Tag Archives: Factory

The Last word

The after-effects of the Chaos (1, 2 & 3) were not very clear. The life proceeded in the usual way – same apathy, same fool-hardiness, and same dis-interest. The chaos did not usher in any major transformation – positive or negative, except that CEO’s over-confidence seemed to have died down a bit. Again, I can’t say this for sure as I am not privy to all facts on what exactly happened in the closed-door meeting with the Chairman. I am also not aware what transpired in the various meetings organized between CEO and VP and chaired by the Director. The CEO stopped discussing anything about his displeasure with VP and the Cartel. This may be either due to his complete hopelessness of the situation or due to his complete loss of trust on everybody, including me. One thing was unchanged. He kept glued to his “saviour” – the tea-drinking director.

Initially, the VP was seen as victor, as the CEO was not allowed to perform the axing act on the former. The Chairman brokered an uneasy truce wherein both CEO and VP were told to stay in their respective domains. It was inscrutable how can VP show insubordination on CEO and how the group management went soft on VP.

The Director made a structural change whereby the purchasing function was taken away from VP and given to CEO. VP did not take this lightly. He registered his protest openly in a mail addressed to the Director and copied to all and sundry in the company. The Director and CEO rushed to the factory the next day and it was learnt that there was meeting organized in the Hotel where the Director stayed. No details were known of that meeting. This was strange, considering that over-all the staff never shies away from gossip and murmurs.

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Was the cartel really hand-in-glove with VP in his revolt against CEO? What was the tea-drinking Director thinking about the whole episode? Was he the real orchestrator of the chaos behind the screens? How would one explain the fact that the unionization of the cartel and the VP did not concern the group management? There are several unanswered questions!!! I have no hopes finding an answer to these. Even if I find it in a future date, I know the answers will be so stale that these will have no usefulness to me or anyone else. So why attempt to get all answers behind the events?

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When I read back my version of Chaos, it did not make any sense to me. There were too many gaps. There were many discordant notes in it. For the first time in life, I understood that what we see and hear is not really objective. Most of what I said, I realize came from my own surmises and biases. I did try to sound as objective as possible and wanted to re-produce what I saw and heard, but in the end, each word sounded more like personal interpretations. So in order to interpret and understand the events fully, one needs to be above the personalities involved and transcend the events.

Re-telling of any events is only an interpretation of the narrator. Any event is narrated on first person basis. The first-person oriented narration and the interpretation of events is never going to be accurate, as the characters and their motivations and perspectives are too many to be fathomed by one person in full.

The story writing is easier, as it is fully in the imagination of the story writer. Realistic events, when re-told and narrated, should not carry too much of objectivity if the events have to sound interesting. If objectivity is ever attempted without any first person point of view, while narrating the slice of reality, it just turns out to be vague and tasteless.

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My efforts on business front were going strong for the past 4-5 months. I was more confident this time when I presented sales budget for Rs 60 Million. Half the business was already secured. The stress of failing on my sales targets was not there in my mind this time. First year in a new company is always tough. While intellect accepts it, the mind still goes through the stress. Was so much stress necessary? Meeting the target was to have anyway been difficult despite getting stressed or not. So why stress at all? Peacefully and ceaselessly putting the effort without much fuss and stress was the only way. Like a seed, the effort grows into a fruit bearing tree over a period of time. So the stress was totally unnecessary……the insight this time is more experiential. So hopefully this will be ingrained in the psyche for a long time to come.

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“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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The Chaos – 3

“I am very busy today. I need to wait for the chairman’s call on my intercom, so I can’t really get up from my seat whole day today”

 “Hope the chairman does not call me today between 3.00 pm to 4.30 pm when Rahukal will be on”

 “I have been told to wait until 9pm this saturday…he will call me for a personal meeting”

 “I have asked the telecom guys to divert the incoming calls to my office intercom on to my mobile phone…so in this way I need not always sit in the chamber while waiting for the call of the chairman”

 Such dialogues kept sprouting from CEO’s mouth for more than a week. I did sense the frustration and helplessness which most of the times quickly transformed into anger. He was always in an irritable mood, but, at the same time, tried his level best to be in convivial mood. Most of the times, anger got the better of him. He started having very less official interactions with the factory.

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The ants had become completely silent these days. VN (the ants’ leader) and his colleagues were very increasingly becoming worried and stressed due to the tug-of-war between VP and CEO. VN has always been obliging both sides with free information. While CEO thought that VN is loyal to him, the recent episodes of leaking of information to the factory have made CEO very alert. So these days the ants have been on the receiving end of CEO’s anger.

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There was an overseas customer visit. VP usually accompanies B if the customer meeting happens in the office. This time, I learned, that VP had been told not to come. Only B came. is VP being kept away from sales and marketing? if true, this is a positive development.

Another pleasant surprise was in store!. I was also called to join the meeting with the customer. I did provide security to B by talking minimally in the meeting. Later in the evening, I was told to come to the party on that evening, planned for the visiting customer.

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Then finally, the expected call came. CEO was told to meet the Chairman, but not alone, but along with the VP. VP came down from the factory the next day. CEO read the Hanuman Chalisa (a devotional verse on Lord Hanuman) more than once. Before going for the meeting, the VP called me to discuss about some unfinished, ongoing tasks. For the first time (since the day of joining), he started the conversation with “Good afternoon..hope you are getting quick replies from the factory these days….if there is anything pending, please bring into my attention”. Surprises’ Galore! There was a flavour of love and affection in his voice.

why is the change? does he want me on his side? or is it a reaction out of fear that CEO may win the war? Or is it the showing-off of quite confidence that he will emerge stronger from this shake-up ?

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There were many rumours around what happened in the mega meeting. I had no way of knowing the facts. Two main players involved – CEO and VP – had differing versions. Obviously, no one can go and ask to other two participants – (tea drinking) Director and the chairman. Let me only present those which I think were facts or near facts (at the time of writing this) :-

(1)     The purchasing manager was told to continue reporting on buying decisions to VP. So CEO’s attempts to influence purchasing decisions in a big way have failed.

(2)     The proposed tour of CEO to USA and the Latin America was cancelled without any clear reasoning.

(3)     I started getting frequent phone calls from the VP and the conversations are becoming more and more cordial

(4)     The Ants have less and less interactions these days with me.

(5)     The Cartel’s reaction to Chaos is yet unknown.

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 When I met the CEO on the subsequent day to the meeting with the Chairman, his body language was diffident. He did not reveal any details about the “big” meeting. I did not want to look inquisitive. It was within my functional domain to ask about his cancellation of the proposed trip to US. His answer was very evasive. It went something like this – “tongues will wag if I travel now…already the impression is that I just travel overseas for the heck of it….whatever work started have to be finished…so let me give it a miss this time… “  The sentences he uttered had everything in it – disppointment, agony, anger and revenge feeling  – except of course the coherence, which was missing. Licking his wounds?

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 chaos

noun
chaoses, plural

  1. Complete disorder and confusion
  2. Behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions

 

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The Mindless Game

Strategy is the word we freely use. Strategy as I have seen in my work situations always allude to personal strategy. Because the company as a whole does not have any strategy of its own.  Individual strategy most of the times than not always turns into mind games. While strategy ideally aims for a collective and positive goal, mind games always have selfish motives behind them.

I get terribly frustrated  when the possible deals are lost because of seniors’ indecision. CEO’s constant refusal to take positions has now become infamous in the organisation. VP will take decisions when his self-interest is served. If it is a deal that involves my effort, VP would do everything possible to mis-guide the cartel and CEO, so that pricing, terms etc will be made very stiff.  

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The Colour Extracting company had approached us sometime back for some material. While we had the facilities to do this product, we have never produced it commercially. So the pricing was worked out based on theoretical assumptions.

The purchasing manager of the Colour-extracting company is a good-looking and attractive female. I had met with her once in their office. There was a big gap between their price bid and our quote. I was convinced that our pricing is high because the finance manager must have used his imagination to work it out on a higher side  and the diffident operations managers also would have given their safest figures to the finance manager. If we do a trial production, we could get proper cost observations to work out a realistic price. I didn’t think that CEO would order the factory to do a trial production and to re-evaluate the realistic input-output ratio. 

I thought it was up to me to do something that will trigger events toward this end. I entered the Director’s cabin unannounced. He uncovered his face by keeping the newspaper he was reading on the desk and said “yes?”. I gave brief background and mentioned to him “This customer has a long-term potential. We should take a strategic view and do a small trial even though we may incur costs. Then only we will know what is the achievable costing for this product”. He asked “have you discussed it with CEO?”. I said “yes..but…” I wondered for a second what to say. Without waiting for my answer any further, he said “ok. let me see”

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After two days, I learnt that the trial production was being organised in the factory. CEO did not mention about it to me directly. “Strategy” worked!

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Trial production threw up a surprise to me. We got the same yield that we had calculated in the original costing. How to bridge the price expectations? By this time, I had committed myself so much to this particular business opportunity. I did something which in normal circumstances I would have never done. I proposed to the Purchasing Manager of the colour-extracting company to visit our office and meet with the CEO for final price discussion. While my suggestion sounded very casual and business like, there was a silent intention behind it.  CEO would start ogling at the Purchasing Manager and may try to agree to do the business at a realistic price somewhere close to the customer’s bid.  If I was to deal with this alone, then the profit expectation of 25-30% would remain intact and I would not be allowed to budge at all. The boss behaved exactly as expected – full of show-off, flirty talks, indecent humour, etc. In one stroke, he offered a counter-bid (closer to the customer’s bid) which was accepted immediately. The woman became weary at the end of the meeting. When I saw her off in the gate, she muttered “your boss is very weird”.

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The contract was received in the subsequent week.

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My personal strategy did work. But  there was an unintended  implication too. The purchasing lady gave me a phone call on a saturday. “I am sorry but I have to tell you this. Your boss keeps stalking through smses. My business card did contain my mobile number in it. I did reply him rudely on a couple of occasions, but he is not stopping….I am really sorry that I am talking to you about this…I know you cant do anything in this case….” I uttered some inrrelevant but kind words. My heart knew I sounded fake.

Morning Star

The mornings have become colder than the normal this winter.

The wife feels a mild stress in the winter nights, thinking that she may not hear the mobile alarm ringing at 5.30 in the morning. Poor thing, she has to pack lunch for both Kids and has to make the younger kid take bath and dress up. The kids have to leave for school at 7.30am.

What happens is – invariably she gets up 30 minutes later than the alarm time which she sets up. Her argument is that once the alarm rings, she will be awake but would still like to continue to sleep in a semi-sleep and semi-awake state for a while before jump out of bed.

The elder kid is very duty conscious, so as soon as her mother calls her name affectionately, she gets up with no signs of grogginess due to abrupt awakening. Within no time, she is ready in her school uniform. The younger kid needs to be in sleep-inertia for about 10-15 minutes – just like the mother – before she enters the bathroom for brushing the teeth.

I suffer from Insomnia these days. Unusually, I remain awake till wee hours. Most of the nights either I sit in front of TV or read books or watch movies on my computer. Even after I go to bed, I don’t start sleeping immediately. Because of this, I tend to sleep extra in the morning forcing my wife to be on her own in her morning chores. The wife goes to the road-end to leave the kids in their respective school buses. On her way, she would pick-up milk packets. She would wake me up with coffee in her hands.

The day morosely starts with a bed-coffee. Morning coffee used to energize me before. Not any more. Coffee drinking has just become a habit. I do not completely enjoy the Coffee drinking experience.

The wife then will bring the newspapers to the bed. I shall look at the pages on the newspaper and will not read them. Just a quick browsing of headlines and I am done with it. The wife will try to have a small talk but my mind will not register anything.

By this time, I would have checked my emails on the mobile phone several times. Most of the days, there would be no mails in the morning time. Immediately, the mind will get into the worrying mode – why X customer did not reply to my offer yet? Why no more purchase enquiries from Canadian customer? Etc…This worry series will lead me to thinking about characters of my company…..will CEO just use me as a pawn to justify his failures? Will VP be laughing behind me on seeing my obstacles to good business? ….all unnecessary thinking…worrying….craving for intended outcomes….seeking only successful outcomes….

Is there any strength in seeking only successful outcomes? The strength lies in how we face the various outcomes – intended / unintended, positive / negative – with equal attitude. If one has seen only success all along, then he might not have any opportunity to get himself trained on how to face defeats and setbacks gracefully. The gracelessness leads men to be desperate without caring for fair means. The strength lies only in Grace with which we face life and its events.

Gracefulness is acquired from living with joy in the present and not losing oneself in thoughts constantly – in those thoughts which either make us feel guilty about the past or worry about the un-arrived future.

Mindfulness is a wonderful term used in Buddhism. I really like this word for its apt description of the state in which we all should live always. Consistent mindfulness practice leads us to the state of grace.

If I was mindful (and resultantly graceful ) – I would have slept at the same time as my loved ones. I would have woken up joyfully by the time my lovely kids walk out of home to go to school. I would have completely enjoyed the taste of coffee prepared my beloved wife (after brushing my teeth!).

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I was afflicted with morning sullenness that day also. The expected Purchase order from Spain did not arrive on email the previous night. I was stressed out as to how I would explain this to CEO – who has been pressurizing me for more than a week now. Another new customer – the colour extracting company – did not grant me the meeting which I wanted that day. I was to leave for the meeting directly from home in the morning. The customer SMSed me at about 8am that he cannot see me. Ufff…I need to go to office only in the morning….this fact tired me instantly…..Wife asked “why do u always keep your face so stiff whenever you leave for office?” I did not reply her as I left home for office.

I entered the office not in a cheery disposition. The ants who saw me entering did not wish me. They pretended to be busy while noticing me entering the chamber. After keeping the lunch bag, I noticed that….a fax document lying on my clean desk….It was the PO which I expected to receive on email. It has come on fax. My heaviness flew out in seconds and I was feeling light……I took the fax document and came out…two ants wished me in Chorus – Congratulations sir!

Day 15

Excerpts from a phone conversation

–         Saw the mail from XYZ corp. How much volume are they talking?

–         They are ready to lift 50 tonnes at our price, subject ofcourse to approval of the factory. They would like to visit us.

–         Hmmm…no issues…but we do not want to be taken for a ride!

–         I’m not sure I follow, how can we be taken for a ride in this?

–         It has happened in the past, where the customers have visited us, but never bought anything after they left.

–         That means they did not approve our facilities.

–         Remember that you have to have eye in your head while talking to me (What is the meaning of this expression? I have never heard it before)

–         Hmmmm

–         Are you clear?

–         Should I tell the customer that they cannot visit us and they have to buy without seeing the factory?

–         Listen…you are not allowing me to talk.

–          ??

–        There is no harm in having them visit the factory. But we should make sure they buy good volumes.

–        As I said earlier, this customer buys in excess of 2000 tonnes from the industry. The list of items and quantity they buy is already with us which I have shared with you. If you want, I can ask them to send an email confirming all the items they are interested to procure from us.

–     no..no..no….dont do that….we may not be in a position to do all the items they buy.

–     then what should I tell them?

–     See I have no issues in talking to them…but 50 tonnes is nothing. MNO corp wanted 3000 tonnes, we said we can give only 500 tonnes.

–     Ok, then let me tell them they can’t see the factory and 50 tonnes is too less.

–     no. You are hurrying again. I have no issue with 50 tonnes….but the price they give is less….see we have negotiated so well with MNO corp and got a good rate.

–     I have quoted Rs 5 per kilo more than that, sir.

–     yeah yeah….tell them 50 tonnes is too less.

–     But I understand that we will not be able to produce the full qty of what we agreed with MNO, this 50 tonnes we have offered only because XYZ is ready to pay better price….

–      is it?  We should be talking to big guys.

–      XYZ is the largest wholesaler with national distribution in USA. You can check about them in the market. You will know.

–      Yeah I know…I know them very well….They are based in London. I know.

–       No sir, they are in New York.

–       Yeah yeah you are right.

–       I dont understand why they want to visit the factory. All these buyers are silly. They waste our time and energy.

–       Let me tell them then we are not interested.

–  You are hurrying…..I have no issue….am I making myself clear (Note : all his favourite phrases! He has uttered them in one go!)

–          ??

– Do one thing! Talk to VP and then let me know what he says. I am about to board the flight. I am headed to Bangalore for a lunch with Jt.Secretary.

I then dialed the factory to talk to VP.  The operator told me that he has gone to attend a “mundan” ceremony of one of the staffs’ son. It took sometime to collect my thoughts. What should be the line of action now?

I am not hurrying. I have no issue. It is clear that I am going to continue reading the e-Book that I was reading earlier (before I received the call from the CEO!).

Day One

The Prologue

Kalyana Raman is in his mid-forties. He is ambitious but is idealistic. So his career path becomes turbulent at times. He has changed many jobs. While a recruiter will feel shaky on seeing his CV, but on closer scrutiny it will be noticed that with every job change Kalyanam (his short name) has grown and learnt so much. He finds it a struggle to attend interviews of established companies, because his CV does not show glamorous management degrees and consists only of experiences in SMEs. Interestingly, he had a few stints abroad. That explains his healthy pay packet. He has moved again recently. A medium sized food company, essentially export driven (which is why he is there!), but badly managed.

Now, over to him…….

Day One

I was feeling tense in the morning when I left home for the new office. The anxiety was inexplicable. Logically, there is no reason to be tensed. Was it because I do not know what to expect from the organization that I would be working with? I have changed jobs many times before but never have I felt the nerves like today.

Mala (Kalyanam’s wife) was mentioning that in all the previous job shifts I had walked into a new organization through a known person (already working there). Looking back, that’s not true. I can recollect 4 occasions when I joined a company without knowing anybody. In all those occasions, I think my apprehension may have been covered up by the excitement factor. The excitement arises because there are expectations. In this particular shift, I have no excitement. I have no particular expectation.

As the day progressed, I shifted my frame of mind from being a participant to that of an observer. This brightened me up a bit.

I have a big cabin now, with 4 different visitor chairs, long desk with a lot of space. The junior colleagues enter only after taking the permission. It gives me good amount of privacy which I guess should relax me, as I have never had such perks before.

They have a canteen in the office where all the employees take lunch. Now Mala need not pack lunch for me daily. This will save her a lot of time in the morning hours.

My work station is not fully ready yet, as I am waiting for the laptop and mobile phone.

I had a short meeting with CEO and Vice president Operations in the afternoon. Factory and operations’ heads seem to be more in command within this company. Many key overseas clients are being liaisoned by a person who is based in the factory. This I found very strange initially, but on closer scrutiny, it is not that I have not seen this before. In most of the processing companies the factory heads calls the shots, not the sales / marketing guys. The only difference here is that the production guys themselves interact with the customers directly.

All is well…. I shall survive and prosper here, God willing.