Seven incredible business lessons to learn from Anna Hazare

I never went to business school, but managed to do a fair share of business as an entrepreneur. While I learnt most business tricks the hard way, Anna Hazare and his band (I call them Anna Hazare and the Wailers – AH&W) taught me these 7 incredible business lessons, rather entertainingly!

1. Rebellion is popular. Always was, always will be.

The first time AH&W drummed up an idea of fasting and making a big public fuss, right up the government’s nose, they created a massive fan following. There was a gargantuan gathering of a social rock concert – a Woodstock of the modern century. And these guys were ‘the’ rock stars!
Lesson: People like to rebel. They want to shout slogans, paint faces and scream at someone. Give them rebellion and they will rebel. So, in business, sell a rebellion. And people will buy.

2. Start something new – partners will come.

The kind of men, women and extraterrestrials that landed up on stage for AH&W’s first rock concert astounded me. These were people that I knew (except the ETs) and had never seen in rebellion before. They played songs, made speeches and went crazy just to show support.

Lesson: If you start an amazingly fresh business, then all kinds of partners will come. Even to your doorstep, without being asked. All they want is your association and to be seen with you.

3. Governments do get embarrassed.

I cannot forget that Sunday session of Parliament. Antique, wonk politicians stumbled and tumbled over their words, trying best to cover the embarrassment caused by AH&W’s music. From the guy who grows a hair-forest out of his ears, to the public elocutionist who speaks incoherently, none of them could pretend that they didn’t hear the music. In the end, the speaker of the house went to AH&W and gave Anna (the lead singer) a letter of assurance. All achieved in one day!

Lesson: If left with no options, just embarrass your opponent like you would scream at a glass until it breaks. It will break.

4. Never believe the government guys. They always lie.

It’s so ridiculously foolish that AH&W actually believed that the government would do as they promised. I mean, c’mon dude! Next they will believe the finance minister telling them that India was on an economic high!

AH&W was ditched by the government. Like being taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong and being left there!

Lesson: Never believe government promises, no matter how genuine they sound. Never build a business assuming that the government will take care of you.

5. Never stop the cement mixer. Never.

Seen those big ugly round-bellied cement trucks on the road? Ever wondered why their tummies keep rolling? Even when they are parked? Well, it’s simple. They have liquid cement inside and if they stop rolling, the cement freezes. And kaboom! The stuff inside becomes unusable.

AH&W had fire in their bellies and steam in their songs. But they stopped rolling. They froze their fire by doing nothing other than waiting, hoping and cursing. They assumed (wrongly) that they had become Rock Gods. In this age of Kalyug, even the Gods travel to people to make them dance.

Lesson: No matter what great start you have in your business, you have to keep moving. Keep rolling even when you are standing still. Else, you will freeze and become unusable.

6. Tactics are different from Strategy.

In the ugly world of advertising (where people are sold things they don’t want to buy), there is a clear understanding of the words ‘tactic’ and ‘strategy’. Tactic is the one-trick pony for one use and throw. AH&W’s first Jantar Mantar concert was an awesome tactic. It was the best way to get launched and noticed.

Now, strategy is completely different. It’s long term, slow and steady where persistent activity wins wars, not battles. It’s the hard work, the day-to-day business grind that’s to be done by all and sundry. AH&W did not have a strategy. They did nothing persistently or consistently. Every six-odd months they met, they repeated the theme of concert #1 – wailing and cursing while fasting and dying in bed. Unfortunately, much like failed bands, AH&W realised far too late that tactics work once, not twice.

Lesson: In business, tactics get you launched and noticed. But it’s the delivery of the promise – the execution that really makes you win. In other words, sometimes, strategy is nothing but hard execution.
7. Never climb on the ledge to jump. Never.

Professional blackmailers (I bet you know a few) never climb on the ledge and present their demands, because of two simple reasons. The first reason is that if their demands are not met, they will need to climb back inside, nullifying their ‘threat reputation’. The second reason is that if they do jump off the ledge, then they won’t be around to do business again. AH&W stood on the ledge and when no one seemed to care, they climbed back inside, never to be able to threaten again.

Lesson: Never blackmail or hold people to ransom just to have your way. One day, people will call your bluff and that day will be the end of business. To put it simply, never do business by threatening people.

(The writer is a digital entrepreneur and blogs at rodinhood.com)

Technology addiction

Today productivity is getting diluted by new tool like internet, mobile and Microsoft products like word, excel. Etc. I have no doubt that these things have made life easy for many of us. However, side effects are visible too.
Internet makes life easy for all of us and gives real time information. But we managers keep getting mails and productive time goes in replying them. It is difficult to stop temptation to get back to seat and do some surfing on business, political world and friends. It makes many of us addicted to laptop and gadget without keeping tab on productive outcome.

Mobile is new way of talk. I find it personally irritating when middle of a meeting a phone rings. It is difficult to concentrate on real issue. It diverts attention.

Microsoft word, excel, or PowerPoint has made managers of B school a painter. I use to colour presentation to make them visually appealing. I have to insert kids like animation in presentation. Insertion of dozens of jargon is additional burden.

Addiction of news, paint, and talk has made me less productive. Face to face meetings and field efforts have reduced drastically. I am learning processes, changing, and modifying them from my desk.

Attending meetings with bosses

In every meeting, you will find some bosses sitting with their subordinates. Many times, bosses have no clue about ground reality. They have to rely on subordinate for detailing. If meeting held between “n” number of departments/functions , expect “2n+” participant in meetings. Each boss will have atleast one subordinate to support him.

Some of them come with 3-4 subordinates just to remain secure. If they don’t have answer of technical query, immediate subordinate has to be ready with data and process input.

Many smart bosses use management jargons to hide the fact that they don’t know much. Instead on talking to point, technical jargon or exceptions is best tool to defend.

I had two bosses who use to start a remembered transcript on transformation, process improvements, and need of robust system. We need to listen along with operation managers. These jargons create curiosity without delivering concrete result.
Many times, I attended the meeting to download management’s mandate. These meetings had something else other than what had been said to deliver.

Managing productive meeting is big task. One man writes down minutes which hardly gets distributed or reviewed.
Meetings are best time pass for many. Operation manager has tough task to explain the same process to multiple Transformation executives.

Transaction Intensity reduction vs Lean

I am working on transaction intensity reduction. It amused me as it is different from other quality methodologies. In six-sigma, we focus more on defect reduction. Lean focuses more on reduction of cycle time. In my current project, vendor keeps sending invoices against each transaction. Lean supports single peace flow. But, it is making transaction intensity very high and unmanageable at payable end.

Someone suggested single invoice single vendor per month. However, it will create batch processing. In all this, I feel it makes sense to have optimal batch sizes than single piece flow mindlessly.  Overall cost and lead time implications should be seen.

In BPO, many calls may be automated or self-answered in FAQ format which may reduce transaction intensity. Sending bus for each passenger may not serve purpose. Batching has its own advantage. It reduces change over time in continuous process.

Six sigma experts may question need for multiple purchase order, invoices, HR training sessions, or any other voluminous activity and may plan strategy to reduce the transactions itself to make them more manageable.

Banks reduced transaction through diverting them from branch to ATM, internet or mobile. Ticket window in Indian rail has been diverted to internet, cash coupon, or monthly ticket etc.