Do Managers Matter?

Do managers matter?

Google’s management raised that question in 2008.

That led to a research project called Project Oxygen.

Ok, I don’t know whether they answered that question, but instead, they came-up with top traits of successful managers. While you could Google those 10 traits, I am going to paste the statements of Google’s feedback survey.

Employees could rate every statement on a 1(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)

I would recommend my manager to others.

My manager assigns stretch opportunities to help me develop in my career.
My manager communicates clear goals for our team.

My manager gives me actionable feedback on a regular basis.

My manager provides the autonomy I need to do my job (i.e., does not “micro-manage” by getting involved in details that should be handled at other levels).

My manager consistently shows consideration for me as a person.

My manager keeps the team focused on priorities, even when it’s difficult (e.g., declining or deprioritizing other projects).

My manager regularly shares relevant information from their manager and senior leadership.

My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about my career development in the past six months.

My manager has the technical expertise (e.g., technical judgment in Tech, selling in Sales, accounting in Finance) required to effectively manage me.

The actions of my manager show they value the perspective I bring to the team, even if it is different from their own.

My manager makes tough decisions effectively (e.g., decisions involving multiple teams, competing priorities).

My manager effectively collaborates across boundaries (e.g., team, organizational).

Survey statements continue in the comments.

If you reflect on them, they cover all critical aspects of an effective manager.

But do we need managers?

What do you think?

The best culture book in the world

In 2012, Valve’s handbook for new employees got leaked.

It had hilarious illustrations and step-by-step guideline for new employees to understand various aspects of Valve’s #culture.

For those of you who may not have heard of Valve, I bet you must have played their video games like Half-Life and Portal.

I love reading culture books and slide decks.

Last week when I found Valve’s book, I felt like I have struck gold.

And because I am so much interested in organizational structures these days, I found a fresh perspective and some food for thought.

Excerpt from the book below:

“Welcome to flatland: Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.”

As I eagerly read through more pages, I realized how they have built a unique culture, appraisals, compensation system, etc.

There are interesting facts where they illustrate why their desks have wheels and how to make the best use of their vacation policy.

It is a must-read for all curious minds who long for utopian and egalitarian workplaces and also those of you (and me) who think they do not exist. 🙂

(The link for the pdf )

Baba Ka Dhaba

Baba ka Dhaba row.

#Altruism at speed and scale.

Let us keep aside the controversy for now and focus on the logistics.

If you see chronologically, there were four steps involved.

Someone created content around Baba’s ordeal.

There was an emotional appeal.

Content went viral.

Money poured in.

Have you observed a similar phenomenon on LikedIn?

I bet you have.

But here is the problem.

It is tough to manage the outcome of viral content.

It is like winning a lottery.

It should be overwhelming for the beneficiary to take the onslaught of a zillion benefactors.

The help that reaches is always an overkill.

Look at the job loss posts that go viral on LinkedIn.

Do the people asking for jobs really need that quantum of help?

I am curious to know the aftermath, what is the end game?

The way social media operates is somewhat flawed.

The pendulum swings between 0 and 1.

Either there is no help or there is just a surplus.

And mostly it works around individuals for individuals.

I have never seen an #NGO asking for help and going super viral.

I believe altruism at scale will have its share of inefficiencies.

The question is whether #socialmedia can solve it?

Can we help the masses instead of one?

The Rise and Fall of Pods

The rise and fall of pods.

What are pods?

Pods are users that boost your posts on LinkedIn or any other social media for that matter.

Pods will incessantly like and engage on your posts, without even reading them.

When you return the favor you also become a pod.


A few months back LinkedIn was super hot.

Organic reach plummeted.

The #LinkedIn algorithm couldn’t keep up with the spiked activity.

Then I observed the real rise of pods.

Pods boost your post until the algorithm detects it and boosts it further.

Well, the trick was neat.

Unless you are Ankur Warikoo or Simon Sinek for that matter, how are you going to influence without that thought leadership or content that really rocks?

And the answer was reciprocation principle, one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influencing.

You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

It makes sense, but on LinkedIn, it becomes labour intensive.

A few weeks back I noticed that the activity has receded.

The regular pods are nowhere on the scene, some new pods took their place.

I suppose the reciprocation principle is not so sustainable.

Especially when it comes to incessantly engage on content that you even don’t care to read.

What do you think?

Have you come across a pod?

Would you love to be a pod?

Would you like me to be your pod?

Directing is 90% Casting

Directing is 90% casting.

I don’t remember where I read that but today I watched an interview where Anurag Kashyap says the same thing in a different way.

He says he doesn’t cast actors but characters who make his life easy as a director.

Hiring is no different.

You don’t need to put a lot of efforts into managing if you hire the right people.

You can tell a lot about an organization on basis of its hiring process.

More than technical rounds it is the rounds where the cultural fit of the candidate is tested.

Some organizations take forever to say that disappointing no or that much-awaited yes.

You can blame it on bureaucracy but with some certainty, I can tell they spend a lot of time deciding on the profiles.

Taking their own time to screen profile after profile. Meticulously interviewing candidates at their own pace.

Some great organizations don’t have to do all that hard work.

Great brands attract great talent.

But hiring practices don’t make it to the mainstream.

Hiring is rendered as boring, and it is undermined.

Managing on the other hand remains to be interesting and is covered extensively in academics and other popular media.

Like managing, directing is seen as exciting.

We don’t hear a lot about casting, how many casting directors do you know?

First day at work

Back in 2009, the year I graduated, I got my first job in a small mining company in Goa.

There was just one round of interview.

On the day of joining, I was summoned to a very remote site in East Goa.

For those of you who might not know, Goa is big on mining too after tourism.

I along with another new joiner was now on the way to the remote site on a Splendor bike.

As few villages passed by, the road became rough and extremely dusty.

The new formals that I was wearing were slowly getting soiled.

We were now only a few kilometers away from the site.

One good indication of that was the giant mining trucks rumbling like bullies and a 2-inch thick layer of dust on the slanted roofs of houses.

Every leaf on every tree was covered with red dust.

Finally, we reached the site.

Around 30 young men with masks on their faces were doing their job.

Some just standing some communicating on their walkie talkies.

It was like a Martian surface with heaps of manganese ore.

Conveyor belts and large excavators dominated the scene.

I was shown where I need to punch my card daily (yes punch).

This was nothing like the Goa I had seen all my childhood.

I took some clicks and we left a little early on that day.

That was my first and last day at my first engineering job.

Of cross selling

If you want to experience #crossselling at its best, please visit your nearest bank branch

Don’t visit govt branches because these branches are just too busy updating passbooks, they don’t really have all the time for cross-selling

Visit a private branch and ask for anything you wish, you can even ask for water and there will be an executive assigned to you

Even before you tell her what you really want, she will explain to you two financial products that you have never heard of

In no time they will take a paper and start explaining to you the math behind annuities and compounding and crazy returns

Then you might just think that this sounds too good to be true

You are confused but smile anyway and ask for more details

By this time the junior exec has successfully enticed you into thinking that the product is just awesome

Now is the time for the senior executive to step in and take you into the bright future where you have all the money you want

By now you have completely forgotten why did you even visit the branch in the first place

Then some docs are flashed and you have to really do nothing but sign at 8 places


No, I did not reach the final stage, I saved myself. I am very intelligent

Advice: be assertive, say no, and be informed about financial products.

Flat vs Hierarchical

Flat organizations sound cool

But why tall #hierarchies are so uncool these days?

Around 7 years back I and my boss were trying to understand the organizational structure of a manufacturing company.

We were designing some learning programs for the organization across different levels

Their organizational structure was very tall

Out of curiosity, I asked, “do they even need such a long chain of command?”

My boss gave me two answers (he loved to give two answers for every question)

Well, Alok, the first answer is pretty straightforward, he said.

There are defined roles in any formalized and large organizations. There are defined tasks, roles, responsibilities, and ownership assigned to each level. It makes sense.

His answer B: In a hierarchy, everyone needs to have a sense of growth and purpose. People need to feel valued and hence there has to be a position for them every time they get promoted.

Every position becomes a goal or a career objective. Hence it makes sense.

While the answer B is subjective and might need some research, I feel it holds some water.

Tall hierarchies exist because they serve a deep purpose.

What about flat structures? are they really cool?

In my next post write why I feel truly flat organizations can’t exist


A truly flat organization cannot exist

A truly flat organization cannot exist.

We often hear that flat structures are cool. The word “flat” attracts young talent.

But come to think of it

The moment we decide to “organize”, structures emerge

People assume their responsibilities

Some lead and some follow

Some decide and others agree

Some plan and others execute

In small organizations, people tend to influence “without authority”

But there is a very dark side to it

There are informal cabals that influence more (politics)

And there are awesome people who might not be able to influence despite having all that expertise

In which case, I feel hierarchies make things fair and democratic to an extent, there is a clear line of command and everyone follows that

In flat orgs there are informal structures/hierarchies only visible to those who are curious

Lack of structure might drive wrong and crazy behaviors

Declaring that “we are flat” is one aspect

managing conflicts and issues arising from unclear or duplicate responsibilities is a different ball game altogether

Ok, I agree that I have only shared the dark side of flat orgs

But tomorrow will share a post about an organization that calls itself flat in the true sense. Will also provide a link to their #culture book. Stay tuned.