Saturday, March 17, 2012

Revolution 2020 - Love, Corruption, Ambition

REVOLUTION 2020 - Love, Corruption, Ambition (2011) by Chetan Bhagat, Rupa Publications, India

Before the formal launch of the book, in my mind it was obvious that if now Chetan writes something it must be related to corruption, looking at his active visual presence on different channels in the wake of uproar against corrupt politicians and system.  Hence it was not a surprise for me, however the plot of the book really caught my attention and I really loved the approach, agenda and activation of this young (no more budding) and established author, an iconic figure for the youth who understands their lingo and who seems genuinely concerned on the deterioration of educational standards.  He respects the social fabric but does not mind rejecting the social clutches of free market capitalism.

This fictional story surrounds three young friends (two boys, one girl) like any other bollywood love triangle and develops around their families, ambitions (more than theirs, their parents), migrations and reunions.  The rivalry between two friends, one who responds to the dreams of his father and another one though gets an engineering degree, still lands up concentrating on his passion of writing, and becomes a journalist.  The girl keeps her flirtatiousness alive while swapping her way through shifting her suspicious loyalties towards both of them.

Chetan successfully depicts the realities of Indian middle class through his textual ability of getting attached to the reader as he mentions - In most parts of the world, speaking about your income is taboo. In India, you share the figures like your zodiac sign, especially if you have lots. Further his punch on friendship is quite apt when he says Successful people dont have friends. (p 5).  Through this book he tries warning those parents who impose their own dreams on their children without even leaving any room for their wards to have their own thinking on their future.  Quite truly mention of paternal love obviously overestimates progeny's abilities (p 26) drives me to renew my belief about the trust, confidence and faith parents presuppose in their children.

The journey of a young lad from Varanasi (UP) to Kota (Rajasthan) in the expectation of getting into one of the best engineering colleges of the country is mesmerizing,  more so when I have myself seen many of my young relatives sending their wards to this city.  Kota is known for transforming tender teenagers into mechanical entities through developing an attitude that by just cracking the entrance their bright future is assured.  It is quite ironical for a country like India that every young student passing out from a school dreams of only getting into engineering or medical.  And if one does not succeed in getting into either of them, he/she develops a complex which keeps reminding him/her of the failure throughout their lives.  It is not just ironic but unfortunate as well.  

The story present in this book exposes many aspects of the coaching institutes and these preparatories through the experiences of the auto rickshaw drivers, owners of paying guest facilities, managers and other employees of the coaching institutes etc. Everything follows pure market dynamics.  

The reunion of these friends while in their professional career opens another dimension of present day opportunism.  The involvement of politicians in business ventures and their strong patronage of such initiatives with ulterior motive of sustainable consideration is another low which India is facing at present.  At this moment the book more closely resembles a bollywood drama resulting in some reconciliations and compromises.  The good and not-so-good, ideal and practical, right and wrong, dichotomies compel the reader to look around for suitable defense.

The emergence of private engineering and management colleges with profit motive as against philanthropic initiative is spoiling the educational environment in the country. Chetan also seems quite serious about it, just read some of his lines in the book - Politicians, builders, beedi-makers, anybody with experience in shady business does really well in education (p 116) and Most people who own colleges in India haven’t (gone to college themselves). Stupid people go to college, smart people own them. (p 120). I do not think that we are matured enough as a country, economically, socially and politically, that  we can leave this domain of management and development of education in the hands of private entrepreneurs who believe in vulgar display of their wealth.  

The end of the story seemed to me quite expected, surrender and sacrifice for the cause of true love.  

Apart from the mention of one of my favorite songs (If you want to make the world a better place - Man in the mirror song by Michael Jackson, and Kailash Kher), I loved some of the lines of Chetan as follows: 

Take a top ranker to meet your parents when u have flanked. (p 31)
In small towns, everyone is interested in every male and female interaction. (p 35)
When people achieve something they become self-obsessed. (p 40)
Girls are the best topic switchers in the world. (p 46)
This complex vortex of tests, classes, selections and preparations (AIEEE & JEE) is something every insignificant Indian student like me has to go through to have a shot at a decent life. (p 55)
Once you get low marks, you learn to lower your eyes rather quickly. (p 64)
Love, officially is nothing but a bitch. (p 73)
We dont get things easily, marks, ranks, girls - nothing is easy for us.... no home, no school, no college, no job, Only Kota. (p 79)
Sometimes the only way to get rid of an unpleasant feeling is to replace it with another unpleasant feeling. (p 80)
Love is what your parents give you if you clear the IIT exam. (p 81)
Girls get extremely upset if you give them evidence contrary to their belief. (p 85)
When someone refers to your weak spot even indirectly, it hurts. (p 89)
There is a sense of power when you sit in a white government Ambassador car with a red light on top. (p 96)
Losers, even if they dont have a brain, have a heart. (p 102)
Ease of cremation is one solid advantage of being in Varanasi. The death industry drives the city....  probably the only city on earth where Death is a tourist attraction. (p 109)
Politicians can multitask better than most people. (p 123)
We don’t fix cases, we fix the people in the cases. (p 125)

(finished reading on 23 Oct 2011 (10:30 pm) Shillong.... compiled notes and wrote this review on this day...20 March 2012, 11 pm)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DESTINATION WORK! Getting people excited about coming to work and working hard

DESTINATION WORK! Getting people excited about coming to work and working hard by Harry Paul and Ross Reck (2010), Westland Limited, India, first published in the US by Wiliam Morrow: HarperCollins in 2009, p 117

Managing work force in the organizations has become much greater challenge in the times of increasing employee expectation, high stress levels, demanding tasks, and peer pressure and cut-throat competition.  In these times Harry Paul (co-author of Fish) and Ross Reck introduce this book entitled Destination Work: getting people excited about coming to work and working hard.  This book suggests ways to turnaround the organisation through motivating the workforce by displaying concern and affecting their behaviour intrinsically so that they start enjoying work.

The book starts with an example of the performance of New York Giants in the National Football League losing seven out of nine matches played in 2007.  The job of the coach gets questioned and thats when he changes his approach to deal with the players from ‘motivating with fear’ to ‘motivating with trust’.  This reverse approach helps reap good fruits for the team and turnsaround its performance in 2008.  The communication amongst the team members and the coach improves, the team members come to understand how much their coach really cares for them.

This book prescribes the ways to turnaround the performance levels of employees through creating positive environment at the work-place so that employees are driven (intrinsically) to enjoy work.  It is about turning around unhappy workers into happy workers.  The book is all about caring for employees and to communicate this positively to them how much the organizations and bosses really care for their employees.  Surprisingly we are still thinking about it after around a century when Elton Mayo with Roethlisberger had concluded in illumination study (Howthrone Experiment), that work is a group activity and taking care of employees is one of the most important motivation for them to work harder.  

The book divided in 10 core chapters offers nuggets at the end of every chapter which succinctly ends each chapter.  Some of the nuggets are here:

  • Most fully understand that the harder employees work, the better those numbers are going to be.
  • What many don't get is that the better they treat their employees, the harder they will work. (p 9)
  • Managing employees strictly by numbers sends all these wrong messages: (p16)
    • performance numbers and the bottom line are more important than employees
    • managers don't trust their employees
    • employees are expendable
    • managers don't care about the well-being of their employees
  • Happy employees - smile more, have more fun, work harder, work better with fellow employees, are more loyal and love their boss and hence the bottom line is Happy Employees are Productive Employees (p 26).
  • Managing with trust frees employees up to turn their work into fun. As a result - the most mundane and repetitive tasks become enjoyable, employees look forward to coming to work every day - especially on Monday, and employees apply more of their discretionary effort toward performing their jobs (p 50).
  • How can you tell if you are using fear as a motivator? The next time you walk through your department, ask yourself the following questions - do my employees: look like they are glad to see me, have smiles on their faces most of the time, eagerly make eye contact with me and do I feel my employees have my best interests at heart?  If the answer to each of these questions is 'no', you are using fear as a motivator.  This means your department is underachieving which is costing you on your performance. (p 65)
    • Fear can not be considered as a motivator rather it has to be Trust which needs to be built between the boss and subordinate through following four Be's - Be real, Be appreciative, Be interested and Be nice (p 38). 
  • Your employees want to talk to you and let you know what is going on and spending time with employees becomes a source of happiness (p 74)
  • Front line employees apply even more of their discretionary effort toward performing their jobs (p 90)
  • Employees look forward to coming to work and working hard, lower and middle managers no long have to worry about their performance reviews, and the entire workplace is characterized by contagious excitement which translates into positive experiences for customers and shareholders. (p 106).
The book is written with a fictional story of individuals (Max, Nancy, Tom, Jack) and organizations.  The journey of individuals through the trivial conditions prevalent in the conservative organisational system to transform the organization towards achieving its targets is very well reflected in the book.  The focus on numbers is questioned and focus on people, relationship and concern for them is explained through very many examples.  The authors also provide capsules from other motivational authors at different places in the book.  

Destination work is all about creating an environment at the workplace where the employees are at ease and keep their esteem very high through their team effort.  It is a book which, at its core, focuses on four Be's - Be real, Be appreciative, Be Interested, and Be Nice.  Sure this small book has big message.  After all we all live to work. Is it the other way?

(finished reading this book on 13.11.11... scribbled notes.... compiled them today...15.3.12)