41 Ways to Probe Employee Engagement

Can I be brutally honest?

Employee Engagement can be a bitch.

If you’ve spent a lot of time addressing this pain in the patootie through shiny little objects for your clients, you would know what I am talking about.

You can either blame it on the Digital Utopia hype piping in the air right now. Or on the enterprise collaboration vendor’s popcorn content which pops in, every now and then, with fantasy stories about the digital workplace, conquering the evil forces of hierarchy, breaking the tyranny of emails, and promising us the ego-less, networked paradise where humans live in harmony with machines of loving grace.

You are blessed with good karma if you engage with clients who get complexity. Because, it is tough, and I say this from the scars of my experience, wearing the hat of a consultant, and juggling the convincing act necessary to drive home the point that ‘Employee Engagement’ cannot be framed through simplistic, linear cause-and-effect models, whose success can be clearly defined through legible, outcome-based targets.

Since you never start from a blank state, (unless you are approaching it for a startup), your work involves treading along an archipelago of systems of disparate maturities, collaborative silos of diverse interests, addressing a battery of dimensions such as governance, employee needs, incumbent organizational processes, and, more importantly, the organizational cultural climate.

In my experience, I've seen a lot of value in approaching "Employee Engagement" through a series of safe-to-fail probes. When you are dealing with complex systems, theory recommends experimentation as the best way to introduce small-scale interventions, which can quietly push the boundaries of what is possible when employees feel empowered inside an organization.

When Bad UX Led to Serendipitous Customer Experience

The best of the brains in the industry are spending too much resources on persuasive technologies and too little on appropriate technologies. Why?

It was yet another day at work, burrowed inside slides and excel sheets, quietly nibbling away my body’s energy and my laptop’s virtual memory. It took me a second longer to notice my wife calling from home.

Are your clients asking for a boat?

Some clients will ask me for a boat.
What they actually need is to cross a river -Ronald Shakespear

When I discovered this quote canoeing through my social stream, I was delighted by the sweet scent of familiarity. Any technology consultant worth his salt would narrate to you (probably after few mugs of beer) anecdotes of consulting engagements that went awry after painfully coming to terms with the futility of nailing down the scope and requirements in the aftermath of stakeholders' radically different world-views and expectations.

Among the ones that I have heard of, my favorite anecdote is the tale of a disgruntled Share-point Consultant. In a last, desperate attempt to break the project deadlock with the client stakeholder, the share point consultant decided to catch up for a casual, coffee chat. Sipping his cold coffee, the client stakeholder coolly asked,

"Can you tell me what is the difference between SharePoint and Skype?"
Seeing the consultant wear the countenance of a child lost at the fair, the client continued to explain, “I can collaborate with anybody in the world using Skype for free, and even call regular land lines very cheaply. Why should I pay half a million bucks for SharePoint to collaborate?”

Not Another Brick In The Wall

"..I somehow knew this...the present schooling system was not the best that we could have come up with to educate our children. We who have come up with wondrous symphonies, unbelievable art work, innumerable myths and stories to explain the mystery of human life, could have come with something way way better, something much closer to the way all of us learn, something that gives space to our curiosity and not a system that systematically destroys it..."
Amit is not just a dear friend of mine in Hyderabad, but my oasis of silence and reflection in this noisy modern world. In this TEDx talk at IIT Kanpur, he shares his journey so far. The transcript can be found here. This should take you around 10-12 mts, if you choose to read in one go. I think you will like it. You can view the video here. Do share your thoughts/comments.

What I learn in LinkedIn

My new post examining the subtle messages conveyed by LinkedIn platform is here. It is very brief.I  should not take you more than two minutes to read. Do check it out and share your thoughts. 

Curated Writings: On writing sentences

From the little I have written on the Web, I can relate to a writer's travails. The excruciating pains of labour in constructing a sentence that stammers to sound right. The inconsolable pain at staring the blank white screen endlessly. Vikram Chandra, in his part non-fiction, part memoir, "Mirrored Mind", captures the essence beautifully.   

"Writing sentences felt like construction, and, also, simultaneously, a steady, slow excavation. You put each word in place, brick upon brick, with a shimmery sense of what the whole edifice would look like, the shape of the final thing. But each phrase was also a digging inward, an uncovering. You tunneled, dug, dug, On good days, you emerged from your labours tired but happy. On bad days you were left quivery, stupefied. There was risk and danger involved in this work. You always got strung out, ground down, strained thin. Ended up a little sad, maybe a little mad. Not a way to spend life."

7 habits I never realized I had picked up in school

And finally, my new blog post in Medium exploring the habits I had learned in School is out here. 

This is one of the most intimate pieces I remember writing in the recent times. The post is fairly long. It should take you around 9 minutes, if you choose to read in one go. I hope you like it. Do share it and let me know, if it speaks to you.