, 1903. 



Beyond their local circles in Ohio, US, no one believed they successfully flew the Aeroplane.

The Paris edition of the Herald Tribune headlined a 1906 article on the Wrights “FLYERS OR LIARS?”.



Accolades started pouring in only after their successful demonstration in France on August 8, 1908.


Wright brothers did not have resources… they won the race in making a successful Aeroplane… Because in my opinion they were resourceful.


Now tell me, what is more important… Resources or Resourcefulness.??

Stressed with public speaking?

Are you uncomfortable communicating your thoughts in crucial meeting and presentations? Well you are not alone…

 In his autobiography ‘My experiments with truth’ Gandhi narrates his experience with his first case in Bombay high court.

 “I stood up, but my heart sank into my boots. My head was reeling and I felt as though the whole court was doing likewise. I could think of no question to ask.”

If Gandhi , one of the greatest communicators of mankind got in to such situation, anybody can get in to such situations.  

Before we get in to the details of how do we improve our ability to be at our best during crucial times, let us understand the impact of Cortisol and Testosterone on our daily lives.

Higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol lead to decreased anxiety and an improved ability to deal with stress.

In essence we need to improve our testosterone levels and reduce cortisol levels.

How do we do that?

Here comes the research done by Amy Cuddy.

When you power pose you improve the testosterone levels and decrease cortisol.

It is best for you to get in to power pose and deep breaths for 2 minutes before you get into that all-important meeting.


PS: Amy Cuddy’s research is being questioned now.

 I personally feel you would feel world of good when you get in to power pose.  I would encourage you to watch her TED talk.

Thoughts on Innovation

Innovation – Are you struggling with the idea of innovation?

Being innovative is certainly a differentiator. Why it is hard to innovate? – Single most trait you need is – be comfortable with uncertainty.

 4 years back I went with a proactive proposal to one of the corporate executives (who was reporting to vice-chairman) to automate a process using Artificial Intelligence. No project of this nature was done before. Visibility was high. During the review of the proposal, first reaction of my boss was – take this up only if you can execute – do not screw it up.

I was completely comfortable with the uncertain path we were taking.  Below are the ‘known’ uncertainties we were facing.

  1. At the start of the project, we had only hazy idea of solution – we decided to do the project with open source
  2. We did not have a clue on additional hardware required
  3. We did not have any expertise in any of the solution stack we proposed
  4. Fixed price project – corporate (read as ‘my Boss’!!) will not be happy with change requests
  5. It was a part time project for all the seniors involved in the project.
  6. The solution had AI part and Visualization part. We were reasonably confident on visualization

How did we approach the problems stated above?

  1. We identified risks earlier on and focused our sparse senior resources on high-risk tasks
  2. Communicate , communicate, communicate – we engaged continuously with all the stakeholders

Hurdles we faced

  1. There was array of solution blocks. Choosing the best one was tough
  2. With huge focus on AI part, we cracked the problem at a reasonable pace. But unexpectedly we had huge issues with Visualization.
  3. Hardware requirements started mounting

How did we overcome?

  1. We trusted our instincts and past experience to choose the best technology
  2. Innovated again to achieve high throughput with the given hardware

Lessons learned

  1. Collaboration is key. Keep all the stake-holder informed to the minute 😊
  2. Be comfortable with unknown unknowns. This is more of attitude than skill. Hang-in you will crack the problem
  3. In innovation all components of the solution are important do not take anything for granted


Believe in yourself and the team. Trust your instincts. When you do not have data, this is the only tool you have.


 Happy innovation journey … 


Mindset: Impact of 2001 Kolkata cricket test win against Australia


Formidable Australian cricket team toured India in 2001. They won the first test comfortably by 10 wickets. This was Australia’s 16th consecutive test win, a world record equaled only by them subsequently.  No other test team in the history of cricket holds this distinction.

In contrast India had lost 9 tests, won 3 and drawn 4 in their previous 16 outings.   

In 2001 test series, India almost lost the second match 2nd test in Kolkata. Australia got the upper hand in the first innings. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid produced one of the finest partnerships in the history of Indian cricket. India won the game, handed unthinkable defeat to mighty Australian team of that era.

Most of you know this story.

 I analyzed how India team performed after poor outing in a test match, how they coped up with the loss and performed in the immediate next test match – before and after the above mentioned test match.

 India’s recent test win in Melbourne(Dec 26 – 29 2020)  after huge loss the previous test in Adelaide triggered this thought process in me. 

I analyzed the low scores (below 125 runs an innings) Between 1932 and 2020. Question I had in my mind was

  1. What happened to result of the matches were India scored low totals?
  2. What was the result of the next match after India scored low totals?

I find huge contrast between India’s record before and after Kolkata test in 2001. I ignored the low scores in the last match of the series. (As there no come back in the equation)

Before 2001 Kolkata test

  • India lost 83% of the matches when they scored 125 or less in an innings. 17% matches were drawn
  • India’s record on the immediate next test : Won 18%, Lost 45% and drawn 36%


After 2001 Kolkata test

  • India lost 93% of the matches when they scored 125 or less in an innings. 7% matches they won
  • India’s record on immediate next test : Won 78%, Lost 11%, Drawn 11%.


There is phenomenal jump in the subsequent test match win it has increased from 18% to 78%.  I would think VVX Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s Innings has redefined India’s mindset forever when take field against formidable oppositions and unfamiliar conditions.


It took One Chief Election Commissioner to change the mindset of India in election conduct.

It took one Roger Bannister to break 4-minute barrier to run a mile.

All it takes is one extraordinary performance to break mindset.

VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid taught the Indian cricket team…. We come back 1000 times strong, we will win … we do not buckle under pressure. 

What is your strength?

What is your strength? What is your weakness?


There are questions that I ask myself and find answers either internally or externally. I try to summarize my findings in these articles….

What is your strength and what is your weakness?

Many years ago, I was interviewed for an senior manager position in multi-billion-dollar software company. The interviewer asked this question…  What is your strength what is your weakness?

Being an interviewer myself, I know how my fellow interviewers get deeper on candidate’s   weakness.  I decided to take a different approach.

I said…

I have formed habits, professional ethics and skills over long period of time. Their manifestation in the form of Strengths or weakness is decided by the environment not by me.

I gave example.

One of my ex-colleagues has the mind set of calling spade a spade. He suffered under a manager who had problems facing the truth. The same person is thriving today in Germany.

I choose to call his ‘call a spade a spade’ attitude as mindset as it is neither strength nor weakness, it is decided by where he is. …

Next time around some one asks you what is your strength and weakness?…

What is your answer??