Happy New Year – 2023

Our very best wishes to each of you and everyone in your families for a healthy and joyful New Year – 2023.

I am a bit behind posting this New Year greetings since I was away on travel most of Dec. and in the first week of January. This travel gave me a chance to visit Dharamsala at the foot hills of Himalayas. An amazing and serene experience to this peaceful Buddhist and Hindu sanctuary, where every house seems to be built on hill side and every road is a  narrow lane built on a steep slope! The food was amazing. Our host was the most delightful blessing for us in our life!

I had the opportunity during this trip to India to meet and speak with so many in various walks of life – from the adviser (industry) to GOI, Faculty and Director at IIT – Madras, Industry leaders and professionals as well as relatives and friends from urban as well as rural India. Our R&D Center – which I have been associated as an adviser at IIT – Madras https://amtdc.org/ is evolving into a model for research and innovation, worthy of emulation by others. This relationship opened the window for some very fruitful discussions.

Great opportunity to visit IIT – M center for History of Innovation and Innovators.
Innovation team at AMTDC https://amtdc.org/
Committed long terms alliance across Academics, Industry leaders, Professional Society and STIMS leadership – corner stone for any successful Industry focused innovation center.
A decade and more of collaboration!
Building industry alliance to foster System Thinking and Transformational Skills.
Learning by doing: STIMS System Document Certification training for every new machine tool shipped.
RV – Camper built on Mahindra pickup van to meet Indian Travel needs; Innovation at
IIT – M

Few common themes emerge as a result:

— Learning has to be by doing: Engage in “practice or application oriented hands on learning”. There is plenty of all that we need to know already available in the internet, available at the tip of your fingers through a Google Search. The new knowledge is what you bring to the table and how useful it is!

— There is plenty of scam to offer all kinds of education and degrees, but without any usable knowledge; Beware of it. As an example, a poor rural Indian student was admitted to a course in Marine Engineering with a promising career in the merchant marine. He did not step foot in a ship during his four years of degree course! A student graduated in mechanical engineering, manufacturing focus without ever touching a machine tool in his UG study! Do not sink good money after such bad education!

Companies have to recruit and train their own employees. Yes, they can poach or steal good employees from other companies (which happens through constant jumping of the ship by the employees). But, this is reaching its limits, usefulness and saturation? In the end industries merely rely on “Copy and paste” work from their collaborators from abroad!

Creating a stream of “New Solutions” is the only way you survive and succeed in the current “Knowledge Economy”. This is a global need. This requires System Thinking and Transformational Skills for the employees as well as employers.

Few who practice ST and TS and are also visible through their business success. They are acknowledged as “Entrepreneurs”. But the success rate of entrepreneurs is very small. It is NOT for everyone, especially for those at the lower rung of economic order where putting food on the table is priority number one! They can ill afford the financial risk required of entrepreneurs.

— BUT, New Solutions and making them happen as a natural part of anyone’s job and career is the need for EVERYONE – all employees as well as employers. ST and TS is the basic necessity for this outcome for everyone.

We shall be pursuing these themes in the coming New Year! Best wishes to all and let the journey continue!!

Big Tech has big problems; Can the Techies shown the door turn it into an opportunity?

I came across this item in my mail today from 

The Economist
Adam Roberts Digital editor
Big tech has big problems. After a bull run that lasted years, the sector is suffering a sharp correction. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have collectively lost $2trn in stockmarket value in the past year. On November 9th Meta, the parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said it would shed 11,000 people, or 13% of its workforce; Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, sacked half its personnel. According to Crunchbase, a data provider, more than 60,000 American techies have been shown the door in 2022.
We’ve been looking at what went wrong. Shaky business models are partly to blame, along with soaring inflation and rising mortgage payments that have left digital consumers with less disposable income to splash out on digital delights. Meanwhile the sector is afflicted with “conglomeritis”, the symptoms of which are bloating and egomania. William Magnuson’s magnificent history of corporations, reviewed in our Culture section this week, suggests this is not a new phenomenon. For more than 2,000 years corporations have produced some of humankind’s greatest achievements. But usually the most dazzling overstep the mark, leaving a trail of debris and distrust. 

The above addresses the problem that many are seeing in the Bay Area through the lens of their network and the pain it causes. On November 9th Meta, the parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said it would shed 11,000 people, or 13% of its workforce; Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, sacked half its personnel. According to Crunchbase, a data provider, more than 60,000 American techies have been shown the door in 2022. 

The summary or conclusion as noted:
But usually the most dazzling overstep the mark, leaving a trail of debris and distrust. 
is the general “blame those at the top”. No one can deny that. But it is also stating the obvious (i.e.) the “Bottleneck” is the result of the neck at the top of the bottle! Such oversimplified generalizations leave out the role of self-realization and individual responsibility. 

Over the generations those who have weathered the challenges of time and economic cycles are those who have constantly delved deep into the  situation and their personal contribution to value generation. We call this as the propensity to be aware of the need for “New Solutions” and make them real and implemented. These System Thinkers with Transformational Skills are the only ones who survive on a sustainable basis in the long run. These skills have been in acute need since the late 70s, since the birth of Digital Technology, the seed for the “Digital Darlings”! For details, please see: https://stimsinstitute.com/2022/08/17/were-in-this-era-of-measurement-but-we-dont-know-what-we-should-be-measuring/

The  bloating and egomania  suggests another creeping problem or need. One can not survive and be sustainable in the long run if ego and bloating (Vanity) are your drivers as evidenced in the decisions and behavior of Musk and Zuckerberg! You don’t need a public regulation to suggest that Fake  News is wrong as much as Fake Food, Fake Medicine or anything else Fake! It comes from a deep spiritual faith, a true belief in the view that “I am my brother’s keeper”! Even an animal or plant can not survive in the long run fending for its own needs without regard for the environment that supports it. In the end the plant or animal species will die or perish. We call this outlook of caring for others while taking care of oneself as “Spirituality in Practice ”. Let us hope such natural order is returning and a balance to self-regulate anything “Fake” in the media, politics, business, public discourse and economic activity. Perhaps one can hope for that as the much needed outcome of the recent midterm elections?

“We’re in this era of measurement but we don’t know what we should be measuring” ……….

Taylor’s Time and Motion study to enhance worker productivity was introduced in the early 20th century in the USA. Now we are in the 21st century. Despite all our advances and progress, measuring worker productivity continues unabated as reflected in the following NYT article: The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score:   Across industries and incomes, more employees are being tracked, recorded and ranked. What is gained, companies say, is efficiency and accountability. What is lost? By Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram; Produced by Aliza Aufrichtig and Rumsey Taylor.  Aug. 14, 2022   https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/08/14/business/worker-productivity-tracking.html?

Following are couple of quotes from this NYT essay:

In lower-paying jobs, workplace monitoring has already been ubiquitous. But now, across industries and incomes, more employees are being tracked, recorded and ranked. We’re in this era of measurement but we don’t know what we should be measuring,” said Ryan Fuller, former vice president for workplace intelligence at Microsoft.

The comment from the former Microsoft executive is telling. It speaks volumes on the quandary we all face in this “New Economy”, “Knowledge Economy”, “Digital World”, “Information Economy”, “Flat world”, “Globalization”,  ………….. whatever you wish to call it? Any of these economic orders began their roots in the late 1970s and took a firm hold by the dawn of the 21st Century!

We refer your attention to two books that address this need to measure, assess and manage worker productivity at all levels in the 21st Century ! https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/ 

In the book published in the year 2000 – The System Approach – A strategy to survive and succeed in the global Economyhttps://www.amazon.com/System-Approach-Modern-Machine-Books/dp/1569902550  we address the issue of Productivity at the enterprise level as well as the worker level:

“Globalization” requires a constant strive to improve productivity.  If the productivity improvement is incremental – we shall call this a “Better Mousetrap” it is difficult to identify the benefit of such improvements.  Frequently such incremental improvements may get lost in the “noise” or “variability” in measurements.  The “noise” becomes larger as the factors and their measurements are considered on a worldwide basis.  

On the other hand, if the productivity improvements are large or quantum in nature, we shall call them, “Different Mouse Trap.”  If such advantage can be perceived on a worldwide basis, then such individual or enterprise remains successful in a “global” economy.

Any success in a “global” economy for any enterprise requires the following: 

·         Are there approaches or strategies that help to define the activity of the enterprise in terms of an “input/process/output” system with its associated value or benefit to the participants in the system? 

·         Once the input/process/output system is defined, are there approaches to achieve quantum improvement in the output of such systems?

From the above analysis (for details please see the book), a set of conclusions may also be drawn from the point of view of individual employees:

·         There is a profound change in the workplace, where “task” oriented job functions are being eliminated and replaced by fewer “solution” oriented jobs.

·         This change is occurring at all levels – from the lowest level worker to the highest executive in the organization.

·         This diminishing employment opportunity can be managed through “shared sacrifice” thereby lowering the living standard of all involved.

In retrospect, after four decades we find this approach a loosing proposition, even dangerously challenging the vitality of the nation as a Democracy.

·         Alternatively those few that find the means or ability to transition to a “problem solver” role or solution driven job function, survive and succeed in the changing employment marketplace.

·         These “problem solvers” are often described as entrepreneurial, system oriented, holistic or ultra-preneurs.  

In the subsequent sections of the book we describe the “System Approach” to define any job as a solution oriented activity. We also identify the parameters that belong to each aspect of the “system” and how to measure them!

Above views are not merely theoretical concepts. Instead they were reduced to practice and implemented as useful tools, which saved scores of jobs in a high attrition manufacturing work space. These productivity tools also helped scores of others to rise through the ranks, even as the organizational layers were reduced and flattened! This practical, results oriented outcome was further reduced into seven “Transformational Skills”. They are described in detail in a book published in the year 2013 titled: Thriving in the 21st Century Economy – Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals”. https://www.amazon.com/Thriving-Century-Transformational-Technical-Professionals/dp/0791860167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371673516&sr=1-1&keywords=Transformational+Skills+Subramanian 

These Transformational Skills also offer means to measure and manage the productivity of workers in any profession in the current workforce. They are:

  1. Develop a “Common Language” – on the “What?” is required and “Why?” – these are the “Technical” and “System” outputs of the job, assignment or solution!
  2. Maintain and manage the “System View” of the job as a “Solution” – Input/Transformation/Output” System – and not a random collection of tasks.
  3. Emphasize on the integrated use of three Dimensions of Core Capabilities:
    1. Individual: Knowledge, Experience and People Skills
    2. Project / Team: Science, Engineering (Application of Science) and Management (Operations and Strategy)
    3. Solution / Enterprise: Physical Technology, Digital Technology and Market/need drivers.
  1. Relentless focus on Data, its analysis and use. More Digital, the better!
  2. Develop an Ecosystem that promotes and fosters items 1 to 4 above. It is never lonely out there!
  1. Emphasis on End to End Innovation – Define/Discover X Develop X Deploy / Implement. In the above equation, if the value is Zero for anyone of the three parameters, the overall score is Zero!
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Win with others! Winning only for one’s sake is never sustainable nor satisfactory in the long run. After all, you are a human being!

A brief Video on Transformational Skills

On Sep. 4, 2021 Dr. Subramanian presented a Webinar under KITE Webinar series hosted by AMTDC at IIT Madras, Chennai, India. This is part of a series of Webinars https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb2CvpVcCQ_rgt3JwEjWuyA useful to young professionals to succeed in the 21st century workplace.

A brief edited version of the webinar can be seen at  https://youtu.be/_emiqz7yRx8

After a brief introduction (First 3 minutes), Dr. Subramanian takes the viewer through a series of episodes in his professional life, which required and shaped his views on System Thinking and Transformational Skills.

The second half of the video (about 20 minutes) uses a set of few slides and their description to make the concepts of ST and TS more concrete and easier to follow for any professional.

Enjoy the viewing and learning!

IT or DT is not the only “Technology”!

This morning as I was reading the following, I felt vindicated in some small scale! https://www.quora.com/We-know-the-wi-in-wi-fi-means-wireless-but-what-does-the-fi-mean We know the ‘wi’ in ‘wi-fi’ means wireless but what does the ‘fi’ mean?

WiFi is short for “wireless fidelity.” This is not the case. WiFi is simply a trademarked term meaning IEEE 802.11x. The false notion that the brand name “WiFi” is short for “wireless fidelity” has spread to such an extent that even industry leaders have included the phrase wireless fidelity in a press release. You’ll also find references to WiFi being short for wireless fidelity on a number of well-known and respected technology-focused publications and websites. The truth is, WiFi isn’t short for anything and it never was.

The above is equally true for the common use of the term “Technology”!

In a recent post https://stimsinstitute.com/2021/12/03/futureofwork/ we have mentioned the following:

Science, Engineering and Management — Integrating the above is Technology. 
Digital or IT is NOT the only “Technology”. It is just one form of Technology.
Using the word “Technology” and imply DT or IT is a very vivid example of lack in common language. This singular failure across the globe (of the word technology and its meaning) has made all education other than IT / Computer Science appear less relevant or valuable in public perception! It also illustrates a lack of discipline and in-depth knowledge across the media professionals, pundits, educators, policy makers and politicians who merely use the words for their sound bite and not as a means to communicate what they truly mean or understand.

This lack of common language permeates every where. Do we really know what the words Democracy, Conservative, Liberal, Safety-net, Religion, Spiritual, …. truly stand for?

Do we teach our students the difference between Science, Engineering and Management and their integration in STEM education? Or do we simply cloak the “T” in STEM for IT? The “M” in the STEM education stands for “Mathematics” or “Management”? How can you teach anything analytical without “M” for Mathematics? Why is that singled out in STEM? Management implied skills for Strategic thinking and operational excellence. What good is it to teach STEM, if such education does not contain “M” for Management?

#FutureofWorkforce